In my vigilant quest for inexpensive, vegan, nutritious, and easy snack ideas, I have not been very successful. Veggie Booty disappears in a single sitting, pretzels just don't fill me up, and other chemical laden bagged treats just make me uncomfortable. Growing up, I love, love, LOVED popcorn. My little brother was (and still is) a boy scout, so you better bet that my mom made sure that our house was fully stocked with every kind of buttery, caramel laden, and super sweet variety that his troop had to offer. But these treats were expensive and not very healthy or filling. Entire bowls of chocolate covered stuff would disappear in a matter of handfuls.
When I went vegan, I decided that I still needed to get my popcorn fix. An air popper would be an easy way out, but I am a frugal college kid who would rather spend her dough on boxed wine and American Apparel leggings, so I worked with what I had: a stove top, a non-stick pan, some cooking spray, and incredibly cheap kernels.
Once I sprayed the pan, threw in a serving of kernels to cover the bottom of the pan, and turned the heat on medium-high, it was time to let energy do its thing. Oh, and be sure to put a LID on your pan. A glass one is best, but really, common sense here people: popcorn flies. I made sure to shake it once in a while so that none of the kernels burned. Once the popping had slowed, I removed the pan from the heat and dumped my freshly popped kernels onto a plate. Why a plate? Well, that's so you can get maximal topping distribution.
So there you have it: perfectly popped popcorn.
I would highly recommend this technique over others because it really minimized the number of kernels that didn't get any action. There were only 4 duds in this whole batch, where as there are usually way too many to count in your typical microwave operation. And this way you get the most bang for your buck. I figured that this amount of popcorn cost 8 cents. 8 CENTS! Compare that to your bag of chips or protein bar that costs several dozen times this amount. Popcorn really has its nutritional side working for it too: at just 105 calories for an ounce of kernels, it packs 3 g of protein and 4 of fiber.
The toppings are really where you seal the deal. I'm a big fan of salt and nutritional yeast, but you could also go the sweet route and top it with cinnamon and sugar. Mix-ins like chocolate chips are always an option, too.
So what are you waiting for? Go pop some corn!