recipe

BYO Popcorn Bags

Well it’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of awards show but my absolute favorite of the whole year is the Academy Awards and in case you didn’t hear, it’s coming up this weekend. Perfect timing because I just recently joined a monthly recipe challenge called The Recipe Redux (focused on reinventing delicious food and adding a healthy spin) and this month’s theme is… the Oscars!

Now I don’t know about you, but when I watch movies I almost always want some freshly popped popcorn. It can make a basic Friday in feel like a fun date night (or self-care night!). So yeah, add wine and popcorn to a movie night and I’m sold.

These BYO (aka “build-your-own”) popcorn bags are perfect for your Oscar party needs because everyone gets to pick their own favorite add-ins and build their version of a perfect movie-watching snack. We’ve got both sweet and savory covered here so no one will leave unsatisfied. Bonus: you might also learn a new technique for popping that takes all of two minutes and could very well replace the artificial butter flavored packets in your pantry.

BYO Popcorn Bags

All you need to make the base is these classic brown paper lunch bags and popcorn kernels. Did I mention how budget-friendly this is? I played around with the amount and I think 2 Tbsp is a good amount for one adult (for the kids, you might do just 1 Tbsp). No oil/butter or seasonings necessary yet, just add the seeds to the bag and microwave until popping slows to 2-3 seconds. You could even pass out sharpies so everyone can write their name/decorate their bags. Or perhaps write guesses for best picture winners on the bottom?

BYO Popcorn Bags
BYO Popcorn Bags

Leave the popcorn uninterrupted for a minute or so just in case you have any rogue last-minute pops. Then you can take the bag out of the microwave and you should see something similar to the beautiful sight above.

At this time, you can add your melted butter, salt and seasonings of choice because personally, I would rather have no popcorn than butter/salt free popcorn. That’s just me though! And remember, since everyone makes their own, there will be no popcorn to butter ratio disputes here.

BYO Popcorn Bar

Next comes the toppings. You guys, I could have seriously gone all out with this but for the purpose of this photo shoot (because I don’t have that wide of a lens, or enough of those cute little dishes) I decided to limit it to a few favorites. I went for a mix of raw unsalted nuts (since you will likely be salting the popcorn), unsweetened dried fruit, chocolate, something vinegary and something just for fun. Here are the specifics:

Other ideas that would be delicious: everything-bagel seasoning, truffle salt, nutritional yeast or grated parmesan cheese, wasabi peas, honey-roasted peanuts, pretzels, mini marshmallows, dark chocolate chips or white chocolate chips, spiced pecans/almonds, golden raisins.

No matter what you choose, I think everyone will go nuts for this! It’s a fun way to make party food interactive and still delicious. Plus, what could be more appropriate for a celebration of movies than popcorn? Enjoy!


Build-Your-Own (BYO) Popcorn Bags

Author: Leanne Ray, MS, RDN
Yield: 2.5 cups | Prep time: 5 min | Cook time: 2 min | Total time: 10 min (including setup & toppings)

Ingredients & Supplies

  • One brown paper lunch bag (per person)

  • 2 Tbsp popcorn kernels (per person)

  • Melted butter

  • Kosher salt (to taste)

  • Various toppings including: cashews, walnuts, dried cherries, dried chickpeas (salt & vinegar), peanut butter M&Ms, Junior Mints, coconut chips, everything-bagel seasoning, truffle salt, nutritional yeast or grated parmesan cheese, dried edamame, wasabi peas, honey-roasted peanuts, pretzels, mini marshmallows, dark chocolate chips or white chocolate chips, spiced pecans/almonds, golden raisins.

Instructions

  1. Add popcorn kernels to a brown paper lunch bag and fold the top down twice. Place in microwave on its side (so the bag stays folded).

  2. Microwave on high for 2-2 1/2 minutes or until popping slows to 2-3 second intervals.

  3. Let the bag sit untouched for about 30 seconds to make sure everything is done popping! Then gently open the bag and add butter, salt and seasonings as desired (shaking well to evenly distribute).

  4. Finally, add toppings of choice.


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Raspberry Lemon Chia Seed Jam

This raspberry lemon chia seed jam is bright and tart, and it makes for an awesome fruity topping on yogurt, oatmeal, or toast. The best part is that you can make it in just 30 minutes!

Raspberry Lemon Chia Seed Jam

Can we talk about the wonder that is chia seed jam for a minute? With four simple ingredients you can whip up a simple jam that’s heavy on the fruit, low on the added sugar and a beautiful vibrant color.

Raspberry Lemon Chia Seed Jam

Now, if you’re totally weirded out by chia seeds, this is the post where I convince you that they’re actually cool and functional, in a nerdy food science kind-of way. And yes, it’s the same seed that was responsible for the chia pet trend of the 90s (come to find out, you can still buy them 😂).

Besides being used to grow sprouts, the seeds are actually really versatile in the kitchen. Read on to find out how to use them, what the nutritional benefits are and of course to get the recipe for the raspberry lemon jam.

How to Use Chia Seeds

I love keeping chia on hand for tossing in random things for an added nutritional boost. I add them to overnight oats for creamier texture or oatmeal balls for cohesiveness. Another popular use is chia seed pudding, although I’m personally not as big a fan of that. Mix with water for an egg replacer in baked goods for the vegan folks (or in a pinch if you run out).

Raspberry Lemon Chia Seed Jam

The Nutritional Benefits of Chia Seeds

One of the biggest reasons why chia seeds surged in popularity is because they’re a plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids. While fatty fish provides the most efficient form of omega 3s, I always advocate for consuming a variety of food sources of each nutrient when possible and I also realize that not everyone consumes fish.

Even better, there are plenty of other great qualities in chia. Here are the nutrition facts at-a-glance (per 1/4 cup):

  • 180 calories

  • 11 g fat

  • 16 g carbohydrate

  • 14 g dietary fiber

  • 6 g protein

  • 230 mg calcium (15% DV)

  • 2.8 mg iron (15% DV)

Why Would You Add Chia Seeds to Jam?

When added to liquid, chia seeds expand and become gelatinous. This basically creates a thickening quality which is exactly what you want when making jam/preserves so it’s easier to spread.

This jam recipe is simple and can be switched up based on whatever fruit you have on hand and the sweetener you prefer. Here are a few other flavor combinations that could work:

  • Strawberry Mint

  • Blueberry Lemon

  • Cherry Vanilla Almond

  • Blackberry Orange Ginger

Raspberry Lemon Chia Seed Jam

Have other flavor combination ideas? Leave me a comment! And be sure to let me know if you give this a try by posting your photos on Instagram and tagging me @LeanneRayRDN.


Raspberry Lemon Chia Seed Jam

Author: Leanne Ray, MS, RDN
Yield: 16 oz | Prep time: 5 min | Cook time: 10 min | Total time: 30 min (including time to cool)

Ingredients

  • 12 oz bag frozen raspberries

  • 1 lemon (zest & juice)

  • 2 Tbsp cane sugar

  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients except chia seeds to a medium saucepan. Bring to a low boil stirring occasionally to prevent sticking and burning.

  2. Lower heat to a simmer and stir in the chia seeds. Partially cover and continue to simmer for 5-7 minutes until berries are broken down and slightly thickened.

  3. Remove from heat and let stand until cooled to room temperature. Transfer to a jar and store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

recipe inspired by Two Peas and Their Pod.


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Greek Orzo Salad with Lemon Dijon Dressing

Who says pasta salad has to be saved for the summer? This Greek orzo with creamy lemon dijon dressing might be your new favorite make-ahead lunch option.

Greek Orzo Salad with Lemon Dijon Dressing

I feel like the theme of my January cooking routine is “simplify”. After the start of the new year as social events started slowing down, I wanted to keep things as easy as possible, but still prioritize great-tasting meals (sans the restriction because “more, not less” amiright?).

I started the month by using recipes from Bon Appetit’s Feel Good Food Plan which I loved! It was a great way to kick off the year because it saved so much time and the meals were awesome. I highly recommend the warm chickpea bowls, by the way.

For the second half of the month I’ll be cooking from my January Meal Plan pinterest board. I’ve been using it as a hub for recipes that include lot’s of fish and seafood, whole grains, beans, fresh produce and herbs. Feel free to follow along with me and use the recipes for yourself too! Pinterest is a fantastic way to organize your recipes - both the favorites that you make and again along with new ones that are on your list.

This recipe checks all of the boxes and was originally created as a side dish because I had the ingredients on hand and needed something to pair with fish. The best part is, it can be made ahead of time (Sunday food prep!), doubles as a lunch entree, and is super flavorful from the addition of fresh lemon juice and salty feta cheese crumbles.

Greek Orzo Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
Greek Orzo Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

Let me also just say orzo is in the regular rotation in my house (and maybe it should be at yours too?). It’s a rice-shaped pasta that cooks in just seven minutes and can be doctored up with any vegetables you are currently loving. It has great chew, but doesn’t overwhelm the other ingredients, which can sometimes happen with larger pasta. I’m a big fan of the add-ins here and they really do shine.

Of course we have all of the best Mediterranean things: fresh grape tomatoes, kalamata olives, feta, dill, red onion and a simple dressing to pull it all together. The lemon dijon vinaigrette couldn’t be easier and has a great silkiness! Remember to keep tiny jars around for your homemade salad dressings! The one photographed here is an old anchovy jar and worked great for this.

The beans are totally optional but if you have them on hand, I say add them. You could easily substitute garbanzo beans or lentils too. The fiber will give this more staying power, plus I think we all need more beans in our life. #thingsdietitianssay

Make this Greek orzo on Sunday for an easy, fresh and interesting packed lunch option. Serve it over some spinach with your favorite seasonal fruit on the side for a flavorful and satisfying meal. Grab the full recipe below.

Greek Orzo Salad with Lemon Dijon Dressing

Greek Orzo Salad with Lemon Dijon Dressing

Author: Leanne Ray, MS, RDN
Yield: Serves 3-4 for lunch, 6 as a side dish | Total time: 20 minutes

ingredients

  • 1 cup dry orzo pasta

  • Juice from 1/2 lemon

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

  • 1 tsp dijon mustard

  • salt and pepper, to taste

  • 1, 14.5 oz can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed

  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

  • 1/4 cup minced red onion

  • 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved

  • 1/4 cup feta cheese crumbles

  • 4-5 sprigs fresh dill, rough chopped

  • Fresh mint leaves, torn (optional)

instructions

  1. Cook orzo per package directions, drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.

  2. Meanwhile, make the dressing by adding the lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, plus a pinch each of kosher salt and black pepper to a small jar. Screw on the lid tightly and shake until creamy. Set aside.

  3. Add all ingredients to a medium-size bowl and stir to evenly distribute the dressing. Garnish with extra herbs and lemon wedges.

Notes: store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.


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