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Some of the strongest and fondest memories of childhood have to do with food. Whether it’s a banana split from your hometown ice cream shop, your grandma’s meatloaf or the chicken noodle soup Mom made when you were sick, food has a profound impact on us. The scents and smells of an apple pie baking in the oven, the way we felt when a plate of macaroni and cheese slid in front of us at the dinner table or the anticipation of eating corn dogs and popcorn at a baseball game are sometimes more heartwarming and exciting than the food itself.
As adults, we often crave those childhood favorites to recreate those memories. We seek them at restaurants, aim to reinvent them in our own kitchen and ask our family members for those cherished recipes.
So I’ve created some childhood favorites — with grown-up twists — to help you create new memories with an extra helping of nostalgia.
One of our childhood favorites, the milkshake, gets a dark chocolate treatment with a boozy upgrade courtesy of a few ounces of bourbon, or espresso if you need a caffeine boost.
1 pint chocolate ice cream
1 cup chocolate milk
2 oz. bourbon*
3 Tbsp. dark chocolate syrup
2 Tbsp. malt powder
Whipped cream, for topping
Dark chocolate shavings, for topping
1. Place chocolate ice cream, chocolate milk, bourbon, dark chocolate syrup and malt powder in a blender and puree until smooth.
2. Put into 2 dessert glasses. Top with whipped cream and dark chocolate shavings.
*Note: For an alcohol-free version, substitute 1/4 cup espresso or 1/2 cup coffee for the bourbon.
These two childhood classic comforts are amped up à la garlicky spinach, marinated artichokes, cream cheese, melty mozzarella and pesto.
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 Tbsp. dried Italian seasoning
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 tsp. each coarse salt and granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
Splash of heavy cream
1/4 cup prepared pesto
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cups baby spinach, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
4 oz. cream cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 (14 oz.) jar marinated artichokes, drained and chopped
1/4 tsp. each coarse salt and ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. salted butter
8 slices sourdough bread
To make tomato soup:
1. Heat olive oil to medium heat in a Dutch oven or stockpot.
2. Add onion and saute 4-5 minutes, until soft, then stir in garlic and saute 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.
3. Stir in Italian seasoning, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, salt, sugar and black pepper.
4. Bring to a simmer for 10-15 minutes.
5. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
6. Use an immersion blender to puree. Stir in splash of cream.
7. Serve in bowls and top each with a spoonful of pesto.
To make grilled cheese:
1. Heat olive oil to medium heat in a large skillet.
2. Add spinach and saute 2-3 minutes, until wilted, then stir in garlic and saute 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Transfer spinach mixture to a bowl.
3. Stir in cream cheese, mozzarella cheese, artichokes, salt and black pepper, until combined.
4. Spread butter on one side of each piece of bread. Place four of the slices of bread butter-side down in the hot skillet.
5. Evenly distribute spinach artichoke mixture onto each slice of bread, then top with the other slice of bread, butter-side up.
6. Cook 2-3 minutes or until bottom is browned and crispy, then carefully flip sandwich and cook another 2-3 minutes, until bottom is browned and crispy and cheese is melted.
The lunch box favorite, PB&J, gets a little fancy with almond butter, fig preserves, sliced apple and balsamic glaze on hearty whole-grain bread.
½ cup almond butter
½ cup fig preserves
1 medium apple, sliced
2 Tbsp. balsamic glaze
8 slices whole-grain bread
1. Evenly spread almond butter and fig preserves on 4 slices of whole-grain bread.
2. Top with apple slices, then drizzle with balsamic glaze.
3. Place remaining slices of bread on top to make a sandwich.
Swap the boxed stuff for this adult version of mac and cheese, filled with a creamy Wisconsin Gruyere and white cheddar cheese sauce and topped with crispy prosciutto.
1 lb. tubular pasta
6 Tbsp. salted butter, divided
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
3 oz. prosciutto, chopped
1/4 cup freshly shredded Parmesan
5 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
4 cups milk
1 1/4 tsp. coarse salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
Pinch ground cayenne pepper
2 cups shredded sharp white cheddar
6 oz. block Gruyère, shredded
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
2. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a Dutch oven. Add breadcrumbs and prosciutto and toast 2-3 minutes, until browned and crispy, stirring constantly. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in Parmesan cheese. Set aside.
3. In the same Dutch oven, melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter at medium-high heat. Add flour and cook 1-2 minutes, whisking frequently.
4. Slowly whisk in milk, bringing to a simmer for 5-6 minutes, until thick. Remove from the heat and whisk in salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, white cheddar and Gruyère. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
5. Stir in cooked pasta until evenly coated. Transfer to prepared baking dish.
6. Evenly distribute toasted bread crumb mixture on top of the mac and cheese. Bake 12-15 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and top is browned.
Julie Andrews is a registered dietitian and culinary-school trained chef who loves sharing fresh, wholesome food recipes on her food blog, The Gourmet RD.
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