Real Food Standby #4: Stove-top Popcorn

You put the oil in the pot

And you let it get hot

You put the popcorn in

And you start to grin

Sizzle-sizzle, sizzle-sizzle, sizzle-sizzle, sizzle-sizzle

Sizzle-sizzle, sizzle-sizzle . . . . POP!!

That’s really all you need for a recipe! This snack can be salty or sweet, cheesy or plain, but it’s always easy and low-cost.

Popcorn has long been the go-to late-night snack for our family. For years my partner and I have been driving various neighbours crazy with the aroma filtering through to their apartments late in the evenings. Lately I”ve been throwing it in our snack bag. The kids see this as a real treat!

It’s very frugal–even if you factor in buying non-GMO organic popcorn and coconut oil–and just about as quick as microwave popcorn. But when you make it yourself, the ingredients are much healthier. We usually buy ours in the bulk aisle of the health food store, or occasionally through the ONFC food co-op. Either way, it’s a fraction of the price of any store-bought snack, and also much better for you.

Simple Stovetop Popcorn

coconut oil or palm oil

popping corn

Optional toppings: sea salt, melted butter, parmesan cheese, nutritional yeast

Spoon a large gob of coconut oil into the bottom of a large cold lidded saucepan. Turn the heat to max. As soon as the oil has liquefied, add popcorn to cover the bottom of the pot. We don’t measure quantities, but rather aim for the oil to be level with the kernels, and the whole mass covering the bottom of the pot. Too little oil and you will end up with lots of unpopped kernels. Too much, and the popcorn will be soggy or oily. Feel this out and you will have a skill for life ūüôā

Put the lid on the pot and listen for the popping to start. Have a large bowl or two ready to receive your popcorn.¬† If the popcorn starts to fill up the pot and lift the lid, dump some of it out into the bowl. In this way you can easily make large quantities even in a relatively small pot. Throw some salt on it immediately, as it sticks better when it’s hot. Return pot to heat and give it a good shake every few seconds so any kernels get shifted to the bottom of the pot for a chance to pop.

Once the popping almost stops, dump the whole into the bowl(s) and salt to taste. Add your optional toppings and enjoy!

How do you like your popcorn?

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And then there’s the breastfeeding

The other day I wrote about my many frugality failures, and a few of my wins, over the last month or so, leading up to and following the birth of our son. One key thing I forgot to mention–probably because it is already so much a part of my life–is the breastfeeding.

From a frugality standpoint, there is no question that breastfeeding is the best choice for feeding your baby. No powders to buy, no bottles to buy & sanitize, no containers to throw away, no water to heat, and it’s often a fantastically effortless way to lose the weight you put on during pregnancy. What a miracle worker that Mother Nature is to design such an elegant system!

But there are also benefits for my nursing daughter who turned 2 1/2 just before Nicholas was born.

Having “mokies” calms her when she’s having a meltdown; it puts her to sleep, and back to sleep in the middle of the night; it allows us to keep our physical closeness, even when the new baby is attached to my body for 90% of the day; and most of all, I can see it helping her to start bonding with the little guy as her little hand (big in comparison to his) plays with his foot, strokes his belly, holds his hand.

While this isn’t strictly about frugality, continuing to nurse my girl is helping me keep things together in these crazy newborn days. And that is a cornerstone of keeping the house running well.

Roulades!

IMG_1077I made some delicious roulades yesterday based on this recipe from a blog called “Souvlaki for the Soul” (picture to come!!). ¬†Now, I’ve been looking for a food just like this: a compact savoury snack that’s versatile, not too fiddly to make, and perfect for taking on the road. ¬†These Roulades (as I’m calling them) fit the bill 100%! ¬†They can also be made to fit a budget (the feta in my recipe was a bit pricey), and also to use up things in the fridge that need eating up.

Attention: moms, the pastry would be fun to make with kids, and they make great park food! ¬†They’re also fun to eat. ¬†It would be easy to do a sweet or savoury version, and the fat content of this particular pastry recipe is not too high. ¬†The filling here was too much of a “strong flavour” for my little one (she prefers “mild flavour”), so next time I might substitute ricotta for the feta. ¬†And I’m dreaming about doing a pizza roulade for our road trip tomorrow.

One caveat: though these are perfect foods for taking on a summer picnic, they are not so much fun to cook on a hot day, as they require about 30 minutes in a 400 degree oven. ¬†But if you have a cool evening, it might be worth whipping up a batch for the next couple days’ lunches.

Spinach Feta Roulades

Pastry

2 cups minus 1 tbsp all-purpose flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

3 oz or 6 tbsp or 1 1/2 sticks of cold lard, shortening or butter

1/2 cup cold milk

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.  Cut in the fat using a pastry blender or a food processor until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.  Then add the milk slowly as you gently stir with a fork.  Stir together until a soft dough is formed.  Knead gently for 1-2 minutes or until smooth.  Wrap the ball of dough and put in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to relax while you make the filling.

Filling

1 package of thawed frozen chopped spinach, or about the same weight in fresh spinach, washed and chopped very fine

1-2 scallions, chopped finely

1 cup crumbled feta

1 egg

1/2 cup grated Romano cheese (optional: I didn’t use this)

1 cup chopped walnuts (optional: I didn’t use these)

Mix all together in a bowl and season with pepper if needed.

To assemble

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. ¬†Remove dough from fridge and roll into a 35 x 20 cm rectangle. ¬†Spread filling over the rectangle, leaving a bare “lip” at the end. Gently roll lengthwise. ¬†Brush the bare “lip” with water or egg white to seal the roll. ¬†Chill for 2 hours (or not) and then cut into rounds, about 1.5 cm thick. ¬†Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, leaving some room between each roulade for expansion. ¬†Bake for 15 minutes, then remove and rearrange on the baking sheet so they bake evenly. ¬†Return to oven for 15 more minutes or until lightly browned.

Enjoy, with a bowl of gazpacho soup, or on a shady blanket in a sunny park.