MLB Playoff Ballpark Favorite Foods: Homemade Cracker Jacks

If you miss sitting in the stands and watching your favorite team this season, you’re not alone. You can’t replace the sound of fans, the energy and excitement. However, you can make some of your favorite ballpark foods right at home! Imagine the sweet caramel sent homemade cracker jacks. And notes of deep smoked hotdogs that hang in the air. Plus, who could forget nachos, the perfect 7th inning stretch snack as you munch away any game-time anxiety. We miss America’s favorite sport.

As you watch at home you can recreate some of the environment with a few fan favorites starting with Homemade Cracker Jacks. Fresh from the oven, sweet and nutty, there’s nothing like making your own version of this old time snack.

Cracker Jacks combine the smooth taste of caramel along with the salt and nutty flavor of Spanish peanuts. If you are craving something a little sweet you can’t go wrong with this homemade version.

Print Recipe
Homemade Cracker Jacks
Sweet and salty, you'll never go back to the cardboard boxed version!
Homemade Cracker Jacks
Servings
Ingredients
Servings
Ingredients
Homemade Cracker Jacks
Instructions
  1. 1. Preheat oven to 200ºF.
  2. 2. Spread popcorn into a 9” x 12” pan. Sprinkle peanuts on top of popcorn. Set pan aside.
  3. 3. Place sugar, dark corn syrup, molasses, corn oil, water and salt in a heavy saucepan and mix.
  4. 4. Turn heat on simmer and stir almost continuously with a wooden spoon. Sugar will melt and mixture will turn into a liquid. Cook, stirring almost continuously, until the mixture is uniform and caramelized in color, syrupy and begins to show small bubbles. Remove from heat before it boils.
  5. 5. Drizzle evenly sauce over popcorn and peanut mixture.
  6. 6. Place pan in the oven and cook for 45 minutes. Stir every 15 minutes while cooking.
  7. 7. Remove from heat, cool and enjoy!
Recipe Notes

* Microwave popcorn - Pop popcorn in the microwave by adding ¼ cup kernels to a large brown paper bag (or microwave safe bowl covered with plastic wrap). Fold the top of the bag over 3 times. Cook on high until popping slows.

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Save Money and Time With Nutritious Comfort Foods

Healthy Homemade Veggie Pizza from Scratch (Gluten Free Version Available!)

#Sponsored 

After carefully planning out a week’s worth of meals, you head to the store only to be disappointed. The shelves are picked over and there are several items you can’t find. It’s hard enough to shop while on a budget. But, the added stress of going on a wild goose chase to find ingredients can sap even the biggest foodie’s enthusiasm for quarantine cooking. However, I have something that will make your life much easier: canned foods. They deliver on taste, cost, nutrition value and ease of cooking. Canned foods take the stress out of cooking. Plus, they are there and ready when you need them. No mess, no waste. 

Easy Cooking From Scratch

In April my dad wanted pizza for his birthday. He is on a reduced sodium diet so I choose ingredients wisely. Well, my frustration flew through the roof when I went to a very large grocery store only to find all of the jars of tomato sauce left on the shelves were very high in sodium and expensive. After all, it’s a production just to go out. I had a mask, hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes and a coat because the DC area was still in the low 50s in late April. After taking a few deep breathes, I stopped and realized there are other ways.

Substituting Ingredients

Cooking, unlike baking, is very forgiving. You can make ingredient substitutions as needed. This is why I’ve rarely measured when it comes to cooking – I can eyeball what I am adding and ad lib when I feel like it. Plus, I refused to go to another store. And it was then that I came to my senses. My grandma always made her sauces from scratch. I could make one that was both low in sodium and tasted better than anything I could buy. The preparation part would take me less than 5 minutes and there was minimal cleanup. Plus, this pizza would be far lower in sodium than anything you could buy in a restaurant. 

I picked up Red Gold’s no salt added diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano, Swanson’s chicken broth, salt free Italian seasoning, cheese and the ingredients needed to make pizza dough. He loves olives so Musco reduced salt olives were a no brainer and, I added Del Monte leaf spinach (no salt added) so this delicious dinner provided at least a full serving of vegetables. Relying on canned foods was an easy win – they helped me make mealtime simple and stress-free. Plus, cans are the key to making delicious comfort foods – especially the most amazing homemade red sauce. {Jump to Recipes}

Save Cash and Reduce Waste

Two months into COVID-19, fresh produce is still hard to find in many stores. Yet even when it is readily available, I still rely on canned produce. I travel often and having canned foods in my cabinet means I’ll always be able to make a meal without stopping at the grocery store on the way home. That’s huge when you are totally exhausted and cannot imagine a pit-stop after a long trip. Plus, with canned foods I don’t have to worry about food going bad. This is huge because food gone bad is a huge waste of cash. And if COVID-19 has taught us anything, besides handwashing skills of course, it’s to not waste and conserve cash (lessons my dad taught us from a very young age). 

Americans throw out 31 – 41% of the food we purchase. In addition to throwing your hard-earned dollar in the trash, food waste drains the environment. Rotting fruits and vegetables, the top food wasted, uses water and contributes to ethylene gas, methane and CO2 emissions all of which are harmful for our environment. And that pollution in the environment ends up in our water supply, on our crops, on your plate and in your body. There are several steps you can take to load your plate with healthy foods while avoiding waste.

5 Steps to Avoiding Food Waste

  1. Use a shopping list to prevent impulse buys. 
  2. Buy canned foods. Canned produce goes from field to package within 4 hours. Fresh produce takes 24 days from field to store!(1) Plus canned foods have similar, and in some cases better, nutritional profiles as compared to their fresh and frozen counterparts.(2) The “waste” when producing canned foods – including peels, cores and other inedible plant matter, is removed and reused as agricultural feed or compost.(3)
  3. Buy frozen foods. Freezing locks in the nutrition value of the food indefinitely and you can use frozen foods at your convenience. The texture may change. 
  4. Don’t automatically throw food out by the use by date. This is a measure of quality and not food safety. Assess your food for safety (smell your meat, poultry, fish and dairy, make sure fruits and vegetables are not molded).
  5. Freeze fruits and veggies that are about to rot. Separate them on a wax paper lined sheet and freeze them (this step prevents them from freezing together in a large clump). Once frozen you can bag them together (in a tight zippered plastic bag with no extra air in it). 

If you make larger batches of soups, stews and other dishes, freeze half, so you aren’t eating the same leftovers every day. Plus, you’ll have a dish ready to go when you really don’t feel like cooking. This means less impulse buying or less money spent on take-out. Many dishes freeze well. Stews are perfect because the texture doesn’t change much when frozen and reheated. Grain dishes, lasagna, veggie pizzas, burritos, and quiche are among my favorite foods to batch cook and freeze. 

Locking in Sound Nutrition

Feeding your family nutritious and tasty meals is a lot easier when you rely on canned foods. They are an excellent choice for helping you meet your nutrient needs. In fact, research also shows when canned produce is incorporated into diets people tend to eat more fruits and vegetables.(4) This is important because the majority of Americans are not eating recommended amounts of vegetables and fruits.(5) American’s diets are also low in key nutrients including fiber, potassium, calcium and vitamin D.(6) Yet the research shows how canned foods help:

  • Compared to those who don’t use cans, adults and kids who consume canned fruits and vegetables get more energy, dietary fiber, choline and potassium and less fat and saturated fat.(7)
  • Of the top 50 best sources of potassium, eight are canned foods: tomato paste, white beans, clams, chili with beans, great northern beans, spinach, refried beans and tomato sauce.(8)

Convenience

There are more than 1,500 varieties of canned foods available year-round, providing easy access to a world of ingredients anytime.(9) As we space out our trips to the grocery store, canned foods make it easy – no need to resort to takeout or stress about trying to feed your family.

If you are looking for an easy way to put nutritious meals on the table, stock up on canned foods. There are an unlimited number of dishes you can make with canned foods from meals to desserts and snacks. When food budgets are tight and shopping trips are limited, canned foods are always therefore you as an affordable and shelf-stable option.

I partnered with CansGetYouCooking to create this post and recipe. However, opinions are my own. 

References

1 Length of Time Qualitative Audit – Duration and Steps in Processing Canned and Fresh Produce. Can Manufacturers Institute, May 2014.

2 Miller SR, Knudson WA. Nutrition and cost comparisons of select canned, frozen and fresh fruits and vegetables. Am J Lifestyle Med 2014;8(6): 430-437.

3 Buzby JC, Wells HF, Hyman J. The estimated amount, value and calories of postharvest food losses at the retail and consumer levels in the United States, EIB-121, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Rsearch Service, February 2014. 

4 Comberford KB. Frequent canned food use is positively associated with nutrient-dense food group consumption and higher nutrient intakes in U.S. children and adults. Nutrients 2015;7(7): 5586-5600.

5 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Adults meeting fruit and vegetable intake recommendations – United States, 2013. Washington DC. 

6 Miller SR, Knudson WA. Nutrition and cost comparisons of select canned, frozen and fresh fruits and vegetables. Am J Lifestyle Med 2014;8(6): 430-437.

7 Freedman MR, Fulgoni VL 3rd. Canned vegetable and fruit consumption is associated with changes in nutrient intake and higher diet quality in children and adults: national health and nutrition examination survey 2001-2010. J Acad Nutr Diet 2016;116(6): 940-8.

8[ Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020. 8th Edition, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, January 2016.

9 Can Central: Everything You Need To Know About Cans. From http://www.cancentral.com/foodcans/Accessible-Affordable

Print Recipe
Homemade Veggie Pizza
This is my (better) take on Domino's veggie pizza.
Veggie Pizza
Prep Time 20
Cook Time 30
Passive Time 30
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Dough Ingredients
Sauce Ingredients
Topping Ingredients
Prep Time 20
Cook Time 30
Passive Time 30
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Dough Ingredients
Sauce Ingredients
Topping Ingredients
Veggie Pizza
Instructions
Dough
  1. Put warm water in a bowl (check temperature).
  2. Mix together yeast and sugar in a separate large bowl.
  3. Pour warm water over yeast. Let bowl sit for 10 minutes until bubbles form and mix gets bigger in the middle (it will look like it is rising up).
    Bubbled yeast
  4. Add olive oil and stir gently.
  5. Add 2 ¼ cups all-purpose or gluten free flour and salt. Continue adding very small amounts of flour, a little at a time, if dough is still very sticky.
  6. Mix with a spoon until thoroughly mixed throughout.
  7. Preheat oven to 450ºF.
  8. Knead dough on a floured surface for 5 minutes.
  9. Once kneaded let rest in a bowl in a warm spot, covered, for 30 minutes.
  10. While dough is resting, make pizza sauce.
  11. After 30 minutes return dough to floured surface and roll out to desired shape.
  12. Spray a pizza pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  13. Place dough on pan.
  14. Place pizza sauce on top of dough
  15. Add canned spinach, canned sliced olives.
Pizza Sauce
  1. Place crushed tomatoes in a pot over medium heat. Add olive oil, Swanson chicken broth and spices. Stir to combine. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 30 minutes stirring occasionally.
    Swanson chicken broth and Red Gold crushed tomatoes
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