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As every armchair sports enthusiast knows, one of the most important parts of getting ready to watch a football game on television is making sure the right kind of snack is on hand. It has to be easy to reach, without taking your eyes off the screen; it has to go down quickly (in case last-minute cheers are called for before a play); and, of course, it has to be delicious.

Two snack foods that have successfully stood up to the test for many football seasons are popcorn and peanuts. These all-American taste treats are perennial favorites, no matter what the sport season.

Although purists may prefer their popcorn just lightly salted and their peanuts plain, both foods actually are quite versatile. Today, popcorn is used in fudge bars, salads, and even ice cream sandwiches. Peanuts are no slouch in the snack department either. Peanut-lovers are putting their favorite food into everything from granola bars to peanut-and-dried fruit "trail mixes."

The next time sports fans "pop-in" to watch a game on your TV set, why not surprise them with some new popcorn-and-peanut dishes of your own? "Parmesan Popcorn and Peanuts" offers a spicy combination of popcorn and peanuts cooked in peanut oil and then baked with a sprinkling of garlic salt and Parmesan cheese. It's the perfect accompaniment for most any sports beverage.

Popcorn lovers with a sweet tooth will want to try the mouth-puckering cherry "Fruit-Flavored Popcorn." It's simple to prepare, and gives even veteran popcorn eaters a new popcorn-eating experience.

Traditionalists will reach for the combination "Caramel Popcorn and Peanuts" recipe. This is a classic favorite that re-earns its reputation each time a fresh bowl is served.

A key ingredient to the success of all three dishes is large, airy puffs of popcorn. The kind you get everytime with the Presto® PowerPop® microwave multi-popper or the PopLite® gourmet/regular hot air popper. They both pop extra-large puffs from either premium or regular popcorn, with hardly any unpopped kernels. The hot air model operates without oil, so extra calories aren't added to popcorn. The microwave model pops with or without oil. With either popper, popcorn popped without oil and served plain contains only 25 calories a cup.

The peanuts used in the dishes have to be just right, too. The Virginia type peanuts in the recipes below are popular with the sports crowd because of their large size and superior peanut flavor.

Home-Cooked Peanuts

Now that raw peanuts are available in the produce sections of grocery stores, more and more people are roasting their own peanuts at home. Peanuts can be roasted in the oven, microwave oven, or in an electric deep fryer. The finished product can be seasoned with salt, Parmesan cheese, chili powder, or whatever suits your taste buds. Follow these simple directions for roasting:

How to Roast Peanuts

Conventional Oven Roasting ("Parching")

Place raw peanuts, in-shell or shelled, one layer deep in a shallow baking pan. Roast in a 350° oven; 15 to 20 minutes for shelled and 20 to 25 minutes for in-shell peanuts. Remove from heat immediately, as peanuts continue to cook as they cool.

Microwave Oven Roasting

  • 2 cups raw shelled peanuts

Place peanuts in a 10 x 6-inch glass or similar microwave container. Dot with butter or margarine. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir peanuts. Microwave 2 minutes at a time followed by stirring until peanuts have been microwaved 10 minutes for light roast; 12 minutes for medium roast. Remove from microwave. (Caution: Peanuts continue to cook as they cool. Cooking time may vary with brand of microwave oven.)

Oil Roasting (French Frying)

  • 2 cups raw shelled red skin or blanched peanuts
  • Peanut oil (Amount specified by manufacturer of your deep fryer)

Heat oil in electric deep fryer. Add peanuts and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Drain on paper. Peanuts continue to cook as they cool.

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