This year, we decided to have a big bash for Spencer’s birthday – replete with updated/Laurie-fied bar snacks! It was a complete success! Almost everyone we invited showed up. Despite the newfound joy I’ve experienced in being the Hostess, I have a near-debillitating history of serious party anxiety. Up until a couple years ago (I believe it was our Halloween shindig in 2008), I hadn’t thrown a party since my sweet 16! I’d get myself so worked up assuming that people were too busy to come to my party, that I’d end up waiting to the very last minute so that it was almost impossible to have anyone over!

I’ve since gotten over that and realized that I know some pretty rad people who don’t want to incite any freakouts… they just want to enjoy something delicious and have a good time. Spencer’s birthday was the perfect example of such good times!

I decided that I was going to go all out… making everything from scratch, using as few modern culinary luxuries as possible so that I had to rely on my ingenuity and upper body strength. The snack menu is as follows:

1. Spiced Pecans
2. Spicy Popcorn w/ Hungarian Paprika & Marcona Almonds
3. Orangettes (Candied Orange Peels dipped in Dark Chocolate)

I also made a very successful tart, but that’s for another post!

Started out with the pecans, because that was the easiest and least involved item on the menu!

Whisked an egg white and a bit of water until it was foamy.

Then poured the pecans in and tossed them to coat.

Mixed up a bit of cinnamon & sugar…

Then sprinkled that over the pecans!

Spread them out in a single layer on a heavy cookie sheet…

Baked them at a low temperature for about an hour… And voila! Spiced Pecans!

Recipe adapted from About.com

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Next was the popcorn. I got the recipe from Bon Appetit and they suggested using piment d’Espelette, which I’d never heard of before, nor could I find it in any of my regular grocery store/market haunts. So I used Hungarian paprika instead. It was lovely, but I definitely think I could have made it a lot spicier. It’s simple enough to make this, that I think I’ll be trying this out with different spice concoctions on a regular basis. Screw instant popcorn.

Anyway… Started out with this beautiful canister of Hungarian paprika.

Mixed up some paprika with a bit of sea salt (I suggest being a little more heavy-handed with the seasoning than Bon Appetit suggests).

Then I melted a bit o’ butter and added paprika & salt to that and put it aside.

And then, the easiest popcorn session ever. Seriously, I had no idea that it was so easy to pop popcorn in a big pot as opposed to making a bag of instant popcorn in the microwave. Actually, I’ve had microwave issues for a few years now. For some reason, I always end up buying really tiny microwaves. So tiny in fact, that a regular sized bag of popcorn doesn’t have enough room to make a full rotation, resulting in burnt popcorn and a LOT of unpopped kernels. I’d have to watch vigilantly and try to turn the bag intermittently and hope for the best. Nightmare!

So now, I think I’ll just buy $2 bottles of kernels and pop those bad boys in my cauldron!

I poured a half cup of kernels with a quarter cup of oil into the cauldron…

And 3 minutes later, I had 8 cups of amazing, airy popcorn! Poured in the spiced melted butter along with the almonds and shook the pot to coat. Then I just sprinkled a bit of paprika & salt over the finished popcorn. Yay!

This is getting really long… so I’m going to make the Orangettes a new post!

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

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