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Earlier this week I wrote about how easy it is to make your own microwave popcorn. The basic recipe is simple: for each serving place 2 tablespoons of raw popcorn in a brown paper lunch bag. Fold the top of the bag over twice and then fold the corners diagonally. Place the bag in a microwave oven and cook on high for about 90 seconds. It will take a bit of experimentation with your microwave, depending on how powerful it is, but this is simple, cheap, and a great snack.
In my previous column I offered some suggestions for variations on that basic recipe, and here are some that are just as quick. For each serving combine about a teaspoon of fat like butter or great quality olive oil with a spice like chili powder or cumin. Add about 1/16th teaspoon of salt and some fresh ground black pepper to taste. The flavor variations are endless - Asian, Indian, Mexican, Spanish - just a tweak of the type of oil with the spice and you have an incredible variety.
Most of us are either salty/savory snackers or sweet snackers. It's about half and half (although about 10% of us like both and are salty/savory/sweet snackers). It's really important for you to know this about yourself, because it can make it easier to plan ahead and choose the snack that's right for your taste buds. With this popcorn recipe you have just as many options for the sweet as you do for the salty/savory.
The sweet popcorn recipe is similar. Instead of adding the oil and spices after the popcorn is popped, it works better to add the sweetness and flavor before popping.
Place the 2 tablespoons of popcorn in a small dish. Add 2 teaspoons of sweetness, like maple syrup. Mix that together with the popcorn until it is well blended, then put the mixture in the brown paper bag and set the microwave to 1:30.
Simple, sweet, and delicious.
One caution is that the sugar can burn if it's overcooked, so you may need to make a few batches to get the timing right. White sugar will not work as well, so it's best to use a liquid sugar like honey or maple syrup.
You can add a lot of flavor beyond just the sweetness. Try maple syrup and about 1/8 teaspoon of ground cinnamon or nutmeg. Use honey and a pinch of cloves with cinnamon for that warm Autumn flavor. Honey with a bit of dried orange peel or some vanilla extract is a great choice. As with the salty/savory versions, the varieties are endless.
The great thing is that this is a perfect snack for those salty/savory/sweet snackers. Adding about 1/16 to 1/8 teaspoon of salt to the sweet flavoring makes the flavors pop, even if that is as simple as maple syrup and salt.
Stock up on the popcorn and a pack of brown paper bags. You'll always have a great snack on hand that's low in calories, great quality, delicious and tailor-made to your tastes.
Timothy S. Harlan, M.D.