(Family Features) With countless ways to enjoy the holiday season from decorating and hosting parties to wintertime activities, it’s a perfect time to bring family and friends together for some festive fun. One simple ingredient can be your go-to for just about any tradition: popcorn, which is an inexpensive, versatile, whole grain that makes holiday occasions better.
Consider these simple seasonal ways you can let popcorn fuel your holiday adventures.
Strings of popcorn and cranberries add a nostalgic touch to the family tree while making popcorn trees adds whimsy to the table. Before stringing popcorn, let it sit out for a day or two as freshly popped popcorn may be too fragile to thread without breaking. Push a threaded needle through the center of each kernel then pull the kernel to the end of the knotted thread, adding an occasional cranberry, if desired. Festive trees can be made using popcorn mixed with melted marshmallows then shaped and finished with sprinkles.
Give It as a Gift
If it’s your turn to host this year’s holiday party, popcorn makes for a perfect party favor. Pop up a delicious treat like these Cranberry Popcorn Balls, place them in pretty jars or neatly wrap them then finish each with a bow. For an added touch, include the recipe instructions and popcorn kernels in a separate container so your guests can make it at home.
Enjoy It as a Snack
Freshly popped popcorn is a simple and delicious snack to share after a day of shopping, caroling, sledding or decorating. You can take the holiday season up a notch with creative recipes like Gingersnap Popcorn Snack Mix, White Chocolate Peppermint Popcorn Bark and Easy, Elegant Holiday Popcorn. These treats are perfect for popping up in the morning so the snacks are ready once guests arrive.
Visit Popcorn.org to find more sweet, salty and savory holiday recipe ideas.
Gingersnap Popcorn Snack Mix
Yield: 2 quarts
- 2 quarts popped popcorn
- butter-flavored nonstick cooking spray
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar substitute
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black or white pepper
- Preheat oven to 325 F.
- Spread popcorn on baking sheet and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
- In small bowl, combine sugar substitute, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and freshly ground pepper; sprinkle evenly over popcorn.
- Spray again with nonstick cooking spray and toss to coat evenly.
- Bake 7 minutes and serve warm.
Easy, Elegant Holiday Popcorn
Yield: 8 cups
- 8 cups popped popcorn
- 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
- candy sprinkles
- On serving platter, spread popcorn in thin layer.
- Over double boiler or in microwave, melt milk chocolate chips. Drizzle over popcorn.
- Over double boiler or in microwave, melt white chocolate chips. Drizzle over popcorn.
- Sprinkle candy sprinkles over warm, chocolate-coated popcorn. Allow drizzles to set until firm.
White Chocolate Peppermint Popcorn Bark
Yield: 1 pound
- 5 cups popped popcorn
- 12 ounces white chocolate baking chips, chopped white chocolate or white candy coating
- 1 cup crushed hard candy peppermints
- Cover baking pan with foil or wax paper; set aside.
- Place popcorn in large bowl; set aside.
- In double boiler over barely simmering water, melt chocolate, stirring until smooth, or melt according to package directions.
- Stir in crushed peppermints after chocolate is melted. Pour chocolate mixture over popcorn mixture and stir to coat. Spread onto prepared pan; cool completely.
- When chocolate is cooled and set, break into chunks for serving.
- Store in airtight container at room temperature.
Cranberry Popcorn Balls
Yield: 18 balls
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup whole berry cranberry sauce, slightly mashed
- 1 tablespoon grated orange peel
- 1/2 cup cranberry juice
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 5 quarts unsalted popped popcorn
- In heavy saucepan, combine sugar, cranberry sauce, orange peel, cranberry juice, corn syrup, vinegar and salt. Bring to boil; lower heat and cook to 250 F on candy thermometer.
- Mixture will bubble in pan; watch to keep from boiling over.
- Pour slowly onto hot popcorn and mix until well-coated.
- Let stand 5 minutes, or until mixture can easily be formed into balls.
- Butter hands and form into 3-inch balls.
(Family Features) The traditional dishes served year after year at your family’s holiday gatherings may bring comfort and a sense of nostalgia, but you can open your loved ones up to a whole new world by incorporating recipes from around the globe.
People of all different cultures across the Earth are often connected by food, whether it’s a classic holiday dish or a unique take on a traditional dish, like this raisin-infused Challah. While the dishes themselves may drastically differ, using similar ingredients can be a unifying thread.
For those looking to pull off worldly cuisines this holiday season, consider a familiar and nearly universal ingredient like raisins, an innovative and delicious addition incorporated in culturally diverse dishes. On top of their versatile flavor, Sun-Maid Raisins offer a better-for-you whole fruit option with no added sugar per 1/4-cup serving.
Consider these global recipe ideas enjoyed at holiday gatherings around the world.
- Apple Strudel: Quite possibly one of the most famous German desserts of all, raisins add a delicious chewiness to this traditional strudel.
- Lebkuchen: A traditional German cake similar to gingerbread that’s full of sweet spices, walnuts, dates and raisins.
- Cuccidati Siciliani: Typically at their most popular during the holiday season, these Italian fig cookies feature raisins inside the deliciously fruity filling.
- Panettone: Also a holiday favorite, Panettone is a towering round of sweet bread speckled with raisins, citrus and almonds.
- Fruitcake: Traditional fruitcake is chock-full of dried raisins, golden raisins, cherries, dates, pineapple and apricots soaked in dark tea overnight.
- Bread Pudding: This English staple uses stale bread, spices, sweetener and raisins to create a dense and delicious cake.
- Cinnamon-Raisin Rugelach: These flavorful pastries are characterized by a melt-in-your-mouth cheese-based dough with a sweet cinnamon, raisin and walnut filling.
- Christopsomo: Considered sacred in many Greek households and translating to “Christ’s Bread,” this revered dish is usually prepared the day before Christmas Eve and is served with nothing but bare hands at the table. Raisins, nuts, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg are all found throughout the loaf.
- Ghapama: A baked pumpkin stuffed with partially cooked rice, raisins, nuts, cinnamon and honey.
- Irish Soda Bread: The cakey texture of this Irish favorite is complemented by sweet, chewy raisins throughout the loaf.
Visit SunMaid.com to find more recipes perfect for holiday gatherings.
Crown Raisin Challah
Yield: 3 loaves
- 2 envelopes (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 3 cups warm water
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 extra-large eggs, plus 3 egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 cup Sun-Maid raisins
- 3 cups bread flour
- 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 extra-large eggs
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- To make dough: In big bowl, mix yeast, sugar, honey and warm water. Let yeast bloom about 7 minutes.
- Add cinnamon, oil, eggs, egg yolks and salt. Mix well. Add raisins. Add flours and mix until sticky. Dough should be creamy yellow.
- Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead 12-15 minutes, or until smooth. Oil bowl, place dough back in bowl and cover tight with plastic wrap. Let rise in warm place about 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled.
- Punch dough down, cover and let rise another 45 minutes. Punch down again and cut into three equal pieces. Let rest about 10 minutes then roll each piece into snakes about 30 inches long; taper at one end. Starting with thick end, roll each snake into spiral shape like snail shell. Use a little water and stick tapered end onto body of spiral. Mold into place with hands.
- Oil loaves lightly, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until poofy, about 25 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375 F.
- To make egg wash: In small bowl, whisk eggs and sugar. Gently brush loaves with egg wash, taking care not to deflate them.
- Bake 45 minutes, or until loaves are golden. Let cool completely.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images (mother and daughter baking)
(Family Features) Add a special touch this holiday season with simple yet stunning small plates that add beauty and flavor to gatherings with friends and family.
Available into January, California grapes offer a way to make the season special as an ingredient in your favorite recipes or as decoration for a festive centerpiece. Pops of red, green and black provide a seasonal touch and they’re perfect as an easy, fresh, healthy snack.
Plus, you can dip grapes in nut butter and finish with coatings of coconut, dark chocolate and almonds to make these Peanut Butter Grape Bites for a holiday treat that’s simply divine – without spending hours in the kitchen.
Visit grapesfromcalifornia.com to find more holiday recipe inspiration.
Watch video to see how to make this recipe!
Peanut Butter Grape Bites
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Yield: 12 pieces
12 California grapes, chilled
1/3 cup natural peanut or almond butter
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate
1/4 cup chopped almonds
Place sheet of wax paper on baking sheet. Dip each grape in nut butter to coat half then dip in either coconut, dark chocolate or chopped almonds. Transfer to sheet then chill until ready to serve.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 70 calories; 2 g protein; 4 g carbohydrates; 5 g fat (64% calories from fat); 1.5 g saturated fat (19% calories from saturated fat); 0 mg cholesterol; 25 mg sodium; 1 g fiber.
(Family Features) Among the decorations, gifts and gatherings of loved ones, there’s perhaps nothing quite like family favorite foods that call to mind the joy of the holidays. Whether your loved ones relish building gingerbread houses or dining on an all-in feast, looking forward to annual traditions is part of what makes the season so special.
This year, you can add to the fun with a new annual activity by creating a delightful dessert with the help of little ones and adults alike. With an easy recipe like Peanut Butter Saltine Candy that calls for just a handful of ingredients, you can get the whole family involved in the kitchen.
Ask your little helpers to measure out ingredients while a grownup prepares the pan and uses the stove. Once the base is finished baking, call the kids back to sprinkle chocolate chips and peanut butter chips over the top.
After your candy creation is cooled, just break it into pieces meant to be shared with the entire family. An added benefit: all can enjoy the nutrient-rich flavor of peanuts, which rise to superfood status by delivering 19 vitamins and minerals and 7 grams of protein per serving.
Find more holiday recipes at gapeanuts.com .
Watch video to see how to make this recipe!
Peanut Butter Saltine Candy
Yield: 45 pieces
- Nonstick cooking spray (butter flavor)
- 1 sleeve (4 ounces) regular saltine crackers
- 1/2 cup butter
- 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups milk chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup peanut butter chips
- 1/2 cup rough chopped, dry roasted peanuts
- Preheat oven to 400 F. Line 10-by-15-by-1-inch pan with aluminum foil. Spray foil with nonstick cooking spray then lay saltines flat in single layer on prepared pan. Set aside.
- In heavy duty, 1-quart saucepan over medium heat, combine butter, peanut butter and sugar. Stir constantly until butter and sugar are melted, bringing mixture to boil. Boil 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour cooked mixture over saltines and bake 5 minutes.
- Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over saltines. Let cool 3 minutes then spread melted chocolate completely over saltines.
- Sprinkle peanut butter chips evenly over chocolate. Return pan to oven 1 minute to soften chips. Pull pointed tines of fork through softened peanut butter chips to partially cover chocolate. Sprinkle chopped peanuts on top, gently pressing into candy.
- Let cool on rack about 15 minutes then place in freezer 3 minutes. Remove from freezer and break into pieces. Store in airtight container.
Source: Georgia Peanut Commission
(Family Features) All kinds of holiday celebrations, whether with immediate family or joining loved ones virtually, can be made better with sweet treats that add special meaning to the occasion. Including fresh fruit in your treat can make it an even tastier take on seasonal tradition.
For example, fresh California grapes are available into January and are perfect for the holiday season. Enjoy them as a fresh, healthy snack or side dish, or as an ingredient to add taste and visual appeal to recipes to make the season feel special.
This Grape Frangipane Tart offers a simple solution when your sweet tooth calls for a dish to share with family. Everyday ingredients likely already in your pantry combine with fresh grapes for a sweet-tart twist worthy of the holidays.
Find more holiday dessert recipes at grapesfromcalifornia.com.
Watch video to see how to make this recipe!
Grape Frangipane Tart
- 1 tart pastry, single crust (10 inches)
- 3 1/2 cups red or black seedless California grapes
- 2 ounces almond paste
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 pinch salt
- confectioners’ sugar
- Preheat oven to 375 F.
- Line 10-inch tart pan with pastry. Arrange grapes snugly in decorative rings in pastry. With electric mixer, combine almond paste, egg, sugar, butter, flour and salt until smooth to create frangipane. Carefully spread over arranged grapes and bake 35 minutes until tart is golden brown and cooked through.
- When tart is cool, remove from pan and dust with confectioners’ sugar.
Nutritional information per serving: 151 calories; 2 g protein; 8 g fat; 46% calories from fat; 19 g carbohydrates; 34 mg cholesterol; .8 g fiber; 86 mg sodium.