Rain pounds against our skylight. We can hardly hear the movie above the noise, as Harry Potter and his friend Ron swap their Bertie Bott Every Flavor Beans with their friends. Toast, sardine, grass, and dirty-sock flavors are all up for grabs.
“Can we go to the candy store? ” Isla asks, watching Harry suck on a toffee bean.
“Pleeeease?’ adds Will for good measure.
“Let’s pop some corn, instead, and test out a whole bunch of flavors of our own,” I say. It was awfully wet and windy, outside. “We can try different kinds of corn, all kinds of oil and lots of spices – it’ll be so much fun!”
Isla gives me a thumbs up. Will says: “Do you have any of that homemade Nutella left we could try?”
Nodding yes, I headed for the kitchen with the kids close behind.
Here’s what we dig out of the crannies of my cupboards:
- some yellow corn kernels and some white corn kernels
- brown paper lunch bags
- olive oil, walnut nut oil, and black truffle oil (OK, I admit it - I am a bit of a food junky)
- sea salt, black pepper, chili powder, curry powder, garlic powder, cinnamon, maple syrup, homemade Nutella, Tabasco sauce, Bangkok sauce, and Parmesan cheese
- a bunch of little white dessert bowls
- two mixing spoons
- a set of measuring spoons and my favorite measuring cups
Here’s what to do:
- Turn on The Popcorn Song, to keep us in a popping mood. I think you’ll recognize it once you hear it… listen up, it’s GREAT!
- Measure 1/4 cup of white kernels into one bag and 1/4 cup yellow kernels into the other bag. Fold the top of the bags closed, twice. Tear the fold in two places toward the center, about a half-inch apart, and fold down the paper between the tears to fasten the fold tightly. Don’t use tape, as it burns.
- Put the bags one at a time into the microwave and set the oven on high for 2-3 minutes. WATCH CLOSELY. If the paper smokes turn the oven OFF. Also, listen to the pops. When the racket stops, turn the oven OFF.
- Divide the popcorn into the dishes: three with white popped corn, three with yellow popped corn.
- Taste the two kinds of corn without any flavoring at all. What’s your favorite?
- Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of oil on each dish of popped corn. Try a different kind on each dish of white and yellow corn.
- 1 tablespoon Nutella
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon chili powder, a sprinkle of salt, and a few dashes of Tabasco
- a few shakes of salt from the salt grinder and some freshly ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon Bangkok sauce
The idea is to see if we can find some great snacks that get away from melted butter and sugar and use instead healthier fats and spices. But you can go ahead and try anything you like. Next time, I’ll try adding a little yeast. I’ve heard it’s a great flavor boost and adds protein and vitamins too.
The kids taste the popped corn from the various bowls and deliver their verdicts.
- Third prize goes to: Parmesan cheese and garlic powder, with truffle oil, on white corn
- Second prize: Nutella, with olive oil on yellow corn. The oil helps keep the corn crisper for longer, as the Nutella adds unwanted moisture along with its goodness.
- Fanfare please… First prize goes to: Maple syrup and cinnamon with walnut oil on yellow corn!!!
The kids liked the yellow corn best – it’s what they’re used to. But I really liked the white corn. It was tenderer and had a more intense flavor. Both corn kernels were the same price, and about a seventh less than packaged microwave popcorn. Why pay more for high-tech wrapping that pollutes the planet?
Three cups of air-popped corn without the added oil or flavorings is 93 calories. It contains lots of fiber, some protein and some iron. We use a little of the healthier unsaturated fats so that the flavorings stick to the kernels better. The type of oil changes the flavor. I loved the truffle oil with just a little salt and pepper. I didn’t miss the butter at all – especially with the Parmesan corn, my personal favorite.
Once you find a favorite, you can up the quantities and make a big batch for rainy movie afternoons.
Take it easy with any sauce that is more watery than it is oily. It makes the corn soggy – not cool.
Will and Isla won’t be trying brussels sprouts or dirt-flavored popcorn, no matter how much Harry and Ron rave about those kinds of beans. But we’ll definitely be getting out the corn kernels and spice jars the next time we hunker down for a wet afternoon with our favorite movies.
More popcorn ideas Thanks to SquawkFox for the inspiration for this food experiment . Check out the comments there, too, for more cool ideas.
Popcorn nutrition Here, you can also compare the nutrition of popcorn with other snacks – popcorn wins nearly every race!