I’ll let you in on a secret: invite me over for a play date and I’m likely to show up with two sweet treats. One, a chubby-cheeked delicious little munchkin and another that you can actually eat. It’s my hope that one or the other will win you over.

It took me a while though. The first several months have been one big hot mess. Now, dare I say, we have a good groove going and I’m really loving this mommy thing. For all the usual reasons, plus play dates and having friends to share goodies with.

This crunchy popcorn snack had been sitting on my mind for a while and I finally pulled it together when Rosie and I were invited for a play date earlier this week. Thankfully, it turned out just as good as I imagined. Funny how just having family around doesn’t motivate me to make something special, but new friends do. Don’t tell my husband that! Though I’m already planning on making another batch ASAP. Why not? There’s still some coconut milk left in the fridge. And another get together this weekend… yup, I think I’ll be making the rounds as the popcorn-toting mom this season. (PS – did you know Trader Joe’s carries a big bag of organic popcorn kernels for just $1.99? YWIA.)

Coconut milk is the base for the vegan chocolate caramel sauce. It’s sweetened with lower-glycemic coconut sugar, so even though it’s still an indulgent treat, it’s one your body won’t mind quite as much. The classic combo of cranberries and almonds makes this a tempting fall treat. It’s actually a spin-off of the popcorn I easily became addicted to last fall, my Rosemary Almond Caramel Corn. You can’t go wrong with either one!

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Coco-Caramel Corn with Almonds and Cranberries

Yield: about 18 cups

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 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. With almonds and cranberries mixed in, this makes a delicious fall snack!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
1 1/2 cups coconut sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
4 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup popcorn kernels (or, about 18 cups plain, air-popped popcorn)
1 1/2 cups raw, sliced almonds
1 cup dried cranberries

Directions:

Preheat oven to 250ºF.

In a small saucepan, combine coconut milk, coconut sugar, cocoa powder, coconut oil and salt. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring until coconut oil is melted. Increase heat to medium and bring to a gentle boil. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 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 cranberries and toss to combine. 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