Author photo

By Terri Hahn

Already missing the holidays? Celebrate National Popcorn Day


January 12, 2023

Courtesy photo | National Popcorn Board

Sweet Garam Kettlecorn

I know I've mentioned this in previous columns, but popcorn is one of my favorite snack foods. I bet it's one of yours as well.

And our love of popcorn is just one of the reasons there is a lot to celebrate in the New Year including National Popcorn Day (Jan. 19) and the Chinese New Year (Jan, 22).

It's hard to believe a snack food that tastes so good can actually be good for you, but it's true. Popcorn is a whole grain that is 100% unprocessed with no additional additives, hidden ingredients or GMOs.

And there's more good news from the Popcorn Board:

- Air-popped popcorn has only 30 calories per cup; oil-popped popcorn has only 35 calories per cup.

- When lightly buttered, popcorn is about 80 calories per cup.

- Popcorn is a whole grain and provides energy-producing complex carbohydrates.

- Popcorn contributes fiber to the diet. Dietary fiber from whole grains or other foods may help reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes.

- Popcorn is naturally low in fat and calories.

- Popcorn has no artificial additives or preservatives, and is sugar-free.

- Popcorn is ideal for between meal snacking since it satisfies and doesn't spoil the appetite.

- Three cups of popcorn equal one serving from the grain group.

- Whole grains are important sources of nutrients such as zinc, magnesium, B vitamins, and fiber.

And if that's not enough, eating popcorn means you're supporting local agriculture. According to the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, an ample irrigation supply, favorable climate and rich soils have allowed Nebraska to be the top producer of popcorn in the country for several years.

Approximately 34% of the U.S. popcorn supply is produced in the state. The production process for popcorn is very similar to that of field corn and to most people, a corn plant and popcorn plant will look very similar. Yields from one acre of popcorn range from 50 to 100 bushels, depending on production techniques and the use of irrigation.

So without further ado, bring on the popcorn.

The doldrums of mid-winter days call for a little spice like you'll find in Sweet Garam Masala Kettle Corn or Coconut Curry Cashew Popcorn. Fragrant and delicious, popcorn is infused with flavors that evoke dreams of far-off lands.

Indian spices make this a great variation on an old favorite.

Sweet Garam Masala Kettle Corn

1/2 cup popcorn kernels

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon garam masala, Indian spice blend

1 teaspoon salt

In a large heavy-bottomed pot (with a lid), place popcorn, sugar, oil, garam masala and salt.

Cover and place over medium heat until corn begins to pop.

Once corn begins to pop, shake pot constantly over heat.

When popping slows, remove pot from heat and transfer popcorn to a bowl to serve.

Makes 10 cups.

Nutrition information per (1 cup) serving: 100 calories, 5 g total fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 230 mg sodium, 12 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 1 g protein, 0 mg potassium

Nuts, coconut and curry make this popcorn mix an exotic option when you want to mix it up.

Coconut Curry Cashew Popcorn

Preparation time: 45 minutes

10 cups popped popcorn

2 cups cashews

1/2 cup flaked coconut

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup honey

1 tablespoon mild curry powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Place popcorn, cashews and coconut in a large bowl; set aside.

Heat butter, sugar and honey in a medium saucepan. Stir mixture over medium heat until it begins to boil. Boil 2 minutes without stirring. Remove from heat and stir in curry powder and baking soda (mixture will foam).

Pour syrup over popcorn mixture in bowl and stir until evenly coated. Pour mixture onto a large, rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan lined with foil and sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake 30 minutes, stirring twice during baking time. Stir mixture a few times as it cools on baking sheet. Store in an airtight container.

Nutrition information per (1 cup) serving: 360 calories, 25 g total fat (10 g saturated fat), 25 mg cholesterol, 230 mg sodium, 32 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 20 g sugar, 5 g protein, 211 mg potassium

Chinese New Year begins on Jan. 22. The celebration can last up to 16 days, giving you plenty of time to take part in this 3,500 year old holiday. Try inspired recipes like this Chinese New Year Medley with its addictive soy, ginger, sesame and rice cracker mix. Fun and festive riff on Asian flavors make this the perfect party pass.

Chinese New Year Medley

6 cups popped popcorn

2 cups Oriental rice cracker mix

3 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground ginger (may vary to taste)

1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon sesame oil (may vary to taste)

Mix popcorn and rice cracker mix together in a large bowl.

In a small microwave-safe bowl, microwave butter on HIGH until melted, about 20 seconds. Stir in soy sauce, ginger and oil.

Drizzle over popcorn mixture; toss.

Spread mixture on a baking sheet and bake in a 300 degrees Fahrenheit oven for 20 minutes, stirring once.

Allow to cool, serve or store in airtight container.

National Cheese Lover's Day follows National Popcorn Day, so why not celebrate both with recipes like Cheesy Jalapeño Popper Popcorn or Elote Inspired Popcorn.

The heat of jalapeño contrasts mellow parmesan cheese for a snack you'll keep coming back to.

Cheesy Jalapeño Popper Popcorn

4 quarts popped popcorn

2-3 teaspoons jalapeño green pepper sauce (or Tabasco; more to taste)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (substitute cheese with brewer's yeast for a low fat alternative)

1 teaspoon garlic salt

Place popcorn in a large serving bowl. Sprinkle popcorn with jalapeño sauce, Parmesan cheese and garlic salt; toss and serve immediately.

Makes about 4 quarts, 16 servings (1 cup each).

Nutrition information per (1 cup) serving: 45 calories, 2.5 g total fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 140 mg sodium. 5 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 1 g protein, 23 mg potassium

Street corn is the inspiration for this cheesy popcorn mix that brings the heat!

Elote-Inspired Popcorn

10 cups popped popcorn

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

2 tablespoons hot sauce (such as Frank's)

1 tablespoon dried cilantro

1/2 cup Queso Fresco cheese, crumbled (can substitute shredded Monterey jack cheese)

Place popcorn in a large bowl

In a small saucepan, melt butter. Add hot sauce and cilantro; mix well. Pour over popcorn, stirring to coat.

Sprinkle with cheese; mix well.

Makes 10 cups.

Nutrition information per (1 cup) serving: 70 calories, 5 g total fat (2 g saturated fat), 5 mg cholesterol, 170 mg sodium, 5 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 2 g protein, 34 mg potassium

Recipes from: The Popcorn Board;

Terri Hahn of Osceola has worked in food media for more than 30 years and has won numerous state and national awards for her writing. Email her at [email protected]


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