It's time for this month's Improv Challenge!
The premise of the Improv Challenge is easy: each month there are two assigned ingredients. The participants must make a recipe using both ingredients and blog about it.
This month's ingredients were popcorn and peanuts. Interesting! Made me think of baseball of course, since I'm a big baseball fan. I wasn't sure what there was to do with them though, until I started looking around on Pinterest for ideas. I found Thai-style chicken that was breaded with popcorn and peanuts, fudge with popcorn and peanuts in it, and several different varieties of popcorn and peanut snacks. While I am still very intrigued by that chicken, I went the snack route this time. We are getting ready for a car trip and I thought I would make us a fun car snack. I found a recipe for Butterscotch Popcorn Crunchies on Nestle's website, and since I love all things butterscotch, I had to try it. It's basically like caramel corn, but with a butterscotch twist.
12 cups popped popcorn
2 cups lightly salted peanuts
¼ cup butter
11 oz. pkg. butterscotch baking chips
¾ cup light corn syrup
Preheat oven to 300° . Spray large roasting pan with nonstick cooking spray. Place popcorn and peanuts in prepared roasting pan. (Make sure there are no unpopped kernels in there.) Lay a large piece of parchment paper out on the counter.
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add butterscotch chips and corn syrup and increase heat to medium-low. Stir often until butterscotch chips are completely melted and mixture starts to bubble. Immediately pour over popcorn mixture in roasting pan; toss as well as you can to evenly coat.
Bake, stirring every 10 minutes, for 20 to 30 minutes. Carefully pour mixture onto parchment paper and spread evenly. As mixture cools, it will harden. Once completely cool, break into bite-size pieces. Store in airtight container.
Makes about 14 cups.
So I have to admit that it took me two tries to get this stuff right. It was my fault, though. Instead of using a roasting pan, I used my two stoneware large bar pans (from Pampered Chef). They are rimmed so I thought they would work just fine. And they did, except that I put them both on the same rack, side-by-side. I should have known not to do that, because every time I do, the outside edges are too close to the sides of the oven, and those sides burn. I forgot. I noticed it the second time I went to stir them, so I moved one pan to a different rack and centered them both. That stopped the burning, but the damage had been done. The butterscotch caramel coating got too dark. In hindsight, I realize I should have taken it out sooner, because the original recipe called for cooking it a total of 40-45 minutes. So I just followed the recipe. But like I said, the butterscotch part got too dark. The result was still edible, and my husband liked it just fine, but I was very disappointed. The butterscotch flavor got cooked out. :(
I wasn't sure I would try again, because I was busy getting ready for our trip. But I had more of all of the ingredients and I thought it would make an awesome car snack, so I squeezed in some time to make it again. This time I started out with the pans on different racks so there was no burning. And I played it safe, and only baked it for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes everything was evenly coated and the butterscotch stuff seemed to be the right consistency, so I took it out. Perfect.
This is kind of a messy dish to make, but it's worth it. When you first pour the butterscotch syrup on the popcorn and peanuts, you're going to think that something went wrong, because it's very difficult to stir. You can't possibly get all the popcorn evenly coated. Don't worry about it. When you go back to stir it after the first 10 minutes, you will see that the sauce has melted and loosened up quite a bit so you are better able to stir it and get all the popcorn covered.
The first time I made this, I made it just as written, and when my 4-year-old, Eva, found out she couldn't have it (because she's allergic to peanuts), she was heartbroken. So when I made it the second time, I did half of it with peanuts and half without. Then I had a very happy girl on my hands!
Check out all the other popcorn and peanuts recipes below and come back next month to see what I make with bacon and beans. Yum!
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