Poor Man’s Microwave Popcorn

Poor Man's Microwave Popcorn

Microwave popcorn is convenient, but commercial varieties have a bunch of crap in them that can cause cancer. Imagine something processed being bad for you? What are the odds?

Anyway…

Of course you can air pop corn, or do the “old fashioned” stove top method, to which I’m partial, but you can also make your own microwave popcorn when you’re short on time. You might think this would be difficult, but it takes about 5 minutes and that includes popping. Not bad for a fast, healthy snack. You control what goes in to the bag, so there’s no gross chemicals or anything.

Not only is this a neat snack, it also is a cheap snack! You can’t go wrong with that! Once you try it you’ll do it over and over again. It’s that easy and that good!

What You’ll Need:
Plain brown paper bag
Popcorn
Sea salt
Extra virgin olive oil

Take a paper bag and place a thin layer of popcorn on the bottom of the bag:

Poor Man's Microwave Popcorn

Yes it’s not the best picture, but it gives you an idea of how much popcorn you need.

Add in some sea salt. You can add anywhere from 1/2 a teaspoon to 1 teaspoon depending on your tastes. Plus you can always add salt after it’s popped too, but if you pop it with the salt it gives it an overall better flavor.

Put a drizzle of olive oil in the bag, one teaspoon tops.

Fold the top of the bag over a couple of times and lay the bag on its side in the microwave. Pop for anywhere from 2-5 minutes depend on your microwave. It takes about 2 to 2 1/2 minutes in mine. When the pops start to slow down you know it’s time to stop.

Carefully remove from the microwave. It’s hot and the oil spreads in the bag. Carefully open the bag, just as you would a commerical bag, and don’t let the steam burn you.

Place in a bowl and eat!

Note this makes about 2-3 cups of popcorn. If you’re serving more than one you’ll want to make multiple bags.

Poor Man's Microwave Popcorn

Notes: You can make variations of this. To make kettle corn follow the instructions above, but also add a tablespoon of sugar when you add the salt. You could also add in a tablespoon or two of Parmesan during the salt step if you wanted a cheesy snack.

Sweet Potato Chip

Sweet Potato Chips

Want to hear some fabulous news? I mean really just stellar?

Do you?

Are you ready?

Sun! Melt, Baby! Melt!

We only got an inch of snow last night! An inch! Today the sun is shining and more importantly it’s going to be above freezing mind you! And the most important part of my happiness today, and the part that might just save my sanity, is that as of the time that I’m writing this, there is no foreseeable snow accumulation in the 5 day forecast!

None!

Zip!

Nada!

Zilch!

And did I mention none? And did I mention the sun is shining? And did I mention the part about it being above freezing?? (This could change, but I’m going to be Pollyanna and looks for the joy instead! ;oP)

Seriously this makes me more than happy. Who ever thought that I, the Snow Queen, would be actively seeking no more snow! It just goes to show that too much of anything is not a good thing! A variation of The Law of Diminishing Return if you will. But the point is, no snow! (Let’s hope Mother Nature doesn’t curse me for that statement! ;oP)

(Update: 1:34 PM: Well that didn’t last long. Now they are saying we might get snow tomorrow, but “less than a half inch possible”. *sigh* It could be worse I suppose! ;oP)

So now that that is out of the way, let’s talk some sweet potato chips!

I have a soft spot for sweet potatoes. I just love them! For a while now I’ve want to make an actual sweet potato chip. I’m not a fan of potato chips in general, but occasionally I do like a sweet potato chip. I’ve made baked vegetable chips before, which are divine by the way, but I’ve never made chips the “old fashioned way” until yesterday.

This is another one of those things I assumed was hard. You’d think after all the things I’ve assumed were hard, yet found out to be anything but I’d get past that, but well I’m stubborn. Yes I’m stubborn. There I said it. Most of us are, but isn’t admitting it the first step?

So all of that to say I’ve thought about making sweet potato chips for a long time, yet I hadn’t made them. Boy was I sorry I had not! They are even better homemade than any I’ve every tried out in the wide blue yonder!

So I’d say these were a huge success. Next time I’m going to play around with sea salt and vinegar chips, but I’m not going to wait as long! ;oP

What You’ll Need:
Oil for frying (Note: Safflower, vegetable, olive oil, etc. You choose. I do not recommend using canola oil, for this or anything really.)
Sweet potato(es)
A big bowl of water
Sea salt

Heat your oil to 375 F. I use a fryer.

While your oil is heating set up your ingredients and the things you will need for your frying process:

Sweet Potato Chips: Set Up and Ready to Go

You’ll need a big bowl of water, a sweet potato (or more if you want to make a big batch of chips), a potato peeler, a baking sheet lined with paper towels, a tool to remove the chips from the hot oil and sea salt.

You might also want to grab a cutting board and a very sharp knife if your sweet potato is big in diameter. We’ll get to that in a few minutes.

Peel your sweet potato:

Sweet Potato Chips: Sweet Potato Peeled

Look for a long skinny potato. Also look for one that is relatively unblemished and with few “eyes”.

Next you want to make your potato “chips”:

Sweet Potato Chips: Ready to Put in Water

I like my chips to have a bit of a thickness to them, but you don’t want them too thick or you’ll end up with fried sweet potato chunks and not sweet potato chips.

You can use a mandolin if you have one (which I do, but I’ve never gotten it to work properly) or you can use a potato peeler (which I did).

Place “chips” in a bowl of water:

Sweet Potato Chips: Soaking in Water

This prevents the potatoes from turning brown while the oil heats and you’re slicing the rest of the chips.

If your potato gets to be too cumbersome in the middle to make chips, cut the sweet potato in half:

Sweet Potato Chips: Cut in Half

Continue slicing with the potato halves.

It also helps as you’re cutting your chips to rotate the potato on each slice so that you don’t end up with a slanted edge and you keep your cutting surface relatively flat.

Once your oil is heated take a handful of chips out of the water and drain on a paper towel to remove excess moisture:

Sweet Potato Chips: Draining Before Frying

Place chips in a thin layer into the heated oil, stirring with a metal strainer occasionally until the chips begin to curl:

Sweet Potato Chips: Frying

Once the chips start to curl, continue to fry for another minute or two until they are slightly golden and continue to curl.

Remove chips from oil and place on a baking sheet that has been lined with paper towels. Add a generous sprinkle of sea salt immediately:

Sweet Potato Chips

Repeat process until you run out of potatoes.

Serve immediately, or let cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Notes: I always like to use organic ingredients when possible. This is especially true with potatoes who tend to store pesticides in them readily! Find a really good organic sweet potato or yam. You’ll be glad you did!

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Eggplant Fries with Creamy Onion Dip

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip

I love eggplant. I wasn’t always smitten with this lovely plant, but over time it is one of those things that has grown on me and then some! It’s amazing how tastes change over time.

There are many ways to prepare eggplant, but I have to say this version has to be my all time favorite! These “fries” are just perfect and I seriously think I’ve found a new addiction! If you want something a little different, and a little bit healthier than your average fry, then look no further…You’ve found exactly what you didn’t know you were looking for!

What You’ll Need:
1 eggplant, cut into strips
1 cup of plain bread crumbs
1/3 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of finely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
Extra sea salt for sprinkling
Extra finely ground black pepper for sprinkling
Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Cut the top and bottom off of your eggplant:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Top and Bottom

Cut the eggplant in half:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Halves

And then cut the halves in half:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Quarters

Next cut the eggplant quarters into slices roughly 1/4 of an inch thick:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Slices

Now cut the eggplants pieces into strips roughly the size of french fries:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Strips

Continue cutting strips until you run out of eggplant. Place all of the strips on a plate:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Eggplant Strips Ready to Dredge

Sprinkle strips with sea salt, finely ground black pepper and drizzle with olive oil:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Sea Salt, Pepper and Olive Oil

Toss around to coat. It’s easiest to just use your hands for this step.

Set aside for a few moments.

Now you are going to mix up your breading. In a shallow dish, such as a pie dish, stir together bread crumbs, Parmesan, 1 teaspoon each of sea salt, finely ground black pepper and oregano. Mix well.

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Breading

Roll sticks in breading mixture:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Ready to Dredge

Until coated on all sides and then place on a baking sheet that has been lined with a silicone baking sheet or parchment paper:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Ready to Bake

Make sure the “fries” are mostly not touching.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Baked

Serve immediately with Creamy Onion Dip (see below).

Notes: You can use this method with mushrooms, zucchini or yellow squash as well. You can store any left over breading in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a month. It’s good on chicken too.

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Creamy Onion Dip

What You’ll Need for the Creamy Onion Dip:
1/2 cup of light sour cream
1/4 cup of chopped dried onions
1/4 cup of boiling water
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder (Note: You can use garlic salt if you like, but if you do omit the sea salt below.)
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper

While the “fries” are baking make your dip.

Place dried onions in the bottom of a glass bowl:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Creamy Onion Dip: Dried Onions

Pour boiling water over the onions:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Creamy Onion Dip: Onions Soaking

Let sit until water is all or mostly absorbed by the onions.

This will take 1-3 minutes. Don’t worry if all of the water isn’t absorbed. A tablespoon or so at the bottom isn’t a big deal and actually helps the dip come together.

Stir in seasonings and sour cream and mix until completely incorporated. Chill or serve immediately.

Notes: If you don’t have, or can’t find dried onions, then you can caramelize 1/2 of a small onion and use that instead.

Blueberry Cashew Granola

Blueberry Cashew Granola

I love granola! In the past I’ve experimented with several granola recipes, because well you know me…I like to experiment! It makes the perfect snack or even a great breakfast alone or with some yogurt. Not only is it versatile, it’s yummy too!

For a while I’ve wanted to try a version that was minus an added fat source. The first batch I made used butter and the second go around used peanut butter and while this one has fat in the cashews themselves it does not have an added fat beyond that.

This version also utilized dried blueberries and let me tell you I LOVE dried blueberries! If you aren’t a blueberry fan you could just as easily use raisins, or even dried cranberries, though I wouldn’t do that and if you’ve been Dianne’s Dishes for a while you’ve heard my cranberry rants, but to each their own.

Homemade granola is not only really easy to make, it’s cheaper, and the flavor just can’t be beat! If you’ve never tried your hand at making a batch try it…Trust me you can’t go wrong!

What You’ll Need:
2 cups of whole grain oats
2 cups of cashews (Note: You can use raw or roasted. I used some that were roasted with sea salt.)
2 cups of coconut flakes (Note: You want big flakes. I like Let’s Do Organic Coconut Flakes.)
2 cups of pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds)
2 cups of dried blueberries
1 cup of maple syrup

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Blueberry Cashew Granola: Mixed

In a large bowl mix together oats through blueberries and toss to mix. Pour maple syrup over mixture and stir to coat.

Spread mixture out on a very large baking sheet:

Blueberry Cashew Granola: Ready to Bake

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown:

Blueberry Cashew Granola: Baked

Let cool completely and then break up and store in an airtight container.

Notes: Next time I make this I’m going to spread the mixture between two pans instead of baking it on just one. You could add other seeds or nuts to the mixture if you liked. Sunflower seeds are always a good addition an sometimes I like to add hemp seed too.

Kettle Corn

Kettle Corn

Some time late last year I mentioned on Twitter that I had made some kettle corn and I got a lot of DMs asking me how I made it. Well ask and you shall receive…Even if it is a few months late! ;oP

Kettle Corn is really simple to make. You get a nice sweet corn, with even a few bits of caramel type corn from the bottom here and there. If you’ve had Kettle Corn at the fair and wondered how to make then you’ve come to the right place! So sit back, grab a cuppa something warm (it’s cold out there!) and in no time you’ll see how easy it is to make your own!

What You’ll Need:
A large stock pot with a lid
2 heavy pot holders
1/4 cup of a light oil (Note: Sometimes I use light olive oil and sometimes I use safflower. Vegetable oil would probably work, though I’ll readily admit I’m not a fan.)
1 cup of popcorn kernels
1/3 cup of organic cane sugar
Sea salt

In a large pot add your oil and 3 popcorn kernels, place the lid on top and turn the heat to medium/high. Place on the lid and listen for the kernels to pop.

While you’re waiting for the kernels to pop in a small bowl mix popcorn and sugar. Set aside.

When the kernels pop you will know that it is time to add the popcorn/sugar mixture. The 3 test kernels usually pop within a minute of each other. If two of them have popped and roughly a minute later the 3rd one hasn’t then it’s probably dud. Proceed to the next step.

Once the test kernels have popped, quickly poor the sugar/popcorn mixture into the pot and recover the pot. Give it a quick shake using both pot holders to mix everything up and then wait for it to begin popping.

Shake the pot from time to time to ensure that it is heating through properly, especially after it starts popping. When the popping slows to no more than two or three pops every 5 seconds or more remove from heat and let sit for a minute to ensure that the popping has actually stopped.

Once you’re sure the popping has stopped remove lid and sprinkle generously with sea salt. Pour into a glass bowl and enjoy!

Notes: I’ve often thought it would be fun to add in some honey roasted peanuts to the process, but I never think about it until after the fact.

Baked Vegetables Chips with Dill

Baked Vegetable Chips With Dill

I have to admit I’m not a big fan of the conventional potato chip. They have always been too greasy and heavy for me. I do however like a good baked chip and decided to try my hand at making some baked vegetable chips. The result was heavenly!

This is the perfect, healthy alternative to regular old potato chips. You control the ingredients and the amount of fat you add, yet you end up with a crisp, satisfying chip that you’ll want to make again! These chips are just perfect when you want to crunch! 😉

What You’ll Need:
Root vegetables (Note: For this batch I used a sweet potato, a large carrot and a rutabaga.)
Dried dill (Note: If dill isn’t your thing you could use any other dried herb you like or leave out the herbs all together.)
Sea salt
Black pepper (Note: For this you want finely ground black pepper.)
Olive oil spray or other non-stick spray

Preheat oven to 200 F.

Thinly slice each vegetable into rounds. (Note: You can do this with a knife or a mandolin cutter. If you use the latter you can even make crinkle cuts.) Place cut veggies on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet. Spray generously with olive oil or non-stick spray. Sprinkle with dill, sea salt and pepper.

Place try into your oven on the highest rack and bake for 1 hour. (Note: Keep an eye on the chips and make sure they aren’t burning. If they appear too brown then lower them to a lower rack. The sweet potato will turn a lovely chocolate color as it bakes, but that doesn’t mean it’s burning.) After an hour move the pan to a lower rack and cook for an additional 30 minutes to an hour until chips are crisp. Remove from oven and let chips cool on the pan. Store in an air tight container.

Baked Vegetable Chips With Dill

Notes: The chips are really best served the day they are made. If they soften up a bit when you store them you can re-crisp them by putting them back in the oven for a bit.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

One of the best things about getting pumpkins is being able to make roasted pumpkin seeds! There are so many ways to roast them…With herbs…With honey…Or even just with a little sea salt! No matter how you roast them you’ve got a fun and easy snack. These are one of Alexis’ favorite go to snacks…Mine too! 😉

What You’ll Need:
Pumpkin seeds, rinsed and cleaned
Sea salt

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Rinse the pumpkin seeds in water and drain. Make sure the seeds are cleaned and the pumpkin “string” are gone. Spread the seeds onto a large cookie sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper. Sprinkle with sea salt and bake for 15-20 minutes until seeds are browned. Let cool and store in an air tight container.

Notes: Roasted pumpkin seeds are good as a yogurt or ice cream topping. They are also good in granola. Some people use oil to roast them, but I don’t think it’s necessary. I think they taste better without the oil.

Peanut Butter Granola

Peanut Butter Granola

When you think Granola it makes you think of wholesome goodness. Buying commercially made granola is a toss up though. You never know what you’re going to get and who really wants a grab bag when it comes to what you’re eating. Many of them have nasty preservatives you can’t pronounce, and/or high fructose corn syrup, and/or other refined sugars and/or the dreaded trans-fats. None of that is stuff you want to eat, or shouldn’t be anyway.

A while back I came across a recipe that I adapted from Mother Earth Living for homemade granola bars and Alexis, my sister, Nelson and I loved them!

At the time I thought it would be nice to subtract the butter, add another healthier fat and make it granola instead of granola bars, so today I tried that. The result was scrumptious! And the best part is that this is an excellent way to incorporate whole grains!

What You’ll Need:
1 1/2 cups of extra thick rolled oats (This is the Whole Grain kind, not the instant version)
1 cup of unsulphered coconut
1/2 cup of raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup of pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup hempseed
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup of whole, raw almonds
1/4 cup of whole flax seeds
4 tablespoons of natural peanut butter (I use Tree of Life Blended Peanut Butter)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Mix together oats through flax seeds on a very large baking sheet and put into the oven. Bake for 20 minutes.

While the oat mixture is heating in a pot melt peanut butter butter, honey and maple syrup. Once the mixture is nicely melted melted bring to a quick boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla.

Remove oat mixture from the oven and leave the oven on. In a large bowl mix oat mixture with the peanut butter mixture and stir to coast. Stir in raisins and then spread granola mixture out so that it isn’t completely touching on one large pan or two smaller pans. Put mixture back into the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool and store granola crumbles in an air tight container. When they first come out of the oven they will be slightly soft, but they will harden as they cool. Serve plain, as cereal of as a topping for yogurt or ice cream.

Notes: You could add any seed or nut you wanted in addition to or in place of the ones I chose for this mix. Last time I used cashews. Peanuts would be good too! Mix it up and make it your own!

Toaster Oven S’Mores

Toaster Oven S'Mores

Who doesn’t love S’Mores? The thought of S’Mores instantly takes me back to childhood. Whether at Girl Scout camp, or summers spent camping (very rustically I might add) at the lake with family and friends, there were usually S’Mores involved. Regardless of the occasion there was the inevitable marshmallow roasting over the fire, the ones that caught on fire (whether intentional or not), laughter and fun. I remember it as if it were yesterday.

The other day at the grocery store I saw a display set up with the ingredients for S’Mores and decided to make them and let Alexis try one of my childhood favorites. Her response when seeing them was, “No thank you. Can I have some spinach?” Spinach over chocolate and marshmallow goodness? But hey that’s ok too. :O) Jamison just shakes his head when she says things like that, but she eventually came around though and she loved them too.

As a child we used various forms of chocolate. Sometimes (and this is my favorite to be honest) we used milk chocolate Hershey bars. Other times we used chocolate frosting, which is good too, but I really prefer a good chocolate bar over frosting any day.

When we purchased the ingredients for this adventure I immediately grabbed the chocolate bars. I didn’t realize until I had gotten home that I had gotten Hershey Special Dark bars, instead of the milk chocolate variety, but given we usually eat Dagoba milk chocolate, which has a higher cocoa content in it than the Hershey’s Dark variety, you can’t really tell the difference.

There is no wrong answer when it comes to S’Mores. Just go with what you like. I think they would even be good dipped IN chocolate! But any way you make them what’s not to like about chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers?

Toaster Oven S'Mores

What You’ll Need:
4 graham crackers, broken in half
1 chocolate candy bar (This is entirely up to you. Most of the time milk chocolate is used for S’Mores, but you can use dark or whatever floats your boat.)
4 marshmallows

Place 4 graham cracker squares on a toaster oven baking sheet. Top each cracker with 1/4 of your candy bar and 1 marshmallow. Place in your toaster oven on the highest heat setting for 5-8 minutes or until the marshmallow is slightly browned. Remove from heat and top with remaining four cracker squares and press down. Enjoy immediately or you can even let them cool and eat them that way. They are more cookie like when they chocolate and marshmallow harden, but they are good no matter when you choose to take your first bite!

Meringues

Meringues

I love Meringues, but I always just bought them from Miss Meringue. The thought of actually making them myself was a bit intimidating, but I decided it couldn’t be that hard and I’m always up for a cooking challenge.

The first batch I made I added vanilla and cream of tartar, but I didn’t like the flavor. It was a bit tangy. Meringues are supposed to be sweet, not tangy. It had to be the cream of tartar that did the trick as vanilla has a more smooth flavor. Whatever it was I just didn’t like the flavor, so I went back to the drawing board.

With the next batch I decided to try and make Mint Chocolate, but I couldn’t get the whites to become stiff so that batch was scratched. I think the peppermint oil might have been the issue. I was going to make some mint brownies with the spoils of that battle, but I put the egg mixture in the fridge and promptly forgot all about it until today when I found it had soured. That’s a story for another time. I’ll be trying the chocolate version again soon. I refuse to be defeated! 😉

Finally I settled on simple and straight forward and this is the result. Not only are they completely delicious, sweet, light and crisp, just like they should be, they also have roughly 20 calories per meringue! Now there’s a dessert you can get behind, or perhaps more aptly put it won’t show up ON your behind! 😉

What You’ll Need:
3 egg whites
2/3 cup of sugar

Preheat oven to 225 F.

Beat egg whites and sugar on high speed until stiff peaks form (roughly 8 minutes). Place stiffened whites into a pastry bag with a very large flower tip and pipe onto a baking sheet that is lined with a Silpat or parchment paper. (Note: If you don’t have a large star tip you can just pipe out blobs without a tip. They will still be pretty and it won’t affect the taste! ;o)) Bake for 50 minutes to one hour until meringue are stiff and not spongy. (I like to cook them for 30 minutes and then check them every 10 minutes after that to make sure they don’t go too far, but I’m a bit OCD! 😉 )

Let cool for 30 minutes and then store in an airtight container.

Makes roughly 24-30 meringues depending on how big you pipe them.