For me, eating popcorn has always felt a little bit like eating air.
There's just not a whole lot going on there.
And although I've recognized for some time that popcorn is a whole grain that is a perfectly healthy snack (particularly when not slathered in copious amounts of fake butter), still, it has never managed to grab my attention for very long. Not until now that is.
What I love about this idea is that it captures the whole grain benefits and low calorie component of popcorn while matching it up with the more substantive heavy hitters in the snack department: nuts, seeds and dried fruit.
You get to enjoy taste, volume and satisfaction without over-consuming calories. Two cups worth of this popcorn trail mix will bring you in line with a small handful of nuts/seeds and a sprinkling of fruit that is ideal for a snack.
Nuts and seeds are delicious and they also offer many potential health benefits but, on their own, a mere half cup can quickly amount to a calorie intake in the range of a meal rather than a snack. I don't generally like to over-focus on calories (I find it takes away from the more important understanding of what those calories are comprised of) but having a general idea of ranges is usually wise.
Popcorn Trail Mix ~ Sensible, Portable Snacking
- 1/4 cup corn kernels (will make about 8 cups or 2 quarts - adjust quantities if you wish to make more or less)
- 1 Tbsp coconut oil
- 1 cup chopped walnut, or other nut of choice
- 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup dried apricot, sliced thin
- 1/3 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut shavings
For the Topping (see other suggestions in Notes below)
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp sea salt or other coarse grain salt
Coconut oil has a higher smoke point than olive oil and I like to use it for cooking popcorn.
You can substitute any nuts/fruit of choice in this recipe to create your favourite version.
I found the simple topping combination of cinnamon and sea salt surprisingly delicious in this batch - a perfect complement to the sweet notes. But, if you prefer something on the pure savoury side, one of my favourite combinations is: parmesan, cumin, sea salt, a pinch of cayenne and nutritional yeast (you can play around with proportions). Nutritional yeast has a subtle cheese/nut flavour and is a good source of fortified B12 - particularly helpful for vegans. It is often sold in the form of light yellow/golden coloured flakes (easy to combine with other herbs & spices and shake on popcorn). You can find nutritional yeast at health food stores of bulk food stores.
Carefully pop corn in a large dedicated pot on stove with coconut oil.
Place popped corn in a large bowl and add nuts, seeds and dried fruit. Sprinkle with cinnamon/sea salt topping or other topping of choice.
Further divide popcorn into smaller bowls or bags for snacks at school and the office.