Saturday, January 8, 2011

Birthday Party Campout and Caramel Corn

My youngest son, Isaac, just turned 13. Isaac is an amazing young man. He is so creative and curious about the world around him. As often as possible I try to let the kids decide how they would like to celebrate their birthday. When I asked Isaac I knew he was going to have something fun up his sleeve. He did. Isaac chose to have a fall themed party with his very best friends. He wanted red, orange and yellow leaves to be the theme. I added camping to the overall idea of the party which he loved. Together we came up with some pretty cool ideas for the important occasion of becoming a teenager. :-)

We planned some games for the kids after everyone had arrived. We divided all the kids up into two teams and then we sent them on a scavenger hunt for colored leaves that my husband, Joel, had carefully hidden. We had a red team and a yellow team. The kids had so much fun hunting for their team's leaves. There were some easy to find leaves and then there were some leaves that were super hard to find. The kids love scavenger hunts and this one produced lots of laughs and a spirit of fun competition. Joel and I had just as much fun watching the kids as the kids had searching for the leaves.

After a few of Isaac's favorite games came a few of Isaac's favorite foods. The menu was tomato soup, grilled cheese and Caesar Salad. I cut leaf shapes out of the bread before I made the grilled cheese sandwiches to give it a little extra special touch. I will have a tutorial about this technique here.

After dinner and presents were out of the way, the kids settled down with a movie and a few of the snacks that Isaac had requested. I made caramel apples, hot cider and the amazing caramel corn.

After the movie, snacks and goofing around the kids were finally ready for bed. We tried to create a super cool place for the boys to rest their heads. We used all the Christmas trees that we had to make a forest wall in the living room. We draped orange, yellow and red lights on the trees for an autumnal touch. We used all the extra leaves and leaf garlands that we could find to decorate the fireplace...I mean campfire.

We sent each of the kids home with a little thank you for coming gift bag that was filled with a baggie of trail mix, a flashlight, and a compass.

For our trail mix, we customized a bag of WalMart trail mix to make the birthday boy as happy as can be.

I put the store brand trail mix in a big bowl.

Then I added some bittersweet chocolate chips, semisweet chocolate chips, roasted and salted cashews, and some honey roasted cashews to the mix. I gently mixed everything together.

I bagged the trail mix in clear treat bags and tied them shut with colored ribbon and a bit of raffia to add a bit of a rustic look.

And finally, I made little invitations and thank you cards for Isaac to give to his friends. I never got a picture of the invitations. :-( But here is a thank you note. I used the same paper on the gift bags up above. A friend found some really cool clearance scrap book paper that was actually a thin piece of wood. Isaac loved the stationary and he was very happy to hand them out to his friends.

I was really happy with the way everything came together, but most importantly, my son was so happy with his party. Mission accomplished. All the planning and work had been so worth his happiness. :-)

Now for the caramel corn recipe. The board of ingredients are amazingly simple for something so yummy.

To begin, set yourself up. Pour your popcorn and peanuts into your largest roasting pan. You will be stirring this a few times while it bakes, so something with a bit of a side is nice. If you don't have something large enough to hold all the popcorn and peanuts, divide the popcorn and peanuts into two smaller pans.

Measure out your baking soda so you are ready to go.

Add your corn syrup, butter, salt and brown sugar to a large saucepan and cook over medium high heat. Your caramel is going to bubble up as it cooks so you want plenty of room in your pan.

You want to stir the caramel as it cooks. When tiny bubble begin forming at the edges of the caramel, set your timer for five minutes.

As your caramel boils, it is going to bubble up. Don't worry, but be very careful. One things that is very important is to time your boiling caramel. Boil the caramel for exactly five minutes.

When your five minute timer goes off, turn off the heat and immediately add the baking soda.

Stir carefully until the soda is completely incorporated.

Kind of like this. :-)

Now pour the caramel over the popcorn and peanuts trying to cover as much surface area as you can.

Kind of like this. :-) Clean up the edges before it goes into the oven. 300 °F for 15 minutes.

This is what you get in 15 minutes.

Your caramel corn needs stirring every 15 minutes to distribute that lovely caramel onto every piece of popcorn. Stir it up by scooping straight down along the edge of the pan.

Run your spatula along the bottom of the pan to scoop up any caramel and then lift your spatula straight up. You want to stir carefully so you do not crush your popcorn.

When everything is stirred up and all the caramel corn that fell out of the pan is tucked back in, put the caramel corn back in the oven for another 15 minutes. The caramel corn needs to be baked for one hour total with a stir every 15 minutes. When the caramel corn is baked, stir it for a few minutes as it cools. If you don't stir at the end, the caramel corn will cool in a brick the shape of your pan.

Caramel Corn


5 or 6 quarts of popped pop corn
16 oz peanuts

1 teaspoon salt
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon baking soda


1. Preheat oven to 300 °F.

2. Put the popcorn and peanuts in the largest pan you have.

3. Put the butter, salt, brown sugar and corn syrup in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Stirring, bring the mixture to a boil and boil for five minutes. Do not boil any longer than five minutes.

4. Take the caramel off the heat and add the 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. Stir when caramel bubbles calm down.

5. Pour the caramel over the peanuts and popcorn covering as much popcorn as possible. Bake in the oven for one hour. Stir the popcorn and peanuts every 15 minutes.

6. When caramel corn comes out of the oven, stir it for a few minutes until it cools down. Enjoy.

For a printer friendly version of this recipe click here.

I am linking up to Stone Gable's On The Menu Monday

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