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COOK OF THE WEEK - OCTOBER POPCORN MONTH

October has been celebrated as National Popcorn Poppin’ month for the last 30 years, but it wasn’t until 1999 that Dan Glickman, who was Secretary of Agriculture at the time, declared it as such. Here are some fun facts about those delicious little kernels:
• Popcorn is one of the lowest calorie snack foods having only 31 calories per cup if air-popped and 55 calories per cup if oil-popped.
• There are six types of maize/corn- pod, sweet, flour, dent, flint and popcorn. Popcorn is the only one that pops.
• Popcorn needs between 13.5-14 percent moisture to pop.
• Of the popcorn grown in the United States most is grown in the Midwest: Indiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky and Missouri.
• There are two basic shapes of popcorn for most popcorn when it’s popped: snowflake and mushroom. Movie theaters and ballparks use the snowflake type because it looks and pops bigger. The mushroom type is used for candy confections due to the fact that it doesn’t crumble.
• Popcorn needs a hull in order to pop, so there is no such thing as “hull-less” popcorn. There are however, varieties that have been bred so that the hull shatters upon popping and therefore it appears to be hull-less.
• Popcorn kernels can fly up to three feet in the air when they pop.
• In February 2009, volunteers in Sac City, IA created the world’s largest popcorn ball. It measured 28.8 feet in circumference, was over eight feet tall, and weighed 5,000 pounds. (www.popcorn.org)
In honor of National Popcorn Poppin’ Month here are some recipes that use popcorn in traditional and some non-traditional ways. All recipes are from popcorn.org.

Cheesy Popcorn Bread
4 cups popped popcorn
1 cup yellow corn meal
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup 2 percent milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup shredded jack or pepper
jack cheese
4 ounce can mild, diced green
chilies, drained (optional)
Preheat oven to 400º F. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray; set aside.
Process the popcorn in a blender or food processor until finely ground.
Pour ground popcorn into a large bowl and stir in corn meal, sugar, baking powder and salt until blended.
Beat egg, milk and vegetable oil together in a small bowl and stir into popcorn mixture just until blended.
Scatter cheese and chilies, if desired, over batter and stir just until evenly distributed.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned at edges and tester comes out clean.
Cut into squares to serve. Makes 9 servings.

Cranberry Almond Popcorn Muffins
5 cups popped popcorn
1-1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dried sweetened
cranberries
1 cup milk
1 egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup sugar mixed with 1
teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 400º F. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray or line with paper liners; set aside.
Blend popcorn in a blender or food processor until finely ground. Pour ground popcorn into a large mixing bowl.
Add flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cranberries and stir until blended; set aside.
Beat milk, egg, oil and almond extract together and pour over dry ingredients; stir just until combined.
Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling each about half full.
Divide almonds among muffin tops and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
Bake 15-18 minutes or until tops are lightly browned; serve warm with butter. Yield 12 muffins.

Mushroom Crusted Tilapia
2 cups popped popcorn
1/2 cup dried shiitake or porcini
mushrooms
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 (1-1/4 pounds) tilapia filets
Lemon wedges, for serving
Place popcorn, mushrooms, onion powder, garlic powder and salt in a blender (or food processor) and blend until powdery and almost smooth; pour into a wide, shallow bowl. Beat egg in a shallow bowl; set aside.
Heat oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.
Dip tilapia into egg and then into popcorn mixture, coating both sides. Cook tilapia about 3 minutes per side or until fish is golden and center is cooked.
Serve with lemon wedges. Yield 4 filets.

Popcorn Crusted Macaroni and Cheese
8 ounces elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1-1/2 cups milk
8 ounce (2 cups) package
shredded sharp cheddar
cheese
5 cups popped popcorn
1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes
Preheat oven to 350º F. Butter an 8x8-inch baking pan with 1 tablespoon butter; set aside.
Cook and drain macaroni according to package directions; set aside.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour, mustard, salt and pepper; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Whisk in milk and cook, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens; about 10 minutes. Stir in cheese until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth. Stir macaroni into sauce; pour macaroni mixture into prepared pan.
Melt remaining tablespoon of butter and toss with popcorn and parsley flakes. Spread popcorn over macaroni and bake 10 minutes. Yield 4 servings

Popcorn Diner Meatloaf
5 cups popped popcorn
1-1/4 pounds extra lean ground
beef or turkey
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup 2 percent milk
1 egg
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup chili sauce or ketchup
Preheat oven to 350º F. Spray an 8x4-inch loaf pan with cooking spray; set aside.
Process popcorn in a blender or food processor until finely ground; pour into a large bowl. Add ground beef, celery, onion, milk, egg, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix until thoroughly blended. Press meat mixture into pan; spread chili sauce over top.
Bake for 1 hour, or until cooked through. Allow to cool 15 minutes before slicing. Yield 6 servings.

Popcorn Pepperoni Pizza Dippers
2 eggs
1/2 cup tomato and basil
reduced fat cooking crème
1 tablespoon grated parmesan
cheese
1/8 teaspoon coarse ground
black pepper
10 cups popped popcorn
1 cup shredded mozzarella
cheese
1/3 cup thinly sliced pepperoni,
coarsely chopped
Your favorite marinara sauce
Preheat oven to 350F. Spray 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray.
Whisk together eggs, cooking crème, Parmesan cheese and black pepper in large bowl. Stir in popcorn, mozzarella cheese and pepperoni. Spread mixture in prepared pan, patting down with spatula or spoon.
Bake about 15 minutes until set and lightly browned. Let sit 5 minutes. Cut into 16 bars. Serve warm with marinara sauce. Yield 16 squares.

Edible Popcorn Party Bowl
10 cups popped popcorn
1-1/3 cups sugar
1 cup water
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 drops food color, optional
Spray the inside of a large, stainless steel bowl with cooking spray and the outside of a 2nd large, stainless steel bowl; set aside.
These 2 bowls will be used to form the popcorn bowl at end of cooking time. (Note: if one bowl is smaller than the other, spray the outside of the smaller bowl.)
Spray a 3rd large bowl with cooking spray and place popped popcorn inside; set aside.
Stir sugar, water, corn syrup, vinegar and salt together in a medium saucepan.
Bring mixture to a boil, cover, and boil for 3 minutes to allow steam to wash down sides of pan. Remove lid and attach candy thermometer to pan. Allow mixture to boil, without stirring, until mixture reaches 290º F. Stir in food color, if desired.
Working quickly, pour syrup over popcorn and toss with a large spoon until popcorn is thoroughly coated. Pour popcorn mixture into first prepared bowl and use a spoon to push mixture evenly up onto sides of bowl.
Firmly press second prepared bowl onto popcorn to form popcorn bowl. Allow popcorn bowl to cool completely between stainless steel bowls.
To serve, tip popcorn bowl out and place on platter. Fill with popcorn to serve. Yield 1 bowl.

Halloween Heaven
8 cups air-popped popcorn
7 ounces marshmallow cream
1/2 cup reduced fat peanut butter
1 cup candy corn
Combine marshmallow cream and peanut butter in a large bowl; mix until smooth.
Stir in popcorn and candy corn and mix until coated evenly. Drop by heaping spoonfuls on wax paper or non-stick surface and allow to cool. Store in airtight container.

Halloween Jack-O-Lantern Popcorn Balls
3 quarts popped popcorn
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
or margarine
3 cups miniature marshmallows
3 tablespoons (1/2 of a 3-ounce
box) orange gelatin dessert
mix
Candy corn, jellybeans and sour
green apple candy sticks,
licorice string, dried fruit, etc.
Spray a large mixing bowl lightly with cooking spray and place popcorn inside.
In a medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir in marshmallows and gelatin dessert powder until marshmallows are melted and mixture is smooth. Pour over popcorn and mix well until coated.
Spray hands with cooking spray and press firmly to form into balls. Place balls on wax paper. Press candy decorations into balls to form eyes, a stem and a Jack-O-Lantern grin. Serve immediately or wrap individually in plastic wrap for storage. Add a ribbon tie to plastic wrap as a decorative closure. Yield: 8 balls (4-inch). (Clean-up tip: Soak saucepan before cleaning.)

Spooky Popcorn Cake Pops
5 cups popped popcorn
1/2 (11.5 ounce) store-bought
pound cake
3/4 cup canned vanilla frosting
8 ounces candy melts (assorted
colors) for coating*
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
18 lollipop sticks
Decorations for cake pops:
miniature chocolate chips,
blue and red food gel,
miniature chewy chocolate
candies, food safe markers
Styrofoam block
*May use 8 oz. white candy melts with oil based candy color to achieve desired color (purple for one eyed purple monster; orange for pumpkin)
Process popcorn in food processor until coarsely chopped.
Crumble cake into large bowl. Add popcorn and frosting, stirring with fork until mixture is evenly moistened
Form mixture evenly into 18 balls. For ghosts, roll into an elongated triangle creating a distinct head and body.
Place on waxed paper-lined baking sheet; freeze 20 minutes.
Melt candy melts according to package directions. If using white, stir in vegetable oil. Color as desired using candy color.
Remove popcorn cake balls from freezer. Dip tips of lollipop sticks into candy melts; insert no more than halfway into center of balls. Let sit 3 minutes until set
Dip one ball into melted candy melts to cover completely. Gently tap stick against side of bowl so excess melts drips off. Immediately decorate as desired (candy melts harden quickly). **
Poke sticks into Styrofoam block to dry completely. Yield 18 pops.
**To Decorate: Use white candy melts for ghost (pumpkins/orange, one-eyed purple monsters/purple); miniature chocolate chips for eyes and mouth; shape small piece of chewy chocolate candy for pumpkin stem and attach with candy melt; spread melted white candy melts in center of ball to create monster eye, use blue gel for iris, red gel for veins.
The COOK OF THE WEEK 3rd Edition Cookbook is available. Cost per copy is $10.70, plus $4.80 shipping/handling. Order a copy today by sending a check or money order, along with name and shipping address, to: Humboldt Independent, 512 Sumner Ave., Humboldt, IA 50548.