Monday, January 30, 2012

Maple Pecan Pie Popcorn

Today I would like to introduce you to a new snack I tried that is now near and dear to my heart.  It's sweet, it's salty, it's crunchy, it's highly addictive.  It's maple pecan pie popcorn!  I saw this recipe tucked into a corner in a Rachael Ray magazine and I knew I had to make it.

So this weekend I popped up some air-popped popcorn and set out to make this yummy sounding treat.  Then I looked a little closer at the ingredients and did a little calorie math in my head.  I love doing calorie math, but I didn't love the sum I was getting.  I was taking an innocent, actually healthy, snack food in air-popped popcorn and adding about 450 calories worth of sugar (syrup and brown sugar) and 800 calories worth of fat (butter).  That didn't sound right.  I did the math again.  Yep, I was about to take 200 calories worth of popcorn and add over 1200 calories of sugar and fat.  Not cool.  And although nuts are considered healthy, even the chopped pecans in this recipe were going to contribute and additional 560 calories.  Ouch!

I was still determined to try this recipe, but using lighter ingredients.  So I used margarine instead of butter, Splenda, and sugar-free pancake syrup.  That cut out about 370 of the sugary calories and 400 of the fatty calories.  It's still not calorie free, but with these few changes, you can get a ton of deliciousness with your popcorn for way fewer calories!  The original recipe called for 7 cups of popcorn, but I thought it was a little greasy, so I would recommend making 7 cups of popcorn.

Start by making your popcorn.  I have a really cool popper that allows me to make my own air-popped popcorn in the microwave, which is super easy!  I just put in my kernels...
...and put it in the microwave for a few minutes, and I have great, 100% natural, fresh popcorn!  If you can't pop your own air-popped popcorn, use microwave popcorn without the butter.
Then heat up your sugar free syrup and Splenda brown sugar for about 5 minutes.
Whisk in margarine and salt and heat for about 5 more minutes, or until slightly thickened.  I would say I whisked "frequently."  Remove from heat.
At this point, I just dumped the syrup mixture into my popcorn popper.  The problem with this was that it was still really hot and the popcorn that was in the dump zone got drenched and kind of disintegrated while the other popcorn barely got coated.  So I am recommending that you spread out the popcorn and nuts and drizzle the syrup over the over the mixture, then stir to combine.  

Spread the mixture over the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.  You can line your baking sheet with parchment paper for easy clean up.  After the 20 minutes was up, my kernels that were barely coated were crispy, but the ones that got soaked were still a little soggy.  So I cranked up the heat to 400 degrees to try to crisp them all up.  But I think what I really needed to do was let them dry out on their own!
All in all, I am so glad I made this popcorn snack, and so glad I was able to cut out a ton of calories!  The original recipe said it serves 8.  Yeah, right!  My husband and I ate the whole thing.  Easily!  It could probably serve 4 people who aren't starving.  This would be great for watching sports, watching movies, or just pigging out because it's delicious!  Enjoy!

Maple Pecan Pie Popcorn
1/2 cup sugar free pancake syrup
1 Tbsp Splenda brown sugar
1/2 cup margarine
1/4 tsp salt
8 cups popped popcorn
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  In a small saucepan, cook syrup and brown sugar over medium heat, whisking frequently, for 5 minutes.  Whisk in margarine and salt until slightly thickened, about 5 more minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
Mix popcorn and nuts and spread on parchment-lined baking sheet.  Drizzle maple mixture over popcorn and stir carefully to coat.  Spread mixture evenly over baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.  Allow to cool before serving.

Recipe adapted from Rachael Ray

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