Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Healthier Microwave Popcorn

My mom was craving a snack and specifically mentioned microwave popcorn, but the stuff available hardly fit her low-sodium needs.  So I did a little research online and decided to try to make a healthier version of microwave popcorn.  The results were impressively healthy, easy, and cheap.  And tasty enough to satisfy my mom's popcorn craving.  Interested?

You'll need some popcorn kernels and brown lunch bags.  For the light butter-ish flavor my mom was craving, I also got some buttery topping/spray.

For a decent 4 cup snacking portion, put 2 tablespoons of popcorn kernels in the brown lunch bag. You could definitely put 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) in a lunch bag for a larger portion. Some versions online also added 1 tsp of olive oil and some salt to the 1/4 cup of kernels in the bag as well to add flavor, but I stuck with the no-oil version to keep it healthier for my mom:

Fold the top over twice and stand up in the microwave.  In my mom's new 1100 watt microwave, I set it to 2 minutes on HIGH.  The timing varies--it could be done in 80 seconds or a minute and 45 seconds--you'll want to stop it when the popping slows down to about 2 seconds between single pops. Definitely hit stop when you start to smell burned popcorn.

It kind of didn't look like much in the bag:

But when I poured it out, I only had a few unpopped kernels.  I was pleased at how crisp the popcorn was--as crunchy as regular microwave popcorn and I'd say it's crisper than air-popped corn.  Here you could top it with real melted butter and salt, but again, to keep it lighter for my mom, I sprayed the popcorn with some buttery topping/spray and tossed it to kind of spread it evenly. By then, my mom was ready to grab the bowl:

Nutrition-wise (from what I gathered from the label), this 4 cup serving of popcorn was 60 calories, 13 grams of carbs, 0 sugar, less than 1 gram of fat, almost 3 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein, 0 cholesterol, and about 20-35 grams of sodium (5 for the popcorn, 15 for 5 "sprays" of buttery topping--though I think I did about 10 squirts).

And bonus! This was much, much cheaper than buying packaged microwave popcorn. That 2 pound sack of popcorn kernels pictured was $2 and will yield over 50 four-cup servings, at about 4 cents each. And that 100 pack of lunch bags was also $2, so at most it's 2 cents at a time (though, since I didn't use any oil, I could see reusing a bag if I was going to pop more than one serving).

So a easy and healthy snack at less than 10 cents a serving. Another keeper!

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