snickers surprise popcorn balls

You know surprise cupcakes; the ones where you bite down and find there’s more than just cake in there? I actually never make them myself (my sister does them so nicely with the chocolate cake, cream cheese, and chocolate chips), but I have been tasting out different popcorn ball recipes, and I thought, “these balls could stand a surprise inside.” Chocolate was my initial instict, but chocolate alone seemed much too boring. Something with extra gooeyness and more flavor dynamics… a Snickers, YES. If you eat one of these surprise balls within an hour of assembly, the chocolate is still melty. It’s like you have this great ballgame or movie snack compacted into one efficient junk food treat: mallow, popcorn, peanuts, nougat and caramel, all in the palm of your hand.

I made the less-traditional version of popcorn balls with marshmallows and butter. They are much simpler to make, softer, and there is extra “molding” time in which you can properly stow and hide the Snickers surprise.

Chop or unwrap surprise middles.
Melt 3 T unsalted butter over medium heat.
Stir in 1 C mini marshmallows until melted.
Add 4 C popped corn.
Mix until evenly coated with stickiness.

Scoop out popcorn mix into greased muffin tins or small bowl forms. Press popcorn down into the form and place candy bar bit in center. Cover with remaining popcorn mix and mold into a ball (leave no Snickers trace!). It may be necessary to coat your hands in oil or butter to keep excessive sticking away. Wrap balls in wax paper and store in airtight container until munchie time. Makes 3 baseball-sized treats or 6 mini-balls.

signs of spring in philly

It seems as though the minute I landed in Philadelphia, it was Spring. The past few days have been unseasonably warm. I ate a Geno’s cheese steak in 70+ degree weather! The outdoor basketball courts and city playgrounds were packed. Fruit lined the narrow city streets of the Italian Market. On a conference break, I had Chocolate Peanut Butter Ripple ice cream in a pretzel cone. Pretzel cone, more on that later. Spring bulbs were in bloom by Independence Hall, Rocky and “The Thinker.” All pleasant Philadelphia Spring surprises.

red beet and ricotta lunch muffins

I realize that homemade chocolate chunk fudge rounds are far more desired baked goods than muffins made from mashed up pickled beets. You probably either detest pickled beets or devour them (like I do). I am spoiled by the fact that every summer my grandma cans several batches of homemade pickled beets grown by local Amish farmers. She stores them in her cellar and will often give them as gifts to neighbors and relatives. My packed lunches often include a short stack of these beets alongside cottage cheese. The tangy pickled flavor is cut by the creamy curds, with a pinch of ground black pepper to round it out (I also think it is fun to watch the cottage cheese turn a glowing rosy scarlet color as the two mingle).

If you have made it this far, then you will probably be interested in the recipe that I came up with that was inspired by these flavors.

Red Beet and Ricotta Lunch Muffins

Makes 12

Preheat oven 350-degrees.

2 C self rising flour
1 t cloves
2 eggs @ room temp
3/4 cup brown sugar
4 T unsalted butter, melted
1/2 C ricotta cheese + more for serving
1/2 C mashed beets*

Sift together flour and cloves (or cinnamon, depending on your taste). Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk eggs together and add the sugar in several steps. Whisk in melted butter. Add ricotta cheese and mashed beets alternately until combined.

Fold flour mixture into batter just until incorporated. Scoop out into muffin tins.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until toothpick test comes out clean.

Serve with ricotta cheese.

*I used pickled beets. They were quite tangy! I imagine straight roasted beets to be more mild and probably more appropriate with cinnamon.

cinnamon cashew caramel corn

My sister had a Pampered Chef Bridal Shower about 12 years ago, and one of the activities was writing kitchen advice on an apron with a Sharpie. I have no idea what I wrote back then, but I will always remember my mom’s advice: “Never run out of brown sugar.” My mom is smart. This time of year I cannot get enough of it for sprinkling on Cream of Rice or making caramel corn. I think Molasses is one of my hidden weaknesses. Anyhow, I made caramel corn for thank-you gifts this weekend and added some cinnamon and cashews to make it special.

franken-krispie-berry treats

I have had Frankenberry on the brain since I decided to put together a friendly strawberry cereal monster costume this year. One time I made Booberry cupcakes for Halloween, but when I saw the strawberry marshmallow sale at Kroger, I was inspired to make Frankenberry Rice Krispie treats. I stuck wild berry Life Savers gummies on with icing for the geary eyes and cut out some strawberry Fruit Roll-ups for the eyebrows. Crunchy and chewy pink monster! I can’t wait to wear my pink hair… this Frankenberry will be a little more pixie ladylike, I think.

little pumpkin painting party

We painted pumpkins (and just about anything else we could find) over the weekend. What an event! My niece has this crazy dual brush mixing on the surface technique and insists on wearing jewelry when she paints. My nephew is more of a performance artist while painting and twirled his pumpkins clockwise while dragging the full brush over the top. We also had banana slices that needed to be eaten, so the addition of candy corns did the trick there. My niece called them little birthday cakes.

berry sunny saturday

Yesterday my niece turned 3! In the morning, the two of us went over to the Fishers Farm Market together and started celebrating with slushies and soft pretzels. The day continued to be filled with sunshine and happy bellies. I am so lucky to be the aunt of this berry sweet girl.