It all started with a bag of popcorn.
I ran into Earth Fare several weeks ago for a quick shopping trip on my way to a friend’s house. That is when I spotted it. A vivid display holding bag upon bag of festively flavored popcorn. Two bags joined my basket and they were not around for long.
After devouring the bags with true abandon, I decided to create my own version of hot cocoa popcorn. With Hallmark continuing to churn out deliciously prosaic holiday movies, and bingeing on said films being obligatory, we should arm ourselves with plenty of equally festive snacks.
Creating that cocoa flavor in something besides the classic drink itself was a bit trickier than I had bargained for, but I think this final recipe, with all its tweaks and modification, fits the bill.
When I set out to create this at-home version of my new snack soulmate, I knew I wanted to take the concept beyond popcorn. You know how much of a sucker I am for textures, so it’s little surprise that I wanted more crunch. Crunch came by way of pretzel twists and Rice Chex cereal because, why not?!
First, we need to make ourselves some kettle corn. I never buy microwave popcorn, partly because I think it is manufactured by Satan himself, and partly because it is just as simple to pop it in this pan. It makes consistently good, crisp, popcorn - without any of the icky chemicals involved in the old Blockbuster bags. Win, win!
To make kettle corn, simply pour a bit of granulated sugar into the popcorn pan as soon as you hear the first kernel pop. Then, stir like a madwoman (or madman, as the case may be) and you are done. Easy, right?
For the cocoa coating, we are going to combine, butter, sugar, cocoa powder, hot chocolate mix, vanilla, and fresh nutmeg for that extra hint of Christmas. Pour it over the freshly popped kettle corn, Rice Chex, and pretzels, and toss until everything is evenly coated. You can either use a gigantic bowl for this step (it makes A LOT) or two reasonably large bowls.
Now, we do that bake-and-stir thing for about 45 minutes. When the pans are out of the oven, sprinkle on mini marshmallows and chocolate chips and give each pan another good stir.
It is going to look so gooey and messy in the most wonderful way, but try to resist burning your fingers. As the mix cools, the chocolate will slowly set up, making this a whole lot easier to eat.
Nestle down under your fluffiest blanket and press play on the next cheesy flick. The party for one has begun!
HOT COCOA SNACK MIX
makes one really big bowl
FOR THE KETTLE CORN
1 heaping tablespoon coconut oil
1/2 cup popping corn
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
Place coconut oil in a popcorn maker and melt over medium heat. Once the oil has melted, pour in popping corn and cover the pan with a lid. Once you hear the popcorn popping, sprinkle in sugar and re-cover the pan. Stir vigorously until you no longer hear any popping.
Remove from heat and allow to cool. Set aside.
FOR THE SNACK MIX
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 packets hot cocoa mix
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
6 cups rice Chex
2 cups mini pretzel twists
2 cups mini marshmallows
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
In a small bowl, whisk together melted butter, granulated sugar, cocoa mix, vanilla extract, and freshly grated nutmeg.
In a very large mixing bowl, combine prepared popcorn, Rice Chex, and mini pretzels. Drizzle the butter mixture over the mixing bowl and use a spatula to toss until everything is evenly coated.
Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper and spread the Rice Chex mixture out onto the baking sheets.
Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake, stirring the mixture and rotating the pans every 15 minutes for even cooking.
Bake for three rotations; a total of 45 minutes, then remove the pans from the oven and allow to cool just slightly.
Sprinkle mini marshmallows and chocolate chips over the surfaces of both pans and use a spatula to carefully toss the mixtures until the chocolate is evenly distributed.
Allow the pans to sit at room temperature for 2-3 hours; until the chocolate has set. Pour into zip-top bags and store for up to 3 days.