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Salty, sweet or just plain, popcorn one of America's favorite snack foods

Oct. 10, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- October is National Popcorn Poppin' Month, the annual celebration honoring one of America's oldest snack foods.

According to The Popcorn Board, Americans consume some 16 billion quarts of the munchable maize annually.

October is also the month ending the annual Trail's End popcorn sale sponsored by Boy Scouts of America. In fact, the sale continues through Oct. 20.

Dagan Michael Grieco is one of several local Boy Scouts who has been hitting the trail selling popcorn in his neighborhood and to friends and family.

This Huntington youngster and brother to two sisters -- Lilly and Hattie -- has taken orders for the product since he began with the Scouts three years ago and has done well with the sales.

"One time, I had a $250 order," the Geneva Kent Elementary fourth-grader remembers.

The nearly 10-year-old (actually according to Dagan, he is 93/4 years old and will be 10 on Feb. 22) son of Alison Grieco of Huntington looks to his Grandpa, Mike Grieco, who is also his role model, for transportation to and from his Tuesday Scout meetings at Crossroads United Methodist Church.

This year's order selection ranges from $10 to $50. Choices include tins of chocolately treasures, cheesy cheese, movie theater extra butter microwave, caramel crunch, chocolatey caramel, kettle corn, gourmet and more. Military donations of popcorn are also featured.

According to Tammy Westfall of Cubmaster Pack 25, Scouts are awarded patches and/or badges for their sales efforts. Individual prizes are also presented to the sellers.

Proceeds also help support the pack's chosen activities for the year, to fund community service and leadership projects or to attend summer camp.

Popcorn is a whole grain that provides carbohydrates and fiber to the diet. It is naturally low in fat and calories. Air-popped popcorn has 31 calories per cup, while oil-popped popcorn has 55 calories per cup, and lightly-buttered popcorn contains 133 calories per cup, according to the Popcorn Board.

And, it's an economical good-for-you snack because it costs mere pennies per serving.

Popcorn is also used in various ways, such as these recipes from The Popcorn Board:

POP-A-RIF-IC POPCORN BALLS

3 quarts popped popcorn, unsalted

1 (1-pound) package marshmallows

1/4 cup butter or margarine

Place popped popcorn in large bowl. In large saucepan, cook marshmallows and butter or margarine over low heat until melted and smooth. Pour over popcorn, tossing gently to mix well. Cool five minutes. Butter hands well and form 21/2-inch balls.

To color popcorn balls, add few drops of food coloring to smooth marshmallow mixture. Mix well to distribute color evenly; pour over popcorn as instructed.

NUTTY CHOCOLATE CARAMEL CORN CLUSTERS

3 quarts popped popcorn

1 cup whole almonds or peanuts

1 (12-ounce) package semisweet chocolate morsels

1 cup light corn syrup

1/4 cup butter or margarine

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line large, rimmed 17- by 12-inch baking pan with foil; spray lightly with cooking spray. Spray large mixing bowl (not plastic) with cooking spray; add popcorn and nuts; set aside. In medium saucepan, combine chocolate morsels, corn syrup and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils. Pour over popcorn; toss well to coat. Spread in even layer into prepared baking pan. Bake in preheated oven 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Cool completely in pan. Break into pieces; store in airtight container.

These recipes are from "Taste of Home:"

SWEET 'N' SALTY POPCORN

10 cups air-popped popcorn

1 tablespoon butter

5 tablespoons instant vanilla pudding mix

1/3 cup light corn syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Dash salt

Place popcorn in large bowl. In small microwave-safe bowl, melt butter; whisk in remaining ingredients until smooth. Microwave, uncovered, 45 seconds or until bubbly. Pour over popcorn; toss to coat. Spread in greased 15- by 10- by 1-inch baking pan. Bake at 250 degrees 25-30 minutes or until crisp, stirring once. Remove popcorn from pan to waxed paper to cool. Break into clusters. Store in airtight containers.

SWEET-TOOTH POPCORN

1 (3.3-ounce) package butter-flavored microwave popcorn

1 pound white candy coating, chopped

1 cup peanut M&M's

1 cup Reese's pieces

1 cup salted cashews

1 cup pecan halves

Microwave popcorn according to package directions. Place in large bowl. In microwave, melt candy coating; stir until smooth. Pour over popcorn; stir until coated. Combine M&M's, Reese's pieces, cashews and pecans; stir into popcorn mixture. Immediately spread onto waxed paper; let stand until set. Break into pieces. Store in airtight container.

GINGERBREAD CARAMEL CRUNCH

14 cups air-popped popcorn

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup butter, cubed

1/4 cup light corn syrup

1/4 cup molasses

11/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place popcorn in large bowl coated with cooking spray; set aside. Butter sides of small heavy saucepan; add next seven ingredients. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil without stirring 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in baking soda (mixture will foam). Stir in vanilla. Quickly pour over popcorn; mix well. Transfer to two greased 15- by 10- by 1-inch baking pans. Bake at 250 degrees 1 hour, stirring every 10 minutes. Remove from pans; place on waxed paper to cool. Store in airtight container.

BUFFALO RANCH POPCORN

16 cups popped popcorn

1/3 cup buffalo wing sauce

2 tablespoons melted butter

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon ranch salad dressing mix

Combine ingredients except popcorn. Drizzle over popcorn; toss to coat. Sprinkle with salad dressing mix.

Calling all cooks!

Do you have a recipe that you'd like to share with the Tri-State? If so, send us a photo of you and a copy of your favorite recipe for possible publication. Email it to rrison@herald-dispatch.com or mail to Features Editor Robyn Rison, P.O. Box 2017, Huntington, WV 25720.

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