Get poppin’!

October is national Popcorn Poppin’ Month, so grab some kernels,
fire up the popper and enjoy
By Kelly Savio

Can you smell it?

That buttery, savory smell that only popcorn has? That tantalizing aroma that seems to get more seductive with every kernel’s pop?

October is national Popcorn Poppin’ Month, the time to celebrate not only that distinctive smell, but all things popcorn.

Americans eat 17 billion quarts of this fluffy food a year, according to The Popcorn Board, a nonprofit organization funded by U.S. popcorn processors. Break that down and every person in America is eating 54 quarts of popcorn annually.

In a country where obesity has become an epidemic, popcorn is one of the healthier snacks on the market. Air-popped corn has about 31 calories per cup and oil-popped has about 55 per cup.

Does that mean we should skip dinner on movie night and opt for the large bucket of popcorn from the concession stand instead? No. One large bucket of movie popcorn can have 1,650 calories, according to www.dietbites.com, which which is twice as much as one Big Mac, depending on what kind of oil the corn has been popped in and how much butter topping consumers put on it.

“It’s wow-able,” said Wendy Boersema Rappel, The Popcorn Board’s spokeswoman. “Once you put on the butter, it’s a lot of fat.”

Ed Jackson, general manager of Platinum Theatres, estimates Gilroy movie patrons consume about 350 pounds of popcorn kernels a week. That’s a lot of calories.

“Everything in moderation,” Boersema Rappel said. “But, popcorn is fun, and there are so many things you can do with it.”

Not all corn will pop. Popcorn is a special kind of corn that has a thicker hull. According to The Popcorn Board, the thicker hull allows the heated moisture in the kernel to build pressure until it bursts open.

The starch inside the kernel becomes a gelatinous substance when it’s heated, and, when popped, that starch pours out and cools, giving popcorn it’s familiar shape.

Halloween Popcorn Balls

Makes about 16 balls.

10 cups popped popcorn

1 (1-pound) bag miniature marshmallows

1/4 cup butter or margarine

1 cup diced dried fruit (papaya, mango or peaches)

1 cup butterscotch chips

Orange food coloring

Step 1: Place popcorn, fruit and butterscotch chips in large bowl; set aside.

Step 2: Heat marshmallows and butter in a large saucepan over low heat until melted and smooth. Stir in several drops of food coloring. Pour over popcorn, fruit and candy, tossing to cool evenly. Cool 5 minutes.

Step 3: Grease hands and form into 3-inch balls.

Cheesy Popcorn Corn Bread

Makes nine squares

4 cups popped popcorn

1 cup yellow corn meal

2 Tbs. sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 cup 2-percent milk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 cup shredded jack or pepper jack cheese

1 (4 ounce) can mild, diced green chilies, drained (optional)

Step 1: Preheat oven to 400F. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray; set aside.

Step 2: Process the popcorn in a blender or food processor until finely ground. Pour ground popcorn into a large bowl and stir in corn meal, sugar, baking powder and salt until blended.

Step 3: Beat egg, milk and vegetable oil together in a small bowl and stir into popcorn mixture just until blended. Scatter cheese and chilies over batter and stir just until evenly distributed. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned at edges and tester comes out clean. Cut into squares to serve.

Popcorn Granola Snack Bars

Makes about 16 bars

1/2 cup honey

2/3 cup peanut butter

1 cup granola cereal

1 cup roasted and salted peanuts

3 cups popped popcorn

Step 1: Line an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan with foil. Spray foil lightly with cooking spray; set aside.

Step 2: Heat honey in a large saucepan until boiling. Stir in peanut butter until well blended. Remove pan from heat and stir in granola, peanuts and popcorn until coated.

Step 3: Press mixture evenly into prepared pan. Refrigerate to cool; cut into bars to serve.

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