Stovetop Popped Popcorn

I can clearly remember the years before we got our first air-pop popcorn machine. Mom would heat oil in a pot, add the kernels, and then as it popped she would shake the hell out of it over the burner. Sometimes it burned. To this day, I’m not sure why. Over the years, I have managed to perfect my system for stovetop popped popcorn, and I rarely if ever burn it. My best guess is that Mom wasn’t using enough oil. My discovery is that if you use enough oil, then you don’t need butter at all.

Unfortunately, my stovetop popped popcorn recipe isn’t really a recipe. I think maybe that’s ok. Amounts are going to depend on the size of your pot. In my experience, you want a pot that has higher sides, but a smaller bottom area, basically, taller than it is wide. This is because if you have a really wide-bottomed pot, your popcorn will pop out and over the sides before it is fully done popping. So, a pot that is taller than it is wide is optimum, preferably with a glass lid so you can see what is going on, although this isn’t absolutely necessary.

Once you have found your pan, coat the bottom LIBERALLY with vegetable oil. Give it what you think it needs, and then give it an extra glug. Yes, this amounts to an extra hundred calories or so, but it will taste so good that you don’t need butter. Put 3 kernels in the pot with the oil, lid on, and turn heat up to HIGH. Wait until the kernels start to sizzle, and then coat the bottom of the pot with kernels. Put the lid back on. Turn the heat down a few notches; you want the kernels to fry a bit. Give the pot a few shakes. Once it starts to pop, crank the heat back to high, tilt the lid slightly to let out some steam and then shake the pot back and forth over the burner, keeping the kernels moving on the bottom. When the popping slows down, 1 or 2 seconds between pops, turn the heat off, turn popcorn out into a large bowl, and sprinkle liberally with salt, stirring as you go.

In my experience, not all popcorns are created equal. My favorite is Amish Country Popcorn, medium white hulless, but Ovrille Redenbacher’s is a close second, and perhaps more widely available.

I recently used this method, using the Amish Country Popcorn, for a close friend and she came just shy of saying it was the best popcorn she had ever had.

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Garlic Roasted Broccoli

Garlic Roasted Broccoli is proof positive of what I have come to believe about vegetables: roasted is always the best way to go. We’ve never done the lemon wedges nor the parmesan cheese that it calls for and frankly, it doesn’t need it. The broccoli turns out sort of crisp-tender, and the roasting process intensifies its flavor, rather than watering it down like some cooking methods. It makes a tasty, healthy side dish to go with a wide variety of proteins. Even better, it’s simple to prepare and a quick fix from start to finish. Often, we stage the broccoli while our protein is cooking, and then the broccoli roasts in the oven while the protein rests on the counter, nestled under a sheet of aluminum foil.

Baked Brie

Baked Brie is usually either baked covered in puff pastry dough, or baked naked and drizzled with honey. We cover ours in pie dough. It’s simple to do, we can make it ourselves, and if we’ve had the foresight to pick up a small wheel of brie (which we often do) this becomes party of a pantry meal. My 12-year-old insists that when she goes away to college, sometimes she can see this being her dinner (maybe with some fruit, hopefully). We like to do this occasionally as a part of our weekly Snack Plate tradition.

Baked Brie

Ingredients

1 4 – 6oz wheel of brie cheese
1/2 recipe of Wesson Oil Pie Crust

Directions

Make the Wesson Oil Pie Crust as directed. Roll out the resulting ball of dough between two sheets of wax paper. Keep rolling until the dough is as thin as you can get it.

With a sharp knife, cut off most of the rind from the cheese. Brie rind is edible, so you can skip this step, but leaving the rind on will prevent the cheese from getting as gooey as you might want it.

Remove the top layer of wax paper covering the dough. Place the entire wheel of cheese on one end of the dough. Using the wax paper to support the delicate dough, flip the other end of the dough over on top of the cheese. Gently press down from the top where the dough meets the cheese. Cut off the extra dough with a sharp knife. Using a fork, crimp the edges of the dough together to create a seal.

Bake in an oven-safe ramekin or on an oven-safe plate at 400 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes. Serve with crackers and fruit either as an appetizer, or as a part of Snack Plate.

Strawberry Lemonade

Strawberry Lemonade makes a pitcher-full so it’s fun to do for parties, barbecues and picnics. Depending on the time of year, I have used both fresh strawberries and frozen with excellent results. If I’m making this for kids, I blend it until it’s completely smooth. Children are notorious for being picky about suspicious chunks in their drinks. Adults usually enjoy a bit of texture. The mint is just a garnish so I wouldn’t use that unless I already had some.

Steamed Edamame

Steamed Edamame isn’t something we have used a recipe for in several years, but I can see how if it isn’t already part of your repertoire, starting with some specific directions, with pictures, could be helpful. Not everyone knows what it is, what it looks like, or what to do with it. If you are one of those people, I definitely recommend that you give it a try. Edamame is one of few vegetables that isn’t mushy out of the freezer, and served with a nice flaked sea salt, it’s downright addictive. We always have some on hand for quick sides for grilled meats, such as Seoul-ful Chicken.

Banana Walnut Oatmeal

Banana Walnut Oatmeal is my go-to “home alone for breakfast on a weekend” recipe. My husband tolerates oatmeal if it appears suddenly, but he doesn’t seek it out; he’d rather have muffins. The kids won’t touch it. I have always liked it, even plain, but this simple recipe takes it up another notch from just warm and comforting to downright tasty. The addition of the maple syrup and the banana give it a balanced sweetness without adding any extra processed sugar. I make this recipe pretty much as written, although I don’t measure the nuts; I just use a small-ish handful, give them a chop and mix them in to the whole batch. If, like me, you are cooking this for just yourself, the second serving that this makes will reheat well the next day.

Magic Shell

Magic Shell came as a revelation. It is an ice cream sauce from the depths of my childhood, only this is a bona fide recipe. Other than the ice cream you put it on, it has exactly two ingredients, both of which are things that already exist in my pantry as a matter of course. Coconut oil is also in another of my favorite recipes, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies . And who doesn’t have chocolate? The recipe says to use the microwave, which I’m sure works fine, but we always use the stovetop. I hate repeatedly opening and closing the microwave door.