Brown Bag It

When I was a kid, my parents would pop some popcorn in a big pan with a lid (think stockpot) on the stove and pour it into a heavy yellow bowl for nights that we would watch TV as a family. I remember many episodes of “Little House on the Prairie” and “The Waltons” viewed from the comfy brown couch with my mom, dad, and brother. Those are fond memories.

Did you know that you don’t have to use the stovetop method, a fancy popcorn popper, or pre-packaged microwave kernels to.make popcorn? You can totally brown bag it. Think how much money you can potentially save by picking up a supply of your favorite locally grown popcorn and a pack of those brown lunch bags to fill them yourself…

A brown lunch bag will work fine. I have even used brown grocery bags… Just add about a third cup of popcorn kernels to a brown bag. Fold the top down three or four times. Then microwave the bag for approximately four minutes.  You may need to adjust the time a bit for your microwave. Listen for when the popping sound slows down to avoid burning your popcorn. Let the bag sit for a a few minutes once the microwave stops.

You can add some seasoning to the bag and shake it, or dump it in the bowl. Be aware that you may need tonadd a bit of melted or olive oil.with your seasoning for it to stick to your popcorn

The possibilities are endless. Cinnamon and sugar. Rosemary, parmesan, and cracked black pepper. Sea salt and sugar. Simply a bit of sazòn….

Ribeyed Fries

Oregano Pesto

A few years ago, I repurposed a very old mattress box springs into a raised herb garden. The oregano I planted has made it through a couple winters and continued to grow stronger each spring. This is good. Southern Illinois seems to have a climate that pleases oregano.

One of my favorite meal prep uses for oregano is in pesto. The other night, I had walnuts and some manchego cheese nearing their expiration. So, you guessed it. Pesto they became. I tend to switch up the cheese and nut type with whatever I have that seems like it makes sense–such as parmesan and pine nuts or even sunflower seeds. You do want to use a harder cheese, with a consistency such as parmesan, so that you don’t end up with a gooey mess.

Once made, I like to spoon my pesto into pint canning jars and top each with a little pool of olive oil at the top to help keep it from drying in the fridge or freezer. Ideally, the pesto jars should keep for a couple weeks in the fridge or a few months in the freezer. Just make sure whatever you store it in is airtight and kept at a food safe temperature as this is not a canning process. (Simply using a canning jar does not make it canned…) You can also freeze it in ice cube trays and pop the cubes into a freezer bag for storage.

Oregano pesto is handy thing to have in the fridge on standby. It adds an extra layer of flavor to soups and sandwiches and can be added to omelets or egg dishes. Pesto also stands in great as a wet rub on meat. Be creative. It is wonderful as a spread itself or mixed with other ingredients to make other variations.

This is the basic recipe:

Ingredients:
clean, fresh oregano, approximately two to three cups
cheese–such as manchego or parmesan, approximately one and a half cups grated
nuts–such as pine nuts or walnuts, about one cup
juice of one lemon
honey (or sugar), about a tblsp
kosher salt or sea salt
crushed black pepper
one clove garlic, minced
about a 1/4 cup olive oil

Directions
:
1. Chop together the oregano, cheese, nuts, lemon juice, honey, salt, pepper, and garlic in the food processor.
2. Slowly drizzle in olive oil.
Add more olive oil for a thinner pesto if desired.
You may also use a traditional mortar & pestle method to combine ingredients if desired.