The Academy Awards are on Sunday night, and that's the time to pile up on the couch in pajamas to judge how other people look. It doesn't even matter if you've seen the nominated movies. On Oscar night, we're all experts in what not to wear.
Let the million-dollar movie stars suck it in for their dazzling evening gowns. Or wobble in pain on high high-heels. They haven't eaten in days, but tonight we feast while we watch.
What better to nibble on while the stars watch their waists but popcorn? You can zap your favorite microwave variety, or go fancy by adding your own twist. There's not much to it and you're only limited by your imagination. Depending on what you add to popped corn, a weight watcher might even partake.
Here's the rub: Getting dry flavorings to stick on microwave popcorn isn't easy, unless you've made the type that's got real butter on it. In other words, the corn has to be a little wet. To save calories, spritz it with a vegetable spray, then sprinkle on flavorings.
If you want to go whole hog, melt butter and add the seasonings to it or drizzle it on the popcorn first. For instance, butter and honey could be the base for a sweet glaze. A crazy thought: Add blue Kool-Aid powder to the butter for a sweet popcorn in honor of "Avatar." OK, maybe not.
Some recipes call for spreading the popped corn on a pan, adding flavoring and baking.
Other simple suggestions that would do Orville Redenbacher proud:
Chili Corn: Mix 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and chili powder with 1/8 teaspoon each of garlic powder, paprika and cayenne. Sprinkle over hot popcorn that has been buttered or spritzed with vegetable spray.
Ranch Corn: Place one bag of hot popped corn in a large bowl. Add one package of dry ranch-salad-dressing mix and 1/2 teaspoon of dried dill. Mix well. Pour 3 tablespoons of melted butter over all and mix well.
Cinnamon-Nut Corn: Make popcorn flavoring by combining 1/2 cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, 1/2 tablespoon of cinnamon and 1/4 cup of finely chopped walnuts or pecans (optional). Melt 2 to 3 tablespoons of butter and mix it with 1 bag of popped corn in a bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of popcorn flavoring. (Store remainder in a tightly closed container; it will keep for about one week.)
Cheddar Corn: In a large bowl, combine 3 tablespoons of melted butter, 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of cheddar-cheese powder (raid the macaroni-and-cheese mix), 1/4 teaspoon each of mustard powder and cayenne pepper and 8 to 12 cups of popped popcorn. Season with salt and pepper to taste and toss to combine.
Parmesan Pepper Corn: Drizzle 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil over 8 cups of hot popped corn. Toss to coat, then add 1/3 cup of finely grated Parmesan cheese, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
Pizza Corn: Mix 3 tablespoons of finely grated Parmesan cheese with 1 teaspoon each of garlic powder, dried Italian herbs and paprika, plus 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a dash of pepper. Sprinkle on moistened popcorn.
12 cups (1 bag) popped popcorn
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup light or dark corn syrup
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 (6-ounce) package semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place popped corn in a large open roasting pan; set aside.
In a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, bring sugar, corn syrup and butter or margarine to a boil, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Remove saucepan from heat; stir in chocolate pieces and vanilla until chocolate is melted. Pour hot mixture over popcorn, stirring to coat well.
Bake popcorn 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Spoon chocolate-covered popcorn into another large roasting pan or onto waxed paper to cool, stirring occasionally to separate. Store popcorn in tightly covered containers.
HEAVENLY HASHED POPCORN
12 cups (1 bag) popped popcorn
1 cup mini-marshmallows
1/2 cup salted peanuts
1 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spread popcorn in buttered jelly-roll pan; sprinkle with marshmallows and peanuts. Arrange chocolate chips over top. Bake for 5 minutes. Cool slightly; toss.