Make Your Own Gift Popcorn Tin

Fill a festive tin with a sweet and salty popcorn mix for an easier-than-it-looks homemade gift.

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Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Matt Armendariz, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Sugar cookie cutouts might be the traditional treat for holiday gifting, but this year, set a new standard and give out a tin full of freshly popped, flavored popcorn instead. To make this festive snack, swap the microwaveable pre-buttered bags for stovetop-popped popcorn. You'll never go back to the store-bought brand once you've tried the easy homemade version.

Pop Till It Stops
Simply add a few teaspoons of vegetable or peanut oil (or any oil that can withstand high heat) to a pot with a lid over medium-high heat. Toss in a cup of popcorn kernels and cover the pot. Once the oil heats up and you hear a few pops, gently shake the pot over the heat to keep the kernels from burning. Keep shaking until the popping diminishes; turn off the heat and continue to shake for a few seconds in the event of a couple last-minute poppers.

Delicious Duo: Sweet and Salty
Now it's time to dress the popcorn in festive flavors. Always toss freshly popped popcorn with seasonings when it's still warm so the flavor sticks to each kernel. Depending on different preferences, you can coat the popcorn with sweet, sugary ingredients, savory herbs and spices or a combination of the two, like Nadia G.'s Chicago Mix Popcorn. Her marriage of sweet caramel corn and salty cheddar cheese popcorn will appeal to all those friends and family members who just can't decide which side they like the most. Try these other recipes that balance sweet and savory flavors as well:

Some Like It Sweet
If your friends prefer the sweeter side of the kernel, try coating popcorn in cinnamon sugar or brown butter — or add a drizzle of chocolate. Experiment with seasonal flavors like pumpkin pie spice and gingerbread by throwing a dash of ground ginger and nutmeg into the mix. For more dessert-inspired ideas, try these recipes:

The Savory Side
If you're gifting to salty-snack connoisseurs, toss warm popcorn in Parmesan cheese, dried herbs or spices, like cayenne or chipotle for a hint of heat. There's room for creativity here, too, with the option of infusing olive oil with fresh herbs or spicy peppers and drizzling that over popcorn in place of melted butter. To pop on the savory side, try these recipes:

That's a Wrap
Assemble this edible gift by collecting an assortment of colorful cookie tins in festive hues. Fill each one to the brim with the popcorn mix (or place a card stock divider in the middle and separate two different popcorn flavors in the same container) and tie a thick ribbon in a bow around the closed tin. Slip a sprig of holly or a small pinecone under the ribbon, then add a personalized gift tag for a final holiday flourish. It's an easy yet impressive treat to give as a hostess gift or to nestle under the tree as a Christmas morning snack.

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Aarón Sanchez

The co-star of the hit series Heat Seekers and Food Network AND rsquo;s Chopped Aar AND oacute;n Sanchez is the executive chef and co-owner of Centrico Restaurant and Mestizo By Aar AND oacute;n S AND aacute;nchez. He is also the culinary visionary behind Tacombi Tacqueria and Crossroads at House of Blues.

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