One of my favorite things about our local fireman’s carnival in the summertime is their homemade caramel corn. Sure, you can get great caramel corn on the boardwalk in Ocean City…but the site of a giant copper kettle full of popcorn, butter and brown sugar being continuously stirred by one of our local hard-working guys is one to behold. For me, that scent wafting through the air means summertime on Chincoteague.

But then fall arrives, and the carnival is over for another year…leaving me without a giant tub full of caramel corn to munch on. So, I decided to start taking matters into my own hands a couple years ago, and started making my own. A few basic ingredients and about an hour – and you have a giant batch of caramel corn that stays good for a couple weeks, or also make excellent gifts when bagged up and tied with a pretty ribbon.

Peanuts, are of course optional…but we love the nutty crunch that it adds. Looking forward to playing around with some different ingredients to change the flavor up a bit…maybe a little cayenne to spice things up, or a little cinnamon and nutmeg for an autumnal spin! With Halloween coming up, it’s the perfect excuse to try making this classic for yourself at home – you won’t regret it!

Homemade Caramel Corn

1 cup popcorn kernels, un-popped
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 250° F. Line two baking sheets with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper, set aside.

Pop popcorn using your preferred method, I use and air-popper and have to do two batches. Place the popped popcorn onto the baking sheets.

Meanwhile, to make the caramel, melt the butter in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, mix in the corn syrup, brown sugar and salt. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently.

Once the mixture reaches a boil, let the mixture continue to boil for 5 more minutes without stirring. Remove the mixture from the heat, stir in the baking soda and vanilla extract. The mixture will bubble up and become frothy. Evenly drizzle the caramel sauce over the popcorn on the baking sheets, and use a silicone spatula to gently toss and coat thoroughly. It’s okay if there are some clumps of caramel throughout, it will melt and become better spread out while baking.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, removing from the oven to toss/stir every 10 minutes. After 40 minutes, test a cooled piece of popcorn. If it is not completely crispy (i.e. still slightly mushy when you bite it), bake for 10 minutes more.

Remove the baking sheets to a wire rack and allow popcorn to cool completely before breaking apart for serving or packaging. Can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks (no way in hell it’ll last that long).

Source: adapted from Annie’s Eats

Garlic Oil

This is one that couldn’t be any easier. I use this garlic oil in everything, from frying eggs to salad dressings. Wonderful to start off a basic marinara sauce. It’s great with some dried or fresh herbs sprinkled in, and dipping chunks of crusty bread. Or, even as a finishing drizzle on some hot oven fries. Basically, anything you wish to impart a little extra garlic flavor into!

I like to use a good quality olive oil – don’t go spending a bunch of money on the fancy extra-virgin stuff, though. I just glug it right into a saucepan with a handful of garlic cloves, get them bubbling a bit, then turn down the heat to low to let the flavor infusion happen. Sometimes, if I’m feelin’ frisky, I’ll add a few sprigs of fresh herbs…but it’s not necessary.

Keeps forever (at least a month or so – if it lasts that long!) as well. I just keep it right on the counter with all my other oils, so it’s right at hand when I need it. It also makes a wonderful homemade gift when presented in a pretty oil dispenser with a ribbon! If you’re worried about it spoiling, it also keeps fine in the refrigerator. This is definitely one to have around, guys!

Homemade Oyster Crackers

Oyster crackers. They are probably something you don’t even think about, unless you’re ordering a bowl of clam chowder or crab soup. Usually, we’ll just use broken-up pieces of saltines for a crunchy bite to top our soup with – but yesterday I was feeling particularly ambitious!

Turns out they were super easy to make, requiring only a few ingredients. The hardest part was cutting and transferring all the little squares to the baking sheet. And that little amount of work totally paid off, the taste and texture was about a million times better than you’d find in the store-bought crackers.

In fact, we loved them so much, it’s got me thinking about what other crackers I can make here at home!  I know these would be great with additions thrown in as well, like fresh (or dried!) herbs. Or even just a little bit of black pepper. Will definitely be making these again!

Source: adapted from Serious Eats



Living on a remote island that lies on the also remote Eastern Shore, a well stocked pantry is essential to me. Sadly, it’s usually in a state of utter chaos and dissaray. And that’s a super bad thing, because half the time I forget what I have in there in the first place – and by the time I find it again, it’s gone and expired.

So, when the good folks at OXO and The Container Store asked me to be a part of their POPtober Campaign, I couldn’t say no. Since moving to the island, I’ve had a really hard time keeping things fresh. I’ll open a bag of tortilla chips, and by the next day they’ll be stale (pretty sure that it has something to do with all the moisture we have in the air here), and I knew that OXO’s air-tight seals would be an answered prayer! And as I’d mentioned above, my pantry was in desperate need of a makeover to begin with.


They were kind enough to send me a 10-Piece POP Container Set, as well as several sizes of their POP Cereal Dispensers. The square and rectangular shapes fit together so snugly and are so pleasing to the eye. They’re stackable as well, which makes them super space efficient. I also love that they’re able to be opened with one hand, something that I have to do so often these days with baby boy #3 in tow!

I couldn’t believe how many bunched up little baggies I was able to toss out, and instead have the contents up front and visible. Where they can be seen, and used – instead of forgotten about. It’s been a week since the revamp, and I’ve not had any issues with cereals or crackers that have been opened being stale – they’re just as fresh as the day that I opened them. So of course I’ve added quite a few more of the OXO items to my wishlist on Pinterest. Are you paying attention, Santa?

Follow Laura (Tide and Thyme)’s board POPtober on Pinterest.

I thought I’d also give you guys a run-down of what I think are essential pantry items. With cold and inclement weather sneaking up on us – it’s good to have basics like these safely stashed away. With all these items on hand, you could whip out a delicious meal in no time at all!

Kosher salt
Fine salt
Black peppercorns
Oils (olive, vegetable, extra-virgin olive)
Vinegar (apple cider, red and white wine, balsamic, and rice vinegar)
Long-grain white rice
Brown rice
Dried pasta (standard, whole grain, rice noodles)
Grits or polenta
Oats (Old-fashioned rolled, and instant)
Dried beans (black, pinto, chickpeas, navy)
Tortillas (corn and flour)
Country ham (a post on this is coming soon!)

Flour (all-purpose, whole wheat, and cake flour)
Baking soda
Baking powder
Cream of tartar
Cocoa powder (unsweetened)
Bittersweet chocolate: chips and bars
Evaporated milk
Sweetened Condensed Milk
Vanilla extract
Granulated sugar
Confectioners’ sugar
Brown sugar
Maple syrup
Agave syrup

Popcorn kernels
Dried fruit (raisins, apricots, cranberries, cherries)
Peanut butter or almond butter

Canned Goods:
Broths (chicken, beef, and vegetable – I like the powdered varieties found in the Hispanic aisle)
Beans (cannellini, navy, chickpeas, pinto, and black)
Vegetables (artichoke hearts, corn, green beans)
Olives (black, green, Kalamata)
Chiles (chipotles in adobo, pickled jalapenos, pepperocinis, sliced banana peppers)
Tomatoes (whole, diced, crushed, fire-roasted)
Tomato paste
Roasted red peppers
Anchovy fillets or paste

Now,  are you ready to go and tackle the organization monster in your pantry? OXO wants to help!

Starting today, OXO is hosting a Facebook Giveaway that runs through Friday, October 31st! Enter to win a prize pack worth $500, including your choice of OXO Storage & Organization tools (up to $250), as well as a $250 elfa gift card. Make sure you scoot on over today for your chance to enter!

Disclaimer: I received a set of canisters from OXO for review. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Posted in DIY