(Family Features) With countless ways to enjoy the holiday season from decorating and hosting parties to wintertime activities, it's a perfect time to bring family and friends together for some festive fun. One simple ingredient can be your go-to for just about any tradition: popcorn, which is an inexpensive, versatile, whole grain that makes holiday occasions better.
Consider these simple seasonal ways you can let popcorn fuel your holiday adventures.
Strings of popcorn and cranberries add a nostalgic touch to the family tree while making popcorn trees adds whimsy to the table. Before stringing popcorn, let it sit out for a day or two as freshly popped popcorn may be too fragile to thread without breaking. Push a threaded needle through the center of each kernel then pull the kernel to the end of the knotted thread, adding an occasional cranberry, if desired. Festive trees can be made using popcorn mixed with melted marshmallows then shaped and finished with sprinkles.
Give It as a Gift
If it's your turn to host this year's holiday party, popcorn makes for a perfect party favor. Pop up a delicious treat like these Cranberry Popcorn Balls, place them in pretty jars or neatly wrap them then finish each with a bow. For an added touch, include the recipe instructions and popcorn kernels in a separate container so your guests can make it at home.
Enjoy It as a Snack
Freshly popped popcorn is a simple and delicious snack to share after a day of shopping, caroling, sledding or decorating. You can take the holiday season up a notch with creative recipes like Gingersnap Popcorn Snack Mix, White Chocolate Peppermint Popcorn Bark and Easy, Elegant Holiday Popcorn. These treats are perfect for popping up in the morning so the snacks are ready once guests arrive.
Visit Popcorn.org to find more sweet, salty and savory holiday recipe ideas.
GingerSnap Popcorn Snack Mix
2 quarts popped popcorn
butter-flavored nonstick cooking spray
1/3 cup granulated sugar substitute
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black or white pepper
Preheat oven to 325 F.
Spread popcorn on baking sheet and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
In small bowl, combine sugar substitute, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and freshly ground pepper; sprinkle evenly over popcorn.
Spray again with nonstick cooking spray and toss to coat evenly.
Bake 7 minutes and serve warm.
Easy, Elegant Holiday Popcorn
Yield: 8 cups
8 cups popped popcorn
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
On serving platter, spread popcorn in thin layer.
Over double boiler or in microwave, melt milk chocolate chips. Drizzle over popcorn.
Over double boiler or in microwave, melt white chocolate chips. Drizzle over popcorn.
Sprinkle candy sprinkles over warm, chocolate-coated popcorn. Allow drizzles to set until firm.
White Chocolate Peppermint Popcorn Bark
Yields: 1 pound
5 cups popped popcorn
12 ounces white chocolate baking chips, chopped white chocolate or white candy coating
1 cup crushed hard candy peppermints
Cover baking pan with foil or wax paper; set aside.
Place popcorn in large bowl; set aside.
In double boiler over barely simmering water, melt chocolate, stirring until smooth, or melt according to package directions.
Stir in crushed peppermints after chocolate is melted. Pour chocolate mixture over popcorn mixture and stir to coat. Spread onto prepared pan; cool completely.
When chocolate is cooled and set, break into chunks for serving.
Store in airtight container at room temperature.
Cranberry Popcorn Balls
Yield: 18 balls
2 cups sugar
1 cup whole berry cranberry sauce, slightly mashed
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
1/2 cup cranberry juice
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 quarts unsalted popped popcorn
In heavy saucepan, combine sugar, cranberry sauce, orange peel, cranberry juice, corn syrup, vinegar and salt. Bring to boil; lower heat and cook to 250 F on candy thermometer.
Mixture will bubble in pan; watch to keep from boiling over.
Pour slowly onto hot popcorn and mix until well-coated.
Let stand 5 minutes, or until mixture can easily be formed into balls.
Butter hands and form into 3-inch balls.