Autumn is when we move away from summer treats and toward comfort foods, which explains why October has been named National Popcorn Poppin’ Month by the Popcorn Board.
We like popcorn because it is tasty, crunchy, high in fiber and low in fat, has hardly any calories and provides energy-producing complex carbohydrates. It also reminds us of good times like movies we enjoyed and fairs and games we have attended. It can be warming on a cool autumn or winter night, especially when paired with hot chocolate.
Americans love popcorn so much that we eat 14 billion quarts each year, either cooked on the stovetop, in the microwave or purchased ready to eat.
Popcorn is ideal for between-meal snacking since it is satisfying but won’t spoil our appetites.
Popcorn is a type of flint corn, but has its own size, shape, starch level and moisture content. Each kernel of popcorn contains a small drop of water stored inside a circle of soft starch. As the kernel heats up, the water begins to expand. At around 212°F the water turns into steam and changes the starch inside each kernel into a superheated gelatinous substance. The kernel continues to heat to about 347°F, and as the pressure builds, the kernel bursts open the hull and it becomes the crunchy popcorn we love.
Popcorn is as versatile as you need it to be. The popcorn.org website lists a large variety of seasonings that can be used to add sweet and salty flavor combinations. Recipes also include several types of popcorn balls, popcorn soup topper, apple popcorn brittle, chocolate popcorn biscotti and coconut-ginger popcorn truffles. Also from the website is this recipe for bread made using popcorn:
4 cups popped popcorn
1 cup yellow corn meal
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray an 8-inch-square baking pan with cooking spray; set aside.
2. Process the popcorn in a blender or food processor until finely ground.
3. Pour ground popcorn into a large bowl and stir in corn meal, sugar, baking powder and salt until blended.
4. Beat egg, milk and vegetable oil together in a small bowl and stir into popcorn mixture just until blended.
5. Scatter cheese and chilies, if desired, over batter and stir just until evenly distributed.
6. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned at edges and tester comes out clean.
7. Cut into squares to serve.
Nutrition: 220 calories, 12 g total fat, 4 g saturated fat, 35 mg cholesterol, 330 mg sodium, 20 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 6 g protein, 88 mg potassium.