Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Popcorn Party & Movie Night: Chocolate Peanut Butter Popcorn

Popcorn Party and Movie Night

Looking for something fun to do this summer...inside?  I mean, I love to spend my summer outside, grilling out and splashing in the pool, but at some point the Texas heat just becomes unbearable.  That's when my family starts looking for indoor activities.  We hit the museum, visit the library and book stores, and go see all the summer blockbusters- doesn't that cold theater feel so good?!  Not to mention the popcorn.  I am not sure how much trans-fat is in a handful of that crunchy, salty goodness but it's summer, who cares?   I just can't seem to resist!

If you have read the blog before, you know my proclivity for making foods that are readily available for purchase, and though a bag of microwave popcorn will never compete with a tub of butter-slathered movie popcorn, I think I have found a suitable substitute.  A popcorn party!  How about several flavors of popcorn, sweet, salty, crunchy?  Or pile on the extras and mix up a cup or your own creation with m&m's, nuts, pretzels and cheese crackers.  Puts a whole new spin on trail mix, doesn't it?

So, pull out some favorite movies...old black and white classics, a Pixar marathon, comedy hour (our family loves Tim Hawkins!) and celebrate summer with a popcorn and movie night.

At our party, I made regular popcorn with butter and a tub of  "light" for those concerned with calories.  I offered toppings and mix-ins and then I made a few "specialty" flavors.  First, I whipped up a batch of my Almond Caramel Corn.  This is a family favorite. 

If you want to see the recipe you can visit Chocolate Almond Caramel Corn for the full recipe!

I also made a yummy, can't keep your hands out of the bowl, batch of Chocolate Peanut Butter Popcorn.  Do you remember the old recipe for Puppy Chow?  This is a popcorn version and it is fabulous.  Quick caveat- it doesn't store well (maybe a day or two) and tastes best when it is first made.  So, don't feel bad when you finish off the entire bowl.  Waste not, want not!

Secret: Want to turn up the volume on your party?  Our popcorn & movie night was a pajama party- adults included!!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Popcorn

7 cups plain popcorn (I used microwave popcorn.)
1 cup stick pretzels
2 cups Rice Chex cereal

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup creamy peanut butter
¼ cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cups powdered sugar

I used my Puppy Chow recipe, and substituted popcorn. I think it is better when you mix in the pretzels and chex mix too which is similar to a version I had tried in a gourmet popcorn store.

Pop the popcorn and pour into a bowl.  Shake the popcorn and let any unpopped kernels fall to the bottom of the bowl.  We don't want anyone to break a tooth!  Carefully scoop out 7 cups into a separate large mixing bowl.  Add the pretzels and Chex cereal to the seven cups of popped corn.

In a microwave (at 50% power) or over a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter until melted and smooth. Stir in the vanilla.

Pour the chocolate mixture all over the popcorn mixture. Using a large spoon, carefully stir until all of the popcorn, pretzels and Chex cereal until evenly coated with the chocolate/peanut butter mixture.

Sift the powdered sugar over the chocolate-covered popcorn and stir until each piece is evenly coated. Spread the popcorn mixture on a baking sheet to cool. You can let it cool on the counter or speed up the process by sticking in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.  Break it up and serve it in a big bowl! Store leftovers in an airtight container.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Summer Cooking Camps Are Back!

Hop on over to the "Class Schedule" page to find out how to register for one these fun classes.

Summer Cooking Camps are Back!

Join us for a week-long course designed for kids with a unique and exciting theme that offers hands-on participation, detailed cooking instruction and their very own notebook full of recipes to take home! Plus, every day the kids get to eat what they create! The camps will run Monday through Thursday during the months of June and July at my home in Fairfield. Your kids are invited to join the fun as I look forward to teaching them the art of cooking!

In an effort to keep the best hands-on experience for individual students, I have limited the number of students and increased the age limit for the summer camps. If you have a group of preschoolers or early elementary children who are interested in participating, please contact me to set up a special class!

Six Flags Over Texas
June 27-30   $70
Mon.-Thurs., 10 am-12 pm
8-12 year olds

Six Flags over Texas is the slogan used to describe the six nations that had sovereignty over the current territory of the US state of Texas. We are going to take a culinary tour through Texas history and explore how the cuisine of each nation is reflected in the foods we love today. We will travel through history creating and tasting recipes from the past. We’ll include a day for pioneers, eating like cowboys on the trail, and exploring the cuisine of the French, Spanish, Mexican (even German, though it is not one of the six flags) immigrants who influenced our current culinary tastes with dishes like homemade tortillas, kolaches and paellas. Join us for the best tasting history lesson you’ve ever had!

Pastries, Cakes & Pies, Oh My!
July 11-14   $70
Mon.-Thurs., 10 am-12 pm
8-12 year olds

Mixing science and art, this class will cover the fundamentals of baking as we create beautiful and delicious pastries and desserts. We will learn how to make classic pastry cream and pate’ sucre (French pastry dough) as we create delicious tarts. Add molten chocolate cake, crème brulee, Madeleines, and poached pear anglais for a complete French pastry tour. Finally we bring out the Michelangelo in all of us, but instead of using a paintbrush we will create edible art with a pastry bag as we learn the secrets for decorating beautiful cookies and cakes. This class is perfect for students wanting to expand their pastry skills and satisfy their sweet tooth all in one.

Manners Matter: Traveling in Style

July 25-28 $70
Mon.-Thurs., 10 am-12 pm
8-12 year olds

Having good manners are important every day, not just when we sit down to dine at a fancy restaurant. This four-day session will focus on etiquette, setting the table and good table manners as we cook recipes that test even the neatest and most polite child! Please don’t think this is a “stuffy, boring” class…for we will use our etiquette expertise to “travel” to exotic lands and have…high tea in England…pastries on the sidewalk cafes of Paris…fondue on the long voyage aboard the Orient Express from Paris, Vienna, Amsterdam to Turkey…and a fine dining experience at the Plaza in New York.

Cooks and Books Returns
Aug. 1-4    $70
Mon.-Thurs., 10 am-12 pm
8-12 year olds

Think “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs!"  Kids will look at stories a whole new way, as they create recipes inspired from some of their favorite books. Classic children’s stories like “Stone Soup” and new favorites like “If You Give A Pig A Pancake” offer plenty of inspiration for growing gourmets. We will bake bread like the little red hen, eat like the hungry caterpillar and perhaps reprise a few of our favorites like “Green Eggs and Ham.” Come hungry for good books and good food.