Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Stove top Popcorn, and Books Galore

I am a very reluctant movie goer, much preferring TV to movies. On the rare occasions that I get talked into it, the movie trip has to be incentivized with a big tub of popcorn. There's nothing quite like movie popcorn- the crunch, the savory aroma, the salt and butter, well, butter-like substance. It is so good and so bad.

Friday nights are family movie nights at our house but only rarely accompanied by popcorn; we tend to eat dinner while watching the movie. Part of the reason is that I don't like microwave popcorn, and I've tried making stovetop popcorn with very meh results. The popcorn on the bottom of the pot burns and there are too many unpopped kernels left behind. And so a jar of popcorn kernels was quietly hibernating at the back of the pantry.

Last week, in the throes of spring cleaning, I decided to use it or lose it. A quick web search led to a promising recipe (well, it had "perfect" right there in the title) and in one of those everyday miracles, the recipe actually worked exactly as it said it would, the first time around. The first trick is to heat the oil with a couple of kernels so that when those test kernels pop, you know that the oil is exactly at the right temperature. Then the rest of the kernels go in, at which point you use another trick, pulling the pot off the heat so that all the kernels get a chance to get heated up uniformly.

Stove-top Popcorn
(Inspired by this recipe)


1. Add 1/4 cup coconut oil and 3 popcorn kernels to a large pot.

2. Cover and cook over medium-high heat until all 3 kernels pop.
Remove the 3 popped kernels. 

3. Add 2/3 cup popcorn kernels, then quickly cover the pot and remove it off the heat.

4. Wait 30 seconds (set a timer).

5. Put the pot back on the heat and cook, shaking the pot once in a while.

6. After about 2 minutes, as the popping slows down, leave the lid ajar on the pop. This lets the steam out and keeps the popcorn crisp.

7. Pour the popcorn into a huge bowl, or divide among two large bowls (you need space to mix). Sprinkle with salt and honey-butter if desired (the latter made by melting together a couple of tablespoons each of butter and honey). Toss very well and serve right away.

This popcorn was delightful- no unpopped kernels, it fluffed up to fill my stockpot and is the perfect amount to serve a family. Even with my stale kernels which resulted in slightly chewy popcorn, the kids and I enjoyed every bit of it. 

Next time I will grind some kosher salt in the blender to make very fine popcorn salt which salts the popcorn more easily.

* * *
Image: Goodreads

Earlier this month, March 2 (Dr. Seuss' birthday) was celebrated all over the country as Read Across America day. It is a big celebration in Lila's book-loving elementary school. The kids get to go to school dressed as their favorite book characters. Lila has a huge love of dress up and pretend play and went as Fancy Nancy- the main character from a warm and funny book about a girl named Nancy who like all things fancy and glamorous. It was a fun and easy costume to put together- gathering together a tiara, colorful hair bows, sunglasses, a fancy skirt and glittery shoes and a bright orange duster.

Image: Goodreads
On that morning, parent volunteers went to classrooms to read to the kids. The day before, I asked Lila to help me pick a book to read to her class and she went straight for a book on our bookshelf- And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, illustrated by Henry Cole.

Her class is obsessed with learning all about penguins, and it was easy to see why she gravitated towards this book, which narrates the true story of two male penguins in New York City's Central Park Zoo who became partners and raised a penguin chick. I adore this book, with its sweet story of a non-traditional family; the illustrations are adorable. So I can't understand the fuss around And Tango Makes Three being as controversial as it is and the number one banned book in the country.

Not wanting Lila's (very excellent) teacher to be taken aback by my choice of book, I sent a quick e-mail explaining that I was going to read this book aloud and the teacher responded and said, go for it. And that's how I ended up reading a banned book in my kindergartener's class! The kids were excited to read a story about penguins, we all aawed at the penguin chick being born to two devoted daddies, the sky did not fall and a good time was had by all.

Here are a couple of other interesting books that we randomly picked off the library shelves recently.



I am different! Can you find me? by Manjula Padmanabhan has many fun features and kept Lila entertained for a long while- each page has an artfully done picture puzzle, the question "Can you find me" in sixteen languages including Hebrew, Hawaaian, Cree, Swahili, Hindi, and a little write up of words in English that come from that language. We enjoyed using our powers of observation to figure out the puzzles and learned interesting things, like that the words gumbo, tote and yam come from Gullah, a Creole language developed by people who came to America from different parts of Africa as slaves.



Human Footprint by Ellen Kirk chronicles everything you (in this case meaning the average American) will eat, use, wear, buy and throw out in a lifetime. It makes for some pretty spectacular statistics. Some of the facts were eye-opening to me. For instance, every year, you'll buy 48 new things to wear and will spend $52, 972 on your clothes in your lifetime. Really? In the picture above is Lila's favorite page, the one saying that you will eat over 14,000 candy bars in your lifetime, enough to fill 12 shopping carts.

It was fascinating to read through this book and see how we compared to the national average, and knowing that even in the cases where I personally am far below the average (in candy bars and clothes shopping, for sure), I consume far, far more than billions of humans on this planet. The book has a few tips for decreasing one's footprint- basic stuff like using cloth bags for shopping, using refillable water bottles, eating more plant based food, recycling aluminum cans, and not wasting food.


Finally, the best 75 minutes I spent this weekend- our public library hosted their semi-annual book sale, a gym-sized room full of gently used, donated or ex-library books that are sold to benefit the library. I was able to leave the kids at home and spend a glorious Saturday morning browsing through the tables. You can buy a large paper sack for $10 and fill it up with as many books as you can. As you can, I did just that, hauling home a paper sack bursting with 21 books. I found some children's books, baby board books, YA books, random novels, and an Alice Medrich cookbook. My favorite find- American Born Chinese, the graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang. I've read it and loved it, and bought it as a gift for V.

What are you cooking and reading these days? 

40 comments:

  1. Nupur, wonderful to read about all this! The popcorn, the dress for Lila and the book reading and the "garage sale" of books!! Wishing you and V, Lila and Niam and Duncan all my best for upcoming Gudhi Padva. May you be happy and healthy always. I've invited boys and girls to lunch and will make their favourite Shira. I've just finished reading Dr Atul Gawande's latest book and am now reading a collection of short stories by Anita Desai.
    Look forward to the next post...

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    1. Best wishes for Gudi Padwa to you and your family as well! I really enjoy Atul Gawande's writings- he writes regularly for The New Yorker, the most recent one I read was about whether health care is a right.

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  2. I must try your popcorn method - we make it in the microwave but have to make sure we don't get the popped kernels and it can be uneven!

    Love your books musing - had to do a double take on the penguin book being banned. Sylvia loved Fancy Nancy - such a fun book to read over and over. And I would love to get hold of the human footprint book - will have to check out our library

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    1. Johanna- I made popcorn using this recipe again last week and it worked so well. Give it a try, especially when you want a big batch- microwave ovens can only hold so much.

      Fancy Nancy is such a fun book- I find it very touching that her parents play along and are so loving and accepting of her fancy ways. The human footprint book is totally worth seeking out, and also a great idea for a school project to get kids to figure out our consumption/waste of so many everyday things.

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  3. Yay for banned books! And popcorn! I recently read A Wrinkle in Time (speaking of movies) and didn't enjoy it as much as I did when I was young. We recently tried an amazing recipe for Garlic Soup, and have gotten into some Korean recipes as well.

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    1. Bek- I never did enjoy A Wrinkle In Time very much when I read it a few years ago. Garlic Soup sounds amazing- what recipe did you use? Korean food is definitely in, I keep thinking I need to try some gochujang.

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    2. There's a graphic novel version of A Wrinkle in Time that my 8 year old enjoyed reading. She saw the movie last week as well.

      -Anu

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  4. Popcorn is the rare quick snack that we are able to make here mostly consistently. I should make some now.
    We gifted a bunch of story books to little friends this week, One Two Tree!, Mustache man, Captain Coconut and the missing bananas..

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    1. Books make the best gifts, Fatima! These sound like fun, especially the captain coconut one :)

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  5. I love the Penguins story. Penguins and books have a glorious association, as I'm sure you know. What a great way of introducing the little ones to non-traditional families! We used to have World Book Day celebrations in the UK when the kids dressed up as their favourite book character. A few years ago a mother sent her daughter in as a character from 50 Shades (no kidding!) and raised more than a few eyebrows.

    I'm hosting our next month's book club meeting and we are reading (rather appropriately) Robert Harris' Munich. Otherwise, I've been reading through the BBC Radio 2 Book Club choices and among them, Three Things About Elsie. had me in tears.

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    1. Also wanted to add that post my B1 level of German, I have graduated from picture books and magazine articles to short novellas. I think I understand and then I reach the end of the sentence and realise that I have little clue. It's all Greek and Latin to me.

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    2. Ammani- I follow a UK blog called Playing by the Book and I remember reading about World Book Day celebrations there. It is such a great idea. Although a kid dressing up as a 50 shades characters- hmm, an example where doing your kid's homework was a terrible idea :)

      I'll look for Three Things about Elsie. Keep working on that German reading! It is not easy learning a new language as an adult but you're growing that beautiful brain as you keep at it :)

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  6. I spy with my squinting eye...Calpurnia Tate!
    And Tango...is such a great book. Just in case you missed it, the duo have also written the uber-charming Christian the Hugging Lion, which I loved.

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    1. Niranjana- I tried Calpurnia a few years ago and did not like it, but decided to give it another try. Sometimes I just have to be in a mood for a particular book. I'll look for Christian, the Hugging Lion. I know the story and have seen the video clip of the reunion, which of course had me bawling.

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  7. I started reading "The Salmon of Doubt" by Douglas Adams. Love it! As for cooking, it has been a lot of stove-top millet-moong khichdi with vegetables, chopped avocado added in later. I drizzle on a generous glug of olive oil, some freshly-ground pepper and dhania, and I am in soupy heaven.

    Feels very nourishing and delicious, all at once.

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    1. Lakshmi- That hitchhiker-wala Douglas Adams?? Man, I loved his writing as a teenager but haven't read him since. I'll look for this one. Your millet moong khichdi sounds incredible. I don't keep millet in my pantry and should buy some.

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    2. We use it a lot. Our local Indian store stocks a variety of millets. I prefer it to rice in khichdis because it's much lighter.

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    3. Didn't Leila Slimani write "Nanny?" Heard her interview on NPR.

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  8. Banned books are some of the best books! You should also give Uncle Bobby's Wedding a shot :)

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    1. Books are banned for the most ridiculous reasons. I'll look for Uncle Bobby's Wedding, thanks :)

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  9. Nupoor, I follow you on goodreads and absolutely love your taste in books. This year, my two most favourites have been 'Stay with me' by Ayobami Adebayo, set in 80s nigeria- if you like Adichie, this is very similar; and 'Lullaby' by Leila Slimani, translated from French.
    I think you will also like 'Babies & Bylines', a memoir by Pallavi Aiyar, an Indian journalist.

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    1. Hamsini- I just read an article about Lullaby and a biography of the author. Will definitely look for the books you mention, thanks for the recommendations!

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  10. Work has been busy for me lately so our meals have been quick, one pot type things. Made Smitten Kitchen's Sticky Toffee Pudding this past weekend for a potluck, it's always a hit. It's easy to make and uses a whole box of dates.

    Reading has been on the back burner lately due to work and have a couple of unfinished books. Exit West (meh) and Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan (good read). My husband borrowed the latter for a work trip and loved it.

    -Anu

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    1. Anu- I'll have to look for the sticky toffee pudding recipe. My sister made it for us once (she lived in England for a while and was nostalgic about sticky toffee pudding) and it was oh so delicious. Hope work has been not as busy lately :)

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  11. I love popcorn and movies seem incomplete without it. When we go to the cinema hall. We buy a tub between us and of course start munching as soon as we are seated. We finish most of it before the movie starts. Lol!
    But it’s a must have.

    These days, we watch movies at home ( Marathi and Hindi, in an effort to teach the kiddo) and we have a stock of dark chocolate.

    My son is reading some books for school and has a book report, so we pick those from the library, but he has a lot on his hands with school, homework, taekwondo so I also let him listen to audiobooks. I play these at bed time and he likes that. Works for me too!

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    1. Agreed that movies (in the theater) seem incomplete without that giant tub of popcorn. Although I never make it to movie theaters these days! It is great that you are watching Hindi and Marathi movies- it has been a while since I watched one of those. Audiobooks are a great choice- I've never listened to one yet but I do love listening to podcasts.

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  12. When my nephew was three years old, his day care director and her partner ( also a woman) had a kid in his cohort.

    My neohew came home one day and asked my sister " How come P has two mommies and I only have one ?" A bit stymied , as my sister was trying to come up with something appropriate ...she could practically see the little wheels turning in his head as he said " oh I get it. Akki ( referring to me ) is my second mommy right ?"

    My sister promptly said yes haha .

    It really demonstrated to me that if we would just step aside for a second children are highly capable of making up their own minds and in a far more humane and compassionate, not to mention cute, manner.

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    1. Janani- so true, kids are so much more humane and compassionate in understanding that there are all kinds of families and it is all good. Lila told me she wishes she had two moms and two dads because if one of each is good then two would be even better :)

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  13. Also do you follow Maria Popova's brainpickings .? Some amazing kiddie book recommendations from her like Big Wolf little wolf for instance.

    https://www.brainpickings.org/2017/12/17/best-childrens-books-2017/?utm_source=Brain+Pickings&utm_campaign=5af12dbde4-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_12_18&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_179ffa2629-5af12dbde4-234207070&mc_cid=5af12dbde4&mc_eid=722c175443

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    1. I love Brain Pickings, Janani! I agree that Maria Popova has incredible kid book recos.

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  14. not even a single unpopped kernel of corn, unlike in the past. thank you Nupur for sharing .

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  15. Hi Nupur, the human footprint book inspired me and I ordered 'Sandy's incredible shrinking footprint' from the library. My kindergartner loved it and read it multiple times over her spring break. Most importantly, it triggered discussions about our habits and inspections of neighborhood storm drains :) Thank you for mentioning that book and the popcorn recipe. I will give it a try.

    Aditi

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    1. Aditi- This just warms my heart! Kids are little activists if you only give them a chance.

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  19. Excellent article. I'm going through many of these issues as well..

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  20. First of all I want to say excellent blog! I hhad a quick question in which I'd like to
    ask if you don't mind. I was cjrious to find out how you center yourself andd clear your head prior to writing.
    I have had trouble clearing my mind in getting my thoughts
    out there. I do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minuters are generally wasted just trying to figure
    out how to begin. Any suggestions or hints?
    Kudos!

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