Salted Caramel Popcorn, made without refined sugar!!

Just because you're leading a healthier lifestyle, it doesn't mean that sweet treats are never going to happen again. I have been allowing myself to create and enjoy one sweet treat every Sunday. Now, the treats I allow myself still have to fit into my healthy lifestyle plan but can be just a deacadant as I remember but now will help me lead a healthier life!

This week we're enjoying Salted Caramel Popcorn made with unrefined Coconut Sugar. I'm sure for most of you, Coconut Sugar isn't something you already stock in your pantry and to be completely honest I've only been using it for the past few months. I spent hours researching alternative sweeteners that I could use in strict moderation, yet without compromising the versatility of sugar. It was love at first taste for me, it's a rich, deep, complex sweetness, more similar to brown sugar than to white sugar. It's properties are very similar to the regular white refined sugar cane sugar we're all very familiar with, it's swapped out at 1:1 ratio. 

Coconut Sugar is a far superior choice to regular sugar, here's a table comparing the macro nutrients from www.sugarcoconut.com/health-benefits/nutritional-values.html

Macro-nutrients (mg / l – ppm, dry)Coconut SugarBrown SugarRefined, White Sugar
Nitrogen (N)2,0201000
Phosphorus (P)790300.7
Potassium  (K)10,30065025
Calcium (Ca)6024060
Magnesium (Mg)2907010
Sodium (Na)4502010
Chlorine (Cl)4,700180100
Sulfur (S)26013020
Boron (B)600
Zinc (Zn)2121.2
Manganese (Mn)120
Iron (Fe)220.60.6
Copper (Cu)212.61.2

Nutritionally - Coconut Sugar is far superior to regular or brown sugar, which is a huge bonus! And Coconut Sugar has less of an impact on your blood sugar when you eat it! "The glycemic index of coconut sugar based on test results from the Philippines, USA, Japan and Australia is in the range of 35 to 54 GI per serving. Other sugars such as refined white sugar, muscovado sugar, and molasses have a range of 65 to 100 GI per serving! Other natural sweeteners such as date sugar has a 100 GI per serving, Maple Syrup has 69+ GI per serving and Honey has a 70+ GI per serving." from http://www.sugarcoconut.com/health-benefits/glycemic-index.html

And there is no "refinement" process for Coconut Sugar like there is for white-table sugar.. They take the sap from the coconut tree flowers, the sap is heated to evaporate out the moisture and what's left behind is Coconut Sugar!! Only bad news is that the flower that had it's sap removed won't make a coconut :( All sweeteners need to be used in very strict moderation, because it's easy to get carried away and over consume. Even healthier sugars can be a problem if you eat too much. We only have our sweet treat on Sunday (and we just have enough for one sitting - leftovers would extend to monday or tuesday and that's waaaay to many sweets for us to have as part of our healthy diet!)

So who doesn't love Caramel Popcorn!? I know I do, but I was really craving something salty-sweet, I modified the traditional method and pre-seasoned my popcorn with a drizzle of butter and added sea salt to my caramel for an extra punch!

Here's my recipe:

Preheat oven to 350F

1/3c Popcorn Kernels, Preferably Air Popped
1/8c Butter or Ghee, melted

Drizzle butter over popcorn and toss to mix, set aside

In a small saucepan with a candy thermometer combine:
2T Water
1c Coconut Sugar
1/2t Vanilla

Cook over medium heat do not stir, swirl pan gently or use a pastry brush dipped in water to 
wipe the coconut sugar crystals down. When it reaches "Soft Ball" state (240F) remove from heat and gently wisk in:
1T Butter, room temp
4 pinches of Baking Powder (why dirty a measuring spoon!?)
1/8t Celtic Sea Salt (more or less to taste)

Drizzle carmel over pre-buttered popcorn, toss to evenly distribute. All your popcorn won't be completely coated - remember you don't want to over do it, this is still part of a healthy diet, right?! 
Spread the carmel coated popcorn on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet, bake at 350 for 5 minutes.