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9 Unexpected Things to Toss on the Grill This Summer

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So, you’ve mastered all the usual stuff when it comes to grilling—burgers, steaks, hot dogs, and every variety of teriyaki kabobs. Ready to try something new? Here’s a list of ideas from soup to nuts (literally), just waiting to be fired up.

1. SOUP

Steven Raichlen, author of The Barbecue Bible and numerous other books on grilling, believes that soup is “utterly transformed” by the addition of grilled vegetables. He recommends charring some tomatoes, peppers, and onions or some corn in the husk to add depth and smokiness to your gazpacho or corn chowder. You already know that caramelizing onions on the grill takes the flavor to a new level, but add butter, sherry, and broth to the mix and you’ve got the makings for an unparalleled onion soup.

2. CAKE

Grill homemade or store bought pound cake and you’ve created the base for a multitude of simple-but-elegant desserts. Preheat your grill to high; while you wait for things to heat up, brush each slice with butter on both sides. Grill each slice for about a minute, then rotate each slice a quarter turn to create a crosshatch pattern. Grill for another minute, or until toasted, then top with whatever seasonal produce you can find at your local market or farmstand, adding a dollop of fresh whipped cream or your favorite ice cream. For a booze-infused dessert, add some peaches with a whiskey and caramel sauce.

3. DOUGHNUTS

Creating fresh doughnuts is as easy as one, two, three: Just mix some cinnamon and sugar, cream some butter and brown sugar, and use a cookie cutter to cut the center out of some pre-made buttermilk biscuits. For an even easier take, purchase fresh glazed doughnuts and grill over medium high heat to achieve a delightful crispiness on the outside and light fluffiness on the inside.

4. COOKIES

Here’s another way to satisfy your sweet tooth grill-style. Take just about any basic cookie dough recipe and a baking sheet, and you can achieve the same home-baked results that you accomplish in the kitchen. Try these classic chocolate chip cookies or bring a little fruity, nutty, chocolatey goodness to the milk and cookie platter with this chunky, chewy, chocolate cookie recipe.

5. EGGS

The possibilities for the incredible edible are endless. Start your day with grilled peppers stuffed with egg and cheese. Or, if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, go global and give some grilled eggs with Vietnamese seasonings a roll.

6. LEMONS

Grilling lemons brings out the tangy juices and imparts a subtle, smoky flavor—so when life gives you lemons, make some grown-up lemonade with a splash of bourbon or give your dip a Middle Eastern twist with a grilled lemon tzatziki.

7. BANANAS

You can create authentic New Orleans-style Bananas Foster. It takes just five minutes to create a sauce on the stovetop with butter, brown sugar, and spices. Once your sauce is done, simply split bananas lengthwise, skin on, brush with butter, and grill both sides. Voila! Grill up another American Classic with this banana split recipe that uses foil “boats” to transport your dessert to gooey, chocolatey, creamy deliciousness.

8. HEARTS OF PALM

Hearts of palm, usually served cold in a salad, are the edible, tender center parts from the stem of the cabbage palm tree. Their delicate flavor, similar to artichokes, translates beautifully to grilling. For a healthy and delicious side dish, try hearts of palm and parmesan. Or, add a vegan-friendly, south of the border vibe to your grilling repertoire with these marinated heart of palm tacos with spicy cabbage slaw by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, chef and author of Serious Eats's James Beard Award-nominated column The Food Lab.

9. NUTS

Forget buying store-bought roasted nuts, which can include excess ingredients and unhealthy oils. Instead, grab a foil pan and one of your favorite sweet and spicy recipes, like the famously addictive Union Square Cafe Bar Nuts and place the pan over low, indirect heat for about 30 minutes, watching to prevent any charring. For a more rustic take, try this cowboy trail mix, which you can create with any combination of your favorite dried fruits, pretzels, cereal, or chocolate chips.

All images courtesy of iStock.

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11 of the Most Extreme Junk Foods Ever Created
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It should come as no surprise that National Junk Food Day is traditionally celebrated on July 21—smack dab in the middle of the dog days of summer, when the streets run thick with ice cream trucks and county fairs boast the kind of fried treats that can only be described as “awesome” (both in the modern sense and the more dated, whoa, we are in awe of that usage). But National Junk Food Day shouldn’t be celebrated with commonplace junk food; oh, no, it deserves something far bigger and better. So save your potato chips and chocolate bars for another day, and get ready to try some truly wild treats.

1. THE KFC DOUBLE DOWN


KFC

Perhaps the most unexpectedly clever way to create a new extreme junk food item is to turn a non-junky foodstuff into something that just oozes calories and decadence. Fried chicken giant KFC knew that—and played it up to major effect—when they introduced the KFC Double Down to America back in 2010. The sandwich foregoes the most traditional aspect of any sandwich (the bread!) and substitutes two fried chicken filets. In between the two pieces of chicken? Bacon, two different kinds of cheese, and the Colonel’s “secret sauce.” There’s no room for a bun here, folks.

2. PIZZA HUT'S HOT DOG STUFFED CRUST PIZZA

We may associate items like fast food pizza and hot dog-stuffed anything with all-American palates, but cheesy juggernaut Pizza Hut saw things a bit differently. In 2012, the chain introduced a pizza with a hot dog-stuffed crust to our neighbors across the pond, treating their UK customers to the kind of taste sensation some people might have had literal nightmares about. Is it a pizza? Is it a hot dog? Somehow, it’s both—and yet something much more.

3. FRIENDLY'S GRILLED CHEESE BURGERMELT


Friendly's

Once again, a wily restaurant chain took a normal food item—in this case, a hamburger—and amped up its junk factor by doing away with something as commonplace as buns, in favor of an entirely different (and, yes, very junky) item. In 2010, Friendly’s rolled out its very own spin on the Double Down, slamming a regular old burger between not one, but two grilled cheese sandwiches. Who needs buns when you can have four pieces of bread, gooey cheese, and unfathomable amounts of butter?

4. GUY FIERI'S CHEESECAKE CHALLENGE

Whiz-bang chef Guy Fieri has long drawn ire for his more wild culinary creations, but what sets his cuisine apart from that of other junk food aficionados is his steadfast dedication to the key elements of any extreme item: size and odd combinations. Fieri’s “Guy's Cheesecake Challenge” is currently on the menu of his Vegas Kitchen and Bar, but it’s easy enough to replicate at home: Just halve a cheesecake, throw it on a plate, and douse liberally with hot fudge, pretzels, and potato chips. (What, no bacon?)

5. DENNY'S FRIED CHEESE MELT


Denny's

In August 2010, Denny’s introduced the Fried Cheese Melt, a grilled cheese sandwich stuffed with fried mozzarella sticks. Yes, it was served with both French fries and a side of marinara sauce, because it’s important to eat vegetables with every meal.

6. DUNKIN' DONUTS'S GLAZED DONUT BREAKFAST SANDWICH


Dunkin' Donuts

If you’ve ever hit up your local Dunkin' Donuts for breakfast and found yourself stumped when it came time to decide if you wanted a donut or a breakfast sandwich to get your morning motor revving, Dunkin' Donuts came up with a brilliant culinary brainstorm in 2013: the fast food favorite unveiled a breakfast sandwich that used glazed donuts as “bread,” wrapped around bacon and peppered egg.

7. JACK IN THE BOX MUNCHIE MEAL

What Jack’s Munchie Meals lack in creativity, they more than make up for in pure, unadulterated size and content. Each Munchie Meal—there are four total—features a massive sandwich (from the Stacked Grilled Cheese Burger to the Spicy Nacho Chicken Sandwich, and all sorts of wild fried things in between) accompanied with two beef tacos, “Halfsies” (a combo of fries and curly fries), and a 20-ounce fountain drink. These intense snack boxes are still available at most Jack in the Box locations, but you’ll have to wait until after 9 p.m. to procure your very own.

8. PIZZA HUT CHEESY BITES REMIX PIZZA

Apparently, there’s nothing that Pizza Hut loves more than using its crust as a delivery system for other junk food items. The hut that pizza built may have crammed hot dogs and hamburgers on to their pie sides, but there was something special about the Cheesy Bites Remix pizza. It featured fried cheese pockets stuffed with three different varieties of extra junk, from spicy seasoning to cream cheese and sesame to mozzarella and parmesan.

9. DEEP FRIED BUTTER

County and state fairs have long been hotbeds (sizzling, oily hotbeds) of wild, deep-frying invention. Dunking things in batter and then tossing them into a vat of oil is a nifty way to turn almost anything into a delicious crisp pocket of junky decadence, perfect for utensil-free eating—but that doesn’t mean that everything needs to get the deep-fried treatment. While deep-fried Oreos may be a stroke of brilliance, deep fried butter is just plain madness. Here’s a quick test: If you wouldn’t eat something if it weren’t deep-fried, don’t eat it if it is deep-fried. When was the last time you ate an entire stick of butter? See? Point proven.

10. THE BACON BUN BURGER

Not content to have a bacon sandwich between two chicken filets? Is a grilled cheese bun replacement not for you? Then try making your very own hamburger buns out of bacon. Carbs are bad for you, right?

11. FRIED ICE CREAM SANDWICH

The Florida State Fair is the proud home of the first fried ice cream sandwich, a junky treat that bears a name that doesn’t even begin to explain what it holds between its buns. It’s not a fried ice cream sandwich so much as a bacon cheeseburger (technically a sandwich) topped with a ball of fried ice cream. It might be a good meal for multi-taskers—no need to worry about dessert—but it doesn’t sound like the kind of thing good for anything else.

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Scientists Find a Possible Link Between Beef Jerky and Mania
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Scientist have discovered a surprising new factor that may contribute to mania: meat sticks. As NBC News reports, processed meats containing nitrates, like jerky and some cold cuts, may provoke symptoms of mental illness.

For a new study, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, scientists surveyed roughly 1100 people with psychiatric disorders who were admitted into the Sheppard Pratt Health System in Baltimore between 2007 and 2017. They had initially set out to find whether there was any connection between certain infectious diseases and mania, a common symptom of bipolar disorder that can include racing thoughts, intense euphoria, and irritability.

While questioning participants about their diet, the researchers discovered that a significant number of them had eaten cured meats before their manic episodes. Patients who had recently consumed products like salami, jerky, and dried meat sticks were more likely to be hospitalized for mania than subjects in the control group.

The link can be narrowed down to nitrates, which are preservatives added to many types of cured meats. In a later part of the study, rats that were fed nitrate-free jerky acted less hyperactive than those who were given meat with nitrates.

Numerous studies have been published on the risks of consuming foods pumped full of nitrates: The ingredient can lead to the formation of carcinogens, and it can react in the gut in a way that promotes inflammation. It's possible that inflammation from nitrates can trigger mania in people who are already susceptible to it, but scientists aren't sure how this process might work. More research still needs to be done on the relationship between gut health and mental health before people with psychiatric disorders are told to avoid beef jerky altogether.

[h/t NBC News]

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