Grown-up Take on Childhood Favorites
All of this week, we’ve looked at how to teach children to plan and cook meals alongside their parents in the kitchen. Thinking like a kid for a week made me nostalgic for my childhood—and my favorite foods.
We all crave the foods we loved as children—I mean, who wouldn’t want a peanut butter and bacon sandwich? (Just try it—you can thank me later.) But, my memory called up a couple other picks from back in the day and that got me tinkering with the old recipe file and wondering: How could I update these childhood favs and bring them into my (somewhat more) sensible adult world?
Peanut butter and jelly, macaroni and cheese, Spaghetti-O’s, corndogs, and chicken fingers—classics all!
I miss the days when I didn’t have to think about nutrition—or calories. But maybe these adaptations will help me—and you—recapture some of those old feelings. Below are five recipes that should appeal to the big kid in you. I know they appeal to me.
For peanut butter and jelly lovers
Not that there’s anything wrong with a regular PB&J—there’s even a restaurant here in Colorado Springs that specializes in adult versions of this sandwich—but with just a little effort we can make something special out of it.
- 4 chicken breasts
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
- ¼ cup creamy peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- ½ tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon sriracha
- 4 whole wheat baguettes
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced
- 3 carrots, shredded
- ½ cup chopped cilantro
- 4 green onions, chopped
- 1 cup coarsely chopped peanuts
- 1 cup apricot jam
Rinse four fresh chicken breasts and trim any excess fat off. Place olive oil in frying pan and heat to medium high. Season chicken with salt and pepper and place in pan. Cook thoroughly on both sides. Remove from pan and plate to cool. (Alternately, cook chicken on grill.)
In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine peanut butter, soy sauce, sesame oil, and sriracha. Stir until smooth. Heat in microwave for approximately 20 seconds on high. Stir peanut butter spread until smooth.
Lightly toast 4 baguettes, split in half (lengthwise, for sandwich). Spread peanut butter sauce evenly on face up side of both slices of bread.
Slice cooled chicken breasts into thin slices, and evenly distribute on bottom slices of bread. Top chicken with pepper, carrots, cilantro, onions, and peanuts.
Spread marmalade on top of peanut butter on one slice of bread for each sandwich. Place marmalade slice on top of the slice of bread holding the chicken. Enjoy.
For macaroni and cheese lovers
Guilty pleasure: Boxed macaroni and cheese. If you fry a hotdog, slice it, and add it to the pasta dish—mmm, mmm, mmm. Now that was good eating. The boxed stuff is the first thing I remember cooking for myself, other than a bologna sandwich or maybe a scrambled egg. This recipe ups the ante a bit.
- 1 pound macaroni
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, smashed
- 5 sprigs thyme
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 3 ounces asiago cheese, grated
- 2 ounces parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 ounce crumbled blue cheese, optional
- 1 tablespoon white truffle oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Add vegetable oil to a large pot. Heat over medium heat and sauté the onion, garlic, and thyme, approximately 5 minutes. Stir in flour, cook for 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock to the flour and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Add the cream into the stock and flour and whisk. Allow cream and stock mixture to simmer for 5 minutes, until thick.
Strain the sauce, and get rid of the onion, garlic, and thyme.
Use a whisk to stir in the three cheeses immediately, while still warm.
In a large pot, combine sauce and macaroni. Heat on medium for 2 to 3 minutes, to insure melting and warming.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in truffle oil and serve.
For Spaghetti-Os lovers
Spaghetti-Os were introduced nationally in 1965 as “The neat round spaghetti you can eat with a spoon.” I was 6—the perfect age. When they introduced them with mini-meatballs sometime later, I was in heaven.
- 2 cans whole peeled tomatoes
- 1 cup red cooking wine
- ½ cup olive oil
- 8 cloves garlic, smashed
- 12 leaves basil
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 ½ boxes rigatoni
- ½ cup water
- 2 ½ cups mozzarella, diced
Pour tomatoes into large mixing bowl. Squeeze juice and seeds into second bowl, and return tomatoes to original mixing bowl.
Heat ¼ cup olive oil in large pot. Add tomatoes to the pot and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes. Mash tomatoes with a potato masher, then allow to cook for 5 minutes. Mash tomatoes again.
Add red wine to tomatoes and stir. Allow the sauce to simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. (If the sauce gets too think, use the squeezed juice and seeds to thin it.)
In a large pot, boil water and cook rigatoni, per package directions.
Add remaining olive oil to cast iron skillet. Heat skillet over medium low and cook garlic, basil, and red pepper flakes approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
Drain cooked pasta and set aside, saving 1 cup of pasta water.
Take cooled garlic and basil mix and strain through a sieve into a bowl, leaving garlic and basil behind. Add the infused oil to the tomato sauce. Add pasta water to sauce and stir. Allow to cook for 5 minutes.
Combine cooked rigatoni with tomato sauce. Add diced mozzarella to pasta. Top with shredded basil.
For Corn Dog lovers
Corn dogs have always reminded me of the County Fair, where there is a penchant to fry everything, including butter, candy bars, and fruit—so why not cover a hotdog in cornmeal dough and fry it?
- 1 package corn muffin mix
- 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
- ¼ cup green onion
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2/3 cup of milk
- ½ lb sliced kielbasa
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Shred cheddar cheese into large mixing bowl. Chop onion and add to the same bowl. Add muffin mix, combine.
Add egg, milk, and kielbasa to the bowl, mix. (Option, grill your kielbasa before slicing.)
Use butter to grease 11 x 7 baking pan. Pour batter into greased pan. Place in preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Serve.
For Chicken Finger Lovers
I blame Colonel Sanders. I didn’t even know chickens had fingers until his restaurants started offering them. They sounded ridiculously exotic to a young boy and immediately became my favorite—until nuggets were introduced.
- 4 chicken breasts
- 1 cup soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon coriander
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 1 egg
- 2 cups bread crumbs
- ½ cup sweet soy sauce
- 4 shallots (chopped)
- 1 tomato (chopped)
- 6 red chilies (chopped)
- 1 lime
- You will also need: 12 skewers
Slice each chicken breast into 3 strips, lengthwise.
Combine soy sauce, turmeric, coriander, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Add chicken to soy sauce mixture and allow to marinate for 30 minutes.
Skewer each pieces of chicken on a satay skewer.
Crack egg into large bowl and beat.
Pour breadcrumbs into shallow baking dish.
Heat oil in pan over medium high.
Dip skewers with chicken into egg, then bread crumbs, and place each skewer into pan and let cook until brown. Flip.
Place the skillet lid on and allow to cook for several minutes, until cooked throughout (time will vary depending on thickness of meat).
Lift lid and turn heat to high, allowing second side to char. When cooked, remove from pan to allow to cool, and drain.
Combine soy sauce, shallots, tomato, and chilies. Stir. Juice one lime into sauce. Pour sauce over satays and serve.
You want your kids to love the kitchen as much as you, but you’re not sure how to foster that love? Check out these blogs from CHEFS Mix:
- Kids in the Kitchen: Hot Fun in the Summertime
- Kids in the Kitchen: What Can They Do?
- Kids in the Kitchen: Staying Safe
- Kids in the Kitchen: Planning a Meal
- Kid Food for Adults
Your turn: What was your favorite meal as a kid? Have you had it since or have you updated it?