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One recipe. Two treats. No tricks

Well, maybe there’s a little trick to this caramel corn. We’re going to sneak in the perfect amount of pumpkin pie spice and salt to make an autumn snack that’s crunchy, sweet, salty and ridiculously addictive.

Can you believe we’re into the holiday season already? As we prepare to climb up a few notches on the crazy scale, we need an easy, inexpensive recipe that works as party food all season long. Well folks, this is it.

If you’re having a harvest-themed gathering, everyone will love the pumpkin spice caramel corn. The next time the game is on at your house, no matter the score, caramel corn will win the crowd.

Presented in festive bags, you’ve got the perfect gift for family, co-workers, teachers, neighbors and friends. Homemade is so much better than anything you can find at the store and at a fraction of the price.

If you happen to need a last-minute fabulous Halloween party snack, you can add green food coloring to take the virtuous caramel corn and reincarnate it as the delightfully disgusting “Ogre Oogies.”

PUMPKIN SPICE CARAMEL CORN

Prep time: 15 minutes

Bake time: 30 minutes

Yield: 20 cups

What you’ll need:

2/3 cup unpopped popcorn kernels (about 20 cups popped corn)

1 cup salted butter

1 cup light brown sugar

½ cup sugar

½ cup light corn syrup

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

2 teaspoons vanilla

Here’s how:

Preheat the oven to 300 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.

Pop the popcorn kernels using an air popper into a very large bowl. If you don’t have an air popper, (you should get one) you can microwave popcorn using a plain brown paper lunch bag. Place 1/3 cup unpopped kernels in a brown paper bag. Fold the top over a couple of times. Then microwave on high for about 2½ minutes, or until the popping slows (the time will depend on your microwave).

You’ll need to divide the kernels and do this twice, possibly three times to get your 20 cups of popped corn.

As a last resort, use four or five bags of prepared microwave popcorn and eliminate the salt in the caramel. It’s all good.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, brown sugar, white sugar, corn syrup and salt together. Stir to incorporate and bring to a boil. Boil for 4 minutes without stirring. Remove from the heat and stir in the pumpkin pie spice and vanilla.

If you’re making green Ogre Oogies, add about 20 drops of green food coloring to the caramel and slowly stir to distribute the coloring.

Pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn. Working quickly, toss with two large spoons to coat uniformly. Spread the popcorn in a single layer onto the lined pan and place in oven. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Watch for scorching the last time you stir and adjust time accordingly.

When baked, spread the popcorn out into bite-sized clusters to cool on a parchment-lined counter. That will make it very crunchy. Store in airtight containers. Divine!

While this recipe is delicious as written, you can add goodies like pecans, peanuts or pepitas and bake it all together. You also can form the caramel-coated popcorn into popcorn balls, if you wish.

Diva tip: Nothing spoils caramel corn more than biting into an unpopped, tooth-breaking kernel. To easily separate kernels, pour popcorn over a cooling rack. The kernels fall through and the popcorn stays on the rack. It’s much easier than picking out individual kernels.

Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is a recipe developer and food writer of the website “Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at divapatti@divasonadime.com.

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