Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Best Popcorn You've Ever Had, Outside of a Movie Theatre

You know when you get that craving for movie theatre popcorn, and you go to the movies, even though it's a movie you didn't really want to see, and some stranger sits behind you and kicks your seat the whole time while they chomp down their popcorn and you leave just wishing you could get the flavor of homemade popcorn at home without having to drop a bunch of money to have a stranger bug you during your whole popcorn experience...and the popcorn tastes nothing like you remember having as a kid?

No?  That doesn't happen to you.  Me either... Anymore anyway. 

I love popcorn, so much that I can actually eat it instead of a meal.  Lately though, I've been a bit freaked out by it.  Microwave popcorn was leaving a weird taste in my mouth.  When the dog begged for it, he'd spit it out...he doesn't spit anything out!  I decided to eliminate my microwave all together (for many reasons, counter space being the main one of them, but additional health benefits have followed). 

So, I was really really missing out on my popcorn.  While visiting The Driftless Depot Market & Deli I picked up a bag of local organic popcorn, and thought meh, what the heck.  I brought it home and put it in the cabinet for quite some time...until that popcorn craving hit. 

I thought it would be so much work to make my own popcorn on the stove, so I was dreading this, and imagining the worst... What if I burned all of it and my house smelled for days.  What if it overflows the pan, what if it tastes bad...I decided to persevere, as there was not a movie I wanted to see playing  in town. 

I pulled out the bag and read the directions.  It said for best results to use organic coconut oil..."Really?"  Well, as luck would have it I had some.

 I plopped 3 tablespoons (ish) into the bottom of my wok (hoping it was the appropriate pan and not too thin/thick/shallow) and put in some test kernels.

Once they popped I added the called for 1/3 amount of popcorn and some salt.  I put the lid back on and kind of freaked out for a second...nothing was happening.  Then, all at once pop, pop, pop faster and faster.  I picked up the pan, shook it and set it back down and did this over and over again until there were fewer and fewer pop pop pops.  Less than one every 3 seconds.  I couldn't take a picture while I did this, but trust me, it's going to be fine.

Then I tasted it.  It was heavenly, just like the movie theatre from my childhood.  I didn't even need butter, the salt I had put in the oil had dispersed evenly throughout the popcorn adding just enough flavor.  I dumped it into a big bowl and (while I didn't need it) warmed up some butter in my still-hot pan to add a touch more flavor.  Once the butter melted I put the popcorn back in the pan an shook it around, which coated all the popped kernels evenly.  I was hooked.  Oh, and by the way...the true test...the dog loves it :). 

I've read that movie theatres used to use coconut oil back in the day, but then in the 1980s, someone decided it was really bad for us, and they had it pulled from all the theatres.  Some theatres allegedly then instead used schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) instead.  I have no sources on this as most of what I've found has been on internet forums, so if you can confirm or deny, that would be great. 

Here's a link to an article that discusses the chemicals in microwavable popcorn and how it can actually make you sick.  

Chicken Fajitas

I apologize for the gap in posts.  I've been traveling and working like a dog.  Well, not like my dog... he seems to lay around in bed an awful lot...

I also gave up sweets, meats, and booze for 40 days, which didn't make me too excited.  I did manage to drop some pounds whilst avoiding the kitchen, so don't worry, I haven't been making things and not sharing them, I've been eating boring things that no one wants to read about...not that anyone actually wants to read about this...I digress...  

Last week I bought 8 chicken breasts and cooked them all up at once (simmered in chicken broth) and then kept them in the refrigerator with every intention of eating chicken for most of my meals in an effort to be healthier.  Well, long story short, I ate a bunch of junk and have a lot of chicken breasts left over.  So, I decided to make fajitas. 

I no longer use a prepackaged taco or fajita flavoring as it is cheaper, more ecofriendly, and contains less freaky preservatives to when I make my own.  Also, I have all these ingredients here and don't have a prepackaged mix, or I would have been tempted :).

I've included the recipe for the fajita seasoning, but everything else is really just a guideline.  They're fajitas people, it's not an exact science.  Use what you have and what your family likes, or use what you like and tell your family that if they don't like it they can make their own darn supper. 

I used:
3 chicken breasts
1 Green Bell Pepper
5 Mini Bell Peppers (Red-Yellow-Orange)
16 oz sliced mushrooms
1 Large onion
1 Package of Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas
You will also need some Olive Oil and some broth or water.

Fajita Seasoning Recipe:
1 Tablespoon of Cornstarch (I subbed 2 T of flour)
2 teaspoons of chili powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of paprika
1/2 teaspoon of onion powder
1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon of cumin

Mix all ingredients together.

Now, if you are using RAW chicken or meat of any kind, you would cut it into strips and coat with olive oil, then coat with fajita seasonings.  My chicken was already cooked so I didn't do it this way.  If you coat your meat at this point, put a little olive oil in your pan and throw it all in there to cook "stir-fry" style.  If your chicken is precooked, continue reading to see how I did it.  You don't want to dry out your chicken. 

Prepare your veggies.  I used peppers (green peppers, red peppers, yellow peppers and orange peppers), onions, and mushrooms.  Use as much as you think your family will need. 

Heat a pan with some olive oil in the bottom and begin to stir-fry your veggies. I added a few vegetable broth cubes to allow for some liquid in the pan for the fajita seasonings to break down. You can use water if you don't have any broth.   

Once the veggies started to break down and the broth cubes had melted, I added some fajita seasoning mix (about half of what we had just made?). 

If you are using precooked chicken, get it out and slice it up into strips.  I used 3 breasts, but you can use more or less depending on your appetite.  I don't mind just eating veggie fajitas but the man likes meat. 

Add the sliced chicken to your wok and allow it to soak up any of the juices remaining from the veggie/broth mix.  The chicken is already cooked, so the idea here is to get it to take on flavor without drying it out.  Keep heat on medium to medium low until "juices" are gone.  Then just set aside with a lid on to keep the flavors going, but to considerably slow the cooking process. 

While I let the chicken absorb all those wonderful flavors I pulled some precooked frozen black beans out of the freezer and cooked them with a couple broth cubes.  Once these were warm I added some corn (from some corn on the cob I'd cooked earlier in the week and didn't eat) and 4 Tablespoons of homemade salsa. 


Serve fajitas with lettuce, tomatoes and any guacamole or sour cream if you have it.  I probably would have made some rice if I had any in the house, so we settled for tortilla chips. 

To heat my whole wheat flour tortillas I turn on the burner on my stove and throw the tortilla (w/o oil) right on the burner to "char" it a little.  The difference between a charred tortilla and a straight up burnt one is only a couple of seconds, so it would be best to not multi-task while you are doing this, because it seems, even the dog won't eat a burnt tortilla.