My Friday Favorite: Add a Little "Pop" to Your Summertime Party

Summertime is the most adventurous season of the year. We pack our evenings and weekends with as many activities as possible to take advantage of the longer days and beautiful weather. In the midst of all the madness, our friends and family schedule events and gatherings to reconnect and spend quality time together. What will be the common denominator at all these exciting functions?  Food, of course!  Burgers, brats, hot dogs, potato chips, crackers, dips, pasta salads, brownies, cookies, cupcakes and countless other tempting, delicious and calorically dense eats. 

It the midst of all of ours summertime favorites, we forget about one of the most healthy and versatile snacks in the grocery store, popcorn. I have rediscovered my love for popcorn and have decided to make this my go-to summer snack for get togethers at my home and 
away from home. Almost everyone I know really loves popcorn too and I have come up with a few fun ways for you to add a little "pop" to your next party. 

This adventure all started with a little trip to my kitchen and I was only going to make my popping good creations from what I already had in my house. This is the best thing about popcorn, you can make creations of any combination your taste buds love:  from sweet to spicy, savory to sour. Popcorn compliments a wide variety of flavors and can be a lot of fun to eat. 

I always have microwave popcorn in my pantry and one of my favorites is Iowa-grown Jolly Time Pop Corn. Jolly Time has a registered dietitian approved line of healthy options:  Healthy Pop Butter and Kettle Corn, in large bags and mini bags, Healthy Pop Low Sodium, Crispy White and Caramel Apple.  All of these tasty flavors are only 20 calories per cup popped and are a good source of energy boosting whole grains and fiber. Since they are so low in calories, it leaves a little wiggle room to add a few indulgent ingredients of your own. Shall we start with one of my favorite creations out of my kitchen?

I am a HUGE fan of chocolate and I pretty much always have dark chocolate chips on hand to curb my "occasional" sweet cravings. I knew this would pair perfectly with the sweet and rich flavor of coconut. 

I like the pairing of dark chocolate with toasted coconut. So I measured out 1/2 cup of coconut and placed it in a pain heated to medium. Watch the coconut closely while constantly stirring to prevent it from burning. Once it is lightly brown, remove from heat. 

I recommend dividing your freshly popped popcorn into 4 bowls and equally divide the toasted coconut flakes, sprinkling on top. Divide 1/4 cup of dark chocolate chips between the 4 bowls. Melt 1/4 cup of the dark chocolate chips, melt and drizzle the chocolate over the 4 bowls. 

The next surprise from the kitchen is a simple one, but involves my most favorite dried fruit:  golden raisins. All you need is 1/4 cup shelled pistachios, roughly chopped and 1/4 cup of golden raisins. Divide your freshly popped corn into 4 bowls and equally distribute the pistachios and golden raisins. Enjoy!

Drum roll please.........For the grand finally of my pantry popcorn party, this is hands down my favorite. Summer would not be summer without basil and tomatoes in mouth-watering caprese fashion.

Popcorn does not need to be limited to shelf stable add-ins, fresh and full of flavor toppings can really compliment the crunch of popcorn. All you need is 1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan, 1/2 cup of ribboned fresh basil leaves, 1/3 cup roughly chopped sun-dried tomatoes and 1 teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper. 

For this creation, I like to place the 1/2 the freshly popped popcorn on a large plate for sharing. The first layer I top with half of all the toppings. Then I top that with the rest of the popcorn and repeat. I recommend making sure the popcorn is nice and warm so the cheese melts, and the heat warms the basil and tomatoes to intensify the flavor. 

Your welcome!

At your next get-together, consider forgoing the potato chips, brownies and cupcakes.  Take a "shopping" trip around your kitchen and see what flavorful, healthy, satisfying and 
posh treats you can create for your guests with my longtime favorite summertime snack:  popcorn.