Candy Indian Corn “in the husk” — its not just for decorating!

    Edible Indian Corn “in the husk” is on our Halloween menu but it would be a fun treat for any fall gathering. I noticed this creative take on classic popcorn balls on a Facebook post from Emily Johnson DeSanto. Intrigued, I followed the link to a Martha Stewart generated video.
     However, I must warn you — the chef in charge of this project makes it look mess free. Well, the reality (at least in my kitchen) was that popcorn drifted out of the bowl. Counters, even my hands ended up coated in ooey, sticky marshmallow goo. It was definitely a mess!

     Of course, I made a few adjustments to the recipe. For one thing I made smaller sized Indian corn shapes simply because the original seemed like an oversized portion. I figured if one wasn’t enough, there would be plenty available for seconds. Second, I could not find natural (brown) parchment paper so I opted for brown wrapping paper (the stuff you wrap things in for shipping). In terms of ingredients, I had a 16 oz. bag of mini marshmallows instead of a 10 oz. bag so just adjusted the recipe proportionally (figured that the leftover 6 ounces would just set in the pantry until I discovered it in a petrified form a couple of months later). And, finally I actually considered using rice cereal instead of popcorn (a rice krispie treat in a husk) but finally opted out for a combination of both the cereal and popcorn.

Candy Indian Corn
6 tablespoons butter
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
16 oz. bag mini marshmallows
18 cups popcorn (sounds like a lot but it was basically a Whirley® popcorn popper full of popped corn)
3 to 4 cups+ rice cereal – enough to absorb all of the butter-marshallow goo
⅓ to ½ cup candy-coated sunflower seeds (I think Emily used M&M’s)
  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and brown sugar; add marshmallows and continue to heat until mixture is smooth.

  2. Pour hot mixture over popped corn and mix, add enough rice cereal to create a cohesive mixture that is not overly sticky.
  3. Stir in candy-coated sunflower seeds.
  4. With buttered or sprayed hands, portion mixture and form into smaller-sized corn-on-the-cob shapes. I ended up with 17 portions. Note: If desired, add a few more candy-coated sunflower seeds to the surface of each corn shape.
  5. Place popcorn shapes on wax paper and allow to firm up, about 15 minutes.
  6. Wrap each in plastic wrap. (This was another step I added).
  7. Wrap in a paper husk and arrange in a serving dish.
Paper Husks
This is just a guide that can be adjusted according to the size of your corn. I just played around until I liked the end results. Basically, this is what I did . . . hope it makes sense — maybe the photos will help . . .
  1. Cut brown wrapping paper into lengths – about 10” high and 20” wide.
  2. Fold the paper, accordion style (I used about a 2 to 2 ½” wide fold), back and forth, starting with the short side of the paper.
  3. Using scissors, begin cutting the folded strip two-thirds of the way from the top, angling to the center of the strip. Repeat on the other side. Open it up and it should resemble a picket fence.
  4. Now, lay the Candy Indian Corn at one end of the “fence,” pointed top of the corn almost even with the pointed top of the “fence,” and roll.
  5. Twist the excess paper at the bottom to create a handle for your candy corn.
  6. Carefully pull down the points to expose Candy Indian Corn.

Recipe & instructions without photos . . .

Candy Indian Corn 
6 tablespoons butter
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
16 oz. bag mini marshmallows
18 cups popcorn (sounds like a lot but it was basically a Whirley® popcorn popper full of popped corn)
3 to 4 cups+ rice cereal – enough to absorb all of the butter-marshallow goo
⅓ to ½ cup candy-coated sunflower seeds (I think Emily used M&M’s)
  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and brown sugar; add marshmallows and continue to heat until mixture is smooth.
  2. Pour hot mixture over popped corn and mix, add enough rice cereal to create a cohesive mixture that is not overly sticky.
  3. Stir in candy-coated sunflower seeds.
  4. With buttered or sprayed hands, portion mixture and form into smaller-sized corn-on-the-cob shapes. I ended up with 17 portions. Note: If desired, add a few more candy-coated sunflower seeds to the surface of each corn shape.
  5. Place popcorn shapes on wax paper and allow to firm up, about 15 minutes.
  6. Wrap each in plastic wrap. (This was another step I added).
  7. Wrap in a paper husk and arrange in a serving dish.
Paper Husks
This is just a guide that can be adjusted according to the size of your corn. I just played around until I liked the end results. Basically, this is what I did . . . hope it makes sense — maybe the photos will help . . .
  1. Cut brown wrapping paper into lengths – about 10” high and 20” wide.
  2. Fold the paper, accordion style (I used about a 2 to 2 ½” wide fold), back and forth, starting with the short side of the paper.
  3. Using scissors, begin cutting the folded strip two-thirds of the way from the top, angling to the center of the strip. Repeat on the other side. Open it up and it should resemble a picket fence.
  4. Now, lay the Candy Indian Corn at one end of the “fence,” pointed top of the corn almost even with the pointed top of the “fence,” and roll.
  5. Twist the excess paper at the bottom to create a handle for your candy corn.
  6. Carefully pull down the points to expose Candy Indian Corn.

Bloomin’ Baked Apples

     Thank you Glenda Rentz for posting the link to this delicious and creative recipe which originated at The Gunny Sack blog
     As usual, I made a few changes to the original recipe as noted below . . . trying to make it a little less sugary!

Bloomin’ Baked Apples
2 crisp apples
2 tablespoon soft butter
2 to 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar (original recipe calls for 3 Tbsp; I used 2 Tbsp.)
1 tablespoon oat flour instead—made by grinding old-fashioned oatmeal in our Nutrabullet® (original recipe called for regular flour)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 to 4 caramels (I used 1 1/2 caramels in each apple cavity)
Optional topping: Greek Gods® Greek Honey & Vanilla Yogurt (original recipe called for vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce and cinnamon)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°.
  2. Slice off the top fourth of the apples.
  3. Scoop out the core.

  4. Using a small, thin knife, make 2 deep circular cuts around the center of each apple.
  5. Turn each apple over and make vertical narrow cuts from the bottom side to the cut side. 
  6. Flip each back over and place in an oven safe dish; add 1 1/2 to 2 caramels to the center of each apple.
  7. Heat butter and brown sugar in the microwave for 30 second, stir and continue heating for an additional 30 seconds. Remove from the microwave and stir in flour and cinnamon. Divide the mixture over the top of the two sliced apples.

  8. Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes. (Check apples after 25 minutes and continue cooking until tender. Some apples can take 45 minutes to 1 hour to soften.)
  9. Remove from the oven and use a large spoon to move the apples into bowls.
  10. Top with a spoonful of yogurt.

Recipe without photos . . .
Bloomin’ Baked Apples 
2 crisp apples 
2 tablespoon soft butter
2 to 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar (original recipe calls for 3 Tbsp; I used 2 Tbsp.)
1 tablespoon oat flour instead—made by grinding old-fashioned oatmeal in our Nutrabullet® (original recipe called for regular flour)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 to 4 caramels (I used 1 1/2 caramels in each apple cavity)
Optional topping: Greek Gods® Greek Honey & Vanilla Yogurt (original recipe called for vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce and cinnamon)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°.
  2. Slice off the top fourth of the apples.
  3. Scoop out the core.
  4. Using a small, thin knife, make 2 deep circular cuts around the center of each apple.
  5. Turn each apple over and make vertical narrow cuts from the bottom side to the cut side. 
  6. Flip each back over and place in an oven safe dish; add 1 1/2 to 2 caramels to the center of each apple.
  7. Heat butter and brown sugar in the microwave for 30 second, stir and continue heating for an additional 30 seconds. Remove from the microwave and stir in flour and cinnamon. Divide the mixture over the top of the two sliced apples.
  8. Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes. (Check apples after 25 minutes and continue cooking until tender. Some apples can take 45 minutes to 1 hour to soften.)
  9. Remove from the oven and use a large spoon to move the apples into bowls.
  10. Top with a spoonful of yogurt.

White Bean & Sausage Soup


     In anticipation of soup weather, I've begun to experiment with some new soup recipes. 
     This one was inspired by ingredients we had on hand, including kale that is still growing in our garden.

White Bean & Sausage Soup
¾ to 1 lb. pork sausage
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 to 3 roasted red peppers, chopped
3 to 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Kosher salt & black pepper to taste
3 ½ to 4 cups chicken broth
2 russet potatoes, diced
½ to 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon paprika
1 can (15.5 oz.) cannellini (white kidney) beans, undrained
Garnish (if desired): sprigs of fresh thyme, paprika
  1. Sauté sausage in a hot skillet (oil could be added if needed); add onions and then garlic and continue to sauté until sausage is cooked through and onions are tender.
    I used a meat chopping tool to break up the sausage as it cooked.
  2. Add thyme leaves and chopped red pepper.
  3. Stir in flour, salt and pepper and cook for a couple of minutes.
  4. Stir in about 2 cups of the broth and let soup thicken.
  5. Add about another 1 cup of broth, potatoes, red pepper flakes, paprika and kale. Simmer until potatoes and kale are tender, then add beans and continue to cook until they are heated through.

  6. Garnish with springs of fresh thyme and a sprinkling of paprika if desired.
Recipe without photos . . .
White Bean & Sausage Soup
¾ to 1 lb. pork sausage
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 to 3 roasted red peppers, chopped
3 to 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Kosher salt & black pepper to taste
3 ½ to 4 cups chicken broth
2 russet potatoes, diced
½ to 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon paprika
1 can (15.5 oz.) cannellini (white kidney) beans, undrained
Garnish (if desired): sprigs of fresh thyme, paprika
  1. Sauté sausage in a hot skillet (oil could be added if needed); add onions and then garlic and continue to sauté until sausage is cooked through and onions are tender.
  2. Add thyme leaves and chopped red pepper.
  3. Stir in flour, salt and pepper and cook for a couple of minutes.
  4. Stir in about 2 cups of the broth and let soup thicken.
  5. Add about another 1 cup of broth, potatoes, red pepper flakes, paprika and kale. Simmer until potatoes and kale are tender, then add beans and continue to cook until they are heated through.
  6. Garnish with springs of fresh thyme and a sprinkling of paprika if desired.

Bang Bang Chicken . . . spicy chicken like they serve at The Cheesecake Factory

     My Chef's Table column in the fall 2014 issue of Sunflower Living Magazine featured Linda Payne of Salina, Ks. and her recipe for Bang Bang Chicken. To see Larry Harwood's fabulous photos, the magazine's layout + the full story, go to Explosive Home Cooking (Linda Payne), Sunflower Living Magazine, fall 2014, pp. 24-27. 
     The recipe below is as it appears in the magazine. Some of the info that follows the recipe was included in the article; other parts were omitted due to space constraints. 

BANG BANG CHICKEN
This spicy dish is similar to the Bang Bang Chicken at The Cheesecake Factory. For those who might be put off by the addition of fish sauces in the recipe, Linda assures, “You will never know they’re in the dish, yet they add to the layers of flavor.”
PREPARATION TIME  - Approximately 15 minutes
SERVES 4

PREPARATION TIP — Everything happens really fast after the chicken is browned and the onions and peppers are sautéed, so Linda recommends gathering all ingredients and having them by the stove. She even has cans and jars open so they are ready to add to the wok or sauté pan.
Linda also adds, “Amounts are variable so adjust the ingredients to your own taste or preference.”

INGREDIENTS
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 pound chicken breast, diced
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 green bell pepper, julienned
½ onion, julienned
1 cup broccoli, florets
¼ cup water chestnuts 
1 tablespoon Thai green curry paste
1 (13.5 oz.) can coconut milk
4  tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce 
2 teaspoons chicken base
10 large basil leaves
¼ cup whole cashews 

COOKING INSTRUCTIONS
1.  In a wok or sauté pan heat the oil on medium high heat; add the diced chicken and lightly brown.
2.  Add garlic, bell peppers, onion, broccoli, and water chestnuts. Stir-fry 4 to 5 minutes.
3.  Dissolve 1 tablespoon Thai green curry in the coconut milk and add to pan.
4.  Add soy, oyster, fish and oyster sauces + chicken base. Extra Thai green curry can be added at this point for more heat if you desire.
5.  Simmer until chicken is completely cooked.
6.  Remove from heat and add basil leaves and cashews.
Serve with jasmine rice.
Variations: If you want to significantly increase the heat level of this dish, add 2 teaspoons sambal (very hot Vietnamese chili sauce) and some sliced jalapeno peppers in step #4. 


What about the name?  — New cadets are always enticed by Bang Bang Chicken. “In the beginning I think they select it from our menu offerings due to its unique name,” Linda speculates. Legend has it that Bang Bang Chicken was traditionally served in China by street vendors who used batons to hammer the chicken for shredding. Linda’s version has a Thai twist and simply starts with cut up chunks of chicken, no hammering involved.


Key to some of the ingredients in this dish:

All of these ingredients are available locally in most grocery stores.
·    Coconut milk is made from simmering one part shredded coconut in one part water; once stirred, it has the liquid consistency of slightly thickened cow's milk. However, don’t be confused with other coconut products including coconut water—the clear, natural juice you'll find if you crack open a coconut, or thick and rich coconut cream—made by simmering four parts shredded coconut in one part water.
·    Fish sauce is an amber-colored liquid extracted from the fish that have been fermented with sea salt.
·    Oyster sauce is made by slowly simmering oysters in water until the juices caramelize into a thick, intensely flavorful condiment. Its flavor is described as  sweet, salty and earthy.
·      Thai green curry’s base ingredients are coconut milk and fresh green chilies; a variety of other fresh and dried herbs and spices add to its sweet but somewhat pungent flavor to this paste. Thai green curry also adds a mild level of heat to any dish.


Nutritionally Speaking — Since many of the cadets participate in sports, Linda calculates and posts the calories, protein, carbohydrates, fat, cholesterol and sodium in main dish servings. Here’s her breakdown for 1 serving of Bang Bang Chicken:
Calories 339 / Protein 18g / Carbohydrates 48g / Fat 7g / Cholesterol 31mg / Sodium 774mg

Rice Cookery — Linda also offers up the perfect way to cook jasmine rice, a white sticky long-grain rice with a slightly sweet taste and nutty aroma: Begin by rinsing rice under water; Linda recommends three rinses and notes, “Even then it won’t be clear; some starch will still remain making the rice sticky.” Drain rice. Add 1 cup of rice to 1 ½ cups of water or broth and a pinch of salt to a pot with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to a boil, uncovered; stir once, reduce heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes. Do not remove lid. Remove from heat and allow to set, covered, for 10 minutes. Yield: 3 cups. 

Behind the scenes; literally the back side — Larry Harwood (on the counter) and an assistant (holding lighting equipment), set up a shot of Linda Payne as she cooks at her stove.