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Every now and then, I have a huge craving for SpaghettiOs. They’re not exactly a delicacy, but they were often a source of comfort for me as a kid and still can be when the going gets tough. The thing is, whenever I do dig into a bowl of them these days, I find they’re never quite as satisfying as I remember. The stuff from the can, while still warm and cozy (and a quick, affordable meal option that I appreciate more now as an adult), is relatively flavorless, and best doctored up with a palmful of Parmesan and a glug of olive oil. It may have been the most flavorful dish in the world to my 8-year-old self, but it just isn’t enough to please my adult palate all on its own.
Yet SpaghettiOs, and most of my other childhood favorites, totally have the potential for greatness, which is why I’ve started making my own homemade versions of these familiar comfort foods. With just a few herbs and veggies, that bowl of O-shaped noodles and tomato sauce gets upgraded from after-school treat to fancy pasta dinner. Other nostalgic favorites, like grilled cheese, bagel bites, and chicken tenders, can benefit from similar simple tweaks, too. Whoever said these things only belong on the kids menu is sorely mistaken.
The 15 recipes below will bring you back to your youth. Enjoy PB and J sandwiches with a bit of melted brie, or Old Bay seasoning to homemade fish sticks to make the flavors more complex. You’ll also find that DIY versions of on-the-go staples, like Pop-Tarts and Hot Pockets, actually make really great meal prep ideas.
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