When I was a little girl, my dad would make popcorn as a special treat. He would cover the bottom of Mom's large Revere copper bottom saucepan with oil and yellow kernel popping corn. Dad would then vigorously push the saucepan back and forth over a red-hot electric burner until the popped corn was lifting the lid. Next he poured the popcorn into a large paper grocery bag salting liberally and then handed over the bag for my brother or me to dance around the kitchen shaking the bag to distribute the salt evenly. I love this memory because whenever dad made popcorn, it was a celebration.
When I started to search for foods that would entice my mom to eat as her appetite-decreased popcorn came to mind. Popcorn as a snack has a lot going for it...smell, texture and crunch ability. If you air pop the kernels it is low in calories and can be eaten liberally. While I am a traditionalist when it comes to popcorn, it is the perfect "designer" food. You can create a sweet popcorn, a salty popcorn or even a spicy popcorn just by changing the toppings. Additionally, it is easy to transport in a sandwich baggy to a loved one in a nursing home and will keep fresh for two to three weeks.
There are hundreds, maybe thousands of possible topping combinations for the adventurous. I have listed only a few below. If you are trying to entice an aging parent to eat or are just looking for a new twist on a traditional snack favorite, popcorn is the perfect choice. What is your favorite popcorn topping?
Cheese: Sprinkle on olive oil and Parmesan cheese to taste. If you are industrious, you can grate your own cheese but I prefer Kraft's Parmesan cheese out of the can.
Ranch: Down South Ranch Dressing is a favorite so it should come as no surprise that it is now a favorite on top of popcorn. Sprinkle a little olive oil or butter on first and then add the Ranch Dressing Mix.
Kraft Macaroni & Cheese: My granddaughter loves Kraft's Macaroni & Cheese even more than my homemade Macaroni & Cheese. Again, start with a little butter and then shake on the Macaroni & Cheese powder.
Chili: Depending on just how much "spice" you like you can choose from a whole world of chili powder...Chili de Arbol, Chipotle, Jalapeno, Ancho, New Mexican, Hungarian Paprika or Smoked Paprika. Just sprinkle on the popcorn and enjoy.
Wasabi: Someday I will tell you my wasabi story but for those of you who enjoy a little spice with your popcorn, wasabi is perfect for you. Start by sprinkling a little sesame oil on the popcorn and then cautiously sprinkle on the wasabi powder to taste.
Chocolate: Chocolate and popcorn were made for each other. Sprinkle a little salt on the popcorn and then mix in your favorite mini chocolate chips. You can change up the flavor by adding peanut butter, butterscotch or mint chocolate chips instead.
Dried Fruit: Lightly top the popcorn with salt and then add dried blueberries, cherries or cranberries for a sweet taste.
* If sprinkling or drizzling oil on your popcorn sounds messy, then try your kitchen oil sprayer/mister. You can add spices or powders to the oil and mist your popcorn with the mixture.