The late night noms: how popcorn changed my life

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Cinnamon toast popcorn recipe from Bijoux & Bits

We all know the routine. You somehow managed to feed yourself a decent meal at a decent time, but that was hours ago and now it’s dark and you’re watching something on Hulu and the gaping maw opens inside you and YOU ARE STARVING FOR SNACKS. Growing up, my macrobiotic uber-healthy hippie parents would turn to a bowl of granola and raisins, which they called “The Goddess,” based on some sort of idealized imagery of grains and honey and milk being offered as a divine offering to The Goddess etc etc etc.

As for myself, my late night snacks always leaned towards the darkest sides of stoner food: quesadillas, cracker dipped in cream cheese, during more desperate moments, cheese melted on a plate scraped off with my own fingernails. On a whim last winter, I bought my husband a gift: a Whirlypop, which is a stovetop popcorn popper.

whirlypopYOU GUYS. Suddenly my late-night eating went from grease-laden plates full of regret and tomorrow morning’s diarrhea to an enormous bowl of HIGH FIBER AIR. My husband has always been like, “oh yeah popcorn, whatever” about this gift, but I would estimate that three forths of my winter evenings now involve me at the stove, turning the crank of the Whirlypop, obsessing over just the right timing so that the butter is coming out of the microwave at the exact same time as I’m pouring the popcorn into my enormous wooden salad bowl that I use exclusively for popcorn popping. It’s a major obsession, and the fact that it’s reasonable healthy (whole food! fiber! only as much oil and/or butter as I choose to add!) and dirt cheap (I buy it in bulk and it’s like a 35 cent snack) has totally changed my winter times.

I know, I know: we’ve totally written about popcorn before but seriously you guys: the fucking Whirlypop. It’s the best gift I ever bought for someone else, EVER.

Comments on The late night noms: how popcorn changed my life

  1. Yes!!! I bought my notoriously hard to buy for husband a whirlypop last Christmas and he uses it all the time. It makes absolutely delicious popcorn and is so easy to use.

  2. I’ve actually been trying to drop the last of my pregancy weight, and have had little success up until 6 weeks ago when I switched my nightly snack to popcorn. I dropped 6lbs without even thinking about it. Popcorn is awesome.
    Ha! “Eat this one food and never diet again!”

  3. Is there a particular benefit to the whirlypop versus the regular way of cooking popcorn on the stove top (heat oil until test kernels pop, add popcorn, then shake every few seconds to prevent burning while the popcorn pops)? Or versus an air popper (like this:

    What I mean is….Are there benefits to a whirlypop that outweigh the downsides of having yet another large kitchen gadget taking up space?

    • I don’t know about the whirly pop, but what I like about my air popper is that it never burns the popcorn and you don’t actually need any oil or butter if you don’t want it. Naked corn for extra healthy points!

      • I agree completely! I make air-popped popcorn almost daily lately, and I’m a-ok with it being naked (although I love it when it puts on its sensual buttery goodness, too).

      • We eat a ridiculous amount of popcorn — like nearly every night as a snack and sometimes in lieu of dinner.

        (I know it’s horrible. I’m a 32-year-old married woman trapped in a 22-year-old bachelor dude’s body. My fridge is nothing but milk and condiments.)

        We pop our popcorn on the stove (with coconut oil) and top it with whatever is handy — shredded cheese, fried garlic, bacon bits, butter and salt, various seasoning packs, etc…

        I don’t particularly care for air popped corn (always a little too bland for my tastes) but if you have an air popper, you should experiment with it. Not only are they great for popping corn, but you can roast your own coffee with it too!!!

        If you wanna get real fancy with it, you can roast your own coffee fresh each morning. It takes about 10 minutes *tops*, from green to brewing, and you can’t beat the freshness.

        It’s cheaper, too — the price difference between green beans and roasted beans is huge. Usually a 100%+ mark-up.

        As an aside: our maid is convinced that foreigners/white people/Americans are somehow able to subsist on coffee and popcorn alone. 😉

    • Yes – I’m also curious – we have a small electric hot air popper which is pretty awesome. (It’s small stature annoyed me at first, but it takes up about 60% of the room a regular one would.)

      I used to make it on the stove, but found the following downsides: the popcorn on the bottom sometimes gets burnt, some of it gets condensation on it making it soggy, I could never get a second batch to work without letting the pot cool down completely.

      • After commenting above, I started getting all nostalgic for the air popper we used CONSTANTLY growing up. I’ve been living in tiny apartments ever since, so never splurged cupboard space on such a gadget…eating microwave popcorn instead since (as you said) cooking on the stovetop could be a pain.

        I just realized that (duh!) we own a house now, and although the kitchen is small, we can surely find the space for an air popper since we do eat (microwaved) popcorn quite frequently….and cutting out all that oil and god-knows-what-else can only be a good thing. The one I linked on Amazon is only $20. I’M BUYING IT RIGHT NOW!

    • I’ve never done the stovetop way you talk about but the Whirly Pop has a little arm thing that moves the kernels inside the container so they don’t burn. Then the metal bowl can be the serving bowl, but be careful cause it’s hot. Oh and I almost never had un-popped kernels.

      I used the shit out of my Whirly Pop till it broke, then I was gifted the Stir Crazy ( ) and I love it. Both of them take up a fair amount of pantry space but I use it often enough it’s worth it. With the Stir Crazy I have never burned popcorn and I don’t think I’ve ever had un-popped kernels.

    • Those questions occurred to me, too. I like the concept of the whirlpop as it looks like it might give me consistently better popcorn. However, can I put random seasonings and oil on the popcorn in the whirlpop or do I need to wait until it’s finished cooking? That’s one of the things that I love SO HARD about stovetop popcorn. I can add crazy spices and oils to it and the flavors are well distributed.

  4. Yes!!! I LOVE popcorn! During my pregnancy, I ate popcorn almost every night. After about a month of microwaved chemical grossness, I started to feel guilty about what that might do to my baby. So, I bought an air popper and POOF! Guilty feeling all gone. Nom nom nom…

  5. I LOVE my Whirly Pop! If you add equal parts popcorn and sugar it turns into kettle corn. I often bring it to parties and people are super impressed with something that has 3 ingredients.

  6. Definitely love popcorn as a nearly guilt-free snack! (I say nearly because I love butter on it, preferably more than less.)

    Plus, when you’re at the store trying to convince yourself to buy some chips, you (the other you) can just butt in and say, “NO – we have popcorn at home! Your crunchy-needs are covered without ingredients you can’t pronounce!”

  7. I do find that the taste of popcorn popped in oil vs air is a little different. My dude and I had bad luck with the poppers we bought before (a fancy Cuisinart one that has the bowl on top with cheap little clips that broke on 2 of them, and a theatre-style one that ended with a dead motor). We now have a little Cuisinart air popper that’s fantastic (got it for Christmas). Takes up very little space, done in 3 minutes, doesn’t need oil so I can pretend to be healthy – until I melt butter and pour it on and then add some flavouring with salt….

    • Definitely a different taste to popcorn depending on the cooking method stove vs microwave vs air popper. The oil you use to pop it can also effect the flavor. Even the kind of kernel you use can change the flavor.
      I highly encourage experimentation for best effect! 😀 Nom nom nom!

  8. I’ve found that a small amount of freshly grated Parmesan adds a ton of flavor to air-popped corn and results in me using a lot less butter. Remember, 1 tbs of butter (almost nothing to a big bowl of popcorn) has ~100 calories and ~12 grams of fat. That adds up fast!

  9. Best Popcorn Recipe ever:
    Grated coconut fat (from the solid block)
    Minced Garlic

    Mix together ingredients and Add to hot popcorn
    It will change your life!!

  10. Yes! We have my husband’s childhood popcorn popper thing. The thing is ANCIENT but it’s still going strong and I love it. My favorite thing to top the popcorn with is nutritional yeast. Slightly nutty/cheesy and good for you! Popcorn has also become my thing to bring while backpacking/camping. No heavy packaging and no garbage to pack out! With a little skill you can cook it over a backpacking stove in a small pan no problem. I just bring a small container of canola oil and some salt. Maybe it’s all the outdoor air while backpacking but people really love it.

  11. I love my air popper! Popcorn is such a great almost-guilt-free snack (or dinner…).

    While I don’t like the cheesy flavor of nutritional yeast, I’ve heard it’s a great popcorn topper. My friends also love popping their corn in various flavored olive oils.

  12. Experiment with herbs and spices! You can add an amazing amount of flavor without adding fat or calories. Salt and pepper popcorn is awesome. Add garlic powder and some parmesan or nutritional yeast for super yummy stuff. Chili powders, curry powders, small amount of powdered dip mix or a little of the flavor packet from ramen noodles. Endless fun! Try olive oil and butter mix or coconut oil or toasted sesame oil! Popcorn is my favorite snack, stoner or otherwise.

  13. A small kitchen, small paycheck-having popcorn aficionado chiming in to say, have you heard that you can pop popcorn in the microwave in a paper sack? Open sack. Place dry kernels in sack. Pop (I have found that the ‘popcorn’ setting on our microwave tends to burn it, so I don’t use that). At first I added oil because I thought I had to, but lo…it pops naked this way too! And you can reuse the sacks over and over!

    • I do this too! You can also recycle it when you are done since it’s not coated in oil. I’ve also found that it’s important to empty the popcorn out of the paper bag right away, since it can burn if you let it sit in the bag. But who needs an excuse to eat popcorn right away anyway, right?

      My favorite toppings are olive oil, parmesan cheese, nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, and/or garlic salt.

  14. I actually got to sell a lot of whirly pops when i worked at a kitchen supply store. We even had the huge concession ones that were teh awesome to dream about having.
    But if you really want some awesome popcorn on the next level, have any of you tried making it in a cast iron dutch oven? Its possible! My grandmother did it all the time and when I do it..I get this neat little retro-ey feeling. haha. Go try it, its fun!
    Oh and popcorn? The ultimate snack food ever. I’ve done popcorn topped with cookies and cream, dark chocolate and almonds, buffalo powder, walnuts and cinnamon, Peppermint, jalapeno cheese, nacho cheese, and of course, classic salted butter. ^_^

  15. I love my WhirlyPop — I have a tiny kitchen, but like so many other commenters, it’s in such frequent use that it is worth its cubic inches in cabinet space. However… sorry to poop on your late night snack, but seriously, literally: poop. I just feel compelled to caution you late-night popcorn-snackers: eating popcorn late at night can cause bowel obstruction. It happened to a friend, and it ain’t pretty. I’m not saying don’t eat popcorn, but maybe just don’t do it right before bed? I’m not a doctor. I’m just a gal who loves her butt more than popcorn, which is a lot.

    • Blame the kernels. Basically, seeds and kernels can cause all sorts of bowel irritation (they’re small, sharp and can’t really be digested, so they just bounce all through your intestines.) It’s especially bad for people with other bowel problems. The time of day shouldn’t really matter too much, though hydration may be an issue at play. Most people eating popcorn in moderation will never have this problem, but it is a thing that can happen, so be aware! It’s a good idea to avoid partially-popped popcorn when possible, and certainly don’t eat the unpopped kernels outright. Concerned? Ask your doctor.
      TMI? My mom had a popcorn kernel literally tear her a new one. So please try not to eat the kernels, folks. Haha

    • There’s good reason fiber supplements say you should take them with lots and lots of water – fiber without enough water in your system makes a gel-like mass. Fiber can absorb a huge amount of liquid. The more liquid there is, there more “soft mass” you get, and actually makes it easier to poop.

  16. I make mine in this retro Tupperware microwave popper that is older than me. It has started cracking a bit around the top, don’t know what I’ll do when it’s gone. I find microwaved pop-corn needs a minimum of fat added so that the other toppings will stick. I tried adding seasonings without any butter and I ended up with a whole lot of naked pop corn and a blanket of herbs at the bottom of the bowl.
    But hey, best snack ever! I was so happy when my mom gifted me the family popper when I left home!

    • Misto to the rescue! Misto with olive oil will put enough sticking power on. But I prefer oil-popped anyway and that usually has enough sticking power. If I go too light with the popping oil, I just add more. I mean we’re talking a tablespoon of oil for 4-6 servings so… still pretty healthy. I’ve been enjoying my sesame oil on popcorn lately.

  17. Love my air popper. Sometimes I manage to make a bowl of popcorn without butter, but it’s rare. Still, the butter only melts so quickly in the cup on top so I have to limit the amount anyway.

    Also, I read “whole food” as “whole wood” and thought, “GET A GRIP, ARIEL! You’re not supposed to eat the BOWL!” 🙂

  18. I freaking love popcorn. So much I had it at my wedding. I always stove pop it – we bought some air poppers for the wedding, but I just found the popcorn out of it too soft and chewy.

    So, I stove pop with a minimum of rice bran oil, pour into a bowl, spray with rice bran oil from an aerosol for stickiness, then shake over flavourings. If I want savoury, I do either chilli salt or garlic herb salt, if I want sweet icing sugar and either cinnamon or dessicated coconut. Yum!

  19. When it came time to decide which appliances would come to my ultra-small studio apartment, only a few made the cut, among them my stand mixer, magic bullet, and hot air popper. I love it because it needs no oil or butter and cleanup usually means a damp paper towel. The only downside other than being huge is that it is difficult to butter without making soggy. I usually go naked pop, but the fiance has the metabolism of a 16 year old, so he butters quite enthusiastically without an ounce of guilt.

  20. Paper Bag Princess over here!!
    I love the convenience of microwave popcorn without all the stink and grease.
    Definitely my go to snack!
    Also: If you’re feeling indulgent – mix a teaspoon/tablespoon of melted butter with an equal amount of real maple syrup, toss and salt.
    SO GOOD!

  21. Extra virgin coconut oil and a light sprinkle of salt makes a great popcorn! Healthy fat and it doesn’t take as much as it does when I use butter. Yum-o!

  22. I picked up a whirly-pop from Goodwill around 8 years ago. My husband says it is his prized possession! Seriously, it makes the best popcorn. Microwave popcorn now tastes greasy to us with way too many unpopped kernels. We have an air popper but never use it since the WP came into our house, the popcorn tastes bland. The little bit of oil and the 1/8 teaspoon of “movie style” butter-flavored salt added to the unpopped kernels at the beginning make this popcorn darn near perfect. One negative thing, I did try making kettle corn in it once according to the instructions, but the sugar was really difficult to clean out of the pan.

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