Illinois - Caramel Corn

Illinois - Caramel Corn

Illinois has an official state snack - popcorn!  

In Illinois, popcorn is grown on 333 farms and it isn't just something you throw in the microwave at home to eat while you watch a movie.  It's a serious snack worthy of stores dedicated to making and selling only popcorn!

In Chicago alone, there are 37 Popcorn Shops!!!  The most famous is Garrett Popcorn Shops where people wait in line for hours just to get in the store to buy their Caramel Crisp popcorn!

Caramel Corn hasn't gained official state sweet status in Illinois, yet - but it seems like a great contender!  


  • 1 bag of plain, microwave popcorn or 10 cups air popped popcorn
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 

  • Preheat oven to 250 F
  • Line baking sheet with parchment paper
  • Pop popcorn according to package directions and remove any un-popped kernels
  • In saucepan, stir together brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, salt and 2 Tbsp water
  • Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook to 250 degrees on a candy thermometer
  • Remove pan from heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla extract
  • Quickly pour hot caramel over popcorn and stir to coat
  • Spread on baking sheet in one layer
  • Bake for 1 hour, stirring and turning with spatula every 20 minutes
  • Remove from oven, try to let cool for 10 minutes before digging in!

Makeover Time!



Consider yourself warned, this stuff is delicious and very addictive! What a great treat just in time for fall tailgating and football watching!  


Idaho - Potato Doughnuts

Idaho - Potato Doughnuts

I love Doughnuts!  I always have - just ask my family about the munchkin incident of 1980 - but anyway, I have secretly been hoping that I would somehow be able to work a doughnut into Sweet State of Mine.  I knew that potatoes would be an obvious ingredient for Idaho's state sweet, but there wasn't one particular recipe that stood out as the "must make" sweet for Idaho.  

Then one lucky day, I found a recipe for Idaho Potato Doughnuts and almost fainted!  I researched the recipe and found several versions on the internet, most of which were posted by Idaho potato farmers wives with notes that they were a fun and different way to use their bountiful and typically savory crop.

I was so curious to see what a Potato Doughnut would taste like and I thought you might enjoy it too!  I had also been looking for a reason to use this gadget I found this summer at an antique store in Georgia:

How fun is that?!  Well, it turns out this particular recipe requires a cutter, so I'll have to find another recipe to use my Donut Maker.  

Let's make some Doughnuts!

2 packages dry active yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105 - 115 F)
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
pinch of salt
2 large eggs
1 cup cooked potatoes, peeled & mashed 
7 - 7 1/2 cups all purpose flour 
Vegetable oil for frying 

  • in a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the water and stir until it dissolves
  • scald the milk in heavy saucepan (heat to just before boiling - small bubbles will form along the edge and steam will rise from the milk)
  • remove from heat and stir in the sugar, oil and salt
  • cool, then add to the yeast mixture
  • in a medium bowl, blend the eggs into the room temperature potatoes until smooth
  • whisk this into the milk mixture, then slowly add the flour 1 cup at a time, beating thoroughly by hand or mixer
  • when it comes to a smooth dough add additional flour slowly, mix until dough is stiff enough for a wooden spoon to stand upright 
  • cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until double in size
  • punch the dough down and turn out onto a well floured surface
  • cover with towel and let rest until doubled again, about one hour
  • divide dough in half, and roll one half out to 1/2 inch thickness
  • cut with a floured doughnut cutter 
  • repeat with remaining dough until all has been cut into doughnuts and doughnut holes
  • Fry in 2 inch deep oil at 350 degrees 
  • glaze with desired glaze or toss in sugar or cinnamon sugar mixture

Glorious!  Now, when you eat a Potato Doughnut, you have to remember that the texture will be denser than your typical glazed, yeast doughnut.  

You can see there aren't the typical large air pockets that you would find in a yeast doughnut but these were still really, really good!  They were the perfect blend of a yeast and cake doughnut!  

From now on, if you find yourself with an abundance of Idaho spuds - you know just what to do!  


Hawaii - Haupia & Chocolate Haupia Pie

Hawaii - Haupia & Chocolate Haupia Pie 

Of the states that I haven't travelled to yet, I have to say, Hawaii is one of the states I really must visit - and the sooner the better!  

When I go, I can't wait to go to a lu'au and eat traditional Polynesian food - I'm thinking pork, pineapple and coconut! 

Coconut, "Niu" in Polynesian, was very important to Polynesian settlers in Hawaii.  It provided lumber and roofing, materials to make rope and baskets, and food and drink - so Polynesian explorers planted the trees everywhere they went.  

Haupia (how-PEE-ah) is a lu'au classic and uniquely Hawaiian! Haupia is a coconut milk pudding that is very firm and almost gelatin-like.  It is usually cut into squares and then served.  

Haupia is extremely popular not only at lu'aus, but at potlucks and in restaurants.  At one time, McDonald's even offered a special Haupia Fried Pie at their restaurants in Hawaii! 

Haupia is so popular that its even used as a component of many other cakes and pies - like Chocolate Haupia Pie - which sounded delicious! So, I'm making both!  

First, Haupia...

4 cups coconut milk
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup cornstarch

  • Combine coconut milk and water in saucepan
  • Stir until smooth
  • In small bowl, mix together the sugar and cornstarch
  • Whisk sugar mixture into coconut milk and water
  • Cook over low heat until thickened 
  • Pour and spread into 9x13 glass baking dish 
  • Cool then cut into pieces, garnish with toasted coconut if desired and serve
  • Store in refrigerator

    I liked Haupia on it's own - it has a nice sweet coconut flavor and I liked having the toasted coconut on top to add a little texture.  I can see how this is such a common dessert to make in Hawaii - it doesn't require tons of ingredients, is simple and yummy!  Can't beat that...  well, maybe you can...  

    with Chocolate Haupia Pie!  I was really excited to find this recipe because I adore chocolate with coconut and I love a good icebox pie during the summer!  

    9 inch unbaked pie shell
    1 cup milk
    14 ounce can coconut milk
    1 Tbsp coconut extract
    1 cup sugar
    1 cup water
    1/2 cup cornstarch
    7/8 cup dark chocolate 
    sweetened whipped cream
    chocolate shavings


    • Preheat oven to 350
    • Bake crust 15 minutes or until golden brown
    • In saucepan mix milk, coconut milk, coconut extract and 1 cup sugar
    • In another bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in 1 cup of water
    • Bring coconut milk mixture to a boil then reduce heat to simmer
    • Slowly whisk in the cornstarch mixture and stir over low heat until thickened, about 3 minutes
    • Divide mixture evenly into two bowls
    • In another small bowl, melt chocolate in microwave
    • Mix melted chocolate into one of the bowls of coconut pudding then pour into pie crust.  Spread quickly as the mixture will set fast
    • Pour remaining coconut pudding on top of the chocolate layer and spread being careful not to mix the two layers
    • Refrigerate the pie for at least one hour
    • Before serving, spread whipped cream over top and garnish with chocolate shavings

    I may have made my chocolate layer just a smidge thicker than the coconut layer... regardless, I LOVED this pie!  I used 74% chocolate so it had a nice bitter flavor that paired perfectly with the coconut!  I really couldn't stop talking about this pie and I am thrilled to have a new chocolate pie recipe.  

    I'll be on the look out for Haupia when I go to Hawaii and can't wait to discover other uses for this clever sweet!  


    Florida - Key Lime Pie

    Florida - Key Lime Pie 

    Here she is - one of the desserts that inspired me to start Sweet State of Mine - it's quintessentially Florida - Key Lime Pie!  

    The exact history of this tart treat isn't known, but it's thought to have originated in the late 19th Century in the Florida Keys where tiny key limes were abundant.  The short ingredient list and refreshing qualities of this pie must be the reason it has grown in popularity not only in Florida, but throughout the US.  

    Today, you would be hard pressed to find a restaurant in Florida that doesn't have Key Lime Pie (in some way, shape or form) on their menu.  You can find Key Lime Cheesecake, chocolate dipped Key Lime Pie, Key Lime Cooler cookies... the list goes on and on!  I'm sure all of those are yummy, but for this post we are keeping it authentic and traditional! 

    Before we go further, I just have to say, Key Lime Pie is not green! If you are looking to make a green dessert (which is great, I love green things too), check out my post for California - Avocado Pie.  Just please resist the temptation to put "just a drop" of green food coloring into this recipe!  

    A Lesson on Key Limes

    left - Persian Lime; right - Key Lime

    Key Limes and your run of the mill, grocery store lime (Persian Lime), are not interchangeable.  Key Limes are a different variety of lime, not just a young, small regular lime.  The flavor of a Key Lime is much tarter and more like a lemon than a lime.  It's really important to use Key Lime juice if you want to make an authentic Key Lime Pie. 

    Plus, Key Limes are way cuter! 

    I found a bag of Key Limes at The Fresh Market but if you can't find them at your store, you can use bottled juice like Nellie & Joe's Famous Key Lime Juice - but fresh is best.  


    for the crust

    16 graham crackers (whole sheet), crushed
    1 stick butter, melted
    3 Tablespoons sugar

    • mix ingredients together and press into a 9" pie plate or tart pan
    • bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 - 12 minutes, until lightly browned
    • place on rack to cool 

    for the filling

    4 extra large egg yolks
    14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
    1/2 cup fresh key lime juice 
    * It took about 20 key limes for me to get 1/2 cup
    2 teaspoons key lime zest

    • Beat egg yolks with mixer until they are thick and turn a light shade of yellow, don't over mix
    • Turn the mixer off and add the sweetened condensed milk
    • Turn speed to low and pour in half of the lime juice
    • Once the juice is incorporated, add the other half of the juice and the zest and mix until incorporated
    • Pour into pie or tart shell and bake at 350 degrees for 12 - 15 minutes until set but center still jiggles
    • Cool and serve topped with whipped cream 

    To bake, or not to bake?
    There are many no-bake Key Lime Pie recipes that depend solely on a chemical reaction called souring to cook the egg yolks removing any potentially harmful bacteria.  If I had my own chickens or were able to buy them direct from a local farmer, I would feel comfortable not baking my Key Lime Pie.  Unfortunately, this city girl still buys eggs from the store, so I chose to bake my pie to remove any uncertainty about bacteria and to ensure the filling set properly.  

    You just can't go wrong with Key Lime Pie - especially during the Summer months!  This recipe is a classic and always delicious!  

    Hope you enjoy this sunny dessert from the Sunshine State!