Popcorn recipes that are popping with flavor

Jennifer Rude Klett and Colleen Kottke

Popcorn is a great versatile snack. While some reserve the buttery white stuff for movie night or the bleachers, popcorn holds it's own at tailgating parties, school lunch boxes or even at potluck suppers.

The best part is that popcorn is a blank palette for different flavors and textures. From melted chocolate or caramel syrup, to melted cheese or spices, popcorn lovers can have their choice of different snacks: salty, sweet or spicy.

So whether you use an air popper or a big old kettle on the stove, grab some kernels and get ready to dress up some popcorn with these recipes.

Stovetop popcorn requires no special equipment, and it goes quickly.

Stovetop Popcorn

1/2 c. unpopped popcorn

2 to 3 T. vegetable oil, or enough to cover the bottom of the pan

2 to 4 T. melted butter (to taste)

salt to taste

Add oil to a large saucepan on a burner set to medium high heat. Add one unpopped kernel and cover pan. When kernel pops, add all the kernels in a single layer and quickly cover the pan. Once popping slows with two seconds between pops, remove from heat; then wait a few more seconds for any stragglers. Pour popcorn into bowl and top with melted butter, then toss. Add salt and toss again. Makes 4 servings.

Note: 1/2 c. of unpopped kernels will yield 16 cups (4 quarts) or popcorn. A variety of vegetable oils may be used to pop stovetop popcorn, but be sure the one you choose has a relatively high smoke point, such as olive, corn, grapeseed, avocado, sunflower, canola and coconut oils. Do not pop popcorn in butter, as it will burn. If the oil smokes, reduce the heat.

Wisconsin Cheese Popcorn is a warm, rich and salty treat.

For Wisconsin Cheese Popcorn, find a cold-pack cheese spread that first lists cheese(not cream cheese) in the ingredients to ensure good melting, such as Pine River Cold Pack from Newton in Manitowoc County. Smokey Bacon, Sharp Cheddar or Swiss & Almond are some of their varieties to try on popcorn. Wisconsin Heirloom Baby Rice from Krinke's Market in Reeseville, Dodge Co. was a natural choice for the popcorn in this recipe.

Wisconsin Cheese Popcorn

16 c. popped popcorn (1/2 c. unpopped kernels such as WI heirloom baby rice)

3 T. butter

3-4 T. cold-pack cheese spread

salt to taste

1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese, or to taste

Place popped corn in a large bowl. In a small saucepan, combine butter and cheese spread; melt over medium-low heat; mix well. Pour melted butter and cheese mixture over popcorn; gently toss. Add salt to taste. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over popcorn and toss again before serving. Makes 4-6 servings.

Italian Popcorn calls for olive oil, dried herbs and Parmesan cheese.

Try this Italian Herb Popcorn from recipes.popcorn.org with your favorite chilled wine or tall glass of San Pellegrino mineral water with a twist of lemon.

Italian Herb Popcorn

8 c. popped popcorn (1/4 c. unpopped kernels)

2 T. extra-virgin olive oil

1 t. dried oregano

1/2 t. dried basil

1/2 t. minced garlic

1/2 t. salt

1/8 t. red chili flakes

1 T. (or to taste) grated Parmesan cheese

Place popcorn in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil; toss. In a small bowl, mix oregano, basil, garlic, salt and chili flakes. Sprinkle herb mixture over popcorn and toss again. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese; toss and serve. Makes 4 servings.

This indulgent Super No-Fail Caramel Corn skips the usual baking step.

Super No-Fail Caramel Corn is a no-bake method adapted from recipes.popcorn.org.

Super No-Fail Caramel Corn

16 c. popped corn (1/2 c. unpopped kernels)

1 c. packed brown sugar

1/2 c. butter (1 stick)

1/4 c. corn syrup

1/2 t. salt

1/2 t. baking soda

Place popcorn in a large bowl; remove any unpopped kernels. Grease a large baking sheet.

In a large deep pot, stir together brown sugar, butter, corn syrup and salt over medium heat until well blended.  Increase heat and bring to a gentle boil. Adjust heat to keep at a slow boil for 5 minutes: DO NOT STIR.

Remove pan from heat and stir in baking soda (mixture will foam). Quickly stir popcorn into hot mixture until completely coated. Spread onto prepared baking sheet to cool. Break into smaller pieces and serve immediately.  Serves 6 to 8.