:: diy with cupcakes and cutlery ::

I'm beyond excited to be guest posting for Lauren today!  I've been reading A Fabulous Fete for a while now and I adore it.  I love her crafty tutorials, the amazing photographic images she finds around the web and the pictures of her cat (and I don't even like cats).  When she asked me to guest post and share a DIY with you.  I wasn't sure what to do!  Although I have amazingly crafty thoughts my hands never produce them at a level that I would be proud to share.  But then I thought "share what you love" and I instantly knew.  Caramel corn.  I have much more cooking confidence than crafting confidence (and excel even more at eating) so I asked Lauren if I could share a holiday family favorite with you instead.  It is also a good way to share with you a project that I am involved in.  Carrie from Sweet Spot Candy Bar and Melissa from Truly Chic Inspiration decided to put together a holiday cookbook, filled with bloggers favorite family holiday recipes to raise money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.  Of course I didn't hesitate to submit my recipes and stories.  I think the cookbook would make a great gift and if you are interested, you can find more about it here.  This caramel corn recipe will be in there along with several others (all of which are super easy and extremely tasty - that's how I roll).  

I am totally a sweets person and have had my fair share of caramel corn over the years.  I do not hesitate to say that this is, by far, my all time favorite.  For years, my grandmother would make this for me Christmas.  Because it makes a fairly good size batch (although it will be gone quick!) she would save her huge plastic pretzel containers from Costco and fill it with the popcorn to bring me.  It was what I waited to see each year.  My grandma getting out of the car holding an enormous container of caramel corn.  I've asked for it for birthdays in lieu of a cake and I've started making it for the kids parties.  It is always well received (and by well received I mean you have to elbow your way through the crowd just to get to the bowl) and makes a great favor when packaged up cute.  So here it is.  I hope you love it and that it starts a holiday tradition for your family too.  Its really inexpensive to make, not too difficult and makes a large amount.  It is perfect for dividing up to pass out to work friends, neighbors, post man, teachers, etc.  

Caramel Corn

2 cups brown sugar (packed)
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon salt (I've used all types of salt over the years but this time tried it with a coarse sea salt and it was fantastic!)
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 quarts popped popcorn

Using an air popper or microwave corn popper pop popcorn in batches until you have approximately 6 quarts.  You don't want any oil or flavorings, just nice fresh popcorn.  I always go through and pick out any unpopped kernels because there is nothing worse then shoving handful after handful of yummy deliciousness in to your mouth only to chomp down on a hard kernel and potentially cracking a tooth.  Put all the popped corn in to a large roasting pan if you have one or use a disposable turkey sized pan found at your grocery store around the holidays.

In a 3 quart saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, salt and corn syrup.  Heat to melt all ingredients together making sure to stir well.  Heat to boiling and let boil for 5 minutes stirring occasionally.  

Remove from heat and add baking soda.  Stir well.  The caramel will sort of fizz up and become really airy and an odd texture.  You want that, it may just freak you out a little when it happens.  

Mix well with the popcorn taking care to fold it in and not break the popcorn.

Bake at 250 degrees in the oven for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  This is crucial to making sure that all pieces get a nice coating and keeps it crunchy.  Stir the caramel corn while its cooling to prevent it from sticking in big clumps.  

You could hand a ziplock baggie of this caramel corn over to a friend and they would be extremely happy, especially once they taste it.  But why not take a few minutes and put together a cute little package.  

Wax paper sheets from Smart and Final

White cord from Home Depot but could also use baker's twine
Round tag was a free download via Creature Comforts that I modified

Melamine dish from Ikea (sold in 4 pack with other colors that would be a radical take on traditional holiday colors).
Cello bag from Michaels
I created the tag

Acrylic kids cup from Ikea (comes in a 4 pack)
Ribbon from Michaels
I created the tag

Old ball jar
Battery powered light set from Ikea's holiday section 

I wish all of you a very happy holiday season.  Don't forget to check out the cookbook here.  And let me know what you think of this recipe if you try it!  

A big thank you to Lauren for asking me to post for her.  I am currently working on a big project with her and I think you guys are really going to love it...Stay tuned!!