Popcorn. Just typing the word makes my mouth water. I’ve loved popcorn since I was very young. Maybe it’s because my mom always made a big bowl of butter-laden popcorn each week when “The Wonderful World of Disney” came on television (if you’re my age, you know exactly what I’m talking about!) Or, maybe it’s because holiday shows like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” or “Frosty the Snowman” were made extra special because a bowl of aromatic, crunchy popcorn was on my lap. Most likely, it was simply because it tasted wonderful!
When I was a child, my mom always made popcorn the old-fashioned way – in a heavy pan on the stove, and it was always fluffy and delicious. At some point, my family used a hot air popper. As technology progressed and microwave popcorn came on the scene, my family jumped on the bandwagon of popcorn convenience.
We loved the flavor varieties (cheese was my favorite!) but the popcorn never popped fluffy, there were tons of unpopped kernels, and the popcorn often burned. Despite this, convenience emerged triumphant, and I continued to make microwave popcorn a snack staple well into adulthood until I learned that microwave popcorn is definitely not a good thing.
The Bad News
It’s typical of our country to turn what is usually a healthy, simple snack item into an artificial, chemical-laden product, and popcorn is no exception. As happens so often, health is traded for convenience. Not only is the popcorn in most microwave popcorn products unhealthy, but the bag it’s popped in may be dangerous. Let’s start with the popcorn itself. Unless you are buying organic microwave popcorn (there are some companies who make this, but the bag may still contain dangerous compounds) it has probably been treated with pesticides, fertilizers, and/or fungicides.
The buttery smell and taste you enjoy is usually due to loads of salt and fake, artery-clogging flavorings. Some flavorings contain diacetyl, an extremely toxic ingredient that has caused “popcorn lung” in some factory workers who inhaled the ingredient (many popcorn manufacturers have stopped using diacetyl, but it is unclear how many). Finally, microwave popcorn bags are lined with flourotelomers, a compound that helps keep oils in place in the bag. When flourotelomers are heated, they produce PFOAs, which are known toxic carcinogens.
The Good News
So, with all this negative news about popcorn, what’s a popcorn lover to do? The answer is simple – purchase a bag of organic popcorn and pop it the old-fashioned way! Better yet, eliminate the extra oil and fat by using a hot air popper. Not only will you avoid ingesting questionable chemical ingredients, but you’ll save money. If you’re like me and you like a little flavoring on your popcorn, you can easily make your own popcorn seasonings. Here are some of my favorite popcorn seasoning blends:
Tips & Tricks
- Seasoning blends are for approximately six cups of popcorn – adjust the amounts of popcorn and seasonings to taste.
- For all blends, spritz hot popcorn with olive oil spray or add melted butter (I’ll leave it up to you to decide how much butter to add ) before adding seasonings to help them stick to the popcorn. Once seasonings have been added, mix gently.
- For cheese blends, use freshly grated Parmesan cheese for the strongest flavor.
Cheese Popcorn: Liberally sprinkle freshly grated Parmesan cheese (to taste) on top of popcorn. For Spicy-Cheese popcorn, add a few dashes of hot sauce.
Pizza Popcorn Blend: Combine 1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning with 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Taco Popcorn Blend: Combine 1/4 teaspoon cumin, and 1 teaspoon chili powder with 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Chili Popcorn Blend: Sprinkle chili powder (to taste) on top of popcorn. For Chili-Cheese popcorn, combine chili powder with 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
French Toast Popcorn: Toss popcorn with melted butter. Add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 cup brown sugar and mix well.
Salt & Vinegar Popcorn: Toss popcorn with malt vinegar and add sea salt to taste.
I hope you enjoy these popcorn seasoning blends. Drop me a comment and let me know your favorite.
- Diatribe: Popcorn’s Butter Flavoring May Trigger Alzheimer’s Disease. (diatribesandovations.com)
- Popcorn Lung: Could a Favorite Snack Be Dangerous? (refreshingnews99.blogspot.com)
- Daily Dose – Microwave popcorn risks (boston.com)