PUBLISHED: 1:42 PM on Wednesday, April 5, 2006
Pop that corn for a quick, healthy snack
Moms and dads have fretted over what to feed kids after school since the first one came home hungry after a day of the three Rs.

With fears of childhood obesity as a motivator and more emphasis on healthy snacks, today's parents are looking critically at food choices.

One choice is popcorn, a whole-grain energy food that's easy to prepare, can be turned into a variety of snack foods or even main-dish entrees.

A cup of unbuttered popcorn has between 31 and 55 calories. A cup of lightly buttered popcorn has about 133 calories, according to the Popcorn Board, based in Chicago.

Jim Mock, president of Panhandle Popcorn Co. in Plainview, Texas said popcorn is something a large percentage of people like and very few people dislike.

"It's still a very popular treat. There are some health benefits," Mock said.

Panhandle Popcorn has three hybrids grown in the Corn Belt especially for the company.

Consumers should look for a hull-less popcorn, he said.

"That means it pops up so rapidly, it pops the hull off. That's the part that gets in your teeth," Mock said.

"A good popcorn has no taste. The taste that comes from the popcorn comes from the oil you cook it in, and the butter-flavored salt," Mock said.

"The main thing you want to get from popcorn is less hull and a tender kernel. The rest of the flavor is derived from the flavorings you use," he said.

Mock also advises consumers to look for high volume popcorns that give people more for their money.

"Old Maids"

"Old Maids" is a term for kernels that fail to pop and are often found at the bottom of the popcorn bowl. They can, however, be rejuvenated. The water in kernels is what causes popcorn to pop, so all you need to do is re-hydrate the dried kernels.

David Woodside, author of "What Makes Popcorn Pop?" suggests filling "a one-quart jar three-quarters full of popcorn and adding one tablespoon of water. Cover the jar with an airtight lid and give it a few good shakes every few minutes until the popcorn has absorbed all the water. Store the jar in a cool place." Woodside said in two or three days you can test-pop a batch of kernels. If you still get old maids, add a few more drops of water to the jar, shake it and let it sit for a few more days.


  Courtesy photo Popcorn Granola Snack Bars
Popcorn Granola Snack Bars

Yield: 16

1/2 cup honey

2/3 cup peanut butter

1 cup granola cereal

1 cup roasted and salted peanuts

3 cups popped popcorn

Line an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan with foil. Spray foil lightly with cooking spray; set aside.

Heat honey in a large saucepan until boiling. Stir in peanut butter until well blended. Remove pan from heat and stir in granola, peanuts and popcorn until coated. Press mixture evenly into prepared pan. Refrigerate until cool; cut into bars to serve.

Popcorn and Peanut Truffles

Yield: About 30 pieces

6 cups popped popcorn

1 cup roasted and salted peanuts

12-ounce package semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup honey

Stir popcorn and peanuts together in a large bowl; set aside.

In microwave-safe bowl, heat chocolate chips 10 seconds. Stir chips and repeat, stirring after each 10 seconds, until chips are melted. Warm honey in microwave 10 seconds and stir into chocolate until well blended.

Pour chocolate mixture over popcorn mixture and stir until popcorn is evenly coated. Using a small ice cream scoop, push popcorn mixture into scoop and release onto wax paper to form "truffles." Refrigerate until firm. Store truffles in an airtight container up to five days.

Hot Wasabi Popcorn

Yield: 8 1-cup servings

8 cups popped popcorn, warm

3 tablespoons butter or margarine

2 teaspoons prepared wasabi

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar, optional

Place popcorn in a large bowl.

Microwave butter 20 seconds or until melted; stir in wasabi until well blended.

Drizzle wasabi butter over popcorn and mix.