Summer Happenings

I’m gathering material for a couple of upcoming episodes of the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast, and I hope you’ll check them out when they are posted. I have some other tasks to complete in the next week, and after that I’ll be in the studio editing and producing like mad to get them ready. I’m working on episodes featuring Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits, based in West Lafayette, and Shoup’s Country Foods in Frankfort.

Shoup’s Country Foods sponsor the Backyard BBQ Cook-Off at the Indiana State Fair each year. The fair is coming up soon, August 2-18, and the cook-off is Saturday, August 10. Catagories include pork ribs, pork loin, chicken, “Build a Hog Burger,” and more. If you are a backyard barbecuer, consider entering! You’ll find all the details HERE. The deadline to enter is July 26, or until space fills up.

(I just found out I’ll be a judge for the BBQ Cook-Off! So sign up or come by and see it all take place August 10 at the Indiana State Fair.)

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The Shoup family of Frankfort, Indiana, started in the custom meat processing business decades ago. Over the years they have expanded into a retail meat store, mail order, and catering business. Catering has lead them to open their own event center and to involvement with the biggest catered tailgate party anywhere–the Super Bowl. Their story will be featured on an upcoming episode of the IHC Podcast.

On my blog and on social media you may have seen pictures of Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits. I’ve cooked them several times and liked the results so much I couldn’t help sharing! I met Professor Torbert Rocheford and his son Evan recently and I’ll be sharing their story about how the grits came to be, and where in the world orange corn comes from. (Hint: Professor Torbert invented it.)

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Italian Pot Roast with Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits

 

Look for these stories and more here on the blog and on the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast. You can always catch up on your listening by clicking on the episodes listed here on the blog. Or go to indianahomecooks.podbean.com, Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Stitcher, Google, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Subscribe, download, and take IHC on your summer travels. That’s a great time to listen. And thanks!

Indiana Farmers Coliseum photo from Wikipedia.

 

Pesto Love Affair

In the midst of summer as we are, our gardens are catching up after the wet and cool start of the growing season. It will be awhile before my tomatoes are ready so they will get lots of tender loving care in the weeks ahead. But my tiny herb garden is thriving, and my basil is the best I’ve ever grown.

Naturally, I feel pressure to utilize these fragrant, glossy, emerald leaves as soon as possible, and as often as possible. The standard suggestion is “Make pesto!” And I have done that in years past. I like pesto, but I realize I’ve never been ga-ga about it like many folks are. In fact, when I make a large batch and freeze or refrigerate it for later use, I just ignore it. I never use it up.

As I watered the flowers and vegetables this morning, I knew I had to use some of that beautiful basil today, so pesto it would be. But only a small batch to go with pasta and a couple chicken thighs I had pulled from the freezer. They would be delicious grilled, skin-on. I did de-bone them, just to open them up and maybe speed the cooking a bit, and learned it’s not easy to remove the bone from a chicken thigh. If I do it again, I’ll study up on it beforehand.

The pesto recipe I use is from my old stand-by, The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, circa late 1980’s. I had not heard of pesto in the 1980’s. But the BHGC was on the cutting edge of trendiness, I suppose. Although pesto has been made in Italy for centuries, it didn’t catch on here in the states until the 1980’s. BHGC was all over that one.

I titled this blogpost “Pesto Love Affair” and then proceeded to explain I’ve never been crazy about pesto. And until today, I wasn’t. But putting the ingredients in the food processor, starting with the cubed parmesan cheese and processing to a nice granular consistency, then adding the walnuts, garlic cloves, basil leaves–barely 2 cups, eyeballing it–processing it into that luscious consistency, then drizzling in the olive oil, it came together magically. I didn’t season with salt and pepper until I tasted it. Then a generous grind of pepper and just a pinch of salt and another teaspoon of olive oil and…whizzzzz…whizzzzz…it was done and delicious, and I was falling in love.

My husband and son both agreed it was the best pesto I’d ever made. What else would they say? But it was true. The best ever. And I’m not sure why. To me pesto is usually a bit over the top, too much of something, but I don’t know what. It’s a concoction of several strong-flavored ingredients. Perfumey basil, sharp parmesan, and pungent garlic each deliver a heavy blow, and add in the traditional pine nuts and it’s flavor overload in my opinion. Perhaps replacing the “piney-ness” of the pine nuts with the mellow nuttiness of walnuts helps balance the other ingredients.

Or maybe it was just the right day to make pesto, from my own home-grown basil, at the peak of its hypnotic aromatic powers. Cooking with the seasons brings the utmost flavor and satisfaction to the table.

So I’ll stick with the BHGC for pesto, and keep it fresh and spontaneous. And maybe my love for pesto will endure.

———-

The Indiana Home Cooks Podcast has been on a short hiatus. I’m working on several show ideas for the remaining weeks of summer. If you have a topic or a person you’d like to hear more about on the podcast, drop me a line. You can contact me by clicking “Contact” at the top of the screen or on the website menu. I would love to hear from you!

And thank you to all who have signed up to receive this blog via email. I’m pleased you are interested in Indiana Home Cooks, and honored to be an occasional guest in your inbox.

You can catch up on past episodes of the IHC Podcast directly from this blog, or on your favorite podcast app–Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Podbean, Stitcher, Google, Spotify, etc. On any of those apps, simply search for “Indiana Home Cooks” and all the episodes will be right there at your fingertips. Thank you for listening, and for reading this far. The pesto recipe is below.


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Fresh Basil Pesto

Adapted from The Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook

  • Parmesan cheese, block (or 1/2 cup grated)*
  • 1/2 cup toasted (and cooled) walnuts, rough chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, sort of firmly packed, but don’t go crazy
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

*You can buy grated parmesan cheese, but the kind in the shaker can is not recommended. Fresh grated is available in tubs in the “fancy cheese” section of the grocery. If you use block parm cheese, then follow the steps below…

Cut the block parm cheese into half-inch size cubes, up to about 1/2 to 2/3 cup, cubed. Put the cubes into the food processor bowl, close the lid and process until the consistency of very coarse cornmeal. You should end up with about 1/2 cup grated cheese.

To the grated cheese add walnuts, garlic, and basil leaves. Process this mixture until well combined. Next, drizzle in the olive oil while processing the mixture until everything comes together. Stop processing and taste for seasoning. Add salt/pepper as desired and process again for a few seconds. Add more olive oil or a bit of water if pesto seems too stiff. But don’t over process the mixture.

Use immediately or store in the fridge in a glass jar covered with a layer of olive oil, or in a plastic container or dish covered with plastic wrap directly in contact with the pesto. Both these storing methods will keep the pesto bright green. Use within one week. It may also be frozen in portion sizes if desired. Makes about 3/4 cup.

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Spaghetti with fresh pesto, tomatoes and grilled chicken

For this dish simply stir pesto (the amount is up to you) into hot cooked spaghetti, along with a bit of pasta cooking water to create a thin sauce to coat the noodles. Top with fresh diced tomatoes, sliced chicken, and a dollop of pesto. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

Vegetable Tian–BONUS TRACK

Hear this Bonus Track of the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast HERE.

All our Indiana crops are suffering from late planting, soggy, if not out-right flooded soils, and cool temperatures so far this spring and summer. We will see the effects throughout the season in farm fields, in the garden, and at the farmers markets. Lower than normal yields and a decrease in quality are no doubt in store this summer and fall.

For those who like to cook with the seasons, it might be “slim pickin’s” of fresh local produce this summer, but we’ll manage and make do with the choices available. If the quality of produces is not picture perfect, I have a suggestion. Try a vegetable tian. It’s pronounced “tee ANN” or “tee OHN,” depending on how French you want to sound. I tend to fall somewhere in the middle–“tee AHN.” However you say it, it’s a delicious and easy way to prepare summer vegetables in a flavorful, colorful side dish.

There are many versions of tian, but it’s all the same idea. Google it and you’ll find recipes from Ina Garten, Martha Stewart, and about every chef out there. In my version, it starts on the stove in a cast iron skillet, then we move out to the grill for most of the cooking. I usually cook this dish on the gas grill, but live fire will work also, as long as you can monitor and regulate your cooking temp. With a small amount of seasoning, this combination comes out bursting with flavor and freshness.

Vegetable Tian On The Grill

  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt & fresh ground pepper (plus thyme or oregano, if desired)
  • One large yellow sweet onion, sliced in 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 4-5 Yukon Gold or red skin potatoes, depending on size, sliced 1/4-in thick
  • 2-3 ripe tomatoes, sliced 1/4-in thick
  • 2-3 small zucchini, sliced 1/4-in thick
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

On the stove, heat a 10-inch cast iron skillet, or other pan suitable for the grill, to medium low. Get the outdoor grill preheated to 375º. Drizzle in the skillet about 2 T olive oil, then put in onion slices and begin to cook, no higher than medium low. You are not cooking them completely, just getting them started. After a couple minutes, add the garlic, stir, and continue cooking gently for another minute. Then remove from heat and turn off stove. Season the onions and garlic with just a pinch of salt and pepper, and add another drizzle of olive oil.

To the skillet, on top of the onions, add the potatoes, tomatoes, and zucchini in layers. Either potato/tomato/zucchini, in a fan arrangement, or a potato layer, followed by tomato layer, followed by zucchini layer. Whatever makes you happy. Season lightly as you add layers. Top with the parmesan cheese and another generous drizzle of olive oil.

Using oven mitts (it may still be hot from the stove) take the skillet out to the preheated grill (375º). Place it on the grill over direct heat. After 10-15 minutes, move to indirect heat and finish cooking, about 30 more minutes. At that point, cover the pan with aluminum foil and continue cooking 15 more minutes, for a total cooking time of 60 minutes on the grill.  Test potatoes for doneness before removing from grill.

When done, set the skillet aside while you finish preparing the rest of the meal. The tian can sit for up to 30 minutes before serving. It’s also good served at room temperature. Serve it right out of the skillet.

If you don’t want to cook the tian on the grill, simply bake in a 375º oven following the same instructions.

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Onions & garlic just start to soften.
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Tomatoes, zucchini, potatoes (I didn’t use all 5 potatoes!)
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1/4-inch sliced
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Onto the grill
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End of cooking, golden brown

Italian Pot Roast BONUS TRACK

Hear this podcast episode HERE.

I enjoy playing around with different flavors in traditional recipes and giving them a fresh spin. For instance, from-scratch chicken noodle soup can be brightened up with the addition of fresh ginger, lime, and cilantro, and maybe a dash of fresh diced jalapeño or other hot pepper for a slight kick.

One day a few years ago I was preparing pot roast ingredients to load into the Crock Pot, when it dawned on me that I could take this standard family fare in another direction. Instead of the usual pot roast seasoning of salt, pepper, garlic, rosemary, etc., and onions, carrots, and potatoes with gravy, what about an Italian twist? Instead of the carrots and potatoes, how about diced tomatoes and red bell pepper, along with the onions, and thyme, oregano, basil, and parsley for seasoning? Oh, and a splash of red wine couldn’t hurt. When the roast is cooked to fork-tenderness, pull it apart in chunks, and serve it over creamy polenta with a drizzle of olive oil, some chopped fresh parsley, and, of course, grated Parmesan cheese.

The whole scenario ran through my mind in an instant. So I followed my inspiration, and my Italian Pot Roast turned out fabulous!

Part of my thought process involved how I could use polenta. I had known about this creamy cornmeal dish for some time, seeing it on TV cooking shows, in magazines, and elsewhere. Along with pasta, it is a staple of Italian cuisine. To us Hoosiers, it’s known as grits.

I thought I should be authentic and use “polenta” so I found a quick-cooking Italian polenta that I used the first few times I made it. It was perfect with the Italian Pot Roast, serving as a creamy bed on which to ladle the tender beef chunks and sauce. But lately, when I make polenta, I pull out the Quaker Yellow Corn Meal and cook it according to the directions for Corn Meal Mush on the box. I add a little butter, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese, and maybe a splash of milk to keep it creamy. It’s delicious and comforting.

A recent discovery I’ve made is another grits product that makes a fine polenta–Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits. It’s a bit pricey, but delicious, and the orange corn is a brighter color on the plate if you are serving it with the Italian Pot Roast or Shrimp & Grits. Professor Torbert is a real professor of agronomy at Purdue University, who developed a special line of corn that is higher in beta-carotene, giving it a more orange hue. He has turned his orange corn into a specialty food product. I hope to share his story on a future episode of the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast.

In the meantime, give the Italian Pot Roast a try. You can cook it in your slow cooker,  roasting pan or Dutch oven. All three methods are explained below, and you can hear me cooking it here. Enjoy!

Italian Pot Roast (Serves 4-6)

  • One 2 to 2.5 lb. chuck roast
  • Olive oil
  • One medium to large onion, roughly chopped
  • One bell pepper, any color, roughly chopped
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup beef broth*
  • 1/2 cup red wine*
  • 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 6-oz can tomato paste
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • Italian flat-leaf parsley, one handful chopped fresh, or 1 tsp dried
  • 1 T sugar
  • Kosher salt & pepper

For serving:

  • More parsley
  • Grated parmesan cheese
  • Cooked polenta (directions below) or bite-size pasta, such as ziti

If cooking in a slow cooker (Crock Pot), reduce amount of wine/broth by half. Use a 1/2-cup of EITHER broth or wine, or reduce to 1/4-cup each.

Slow cooker instructions:

Put roast, veggies, garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, broth/wine, herbs, sugar, and salt & pepper to taste in cooker. Cook on low for 10-12 hours. Or cook on high for 5-6 hours.

For conventional oven, preheat to 325º. Combine all ingredients in a large roasting pan as instructed for slow cooker above. Cover pan with foil or a lid, and bake 2.5 to 3 hours, till fork tender. When done, remove from oven, and let sit, covered, up to 30 minutes. 

Conventional oven, plus extra flavor step for braising:

Season roast on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat an oven safe pot, like a dutch oven, on the stove on medium setting. Drizzle about 1 T. olive oil in hot pan and place roast in to sear. About 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove roast from pot and set aside. 

Lower heat to med-low and pour in broth and wine. Allow it to boil and scrape up bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pot, 2-3 minutes. Carefully add roast back to the pot, season with thyme, oregano, and basil. Add onions, peppers, garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, and sugar. 

Cover pot and place in preheated oven, and allow to braise for 2.5 to 3 hours, till fork tender. When done, remove from oven and let the roast sit, covered, for up to 30 minutes. 

To serve, pull roast apart into chunks and stir it into the sauce. Ladle over cooked polenta or pasta in bowls, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with parsley and parmesan cheese. Makes great leftovers. 

To make polenta:

You don’t have to buy “polenta.” Use Quaker Yellow Corn Meal and follow the instructions for cooking “Corn Meal Mush” on the box. When it has finished cooking and is thick and creamy it is ready to serve. If it thickens up too much before you are ready to serve, add a bit of milk and whisk. It’s also tasty to stir in a couple tablespoons of olive oil and 1/3 to 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese.

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Slow-braised to fork-tenderness
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Served over polenta, and topped with fresh parsley, olive oil, and grated Parm.

Cincinnati-Style Chili

The Evolution of a Recipe

Over the recent holidays I took the opportunity to trot out an old family favorite recipe.  My “Cincinnati-Style Chili” is great when the kids are home or when friends are over, as it makes a large batch that will feed a crowd. And it offers the opportunity to work with spices you might not think of using in chili. My kitchen demo explaining the steps can be heard below, in this BONUS TRACK of the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast.  

At some point in my younger days, my family became acquainted with a fast food eatery called Skyline Chili.  It was started in Cincinnati by a Greek immigrant who opened his dining establishment within site of the downtown Cincy skyline.  He served authentic Greek dishes, and his chili was a big hit with customers. Today dozens of Skyline Chili restaurants dot the states of Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and beyond.  With a unique seasoning blend, added toppings of beans, onions, shredded cheese (chili three-way), all nestled in a bed of spaghetti, what’s not to love?  (Hoosiers know Steak N Shake has its own version of this dish as well.)

Not long after getting our first taste of Skyline Chili, my mom happened upon a recipe for “Cincinnati Chili.”  She made it and we judged it as good as Skyline’s.  It became one of our family’s favorite wintertime meals.  

Many years later, newly married and contemplating the eternal question “What’s for dinner?” I remembered the Cincinnati Chili recipe and thought how good that sounded, and I knew my husband would love it.  I called my mom and asked her to read the recipe to me over the phone.  What I transcribed is shown below.  “June 15—Stacy” referred to  the upcoming wedding date of my cousin, which my mom had recently learned and informed me of on the same phone call. Our recipe files sometimes contain vital information that has nothing to do with food.

Now this recipe transcription may leave you scratching your head. I failed to record the second ingredient correctly, and it took several attempts to determine that it is indeed tomato sauce, and not paste. Too bad I didn’t use a pencil. And I didn’t even write the title of the recipe at the top until several years later. The sheet was always folded and filed under “C,” and when I came to the recipe headed with “June 15–Stacy,” I knew I’d found Cincinnati Chili. 

Rather than forcing you to decipher my quirky recipe notations, I’ll share what I hope are clearer instructions below. They have evolved over the years. Give it a try this winter for a hearty, family-pleasing dinner. And hear the demo HERE.

Subscribe to the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast wherever you get your podcasts–iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, etc. Links are to your right and at the top of this page.

Cincinnati Style Chili

Makes 8-10 servings

  • 2 lb. ground beef
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 T canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 T chili powder
  • 1tsp dried chipotle powder
  • 1 tsp dried ancho chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 T vinegar, any kind
  • 1 T Worchestershire sauce
  • 3 cups water, divided
  • 1 15-oz can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp dried chili pepper, if more heat is desired

For serving, you will need:

  • Cooked spaghetti
  • 1 or 2 14-oz cans red beans or chili beans, rinsed and drained
  • Shredded cheese (Colby, Colby-jack, pepper jack, cheddar, any of those)
  • Diced sweet (raw) onion, optional

Measure all dry spices and set aside.

In a large pot or dutch oven, brown ground beef, then remove from pot, drain, and set aside. Into pot (med to med-low heat), drizzle oil, then add chopped onions. Sauté for about a minute, then put in all the pre-measured dried spices. Stir them into the onions and cook another minute. You should begin to smell the fragrance of the spices.  Return the ground beef to the pot, then add garlic, salt, vinegar, Worchestershire sauce and one cup water. Turn up heat to med or med-high, and allow mixture to come up to a boil. Stir and scrape up any bits that are stuck on the bottom of the pot. Add the tomato sauce, chocolate, bay leaf and 2 more cups of water. (Go ahead and add the dried chili powder if desired, or add later if you feel chili needs more heat. Or serve it at the table and let everyone decide for themselves!) Also, you can add the beans right to the pot at this point, or reserve and heat them up later to serve with the chili.

The chili at this point is very watery. That’s ok, it will cook down. Allow pot to come back up to boil, then turn down heat to low and let it simmer 2-3 hours, with the lid on, but slightly vented. Stir occasionally making sure chili is not sticking or burning on the bottom. If it cooks down and seems too thick, add more water. 

Serve over cooked spaghetti, topped with beans (if serving separately), cheese, and onions if desired.

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Measure spices and seasonings ahead of time.
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Chili has cooked down and thickened nicely.
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What else can I say about this artifact…

 

 

Celebrating Holiday Foods

My final podcast of the year is a conversation with my daughter, Christine Hack. She’s a young bride working on the balance of marriage, work, home, and everything else life throws our way. She has many personal interests and cooking and baking are among them. She often sends me pictures of her kitchen triumphs.

During the Christmas holiday season, Christine and I sat down to talk over some of our favorite holiday foods, traditions, and memories. Hear our conversation HERE.

We cover the gamut from the popularity of oyster dressing at Thanksgiving, to fruitcake (paying homage to Christine’s high school freshman English teacher, the late Shari Schap), to Christmas cookies, and the origin story of our family’s French Market Donuts.

Pour yourself a hot beverage, a glass of wine, or a “wee dram,” and join us at the kitchen table while we chat. I’m sharing recipes for French Market Donuts and Cranberry Noels for you to try over the holidays. Enjoy. And here’s to abundant holiday blessings and a happy new year to all. Cheers!

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French Market Donuts (Beignets)

Yields about 7 dozen small square donuts (Note: I make a half recipe to feed a family of four on Christmas morning.)

  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 package active dry yeast, dissolved in 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • About 7 cups all purpose flour

Put shortening in large mixing bowl and pour hot water over shortening. Add sugar, salt, and milk. Give it a gentle stir. When mixture becomes lukewarm, add the yeast dissolved in water, eggs, and 4 cups flour. Beat well with electric mixer. Add the remainder of flour, knead a few times just to get the dough cohesive and smooth. Put dough in a large bowl or plastic container (lightly oiled) and place in the refrigerator over night. 

When ready to fry, heat at least 4” of oil in a deep pot on the stove or deep fryer, to 350-375º. Have powdered sugar in a sifter or in a large zip-top bag standing by. Cut off chunks of dough and roll them out on a lightly floured surface. Roll thin (about 1/8”) and cut into squares. A pizza cutter works best. Carefully drop dough pieces into hot oil. They fry very quickly so watch them. When golden brown on both sides, remove to drain on paper towel lined baking sheet. When drained, put hot donuts on serving plate and sift a generous amount of powdered sugar over all. Or, put powdered sugar in a zip-top bag, drop in donuts and lightly shake to coat. Serve hot.

Note: When fried, this dough puffs up to make an airy, yet chewy donut. The dough will keep several days in the fridge, so you can have more than one morning of fresh hot donuts!

 

Cranberry Noels

Makes about 4 dozen

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 T milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp of orange zest
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans*
  • 3/4 cup shredded coconut

Beat butter and sugar with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add milk, vanilla, salt, and orange zest. Beat until just combined. Gradually add flour, cranberries, and pecans. Mix on low speed until fully combined. 

Divide dough in half. Shape each half into 8-inch logs, about 2 inches diameter. Roll each log in coconut and then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours. 

When ready to bake, pre-heat oven to 375º. Using a sharp straight knife (not serrated), cut cold logs into 1/4-inch thick slices. Place on baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until edges are golden. Transfer cookies to rack to cool.

*Toasting brings out the nutty flavor of pecans. Toast them whole ahead of time on a baking sheet or pan, at 350º for 8-10 minutes. I put them in a cold oven and let them begin toasting as the oven heats up. Check after 8 minutes. They’ll darken just a bit and become fragrant. Don’t over-bake. Allow to cool then chop fine for this recipe. (Tip: toast a whole bag of pecan halves at once and you’ll have a ready supply for baking, salads, etc.)

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Cranberry Noels and Christmas Cut-out Sugar Cookies

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.