Category Archives: sweet stuff

Caramel S’mores Popcorn


A few months ago, I saw an article (I think a Dr. Oz thing???) about how microwave popcorn is full of chemicals and is linked to lung cancer (something about there being added chemicals to make it smell good while popping) My son loves popcorn, so we have it frequently in our house, and hearing this kind of freaked me out. I had some regular non-microwave popcorn left over from Christmas gifts that I made for neighbors (vanilla glazed cranberry popcorn), so I switched to using the stove type. I love it. It takes just as long as microwave popcorn, and it’s a really cool thing that my son gets to help. He helps pour/spoon the oil and the kernels, and gets to watch everything pop (we use a deep pan that has a glass lid so we can watch).

But it’s a little boring. For normal days, a little fine sea salt mixed in with the oil you’re using to pop is delicious. But sometimes I want more.  And more is what I did when my son and I were having a sleepover last night.

I don’t know where the idea came from, but I’m so glad it came to me.  And, like everything I do, it’s super easy, but packs a big wow factor.

Without further ado, here’s the “recipe” if you can even call it that. I didn’t put measurements, because it’s really up to you how much of everything to add.

caramel sauce (I use this super easy, super quick 3-ingredient recipe, but I zap it a minute or two longer until it gets thick)
chocolate chips
mini marshmallows
Golden Grahams cereal
salt (optional. I love salty/sweet stuff, so I used kosher salt, but for a more subtle version, I’d use fine sea salt)

Pop your popcorn. Microwave is fine, but if you want to try the stove top type, I’ve added directions at the end of this post. Spread the popcorn out onto a sheet pan.

Drizzle a little bit of the caramel sauce over the popcorn. Sprinkle chips, marshmallows and cereal over the popcorn. Add more caramel sauce. Sprinkle with salt if you’d like.

To make stove-top popcorn:
It’s so easy. I put a little oil in a deep wide pan. I like to use vegetable or coconut oil (this is where I would add salt if I’m keeping my popcorn plain).I pour in enough kernels to almost cover the bottom of the pan. Then, I turn the burner on high and let it go. When it starts to pop, I shake it a few times. Just like microwave popcorn, you’ll hear/see the popping slow down. Take it off the heat, and you’re done. I like to move it to a different bowl or pan right away because it tends to scorch a little bit if you leave it in the hot pan.

Ta-dah! You have fancy popcorn!



Applesauce Spice Quickbread with Cinnamon Crunch Topping

applesauce spice breadHappy Holidays!  I hope you are having an amazing season, whatever you celebrate.  I love this time of year… everyone is so happy and friendly, we’re all looking back at the good stuff that happened this year, and planning ahead for a bright future as we start another one.

To keep the good times going, I wanted to share a recipe with you.  My applesauce spice quickbread is so, so good.  It’s also easy to make, and the ingredients are probably already in your pantry.

I wanted to make my neighbors something special this Christmas.  I originally set out to make banana bread, but getting that many bananas to be ripe at the same time was a pain.  Then I wanted to make something with apples and spices because I’ve been on an apple kick lately, but didn’t want to peel, core and dice that many apples.  So I thought “Why not applesauce?”  and set about making it work.

I wish I had thought of this sooner.  It is so good.  It’s soft and moist (ugh, I hate that word!) on the inside, and crunchy on top thanks to that heavenly crumb topping.  I have to be honest here.  After the first bite, my husband and I looked at each other a little confused.  He said “It’s really good, but I don’t really know what it is.  It’s not like anything I’ve tried before.”  and then went on to devour a second slice.  And that’s part of what I love about it.  It’s so unexpected.  It takes you somewhere new and unexpected, but somehow it’s still familiar and comforting because it is, after all, apples and spice – what could be more comforting than that on a chilly winter night?  You have to try it.

This would be great for Christmas breakfast.  Make it the night before, but don’t bake it.  In the morning, add the crumb topping and pop it in the oven before you open presents.  The house will smell all apple-y and spicy and warm.  Talk about tidings of comfort and joy!

1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. allspice
1 egg
1 cup applesauce
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Cinnamon Crunch Crumb Topping (below)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a loaf pan.  I usually use the disposable aluminium ones.

In a big bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder and spices (feel free to tweak these to your taste).  In another bowl, mix the egg, applesauce, sugars and oil.

Pour the applesauce mix into the flour mix and stir until combined.  Pour into a loaf pan.  Top with crumb topping.  Don’t be shy about he topping.  I make sure every bit of batter is completely covered. I think skimping on crumb topping is a sin.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out with some crumbs.

Cinnamon Crunch Crumb Topping
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon (or more)
4 tbs. butter, melted

Mix the flour, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.  Pour in the melted butter and mix with a pastry blender or fork (or if you’re like me, your fingertips) until there are big crumbs and some finer crumbs (kind of sandy).  You might need to add a spoonful or so more of flour to get it to the consistency you like. I like the mix of the big chunks that give you a lot of crunch and the small sand-consistency crumbs that let you make sure that every surface on the loaf is covered.

This crumb topping recipe makes a ton, so I’d double the quickbread recipe and give it to a friend.

Nutellorcas: They will rock your world.

If you are ever lucky enough to find yourself in Puerto Rico, you must begin your day at La Bombonera with a grilled mallorca.  La Bombonera is this old restaurant that has been around since 1902, and I swear the same waiters have been there since I was a little girl.  From the street, it just looks like a bakery, but that’s just the front of the place.  It opens up to a restaurant once you step inside.  My family has started each trip into Old San Juan with grilled mallorcas ever since I could remember.  I like to accompany mine with a Coke (chocolate milk when I was little), but a cafe con leche from their ancient coffee machine is also a great option. Actually, it’s probably better to have cafe con leche, but I have my traditions.

They do all sorts of different types of mallorca-grilling, but the only one I’ve had is the butter kind, where they slice the mallorca open, slather it with butter, close it up, slather the outside with butter, grill it, and then douse it with powdered sugar.  Don’t worry about the calories.  If you’re spending the day in Old San Juan, you’ll be walking uphill and  down hill all day, and possibly being chased by pigeons if you hit all the good spots.  You will definitely burn off the calories.

And what, exactly, is a mallorca?  It’s an eggy, sweet bread that is doused with powdered sugar that you will find as a staple in any Puerto Rican bakery.  Truthfully, although they are good, I’d rather have them grilled, and La Bombonera is the only place that I know that does that.  Wikipedia hasn’t heard of mallorcas yet, but an inquisitive friend sent me this link that will tell you all sorts of stuff about these little pastries.

A few weeks ago, I set off to try to make my own.  I don’t have any Puerto Rican bakeries near me – I barely have any Latin food near me – and I’d been craving a taste of home and a project to keep me entertained in the kitchen.  Mallorcas seemed to fit the bill.  Following this post, I set out to make them on a Saturday, and feasted on them in all their grilled and buttery glory that following Sunday because it’s not in my nature to have a mallorca after noon.  It was a long process – at least four hours, and I opted to do it by hand and not use my Kitchenaid – but it was well worth it.  They were awesome. Here is how they turned out before getting grilled and sugared:

But a couple of weeks later, I glanced at the Nutella sitting in my pantry and thought of the remaining mallorcas in my freezer (they freeze beautifully, by the way), and my eyes began to tear up at the potential deliciousness of it all.  And I wasn’t disappointed.

All you do is slice your mallorca like you’re making it a burger bun, spread some Nutella on the inside, and close it up.  Then spread the outside (top and bottom) with butter and grill it like you would a grilled cheese sandwich.  Get it on a plate and douse with powdered sugar (a light sprinkling just won’t do). And there you are.  A little slice of heaven.  Please excuse the bad cell-phone photo.  I didn’t want to go grab my good camera for fear that my hubby and son would devour them before I got back.

It was so good.  The Nutella kind of melted into the mallorca and got hot and gooey, the mallorca got crisp and buttery on the outside, and then the powdered sugar just adds a little bit of sweetness to the whole thing.  I hope you give it a try, and if you do, let me know!