Well friends it’s March! Spring has always been my least favorite season because I’m not the biggest fan of the rain. Like at all. Don’t get me wrong—I have the cute boots and umbrellas (duh never miss an opportunity to accessorize). I just am not a fan of being cold and wet in the middle of the day. Because it’s not like rain ever just falls down. It tends to be horizontal at least 60% of the time. And you know the worst part? When someone closes or opens their wet umbrella right next to your face. Voila you have had a rain facial.
I think that’s what makes me a Minnesotan at heart. Minnesota doesn’t really have spring. It snows up until the middle of April. Then it stays brown for a while and just gets warmer. It does not rain so much. Purdue was incredibly wet, and Penn State has had its share of rain so far as well. In my dread of the impending spring rains here in State College, I have to have fun snacks on hand. It’s a must. And you know what my idea of the perfect fun snack to make is? Popcorn!
Just think about it. It’s super easy and fast. And cheap. And healthy (in its pure form…). And it’s a blank canvas. You can literally do anything to it and it will probably taste amazing. It’s like vanilla ice cream but better…because it makes cool noises and jumps around.
I also think I love popcorn because my dad used to insist on popcorn every weekend for our movie nights. My brother and I always got our own personal bowls of popcorn! PS my dad never burnt it—a distinct talent I think. My mom further fueled my popcorn appreciation when she introduced homemade caramel corn to me while we watched chick flicks in her bed. Do you notice that movies are always associated with my fond popcorn memories? Yeah no wonder I am obsessed with movies still.
So make these popcorns for your House of Cards binge. Or while you wait for the next episodes of Togetherness and Girls! But first—the fun part. What exactly is happening when you listen to those popcorn kernels popping in your microwave or on your stovetop (the “fancy” way)?
When the temperature heats up around the popcorn kernels and exceeds 100⁰C, the boiling point of water, the water inside of the popcorn kernel begins to boil and change to water vapor. As the temperature continues to increase, the water vapor molecules get more and more hyper—they move faster and faster until the pressure on the kernel becomes too great.
An easy way to think about this but slightly different is a blown up balloon. When you blow a balloon up with air until it’s full, the balloon is rather taut and it’s difficult to make an indentation in the side. Your air inside of the balloon is bouncing around so fast that there is enough pressure on the side of the balloon to fill it completely. What happens when you bring the balloon outside in the winter? It gets soft and seems half deflated. The decrease in temperature reduces the activity of the air molecules. They are no longer bouncing around so quickly. In the warm temperature the air molecules were like 3 drinks in at a bar. The cold temperature air molecules were like 6 drinks in but still trying to give it one last go before they go home.
When the steam inside of the popcorn kernel reaches the maximum pressure that the kernel hull (exterior casing) can take, the hull begins to split. This sudden release in pressure causes the steam to escape really quickly. It is popularly thought that the steam release is what you hear when the popcorn “pops.”
Secondarily, the steam release heats the starch inside of the kernel and causes it to expand and cook extremely quickly. That is what causes the soft and spongy texture of a popcorn kernel. Directly after the steam release, the starch expansion pops out of the fractured popcorn kernel. This starch “leg” has so much energy following release that it causes the kernel to jump and flip. It is during this flip that the rest of the starch pushes its way out of the fractured kernel hull essentially turning the popcorn kernel inside out.
Nutella Puppy Chow Popcorn
Adapted from Food52
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup dark chocolate chips
¾ cup Nutella
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 bag salted microwave popcorn (no butter please!)
1 cup cocoa puffs or other chocolate cereal
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
1. Melt butter, chocolate, and Nutella together. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring between, until smooth. Add the vanilla extract and stir to combine.
2. Pop the popcorn and be sure not to burn! Pour into a large bowl followed by the chocolate mixture. Mix gently until all of the popcorn is coated. Add the cereal and mix to combine. (Also if you act now, the cocoa puffs are stars and moons! Cute much?!)
3. Add the powdered sugar and mix to coat.
Honey Butter Popcorn
Adapted from The Faux Martha
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons honey
2 cups cinnamon toast crunch or other cinnamon cereal
1 bag salted microwave popcorn (no butter please!)
Salt to taste
1. Pop the popcorn and be sure not to burn! Pour into a large bowl. Add the cereal and mix to distribute.
2. Melt the butter in the microwave. Add the honey and microwave for 15 seconds to make sure it will be easy to toss the popcorn in.
3. Pour the honey butter mixture into the popcorn/cereal. Add a few pinches of salt and mix to coat evenly.