Spiced Caramel Corn

This delicious recipe makes a fresh, crunchy, family-pleasing treat that kids can help prepare. While this snack does contain some sugar (in the form of brown-rice and maple syrups), the nuts help slow sugar absorption and offer a dose of healthy nutrition. The popcorn provides a healthy dose of fiber. The herbs add wholesome flavor both kids and adults will enjoy.


Serves six

  • 1 tsp. clarified butter (see below)
  • 1/2 cup unpopped popcorn
  • 1/2 cup brown-rice syrup
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. pure chili powder
  • 1 tsp. fine-grain sea salt
  • 1 cup mixed toasted nuts and seeds (see below)

Heat the butter in a large, heavy pot over high heat. Add the popcorn and cover with a lid. When the corn starts popping, shake the pan constantly to prevent the kernels from burning. When the rate of popping falls off dramatically, immediately remove from the heat and remove the lid.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In another large pot, stir together the syrups, cinnamon, nutmeg, chili powder and salt, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Resist stirring with a spoon; instead, carefully swirl the mixture for five minutes, until it’s actively bubbling, starting to reduce and becoming deeply fragrant. Stir in the nuts, seeds and popcorn, and mix gently until everything is well coated. Turn the mixture out onto the prepared baking sheet, gently spread it out and allow to cool.

Clarified Butter

Makes 1 1/2 cups

  • 1 pound unsalted butter

Gently heat the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. The butter will separate into three layers. Foam will appear on the surface of the butter, the milk solids will migrate to the bottom of the pan, and the clarified butter will float between the two. This should only take a few minutes. Skim the foamy layer off with a spoon and discard. Next, carefully pour the golden middle layer into a jar, leaving the milk solids at the bottom. (Discard the solids, too.)

Clarified butter will keep for a month or two at room temperature and a month or so longer when refrigerated.

Toasting Nuts and Seeds

In a skillet (flatter nuts and seed, such as pine nuts, sesame seeds and those that have been chopped):
Place nuts and seeds in a single layer in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Toss them around every few minutes until fragrant and toasty. Don’t walk away, or if you must, set a timer for just a couple of minutes so you don’t forget.

In the oven (rounder nuts such as walnuts, hazelnuts and peanuts): 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the nuts on a rimmed baking sheet so they don’t roll off, and toast until they start to darken and get fragrant. Toasting time varies depending on the nut, but this usually takes just a few minutes. The nuts toward the edges tend to brown faster, so stir the nuts or the pan a shake a time or two during baking.

Whole-Grain Breadcrumbs

  • Day-or-two-old whole-grain bread, crusts removed

Pulse the bread (in batches if necessary) in a food processor until you have a textured crumb. Sift out the fine, sandy crumbs that collect at the bottom of the processor, which leaves just the good stuff, but this is an extra step you don’t have to take.

Recipe excerpted from Super Natural Cooking: Five Ways to Incorporate Whole and Natural Ingredients into Your Cooking by Heidi Swanson (Celestial Arts, 2007).

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