Caramel Apple Popcorn Mix

Happy holiday season! It’s the time of year for all things merry and bright… and yummy! Gift a box of sweetness or satisfy a snacky crowd with this (vegan!) Caramel Apple Popcorn Mix!

Caramel Apple Popcorn | AreYouKitchenMe.com

Ho ho ho! Lol jk I’m a bit of a grinch when it comes to the holidays. Don’t get me wrong, I love the time with family and plates piled with comfort food. I’m just not here for all of the hubbub of decorating, presents, snow… Maybe Ohio isn’t the best state to be avoiding snow in but here I am.

Caramel Apple Popcorn | AreYouKitchenMe.com

When I do get around to preparing for the holidays, I choose to show my love by feeding people and gifting useful items or experiences. A few years ago, I did all experiential gifts (like a pedicure with my mom and a taco night with my dad) and it was a total hit! It gave me dedicated time to spend with each of my family members and allowed them to unwrap something that wasn’t just useless junk.

Caramel Apple Popcorn | AreYouKitchenMe.com

Besides experiences, I love giving food gifts. Whether that’s contributing to the holiday table spread or giving a homemade plate of cookies, I know that food gifts won’t go to waste! One year I even painted personalized cookie plates at a local pottery paint shop and gifted them covered with cookies. I’ve seen them used years later!

So, when thinking of gifts to give or snacks bring to events this year, I came up with this Caramel Apple Popcorn Mix!! It’s perfect for taking to parties or gifting in tins for those hard-to-please relatives. Even my first attempt, which didn’t turn out as perfect as I wanted, got rave reviews with John’s coworkers. I’m sure it will please even your pickiest giftee.

Caramel Apple Popcorn | AreYouKitchenMe.com

I’m lucky to be making with recipe with Florida Crystals Sugar who sent me nine (!!) pounds of sugar to experiment with this year! I love using their sugar because it is produced in the U.S. using earth-friendly farming methods, comes in recycling packaging, and best of all, is certified vegan! Did you know that many sugar brands use burnt animal bones to filter their sugar? Yuck! That’s never the case with Florida Crystals!

Caramel Apple Popcorn | AreYouKitchenMe.com

When I was researching recipes to develop this Caramel Apple Popcorn Mix recipe, I saw a lot of recipes that used regular white cane sugar. But I wanted something more complex and deeper, so I went with brown sugar for a darker caramelized flavor. Whatever sugar you choose, I highly recommended using Florida Crystals sugar products. For realsies, this was my sugar brand of choice before I got lucky enough to work with them!

This holiday season, whip up a batch of Caramel Apple Popcorn Mix to please guests, family, friends, and be sure to save some for yourself! You’ll thank me!!

Caramel Apple Popcorn Mix

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Happy holiday season! It’s the time of year for all things merry and bright… and yummy! Gift a box of sweetness or satisfy a snacky crowd with this (vegan!) Caramel Apple Popcorn Mix!

Ingredients

  • 10 cups popped popcorn (from about 1/2 cup kernels)
  • 2 cups chopped almonds (raw or lightly toasted)
  • 2 cups chopped dried apples
  • Caramel:
  • 2 cup Florida Crystals brown sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) non-dairy butter
  • 1 Tbs. vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Pop the popcorn according to manufacturer directions. I pop mine on the stove, but microwave works just as well here. Remove any hard kernels.
  3. Add popcorn, dried apples, and almonds to a large heat-proof bowl and set aside.
  4. Make the caramel by adding the brown sugar and water to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil then add in butter, stirring until melted. Cook, stirring frequently for 5-10 minutes.
  5. Remove saucepan from heat and add in the baking soda and vanilla, which should produce a bubbling chemical reaction. Whisk in salt.
  6. Quickly pour the caramel over the popcorn mix and stir gently to coat.
  7. Spread mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, tossing once.
  8. Let cool completely before breaking mixture into pieces.
https://www.areyoukitchenme.com/caramel-apple-popcorn-mix/

Thank you for supporting this sponsored content. I would never represent a brand or product that I did not fully endorse. For more information and recipe ideas, visit Florida Crystals at their website, Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.

Vegan Ranch Dressing

Everyone’s favorite salad dressing, veggie sauce, and pizza crust dipper can easily be made vegan! Don’t give up the indulgence of a childhood classic, try this good-as-the-original Vegan Ranch Dressing! Oil-free, soy free, gluten free.

Vegan Ranch Dressing | AreYouKitchenMe.com

One of my favorite family memories from my youth was our Friday night pizza nights. My dad would make pizza (mine with no sauce, just cheese because I strangely didn’t like anything tomato-flavored) and it was the one meal we were allowed to eat in front of the TV. Sometimes my brother and I could even share a soda! Gasp!

Vegan Ranch Dressing | AreYouKitchenMe.com

I remember ordering pizza in college and ruminating aloud that I wished we had carrots and grapes… After a few blank stares, I had to explain that we always had baby carrots and purple grapes on those Friday nights with our pizza. The one thing no one thought was weird was that we always had Ranch. It started as a carrot dipping sauce and ended up being mopped up with bites of pizza…

Vegan Ranch Dressing | AreYouKitchenMe.com

However you enjoy Ranch dressing, there’s no doubt that it’s beloved but often demonized. Personally, I’m pro-anything that makes you want to chomp on some veggies or finish that last bite of crust. But if you’ve ever felt weird or freaked out by the ingredients in traditional Ranch (first of all, you shouldn’t be), making your own is the way to go.

It took me forever to develop this recipe because I usually make it using the highly unreliable “a little bit of this, a little bit of that” method. But because I think everyone NEEDS this recipe in their life, I spent some time measuring every “little bit” to land on a more exact recipe.

Vegan Ranch Dressing | AreYouKitchenMe.com

And let me just tell you, I am OBSESSED with this stuff. Dare I say, it easily beats the stuff in the green-capped bottle. Just saying. Using fresh herbs and a ton of acid gives the dressing a great kick and fresh flavor that has me addicted. Seriously, I just had to go dip a carrot stick in and have a bite as I’m writing this because I’m daydreaming about it…

Ok, I’m back down to earth. And I’m covered in Ranch dressing… Err.. what?

Vegan Ranch Dressing

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Yield: ~2 cups

Everyone’s favorite salad dressing, veggie sauce, and pizza crust dipper can easily be made vegan! Don’t give up the indulgence of a childhood classic, try this good-as-the-original Vegan Ranch Dressing! Oil-free, soy free, gluten free.

Ingredients

  • 1¼ cups cashews, soaked*
  • 1¼ cups water, plus more if desired**
  • ¼ tsp. garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp. onion powder
  • 2 ½ tsp. salt
  • 4 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 4 Tbs. apple cider vinegar (I use Braggs)
  • 1 green onion, green parts, finely minced
  • ¼ cup finely minced fresh dill
  • ¼ cup finely minced fresh parsley

Instructions

  1. In a high-powered blender, blend cashews water, garlic + onion powder, and salt until creamy and smooth, 1-2 minutes. Scrape down the sides as needed.
  2. Add the lemon juice and vinegar and blend for another 30 seconds.
  3. Add the green onions and herbs and pulse gently (or stir with a spoon) to combine. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before using.

Notes

*You can either soak your cashews in room temperature water for 8-12 hours or you can soak them in boiling water for 30 or so minutes. I usually go the second route because planning is hard. **The dressing will thicken slightly as it cools in the fridge. I recommend waiting until it is completely cooled to add additional water to achieve the true consistency you want.

https://www.areyoukitchenme.com/vegan-ranch-dressing/

2018 Lessons

Every year brings its own set of challenges, rewards, and memories. But this year brought more lessons than I’ve ever experienced. Today, I’m reflecting on 2018 Lessons and the year that was.

2018 Lessons | AreYouKitchenMe,com

Well friends, we’ve made it to the end of another year. 2018 is winding down and 2019 is peaking up over the horizon. I haven’t been posting many recipes these days with the new job and busy holiday season. But I do want to share some thoughts and lessons I learned this year. 

Boy, was it a year of learning…. I learned to walk away from toxic environments. I learned that I don’t have to do anything that makes me unhappy. I learned I can do or be anything. I learned that all the knowledge and wisdom I need can be found within myself.

2018 Lessons | AreYouKitchenMe,com

But learning is almost always preceded by struggle. And struggle I did. Here’s an example of a lesson I learned through struggle…

For over three years I worked at a nonprofit with a strong mission, a family-like team, and mentors who pushed me to be my best. But most of my time there I was unhappy, unsatisfied. After three internal promotions/ job changes, I thought I’d finally found the perfect fit. Yet I was still miserable.

“Is it me? Am I the common denominator? Am I the reason these jobs make me so unhappy?” I asked friends. I thought surely I was doing something wrong or expecting too much. And then sometime this summer, I dipped into the worst depression of my life. I went weeks without social engagement, cried myself to sleep nearly every night, and didn’t have the energy to do the activities I love.

2018 Lessons | AreYouKitchenMe,com

I certainly didn’t want to feel this way! And I knew a huge part of my depression was job dissatisfaction. After (over)thinking about it for months, I finally decided my only option was to leave. I was beyond terrified. But what I finally realized was I didn’t have to walk into that office if I didn’t want to. So I took a leap.

When people say “it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders”, we usually assume they’re being hyperbolic. But in all honesty, turning in my letter of resignation released years of tension from my back. I felt a lightness in my body and spirit and a confidence that I have truly NEVER known.

And so I learned that I have the strength to walk away from what doesn’t serve me.

Without a backup plan or safety net or meticulously scheduled next steps, I walked away. It was painful and scary and the hardest thing I’ve ever done but I now have a job that I LOVE and don’t spend nights trembling in bed at the thought of each next day. 

2018 Lessons | AreYouKitchenMe,com

It’s funny how much this decision about my professional life is intertwined with lessons I learned about my personal life. It’s no secret that one of my biggest struggles has been overcoming disordered eating. And this year, I made my biggest strides ever. This year, I let go of everything. I ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it and did my very best to not feel guilty about anything.

And you know what? It was great. I had Christmas cookies outside of December. I ate bread for 75% of my meals. I drizzled olive oil generously over my entire life. I asked my parents to stop taking about weight loss and dieting in front of me. All of these things were also scary at first, but brought me so much joy in the end. I’ll admit that it hasn’t been all positive and that I constantly feel like I’m learning how far I still have to go. But I know I will go and it will be worth it. Yet another lesson in pushing through the hard stuff to get to what really matters. 

2018 Lessons | AreYouKitchenMe,com

I’m grateful for the lessons I learned this year. And what I want you to know from reading this is that lessons are hard. And sometimes you have to trudge through piles of shit to learn them. But just know that if you’re currently knee-deep in the trenches of shit, you are learning. You are growing. And you will make it.

And with that, here’s a quick rapid-fire round up of this year’s highs and lows.

Highs:

  • sitting on a secluded beach with my love in Bermuda
  • realizing how much I can love my natural hair
  • starting a podcast (shameless plug check us out here)
  • getting over my phobia of water to spend a  week swimming and snorkeling in Mexico- potentially my new favorite place in the world- with my parents + John
  • starting a great new job and working from home 
  • relaxed Saturday mornings at the farmers market every summer weekend
  • experiencing Harry Potter world!

Lows

  • losing my grandpa, a true inspiration to our whole family
  • feeling too low to ask for help but too scared to get through it alone
  • talking down to myself when my clothes don’t fit like they used to
  • the paralyzing fear of not succeeding

Again, I’m grateful for both the lows and the highs, for the lessons and joy they brought this year. Wishing you a VERY Happy New Year and sending love and peace for the year to come. 

Natalie

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