It has never been the Indy's practice to cater to every food council that mails in bulky envelopes of recipes, nutrition propaganda and even samples. Over the years, we've spurned everyone from blueberry people to raisin enthusiasts. (Or so I'm told.)
We can't be bought with snacky treats and pretty pictures, people!
Unless those pictures involve chocolate Teddy Grahams, apparently. An alluring photo of them, mixed with popcorn, recently captivated my editor's sad imagination.
Whether his decision to have me re-create this recipe, courtesy of the Chicago-based Popcorn Board, was just a cheap trick to get me to make the saccharine-laced snacks for him, I'll never know. (He made some argument about this being "winter fun for indoor people.") But I must admit he picked the right chick: I was raised by a popcorn junkie.
My mom's excitement with the purchase of her first popcorn maker rivaled the glee felt by the dad who salivated over the fishnet-stocking leg lamp in A Christmas Story. I, apparently, passed this enthusiasm on to my kids: One look at the Popcorn S'mores recipe, and they, too, were ready to get busy.
Apparently, October was National Popcorn Poppin' Month, and the Popcorn Board (a nonprofit funded by U.S. popcorn processors) was hoping people would let some fly. A variety of colorful recipes (also available at the jaunty popcorn.org) accompanied information touting the low-calorie whole grain snack.
"It's no flash in the pan," the literature proclaimed. Indeed.
In the interest of time, I skipped a small step and bought large bags of low-salt popcorn. The kids pulled up chairs and started measuring out the popcorn, marshmallows, chocolate chips and the Teddy Grahams. But their help had to stop there, as the mandated melted sugar and corn syrup mixture feels much like liquid fire on the skin.
I muscled my way through molding the hot, sticky mixture (quick tip: mist your hands with a little cooking spray) into a greased pan, and carefully arranged the Teddy Grahams. After it cooked and cooled (see the accompanying recipe for instructions), the kids enjoyed breaking up the sweet treat into bite-sized pieces.
We also tried Perfect Picnic Popcorn Squares, with raisins and peanut butter. They, too, were chewy, crunchy and sweet. But on the tooth-decay-free side of the spectrum, the Popcorn Board also offers more spicy recipes. For instance, you can mix 1 teaspoons of both dry mustard and Italian seasoning, teaspoon black pepper and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, and toss cooking-sprayed popcorn around in it. Great football snacking.
For a person who doesn't bake, these recipes proved easy and adaptable. And of course, the whole point of all this popcorn hoopla is that it's easy to customize something that's virtually taste-neutral. This holiday season, the board suggests adding a little cinnamon and Craisins or pumpkin spice. My new favorite thing is garlic powder, cayenne and a touch of sugar. Fast, easy and cheap.
In sum, we did have a good, family-friendly time with popcorn, though maybe not as much as the bouncing, animated Popcorn Board mascot might suggest. Regardless, I can vouch for the board doing its job. After all, they had my editor at "Teddy Grahams."
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
cup corn syrup
teaspoon baking soda
10 cups freshly popped (or, ahem, store-bought) popcorn
10 oz. miniature marshmallows
2 cups Teddy Grahams
1 cup chocolate chips
Combine brown sugar, butter and corn syrup in medium saucepan. Cook over high heat for 5 minutes; remove from heat and stir in baking soda. Combine popcorn and marshmallows in large bowl. Pour sugar mixture over popcorn to coat. Gently stir in cookies and chocolate chips. (I take issue with this point place the cookies into the mixture after molding it, otherwise you'll crush them.) Spread mixture evenly into greased 15-by-10-inch pan. Let cool completely. Break into pieces. Store in an airtight container. Yields 20.