Native Blend Popcorn Balls
10 cups popped popcorn (1/2 cup unpopped kernels, popped in 1/8 cup corn or canola oil)
1/3 cup roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds
1/3 cup roasted, unsalted pumpkin seeds (or buy them raw and toast your own, see below)
1/3 cup dried blueberries
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
margarine or oil
To toast raw pumpkin seeds, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet and toast, shaking the pan one or two times, for 10 minutes, until the seeds are slightly puffed. Set aside.
Pop the popcorn and place it in a large mixing bowl with the sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, dried blueberries and dried cranberries. Remove any unpopped kernels. Set aside.
Place the brown rice syrup, brown sugar, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture boils over the entire surface. Stop stirring and adjust the heat if necessary to maintain this constant boil without boiling over.
Okay, now you have a choice. If you want soft, somewhat gooey, chewy popcorn balls (my personal preference), boil for about 8-10 minutes (240� on a candy thermometer, aka soft-ball stage). If you want hard, less chewy popcorn balls that crackle when you crunch into them (my husband�s preference), boil for up to 15 minutes (250� on a candy thermometer, aka hard-ball stage).
Pour the sugar mixture evenly over the popcorn, stirring constantly until everything is completely coated, being sure to stir from the bottom of the bowl to catch all those little sunflower seeds that like to fall to the bottom. Put some margarine or oil on your hands to keep the mixture from sticking. Scoop up large handfuls and shape into balls, pressing firmly (if you are packing some inside a lunch box, make sure you make them small or flat enough so that they fit with the lid closed).
Work quickly before the mixture has a chance to cool. If the mixture gets too firm to shape, place it in a warm (300 degrees F) oven for 1 to 2 minutes to soften.
Pairs Well With
Popcorn, sunflowers, pumpkins, blueberries, and cranberries are all foods native to the Americas. They are darn tasty, too!