Coming Soon to Taco Bell: Breakfast and Health Food

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Crispy beef tacos from Taco Bell Corp. are arranged for a photograph in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
Taco Bell (YUM) has seen sales explode in the last couple of years, largely on the strength of zany junk food like the Doritos Locos Tacos. But now it's making a pitch to customers who aren't necessarily attracted by bizarre fast-food mashups.

The "Mexican-inspired" fast-food joint announced this week that it was going to start bringing healthier offerings to its menu. According to the AP, it's aiming to make at least 20% of its menu items meet government guidelines for fat and calorie content by 2020. That means, for instance, that a single meal would only have 666 calories, based on the 2,000-calorie daily diet recommended by the USDA. CEO Greg Creed said that some of the healthier products may start launching as early as next year.

That's not the only change coming to Taco Bell's menu. Earlier this month, Creed told a restaurant industry conference that the chain was aiming to double sales over the next decade, in part by adding breakfast to the menu.
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The breakfast menu (dubbed "FirstMeal," of course) has already rolled out in more than 800 Taco Bells on the West Coast, including locations in California, Arizona and Colorado. As you might expect, you aren't getting pancakes -- Taco Bell looks to be putting its own twist on the breakfast burrito with its first offering, the A.M. Crunchwrap. It features egg, cheese, a hashbrown and your choice of bacon or sausage, all stuffed inside a tortilla. And since this is Taco Bell, you'll get it with a glass of Mtn Dew A.M., which is a mix of a Mountain Dew and orange juice.

"Everyone's saying we're crazy because McDonald's owns this," Creed told the conference. "That has to stop."

And breakfast isn't the only time of day that Taco Bell wants to conquer. The chain also recently started offering an afternoon menu called "Happier Hour," which includes the snack-sized loaded grillers and a variety of frozen drinks. It will aim to increase traffic during the 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. time block, which tends to be a dead zone for restaurants.

We're not sure we can get on board with the idea of eating Taco Bell for breakfast, but then, we're sure people said the same of McDonald's. Maybe we just need to think outside the bagel.

Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.

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Taco Bell's Cool Ranch Dorito Taco is Just the Latest 'Frankensnack'
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Coming Soon to Taco Bell: Breakfast and Health Food

It's not unusual to see Oreos appear in other snack foods. Most ice cream shops and brands offer some variety of the cookies and cream flavor. And Oreos also appear (alongside several other snacks) as an optional mix-in for the McDonald's McFlurry.

But there was something bizarre about seeing them as a topping on a doughnut, which is exactly what Krispy Kreme began offering a few weeks ago. There are two varieties of the doughnut, both of which include both Oreo cookie crumbles and a dollop of Oreo's signature filling. They're available at select locations through April 21.

Krispy Kreme hasn't posted calorie count information for the doughnuts, and frankly, we're afraid to ask.

Cookies and pastries we can understand. Cookies and pizza are a bit harder to fathom. But in 2007, Oreos teamed up with Domino's, to create what it dubbed a "dessert pizza."

Fortunately, this was not a standard Domino's pizza topped with Oreos; rather, you got a thin crust covered in vanilla sauce, crumbled Oreo cookies and frosting. It was dreamed up by a Domino's employee in a contest to create a new product offering and even got an advertising campaign.

Photo: YouTube.com

Sometimes Oreos go inside other snacks. Sometimes, other snacks go inside Oreos.

That's the case with this weird variety, which replaces the classic Oreo filling with one flavored like the traditional Halloween candy. The limited-edition cookie appeared on shelves last fall for the Halloween sales season -- though it was not the first time Nabisco offered a seasonal Oreo variety. The company sold candy cane Oreos during Christmas from 2008-2010.

Both limited-edition varieties can still be found on eBay, where a package of candy corn Oreos sells for the princely sum of $34.95.

Yes, that makes three entries for Oreos, which deserves a lifetime achievement award for its string of roles as best supporting snack food.

Pizza and beer have always been brothers in arms, so it was only a matter of time before some adventurous brewery found a way to mash them together.

Tom and Athena Seefurth of Illinois invented this concoction in 2006 by topping a pizza crust with tomato, oregano, basil and garlic and then rinsing the "essence of pizza spices" into the brewpot. The result, Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer, does in fact taste like pizza, with the oregano flavor particularly pronounced.

You're probably not going to down several pizza beers in one sitting -- it's not what you'd call a session beer. But if your local bar happens to have a bottle, we'd recommend giving it a try.

Chicken and waffles is a traditional dish that may very well qualify as a Frankensnack in its own right. So it was only natural that Lay's would seek to imbue that unique flavor into its potato chips.

We got a chance to try these, and were greeted with a strong taste of syrup. It's not exactly a taste you expect (or particularly want) to find in a bag of chips.

The variety was introduced in a contest to pick the next flavor of Lay's chips, and it's going up against "cheesy garlic bread" and "Sriracha." The latter is a wildly popular hot sauce and early reviews are good, so we fully expect it to beat out the chicken and waffles flavor and arrive soon at a grocery store near you.

Photo: Lay's Facebook

In the mood for a burger, but feel like they haven't packed enough calories into the bun?

Sometimes referred to as a "Luther Burger" -- after R&B singer Luther Vandross -- the doughnut burger is just a beef patty sandwiched between a couple of doughnuts (or, if you're watching your calories, one doughnut split in half). Unfortunately there are no national chains offering this, but a couple of local establishments have them. One doughnut shop in Orange Country, Calif. offers a cheeseburger doughnut alongside other weird menu items like pizza doughnuts and sushi doughnuts. And the Gateway Grizzlies, an Illinois minor league baseball team, offer a bacon cheeseburger on a split Krispy Kreme doughnut, earning them the title of "baseball's best burger" from Sports Illustrated.

And if there are no restaurants or doughnut shops near you offering a version of this beast of a burger, don't despair: You can make one yourself -- Paula Deen has a recipe, of course.

Photos: Devilicious Donuts, Facebook

Pizza Hut first recognized that the crust could be more than a handle when it introduced the Stuffed Crust Pizza in the 1990s. That wasn't exactly a Frankensnack -- they were just putting cheese in a part of the pizza that had previously been cheese-free.

But innovation doesn't sleep, and last year the pizza chain took the crust to a whole new level, introducing the Crown Crust Carnival pizza to its Pizza Hut Middle East stores. One featured a crust that incorporated chicken strips, while the other had mini-cheeseburgers circling the pie.

The Huffington Post also points out that Pizza Hut UK previously offered a hot dog stuffed crust. Clearly, America has fallen behind the rest of the world when it comes to crust innovation.

Photo: YouTube.com

Most Frankensnacks are essentially novelty foods, released on a limited-time basis in hopes of getting some curious diners who want something adventurous. Typically, they don't turn into best-selling menu items.

But the Doritos Locos Taco is the exception: The original nacho cheese flavor sold 100 million tacos in its first 10 weeks, and now accounts for a quarter of all Taco Bell taco sales.

So of course Taco Bell is releasing a second such taco featuring the second-most popular Doritos flavor, Cool Ranch.

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