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12 Football-Shaped Foods for Your Super Bowl Party

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Traditions have grown up around the annual Super Bowl football game, such as the halftime show scandal, the ad critiques, and of course, the food. The game itself begins in the evening, after hours of pre-game discussion, and parties often go all day long. News stories about a chicken wing shortage just before Super Bowl Sunday have some party hosts nervous. The supply is only 1% short of what was consumed last year, so there will be wings, although they will cost more. But chicken wings aren't the only staple of Super Bowl parties -there's always chili, hot dogs, pizza, nachos, and, of course, the other parts of those chickens. The only critical things to remember about Super Bowl party food are to make sure its delicious, and make sure there is plenty of it. On the other hand, this weekend is an opportunity to have fun and show off your artistic side -which is why there are so many recipes for snacks shaped like footballs that you can add to the menu.    

1. Football Zucchini Fritters

A Turkish recipe called Mücver contains zucchini, potatoes, carrot, and onion, so it will fill any requirements for vegetables on Super Bowl Sunday. Beth at Hungry Happenings turned the fried fritters into footballs! They can be made ahead of time and warmed before serving, then the football laces are added by piping Greek yogurt on top.  

2. Football Pepperoni Pizza

This pepperoni pizza made by Angie McGowan at The Family Kitchen is appropriately decorated with a football of pepperoni slices and laces of Swiss cheese. You can make your own homemade pizza with her recipe, or recreate the look with a frozen pizza by rearranging the toppings -before you bake it, of course.  

3. Football Salami

A football-shaped salami is beyond the capabilities of most kitchens. This salami is sold by Norm Thompson. It's too late to get one for this year (they're sold out), but you can save the idea and order yours early for next year.  

4. Football Deviled Eggs

These spicy sweet deviled eggs look like footballs when you add laces made of chives. Better make a lot of them!

5. Football Bites

Ali Ebright at Gimme Some Oven has a simple clever method for cutting salami slices and cheese into perfect football shapes for these hors d'oeuvres. You can layer them on any crackers, but my favorite (Town House) is already somewhat football-shaped. The laces that add the finishing touch are made with ranch dressing piped from a ziplock bag.  

6. Peanut Butter Football Dip

I never thought of peanut butter and chocolate as a dip -but with pretzels, it works! Dorothy at Crazy for Crust made a football shape with peanut butter and chocolate chips, then covered the whole thing in chocolate sprinkles. "Just cover it in something that makes it look like a football." I would guess the laces are bit of icing. Serve with plenty of pretzels.

7. Nutella Brownie Footballs

Also from Dorothy Kern, these brownies are stacked from a layer of peanut butter cookie crust with Nutella brownies on top! A cookie cutter makes them into footballs, with a touch of icing for the laces. Attached to the recipe at Crazy for Crust is a link to a recipe for iced football cookies.

8. Football Cake Pops

Made by Jamie at Love + Butter, the cake pops are made of chocolate cake crumbs and frosting shaped into footballs, then glued onto sticks with melted chocolate -which also coats them! The instructions appear to make a lot of them, which you will need. No one will stop at just one!  

9. Chocolate Covered Strawberry Footballs

Jackie at Domestic Fits lives in California, where strawberries are always in season. She shows us how to dip strawberries in chocolate and decorate with white chocolate to make tasty little fruit footballs.

10. Football Cupcake Eggs

It looks like a football, but it's an egg. But it's not an egg, it's just an eggshell (although one that resembles a football) that has chocolate cake inside. Got it? Pull off this project, and the response at your Super Bowl party will surely be, "Oh, you went to a lot of trouble for these, didn't you?" Yes, indeed. Get complete directions to make your own at The Cupcake Project.

11. Football Whoopie Pies

Whoopie pies go by different names and slightly different recipes depending on where you are. Basically, it's two soft cookies sandwiched with cream in the middle -like Little Debbie Oatmeal Pies. Laura at Make Merry used a pumpkin cake recipe, slightly altered, to make her footballs. The creme in the middle is made of sugar, butter, marshmallow creme, and maple extract. The laces are piped icing. So are these cookies, cakes, or pies? Does it really matter?

12. Football Barbecue Cupcakes

The cupcake is a work of art. Susan S at Diamonds for Dessert created it as an entry in a "Manly Cupcakes" contest in 2010. How manly is it? Beside the decorations of a football and barbecue grill (aflame!), one of the ingredients is beer. Once you put the flame out, all the decorations are edible. The entire recipe and directions are posted in case you want to try it yourself. Good luck!

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The Elements
9 Diamond-Like Facts About Carbon
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How well do you know the periodic table? Our series The Elements explores the fundamental building blocks of the observable universe—and their relevance to your life—one by one.
 
 
It can be glittering and hard. It can be soft and flaky. It can look like a soccer ball. Carbon is the backbone of every living thing—and yet it just might cause the end of life on Earth as we know it. How can a lump of coal and a shining diamond be composed of the same material? Here are eight things you probably didn't know about carbon.

1. IT'S THE "DUCT TAPE OF LIFE."

It's in every living thing, and in quite a few dead ones. "Water may be the solvent of the universe," writes Natalie Angier in her classic introduction to science, The Canon, "but carbon is the duct tape of life." Not only is carbon duct tape, it's one hell of a duct tape. It binds atoms to one another, forming humans, animals, plants and rocks. If we play around with it, we can coax it into plastics, paints, and all kinds of chemicals.

2. IT'S ONE OF THE MOST ABUNDANT ELEMENTS IN THE UNIVERSE.

It sits right at the top of the periodic table, wedged in between boron and nitrogen. Atomic number 6, chemical sign C. Six protons, six neutrons, six electrons. It is the fourth most abundant element in the universe after hydrogen, helium, and oxygen, and 15th in the Earth's crust. While its older cousins hydrogen and helium are believed to have been formed during the tumult of the Big Bang, carbon is thought to stem from a buildup of alpha particles in supernova explosions, a process called supernova nucleosynthesis.

3. IT'S NAMED AFTER COAL.

While humans have known carbon as coal and—after burning—soot for thousands of years, it was Antoine Lavoisier who, in 1772, showed that it was in fact a unique chemical entity. Lavoisier used an instrument that focused the Sun's rays using lenses which had a diameter of about four feet. He used the apparatus, called a solar furnace, to burn a diamond in a glass jar. By analyzing the residue found in the jar, he was able to show that diamond was comprised solely of carbon. Lavoisier first listed it as an element in his textbook Traité Élémentaire de Chimie, published in 1789. The name carbon derives from the French charbon, or coal.

4. IT LOVES TO BOND.

It can form four bonds, which it does with many other elements, creating hundreds of thousands of compounds, some of which we use daily. (Plastics! Drugs! Gasoline!) More importantly, those bonds are both strong and flexible.

5. NEARLY 20 PERCENT OF YOUR BODY IS CARBON.

May Nyman, a professor of inorganic chemistry at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon tells Mental Floss that carbon has an almost unbelievable range. "It makes up all life forms, and in the number of substances it makes, the fats, the sugars, there is a huge diversity," she says. It forms chains and rings, in a process chemists call catenation. Every living thing is built on a backbone of carbon (with nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, and other elements). So animals, plants, every living cell, and of course humans are a product of catenation. Our bodies are 18.5 percent carbon, by weight.

And yet it can be inorganic as well, Nyman says. It teams up with oxygen and other substances to form large parts of the inanimate world, like rocks and minerals.

6. WE DISCOVERED TWO NEW FORMS OF IT ONLY RECENTLY.

Carbon is found in four major forms: graphite, diamonds, fullerenes, and graphene. "Structure controls carbon's properties," says Nyman.  Graphite ("the writing stone") is made up of loosely connected sheets of carbon formed like chicken wire. Penciling something in actually is just scratching layers of graphite onto paper. Diamonds, in contrast, are linked three-dimensionally. These exceptionally strong bonds can only be broken by a huge amount of energy. Because diamonds have many of these bonds, it makes them the hardest substance on Earth.

Fullerenes were discovered in 1985 when a group of scientists blasted graphite with a laser and the resulting carbon gas condensed to previously unknown spherical molecules with 60 and 70 atoms. They were named in honor of Buckminster Fuller, the eccentric inventor who famously created geodesic domes with this soccer ball–like composition. Robert Curl, Harold Kroto, and Richard Smalley won the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering this new form of carbon.

The youngest member of the carbon family is graphene, found by chance in 2004 by Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov in an impromptu research jam. The scientists used scotch tape—yes, really—to lift carbon sheets one atom thick from a lump of graphite. The new material is extremely thin and strong. The result: the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010.

7. DIAMONDS AREN'T CALLED "ICE" BECAUSE OF THEIR APPEARANCE.

Diamonds are called "ice" because their ability to transport heat makes them cool to the touch—not because of their look. This makes them ideal for use as heat sinks in microchips. (Synthethic diamonds are mostly used.) Again, diamonds' three-dimensional lattice structure comes into play. Heat is turned into lattice vibrations, which are responsible for diamonds' very high thermal conductivity.

8. IT HELPS US DETERMINE THE AGE OF ARTIFACTS—AND PROVE SOME OF THEM FAKE.

American scientist Willard F. Libby won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1960 for developing a method for dating relics by analyzing the amount of a radioactive subspecies of carbon contained in them. Radiocarbon or C14 dating measures the decay of a radioactive form of carbon, C14, that accumulates in living things. It can be used for objects that are as much as 50,000 years old. Carbon dating help determine the age of Ötzi the Iceman, a 5300-year-old corpse found frozen in the Alps. It also established that Lancelot's Round Table in Winchester Cathedral was made hundreds of years after the supposed Arthurian Age.

9. TOO MUCH OF IT IS CHANGING OUR WORLD.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is an important part of a gaseous blanket that is wrapped around our planet, making it warm enough to sustain life. But burning fossil fuels—which are built on a carbon backbone—releases more carbon dioxide, which is directly linked to global warming. A number of ways to remove and store carbon dioxide have been proposed, including bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, which involves planting large stands of trees, harvesting and burning them to create electricity, and capturing the CO2 created in the process and storing it underground. Yet another approach that is being discussed is to artificially make oceans more alkaline in order to let them to bind more CO2. Forests are natural carbon sinks, because trees capture CO2 during photosynthesis, but human activity in these forests counteracts and surpasses whatever CO2 capture gains we might get. In short, we don't have a solution yet to the overabundance of C02 we've created in the atmosphere.

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Big Questions
Why Don't We Eat Turkey Tails?
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Turkey sandwiches. Turkey soup. Roasted turkey. This year, Americans will consume roughly 245 million birds, with 46 million being prepared and presented on Thanksgiving. What we don’t eat will be repurposed into leftovers.

But there’s one part of the turkey that virtually no family will have on their table: the tail.

Despite our country’s obsession with fattening, dissecting, and searing turkeys, we almost inevitably pass up the fat-infused rear portion. According to Michael Carolan, professor of sociology and associate dean for research at the College for Liberal Arts at Colorado State University, that may have something to do with how Americans have traditionally perceived turkeys. Consumption was rare prior to World War II. When the birds were readily available, there was no demand for the tail because it had never been offered in the first place.

"Tails did and do not fit into what has become our culinary fascination with white meat," Carolan tells Mental Floss. "But also from a marketing [and] processor standpoint, if the consumer was just going to throw the tail away, or will not miss it if it was omitted, [suppliers] saw an opportunity to make additional money."

Indeed, the fact that Americans didn't have a taste for tail didn't prevent the poultry industry from moving on. Tails were being routed to Pacific Island consumers in the 1950s. Rich in protein and fat—a turkey tail is really a gland that produces oil used for grooming—suppliers were able to make use of the unwanted portion. And once consumers were exposed to it, they couldn't get enough.

“By 2007,” according to Carolan, “the average Samoan was consuming more than 44 pounds of turkey tails every year.” Perhaps not coincidentally, Samoans also have alarmingly high obesity rates of 75 percent. In an effort to stave off contributing factors, importing tails to the Islands was banned from 2007 until 2013, when it was argued that doing so violated World Trade Organization rules.

With tradition going hand-in-hand with commerce, poultry suppliers don’t really have a reason to try and change domestic consumer appetites for the tails. In preparing his research into the missing treat, Carolan says he had to search high and low before finally finding a source of tails at a Whole Foods that was about to discard them. "[You] can't expect the food to be accepted if people can't even find the piece!"

Unless the meat industry mounts a major campaign to shift American tastes, Thanksgiving will once again be filled with turkeys missing one of their juicier body parts.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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