Halloween Popcorn Balls

with Hauntingly Healthy Butternut Bisque

Words by Kayla & Justin Butts of Four string Farm Photos by Rachel Benavides

Play a trick of your own this season by giving your kids sweet healthy treats.

On Halloween, we give our children a sweet wholesome snack to start the night with ghoulishly good fun and minimize the candy binge that will haunt them later.

Homemade popcorn balls are the perfect dish to begin the quest for candy. These treats are fun, sweet, and incredibly delicious. In fact, this may be the healthiest sweet the little ones enjoy all night. The best part is that they are easy to make.

Simply fill a bowl with high-quality popcorn, add honey and melted butter, and press the popcorn into balls. It’s that simple. Then dress them up for Halloween!

H-E-B sells organic popcorn under the Central Market label that is perfect for making popcorn balls. On our farm, we grow colorful varieties of heirloom Indian corn specifically for popping. You can tailor these treats to your own taste by adding seeds, nuts, dried fruit, or even cayenne pepper for a kick.

Dressing up the popcorn balls with tulle, construction paper, and stickers turns this whole-grain snack into an adorable decoration. Decorated popcorn balls are one of the oldest treats in America. Native Americans made popcorn balls into statues during religious ceremonies. Pioneer settlers in the wilds of America decorated sweetened popcorn balls during holidays and festivals.

Another fun “trick” we play on the kids is “treating” them to a healthy dish of butternut bisque before trick-or-treating. The bisque will give the kids energy while collecting candy. It is served in a goblet and called A Witch’s Brew, fittingly so, when the steam rises like a bubbling cauldron.

This bisque recipe calls for butternut squash, but you can use any heirloom winter squash you find at the farmer’s market: striped green cushaw, Japanese red kuri, tatume, acorn, or buttercup.

The butternut bisque is rich in fiber and vitamins A and C, and the healthy popcorn balls call for local honey, not the high-fructose corn syrup suggested in most recipes. Best of all, these treats are not just for kids. These recipes are perfect for adults, too.

So whether you are kid, or a kid at heart, start your Halloween with a healthy treat that tastes so good, you may not even want your candy!

Add butter, honey, and salt (along with additional spices, as desired) to small sauté pan over medium heat. Whisk mixture until a rolling boil is reached. Remove from heat and pour mixture over popped corn (add in any additional seeds, nuts, or dried fruit at this time). Let sit for ten minutes, or until cool enough to handle.

Using an 8″x8″ piece of plastic wrap, form one cup of popcorn honey mixture into a ball using your hands. This process will require force to get the balls to stay intact. Insert the lollipop stick into the ball. Wrap the formed ball in tulle, secure with raffia, and decorate as desired.

Decorations: lollipop sticks, ¾ yard each of colored tulle, eye and mouth stickers, construction paper (for noses), miniature witch hats, small feathers, raffia, pipe cleaners, and glue gun.


Popcorn Balls

Makes: 12 treats
Cook time: 7 minutes
Prep time: 10 minutes

8 c. popcorn, unsalted/without butter
(see below for details)
2 T. butter
1/2 c. local honey
3/4 t. salt

Optional add-ins: 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, 1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds, 1/3 cup pistachios, or 1 cup dried fruit

Directions:
If using microwave popcorn, follow package directions and prepare two bags of popped corn. Place prepared corn into a large heatproof bowl.

If using a gas stovetop method and corn kernels, add 1 tablespoon coconut butter to large pot over medium heat. Add enough kernels to cover the bottom of the pot (1 kernel deep). Once kernels begin to pop, cover with lid, and continually move pot in a circular motion over the burner until corn stops popping, about 3 minutes. Place prepared corn into a large heatproof bowl.


Butternut Bisque

Makes: 4-6 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes

2 T. unsalted butter
1 large sweet onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 lbs. butternut squash,
peeled and cubed
4 c. chicken stock
1 T. brown sugar
2 t. salt
1/4 t. poultry seasoning
1/8 t. ground ginger
2 whole bay leaves
Pinch nutmeg
3/4 c. organic whipping cream

Directions:
Heat butter over medium heat in a large pot. Add onion and sauté for 2-3 minutes, until fragrant and beginning to turn translucent. Add garlic and sauté one additional minute, stirring frequently. Add butternut squash, stock, and seasonings. Bring to a vigorous boil and reduce to low-medium heat.

Cook for 25-35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until squash is fork tender. Remove soup from heat and add cream. Allow soup to cool slightly, then puree with an immersion blender or food processor until well blended. Serve in cocktail or shot glasses.

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