It happens to me every time. We take a special day and go to historic Williamsburg, VA. We tour Colonial Williamsburg. We soak in the gorgeous architecture and dining options. We stroll under centuries old trees and savor every moment. And then. And THEN . . . we hit the outlets. Or, rather, the outlets hit us. Ooooh baby . . . those buggers are dangerous. And one of the most dangerous predators of all? Harry and David. Yes. There is an entire store dedicated to ooey, gooey caramel popcorn, decadent chocolate treats, and savory packages of nuts. Harry and David should be renamed “Tempter and Temptress.” Or I guess, “Tempter and Tempter . . . ” unless “Harry” is a pseudonym for David’s incredibly hairy beast of a wife . . . OK. This is getting weird.
But you get my drift. That elixir of the gods that they sell in that place calls to me like the siren song pulling me ever nearer toward the rocks of destruction. Have you ever actually picked up a package of that stuff and looked at how much it costs? Holy cow. “Well, kids, it’s either this Moose Munch or your college tuition. Which is it going to be?” College is good. But, oh . . . the sacred Moose Munch . . .
There’s only one solution to this conundrum. We’re going to have to make our own.
What are we waiting for? Let’s do this.
This recipe is based on a basic caramel corn recipe from Taste of Home. I have changed it up a bit, for my taste, but of course, I want to give them credit for the original popcorn recipe. Here is the one with my tweaks to make it a little more . . . “Moosey.” 😉
Homemade Moose Munch (adapted from Taste of Home)
12 cups air-popped popcorn
1 cup cashews (roughly 1 small can)
1 bag mini Snickers bars, chopped
1 cup mini marshmallows
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 packed cup brown sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
Directions: Combine popcorn and cashews in a large bowl. In a saucepan bring butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt to a boil. Allow mixture to boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the baking soda to the mixture after 5 minutes– it will foam up. Stir and then pour the foam over the popcorn/cashew mixture. When popcorn is well coated, place the mixture onto 2 silpat-lined baking sheets. Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. After 1 hour of baking, sprinkle the marshmallows and chopped snickers bars on top of the popcorn and bake for 10 minutes more. Allow to cool and drizzle with melted chocolate.
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Okey doke, folks. The first thing we need for this ‘shere Moose Munch is popcorn. Any kind will work. And it’s just so fun to pop that stuff the old fashioned way. So channel your inner Grandma and get popping.
While that’s going, go on a labor of love . . . unwrap an entire package of Snickers bars. Come on. I know you’ve always wanted to do that.
Open up the nuts. Because this mix is NUTS! If you don’t like cashews, you can substitute for any kind of nut that you like. I think macademia nuts and Almond Joys would be a good swap if you like an island themed mix. You could drizzle with white chocolate, at the end, instead of regular. The possibilities are endless. Just put all your favorite stuff in there. Whatever makes you happy. No. You may not put Ryan Reynolds in there. Even if he makes you happy.
Chop up your Snickers (or candy bar of choice). Your knife can get kind of gummy as you do this, but scraping the caramel off will help you get through the pile.
Chop your pieces roughly and set the candy aside. Oh dear! A few of those Snickers chunks seemed to just jump into my mouth! It’s not my fault! It just sort of . . . happened.
Add your cashews to the popcorn and mix. Make sure you have a big bowl– we don’t want it to overflow. Don’t add your Snickers or marshmallows to the mix, yet, though.
Now, let’s make caramel. All caramel is basically made out of brown sugar and butter. This version adds a little corn syrup to thicken it. A little salt cuts some of the cloying sweetness. But DON’T add the baking soda yet. Trust me. It’s going to be like Mt. Vesuvius when you do that.
Bring this mixture to a boil– but keep an eye on it and stir to make sure that it doesn’t stick or burn.
Once the mixture boils, stir constantly and allow it to “rolling boil” for 5 minutes. Rolling boil just means that, no matter how hard you stir, the mixture looks like this– foamy and bubbling. This boiling will thicken the caramel sauce enough to coat the popcorn.
After 5 minutes, add the baking soda to your caramel. Adding this baking soda will have a similar reaction to adding baking soda and vinegar together for the classic elementary “volcano” experiment. WHOOOO . . . it will foam up. “Thar’ she blows!!!” Stir the foam to make sure everything is combined, and then pour the caramel over your popcorn. Stir the popcorn gently, so you don’t crush it. Make sure that all of your popcorn mixture is coated in this delicious caramel sauce. Mmmm . . .
When your popcorn is coated, divide the mixture onto 2 silpat-covered cookie sheets. Spread the popcorn out and place your baking sheets into a 250 degree oven. Bake the popcorn for 1 hour, stirring the mixture every 15 minutes.
After your popcorn has baked for 1 hour, sprinkle your marshmallows and Snickers bars evenly over the top. Oh dear . . . are a few more of those pesky things missing? (Innocent face). Bake for 10 minutes more and remove popcorn from the oven. Toss/stir the mixture and allow it to cool, completely.
This last step is optional . . . but you REALLY want to do it. Oooh . . . it totally takes this popcorn over the top. When the mixture is cool, break the large popcorn chunks into smaller pieces on the same silpat. Those silpats are awesome . . . they will hold all of the spills and mess, and then they just wipe right off. I wish I had a giant Silpat to put my kids on.
Melt about 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips. You can do this easily, in the microwave– just keep heating in 30 second increments, stirring each time, until your chocolate is smooth. It doesn’t matter if there are a few chocolate chunks in it– but it needs to be able to be stirred.
Take your spoon and drizzle the melted chocolate over the pieces of caramel popcorn. Allow the mixture to dry, completely, and then break the mixture apart, again, and bag it. This mix can also be frozen for a “Holy cow– the kids are in bed and I can eat my whole snack BY MYSELF!” treat. Yes. Now Mom can EAT HER OWN FOOD WITHOUT SHARING.
Because, sometimes, even Moms deserve a little . . . Moose Munching.
You did it. And I’m just so proud of you.
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