Caramel Corn in a Paper Bag

In this BONUS TRACK of the Indiana Home Cooks podcast, my daughter, Christine, and I make a quick and easy sweet treat that will have everyone standing in the kitchen crunching and munching the moment it’s done. It’s my Caramel Corn cooked in a paper bag. Hear it HERE

My mom made this recipe many times when we were growing up. But I had not tried it in ages. When I ran across it in my recipe file a few years ago around Christmas time, I decided I would give it a try on Christmas Day. Something fun to do while celebrating the holiday.

I remembered the caramel corn tasting good when my mom made it, but I had forgotten how addictive it can be! It is very hard to stop eating it once you start. That’s why I hurry and package as much of it as I can to give as gifts. It’s perfect to pass out to neighbors, co-workers, or as stocking stuffers.

Give it a try while the kids are home on winter break. Or if you need a snack to take to a party. It will be time well spent. Very little time, at that.

Caramel Corn in a Paper Bag  

  • 8 quarts of popped popcorn (unseasoned)
  • 1 C. brown sugar
  • ½ C. butter
  • ¼ C. light corn syrup
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. baking soda (measure and set aside)
  • One paper grocery bag 

Note:   All microwave cooking instructions are for HIGH POWER, 1100 watts.

Put popped popcorn in paper grocery bag and set aside.

Have 2-3 large baking pans ready to cool caramel corn.

Combine brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, and salt in a microwave-safe bowl.  (1 to 2 quart capacity)  Note:  caramel mixture will expand and bubble during cooking so make sure your cooking vessel is large enough. Set aside the baking soda. 

Microwave caramel ingredients together for 2 minutes.  Stir mixture, and then microwave for 2 more minutes.  Add baking soda and stir.  Mixture will become foamy.  

Pour caramel mixture over popcorn in paper bag.  Fold closed and shake bag to distribute caramel.  Keep bag closed at all times during cooking and shaking. Place bag in microwave oven. If your microwave does not have a turntable, pause a few times during cooking to move bag around.

  • Microwave for 1.5 minutes, then shake bag.  
  • Microwave for 1 minute, shake bag.
  • Microwave for 45 seconds, shake.
  • Microwave for 30 seconds, shake.

When done, open bag carefully away from your face. Pour caramel corn out onto cookie sheets to cool.  

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The first stir.
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After cooking the caramel, baking soda is added.
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The soda causes caramel to foam. It’s ready to pour over popcorn.
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It’s all in the bag. Shake to thoroughly mix.
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It’s a close fit in the microwave.
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This bag has done its duty.
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Ready to pour out and cool.

The Brewer’s Craft

Hear The Brewer’s Craft episode of the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast here.

The craft brewing phenomenon in Indiana and across the U.S. shows no signs of slowing down. The Hoosier State is home to around 160 craft brew houses, and counting! There is as much interest as ever in trying new beer tastes and styles. In addition to demand from consumers, it is the increase in home brewing that has driven growth in the number of small craft breweries and tap rooms everywhere. It makes sense that home brewing enthusiasts, with the encouragement of family and friends who love their beer, would be inclined to share their product and passion with a wider clientele.

In the new podcast episode The Brewer’s Craft, I talk with John Blichmann, a home brewer in Lafayette, IN. He has grown his passion for home brewing into a business, Blichmann Engineering, where he designs and manufacturers professional grade equipment for home brewers and small craft brewers. (B.E. also offers a line of wine making gear.)

As always, you can listen to podcast episodes using the links on this blog post. But it’s oh so handy to subscribe to the podcast wherever you like to listen to podcasts, be that iTunes/Apple, Google Play-Music, Spotify, or wherever. On those sites/apps you can download the episodes for later listening, and browse through the entire archive of Indiana Home Cooks episodes. They are all there for listening whenever you like. In your favorite podcast app, just type “Indiana Home Cooks” into the search bar and you are on your way.

If you are interested in getting started in home brewing, look for a home brewing guild or circle in your area. Here in Tippecanoe County, it’s the Tippecanoe County Home Brewers Circle. Also, the Brewers of Indiana Guild has information for craft brewers and for those who enjoy visiting craft breweries around the state and sampling the wide assortment of beers they produce.

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John’s whimsical beer tap handles.
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Enjoying a refreshing New England IPA.

The Chef on the Farm

The Lafayette Journal & Courier of Sunday, December 2, 2018, features a front page story on Lauren Reed, events coordinator and chef at The Farm at Prophetstown State Park, near Battle Ground, Indiana. Several months ago, she was featured in Lafayette Magazine. But even before that, Lauren Reed was my guest on the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast. Hear it by clicking the “play” arrow above. Or listen on iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. The title of the episode is “The Farm at Prophetstown.” Lauren not only creates farm-to-table cuisine at The Farm, but she also cooks for the VIP tailgates for the Indianapolis Colts and at the Super Bowl! There is more on Lauren and The Farm on the Indiana Home Cooks blog right here.

If you haven’t done so, please subscribe to the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, etc., and you can be notified when a new episode is available. Find the podcast by typing “Indiana Home Cooks” into the search bar. You can stream episodes or download them to your smart phone or tablet for listening later. The great thing about downloading is you can listen off-line without using any of your mobile data. And it’s the perfect way to take your podcasts with you and listen while traveling.

Coming this week on the podcast–my visit with an Indiana master brewer who has turned his passion for home-brewed craft beer into a successful career in manufacturing equipment for home brewers world-wide.

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Chef Lauren Reed lighting the antique cooking stove at The Farm.

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Small Business Friends

The Saturday after Thanksgiving has become known as “Small Business Saturday,” to remind consumers to shop at local small businesses during the holiday season. I have always liked the idea. Of course, it’s not limited to this one Saturday of the year! Anytime during the holiday season, and the rest of the year, our small local businesses are ready and waiting to provide personal and expert service to one and all.

On the Indiana Home Cooks podcast, I’ve had the pleasure and honor to meet a few of these entrepreneurs around the state. Those involved in food service, craft beer and wine making, retail, and other artisans, namely: Eddie Joe’s Icehouse in West Point, Richelle in a Handbasket in Lafayette, Goods for Cooks in Bloomington, Peoples Brewing Company and Thieme & Wagner Brewing in Lafayette, Honeysuckle Hill Bee-Stro in Brazil, Smittybread in Lafayette, Butler Winery in Bloomington.

Here are a few of those podcast episodes. Click the arrow to listen:

Find all the episodes of the Indiana Home Cooks podcast on iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you like to listen to podcasts. (Links are also to the right and at the top of this page.) Please subscribe on one of those apps so you don’t miss an episode. And when you subscribe, you can leave a rating or review of the show. I would love to hear what you think about what you hear!

Thank you for giving Indiana Home Cooks a listen, and I look forward to bringing you more stories of the people who cook, eat, and drink in the Hoosier State.

BONUS Track–Fluffy Yeast Rolls for Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you are well prepared for the holiday feast, whether you are  hosting the meal, bringing a dish to someone else’s home, traveling many miles to celebrate with family, or keeping it low key with a small group. I’m putting up a BONUS TRACK of the Indiana Home Cooks podcast with a cooking demo featuring my mom, Barbara Mercer. She and I teamed up last Thanksgiving and stirred together our family’s traditional Fluffy Yeast Rolls. Have a listen to find out just how easily the dough comes together–no kneading required! And the recipe is below. Happy baking, and here’s wishing you and yours abundant Thanksgiving blessings.

Stay in touch here on the website, or on Instagram and Facebook. Be sure to subscribe to the Indiana Home Cooks podcast at iTunes or Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or Spotify.

See more pictures and information on the Fluffy Yeast Roll recipe here.

Fluffy Yeast Rolls
From the kitchen of Barbara Mercer, from Margaret Balder
Makes 18 rolls

Dissolve 1 pkg. active dry yeast in 3 T. lukewarm water in a small bowl or measuring cup. While that is dissolving, whisk together the following ingredients in a large mixing bowl:

1/2 C. (one stick) unsalted butter or margarine, melted
1 tsp. salt
1 C. lukewarm water
1/4 C. sugar
2 eggs, room temperature

Add yeast mixture and whisk again. To this mixture, add 3 C. all-purpose flour. Mix with electric mixer until fairly smooth. Stir in 1 C. flour by hand. (Total of 4 cups of flour) Dough will be sticky. DO NOT KNEAD. Leave dough in bowl, cover with a plate or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Three hours before baking:
Remove dough from refrigerator. It should’ve doubled overnight. Grease muffin pans for 18 rolls. Melt 1/4 C. butter.

Punch down dough and pull off pieces of dough roughly the size of large walnuts and shape into balls (2 dough balls for each roll). Dip each ball into melted butter before placing in pan. Cover rolls with tea towels and let rise until double. Bake in preheated 450 degree oven for 5-10 minutes, until golden brown.* After baking, while still hot and in the pans, brush tops with more melted butter. Serve warm.

*If using dark baking pans, reduce oven temp to 425 degrees.

 

Eddie Joe’s Icehouse

If your idea of barbecue is some form of shredded pork swimming in a thick syrupy sauce ladled onto a bun, then I’d like to suggest you make your way to West Point, Indiana. That’s the home of Eddie Joe’s Icehouse, where barbecue means SMOKING MEAT–beef brisket, pork butt, ribs, chicken, sausage, etc.  On the latest episode of the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast, I visit Eddie Joe’s and talk to owner Lee Stanish about barbecue–from his early days with his first smoker, which he built from scratch, to how he grew that hobby into a thriving business. Click the “play” button above to hear it.

Learn more about Eddie Joe’s Icehouse here.

Enjoy this little departure from all the Thanksgiving talk on all the food channels, websites, and podcasts. With Thanksgiving in mind however, I took a cue from Lee and made my first attempt at smoking a whole turkey breast on my Big Green Egg smoker. It turned out quite well. My second turkey smoke with be this weekend in preparation of the big day on November 22. I heard someone say “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes better.” I’m always trying to get better at smoking meat, and building my relationship with the Big Green Egg. We are still in the “dating” phase, as Lee explains in the podcast.

I’ll post my progress on Instagram @indianahomecooks, so keep an eye on that. Please follow me there and on Facebook. I would love to hear from you. Happy Thanksgiving!

Note: If you have signed up to receive my blog posts in your email inbox (thanks for doing that), you may not get a version that includes the handy “play” button allowing you listen to the podcast. That is unfortunate, but not difficult to remedy. Simply click the title of the blog article you are reading in your inbox and you will go straight to the blog and have easy access to listen to the podcast. And keep in mind, you can always subscribe to the Indiana Home Cooks podcast on iTunes, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you like to listen to podcasts. That goes for everyone–not just email subscribers! Thanks and cheers!!

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Lee Stanish at the Eddie Joe’s bar.
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The smoker, where the magic happens.
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The woodpile.
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Eddie Joe’s Icehouse, downtown West Point, IN.

Italian Sausage & Lentil Soup

After a full day working on the podcast recently, I looked up and saw it was 5:00, and I hadn’t done the first thing to get dinner on. All day I had in the back of my mind I would grill salmon, so I knew I should get a couple of filets out of the freezer to thaw. But I never even got that far. And in the meantime, the weather turned breezy and rainy, so grilling was not an attractive option.

My husband and I were hosting a gathering of about dozen people the following night and my plan was to bake homemade pizzas for that group. I had a pound of Italian sausage in the refrigerator, a portion of which I would use for pizza. So why not kill two birds with one stone and cook the entire pound, reserve some for pizza night, and use the rest in…something….for dinner this night. But what would that something be?

Since the weather outside had turned from grill-friendly to chilly-damp, I thought soup would be just the thing. The first soup of the fall! With Italian sausage as the base, I began thinking of what else I needed to make soup. Onions, celery, and carrots, of course. I had plenty of onions on hand, and just enough of the other two. There was half a carton of beef broth in the fridge that I needed to either use or freeze, so I grabbed that. Canned diced tomatoes–check. And something to bulk up the soup and make it more substantial and filling. I remembered the half pound of dry lentils in the cupboard and thought that would do the trick and not take too long to cook.

You can hear the rest on the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast BONUS track, and see the recipe, and step-by-step pictures, below.

The idea is, this is soup, and soup can be a template for whatever meat, vegetables, beans/pasta/noodles, broth, and seasonings you like. If you don’t have Italian sausage on hand, but there’s a pound of ground beef in your freezer, use that, and bump up the seasonings. The great thing about Italian sausage it is highly seasoned and makes for a nice shortcut in soup. Ground beef or chicken as a base will require more imagination on seasonings, but go with what you like. Experiment and taste as you go. You can always add more herbs and seasonings but you can’t take them out!

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Italian Sausage & Lentil Soup 

Makes 6 servings

 

  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage (sweet or hot)*
  • 2 cups diced vegetables (equal parts onion, celery, and carrots)
  • 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 pound dry lentils OR 2 cans of beans—kidney, cannellini, red, or black (If using canned beans, rinse and drain before adding to soup)
  • Broth (beef, chicken, or vegetable)
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • Kosher salt & pepper to taste
  • Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

If sausage is in links, slice through the casings and remove sausage to crumble and brown (medium to med-low heat) in a large soup pot. Once browned, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Leave fat rendered from sausage in the pot and return to med-low heat. Add the onions, celery, and carrots, stir and let them begin cooking. After about a minute, put the lid on the pot and allow vegetables to sweat about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally, scraping up any bits of meat from the bottom of the pan. The sweating process will help loosen the stuck-on bits. You can also add a bit of the broth at this point if you need more liquid to do the job. 

After vegetables have cooked about 5 minutes, add the tomatoes, lentils or canned beans, and the cooked sausage. Pour in enough broth to cover all ingredients by an inch or so. If you need to add water to bring up the level of liquid, that’s fine. Add the sage, stir gently, cover and cook on med-low until soup comes up to a simmer. Then reduce heat to low, TASTE, and add salt and pepper as desired. Allow to simmer about an hour. The lentils should cook through and even begin to break down a bit. Garnish with parsley and serve with crusty bread or corn bread. 

*NOTE: Most Italian sausage comes in links. If you want larger chunks of sausage in the soup, cook the links, intact, and then slice them before returning to pot. And if you prefer a meatier soup, then by all means, use up to 1 pound of sausage. 

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A potato masher helps crumble the sausage.
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Lots of flavor stuck in the pot after browning the meat.
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Equal portions of celery, carrots, onions.
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After sweating the veggies, the stuck on bits have loosened.
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A little broth and light scraping gets all that meat flavor into the soup.
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Everything else in the pot. Cover with broth and cook!