Friday, April 23, 2010

Caramel Puff Corn for My Cookie Task Force Care Package



In our family, my Grandma Shirley's Caramel Puff Corn is a favorite snack. It is soooo good! Before I go on with this post and convince you to try this recipe, I feel that I must issue a warning: This snack is dangerously additive! I'm not kidding...we added it to the gift bags at our wedding and the recipe requests were still trickling in months later. The caramel puff corn got into people's heads! I posted my caramel corn recipe back in December. It was perfect on the Christmas goodie plates that I put together for friends, family, and my daughter's teachers. But Grandma's recipe has two things on mine. 1) It's made in the microwave...so much easier (no baking or stirring) and less mess too! 2) There are no pesky popcorn seeds in puff corn!

Last week I made this puff corn recipe for a care package sent to our soldiers serving in Afghanistan. I recently discovered an organization called The Cookie Task Force and admire their effort to send care packages to show appreciation for those in the service of our country. In case you're wondering...

"The Cookie Task force is part of the Charlie Company Family Readiness Group (FRG), a group of Family Members whose Spouses, Sons and Daughters are proud Soldiers of Charlie Company. The Cookie Task Force also includes friends who want to support our Soldiers in Afghanistan. As part of the 101st Airborne Division, Charlie Company is on a 12 month deployment to Afghanistan. Their goal is to make our brave men and women feel remembered and appreciated. While cookies or other treats may not seem like much, it's our way of bring a little taste of home to our Soldiers."

Ideally, the Cookie Task Force (CTF) would like to send 4-5 care packages a month. However, if more people are interested in sending packages, that would be awesome! If you're interested in showing your appreciation to the soldiers you can sign up to send a care package of your own. Just click this link to sign up for the month of your choice: Cookie Task Force Schedule.

If you'd like more information about the Cookie Task Force, you can sign up for the CTF Newsletter HERE or email The Cookie Task Force at cookietaskforce@aol.com. I know that some of you out there love to bake, so I'm sure that the CTF would be glad to hear from you and I'm sure our brave soldiers would love to have a taste of home and be grateful for the acknowledged appreciation. Oh, and if you aren't a baker, the Soldiers receiving the packages would be pleased with a wide variety of treats. Here are a few ideas for items that ship well: * Power Bars* Trail mix* Gum, hard candies,* Powdered mixes to add to water (Gatorade, lemonade, etc.)* Popcorn/Caramel Corn* Pringles* Nuts

When I was thinking about what goodies that I wanted to fill my standard rate shipping box with, Grandma's Puff Corn popped into my mind right away. It keeps and travels well, I've already covered the fact that it is delicious, AND I thought that it could serve as edible packing peanuts to cushion my favorite Monster Cookies, the other edible component of this care package. Pretty clever, right?

The Puff Corn starts out like most caramel corn recipes. Just add brown sugar, butter, corn syrup (I was out of light corn syrup so I used dark...then I ran out of that too and had to add in a little molasses), and salt to a medium sauce pan or bowl.



Bring it to a boil and stir for 2 minutes. I did this on the stovetop, but you can cook it in the microwave too. Just cook it for 1 minute 30 seconds. Give it a stir, then return to the microwave for another 2 minutes.




Next, stir in 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. If you've never done this before, I should give you the "heads up" to make sure that you've got a big enough bowl or pan once that soda is stirred in, because it will G-R-O-W. The soda makes the caramel sort of fluffy.



Now grab your puff corn. Grandma uses Mikesell's, but I found Shearer's here in Ohio.



Round up a paper grocery sack.



Spray the inside with non-stick cooking spray.



Dump the puff corn into the sack, then pour the caramel mixture over the top. Now, shake it like you mean it. : )



Next, pop it into the microwave for 1 minute and 15 seconds. Remove and shake. Return to the microwave for 45 seconds. Remove and shake. Then microwave for 30 seconds and take it out and shake it again. And just for good measure...put er' back in for another 15-20 seconds and give it one final shake before....



Spreading it onto waxed paper to cool and harden.



Oh Boy! Grandma's Caramel Puff Corn! I've made it before, but I always get excited when there's a batch cooling on my tabletop. I sent most of this puff corn to the soldiers, but I did squirrel away a couple of bags for us. It's gone now (it was gone in less than 24 hours!)...thanks to a neighbor, my kids, and my visiting mother-in-law. Told you it's addictive! I only popped a couple of pieces...but I'm not bitter. Remember, swimsuit season is quickly approaching...



I also made my favorite cookie for the care package. Monster cookies. Love, love, love these...eat em' for breakfast, even. You can get the recipe HERE. They work beautifully in care packages because they hold their "chewy" factor like a granola bar.



From The Cookie Task Force: Because packages have been taking 1-3 weeks for shipping, below are some packaging ideas to ensure your baked goods stay fresh. Flat rate boxes are the most economical option for shipping. These are free of charge at your Post Office. * Use airtight, foil-lined containers or tins.* Wrap cookies back to back in pairs, stacked flat or on end.* Layer bars between sheets of waxed paper.* Cushion items well with tissue or waxed paper up to the top of the container to keep them snug.* To keep flavors from changing or blending with others, pack cookies in separate containers or wrap the different types separately within a container.

These are good tips no matter who you're sending a care package off to. Maybe it's your college student, your grandkids that live 3 states away, or your long distance sweetheart that you met last summer at camp. Everyone loves care packages! I remember getting care packages from the sweet ladies of my home church during finals week every semester through ALL 5 years of college (Hey, I switched majors in my senior year!) It was awesome to cut into a box full of cookies and good wishes! CTF (and the soldiers) would love to have you on board, but if nothing else, I hope that this post inspires some of you to send a care package to someone you love. It totally makes anyone's day to get a package full of goodies in the mail!

Following the excellent CTF tip, I wrapped my cookies back-to-back.






Then I nestled them around a big bag of puff corn.



The Cookie Task Force provides a thank you note that is easily printed once you click this link. I let my daughter "decorate" it. She's clearly a gifted artist. lol. Hey, she's only 5 and what she lacks in artistic skill, she makes up for in compassion.(For the record, I have no idea of the significance of those numbers she drew on the picture. I'm just excited that she is writing her numbers legibly. Baby steps, ya know?) Having family members, friends, and husbands of friends serving overseas and away from their families, my heart goes out to those who make this sacrifice. I took the opportunity to explain to my daughter that the soldiers were far away from home, their family, and sometimes even their kids. I guess it made an impression. She was excited to help with our care package. I was listening in while she colored. As she tends to narrate her every action, I often know what she's doing or thinking about. This is a bit of what I overheard, "And now I'm drawing a house, so that they can feel at home and maybe not so homesick." Awww.



Oh, if you're wondering what Rakkasan (from the thank you) means, I Googled it. HERE is what I found.

I packed the goodies and thank you into a large flat rate shipping box. This means that you pay the same for shipping no matter what the weight, up to 20 lbs. I was supposed to include a postcard from our area...but after 2 stores and then the post office did not have post cards available, I settled on adding a couple of new magazines too. People and Us. Who doesn't enjoy a little light gossip reading? The CTF also provides an address label HERE, which you see pictured on my care package below.



Head's up: if you're sending an international package for the first time, don't be surprised...you will probably have to fill out a "Customs" slip. No worries, this only takes moments. Also, if you tell the assisting postal worker that the package is going to the troops, you're eligible for a discount. My large flat rate shipping box sent for $12.50. Pretty inexpensive, and I smiled as I walked back to my car in the post office lot, knowing how excited someone so far from home would be to open a box full of treats.


Here's the recipe for that puff corn:

Grandma Shirley's Puff Corn

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 bag Puffed Popcorn (plain or buttered)
1 paper grocery sack
non-stick cooking spray

Spray the inside of a paper grocery sack with non-stick cooking spray. Pour in 1 bag puffed popcorn (look for it in your grocery's snack food aisle). Boil the brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, and salt for two minutes on the stove top or microwave the ingredients for 1 min 30 secs and then return to the microwave for 2 minutes. Stir in the baking soda. Pour into the grocery sack, over the puffed popcorn. Shake well. Fold down top of bag and microwave for 1 minute 15 seconds. Remove and shake. Microwave for 45 seconds. Remove and shake. Microwave for 30 seconds. Remove and shake. Microwave for 15-20 seconds. Remove and shake. Spread onto waxed paper to cool and dry.

To download or print a copy of this recipe, just click here!

7 comments:

Mary at Deep South Dish said...

What an interesting snack and what an admirable task! You are one special gal Krista. Where the heck are you finding paper sacks? They are extinct around here!!

Hope you're having a great weekend.

Sinful Southern Sweets said...

Oh my goodness! It was just meant for me to find this post. This month will be my first month to be part of a baking group for our soldiers. This post was exactly what I needed! And that caramel popcorn. Girl!!! My girls are going to love you for this. The corn puffs are their favorite treat anyways, so they are really going to love it covered with caramel. And I love the idea of using it in with the cookies for the soldiers. Thanks for the great post!

Julie said...

It's very possible I'm going to steal this for my next baking gals adventure :) And I'll probably have to test a little too!

teresa said...

what a nice care package! the puffed corn looks incredible. i can see why it would be hard to stop eating!

Kim said...

Everyone in my house would love that caramel puff corn Krista! So sweet of you to put together such a wonderful care package. You know they will be so happy to receive it:D And, yes.....cookies for breakfast sounds like a fantastic idea!

Jen F. said...

My kids are devouring this as a snack as I type. They are telling me that I MUST make it more often :oP Thanks for sharing this recipe. And, Mary, Aldi's still has paper sacks. That's where mine was from.

Stephanie said...

I was thinking about a snack to cook for tonight when a few friends come over and thought, "I'll make that caramel corn that Krista makes...I wonder if she has the recipe on her blog." Lo and behold, I searched and here it was. :-) I am now leaving the kitchen, so I don't eat it all before my guests get here!

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