Honey Caramel Popcorn Balls {Sugar-Free Caramel Corn}

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Oh, sweet Caramel.
Such a beautifully, buttery sweetness, melting on my tongue; oh my caramel, how I do love thee.

On our journey to sugar-free eating, I wondered if I would ever achieve quite the same delight I had always so loved in the flavor of caramel but in a healthier allergy-friendly version. I now wonder no more. This caramel popcorn is so delicious! And it is the perfect recipe as the holiday season commences. Perfect for the Halloween treat-table, or to gift for the holidays.

{dairy-free, sugar-free, additive-free, clean eating ingredients!   mmmm, mmmm, good}
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This caramel is simply made with honey instead of over-processed, highly-refined brown-cane-sugar. I molded mine into these kid-friendly popcorn balls and we so enjoy the treat. From our happy kitchen to yours, we hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do.

6 cups popped organic non-gmo popcorn
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/2 (generous) cup raw honey
1 1/2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
1/2 teaspoon real salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda***
1 teaspoon pure vanilla

***If making popcorn balls, OMIT the baking soda and add 1/4 cup of water to the liquid mixture.

Heat in a saucepan over medium-high heat the oil, honey & molasses ***(and 1/4 cup of water if you will be making popcorn BALLS as opposed to just caramel popcorn).

Bring to a boil , then turn heat down to medium and cook for 4-5 minutes without stirring.

Remove heat source and:
OPTION 1 for caramel corn: stir in the salt, baking soda***, and vanilla. The caramel will fluff and rise like a delicious science experiment.
Pour over the popped popcorn and stir to coat the popcorn as evenly as possible. Do this with a bit of finesse, as the caramel will be very hot!  Fold out onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
Bake at 250 for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes

OPTION 2 for Popcorn Balls: stir in the salt and vanilla.
Pour over the popped popcorn and stir to coat the popcorn as evenly as possible. Do this with a bit of finesse, as the caramel will be very hot!
When the caramel corn has cooled enough to be comfortable to handle, form your popcorn balls. Let cool completely ~ if you can keep your hands off of them long enough!

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Quinoa Sweet Potato & Pecan Tamales (TaMOLLYs)

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Quinoa Sweet Potato & Pecan Tamales

When it comes to the title of a recipe, I have been known to get QUITE CHEESY (especially for a dairy-free cook). What can I say? Being that I am a momma bear, sometimes I have to sell my kids on the healthy foods I want them to love, and what makes selling easier than a catchy name! I’m just marketing :)! My sweet Molly Rose got quite a kick out of dinner being named after her last night.

We live in Texas, and in Texas, everyone knows what a tamale is. Traditionally, they are done with masa harina (corn flour).   I have been thinking about the execution of a corn free TaMolly for a while now, and yesterday, I had some sweet potatoes that were staring at me from the potato basket and some corn husks that were wanting to be used, and so began the makings of a ‘Meatless Monday’ masterpiece ~ a QUINOA TA”MOLLY”! They were so yummy and have oodles of potential for flavor and filling combinations. I can’t wait to post more as I make these again and again.

What you will need:

1 bag of Corn husks (found at most grocers)
1 cup Organic white quinoa
1-2 teaspoon Salt of choice (I like “Real Salt”)
2 Sweet potatoes
1/3-1/2 cup pecans, chopped (if you don’t soak and dry your nuts already, just soak them while you prepare the rest of the meal and drain them when ready to use)
1/2 teaspoon organic chile powder
1 3/4 cups vegetable stock or water (homemade stock is best, if buying, try to avoid yeast extracts in the ingredients)
1/4 cup coconut oil (straight from the jar, no need to liquefy)
A Steamer or way to steam the TaMollys (I use a stacking bamboo steamer basket like this one)

First, submerge your corn husks in water for at least 30 minutes to soften them. I like to do about half the bag so that I can choose the best of the bunch and have enough to cover my ingredients. (You can also do these in double batches or more and freeze for later)

Peel and dice your sweet potatoes. Cover with water in a sauce pot, add a nice pinch of salt to the water, and boil for 10-15 minutes to soften your potatoes. They don’t have to quite be fork tender because they will continue to cook in the tamale. Strain the water out of the pan and fork-mash a bit, stirring in 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder and a pinch of salt. Set aside.

In a spice grinder, food processor, or blender, grate 1 cup of quinoa until you have a fine to medium-grained meal (similar to a corn meal texture).

In a saucepan over medium heat, bring together the quinoa meal, 1 3/4 cups of vegetable stock or water, 1/4 cup of coconut oil, 1 teaspoon of salt, and pepper to taste. Stir slowly and frequently just until the mixture comes together to a thick consistency similar to a breakfast porridge and stir for about 5 minutes to soften the quinoa. Remove from heat and set aside.
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Bring your 1/3 -1/2 cup of chopped pecans to the assembly party, along with your quinoa mixture, your sweet potatoes, and the soaked corn husks.

To assemble your TaMollys, simply spoon some of the quinoa mixture onto a soaked corn husk. I like to fold the husk over and use a pulling motion to spread the meal across. You will want about 1/4 inch thickness. Top with some sweet potato and a pinch of pecans. {You can see my photo of a layered husk before it is bundled up}. Now, Fold in the sides and place the bundle seems down onto a steamer tray. Try not to stack them directly on top of one another if you can help it. This bamboo steamer basket that I use was perfect!)   Continue with more tamales until your fillings are gone. I was able to get 11 tamales last night.

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Steam for 1 hour. Make sure you check our steaming water frequently and add more when needed.  Pull them out and get ready to open a little gift of food love.

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They may not look like much as you stack the corn-husk-bundles onto a serving tray…
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But when you unravel the contents inside, you find a delicious texture, very similar to that traditional corn-cake layer; and, inside, you have the deliciously mushy sweet potato and the perfect texture and nuttiness of the pecans. SO YUMMY!

For the vegan option, these were delicious served with a tiny drizzle of cashew sour cream*.  If you prefer the real deal dairy, then a regular or raw sour cream would be equally as yummy.

The best part of recipes like these are the endless possibilities for variety! I am already dreaming up some flavor combinations to try again very soon:
Chicken and Green Chile, Chicken Tomatillo, Braised Beef and Sweet Peppers, Chicken & Apple, Pumpkin and Black Bean ….. Okay, now I’m hungry again. I might have to make more of these today!

~Happy Eating, Everyone! Ole’~

* Cashew Sour Cream: Process or Blend 1 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup pure water
1/4 cup organic lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
optional, garlic powder and/or onion powder to taste