Thursday, March 7, 2013

Flashback Friday: Popcorn Balls

Flashback Friday: Revisiting a recipe from long ago

A snow day means pure excitement, right?  I'd say any day is perfect for a school snow day, unless it's the day of a much anticipated class party.  You know, the grade school class parties you had on the last day before a long break or at the end of the quarter.  Snow days were not as welcome on those special days.

More often than not my mom made popcorn balls with us for our class parties.  We'd make red and green popcorn balls for Christmas parties, pink for Valentine's Day and orange for Thanksgiving.  Sometimes we would just pick our favorite color and go from there.  It was pretty cool to have your very own popcorn ball in a fun color.

Oddly enough, I remember making these on the kitchen floor.  We weren't quite tall enough to work at the counter and chairs had this funny tendency to tip over if wiggly children were atop.  The air-popper came down to floor level and we watched the kernels pop with more delight and excitement than you can imagine.  Gooey marshmallows magically puffed and then changed color when the gelatin was added.  After thoroughly spreading butter all over our hands we shaped sticky palm-fulls into balls, just like snow balls.  Each was then wrapped in plastic wrap so every kid in the class could have one.

 I never thought I'd get a snow day from work, but that's just what happened this past week.  On my snow day I opened our kid-friendly Jello cookbook to make popcorn balls once again.  In celebration of the snow day (or maybe because blue is my favorite) I made blue popcorn balls.  I skipped the on-the-floor aspect this time and my heightened perspective revealed a slightly stickier side than I remember.  While I don't recall my mom cleaning up marshmallow strings  stretching from little faces to floor, I imagine there were more sticky fingers than we could count.  I do remember putting in M&M's no matter what flavor we were making.  Somehow M&M's no longer seem like the right addition to berry-blue gelatin flavor.  I left this batch plain, but depending on your flavor base (or age of participants) feel free to include those candy-coated chocolate pieces, peanuts, raisins or dried cranberries.

Popcorn Balls
adapted from Jell-O Kids Cooking Fun, 1991

14 cups popped popcorn (see variation below)
1 (10.5 oz) bag mini marshmallows
3 Tbsp butter, plus more for greasing bowl and hands
1 (4-serving size) pkg flavored gelatin (unprepared)

** Variation: Replace 2 cups popcorn with a mix of nuts, candy-coated chocolate pieces or dried fruit.  Keep in mind the flavor of your gelatin when deciding on mix-ins.

* Grease a large bowl and pour in popcorn (and mix-ins, if using); set aside.
* In a large microwave-safe bowl combine marshmallows and butter. Microwave on high until marshmallows are puffed, 1-2 minutes. Stir until marshmallows are smooth and butter is melted.  Stir in gelatin until mixture is evenly colored.
* Pour marshmallow mixture over popcorn and stir to coat.  When mixture is cool enough to handle use well-greased hands to shape popcorn into balls. Place on waxed paper to cool before wrapping individual balls in plastic wrap.

Food for Thought: "It is a happy talent to know how to play." -Ralph Waldo Emerson 

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