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Popcorn perfectly paired with caramel in colorful cake

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October is National Popcorn month, along with a zillion other things, but popcorn is an appropriate observance at least for me because we have been snacking on a lot of it lately at our house.

I used to make popcorn in a kettle on my stove, shaking it carefully to get the kernels saturated with the 'popcorn oil' so it would pop evenly and not scorch.

Then I graduated to the air popper, which I didn't' enjoy that much. It was a lot easier than the kettle version but the taste of the end product left a whole lot to be desired, even when smothered in 'real' melted butter.

My popping of choice these days is the microwave kind, the more butter drenched the better. Consequently you can usually find the Act movie theatre version on my shelf.

Not only is it great eating unadorned, but I have started the habit of dipping in any kind of dip that is thick enough to be picked up by the delicate kernels, i.e. the canned cheese or bean dips, ranch or even the traditional French onion classics.

Carmel corn is also great and a type that is achieved by amply coating your fluffy buttery white stuff with a cooked topping, my favorite recipe being one made in the microwave and not carrying the requirement to bake in a slow oven for a couple of hours, making it quick and simple from start to finish.

As for any of my popcorn recipes, I pop the corn first and then pick out any unpopped kernels that may interfere with chewing.

I've literally made this caramel corn recipe hundreds of times. Clean up is also a breeze because you discard the bag you coat the corn in and all that is left is your microwave bowl that can easily go into the dishwasher.

This is a great recipe to serve for snacking at a party or to take to potlucks. Just be sure you prepare enough you start eating it is difficult to stop. If I make a double or triple batch, I make them individually to ensure the batch will be perfect each time.

The moist Popcorn Cake is also a real winner, similar in texture to a Rice Krispie Bar, but much more decadent, filled with M and M's and salted peanuts. This recipe makes a wonderful alternative to birthday cake at a child's party. The nice part is you can use your imagination and add or substitute just about any ingredient. Gum drops are excellent with the M & M's instead of the peanuts or you can add every kid's favorites, gummy bears or gummy worms. Or with Halloween right around the corner, candy corn would also be a tasty, colorful decorating diversion.

It's also so easy to cut, serve and eat. The only downside is that it is a little sticky, but wet wipes situated at each plate will quickly take care of that. Don't be alarmed when you are ready to form this in the angel food pan and you're thinking you have way too much popcorn mixture. Put about half in at a time. The recipe says press it down firmly and that's exactly what it means. It does look like a lot but it will all fit.

Like the caramel corn, this popcorn cake is also habit forming once you start eating, so be prepared for it to disappear quickly, especially if you have little ones around.

Until next week, from my kitchen to yours happy cooking!!!!

Easy Caramel Corn

Two bags microwave popcorn, popped

1 cup brown sugar

1 stick margarine

1/4 cup light Karo corn syrup

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. vanilla

Dash of salt

Place popped corn in a large brown paper bag.

Microwave margarine, brown sugar and corn syrup for two minutes on high. Stir well. Microwave on high another minute and a half. Stir well. Mix in vanilla, salt and baking soda. It will become foamy. Stir well. Pour over popcorn in bag and coat well with large spoon. Let sit until it cools and pour into large bowl. Cover with lid.

Popcorn Cake

1 16-ounce bag marshmallows

1 stick margarine

1/2 cup oil

Melt in a large saucepan, stirring gently to blend all together. Once melted, pour over the following in a large bowl.

5-6 quarts popcorn

1 lb. peanuts

1 lb. M & M's

Grease or butter an angel food cake pan. Press mixture firmly into pan. Let set several hours and turn onto plate. Will serve 12 to 20 depending on how large you cut the slices.