The Best Stove Top Popcorn

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I love popcorn. Just ask my family, who has the same affliction as I do. Nothing, I mean nothing, can satisfy a craving better than hot popped corn in a big bowl and then gulping it down, handfuls at a time.

It started innocently enough. When we were young my parents would pile us kids into the back seat of the car along with big bags of popped popcorn, and away we’d go to the drive in movie theatre. We were happy there, three kids in the back seat watching movie after movie, eating our popcorn and gulping our pop (a treat for those nights). It couldn’t get any better than that. When we got older, there was Saturday Hockey Night in Canada and while watching the game, there we’d all be with big bowls of hot buttery popcorn and cheering on our team – it was family night, it was hockey and popcorn.

popcornready

So I’m sharing what I think to be the best way to make popcorn. Popping kernels on the stove top might not be new, but it might be new to those who grew up with the microwave popcorn. Sure, I made the microwave popcorn for more years than I care to admit to. But I finally remembered how my parents made it, and rediscovered the stove top method.

This is amazingly the best. The wonderful smell, the sound of the kernels in the pan, the spattering of oil … hmm.  For the purist moments, I leave it plain. Other times I might lather it with seasoning, add some sugar in the pot for a kettle version or drizzle it with delicious honey butter. I’ve discovered recipes that are so good, that when you drizzle white melted chocolate and add some sprinkles, it takes on a whole new world of flavour and taste. Who knew chocolate and popcorn could work together! Since rediscovering this way of making popcorn, I’ve vowed to never go back to the microwave stuff again.

This version is easy, takes only 3 ingredients, I can make as much as I like, costs me pennies and if that’s not enough to entice you, the smell alone will drive you crazy!

Stove Top Popcorn
(courtesy of PastryAffair.com)

Yields about 2-3 servings

3 tablespoons coconut oil */**
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
1/2 teaspoon popcorn salt, more or less to taste

In a large 8-quart pot, melt the coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add 3-4 popcorn kernels, cover, and continue heating until they have popped. This is how you know the oil is hot enough to begin the popping process. Add the rest of the popcorn kernels, cover, and remove from heat. Swirl the pot around to evenly distribute the oil around the kernels. During this wait period, all of the popcorn kernels reach the same temperature, which allows them to pop at more or less the same time.

In approximately 30 seconds, return the pot to the heat. Cover to avoid spattering oil, but keep the lid slightly askew to allow the steam to escape; this will result in crisper popcorn. Soon after, the kernels should begin popping. Every so often, completely cover the pot and shake it lightly to prevent the kernels from burning. In 2-3 minutes, the popcorn should be completely popped.

Immediately transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle on the salt, toss, and serve hot.

*Any oil with a high smoking point will do, such as peanut, grapeseed, or vegetable oil. Use whatever you have in the cupboard.

And the dog says …

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Dog Paw PrintYou’d think by now I would have come up with a list of dog quotes, given the fact that over my lifetime I’ve had eight dogs as pets. Two were part of my family when I was growing up and the other six signed up for fun after I was married. They’ve included a mutt, german sheppard, yellow lab, westie and a cairn terrier. I love cats too. Our family had cats when I was growing up, and when Klem and I were first married we brought two home. They were wonderful pets, but when they passed away (around 15 years old), we decided to bring a dog into the mix. My sister-in-law surprised Klem with a Yellow Labrador puppy, and it was love at first sight. Years have gone by, dogs have come and sadly gone, but we’ll never be without a dog in our family.

So I scoured around and it was hard to choose but I think that these quotes are right on money about the love and frustrations of owning a dog (or do they own you?). They’re here to make you smile, even if you are a cat lover!

dogs

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” — Groucho Marx, The Essential Groucho: Writings For By And About Groucho Marx

“Happiness is a warm puppy.” ― Charles M. Schulz

If you are a dog and your owner suggests that you wear a sweater. . . suggest that he wear a tail.” – Fran Lebowitz

“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” – Will Rogers (actor)

“If you think dogs can’t count, try putting three dog biscuits in your pocket and then give him only two of them.” – Phil Pastoret (author)

“In times of joy, all of us wished we possessed a tail we could wag.” – W.H. Auden

“Yesterday I was a dog. Today I’m a dog. Tomorrow I’ll probably still be a dog. Sigh! There’s so little hope for advancement” -Snoopy

“The greatest fear dogs know is the fear that you will not come back when you go out the door without them.”  – Stanley Coren

“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” – Josh Billings (a.k.a. Henry Wheeler Shaw; humorist and lecturer)

“No one appreciates the very special genius of your conversation as the dog does.”
—Christopher Morley (author, Kitty Foyle)

“The reason a dog has so many friends is that he wags his tail instead of his tongue” -Anonymous

“A dog is one of the remaining reasons why some people can be persuaded to go for a walk.” -O. A.

“There is only one smartest dog in the world, and every boy has it.” -Anonymous

“You can always trust a dog that likes peanut butter.” – Kate DiCamillo, Because of Winn-Dixie

“I sometimes look into the face of my dog Stan and see a wistful sadness and existential angst, when all he is actually doing is slowly scanning the ceiling for flies.”
― Merrill Markoe

“A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down.” -Robert Benchley (humorist and actor)

Who Will You Remember?

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Remembrance Day is Tuesday, November 11. It began as a visceral response to the terrible death toll of the First World War, but for Canadians, Remembrance Day has evolved into a tribute to all military dead and a celebration of the Canadian Forces in general. It’s a day when we honour the courage, commitment and sacrifice of veterans of World War I and II, wars in Korea, the Gulf and Afghanistan, as well as other conflicts and peacekeeping missions around the world.

This November 11th marks the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI and the 75th anniversary of the beginning of WWII.

poppyThe red poppy, the ubiquitous symbol of remembrance which blossoms on Canadian lapels every November, was forever linked to the First World War and its casualties through John McCrae’s poem, In Flanders Fields.

But its use was first championed by an American woman, Moina Michael who was entranced by McCrae’s poem and led a successful campaign to have the American Legion adopt the poppy as an official symbol of remembrance in 1920. It soon spread to France and by the following year it had also been adopted in Canada, Britain and Australia.

After its formation in 1925, the Canadian Legion, which became the Royal Canadian Legion in 1959, ran the annual poppy campaign.

In Flanders Fields

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae of Guelph, Ontario was inspired to write his famous poem in May of 1915 after presiding over the funeral of a friend and fellow soldier in the Flanders region of Belgium.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

No-Bake Dark Chocolate Bites

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I found this recipe on one of my go-to sites, Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, and after the first time I made them, I knew I’d be making them again… and again.  No bake, just a few ingredients, it’s all easy peasy.

granolabites

What’s not to like? These bits are packed with oats, coconut, almonds, cocoa nibs (if that’s your thing) and a creamy mixture of honey, extra-virgin coconut oil, peanut butter, cocoa and a few chocolate chips. I make double batches and freeze one batch for later. They’re just the right size to help through the afternoons at work when I need a ‘bit-o-chocolate’. These are so simple that I’ll bet your kids would like to help mix and scoop these babies onto the pans and then ask for more once they’ve had a taste of them! Other granola bites just don’t do the trick for me anymore, these are what I go to for that bit of chocolate and sweet treat.

granola-bites2

Mel’s also has another recipe for granola bites, here’s that recipe, or visit her website.

No-Bake Dark Chocolate Granola Bites

YIELD: MAKES 2-3 DOZEN GRANOLA BITES

If using whole almonds, be sure they are chopped into fairly small pieces. I’ve made the mistake of leaving the almonds a tad bit too chunky and it makes the granola mixture more difficult to form into balls that stick together. I haven’t used regular old-fashioned oats. If you do so, consider pulsing them in a blender or food processor very lightly so they break down just a bit. If you aren’t familiar with cacao nibs, they are basically raw pieces of chocolate that haven’t been ground and sweetened yet (they are slightly bitter like cocoa powder). They add a yummy depth of flavor and a crunchy texture to these granola bites but you can definitely leave them out if that is your preference.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups quick oats
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut, sweetened or unsweetened
  • 1 cup sliced or chopped almonds
  • 3 tablespoons cacao nibs (optional)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup natural unsweetened or Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the oats and salt.
  2. In a 10 or 12-inch skillet over medium heat, add the coconut, almonds and cacao nibs, if using. Toast the ingredients, stirring often to prevent burning, for 5-6 minutes until the aroma is nutty and the coconut and nuts are turning slightly golden. Toss the mixture with the oats.
  3. In a medium saucepan, combine the honey, coconut oil, peanut butter, vanilla, cocoa powder and chocolate chips. Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is melted and smooth.
  4. Pour the chocolate mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until well combined.
  5. Using a cookie scoop or two spoons, scoop the mixture into tablespoon-sized mounds onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Let the little mounds sit for 10 minutes or so until they have cooled and are less sticky.
  6. Roll the mounds into balls using firm pressure with the palms of your hands.
  7. Refrigerate the granola bites for 1-2 hours to set up. They can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks (or freeze for several months). They taste great out of the refrigerator but are even better if left to sit at room temperature for just a few minutes before eating.

Bonneville Speed Week 2014

Klem and I haven’t been on a vacation for two years. With family matters to work through and health issues that seemed to never end, it wasn’t meant to be. But we finally seen clear skies come through this summer when I got the word at work that my vacation was approved. So we booked our hotels, coerced the kids to watch the house/pets, and made all the necessary plans to get away to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah for Southern California Timing Association’s Speed Week 2014.

Salt Flats rod

Speed Week is a special community for high speed action and car meca freaks. It’s an international event that includes participants and enthusiasts from across the U.S., Canada, Europe and down under in Australia and New Zealand.  This is a unique sport that consists of very determined people who drive hot rods, roadsters, belly tankers, lakesters, motorcycles, streamliners and even diesel trucks to ‘shoot the salt’ in a simple quest to have their name added to the list of many record holders. We’ve made the trip twice over the last few years and we promised ourselves to go when we could, and this is the year we get back. It was also an extra sweet year to make the trek as it marks the 100th anniversary of world records at Bonneville.

Speed Week 2014 image 1

It’s by no means a short distance to drive from where we live …. approximately 6,900 kms there and back, averaging us 10 solid hours a day over a 3 day span. And because the hotels are booked from one year to the next, we can’t get one close to the event (in Wendover) and so we drive 1 1/2 hours each way from our spot near the airport in Salt Lake City to get to the flats. Yes, we’d love not having to drive that 3 hours a day, but when you get that ‘salt fever’, you just do it!

We were ready! We had our canopy, our chairs, sun lotion, water, hats, camera and video camera. It was going to be a good time, like it has been the last two times we’ve been. We were so excited, so pumped and it was a our overdue vacation.

It was not to be.

Heavy rain last week resulted in the entire course being inundated with as much as a couple of feet of water, and the event organizers with the Southern California Timing Association determined that the salt would not dry in time for any racing during the scheduled week of August 9-15.

Bonneville Salt Flats

The Salt Flats flooded view – August 9, 2014

The official statement on their website reads:

“The SCTA Board is currently on the salt, and has determined that the standing water will not dry in time for us to hold our annual Speed Week event. The Board is also discussing the possibility of extending our next event – World Finals (Sep 30 – Oct 3) into a full week of racing as a sort of delayed Speed Week. We Thank You all for your patience and understanding. We look forward to seeing you at our next event.”

2014 SpeedWeek Cancellation

The announcing/timing-slip trailer sits in the water at the Bonneville Salt Flats PHOTO BY SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA TIMING ASSOCIATION

The same geography that makes the Bonneville Salt Flats so ideal for setting land-speed records also makes it ideal for collecting the rainwater that falls in the region, so Speed Week racers and fans are always at the mercy of unseasonable summer rainfall. Mother nature (sure it’s not a guy?) wasn’t kind to us and the week was a wash out (sorry for the pun!).

We plan to go again – not sure when but we’ll make the trek another year for sure. We got a few pictures and swapped some stories with those who came a long distance, or from just down the road – how some had their cars built special for this event and others hoped to break a record or two and sadly, how some didn’t even get the chance to unload their cars off the flatbeds.

So now, it will all have to wait until next year folks. But just think, it gives you that extra time to get started on your special project for the run on the flats.

Be sure to catch the “fever”… see you soon!