It’s November 1st.Which means that if you haven’t started getting excited about holiday parties, cocktails, and cozy game-night fare… you’re already behind.

I kid. Sorta.

The truth is that from this day forward, the rest of the year is going to fly by – and be filled with plenty of opportunities to indulge in all the delicious things we look forward to during the holiday season. As much as I love it, it’s a good thing it doesn’t last any longer. No matter how hard I try to maximize the healthy choices and get all my workouts in, my metabolism just can’t keep up!

So this year, I propose a solution. Let’s fill our tables and our friends’ and family’s with drool-worthy holiday fare that’s as nutritious as it is delicious. I know it’s possible to create food from wholesome, natural ingredients that’s just as good – if not better – than its processed, less-healthy counterparts. I see my favorite bloggers do this every day, so I asked them to join me in a Clean Eating Cocktail Party!

All month long*, we’ll be partying with a mix of elegant and cozy holiday fare. The kind of food you’d be psyched to eat at any holiday gathering, from game-playing in front of the fire place to a sassy evening out. We’ll have both sweet and savory nibbles to satisfy your gluten-free, vegan, raw, or just plain ol’ healthy cravings – there will be something for everyone, I promise!

*I’ve reserved a few days to keep in touch with you via my own posts, because I can’t imagine leaving you high and dry without a few dishes to be Thankful for

To kick things off, I’m sharing Rosemary Caramel Almond Popcorn. If you’ve never made caramel popcorn, it’s a lot easier than you think! (Trust me – my mom made this after trying it at my house.) And if you have made caramel popcorn before, don’t mistake this for the buttery, sugar-laden variety. Although I would hesitate to call it “health food” it does have a lot of healthful bonuses going for it. This version uses coconut milk and coconut oil for a vegan twist with healthy fats, and replaces the typical cane sugar with lower-glycemic, mineral-rich coconut sugar. The combination of popcorn and almonds is actually quite high in fiber too! The caramel is infused with a hint of rosemary, making it an extra-special addition to any fall snackin’ menu. And in case you think popcorn is only appropriate for a casual affair, simply serve it fancy cocktail glasses or festive paper baking cups to turn it into a sophisticated, hand-held treat.

For a full list of participating bloggers, just click on the Clean Eating Cocktail Party home page – and watch as it’s continuously updated with healthy, holiday-worthy treats!

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Rosemary Caramel Almond Popcorn

Yield: about 18 cups

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

A sweet and crunchy caramel corn made with coconut milk and coconut oil for a vegan twist with healthy fats. Mineral-rich, lower-glycemic coconut sugar takes the place of typical refined sugar. Perfect for snacking on during game time or portioning into fancy cocktail cups for an elegant presentation.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 1/2 cups coconut sugar
4 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup popcorn kernels (or, about 18 cups plain, air-popped popcorn)
2 cups sliced, raw almonds
1 tablespoon minced rosemary

Directions:

Preheat oven to 250ºF.

In a small saucepan, bring the coconut milk and rosemary to a boil. Cover, turn off heat and let stand 30 minutes.

Remove the rosemary from the coconut milk. Add coconut sugar sugar, coconut oil, maple syrup and salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer over medium heat, stirring, for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and baking soda (it will bubble up when the baking soda is added, this is normal.) Set aside to cool.

Pop the popcorn in an air popper and transfer to a large bowl, making sure to remove any un-popped kernels. Add the almonds and minced rosemary and toss to combbine. Pour the caramel over and stir to coat. Transfer to a large roasting pan or 2 rimmed baking sheets coated with cooking spray or coconut oil. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15-20 minutes. Cool before serving, and store leftovers in an air-tight container.

Cara Lyons, www.carascravings.com

This recipe is linked to Sugar Free Sunday at Flip Cookbook.