Popcorn is one hull of a good snack

There’s just something nostalgic about popping corn on the stove. Brings back memories of hanging out in my pajamas and watching Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys with my sister. It’s a perfect accompaniment to a chilly fall night while gathered around the plasma for a movie or at the kitchen table for game night. If your popcorn experience has been limited to the artificially flavored microwave variety then you’re missing out on a delicious and versatile snack. The yummy goodness will outweigh the small, extra effort it takes to make it fresh.

I’m looking for a little corny in my life

I was looking for an evening snack that I could eat and enjoy without feeling guilty. I found you can eat a lot of popcorn without feeling you have to run an hour on the treadmill to work it off.

Popcorn is a healthy snack— if you don’t cover it in butter and salt. A cup of air-popped is only 31 calories and oil-popped is 44 calories per cup. It has fiber and 3 cups will give you a full serving of whole grains. Although microwave popcorn has been so popular in the past that microwaves come standard with a “popcorn” button more people are steering away from artificially flavored bags of ingredients you can’t pronounce. There are other ways that are quick, easy and taste a whole lot better than the microwave variety.

Heirloom varieties in blue and red can be found at farm markets and specialty grocery stores but the variety we see the most on the grocery shelf are yellow and white. Popcorn generally comes in two basic shapes – in popcorn jargon, they are called “flakes.” Yellow popcorn is referred to as butterfly or snowflake because when it’s popped it has an irregular shape with protruding “wings.” It pops light and fluffy and therefore more suited for the movie theater or ballpark popcorn because it looks and pops bigger. Mushroom (white) is dense when popped, yet lighter and crisper. It is used for candy confections like caramel corn because it holds its shape and doesn’t crumble. I would recommend white for at-home popping because it doesn’t get stuck in your teeth as much as the chewier, yellow variety.

Store for “popability”

Popcorn needs moisture to pop. As the kernels are heated, the moisture inside the kernel swells and rapidly expands to the point where the shell cannot contain the explosion, causing the kernel to turn inside out and create a tasty snack. The refrigerator can dry out kernels so store in a glass or plastic airtight container.

Brown bag it

You can use your microwave to make a healthier popcorn. Poppers specifically for the microwave are relatively inexpensive or just use a brown paper bag. This method is so simple and fun for the whole family because you can easily customize each bag so everyone has their favorite.

Here’s how: Use a clean, lunch-size, brown paper bag and place 1/4 cup of kernels in the bag. Fold the bag over 3 times and place in the microwave.  Microwave on high for 2-3 minutes (depending on the wattage). If the popping starts to slow down take it out sooner. Carefully unfold the top and drizzle with olive oil and season to taste. Close the bag and shake the seasonings and oil together.

Stove top classic

  • You’ll need a 3 qt. pan with lid.
  • 2- 3 tbsps. Canola oil or coconut oil (enough to cover bottom of pan)
  • 1/3 cup kernels.

Heat the oil on medium then add the kernels and place the lid on. Shake the pan often so it doesn’t burn. Usually, this takes a few minutes. When the popping starts to slow down take off the burner. Add your own seasonings.

Kettle corn

Use the basic recipe above and add: 1/4 cup of sugar, raw sugar, a packet or two of Stevia or Truvia to the popped corn and add 1 – 2 tsp. salt, according to your taste. Put the lid back on and shake the salt and sugar into the popcorn.

Spice it up

The options are only limited to your adventurous taste buds! Use real butter if you want to indulge a bit. You may not miss it with the right combination of spices. Some of my favorite combos:

Italian: Drizzle olive oil on popcorn then add 1 tsp. oregano, 1 tsp. garlic powder, sun-dried tomatoes and 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese.

Cinnamon: 2 tbsp sugar, 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp salt.

Cheesy: 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper, 1/4 salt.

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Lisa Marie Conklin is a certified personal trainer. 

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