There is something about hosting houseguests that makes me want to go junk-food crazy. I guess I like to use other people kicking around my kitchen as an excuse to whip out all the foods I wouldn’t normally eat. I like to live by the 80/20 rule of nutrition—80% of the time, you’re eating healthy, fresh foods and 20% of the time, you can eat non-nutritive junk food like this. And it seems like that 20% always happens to fall when I have friends and family in my home. I swear I eat healthy most of the time, friends. It just doesn’t look like I do when you come visit my house.
We hosted my husband’s parents this past week, and there was a lot of delicious food (junky and not-so-junky). So much so that I actually totally forgot to bring out this party mix that I made for snacking on. I had put it all in a big zip-top bag and stashed it behind a bunch of other food, and by the time I remembered it was there, my in-laws were already on their way back to Canada. C’est la vie. Honestly, I kinda think Craig isn’t too sad that we have a whole bag of this stuff to ourselves. He called it “incredibly dangerous” as he shoveled handfuls in his mouth.
The inspiration for this mix comes from my favorite movie theatre treat. I like to mix together buttered movie theatre popcorn with Reese’s Pieces while taking in a flick. It is the absolute best combination of sweet and salty! So to make this Halloween snack mix, I took that flavor profile to the next level—mixing together popcorn, Reese’s Pieces, salted peanuts, pretzels, and everyone’s favorite Fall candy—candy corn. And then I slathered it all in a peanut butter caramel coating, and then topped it with an orange candy drizzle and sprinkles—just in case you didn’t quite get the idea that this wasn’t health food (well, it’s healthy for your soul—but probably not your body).
When it comes to the texture of the final mix, you have a bit of a flexibility with this recipe. If you want it to be crunchy and crispy like standard caramel corn, you can cook the peanut butter caramel coating a bit longer to the hard crack stage (about 300°, but I don’t have a candy thermometer, so I just use the ole water glass trick). If you want it a bit fudgier, just cook it until the soft crack stage (about 280°). I like it this way because a lot of the elements are still crunchy—the peanuts, pretzels, Reese’s pieces—but the whole mix is a bit creamier. It’s a bit like a candy bark that way. Both ways work (although, I would say the hard crack would be best for putting in cute little baggies and distributing as gifts). Whatever bakes your cookie. Or caramels your corn.
I went with the standard Halloween candy add-ins, but as I was browsing the candy displays, I saw so many fun additions that would work. You could throw in candy eyes for a really spooky treat. Or even those candy pumpkins (those were always a little bit too much for my tastes). You could also drizzle on some different candy melts—black and green would be fun and festive, too!
I promise I’ll post something with some vegetables later on. Now that my houseguests have left, it’s time for me to get back to my normal, kale-heavy diet.
Enjoy! Happy Halloween!
PLEASE NOTE: This recipe has worked many times for me, however, many people have commented saying it doesn't work for them. I've been trying to replicate the issue so I can fix it without any luck. Until I figure out what's going on, I can't recommend this recipe. I'm leaving it up for the folks who, like me, have made the recipe and had success.
- 12 cups air-popped popcorn
- 3 cups mini-twist pretzels
- 1 cup roasted, salted peanuts
- 1 cup candy corn
- 1 cup Reese's Pieces
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1/4 cup butter
- Orange candy melts and sprinkles for garnish
- In a very large bowl, mix together the popcorn, pretzels, peanuts, candy corn, and Reese's pieces. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, bring the honey, sugar, salt, peanut butter and butter to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Boil without stirring for five minutes. Remove from heat, and drizzle caramel over popcorn mixture. Stir to coat.
- Spread the popcorn mixture onto two baking sheets covered in parchment. Drizzle with melted candy melts and top with holiday sprinkles. Let cool completely, then break apart to serve.