Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Jewel Bay Critter Crunch #recipe

By Leslie Budewitz

My friend B.J. Daniels, an award-winning author of romantic suspense set in Montana—LONE RIDER, her 75th published novel, will be out August 1—tells the story of writing a scene where her character ate a piece of an oatmeal cake that’s a favorite in B.J.’s house, then reaching for the plate and fork to take another bite, only to realize that the cake only existed on the page. (I imagine she went home and baked one.) Another day, she wrote a scene set in a blizzard and reached for her coat, only to remember that it in real-life, it was mid-summer.

Of course, we write our books in one season, edit in another, and may review the publisher’s copy-edits and galley pages in yet another. That’s definitely part of my challenge in BUTTER OFF DEAD, the third book in my Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries (out July 7). Like all the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, it involves a festival—this go-round, it’s the Food Lovers’ Film Festival. February is the perfect time for a film festival in a mountain village. There’s not a lot going on—no ski area, so most of the tourists are at home, and even many locals have decamped for warmer climes. I started the book in January, making the weather research easy, but did the edits in the fall—and we’re about to celebrate its release in the heart of summer!

And certain foods go with certain seasons, right? I was out to lunch with my brother recently and he ordered clam chowder and pumpkin pie. (Don’t worry about the calories or cholesterol—he’s tall, slender, and bikes and hikes regularly.) But it seemed odd to eat pumpkin pie in June. Same with popcorn: For me, it’s a winter snack. That may my own peculiar food quirk—heaven knows, I’ve got ’em. And of course, all the popcorn seasoning blends Erin and Tracy invent had to be tested. Not sure I’d want to do that in July!

But add a little chocolate, a little caramel, and nuts, and by golly, you’ve got popcorn that’s tasty all year.


Jewel Bay Critter Crunch

8 cups plain, popped popcorn (If you’re using an air popper, this is about 1 cup of raw kernels.)
½ cup raw, unsalted peanuts
½ cup raw, unsalted almonds
6 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons light (clear) corn syrup
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spray or grease a baking sheet.

Pop the popcorn. Pluck out all the old maids (the unpopped kernels) and skins and pour popcorn into a bowl.

Add nuts and stir to mix.

To make caramel, combine butter, corn syrup, and brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook and stir until mixture boils. Continue cooking at a low boil for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and baking soda.

Pour caramel mixture over popcorn and stir to coat. Spread onto greased cookie sheet, and bake for 10–15 minutes (10 for chewy, 15 for crunchy). Remove from oven and add the chocolate chips. Stir slightly, until the chocolate begins to melt.

Cool and eat.

Makes about 8 cups.

From the cover of BUTTER OFF DEAD (out July 7):
"As the national bestselling Food Lovers’ Village mysteries continue, the merchants of Jewel Bay, Montana try to heat up chilly winter business with a new film festival. But their plans are sent reeling when a dangerous killer dims the lights on a local mover and shaker …

In an attempt to woo tourists to Jewel Bay and cheer up the townies, Erin Murphy, manager of the specialty local foods market known as the Merc, is organizing the First Annual Food Lovers’ Film Festival, popping with classic foodie flicks and local twists on favorite movie treats. But when her partner in planning, painter Christine Vandeberg, is found dead only days before the curtain rises, Erin suspects someone is attempting to stop the films from rolling.

To make matters worse, Nick—Erin’s brother and Christine’s beau—has top billing on the suspect list. Convinced her brother is innocent and determined that the show must go on, Erin must find who’s really to blame before Nick gets arrested or the festival gets shut down. And as the anniversary of Erin’s father’s death in a still-unsolved hit-and-run approaches, her own beau isn’t so keen on her leading role.

But the closer Erin gets to shining a spotlight on the killer, the more likely it becomes that she’ll be the next person cut from the program…"

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. She lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher.

Connect with her on her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter.


  1. This sounds so yummy! I will be making this soon. Even though it is June. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Jewel Bay Critter Crunch looks amazing! I am so hungry now. :D

  3. Love caramel in any form--must try this! thanks Leslie xo

  4. This sounds very yummy! And the book sounds very good also!

  5. Hey, I'm even making MYSELF hungry! Of course, that's remarkably easy to do. Enjoy!

  6. Deliciously decadent! Bring it on!!!

  7. Leslie, I never thought popcorn had a season. In fact, they were making popcorn in the store when I was shopping last week. It smelled so good. I'm sure it wasn't as delicious as this dish, though. Hmm, for me, popcorn doesn't have a season, it has an activity, Movies and popcorn are perfect together any time of year!

    1. And I suspect the reason I associate popcorn with winter is that's when we watch more movies -- and the only time we go to a movie theater!

      We all have our food quirks, don't we?

  8. Leslie, we ALL have food quirks. But never a *season* for popcorn here! Love it anytime! Thanks for the recipe.

  9. Yum! Love this food. One of my favorites. For a movie party, perfect!

    ~Daryl / Avery

  10. what a great recipe!! Thank you for sharing it with us :)

    1. Thanks, Darlene. It would be great in bags or tins for holiday gifts!