Junk-It

Junk food is a derogatory term for cheap food containing lots of calories from sugar or fat with little fiber, protein, vitamins or minerals. Basically, it’s food that has no nutritional value and contains excessive amounts of fat, sugar and salt. Junk food can also refer to dishes prepared in high-saturated fat — or fast food, which is usually fried.

Despite being labeled as “junk,” high-calorie foods usually do not pose any immediate health concerns and are safe when eaten in moderation as part of a well-balanced diet. However, constant indulgence will inevitably lead to obesity and other health concerns.

The term “junk food” first made an appearance in a 1952 publication discussing the pitfall of eating too much unhealthy foods, leading to serious health risks. It has been discussed over and over since that time with little effect on consumption. Junk foods’ popularity increases each year as new foods appear on the market to entice consumers. In an effort to minimize consumption, governments have tried passing laws taxing or restricting sugary foods and drinks. Most of these regulations have not gotten far and it’s really up to the individual to make better choices.

As with many popular trends, junk food has been given its own special day. Today, July 21, has been named National Junk Food Day. While it has not been officially approved by an act of Congress, it is widely celebrated by both those who live on sugary snacks as well as those who mostly avoid them and only indulge once in a while.

While much of the appeal of junk food is buying it ready, there are homemade versions of some popular sugary snacks that are worth cheating on. Try some of our recipes today in honor of this amusing holiday!

Authentic Caramel Corn

 

2 1/2 quarts popped popcorn

1 cup salted peanuts

1/2 cup butter or margarine

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup light corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 250° F. Spread popped popcorn and nuts in a large shallow pan and place in a preheated oven.

Combine butter, brown sugar, syrup and salt in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Brush sugar from sides of pan with a wet pastry brush. Boil until mixture reaches 248° on a candy thermometer, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in soda. Be careful, as mixture will bubble up. Pour mixture over corn and nuts, stirring gently to coat. Return glazed popcorn and nut mixture to oven and bake 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. When cooled, pack in airtight containers.

S’mores Pie

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup margarine, at room temperature

1 egg

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 full graham crackers

1 12-ounce bag mini chocolate chips

3 cups miniature marshmallows

Preheat the oven to 350°.

In a large bowl, cream together the brown sugar and margarine. Beat until fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir.

Grind the graham crackers to crumbs in a food processor or blender. Stir in with the dry ingredients.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients and press into the bottom of an 8- or 9-inch oven-safe skillet or deep pie dish.

Bake for 12–15 minutes.

Remove and immediately top with the bag of chocolate chips. Spread the chocolate chips around to coat the entire surface.

Then add the marshmallows. Press them on to cover the chocolate chips. You can add more or subtract some depending on preference.

Broil at 550° for about 30–45 seconds or until the tops of the marshmallows are lightly browned.

Allow to cool and set before serving.