Let the Popcorn Roll

by Mary Ann Ross and Kimberly Lainson

The holiday frenzy may well have begun and lists of things to do can be found all over the house. How about one list that serves many purposes to make this busy time of year fun for the kids. Let's call it the "Keeps The Kids Busy" list that will easily let them be creative, eat their art supplies, make a lot of gifts (or crafts) using inexpensive supplies and fun treats to take to holiday potlucks and classroom parties!

All this from popcorn, you say? YES!

From plain white popcorn? YES!

What can you do with plain white popcorn? LOTS!

Fun recipes? YES! YES! YES!

How about Mother Goose popcorn? Marshmallow popcorn? Popcorn Cookies? Popcorn Candy? Popcorn Pudding? Popcorn Muffins? Popcorn Cake?

Milk Chocolate popcorn, too? WHY NOT!!!!!

Green popcorn? Red, too? SURE, just add food coloring, a few drops at a time to the syrup for popcorn balls after it has cooked and taken off the stove. (Tip: you won't be able to get a real, real red because too much red food coloring would have to be added and this will make the popcorn too bitter to eat.)

Popcorn Gifts? OF COURSE... make pretty. The children can wrap the popcorn balls and shapes in colored cellophane and tied with a pretty curly ribbon, decorated with pieces of construction paper to form Santa's head or glue three popcorn balls together and decorated as snowmen. The seasoned popcorn can be placed in colorful holiday treat bags and tied with a ribbon and a gift tag.

Included below is a craft idea for children too young to work with hot popcorn mixtures, plus lots of recipes ideas. Please remember: Adult supervision is required for making/mixing the popcorn ball recipes!

Whether you plan to use the microwave, a popcorn popper or the old-fashioned way in a skillet on the stove, this is a good time to teach your children kitchen safety rules in a gentle manner while they make their own art supplies… "the" popcorn.

Popcorn Pictures

Materials Needed:

Construction Paper
Crayons or Markers
Scraps of ribbon, material, buttons, twigs, dried flowers, bits of this and that


Make some popcorn and glue onto the construction paper


Snowman: Cut three construction paper circles, small for the head, medium for the tummy and larger for the bottom. Glue popcorn onto the circles. Using a marker or construction paper, make the eyes, nose, buttons and man's hat, and twigs for the arms; scrap of material makes the scarf.

Santa Claus: Draw Santa on construction paper, then glue cut-up construction paper pieces to make his hat, belt, buttons, boots. Glue popcorn for his beard and hair and fur trim of his coat and hat.

Holiday Sheep: Glue small round clusters of popcorn onto the middle of a piece of white construction paper. Draw a sheep's head and legs to create a fluffy sheep.

Winter Scene: Using one piece of white construction paper, cut and paste strips of brown construction paper around the four edges to create a frame. Make a construction paper house and glue to white paper. Break up some popcorn into smaller pieces and use to make Christmas trees and a snowman in the yard, snow on the roof and on the lawn. Blue construction paper for the sky and perhaps some fluffy clouds. Is it snowing? Glue teeny pieces of popcorn all over the paper to create a snowy effect.

Popcorn Gifts and Potluck Recipes:

Hints: Use teflon-coated pans to make the syrup and spray your mixing bowls with a non-stick coating or rub with butter before mixing these popcorn ball recipes… will make life a lot easier!

Sugar Popcorn:

(The White House Cookbook, 1886) Pop up large bowls full of popcorn and sprinkle lightly with salt. Combine in a saucepan:

1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons water

Bring to a boil and while stirring constantly, let it boil for several minutes. Remove from the heat, add a little food coloring, stir and immediately drizzle hot syrup over the popcorn... constantly stirring and mixing the whole time till all the popcorn kernels have been covered and the Red food coloring is evenly distributed.

Let this mixture sit for about five minutes, then put all of it into another bowl or brown grocery bag while you make the batch of Green-colored popcorn following the same directions. When finished, place the green popcorn into the same bag with the red popcorn, then add the plain white popcorn into the same bag. Close the top of the bag and shake to mix up all the colors. Put the colored popcorn into a clear glass or plastic bowl for total effect.

Milk Chocolate Popcorn:

12 cups popped popcorn
1/4 cup butter or margarine
2-1/2 cups (12oz can) salted peanuts
2 cups (11-1/2 oz bag) milk chocolate chips
1 cup corn syrup

In a large greased roasting pan, combine popcorn and nuts. In a separate large heavy saucepan, combine chocolate chips, corn syrup and butter. Cook over medium heat until mixture boils, stirring constantly. Pour over popcorn toss well to coat. Bake in a preheated 300 degree oven for 45 minutes stirring frequently. Cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks. Makes about 14 cups.

Popcorn Balls and Shapes Recipes

Hints: Use "buttered" or "water-dampened" hands; use waxed paper on working surfaces to make balls or shapes; let popcorn balls "set-up" for at least one hour before wrapping pretty.

Corny Caramel Popcorn: Heat up caramel or butterscotch sauce, pour over popcorn, and stir until coated. Spread on waxed paper to dry, roll in balls or shapes.

Jell-O Popcorn Balls:

8 cups popped popcorn
2 cups mini marshmallows
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons of Jell-O powder crystals

Place popped popcorn in a greased 13 x 9x2 inch pan. Place pan in 300 degree oven. Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. When the butter is melted, stir in the marshmallows until they are completed melted. Add the Jell-O powder crystals, stirring constantly until it is mixed in well. Pour marshmallow mixture over the popcorn, stir and roll into balls.

Marshmallow Popcorn Christmas Trees:

12 cups popped popcorn
1/2 cup margarine or butter
3 cups mini marshmallows
1/2 package of Lime-flavored Jell-O powdered crystals
Green food coloring
Candy pieces to decorate the tree

Spread popcorn evenly on waxed paper-lined counter or on cookie sheets. In medium saucepan, combine margarine and marshmallows and cook over medium heat until melted. Add Jell-O powder crystals and continue to cook until Jell-O is dissolved. Add food coloring and mix well. Pour evenly over popcorn stirring quickly to coat. Shape popcorn into a cone shape and decorate tree with candy pieces.

Mother Goose Popcorn Balls:

8 to 10 cups popped popcorn
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoonbutter
Dash of salt
2-3 drops food coloring

Mix ingredients to soft ball stage (225F on candy thermometer & 234 F at sea level). Pour over one batch of popped popcorn quickly and mix well. If you overcook, it will have a more gritty sugar texture.

Popcorn Wreath:

8 quarts of popped popcorn
2 cups margarine
2-2/3 cups sugar
1 cup Light Karo corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups whole pecans (optional)
6 cups mini marshmallows
2 cups small spiced gumdrops (green and red)

Put popped popcorn, marshmallows, gumdrops, and pecans (optional) in large bowl. Melt butter, add sugar and Karo syrup, bring to a boil, stirring and simmering 3 minutes. Stir in vanilla, pour over popcorn and mix well. Let mixture stand 2 minutes to cool. Press into buttered ring-mold or shape into wreath. Un-mold onto wax paper and decorate with cut gumdrops.

Confetti Popcorn Balls:

5 cup popcorn, air-popped
1/2 cup candy-coated pieces
1/3 cup unsalted peanuts
2 tablespoons margarine
3 cups miniature marshmallows, melted

In a prepared mixing bowl, combine popcorn, candy-coated pieces and peanuts. Place margarine and marshmallows in a 4-cup microwave-safe measuring cup. Microwave on high for 2 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring once halfway through cooking. Pour over popcorn mixture; stir quickly to coat Quickly shape mixture into balls.

Fruit-Flavored Popcorn Balls:

9 Cup Popped popcorn
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1 small Jell-O powder crystals, any flavor
1/2 pound salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

In a saucepan, bring syrup and sugar to a boil. Remove from heat and add Jell-O Gelatin, stirring constantly Until it is all dissolved. Add peanuts and pour over popcorn, mixing well, and quickly form into balls or shapes.

Popcorn Cookie Recipe

Popcorn Drops:

2 cups unsalted popped corn
3 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar replacement

Place popped poporn in a food processor or food grinder and grind into kernel-size pieces. Beat egg whites until frothy and add baking powder, salt and Cream of Tartar. Beat into stiff peaks. Add sugar replacement, beating until well blended. Gently fold popcorn pieces into stiffly beaten egg whites. Drop batter by teaspoonfuls onto lightly greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 F for 12 to 14 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned. Yield 36 cookies.

Popcorn Candy Recipe

Popcorn Candy Clusters:

1 cup freshly popped popcorn
1 cup (8 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup nuts

In a saucepan, melt chocolate chips. Add popcorn and nuts and stir until they are well coated. Drop by spoonfuls (clusters) onto a cookie sheet or wax paper and let set till firm. If you are in a hurry to eat these, chill the clusters in the freezer for five minutes. When firm, store in plastic bags.

Popcorn Pudding, Cake & Muffin Recipe:

Popcorn Pudding:

2 cups popped popcorn
3 cups milk
4 tablespoons butter, melted
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt

Grind all but a small handful of the popped popcorn in a food processor or grinder. Scald the milk, pour it over the popcorn, stir in the butter, and let the popcorn sit, covered, for 1 hour to absorb the liquid. Beat eggs with the sugar until light, add vanilla and salt, beat in the corn mixture, and turn into a buttered baking dish. Bake at 300 F until custard is set and browned on top, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Sprinkle the reserved whole popcorn on top. Serves 4 to 6.

Popcorn Cake:

2 quarts popped popcorn
1 large bag of miniature marshmallows
1 cup salted peanuts
1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
1 pound M & M candies
1/2 cup coconut

Butter a 10-inch bundt pan. Melt marshmallows in the top of a double boiler. Mix the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and pour the melted marshmallows over top; mix well. Pour into the prepared pan and cool until firm. Turn out onto a serving plate and cool completely. To serve, break off pieces.

Popcorn Muffins:

1-1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup ground popped popcorn
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons melted shortening
1 cup milk
1 egg, well beaten

Sift flour, measure, and re-sift with baking powder, salt, and sugar. Add milk, popped corn, egg, and shortening. Fill well-oiled muffin tins two-thirds full. Bake in hot oven (435 F) 25 minutes. 6 servings.

Popcorn Seasoned Snack Recipes

Using already popped popcorn:

Sweet Cinnamon Popcorn: Shake popcorn with cinnamon sugar

Zesty Popcorn: Top popcorn with grated Parmesan, then spice it up with a dash of garlic salt.

Tex-Mex Popcorn: Add a pinch of chili powder or taco seasoning to melted butter, pour over popcorn and toss.

Pizza Popcorn: Mix a pinch of oregano, basil, and parsley in melted butter before tossing.

Power Popcorn: Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast for a healthy alternative to salt and butter.

You'll find Birthdays and More at The PartyWorks! www.thepartyworks.com. If you like to have fun you'll want to visit The PartyWorks!

While this article is focused on "popcorn", check out our article,"Cookie Decorating Ideas for Kids Of All Ages " that will spark even the imagination of those that don't think they have any.

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