One of the benefits of the job is the steady stream of promotional packages that come across the desk, often containing recipes and other hints.

This week, The Popcorn Board provided various suggestions on flavored batches, with seasoning mixes that would work on nearly anything.

Personally, although microwave popcorn is acceptable, it cannot match the puffy crispness of a batch done in a stovetop popper.

Pictured is what I think is the best popper. It roughly resembles an ice cream churn; the crank turns a stirrer rather than having to shake the pan. While the popper does not seem to be readily available, they do pop up once in a while in many of the larger stores. The last one I saw was in Atwood’s in Lonoke, but I do not know if they are still stocked.

However, popping corn is a little more than cranking up the heat and shaking. It may take a little practice to find the right heat. Too hot, and the result will be "cannonball" popcorn - round without the frilly, snowflake-like look of a nicely popped kernel. Too cool, and it will not pop, or only partially pop.

Instructions from the Popcorn Board:

- One (1) ounce of un-popped popcorn equals a quart popped.

- To pop popcorn on a range-top, assemble the following:

- A 3 to 4 quart pan with a loose lid that allows steam to escape

- At least enough popcorn to cover the bottom of the pan, one kernel deep

- 1/3 cup of oil for every cup of kernels (Do not use butter)

- Heat the oil to 400 - 460 degrees Fahrenheit; if the oil smokes, it is too hot. Test the oil with a couple of kernels. When they pop, add the rest of the popcorn, cover the pan and shake to evenly spread the oil. When the popping begins to slow, remove the pan from the stovetop. The heated oil will pop the remaining kernels.

- Do not add salt to the un-popped kernels or the popcorn will be tough.

From personal experience, coconut oil is best to get the aromatic goodness of movie-theatre style popcorn.

For buttered popcorn, melt the butter in a separate pan to be poured on after popping. The temperature needed to pop the kernels will burn butter.

Some flavored suggestions from the Popcorn Board:

Greek Popcorn

2 quarts popped popcorn

Cooking spray

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese

Directions:

Place popcorn in large bowl. Spray lightly with cooking spray and toss. Sprinkle remaining ingredients over popcorn and toss again. Serve immediately.

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French Lavender Provencal Popcorn

2 quarts popped popcorn

1 tablespoon butter, melted

2 teaspoons Herbs de Provence (with lavender)

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic 1/2 teaspoon salt

Place popcorn in a large bowl and drizzle with melted butter; toss. Evenly sprinkle Herbs de Provence, garlic and salt over popcorn; toss again and serve.

Spray popcorn lightly with cooking spray. Evenly sprinkle Herbs de Provence, garlic and salt over popcorn; toss again and serve.

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Peanut Butter and Chocolate Hazelnut Popcorn Macaroons

Makes about 18 (1 ½-inch) cookies

6 cups popped popcorn, un-popped kernels removed

3 tablespoons butter or margarine 1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional) 4 cups mini marshmallows (or 40 regular)

1/2 cup chocolate hazelnut spread

Directions:

1. Place popcorn in a large bowl; set aside.

2. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in peanut butter and cinnamon (if desired) until butter is melted and mixture is blended. Stir marshmallows into mixture until melted and well blended.

3. Pour over popcorn and stir until evenly coated. With buttered hands, shape popcorn into about 18 small popcorn balls (I 1/2 inches); place onto parchment lined baking sheet.

4. Flatten each ball slightly. With a serrated bread knife, carefully cut each cookie in half horizontally. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of hazelnut spread onto cut side of one half. Top with 2nd half; repea with remaining popcorn balls.

5. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container.

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BBQ Popcorn Seasoning Mix (makes about 1/3 cup)

1 tablespoon brown sugar I tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon dry mustard I teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1/2 teaspoon celery salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Store mixture in an airtight container.

Spray popped popcorn with cooking spray. Sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of seasoning mix for each quart of popcorn.

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Twenty years ago, in the July 21, 1993 "Sharing the Best" column, Shelly Magie Moran shared these garden vegetable recipes and hints:

DISHWASHER METHOD FOR FREEZING CORN

Shuck the corn and remove silks.

It is not necessary to scrub with a brush. Lay ears on racks of dishwasher. It’s okay to stack several deep. Turn to wash cycle (no soap, of course). Run through wash and rinse cycle. STOP BEFORE DRYING CYCLE BEGINS. Corn will be ruined if drying cycle kicks in. Remove corn and chill. Place in freezer bags and freeze.

-Hope Younger, Carlisle who received this tip from Danny Reynolds of Prattsville, which was formerly called Dirty Ankle, Ark.

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BAKED SQUASH

1 pt. cooked squash

1/2 stick oleo

2eggs

2 level Tbsp. flour

1 small can Pet [evaporated] milk

1/4 tsp. salt

3 Tbsp. sugar

Drain excess water from cooked squash. Mash and add oleo. In separate bowl combine eggs, flour, milk, salt and sugar. Add to squash/oleo mixture and bake in ovenproof dish for 30 minutes at 425 degrees.

-Marietta Riddle, Cabot

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BAKED STUFFED ZUCCHINI

1 large zucchini

Chopped onion and green pepper

Chopped tomatoes (canned or fresh tomatoes, or Rotel, drained, if you like it zesty)

Bread crumbs

Grated cheese

Garlic powder or salt

Salt and pepper

Cut zucchini in half lengthwise and crosswise to make four pieces. Place in a microwave-safe dish. Cover with plastic wrap and cook in microwave until tender, but not to the point that it loses its shape. Remove from microwave.

Next, microwave the onion and green pepper, covered, until tender. Carefully scoop out the zucchini pulp, leaving about a 1/4-inch shell. Don’t scoop too deeply or shell loses its shape.

Mash zucchini pulp, stir in onion, green pepper, breadcrumbs, tomatoes, cheese and seasonings. Put back into shells and sprinkle with additional breadcrumbs, heat at 400 degrees until heated through and topping begins to brown.

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Sharon Hillman’s scalloped potatoes are popular with family, friends and neighbors. Sharon has even discovered how to make a main dish with this recipe using pork chops.

SCALLOPED POTATOES

4 cups thinly sliced potatoes

1 small onion, thinly sliced

1 can cream of mushroom soup

3/4 cup milk

Salt and pepper

1/2 stick margarine

Paprika

Blend soup and milk. In a 1 1/22qt. casserole dish alternately arrange layers of potatoes, onions, soup sauce and seasonings. Dot with margarine. Sprinkle with paprika.

Cover and bake for one hour at 350 degrees. Uncover and bake 15 minutes more. Serves 4 to 6.

(To make the pork chop main dish, lightly brown 4 to 6 chops in a skillet Lay chops on bottom of casserole dish and put the potato recipe on top. Bake as instructed.)

- Sharon Hillman. Carlisle

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Continuing with family favorite recipes, I’m sharing some more that Marietta Riddle sent

PINEAPPLE CAKE

1 Pkg. Pineapple Supreme(cake mix

Small box vanilla instant pudding mix

3/4 cup oil

4 eggs

7 ozs. Coca Cola or 7-Up (Marietta uses 7-Up)

Mix all ingredients one minute on low speed of mixer; then two minutes on medium speed. Bake in two or three greased and floured cake pans at 350 degrees for 25 minutes (times will vary with ovens and number of layers). Remove from pans to cool, according to package instructions.

ICING

20 oz. can undrained crushed pineapple

1 cup sugar

3 Tbsp. cornstarch

1 cup coconut

Cook pineapple, sugar and cornstarch until thick, stirring connstantly. Add coconut and spread beetween layers and on top only. -Marietta Riddle. Cabot

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This recipe also comes from West Virginia, Marietta says, and is from a friend of the family. She says it stays moist and yummy and her granddaughters love it

MOIST CHOCOLATE CAKE

1 box yellow cake mix (Duncan Hines)

6 oz. pkg. chocolate chips

8 oz. sour cream

Small box instant chocolate pudding

1/2 cup oil

3 eggs

3/4 cup water

Combine all ingredients, beating until well blended. Bake in a greased and floured tube pan or bundt pan at 350 for one hour.

-Marietta Riddle, Cabot

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In answer to last week’s request for sweet pickled green tomatoes, one of Lonoke’s good cooks, Geneva Edmondson, sent her recipe.

GREEN TOMATO PICKLE

1 gallon green tomatoes, washed, cored and quartered

3 large onions, chopped

4 green sweet peppers, chopped 2 or 3 hot peppers, chopped

4 cups apple cider vinegar

4 cups sugar

1 tsp. ground cloves 1 tsp. mace, optional Salt to taste

Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously but gently to distribute heat, until tomatoes change color. They should have a whitish cast. Pack and seal the mixture in hot sterile canning jars.

-Geneva Edmondson, Lonoke

(Note from Shelly: Food safety experts now recommend processing all pickle products in a boiling water bath to insure the safety of the food. Your County Extension Service has information on these procedures.)

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This column is a recipe exchange to share favorite recipes - they need not be fancy or original, just good cooking that you and your family enjoy. Include all ingredients and instructions. Give amounts and measures as well as sizes of cans and packages. It is also helpful to know sizes of dishes or pans used. Include your name, city of residence and phone number, phone number will not be published but is needed should questions arise.

Send to:

1 - U.S Postal Service: mail to SHARING THE BEST, Cabot Star-Herald, P.O. Box 1058, Cabot, AR 72023.

Type or write clearly; if handwritten, please print.

2- email - send to news@cabotstarherald.com, with "Sharing the Best" in the subject line.

Original photos of the recipe results are invited, but subject to space limitations. Photos must not be copyrighted.