Sunday, March 20, 2011

coconut oil popcorn

Ginger here. You may think, given the color of my hair, that I am a fiery person--impatient, temperamental, given to sudden outbursts, perhaps even reckless at times. That's very stereotypical, you know.

It's also true. Well done.

I get fired up about things. That's how I like to think of it anyway. Those who have spent time around me while driving in traffic or after tickets to the Adele concert sell out in one hour might have other ideas. Whatevs. I'm going to put a positive spin on it. There are certain things that just get me going. Such as:  acoustic guitar, ultimate frisbee, ice cream, and my sketchbook. That is just a short list, of course, but you just need to know that if something is really awesome, I am apt to get unreasonably excited about it.

In the world of food, one of these especially terrific things happens to be butter. Yes. I love butter. It's true. Paula Deen might be a little nuts, but she's sure got one thing right--butter is where it's at. Fat = flavor, and butter is king. That's why the best cookies, cupcakes, scones and biscuits are made with it. Think of all the things it's good for: cookies, mashed potatoes, and pie crust, spread on fresh bread, slathered on pancakes....the list goes on and on and ON. Mmmmm....butter is definitely something to get excited about

I'm going to go all sciencey-nutrition-student on you now, as you're thinking, "Well! Butter is surely terrible for me--only meant to be had in instances of indulgence or emotional weakness--it will most surely make me fat and immediately give me heart disease!" False, people, FALSE! Butter (along with the other healthy fats) is, contrary to what you might think, not where the problem is. Our bodies NEED good fats for so many essential processes--think about fat-soluble vitamins, for example. They're pretty important for many things, and if we didn't consume fat in our diet, we would be virtually unable to utilize them. Fats also help to aid in digestion--especially grains and protein. Yes, that butter on your bread actually facilitates more efficient digestion and nutrient absorption. The fat that is marbled in meat does the same thing, helping to aid in protein breakdown and uptake, and helping us to efficiently use those vitamins. Doesn't fat make us fat, though? You're still thinking this. Well, the short answer is no. The longer, more scientific, sure-to-bore-you answer has to do with how different types of fat (i.e. saturated vs. monounsaturated vs. polyunsaturated, etc.) are metabolized differently by the body, and the kinds of fat you have in your diet can make a difference...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz....

Oh no, I've put you to sleep--so sorry, I'll stop now (even thought I could go on and on...).

SO, back to butter! Well, it is delightful, and our ancestors ate it for years without any trouble with heart disease/diabetes, etc, so it seems  logical that things should work out the same for us in this day and age, right? That's what I think. Now that I have sufficiently raved about butter, I am going to introduce you to another of my favorite fats--and one that is incredibly healthy (woot!)--coconut oil. This stuff is pretty great, if you ask me--I've actually thought so for quite some time now. Apparently others are starting to figure it out as well, even in the world of mainstream headlines--I was SO excited when I saw this article in the New York Times about the health benefits of coconut oil. It's about time, I'd say! You should read it, I think you might find it interesting. Hooray for good fats!

Since coconut oil is a saturated fat, is it very stable, which means it can be used for cooking at high temperatures (sauteeing, roasting, etc.), without breaking down (when fats break down, they become scary, both from a taste and nutrition standpoint). It works very well in baking, too--it's really quite versatile. Coconut oil also gives things a fabulous flavor, if you use the extra-virgin stuff, although you can find oil that has been expeller-pressed to remove the flavor, if you aren't a fan of coconutty things.

This brings me to the part of this post where I will attempt to tie everything together for you, and provide a reason for all that you've read thus far. Finally, I know. Just to recap, I can get unreasonably excited about things, butter is awesome, and coconut oil is also quite fabulous. One of my favorite foods in the world happens to have to do with all of these things--excitement (I LOVE it), coconut oil, and butter. It is popcorn.

I. Love. Popcorn.

Not just any popcorn, mind you. My dad's popcorn.

dad's popcorn
I suppose I am a bit of a popcorn snob, actually. Okay, I'm probably a terrible popcorn snob--no microwave popcorn, no movie theater popcorn, no concession stand popcorn--all unsatisfactory, and unworthy of my consumption. Could this popcorn that I speak of really be that much better than any other popcorn? Uh, yes. Why else would I be raving about it so? It's not even complicated--or expensive. It only involves four ingredients:  popcorn, coconut oil, butter, and salt. You also need to have access to a large pan with a lid and a stove, or, if you're really serious about making good popcorn, you can get one of those fancy oil popcorn makers (not the air popper kind! this is important!) like this:

Yeah, I'm an enthusiast, what can I say. My parents, knowing my love for popcorn, got me one of these to take to college when I graduate from high school. I think my dad said something along the lines of "now you can make popcorn for your friends, and show them what the good stuff tastes like." It is still going, and is probably one of my most beloved kitchen belongings. I've made dad's popcorn for lots of people in the last five years, and made believers out of all of them (you know who you are). It's some good stuff. Spoon is the latest convert to the world of coconut oil-made-popcorn, and I think I can safely say she's a big fan. We have been known to polish off a giant bowl of popcorn in the first 15 minutes of a movie without flinching. So good!

How is it made, exactly? Well, simple. There's no real recipe, just ingredients and amounts to suit your tastes. There are some requirements, however. First of all, YOU MUST use coconut oil, or it simply won't be awesome. Second, you must use REAL, salted butter. Nothing else will do. That's all. So here's the method:

If you're using a pot, place it on the stove over medium-high heat and add/melt enough coconut oil to liberally coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil is melted, add enough popcorn kernels to cover the bottom, and put the lid on. As soon as you hear the first kernel pop, start shaking the pan back and forth on the heat (please, whatever you do, don't take the cover off to try to watch the popping--this will end badly, trust me. When the popcorn starts flying all over the kitchen and the stove, the pieces that land on the burner will start on fire. I have experience, right Alyssa?). When the popping starts to slow/stop, take the pan off the heat and pour your popcorn into a large bowl, preferably a brightly-colored one, which will make the experience that much more exciting.

popcorn with the fancy popcorn maker
Alternatively, if you have a "fancy" popcorn maker, you plug it in and again melt enough coconut oil on the heating surface to evenly coat it. Add a handful of popcorn kernels, put the top on, and sit back to watch the magic that is popcorn popping (if you really need to see things happening, you need one of these). Simple. Put your popcorn in a big bowl.
Regardless of the method you use to pop your popcorn, the next steps are the same. Melt a few tablespoons of butter and drizzle it over the popcorn. Shake some salt over the top, and mix it well, so the butter and salt are distributed evenly.

 Taste, to make sure you don't need another tablespoon of butter or a bit more salt. When it meets your approval, devour immediately (although it is also admittedly quite good for breakfast the next day, if you can't manage to finish it all right away). Mmmmm. I love popcorn. Thanks dad.


p.s.  Heh. I couldn't resist. You know you like it.


  1. Love the Paula Deen animation lol! Coconut oil also makes wonderful cakes and baked goods, but I am sure you already knew that ;)!

  2. what a cute post! I used to have an old popcorn maker...but alas it is no longer among us. I do miss it so.

    Paula Dean is one wacky chick! Ummm, chef.
    However, the great Julia Child was also a great fan of Butter! Must be great, huh?

    BTW, coconut oil makes a good hair conditioner, and massage oil too. Don't think butter would work there, but I've never tried it...hmmm. Nah, I'll stick with the coconut oil.

    I love how your posts are so up beat and cute, and still teach something!

  3. Jillian!!! I love this so much! It reminds me of how much I miss your tasty popcorn...mmmmmmmm my mouth is watering just thinking about it! I will never forget our little experiment with making popcorn on the oven...HA! I'm totally a fan of the stir crazy fancy pop corn making machine :) I will try to introduce the people of Fuller and southern California to this wonderful, super delicious, only-made-at-home pop 'Tholen's' name of course! love you :)

  4. I'll carry on my popcorn maker when I come visit you, and we'll make fabulous popcorn and eat too much of it :) Do you think they will allow it on the plane with it's heating element? Hmmmmm....