5 Recipes for Your Favorite Childhood Foods

Sometimes, we all need a little comfort food. When you’re feeling stressed, or even just nostalgic, a favorite meal or snack may be just what the doctor ordered. But sadly, the foods we used to love don’t always stand the test of time. Certain dishes may have been delicious back in the day, but as an adult with more evolved tastes, indulging in them may leave you, and your taste buds, wanting. Use this list of five throwback recipes to create modern versions of your old favorites.

1. DIY Pop-Tarts

pop tarts

Pop-Tarts | Andrew Burton/Getty Images

These sweet and flaky Pop-Tart lookalikes are made with real butter and topped with homemade icing. You can even store the extras in the freezer, so that you always have something on hand to pop in the toaster before you run out the door in the morning. Recipe via Cooking Classy.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cold and diced into ½-inch cubes
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons ice water
  • ¾ cup strawberry preserves, divided (or other preserve of choice)

For icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons half and half, plus more as needed
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions: In a food processor, pulse together flour, salt, and granulated sugar. Add butter and pulse mixture until resembles coarse meal. Add 4 tablespoons of water and pulse several times. If dough doesn’t come together in clumps, add 1 tablespoon water. Drop mixture onto a clean surface, gather dough into a ball then divide into two portions. Shape each portion into about a 5-inch disk. Cover each with plastic wrap and chill 1 hour.

Line two large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Working with 1 disk at a time, roll dough out onto a floured surface to about 13-by-11-inch rectangle, then trim edges to get a 12-by-10-inch rectangle. Then cut into eight 5-by-3-inch rectangles.

Arrange four of the rectangles, spaced evenly apart on prepared baking sheet. Spread 1½ tablespoons of jam evenly down the center of each rectangle, leaving about a ¾-inch rim on all sides uncoated. Top each with another rectangle, then seal edges with your fingertips, then reseal with a fork. Poke the top center of each tart about 4 times with a toothpick. Cover and transfer to freezer to chill at least 2 hours or up to one week. Repeat process with remaining disk of dough.

Position one oven rack near top third of the oven and a second oven rack near bottom third of the oven. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake frozen tarts until golden, rotating racks once halfway through baking, about 25 to 30 minutes. Allow to cool on baking sheet several minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make icing: In a mixing bowl whisk together all icing ingredients. Then, add more half and half about ½ teaspoon at a time to reach desired consistency. Spread over tops of cooled pop tarts, leaving a small rim uncoated around all sides. Tops with sprinkles if desired and allow glaze to set at room temperature. Store in an airtight container

2. Homemade Pizza Rolls

pepperoni

Pepperoni | iStock.com

Pizza rolls are a tried-and-true after-school snack. This homemade version from Taste of Home calls for sausage and pepperoni, but you can customize the filling to suit your tastes. The result is a fun, retro appetizer for your next get-together.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups (16 ounces) shredded pizza cheese blend or part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 pound bulk Italian sausage, cooked and drained
  • 2 packages (3 ounces each) sliced pepperoni, chopped
  • 1 medium green pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 medium sweet red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 jars (14 ounces each) pizza sauce
  • 32 egg roll wrappers
  • Oil for frying
  • Additional pizza sauce for dipping, warmed (optional)

Directions: In a large bowl, combine the cheese, sausage, pepperoni, peppers, and onion. Stir in pizza sauce until combined. Place about ¼ cup filling in the center of each egg roll wrapper. Fold bottom corner over filling; fold sides toward center over filling. Moisten remaining corner with water and roll up tightly to seal.

In an electric skillet, heat 1 inch of oil to 375 degree Fahrenheit. Fry pizza rolls for 1 to 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve with additional pizza sauce if desired.

3. Sloppy Joes

sloppy joes

Sloppy joes | iStock.com

Cheap and filling, sloppy Joes have been a school cafeteria staple for years. But if you think the only way to make this no-fuss loose-meat sandwich is with sauce from a can, think again. This take on sloppy Joes from The Kitchn is adapted from a church cookbook and turns meat, veggies, and a made-from-scratch sauce into a delicious, comforting classic.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped small
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped small
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped small
  • 1 (8-to-10-ounce) package mushrooms (button or baby bella), sliced thinly
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 ounce can tomato sauce
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • ½ tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ tablespoon sugar (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
  • 8 hamburger buns

Directions: In a large skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat, brown the beef, breaking it up into small bits as you cook. Once browned, transfer the beef and any juices to a clean bowl and set aside.

In the same pan over medium-high heat, warm a teaspoon of olive oil. Add the onions, celery, and carrots, and cook until the onions are translucent and the carrots look softened, about five minutes. Add mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms are soft and tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Return the ground beef to the pan. Stir in the tomato sauce, ketchup, 1 tablespoon cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, sugar (if using), salt, and black pepper. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Taste the sauce, adding more vinegar, salt, or sugar if desired. If the sauce is too thin for your taste, simmer uncovered for another 5 to 10 minutes until the desired thickness is reached.

Serve on hamburger buns. Extra sauce will keep refrigerated for up to a week or can be frozen for up to 3 months.

4. Tuna Noodle Casserole with Leeks and Dill

tuna casserole

Tuna noodle casserole | Thinkstock

The traditional version of tuna casserole involves combining a bunch of canned foods with some egg noodles and sprinkling potato chips on top. If you have a hankering for this dinner classic, put down that can of cream of mushroom soup and try this version from Bon Appétit, which includes leeks, dill, and Gruyère cheese.

Note: This recipe can be prepared one day ahead of time. After assembling the casserole, chill uncovered until cold, then cover with foil and keep refrigerated until you’re ready to bake.

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
  • 2½ cups thinly sliced leeks (white and pale green parts only; from about 2 large)
  • ¼ teaspoon celery seeds
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ½ cup half and half
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 8 ounces wide egg noodles
  • ½ cup coarsely grated Gruyère cheese (about 2½ ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 2 (5- to 6-ounce) cans albacore tuna (preferably packed in olive oil), drained, broken into ½-inch chunks
  • 2 cups coarsely crushed salted potato chips (about 2 ounces)

Directions: Butter 8-by-8-by-2-inch glass baking dish. Melt unsalted butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks and celery seeds to saucepan; sprinkle lightly with coarse kosher salt. Cover saucepan and cook until leeks are tender but not brown, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Add flour; stir 1 minute. Gradually add milk and half and half; simmer until mixture thickens slightly, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice. Season leek sauce to taste with coarse kosher salt and pepper. Remove sauce from heat.

Meanwhile, cook egg noodles in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, stirring occasionally. Drain noodles, reserving ¾ cup noodle cooking liquid. Transfer noodles to large bowl. Pour leek sauce over noodles. Add grated Gruyère cheese and dill and stir to blend; add reserved noodle cooking liquid by tablespoons until mixture is moist and creamy (about 8 tablespoons). Fold in tuna. Transfer to prepared baking dish.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake noodle casserole, covered with foil, until heated through, about 20 minutes if freshly made or 30 minutes if chilled. Remove foil. Sprinkle crushed potato chips over and continue to bake, uncovered, until top is golden brown and filling bubbles, about 10 minutes longer. Serve hot.

5. Homemade Cosmic Brownies

sprinkles

Candy toppings | iStock.com

For some reason, the simple addition of colorful sprinkles managed to turn cellophane-wrapped brownies into a special lunchbox treat. You could always feed your nostalgia by picking up a box of snack cakes at the store, but this homemade version from Life Made Simple offers the same chocolaty goodness without all the preservatives. These rainbow sprinkles from Wilton closely mimic the look of the store-bought brownie topping.

Ingredients:

  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ⅔ cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Sprinkles for topping

For fudge ganache

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ½ cup milk chocolate chips
  • ½ cup heavy cream

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with foil, lightly spray with baking spray, and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat melted butter, sugars, and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until incorporated. In a medium size mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, cornstarch, and salt. With mixing speed on low, alternate adding dry ingredients and milk. Mix just until combined.

Remove bowl from stand and pour batter into prepared pan. The batter will be thick, so using a rubber spatula, spread into an even layer. Place in oven and bake for 18 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool in pan.

To prepare the ganache, in a 2-cup glass measuring cup, combine chocolate chips and heavy cream. Microwave on half powder for one minute, stir, then repeat. Stir chocolate until all of the chips are melted and it becomes smooth. Beat for 1 minute and then pour over the top of the brownies. Spread evenly and sprinkle with desired toppings.

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