Popcorn, Snack Ideas For Family Movie Night At Home

While kettle corn is a popular item at farmers markets, small batches can be made at home. Sugar is the only different between kettle corn and regular popcorn. Along with popcorn, assorted cereal mixes and nuts are also good to serve for family game and movie nights. The kettle corn pictured is being made at a farmers market in Tallahassee, Florida. PHOTO BY ANN CIPPERLY

By Ann Cipperly

With Covid at soaring numbers again, many of us are spending more time at home. While at home, plan fun activities for the family, such as board games and a movie night. For these times, prepare a big bowl of popcorn, caramel corn and other snacks to serve.

Popcorn is easy to make, and it is an inexpensive snack, which is important now with rising prices at the grocery store. Homemade popcorn allows you to control the amount of sodium your family is eating. Just be sure not to make purchased microwave bags of popcorn, as this is one food that is always on the list of worst things to eat for your health. While freshly made popcorn is good with just a dusting of salt, you can dress it up with assorted flavors.

Try making caramel corn as it is much more economical to make at home than to purchase. Patricia McAllister has a great recipe using Eagle Brand syrup. She makes this for her family and also for the Sugar Creek Supper Club that she and her husband Mac operate in Hayden above Birmingham. The Christian club books outstanding musical groups.

For movie night, think of snacks your family enjoys at the theater along with popcorn, such as chocolate covered nuts. Gayle Harper’s Salted Nut Squares taste similar to Payday, the popular candy bar.

Instead of popcorn, other snacks made with Chex cereals are popular. Cherry Bruce is always kind to share her recipes. She makes two Chex snack mixes with one sweet and the other savory using nuts, bite-size bagels and pretzels.

Heather Cummings shares recipes for a children’s trail mix and a Chex cereal mix coated in peanut butter and chocolate.

Carol Pridgen makes a tasty mix using seasonal candy. Check out all of these recipes to make for your family.

Don’t forget some healthy snacks, such as the Good For you Nuts. You can set out a platter of raw vegetables with ranch dip, and you may be surprised that kids like it.

I just recently started making kettle corn. It always smells so good when it is being make at farmers markets. The only difference between regular popcorn is that it contains sugar, and you can add salt, if desired.

To come up with a good recipe for kettle corn, I experimented with a bunch of recipes before making a combination that worked. The sugar burned in the first batch.

When Don saw all the bowls of popcorn on the kitchen counter, he was afraid it was going to be like the time I made six blueberry cobblers back to back to see which one was best before making my own recipe. This was sort of the same thing.

Don has been a sport over the years for my cooking experiments and projects. Although sometimes he has rolled his eyes when the pans were stacked high and flour was flying everywhere.

For several years, I prepared and styled food for a magazine table-scape photo shoot. I would have almost every dish in the house dirty as I packed up the food to take for photos. When I returned home, I had a car trunk full of more dirty dishes since I had given the food away. I couldn’t pack the food up to take home when people were standing around saying it looked so good. Don was a sport to settle for a sandwich for supper.

When the kitchen counters were covered recently with bowls of kettle corn, I decided to make smaller portions. I used Orville Redenbacher brand for testing. I had all ingredients measured out before starting and had a bowl ready for me to quickly pour in the popcorn.

I used a heavy saucepan with a handle. I added canola oil and two kernels of popcorn to know the oil was hot when they popped. I quickly poured in the sugar and stirred, then added popcorn and stirred. Holding the lid slightly ajar, I shook the pan constantly until the popping slowed down. The popcorn was quickly poured into the bowl, and only a couple of kernels that stuck were brown. This method worked.

Whether you are making regular, caramel or kettle popcorn or one of the other snacks for game and movie nights, enjoy the time with your family. Make good use of being home, and create wonderful memories together.

Tips for Making Popcorn

Use vegetable or canola oil on medium high temperature. Use a heavy saucepan with a handle to shake the popcorn constantly especially for kettle popcorn. Use a good brand popcorn, such as Orville Redenbacher, which is easy to find in most grocery stores. Remove kernels that did not pop, especially when giving popcorn to children or anyone with dental problems.

Popcorn Toppings

While melted butter is the all-time favorite topping, you can add flavor and zest with seasonings. If you would like to add flavoring to popcorn, sprinkle a little at a time and toss. Try one of the following: Parmesan cheese, truffle oil, dry ranch dressing mix, cinnamon, Italian seasonings, garlic or onion powder, dried dill, Old Bay, paprika, taco seasonings. Seasonings can also be added to melted butter. 

Nuts or dried fruits are also good tossed with popcorn.

Sugar Creek Caramel Corn

Patricia McAllister makes this recipe for her family and to serve at the Sugar Creek Supper Club above Birmingham.

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup Eagle Brand syrup

1/2 cup butter or margarine

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. vanilla

4 quarts popped popcorn

Spray large shallow roasting pan with cooking spray. Add popcorn and place in preheated 250 degree oven while preparing caramel. 

Mix brown sugar, syrup, butter and salt in a heavy 2-quart saucepan. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil over medium heat.

Boil 5 minutes without stirring. Remove from heat. Stir in baking soda and vanilla; mix well.

Pour syrup over warm popcorn, stirring to coat evenly.

Bake for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven and spread on foil that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

Cool; break apart. Store in tightly covered container. (If you have problems finding Eagle Brand,  you can substitute corn syrup.)

Orange Popcorn

Dona Dunn

3 qt. freshly popped popcorn (unsalted)

½ cup butter

1 ¼ cup sugar

2/3 cup orange juice

2 Tbsp. corn syrup

1 Tbsp. orange rind

½ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

Place popcorn in lightly greased roasted pan; set aside. Melt butter in large saucepan. Stir in sugar, orange juice and corn syrup. Bring to boil and boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in orange rind, baking soda and salt. Pour mixture over popcorn and bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour.

Honey Caramel Popcorn

Jamie Bell

5 bags of naturally popped corn in a large lightly buttered roasting pan (Put ¼ cup yellow or white popcorn kernels in a brown paper bag; fold top over, and cook in microwave on popcorn setting.)

½ cup butter

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup light honey

Dash of salt

Preheat oven to 230 degrees. Bring all ingredients except popcorn to a boil on medium heat. Let boil for 3 minutes without stirring. Pour over popped corn and mix with a spatula until coated. Pour into lightly buttered large cookie sheet or two medium cookie sheets.

Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Pour onto flat surface covered with foil and let cool. Break apart and serve.

Homemade Kettle Corn

This makes enough for two or three people. Double recipe for larger servings.

2 Tbsp. vegetable or canola oil

2 Tbsp. sugar

¼ cup popcorn kernels (I used Orville Redenbacher brand)

Salt, if desired

Measure out ingredients before starting and have a bowl or cookie sheet to quickly pour in the popcorn.

Use a heavy saucepan with a handle. Add oil and two kernels of popcorn. Once the kernels pop, quickly pour in the sugar and stir with a wooden spoon, then added popcorn and stir.

Hold the lid slightly ajar, and vigorously shake the pan constantly until the popping sounds almost finished. Quickly poured into the bowl or a cookie sheet. Sprinkle salt over popcorn, if desired.

Be sure to remove any kernels that did not pop before giving to children or anyone with dental problems.

Kiddos Trail Mix

Heather Cummings

1 cup Cheerios toasted oat cereal

1 cup Goldfish crackers

1 cup dried cranberries (or other favorite dried fruit)

1 cup cashews (or other favorite nuts)

1 cup M&M’s chocolate candies

1 cup peanut butter chips

1 cup miniature pretzel twists or pretzel sticks

Combine everything in a large bowl, and store in a sealed container in a cool, dry area. This recipe can be easily adapted to fit your personal taste.

Muddy Buddies

Heather Cummings

Fun treat to make with children

9 cups Chex cereal

1 cup chocolate chips

½ cup peanut butter

¼ cup butter

¼ tsp. vanilla

1½ cups powdered sugar

Put cereal in large bowl. Melt chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour over Chex cereal, put into a large plastic bag with powdered sugar and shake well to coat. Spread mixture evenly on wax paper and allow to cool.

Sugar Coated Party Mix with Cashews and Pecans

Cherry Bruce

12 oz. Crispx cereal, or 6 oz. each corn Chex and rice Chex

5 oz. cashew nuts

5 oz. roasted pecans

¾ cup butter, melted

¼ cup light corn syrup

1 ¼ cups brown sugar or Splenda brown sugar

sea salt to taste

¾ cup dark chocolate M&Ms

1 cup pretzel squares

Line a baking pan with aluminum foil sprayed with non-stick spray.

Combine cereal, pretzels, and nuts in a large bowl and set aside.

In a small saucepot, mix the melted butter, syrup, brown sugar until well combined. Drizzle over the dry mix while stirring. Place on baking pan in a 250 degree oven for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Place on a wire rack and allow to cool.

Cool completely before adding the M&Ms. Toss to distribute. Pack in sealable gift bags, tins, or a sealable container to keep for yourself. I also like to add raisins along with the M&Ms. It is a great salty/sweet snack.

Savory Chex Mix

Cherry Bruce

3 cups Corn Chex

3 cups Rice Chex

3 cups Wheat Chex

1 cup your favorite mixed nuts

1 cup bite size pretzels

1 cup bite size bagel chips

6 Tbsp. butter, melted

2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 ½ tsp. seasoned salt

¾ tsp. garlic powder

½ tsp. onion powder

You will need a parchment paper lined baker’s pan.

Mix first six ingredients in a large mixing bowl. In a separate small bowl, mix the butter, Worcestershire and spices. Heat in microwave for 20 seconds. Stir until heated through. Drizzle over the cereal mix while stirring with a large spoon.

Pour out over parchment baker’s pan and spread out to allow to cool. Cool completely. This is great with M&Ms and raisins added to the mix after cooled.

Divide into small Ziploc bags to give as treats or place in a tin with tight fitting lid or loc-n-loc storage container.

Salted Nut Squares (Payday Candy Bar)

Gayle Harper

3 cups salted peanuts without skins

3 Tbsp. butter

2 cups peanut butter chips

1 can Eagle brand sweetened condensed milk

2 cups miniature marshmallows

Place half of peanuts in an ungreased 11 x 7 x 2 baking pan. In a saucepan melt butter and peanut butter chips over low heat. Add milk and marshmallows. Cook and stir until melted. Pour over peanuts. Sprinkle remaining peanuts over the top. Cover and refrigerate. Cut into bars.

Chocolate Peanut Clusters

Rhonda Boothe

16 oz. salted peanuts

16 oz. unsalted peanuts

12 oz. pkg. chocolate chips

24 oz. pkg. block almond or chocolate bark

1 container German sweet chocolate

Place in crock-pot in order listed. Do not stir. Heat 3 hours on low. After 3 hours, stir and drop by teaspoons on wax paper. Cool. Store in airtight container.

Roasted Pecan Clusters

Karen Anderson

3 Tbsp. butter

3 cups pecan halves

3/4 lb. chocolate bark (6 squares)

Melt butter in a 15 x 10 x 1-inch jellyroll pan. Spread pecans evenly in pan. Bake at 300 for 30 minutes stirring every 10 minutes.

Melt bark squares over low heat; remove from heat and stir until smooth. Cool 2 minutes, then add pecans and stir until well coated.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper. Cool completely. Makes about 3½ dozen.

Seasonal Snack Mix

Carol Pridgen

Carol uses candy M and M’s and candy corn to suit the season.

9 cups Corn Chex cereal

1½ cups dry roasted peanuts

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup butter or margarine

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 bag Valentine M and M’s

1 pkg. Valentine candy corn

1 pkg. FLIPZ white fudge covered pretzels

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Grease large roasting pan.

Mix cereal and peanuts. Pour into prepared pan.

Combine brown sugar, butter and corn syrup in medium heavy-duty saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat.

Stir constantly. Boil without stirring for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla and baking soda. Mixture will bubble.

Pour evenly over cereal mixture. Stir to coat evenly.

Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes.

Cool completely in pan, stirring frequently to break apart mixture.

When cool, stir in M and M’s, FLIPZ and candy corn.

Store in airtight container. Can change candy according to the holiday or season.

Good-For-You Rosemary Nuts

Tiffany Denson
2 cups pecan halves, unsalted

2 cups shelled walnuts, unsalted

6 oz. whole natural almonds, unsalted

2 ¼ Tbsp. butter, melted

2 Tbsp. crushed dried rosemary

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

4 tsp. dark brown sugar

4 tsp. kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place all nuts in large bowl. Pour in melted butter and coat well. In a small bowl mix remaining ingredients. Sprinkle rosemary mixture over nuts and mix together well.

Spread nuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Toast in oven about 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Be careful not to burn. Serve at room temperature and store in airtight container.


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