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The Suburbanite
  • Put some ‘pop’ in summer parties with popcorn

  • When it comes to summer entertaining, popcorn is a casual, easy-to-make and inexpensive snack. Dress it up this summer with quick and easy recipes.

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  • When it comes to summer entertaining, popcorn is a casual, easy-to-make and inexpensive snack.
    "It's versatile. Your guests can season it to suit their tastes," said Wendy Boersema-Rappel, spokeswoman for the Chicago-based Popcorn Board, a nonprofit funded by U.S. popcorn processors.
    Consider, for example, creating a popcorn bar at a backyard party.
    "Pop up a big batch of popcorn, put it in a large bucket and set out containers with a variety of candies, fruits, nuts and seasonings for guests," Boersema-Rappel said.
    Add-ins might include M&M's, gummy candies, pretzels, peanuts, cashews, raisins, dates, coconut flakes, dried banana chips, granola or cereal pieces. Toppings to consider: brown sugar-cinnamon, garlic salt, parmesan cheese, lemon pepper, cumin, thyme or taco or barbecue seasoning.
    The seasonings can be sprinkled on dry, or mixed with butter or buttery spray for better adhesion.
    To further dress up popcorn served to guests, think about putting it in unusual or festive containers.
    “Go to the dollar store and buy some small beach pails. Or roll decorative paper into cones to hold the popcorn," said Boersema-Rappel. If serving the snack in baskets, line them with colorful napkins. Think about using clean vases, bags and boxes as serving bowls.
    Popcorn, a whole grain, costs a few cents per serving and is figure-friendly. A cup of air-popped corn has 31 calories, while a cup of oil-popped corn has 55 calories.
    For stovetop popping, heat 1/3 cup oil in a 3- to 4-quart pan to 400 to 460 degrees (if the oil smokes, it's too hot). Test the oil on a couple of kernels. When they pop, add popcorn to cover the bottom of the pan, one kernel deep. Cover the pan and shake to evenly spread the oil. When the popping begins to slow, remove the pan from the stovetop. The heated oil will pop the remaining kernels.
    Kathryn Rem is a food writer at The State Journal-Register in Springfield, Ill. Reach her at kathryn.rem@sj-r.com