Salty snacks–live and thrive

23 Sep

If you didn’t notice it before, food prices are on the rise. I was appalled–appalled, I tell you!–to see that my local supermarket had trickily changed their fake Lays potato chip price from 2 for $6 (all last year) to 2 for $7!!! I’m not being facetious, I really am appalled. Now potato chips may not form one of the major food groups, but they’re one of those things you buy without thinking about. As far as I know, the price of potatoes hasn’t risen drastically, and gas prices are down from last year–so what’s the motivation for this huge increase? Well, it’s profits. But at what point do outrageous prices keep us from buying (and let me tell you, I’ve been seriously thinking about a potato chip boycott, organized and all. Who’s with me?)? Snacks aren’t cheap, whether they be chips, nuts, Cheeto-ish things or pretzels. Yet snacks enhance a sandwich or a late night movie.Best value? Tortilla chips, and with salsa…mmm! Popcorn fares well, too–but not if it’s microwavable!

So how can you trim the fat (only in the metaphorical sense) and still enjoy yourself? Well, off-brands are a possibility, but we want high quality here. Popcorn the old fashioned way takes very little time. Buy it in the bag, take your 2 qt saucepan for one or 3 qt saucepan for two, lay down enough oil to wet the bottom (no depth to it!), cover the bottom with kernels and put it on high–with the lid on, of course! In less than four minutes your corn is popped. Turn off the burner, dump corn in a bowl, and put some butter on–lighthandedly, about a tablespoon, and then some salt. Voila! Now you can buy microwave popcorn by the case or on special, but the price really doesn’t compare. Your loss? You clean one pot and lose little time–and far tastier.

So stock up on tortilla chips, and also Pepperidge Farm goldfish (they often have great sales), and make that from-scratch popcorn. But what if you favor exotic flavors? What if your mind is saying, “Look here, Thrifty Bon Vivant! I like Cool Ranch chips! I prefer Red Hot flavoring! Tangy South Carolina Lays are my favorite!”? Yes, what then? Well…ha! Here’s a trick born of desperation overseas. I was stuck in the house, no way to get to the grocery, and was called on to provide an exotic (i.e., American) snack for some visitors to munch on with their beer. What to do when the cupboard was nearly bare? There were spices, yes, and pasta in shapes–fusilli spirals, I believe. Well, I cooked the pasta and drained it well, then tossed it into a deep pot with cooking oil, absorbent newspapers at the ready. Like potato chips, the pasta rises to the surface when cooked, and a slotted spoon hooked it out. I chose Old Bay Seasoning and salt, like a favorite Herrs potato chip offering. With trepidation, I gave it a taste. Delicious! Light, crunchy, flavor-loaded. They were a big hit with the guests, who deviously bargained over who got the leftovers. Now, were they low-cal? No! But potato chips and Fritos aren’t either. So get your experiment on, and say no to outrageous manufacturers!




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