Monday, January 4, 2010


I happened to receive a GREAT gift for Christmas this year.

A real, live popcorn maker! Just like in the theatres, only smaller - unfortunately, much smaller! That is OK - the taste is so yummy, I am willing to stand there and make 6 batches in a row to satisfy this little family's munch cravings. In fact, I have found the only person who loves to munch popcorn more than me, is Zabi! Chicka would be the least interested, so Zabi, being the dear sister that she is, is only too willing to help out!

I have also found, although this kind of defeats the health benefits, that by adding about 1/2 teaspoon of sugar to the mix, the result is just like fresh kettle corn! We pop in olive oil and don't use any butter on top, and only a smidgeon of salt, so it is still healthy, right?????

The Health Benefits of Popcorn: A Surprising Study

A new study carried out at the University of Scranton showed that popcorn has some surprising health benefits. Popcorn is high in antioxidants, most notably, polyphenols – a group of natural plant chemicals that have a variety of health benefits. Polyphenols are the same group of compounds that give red wine, tea, olive oil, and chocolate their beneficial properties. Not only do they scavenge free radicals and protect against cell damage, they’re being investigated for their anti-cancer properties and heart protective properties. In fact, the researchers found that the polyphenol content of good, old-fashioned popcorn rivals that of many fruits and vegetables.

Another health benefit of popcorn? It’s a whole grain in the same league as oatmeal, barley, brown rice, and millet – grains that are known for their health benefits. All of these grains retain the bran and germ of the plant which is the source of most of the vitamins and minerals - in contrast to refined grains where these vitamin-rich components have been stripped away. Three cups of popcorn is equivalent to a single serving of a whole grain food. Popcorn is also a good source of fiber which helps to increase satiety and give a sense of fullness and satisfaction that lasts for hours. This can be helpful for weight control since popcorn without butter is low in calories.

Read more at Suite101: The Health Benefits of Popcorn: A Tasty Snack That's Actually Good for You

the following was taken from Wikipedia:

Popcorn was first discovered thousands of years ago by the Native Americans. Some tribes believed that the popping noise was that of an angry god who escaped the kernel. The English who came to America in the 16th and 17th centuries learned about popcorn from the Native Americans.

During the Great Depression, popcorn was comparatively cheap at 5-10 cents a bag and became popular. Thus, while other businesses failed, the popcorn business thrived and became a source of income for some struggling farmers. During World War II, sugar rations diminished candy production, causing Americans to eat three times more popcorn than they had before.
Each kernel of popcorn contains a certain amount of moisture and oil. Unlike most other grains, the outer hull of the popcorn kernel is both strong and impervious to moisture, and the starch inside consists almost entirely of a hard, dense type.
As the oil and the water are heated past the boiling point, they turn the moisture in the kernel into a superheated pressurized steam, contained within the moisture-proof hull. Under these conditions, the starch inside the kernel gelatinizes, softening and becoming pliable. The pressure continues to increase until the breaking point of the hull is reached: a pressure of about 135 psi (930 kPa)[7] and a temperature of 180 °C (356 °F). The hull ruptures rapidly, causing a sudden drop in pressure inside the kernel and a corresponding rapid expansion of the steam, which expands the starch and proteins of the endosperm into airy foam. As the foam rapidly cools, the starch and protein polymers set into the familiar crispy puff.
Special varieties are grown to give improved popping yield. Some wild types will pop, but the cultivated strain is Zea mays averta, which is a special kind of flint corn.

Although small quantities can be popped in a stovetop kettle in a home kitchen, commercial sale of freshly popped popcorn employs specially designed popcorn machines, which were invented in Chicago, Illinois by Charles Cretors in 1885. Cretors successfully introduced his invention at the Columbian Exposition in 1893. (At this same world's fair, F.W. Rueckheim introduced the first caramel corn; his brother, Louis, slightly altered the recipe and introduced it as Cracker Jack popcorn in 1896.

Cretors' invention introduced the first patented steam-driven popcorn machine that popped corn in oil. Previously, vendors popped corn by holding a wire basket over an open flame. At best, the result was a hot, dry, unevenly cooked confection. The Cretors' machine popped corn in a mixture of one-third clarified butter, two-thirds lard, and salt. This mixture could withstand the 450 °F (232 °C) temperature needed to pop corn and it did without producing much smoke. A fire under a boiler created steam that drove a small engine; that engine drove the gears, shaft, and agitator that stirred the corn and powered the attention-attracting clown – the Toasty Roasty Man. A wire connected to the top of the cooking pan allowed the operator to disengage the drive mechanism, lift the cover, and dump popped corn into the storage bin beneath. Exhaust from the steam engine was piped to a hollow pan below the corn storage bin and kept freshly popped corn uniformly warm for the first time ever.

A very different method of popcorn-making can still be seen on the streets of some Chinese cities today. The corn is poured into a large cast-iron canister- sometimes called a 'popcorn hammer'- that is then sealed with a heavy lid and slowly turned over a curbside fire in rotisserie fashion. When a pressure gauge on the canister reaches a certain level, it is removed from the fire, a large canvas sack is put over the lid, and the seal is released. With a huge boom, all of the popcorn explodes at once and is poured into the sack.

The girls' eye appointment is approaching, and they are now old enough to do the test with letters instead of animals. So, we have been working on learning V, H, O and T. Today we painted the letters. I think tomorrow that we will do sand or glitter on glue and see how that works out. I guess dough would be another option for another day. Any other suggestions?


Kim Strout said...

Amy loved shaping the letters out of playdoh when she got home!

cara said...

Pudding-give each girl a paper plate with pudding on it. Have them draw the letters in the pudding and then they can lick off their fingers. Yum! This is how I taught my son to write his name.

Anonymous said...

-A pie plate with a thin layer of corn meal. Gently shake the plate to "erase" the letter.
-Shaving cream and powdered tempra paint finger painting or standard finger paints for that matter.
-Peanut butter playdough.
'Becca L.

Anonymous said...

Love the learning and "catching up" I get on your blog! ;)
My 2 cents is to put shaving cream on a cookie sheet and let them write the letters on that. When I was a teacher, my kiddos loved that.
Hope the eye appt. goes well! You've inspired me to make popcorn tonight now!!
Love, Sarah