Make It: Kickin' crunch with a sweet fall twist!

NEED TO KNOW
  • It's popcorn with a kick -- and some fall-friendly ingredients
  • Substitute pumpkin pie spices for an added touch of gourmet
This nutty popcorn treat can be perfect for a fall day.

"Recipes from the Heart" is all about that special dish that you want to make time and time again. Every week, a food blogger will share a recipe, and a little bit about why it's so important to them.

Becky Reinig is a contributor for the female sports site HerGameLife.com. She grew up in Arizona during a time when there was no pro football team, so her heart has always belonged to the Denver Broncos. Now that she lives in Colorado, she can attend games and of course, the all-important tailgate festivities! She is on Twitter.

As a football fan and aspiring foodie, there is one, or really, two things I love to do -- put on a great party and watch some nail-biting football. A good, balanced lineup will include a hearty main dish, a couple of tasty sides and some memorable munchies.

Even the people who say they aren't hungry can still be found having a bit of popcorn or nuts. There is something irresistible about it. This recipe blends all of the right fall flavors, the spicy chili, the cinnamon, the crunchy sweetness and a touch of maple.

Now, I can publicly admit, caramel, toffee, fudge and things that require turning sugar into magic have never been my go-to play. So while I would love to dazzle my guests with all the ideas I have for sweet and salty treats, I have shied away from that arena until now. This is a delicate candy coating that blitzes the taste buds. It has a high probability of success, too.

Commercial, pre-popped corn is often made with mushroom popcorn kernels which hold up to sauces a little better than your typical microwave corn. For this reason, I used Vic's popcorn, lightly salted. It also saves you a few minutes with the old maids already removed. Use whatever popcorn you like best, of course. This recipe yields about a gallon bag worth of munchie goodness.

Kickin' Crunch

  • 2 cups nuts (pecan, cashews or peanuts work well)
  • 6 cups popped popcorn (cleaned of any kernels and hulls)
  • 6 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 3 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the nuts on a large cookie sheet and put them in the oven while the sauce is being made.

In a large stockpot, melt the sauce ingredients together while stirring for about 5 minutes. Pull the nuts out of the oven and add them to the pot. Turn the nuts once in the sauce then add the popcorn and stir again until coated.  Pour the popcorn and nuts back onto the cookie sheet and bake another 10 minutes, stirring at the 5-minute mark. Remove from the oven and stir again. Let cool on the sheet for 20-30 minutes.

Suggestions:

For an even bigger fall taste, consider substituting pumpkin pie spice for the cinnamon and cayenne powder. You could also add it as an addition for a little extra “kick”. If you don't have maple syrup, you may also use Karo, but you'll want to add about a teaspoon of vanilla extract as well. There are a lot of possibilities in this recipe to call an audible on the flavor. Since the sugar base provides the candy coating, it leaves you plenty of room for creativity.

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