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15 Ways to Upgrade Your Peanut Butter Sandwich

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Few foods are more nostalgic than a peanut butter sandwich, but your culinary skills need a serious upgrade if you’re still making the same basic recipe you enjoyed as a kid. Here are 15 simple ways to elevate the classic lunchtime staple to new—and delicious—heights. 

1. TRY A DIFFERENT NUT (OR SEED) BUTTER. 

PB might the most popular protein-packed sandwich spread, but it’s not the only one sold in grocery stores. You’ll probably find almond, cashew, and hazelnut butters at your local supermarket, and specialty stores carry even more varieties, like sunflower and pumpkin seed butters, Brazil nut butter, and pistachio butter. Each one boasts unique health properties, and—more importantly—they provide your sandwich with new, distinct flavors without sacrificing the creamy texture you love. 

2. EXPERIMENT WITH SWEET—AND SAVORY—JAMS. 

Grape jelly is the go-to fruit spread for PB&Js, but other sweet preserves might taste just as good (if not better) when paired with nut butters. Try strawberry, raspberry, red plum jam, mango, blackberry, blueberry, and even boysenberry. And if you’re feeling really adventurous, you can opt for a savory spread, like bacon jam.

3. TOAST, GRILL, OR FRY THE BREAD. 

No one ever said a peanut butter sandwich is best served cold.  Try grilling it, frying it, cooking it in a Panini press, and toasting it in the oven. 

4. ADD SOME CRUNCH. 

Prefer crunchy peanut butter to creamy? Skip the chunky pre-made spreads, purchase a jar of plain PB, and whip up your own custom blend. Nutrition buffs might opt for seeds, granola, or coconut flakes, but if calories aren’t an issue (or you’re craving dessert early), try crushed cookies, potato chips, or even sprinkles.

5. SPICE THINGS UP.

Raid your spice cabinet and sprinkle a pinch of cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, apple pie spice, nutmeg, cloves, or cardamom into your peanut butter. Looking for more of a kick? Opt for cayenne pepper and chili powder. 

6. DOUBLE DECKER IT.

Instead of chowing down on a hearty club sandwich, consider making yourself a double-decker PB&J.  Take three pieces of bread, and cover two with jelly and one with PB. Place the PB-covered bread slice sticky-side down on top of one of the jelly-covered slices, and add more peanut butter to its other side. Place the second jelly-covered slice on top, cut it in half, and voila

7. TRY OUT DIFFERENT BREADS. 

Skip the white sandwich bread and opt for baguettes, sourdough, whole grains, English muffins, and even tortillas (try rolling them up like burritos).  

8. EAT IT FOR BREAKFAST.  

Try adding peanut butter to pancakes, croissants, crepes, and French Toast.

9. SWAP JELLY OUT FOR FRUIT. 

Looking to cut down on added sugars? Swap sweet spreads out for fresh fruits like grapes, blueberries, and strawberries. (If you miss the texture of jelly, try sautéing the fruits before putting them into your sandwich.) 

10. EAT YOUR PEANUT BUTTER LIKE A FAMOUS CELEBRITY. 

One iconic American rock and roll pioneer enjoyed an unusual twist on the peanut butter sandwich: Instead of eating with jelly, he preferred mashed banana—and he also liked for the bread to be pan-fried golden brown. 

11. TURN IT INTO DESSERT.

Marshmallow fluff, chocolate syrup, and melted chocolate-peanut butter cups transform an everyday peanut butter sandwich into a unique dessert. If you’re looking for something even more decadent, consider using slices of pound cake instead of bread.

12. ADD SOME PIZAZZ WITH COOKIE CUTTERS.

Use cookie cutters to cut a peanut butter sandwich into tiny tea sandwiches—Christmas trees, snowmen, and snowflakes for holiday get-togethers, and hearts, stars, and dinosaurs for year-round parties. 

13. MAKE A THAI-INSPIRED SANDWICH. 

Instead of ordering takeout from your favorite Asian restaurant, make yourself a Thai-inspired sandwich. Cover whole-grain bread with unsweetened peanut butter, rotisserie chicken breasts, sliced cucumbers, shredded carrots, chopped red onions, and hot sauce. 

14. ADD EGGS. 

Top your peanut butter sandwich with poached, fried, or scrambled eggs. Your inner child might be grossed out, but your adult palate might appreciate the novel combination of rich, salty egg yolk and savory peanut butter. 

15. DRIZZLE IT WITH HONEY. 

According to fitness experts, a peanut butter sandwich made on whole wheat bread and drizzled with honey is a great post-workout snack. It’s filled with healthy complex carbs, plus it’s simple to make—and eat—on the fly.  

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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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