Saturday, March 06, 2010


We are still working really hard to keep our food budget down around here because, well, we have too. I can't go into debt to feed my family. One thing we utilize is popcorn – not that packaged microwave stuff, but the real kind. I have found that I can by a 50 pound bag of popcorn at my local warehouse club for about $16. Let me tell you, 50 pounds is A LOT of popcorn. Our last bag lasted us years. So what all do we do with it? We mostly just pop it up for snacks. The beauty about popcorn is that you can make it into both a sweet or salty snack. We pop ours up in a stovetop popper like this that we got as a wedding gift nearly 22 years ago, but you can just use something as simple as a big pot.

How to pop popcorn in a big pot on the stovetop:

1.Place 3 T. oil and 3 kernels of popcorn in pot, cover and place on medium-high heat.
2.When those kernels pop, add 1/3 cup of popcorn to the pot and make sure they are in an even layer on the bottom.
3.Remove the pot from the heat for 30 seconds. (Doing this brings all the kernels up to the oil temperature so they will pop at the same time.)
4.Place back on the heat covered.
5.As soon as you hear popping, shake the pot. Keep the lid ajar so that your popcorn stays crispy.
6.Once the popping has slowed to a couple of seconds between pops, remove from heat. And dump into a bowl.
7.Season as desired. If using butter, it can be melted quickly in the hot pot.

Seasoning ideas:
Salt (Obvious, I know!) Any salt will work, but popcorn salt is nice because it is so fine, it sticks well to the popcorn.
Cayenne pepper for a little kick.
Salt, Pepper and olive oil. This is a yummy combo that I learned from a friend. Drizzle on the olive oil, add salt and fresh cracked pepper. Toss the popcorn in the bowl and repeat. Yummy!
Parmesan cheese
Spanish smoked paprika
Curry powder
Nutritional yeast
Garlic salt
Pizza seasoning
Seasoned salt
Cinnamon or cinnamon-sugar

I have also heard that you can add salt right to the oil as you are popping and it will be distributed all through the corn. I will be trying that.

Do you like things sweet? There are bunches of caramel corn recipes to choose from. I don't have a tried and true favorite that I can share with you, but here are some you can check out.

My favorite way to do sweet popcorn is kettle corn. I think it is way easier than caramel corn and just lightly sweet which I like. With caramel corn there are several steps. You pop the corn, make the caramel sauce, pour it over the popcorn and bake it. Kettle corn just takes one pot and just one step because you just mix sugar right into the pot with the oil and corn.

Simple Kettle Corn

¼ cup oil
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup popcorn

Place all ingredients into the pot and place over medium-high heat. Make sure you shake this constantly so it doesn't burn. Remove from heat when there are a couple of seconds between pops. Immediately dump into bowl. Done. Easy-peasy!

A really yummy variation on this is Cinnamon Kettle Corn. To make this, substitute red hots for the sugar. It makes reddish pink cinnamon flavored popcorn. I have often thought that you could probably substitute any crushed hard candy, but haven't tried that yet. I'm thinking butterscotch candies or maybe even leftover candy canes. Sounds yummy, huh?

Another great idea for popcorn is to use it in place of breakfast cereal. I have not tried this on my family yet. Breakfast cereal is something that I have cut from our grocery list unless I get a really sweet deal. Since they have been living with homemade granola or whatever I can pick up at the local food auction, this might seem like a fun treat. I think I will do some kettle corn style, but with ½ the sugar for a slightly sweetened cereal.

I'm sure if you think about it, you can come up with lots of great popcorn ideas. Here's a site with lots of unique recipes.

So, when searching for cheap eats, don't forget the popcorn. At just over 30 cents per pound, it is a great deal – especially if you realize that just 1 tablespoon of unpopped corn yields 2 CUPS popped. Try a new recipe and be sure to share your results and ideas in the comments.

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