Monday, April 20, 2015

Who knew I'd like plain popcorn? Nordic Ware Microwave Popcorn Popper Review

We haven't bought microwave bagged popcorn in a long time because I live with someone who can't have all the oils and other GMOs that the individual microwave bags of popcorn contain. So, I figured I'd search for an air popper.

I considered buying a Presto PopLite Hot Air Popper, but after reading this detailed review by Bob Tobias (which was still a positive 5-star review), I figured I'd get the Nordic Ware Microwave Popcorn Popper instead.

Since I couldn't wait, even for 2-day Amazon Prime delivery, I headed off to Target to see if they had it in stock. There was only one on the shelf and it happened to be the red version of the product, which for some reason sells for $2.95 more on Amazon. It was $8.99 in store at Target. I also got a 50 oz package of Pop Secret Jumbo Popping Corn kernels for $5.99 - I'm not sure if that's the best price for it, but I didn't feel like going to another store just to get kernels. In the future, when I empty out this jar, I'll probably try to get bulk kernels from a store like Sprouts or Trader Joes - I'm not sure how much that costs, but probably a lot less per ounce.

After cleaning and drying it initially, I gave it a go. The video above says to use 1/2 cup of kernels, but that seems like waaaay too much. You'd probably end up with more burnt popcorn while waiting for all of it to pop. For my first try, I figured I'd pop it without any oil. The directions that come with it say to use 1/3 cup of kernels. So, that's how much I used. And per Bob's review on Amazon, I made sure to stop it early so that nothing would burn.

My first try, I let it pop for about 2 minutes and 40 seconds before I stopped it. That left about half of the kernels unpopped though. Nothing burned, so better safe than sorry. And despite the warning not to put the unpopped kernels back into the microwave, I did so anyway... and they popped! I still had some unpopped kernels left after waiting for the 1-2 seconds between pops. I did try to pop those as well, but ended up burning them that they left some scorch marks in the bottom of the bowl. Those marks are now permanently there since there doesn't seem to be any way to get them out.

For my next batch, I used about a teaspoon of canola oil and mixed 1/3 cup of kernels until they were all covered. I really didn't notice a difference in taste between oil and no oil. I guess the only difference with using oil is that salt will stick better to it, so I did add a little bit of salt to it.

The next few days that I used the popcorn popper, I decided to experiment with seasonings and also different amounts of kernels. It seems around 1/4 cup or less is a good amount and I'll repop the unpopped kernels if there are more than 10 left in the bowl. Some things I've tried to use to add flavor:

  • BBQ spice rub - this probably works best on meats that are going to be cooked, but still tasted alright on my popcorn
  • peanut butter & Nutella - this mixture didn't melt how I hoped it would, so it was more in clumps than something I was just able to drizzle onto my popcorn, but omfg, it was still soooo good. I couldn't even wait for it to harden/set before eating it
  • canned grated parmesan cheese - I didn't use any butter or oil, so the cheese didn't really stick, so it mostly tasted plain with hints of cheese
  • after the pb & Nutella didn't turn out how I'd like it, I thought I'd try something that I use with oatmeal - a mixture of cocoa powder and sugar. I added a tiny bit of milk so that maybe it would help it stick to the popcorn, but it just made everything soggy
  • a mix of Sriracha and salsa verde & melted butter - the taste was great, but again... soggy popcorn

I still pretty much fail at seasoning it well. I might have to invest in a spritzer to spray oil onto it so that my popped popcorn doesn't get soggy. I hate soggy popcorn, so I've just gone on eating it plain after failed attempts at seasoning. It's really not so bad when it's plain either.

Overall, I'll definitely be getting a lot of use out of this microwave popcorn popper. I'm glad I spent the 9 bucks plus tax for it. I've read about the paper bag method and thought about trying that, but didn't want to have to keep rebuying paper lunch bags (since we don't buy them anymore anyway). I figured $9 one time instead of buying paper bags every time would save me more money in the long run, assuming this popper lasts for a long time.

If anyone has any tips for seasoning without popcorn getting soggy, or if you have anything that you absolutely love seasoning your popcorn with, leave a comment and I'll definitely give your suggestions a try!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Time for a new fence!

A few years ago, the Santa Ana winds blew over the longest part of our fence. Together with our neighbors behind us, we got a new one built.

This time on May 13th, the front side of our fence got taken out by the wind. We tried to prop it up again, but that didn't last a day until it fell over the other way. :P

This part of our fence has been up since we moved into the house in 1993, so at least it lasted that long. I'm not sure when we'll be getting a new one put in, but it has to be sometime soon because of HOAs.

It could be worse. This was around the same time that all those wildfires started in San Diego - we live sort of close to the Cocos/San Marcos Fire, but I'm glad it stayed on the other side of the freeway the whole time. So, the good thing is that at least the fence was only blown down by the wind and not burnt in a fire or we would have to replace so much more than just our fence.

As you can see, our grass is pretty much dead as well, so all that dry grass would've been good fuel for a fire. They talk a lot about having "defensible space" on the news, but up where I live, there's pretty much no defensible space that would keep a fire away from our house, so I'm very glad we dodged another bullet with the fires. They've always come close, but luckily never dangerously close to do any damage in our neighborhood.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Blanket pilling...

I should have known not to buy a fleece blanket that didn't specifically say it was "anti-pill". Ah well, lesson learned. I bought it (Tommy Hilfiger Full/Queen Plush Fleece Blanket) months ago and it did occur to me that it could pill, but I never expected it to do it so much. It just felt so soft in the store and I couldn't resist getting it.

I thought maybe the pilling would go away after a few washes, but no such luck. Everything gets covered in tiny little balls of fleece - the bed, my clothes, the floor, my hair. I might as well just stop using it, but then I'd feel that would be a waste of the money I spent on it. Next time, I'll shop around some more and actually look at some reviews first.

For anyone who sees this blanket in a store, walk away! Don't waste your money like I did, unless you like being covered in fuzz.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Finally! A new blender!

It's been a long time since we've had a real blender. Our old one from probably the 70s broke many years ago and I've made do with one of those hand blenders for the longest time - I'm not sure what brand it is; you'd think I'd know it since I see it on the blender itself every time I use it, but I'll probably know it when I see it. I think it's one of those that was first advertised on TV back when hand blenders were kind of a new thing. It's been good for me for making smoothies, but really takes a long time to blend when anything is frozen. It just hasn't been a high priority to get a new one, so we never got another one until recently.

I actually haven't used the new one yet, but it's a Ninja Kitchen System Pulse (BL201) - so it's one of those multifunction devices that works as a food processor, blender, and apparently can also be used for making dough.

Like I said, I haven't used it yet. Someone else used it as a food processor, and I think it worked out pretty well for them. I'll most likely be using the single serve cups a lot! I probably won't be using the dough attachments that much, but it'd be interesting to give it a try to see how well it actually works. I'm definitely looking forward to making my next smoothie with this!