Friday, October 16, 2015

When Cheap is Good

I'm all for homemade, inexpensive cooking.  Sure, I'll splurge on fine oils and seasonings and the occasional thick ribeye, nice lamb chop or bottle of Skimmerhorn Devil's Chair wine. But I make up for it by buying in bulk and cooking most things from scratch.  It's one of the reasons I'm not a fan of microwave popcorn.  First,  it's about $5  to $6 a POUND where you can buy popcorn in bulk for about 50 CENTS a pound. 

Secondly, microwave popcorn has a terrible fake, chemical taste to me. The smell alone makes me want to open every window in the place.  Some of the popular butter flavors are flavored with fish.  Yes. . fish.  Yummy.

You can  buy packaged plain popcorn and cook it on a stove but there's an easier way. Here at HOTR we are big on alternative methods of cooking such as cooking dinner with an acetylene torch (similar to grilling pork chops on the sun but with a higher risk of setting yourself on fire). But that's a post for another day, preferably when my Dad is taking a nap and  not reading the blog.

But cooking popcorn without a stove or a nasty bag of fish infused butter like flavor popcorn is easy.

Brown bag it.

Use the plain brown lunch bags (which can be composted if you wish when you are done).  Most are microwave safe and may say so on the label.  Add 3-4 Tablespoons of unpopped corn per bag.  Fold the end over twice, and place standing up in the microwave.  Nuke two minutes (until there is about 5 seconds between "pops").

That's it!! If you just want salt, add just a dab of olive oil to the unpopped corn before you cook it in the bag and then salt when done. My favorite is the truffle flavored oil from Artesano's but any good quality olive oil will work.

But what about when you want something a little more gourmet??

Recipes make enough topping for approximately five to six cups of popped corn:

Olive Oil Based Toppings:

Toss hot popcorn with two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large bowl.  Add one of the following and toss again (spice amount is 1 tablespoon unless otherwise indicated).

Combine 1 ounce of Parmigiano-Reggiano with 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, 1 garlic clove, and 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes in a food processor until finely ground. Toss with popcorn.

3-4  Tablespoons chili seasoning mix. (I love Penzey's Chili 9000)

Lemon Zest and Cracked Pepper (combined)

Herbes de Provence - very light, a perfect afternoon snack or topping on a salad

Ranch flavor - combine 2 tablespoons powdered buttermilk with 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 2 teaspoon dried dill, and 2  teaspoons kosher salt.

Chinese Five Spice Powder

Old Bay Seasoning

Butter Based Toppings

Melt two tablespoons of butter and add one of the following:

1/2 to 1 teaspoon chopped roasted garlic, a dash of fresh rosemary, top with Parmesan

1 to 2 Tablespoons Scoville Brothers Singing Smoke Hot Sauce

1 Tablespoon Cinnamon Sugar

Truffle Salt (to taste) and Fresh Parmesan

1 Tablespoon Srirachi and 1 teaspoon lime zest

Like "Kettle Korn"?  Add a tablespoon of superfine sugar.

Odd but Good:

Toss plain popcorn with salt, drizzle with a little bit of maple syrup and sprinkle with a little ancho chili powder (smoky and sweet)

And of course you have to have BACON:
Home on the Range Maple Bacon Popcorn: .

8 slices bacon cooked, drained and dry and finely chopped.
1 cup real maple syrup
1 cup table sugar
1/8 tsp Mexican vanilla
tiny pinch of cayenne
1 cup salted butter

1 cup  unpopped popcorn

Heat the butter, syrup and sugar together in a sauce pan.  Bring to a very gentle simmer (but don't let boil) until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved, stirring frequently, adding cayenne the last couple minutes of cooking. While this is heating cook the popcorn.

Wipe a clean large bowl with a tiny bit of oil or spray with non stick spray and fill with cooked popcorn.  Add a couple drops of Mexican vanilla (about 1/8 tsp)  to syrup mixture, remove from heat and pour over popcorn in the bowl,  tossing to coat.  Mix in the bacon.  Bake at 200 degrees F on 2 large parchment paper lined cookie sheets for one hour, stirring every 10 minutes or so.  Add salt if needed (I don't, but I don't use much salt in anything).  Perfect with a cold beer and good movie.  .

So go on, pick your favorite and make a batch!


  1. Butyric acid is one of the components in both natural and artificial butter flavor. By itself (and in slightly higher concentrations) it smells like vomit. Obviously, those vomit overtones are likely to become apparent if the compounder of the artificial flavor is heavy handed or of the other flavor components diminish over time.

    One of my favorite spice blends is Punch-ya-Daddy Cajun seasoning

  2. The ready to pop stuff is dangerous, not good for the lungs. I don't eat popcorn, but if I did, you have provided some interesting choices. ~~Practical Parsimony

  3. Glad to learn you make your own popcorn, too. Soooo good!


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