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Pat’s Pantry: Sugar and spice and oh so nice!

By Pat Mills

Looking for that little something to give to your mail carrier, next-door neighbor or someone who just deserves a little treat this Christmas? How about a bag of cinnamon popcorn or caramel corn puffs? A tin of toffee crunch pretzels? These recipes take a little more time but are will worth the effort. – Pat

cinnamon red hots popcorn
6 to 7 quarts popped corn
1 (12 ounce) package cinnamon red hots candy
granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon oil of cinnamon
Heat oven to 250 degrees. Put red hots into a 2-cup measure and fill to the top with sugar. In a large saucepan mix red hots, sugar, butter, syrup and salt; bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add baking soda and flavorings; stirring well. (Make sure to keep face back when adding flavoring, as odor will be strong). Pour over popped corn. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Pour onto waxed paper to cool. Break up clumps and store in airtight containers.

caramel corn puffs
1 package (10.9 oz) puffed corn cereal
1 cup pecan halves
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Combine cereal and pecans in a greased large shallow baking pan. In a saucepan, bring sugar, butter, and corn syrup to a boil and cook 5 minutes. Remove from heat; add vanilla and baking soda. Pour caramel mixture over cereal and pecans; stir well. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Pour onto waxed paper and break apart; allow to cool, store in an airtight container. Yield: about 10 cups of snack mix.

toffee crunch pretzels
12 cups miniature pretzels
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, cubed
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Place the pretzels in a greased roasting pan. In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar, butter and corn syrup. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla and baking soda (mixture will foam). Pour over pretzels and mix well. Bake, uncovered, at 200 degrees for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store in an airtight container.

festive chex mix wreath
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
25 regular marshmallows
1 bag (8.75 oz) chex mix honey nut snack mix
1/4 cup small green gumdrops, cut in half
1/4 cup small red gumdrops, cut in half
Spray large cookie sheet with cooking spray. In 4-qt. saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows; cook, stirring constantly, until completely melted. Stir in honey nut snack mix and red and green gumdrop pieces until well mixed; pour onto cookie sheet.  Spray sheet of waxed paper with cooking spray. With paper, sprayed side down, and hands, shape mixture into wreath shape with 4-inch hole in center. Cool completely, about 45 minutes. To serve, cut into slices. Yield: 12 servings. note: Cut and shape a bow from red fruit by-the-foot snack rolls and add to wreath.

chex caramel corn
4-1/2 cups chex cereal (corn, rice or combination)
4 cups popped corn
1/2 cup cashew halves or honey-roasted peanuts, if desired
1/4 cup butter or margarine
6 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Heat oven to 250 degrees. In large ungreased roasting pan, mix cereal, popcorn and cashews; set cereal mixture aside. In a 2-qt. saucepan, heat butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and vanilla to boiling over medium heat, stirring frequently. Pour over cereal mixture; stir until evenly coated. Bake uncovered 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Spread on waxed paper to cool, stirring occasionally to break up. Store in airtight container.

FOOD FACTS
• In recipes, do not use spread or tub products in place of the butter or margarine.
• To soften brown sugar, place a slice of bread or an apple wedge with the brown sugar in a covered container for a few days. If you are in a hurry, microwave on high for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat if necessary, but watch carefully because the sugar will begin to melt.

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