Sunday, March 27, 2011

Snacking while writing and the best popcorn EVAR

No update in quite a while. Why bother with the "I'm busy" excuses... we're all busy, and some find the time. It's pure laziness and procrastination mixed in with some anxiety... I'm gonna have to up my game, but tonight, I'm here with a special treat!

Do you snack while you write? Maybe you're more a liquid kind of person? Do you drink stuff that both tastes good whilst making a fashion statement at the same time, like overpriced 5.00$ cups of Starbucks coffee or vitamin/mineral water that comes in those artsy, classy looking bottles? It's alright, we all do it.

I like to snack, but a few months ago, I found myself needing to embrace healthier eating habits. So last November, I tried Jenny Craig, and I am still on it. Coincidentally, my idol Carrie Fisher became the spokesperson two months later. Clearly, it was meant to be! Though this is besides the point, the experience led me to look a little more seriously into what exactly I was eating. Since I spend considerable amounts of time writing each week, I had to look into it.

My fuel? Cappuccinos, and popcorn. I love popcorn. I'd eat it every day if I could. It's simply delicious. I used to think popcorn was all but air with little calories therein. Sadly, I recently discovered I was terribly wrong. So I'm here today to tell you how to make the BEST tasting popcorn ever while keeping it healthy. That's right... years of experimenting will now benefit you as well.

Did you know that a bag of popcorn at the move theater (say a medium one) contains as much as 1000 calories and three BigMacs worth of fat? This is due to the massive amounts of coconut oil theaters use. Coconut oil has the highest amount of trans and saturated fats of all oils to boot, but it is THE secret to a great taste. A few years ago, theaters tried replacing the coconut oil with something more healthy (like canola oil), but too many patrons complained the taste was too bland. Hence, coconut oil returned, and is here to stay. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it's all about quantities and I'll come back to this later

Even a bag of microwave popcorn contains as much as 500 calories (the butter flavored kind), not to mention the chemicals they use to coat the inside of the bag. One of the harmful substance released during the heating is called diacetyl, a chemical recently labeled as a carcinogen by the FDA.So what's a guy to do for his popcorn fix?

You make it yourself! Forget microwave, and forget air poppers. While the latter is the healthier choice, it also makes the popped corn taste like cardboard and is usually too dry. While I made the popcorn on the stove with a stove-top popper, it required constant supervision and quite a bit of skill to get it right. Fear not writer-friends, for technology has created the perfect apparatus. 

Enter the West Bend Kettle Krazy Popcorn Popper! The rotatory arm constantly stirs the kernels so nothing burns, it spreads the oil evenly and unlike the microwave bags, you are guaranteed 99%+ kernel poppage!  It requires MUCH smaller quantities of oil to cook (compared to the stove-top version especially) the kernels, is easy to clean, and is free of nasty and harmful chemicals.

But it doesn't end here.

The secret to replicate theater popcorn is twofold: you need the aforementioned coconut oil, and butter flavored salt called Flavacol. Flavacol was thoroughly tested in 1996 for carcinogens and was declared safe. It has 0 calories, but quite a bit of sodium (it is salt, remember?) so if you suffer from hypertension, you'll need to ease on the seasoning.

PopcornSupply sells the oil here, and the Flavacol here as well. Popcorn Popper also sells them. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, so it'll arrive in a jar in its orange, solid form. Calorie wise, oils are equal. You'll find about 120 calories per tablespoon of oil, whether it be coconut, vegetable, sunflower, sesame, olive or canola oil. The difference lies in the fat content. The Kettle Krazy Popcorn popper requires 1 TBSP of oil for about 1/3 cup of kernels (which equals to about eight cups of popped corn... quite a bit for one person). Add the Flavacol with the oil, turn the machine on, and wait the four minutes it takes to pop those babies. A cup of popped corn has about 31 calories, so a full batch of popcorn made with the Kettle popper will add 368 calories to your daily intake -- 130 less than microwave popcorn for the same quantity (and without the chemicals), 500 less than at the theater, but with the same addictive, awesome taste. Add into the mix some gourmet kernels from Popcorn Lovers (try the Savannah Gold! Yummy!) and you're in for an amazing treat.

Finally, I recommend you do not buy the premixed bags that come with the Flavacol and coconut oil already added in. The quantity of oil they add in is usually way too high. Most contain 2.8oz of oil, or about five tablespooms, which is 700 calories from the oil only. Do yourself a favor and buy it separately!
Happy popping!