I use my microwave oven for two things, as a back-up timer and to disinfect my sponges. Killing anything alive is what a microwave does best, no? When people find out I don't put food in the microwave, they always ask, "how do you reheat leftovers and how in the world do you make popcorn?" I have to laugh because I know that anyone who is my age grew up without this appliance and surely remembers a time when our parents perhaps reheated last night's stew in a pot??? Yes, of course, it takes 5 minutes longer and then you actually have to wash the pot, but I am really not a fan of the microwave. Even though I can find studies making a case against the microwave, I can also find literature which outlines that microwaves are not bad for you. Welcome to the world of nutrition -- where you can always find someone who will tell you what you want to hear! So be it, but I still don't trust them and I think it changes the texture of many different foods and not for the better. And if memory serves me, I think it makes the food you are cooking less tasty. That's reason enough for me to not use one.
What I can argue with conviction is that most microwave popcorns aren't worth feeding to a starving animal, let alone my kids. Have you read the ingredient list of many of the microwave popcorns in your supermarket? Here are just two examples:
Pop Corn, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil (Adds A Dietary Insignificant Amount of Trans Fat Per Serving), Salt, Natural Flavors, Annatto For Coloring, Soy LecithinPopcorn, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil and Cottonseed Oil, Salt, Modified Cornstarch, Maltodextrin, Monosodium Glutamate, Natural Flavor & Artificial Flavor, Color (Yellow 5 Lake & Yellow 6 Lake), Nonfat Milk, Freshness Preserved by Propyl Gallate.
Nice. And that's just the ingredients inside the package. We're not even discussing the chemicals lining the bag itself. The good news is that you can still make popcorn the old fashioned way, the way my mom taught me -- on the stove. And you know what? It's sooooo much better than the microwaved junk if you follow a few key tips.
First, use good quality popcorn, preferably non-GMO, such as Eden Oragnic. Next, use coconut oil to pop the corn. It's a more stable oil to heat than vegetable oils and it makes the popcorn taste like the kind you get at the movie theater. Lastly, keep the lid on the pot open a half inch or so to let some of the steam escape so that your kernels stay nice and crisp. Perfect for an after-school snack, sleepover party, to eat while watching your child or grandchild's Little League game and of course, to sneak into your local movie theater. Shhhhhhh!
melted butter to drizzle on top, if that's your thing
Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed 3-quart pot over medium heat. (I used one that was 8 inches in diameter and 5 inches deep.) Add 3 kernels of popcorn to the pot and cover with a lid. This is how my mom did it. Don't ask me why it was 3 kernels and not 2 or 4. When the kernels pop (this usually takes about 2½ - 3 minutes), add the ½ cup of popcorn in an even layer and cover with the lid, but not all the way. Leave it open about ½ inch to allow steam to escape but not wide enough to let the popcorn pop right out.
Shake the pot every now and then. If you can't shake it with the lid ajar, cover the pot, shake and open the lid again when you return the pot to the heat.
Once the popping reduces to several seconds in between each pop, take the pot off the heat and remove the lid. Sprinkle with sea salt and transfer to a serving bowl. Taste for salt and add another sprinkle if necessary. If you like melted butter on top, now's the time to drizzle it.
I bought the paper popcorn containers at my local Smart & Final. Very fun for a party!
If you don't have a lid for your pot, you can cover the pot with aluminum foil and poke a bunch of holes in it with a toothpick to allow the steam to escape.
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I come from a large Italian-American family with 28 first cousins (on one side of the family!) where sit-down holiday dinners for 85 people are the norm (how, you might ask – organization! But more on that later …).
Some of my fondest memories are of simple family gatherings, both large and small, with long tables of bowls and platters piled high, the laughter of my cousins echoing and the comfort of tradition warming my soul.