Pop!

Stovetop popcorn and peanut butter caramel
Stovetop popcorn and peanut butter caramel

Stovetop popcorn is the perfect snack. It’s customizable, portable, low calorie, and a whole grain. Win-win all around.

Making popcorn on the stove instead of in the microwave is one of those things that sounds a little intimidating but really isn’t at all. It’s a healthier alternative than microwave popcorn and doesn’t require an air popper, which makes it perfect for the college cook.

You can leave your popcorn plain or add toppings. One of my best friends is gluten intolerant and uses her popcorn as a naturally GF “cracker” to dip in hummus. If you want to get fancy, Peanut Butter Carmel Corn takes a few minutes extra and is worth every second. I made it as a snack for a study group the other day and had to kick my roommates out of the kitchen so they wouldn’t eat it all first.

One of the fun things about making popcorn is that it forces you to use a sense that isn’t usually associated with food: hearing. As you heat the corn kernels, the water inside them changes from a liquid to a gas. The gas takes up more volume than the water and increases the pressure inside the corn kernel until it becomes too much and it explodes, with an audible pop.

Hair cells inside of our ears pick up sound waves and turn them into signals that our brains can understand. As we get older, we slowly start to lose our hair cells and the range of sounds we can hear shrinks (this how high pitched ring tones designed to be heard by teenagers, but not teachers, work).

So enjoy the full range of sound you can hear now. Listen to music (but not too loud). Chat with a friend. And make some popcorn to share.

Basic Stovetop Popcorn

I’ve given measurements but this is one of those things where I usually just dump it in. Just remember that a little bit of popcorn goes a long way. 

Time: 5-10 minutes

Yield: 8 cups

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp oil (coconut, canola, or safflower work best — olive oil has a lower smoking point and tends to burn but can still be used if you’re careful)
  • 1/3 cup popcorn
  • salt

Instructions

1) Pour oil into a heavy bottomed pot with a lid.

2) Toss three corn kernels into the pot, put the cover on, and heat over medium-high heat until all three pop.

3) Remove the pan from heat, pour the popcorn in, replace the cover and wait 30 seconds (this allows the popcorn to heat up so when you put it back on the stove, it all pops at once and you don’t have a million unpopped kernels at the bottom).

4) Put the pot back over medium-high heat and shake the pot back and forth, holding on to the lid.

5) The popping will gradually slow. When you hear several seconds between pops, your popcorn is done! Take the lid off right away to stop your popcorn from getting soggy and pour it into a bowl.

6) Salt to taste.

Toppings
-olive oil, sea salt, lemon zest
-hot sauce, lime juice/zest
-grated Parmesan
-nutritional yeast
-chocolate chips, slivered almonds
-raid your spice cabinet and go crazy

photo 4

Peanut Butter Caramel Corn

The amount of popcorn is flexible, use more if you want lighter caramel corn and less if you’re really just into the carmel. 

Adapted from Healthy Food for Living 

Time: 45 minutes ( 5 minutes prep, 30 minutes baking, time to cool)

Yield: 8 cups

Ingredients

  • 8 cups plain popped popcorn
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup liquid sweetener (brown rice syrup, maple syrup, honey, agave, or a mix)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt (can use less if using salted peanut butter)

Instructions

1) Preheat oven to 250˚ Fahrenheit.

2) Combine oil, peanut butter, and sweetener in a small pot over medium-low heat. Heat, stirring, until it becomes smooth (about 2 minutes).

3) Remove pot from heat. Mix in vanilla and salt.

4) Mix popcorn with caramel and spread in an even layer over two baking sheets. You can mix the carmel and popcorn in a bowl or be lazy and do it directly on the baking sheets.

5) Bake for 15 minutes.

6) Remove popcorn and stir.

7) Bake for another 10-15 minutes. I start checking mine around 10 minutes and if it looks like its starting to burn, I pull it out earlier.

8) Let cool (although sneaking a few while its still hot is completely acceptable).

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