No matter how old you are, it’s practically guaranteed that the taste of familiar childhood foods will instantly bring you back to being a third grader. While there are some things we’re glad to have left behind (we’re looking at you, Lunchables), we believe that with some minor upgrades, these childhood favorites are perfect to eat at any age.
1. PB&J Toast
There’s no time like peanut butter jelly time, and this fruity spin on America’s favorite sandwich gives you all the flavor without the fourth-grade lunchtime flashbacks.
Turning the sandwich open-faced makes it a perfect option for breakfast, lunch, or a snack, and swapping almond butter for peanut butter brings it from adolescent to adult. Add some fresh fruit, honey, and cinnamon on top as a DIY-jelly topping, and you’ve got a twist on PB&J that’s better than anything you had in elementary school.
2. Kraft Kaprese Mac ‘n Cheese
Childhood was a time to enjoy endless bowls of mac and cheese without questioning the fact that it was fluorescent orange and that the “cheese” came from a powder. Now that you’re a “real adult,” it’s time to ditch the cheese-impostor and replace it with real ingredients. Put the boxed noodles in a bowl, cover with water, and microwave for two minutes. Continue microwaving for 30-second intervals, adding more water as needed, until they’re cooked.
Once done, add cheese to your heart’s content and a splash of milk to keep everything creamy. Stir in halved grape tomatoes and torn basil, then top with breadcrumbs and Italian seasoning to bring it all together. All the cheesy deliciousness of Kraft mac and cheese without the sketchy Day-Glo hue. Or try one of these mac ‘n cheese recipes.
3. String Cheese Mozzarella Sticks
String cheese was the only snack that kept even the messiest eaters clean, and using them to make mozzarella sticks turns this childhood favorite into a timeless classic. Cut the string cheese sticks in half, then dip then in egg, coat with flour, and coat again with breadcrumbs. Fry in a pan shallowly filled with oil until golden brown. Enjoy as soon as possible… trust us, the burned mouth is worth it. Or make these Goldfish-crusted buffalo moz sticks.
4. Coconut Crunch Dinosaur Chicken Nuggets
Dinosaurs didn’t live in the tropics, but this combination of dinosaur chicken nuggets and coconut crust makes us think that they should have. It’s super easy to get the best of both worlds. First, combine 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut. Microwave nuggets according to directions, tear into bite-sized pieces, then dip into a bowl of beaten egg.
Cover the coated nugget in the breadcrumb-coconut mix, then sauté in a pan with a thin layer of melted coconut oil over the stovetop, flipping when the bottom side is golden brown. It’s a scientific fact that chicken nuggets taste 1000 percent better in dinosaur form, but this delicious coating brings them to a level that those under 10 just can’t appreciate. Or try these honey mustard pretzel-crusted chicken nuggets instead.
5. Pop-Tart Parfaits
We all miss the magic that accompanied childhood, AKA being able to eat a sugar bomb for breakfast with #noregrets. While growing up might mean a slowed-down metabolism, you can still get your sugar fix in the am with a clear conscience.
Bring Pop-Tarts back into your life as an unexpected sub for granola on top of a responsible yogurt parfait. Crumble the Pop-Tart, mix with 1/2 cup oats and 1/4 cup honey, and bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until crunchy. Once it’s cooled, use it to top the yogurt – bonus points for extra toppings, like fresh fruit, honey, or crushed nuts. For more ways to pimp out your parfait, check this.
6. 18-And-Older Grilled Cheese
The basic grilled cheese is… well, basic. Delicious, nostalgic, classic, but still basic. Break out of the white bread and yellow cheddar box with this mature spin on an old favorite. Layer sharp white cheddar on thick, crusty bread – but in between, fill with a refreshing combo of sliced Granny Smith apples, walnuts, and honey. This sandwich packs all of the cheesy goodness you miss from childhood but is sophisticated enough to earn you a spot at the adult table. If you need more ways to upgrade your grilled cheese, we’ve got you covered.
7. Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adulthood comes with a whole new set of responsibilities, such as regularly feeding your caffeine addiction. These cookies fulfill your mature, #butfirstcoffee needs, yet still can transport you back to Grandma’s kitchen. Just add a teaspoon (or three… we won’t judge) to your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, and enjoy a childhood classic upgraded for the big kids. Or get your caffeine fix from these brown sugar coffee cookies.
8. Boozy Bailey’s Lucky Charms Treats
It’s the best of both worlds: the nostalgia of an old school snack plus the adult privilege of spiking it if you so desire. If you’re feeling extra lucky, double up on Irish charms with this spin on the traditional Rice Krispie treat. Make the bars like usual, but sub Lucky Charms for Rice Krispies, and add 3 tablespoons of Bailey’s Irish Cream to the melted marshmallows. Top with melted white chocolate, and prepare to taste something magically delicious. Want more epic rice Krispies treats? Check these out.
9. California Pizza Bagels
Take a trip to the Golden Coast with a lighter version of those frozen mini pizza bagels that you used to eat by the dozen. Slice a mini bagel in half, toast, and top with chunky salsa, mozzarella cheese, and avocado. Pop back into the toaster oven for a minute or two to melt the cheese, and enjoy. They may be a little more complicated than the thaw-and-bake kind but trust us – your taste buds (and stomach) will thank you.
10. Roasted Berry S’Mores
Bring the best of middle school summer camp to 2016 with these revamped s’mores. Layering roasted berries and dark chocolate between layers of marshmallow and graham cracker pack a punch of delicious that only an adult can appreciate.
#SpoonTip: Get these sweetened s’mores year round with your microwave. Add the chocolate and marshmallows on top of a graham cracker, and microwave in 20-second intervals until melty. Spoon on the roasted berries, top with another cracker, and enjoy – even in a blizzard.
11. Cosmo Brownie Milkshake
Your desserts might not come from a box anymore, but even packaged brownies can be a prime ingredient in a homemade milkshake. It couldn’t be easier to bring back that familiar sugar/flavor high: just combine vanilla ice cream, milk, and as many brownies as your heart desires in a blender, and blend until evenly mixed.
Cosmo Brownies make an out-of-this-world shake, but feel free to experiment with other classic snacks, like Oreos or Reese’s, because even an adult needs a sugar rush every now and then.
Prepare to be transported back to the early 2000s with every bite of these adultified childhood favorites. There’s nothing more comforting or transporting than a grilled cheese, pastry, or bowl of Kraft, and with these recipes, you’ll wonder why you ever gave them up.