One of our favorite ways to spend a Friday night is to stay in and watch a movie. Life, work, school — things are busier than ever in our household (and yours too, quite likely). It's important to make time for family fun, and a movie night is a simple, relaxing way to do this. In our opinion, there are just three things you need for an excellent movie night: Movies, popcorn, and chocolate! Read on for a really special popcorn recipe, and some tips for making a movie night extra-fun.
Tips for a Fun Family Movie Night
Movie nights are for watching good films with your children and keeping the snacks and the atmosphere healthy yet special. Kids love snacks when they know that they are for a special, one-of-a-kind family tradition or occasion.
• Set up the occasion: Tell your family the day before that you are doing something special together on Friday night. Thursday evening at dinner, hand out real paper tickets! Have each person write the name of a movie they would like to watch on the back of the ticket.
• Set up the room: Keep the lighting low and bring in comfortable floor pillows and blankets so everyone can snuggle up together.
• Set up the snacks: Give each child the opportunity to load up a bowl or paper bag with snacks at the beginning of the film. Keep that the limit for the evening, or allow one refill at "intermission." Children particularly love treats when they know they're special and finite.
It's nice to try to watch each person's movie pick over time, but make sure it's a film that everyone will enjoy and is appropriate for old and young. As the parent, it's your job to make the final decision, and if you explain your reasoning and stand firm, everyone will be with you. And always make a special gooey popcorn — that will turn this occasion into an opportunity for a special treat and even make it a tradition that is memorable and repeated over and over again.
Spicy Gooey M&M'S & Almond Popcornmakes about 8 servings
1/4 cup popcorn kernels
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup smooth almond butter
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce, such as Sriracha
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plain M&M'S
1 cup chopped toasted almonds
Have a clean paper shopping bag or oversized mixing bowl ready. Heat a 4-quart heavy pan over medium heat and film the bottom with vegetable oil. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the popcorn, shake to distribute, then put a lid on the pan, leaving a small crack for steam to escape. When the first kernel pops, put the lid on all the way. As the popcorn starts popping, shake vigorously to make sure the kernels are distributed evenly. When the popping slows to a few seconds between pops, take the pan off the heat.
Pour the popcorn into the paper bag or bowl to cool, and attempt to leave any unpopped kernels behind in the pan. (Coated with almond butter caramel, the unpopped kernels are a serious tooth hazard). Lightly salt the popcorn to taste.
Mix the honey and brown sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Let it simmer for about 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and add the almond butter. Whisk vigorously until all the almond butter is melted, then mix in the hot sauce and vanilla.
Immediately pour the almond butter caramel over the popcorn and stir with a long-handled wooden spoon until all the popcorn is coated. Let cool for about 5 minutes, then fold in the M&M'S and almonds.
• This recipe will also cover one standard bag of popped microwave popcorn, so you can substitute that for the stovetop popcorn if you wish.
• This keeps well overnight. If you want the gooeyness of freshly made popcorn, though, warm a bowl of leftover popcorn in 15-second bursts in the microwave until slightly warm and soft.
(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)