Frank Asch Inspired Popcorn Bars (GF, Refined Sugar Free)

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Frank Asch Inspired Popcorn Bars - GF, refined sugar free -

While this problem doesn’t usually occur when we make popcorn, every so often, we do have leftovers after popcorn night.  And when we do, I’m reminded of the Frank Asch Bear Book: Popcorn #afflink.  In the story, Sam, little bear invites his friends over for a Halloween party and everyone brings popcorn kernels.  They dump all the kernels in a big pot… and needless to say, they make a lot of popcorn.  So much, in fact that the house gets filled up.

Popping corn? Great idea.  That much?  Nope.

The story culminates with Sam and his friends eating all the popcorn to “clean up” the house.  As you can imagine, they we’re really keen to eat more popcorn anytime soon.

So back to the topic of our leftover popcorn.  The other day, when at the grocery store, I had a hankering for rice cakes.  Sadly, they were all out.  As we got home and were putting away groceries, I got to thinking — What if I could make popcorn cakes?  Well, a recipe search online yielded nothing but desserts in that category, so I switched to looking for popcorn snack bars.  Most of the recipes used refined sugar, which I can’t have.  So I asked my toddler, Toby, if he we should make popcorn bars… and he said “yes!”

I like to pair activities with books, so of course we decided to make popcorn bars and read Frank Asch’s book while waiting to eat them.


Popcorn Bar Recipes

After an extensive hunt for a recipe that used honey or something other than refined sugar to make popcorn snack bars… and here is what I came up with! I used several recipes as inspiration (see below), but ultimately ended up improvising — something I seem to do in the kitchen a  lot lately.

So, what ended up going into our popcorn bars?  Obviously popcorn, but then I ended up using a combination of honey and peanut butter as a binder to hold the bars together.  For those with peanut allergies, another nut butter, or even a seed butter, could be used interchangeably.

We ended up with two variations, one that is more like a Rice Krispie treat in concept, and another that is more like a snack bar.  The nutty sweetness came through much more strongly in the treat version;the snack bar version held together better but the popcorn’s presence was muted.

Before starting on our recipes, we first made popcorn using our Stir Crazy Popcorn Popper #afflink.  Toby loves this thing.

Then, it was time to get cooking…

Peanut Butter Popcorn Treat


  • 8 c. popcorn (plain)
  • 3/4 c. nuts
  • 3/4 c. dried fruit
  • 3/4 – 1 c. honey
  • 1 1/4 c. nut butter

Combine the popcorn, nuts, and dried fruit in a large mixing bowl (we used one with a lid so it could be shaken later).

Heat honey and nut butter (in microwave or on stove) until runny; stir until well combined. Pour over top of popcorn mix, put lid on bowl, and shake well for a minute or until well coated.

Using a spatula, spoon out into a greased baking dish — size will depend on desired thickness of the bars (we used a 9×13 pan and a 11×9 pan). Cover top with parchment paper and press mixture down well.
Put into oven at 350 for 10-20 minutes.
Let cool, then cut into bars and serve or store.

Peanut Butter Popcorn Snack Bar

  • 8 c. popcorn (plain), crushed
  • 3/4 c. nuts (we used pumpkin and sunflower seeds)
  • 3/4 c. dried fruit (we used raisins)
  • 3/4 c. honey
  • 1 1/2 c. nut butter (we used peanut)
  • 1/4 c. flax seed
  • 6 T. butter
  • 1 c. kefir
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 T. coconut flour
  • 1 t. salt

Combine the popcorn, nuts, dried fruit, flax/date paste in a large mixing bowl.  Heat honey, nut butter, and butter (in microwave or on stove) until runny; stir until well combined.  Pour over top of popcorn mix, combine thoroughly.

Using a spatula, spoon out into a parchment-lined baking dish — size will depend on desired thickness of the bars (we used a 9×13 pan and a 11×9 pan). Cover top with parchment paper and press mixture down well –  we used a meat pounder to tamp it down… very fun for my toddler.  If your little one helps, put a small cutting board down so you don’t end up with deep pits in the bars.  Put into oven at 350 for 13 minutes.  Remove, press/tamp down again.

Let cool; break into pieces.  Beat egg well, add kefir.  Coat popcorn pieces with egg mixture, add coconut flour and combine well; spread into baking dish.  Bake 20 min at 350 F.  Cool, cut into bars and serve or store.

Taste Testing + A Verdict?

Well, our first batch looked delicious while cooling.  So delicious, in fact, that my toddler called both of his grandmas to invite them over for popcorn.  However, these bars were a little fragile; they crumbled easily. Our second version held together better, but it was more of a general snack bar rather than a pocorn bar.  If I were to try things a third way, using ground flax seed as binder, like in this popcorn granola squares recipe… might have been a good choice.

But, like Sam in Frank Asch’s Popcorn book, I’m sick of popcorn …bars.  We did a lot of taste testing and I’m calling it quits for the day.  Regardless of how our kitchen experiments turned out, someone had fun in the kitchen.

Halloween Read and Play Blog Hop

This post is part of an AWESOME Halloween Read and Play Blog Hop.  Make sure to check out the other book based activities from fantastic bloggers!

Halloween Books with extension activity ideas (link to book on Amazon in parentheses, #afflinks).  Links below will open in a new window for your convenience.

Some other Halloween books:

2 Responses

  1. Melissa
    | Reply

    My favorite childhood book!!!! I used to have dreams of going to a popcorn party like the one in this book! 🙂

    • Betsy Finn
      | Reply

      That is so cute, Melissa! I was actually thrilled when I discovered grandma had saved this book — being out of print makes things tough to find (on a related note, I was excited to see there will be a new edition out in 2015!).

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