Out with the Chips, In with the Popcorn

Our go-to snack after a long training day is chips—potato, tortilla, flax seed, or anything in a big bag! They’re salty, crunchy, and full of fat, which we crave after hours of exertion. There are days that we spend up to 6 hours riding, running and swimming and we don’t even get a chance to think about counting calories (except maybe to make sure we’re getting enough). But I’m sick of feeling like I’ve undone all the good I did in a workout by eating something greasy and unhealthy afterwards. So lately, I’ve been willing myself to reach for the popcorn jar more often than the chip bag.  

In just a few extra minutes I can pop a couple bowls of popcorn. I set different toppings out on the kitchen island, and we all stand around, drinking our recovery drinks, still in our bike kits, discussing the day's ride.  

My brother-in-law, Speed, introduced me to my current favorite topping combination: freshly grated Parmesan, sea salt, and black pepper. When I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll go back outside to clip a branch from my rosemary bush, chop it up and add it to the bowl.  Some of Speed’s other favorite toppings, which I've added to my rotation, are Old Bay, a pinch of sugar, and a drizzle of lemon balsamic vinegar.    

Since I don't have an air-popper and try to avoid commercially manufactured microwave popcorn (too many chemicals!), I searched the Web for some ideas and combined the best tips into this DIY microwave method:  Pour a half-cup of popcorn into a brown paper bag that’s about twice the size of a standard brown lunch bag. Fold the top over and microwave for two to three minutes or until the popping slows down. (If you cook it until all the kernels have popped, some of the popcorn may burn.) Put the un-popped kernels back in the microwave for about another minute.

Laurel prefers a stovetop method that she claims makes the popcorn fluffier.  She follows the instructions on the back of the Orville Redenbacher’s kernel jar.  It’s just as easy, but involves dirtying a pot and splattering oil—two things I avoid whenever possible.

This weekend we'll be serving popcorn instead of chips during the Giants playoffs game.  Does anyone have any favorite popcorn toppings we should try?  

—Bec