16 Oct 2013
My name is Debbie, and I’m a snackaholic. Some days, I snack my way through—no need to stop for lunch, I’ll just grab another nibble.
Back when I weighed 260 pounds, this habit was a big part of the problem. A “snack” might start as a single chocolate chip cookie, but snack time would go on, and on, and on, until I was staring at a box of crumbs. In order to lose all that weight I had to learn to choose my snacks more wisely—and in smaller quantities.
Today, simple popcorn ranks among my favorite healthy snacks. I think of it as the wholest of whole-grain munchies: It’s just one ingredient, packed with fiber and antioxidants. Eat three cups of air-popped and you’re getting more than three grams of fiber for less than 100 calories. But with no seasoning, air-popped corn veers dangerously close to Styrofoam, so if I’m eating straight from the bowl I mist it with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt.
As Halloween approaches, I skip that step and turn those fluffy white kernels into a nutritious, kid-pleasing treat: popcorn balls made with peanut butter, honey, and dried cherries—plus the crunch-boosting power of Uncle Sam Original cereal.
Unlike traditional, tooth-shattering popcorn balls made with sugar, corn syrup, and a candy thermometer, my version includes no refined ingredients and calls for just a saucepan and a mixing bowl. You heard me: no candy thermometer required! You’re heating briefly and stirring. That’s it. The finished balls are sweet, but not exceedingly so (as I’ve said before, I’m comfortable with sweetness when I’m in control). Add peanut butter, dried fruit, and a hearty handful of whole-wheat flakes and flaxseeds, and you’ve got a nutrient-packed treat that’ll wow them at your Halloween party, but won’t fill kids with highly processed, empty calories.
Gooey, chewy, and fun to eat: check, check, and check. Getting the most out of every snack calorie: double-check.
What’s your go-to healthy snack? And your favorite healthy treat?
Easy Peanut Butter Popcorn Balls
The easiest way to air-pop popcorn in the microwave: Put the kernels into a brown paper bag and fold the top over twice. Depending on your machine, it can take from 2-4 minutes on HIGH—watch carefully as popcorn goes from perfect to burnt in seconds.
To make cleanup easier, coat the mixing bowl and the measuring cups with nonstick spray before you begin. Make sure to use non-GMO organic corn kernels.
YIELD: 40 small popcorn balls or 20 large ones
10 cups air-popped popcorn (from a generous 1/4 cup kernels)
2/3 cup honey
1/2 cup natural peanut butter, creamy or chunky
1/4 teaspoon salt, optional
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries or dried fruit of your choice
Line a baking sheet with wax paper and set aside.
Put the popcorn into a large mixing bowl.
In a heavy, medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the honey, peanut butter, and salt. Stir frequently until it comes to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer 1 minute.
Pour the honey mixture over the popcorn and stir with a silicone spatula. When it’s nearly coated, sprinkle the Uncle Sam cereal and dried fruit over the mixture and stir until combined.
Let the popcorn sit until cool enough to handle, then use lightly greased hands to press firmly into balls. Place balls on paper-lined baking sheet to cool completely.
Store at room temperature in an air-tight container for up to a week—I like to wrap them individually, so I can pop one into my son’s lunchbox.
DebbieCheck out my latest posts here