25 Childhood Dinners You Forgot Existed

Courtesy of Green Giant

 

25 Childhood Dinners You Forgot Existed

Make these dishes and feel like a kid again
25 Childhood Dinners You Forgot Existed

Courtesy of Green Giant

 

Sloppy Joes, chicken fingers, stuffed shells — we all have our favorite foods that remind us of growing up. (We also have some not-so-favorite dishes... tuna noodle casserole, anyone?) The family dinner table can often feel like feeding time at the zoo, so it’s no surprise that many of the classic meals people remember from childhood tend to be simple ones. These dishes have proven popular with parents over the years because they’re quick, kid-friendly and economical.

Here are some of the dishes that make us feel like a kid again, along with recipes that will have everyone leaving the dinner table happy and full. You may not have grown up eating all the meals on this list, but we venture a guess that at least a few of these dishes just might take you back to childhood.

Fish Sticks

Fish Sticks
Jacqueline Whitehart

No meal says “childhood” quite like frozen fish sticks (or fish fingers, for some). Straight from the freezer, it takes just a quick shake of the box onto a baking sheet, and minutes later dinner is served. Recreate this favorite meal by making fish sticks from scratch, and update the normal jarred tartar sauce with a slightly more sophisticated lemon mayo.

For the Homemade Fish Fingers With Lemon Mayo recipe, click here.

Hamburger Helper

Hamburger Helper
istockphoto.com

Some of us loved it, some of us hated it — whichever side you fall on, Hamburger Helper was likely a dish from childhood you just can’t forget (as much as some would like). If you’re one of those to whom it brings back fond memories, try making this healthier, not-from-the-box version.

For the Healthy Homemade Hamburger Helper recipe, click here.

Stuffed Shells

Stuffed Shells
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This is one of those meals that can be prepped and frozen ahead of time, then pulled out of the freezer on busy school nights. No one will argue when a cheesy pasta dish hits the dinner table.

For the Stuffed Shells recipe, click here.

Sloppy Joe

Sloppy Joe
Shutterstock

To many, sloppy Joes are childhood on a plate. Sugary Manwich sauce straight from the can mixed with sautéed ground beef may be what many of us grew up eating, but if you have a little time, try making it from scratch.

For the Ground Beef Sloppy Joe recipe, click here.

Lasagna Cupcakes

Lasagna Cupcakes
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What kid doesn’t want to eat a cupcake for dinner? Mom and Dad, you were so sneaky with your dinnertime tactics. Here’s a (slightly) more grown-up version.

For the Cheesy Lasagna Cupcakes With Shrimp recipe, click here.

English Muffin Pizzas

English Muffin Pizzas
istockphoto.com

Back in the day, the ultimate after-school snack was a toasted English muffin topped with pizza sauce, cheese and toppings, and baked until golden and bubbly. Toaster ovens were practically invented for English muffin pizzas. For a slightly more grown-up version that’s perfect for a quick dinner, bake all the delicious flavor of a pizza into a muffin (and we promise not to tell if you still eat them “after school”).

For the Hawaiian Pizza Muffins recipe, click here.

Spaghetti Pie

Spaghetti Pie
istockphoto.com

Again with the sneaky dessert tactics! But honestly, there probably aren’t too many kids who dislike noodles and red sauce — and when they’re baked together into a “pie” and a fun-shaped slice of dinner ends up on your plate, it’s an easy win.

For the Baked Spaghetti Pie recipe, click here.

Chicken Divan

Chicken Divan
istockphoto.com

This dish seemed to be on every potluck table growing up. It’s so easy to pull together, and if you’re really in a time crunch you can always use frozen broccoli.

For the Chicken Divan recipe, click here.

Fried Bologna Sandwich

Fried Bologna Sandwich
Warren Price Photography/Shutterstock

Ah, the simple charm of a fried bologna sandwich. Topped with mustard, it tastes just like a hot dog!

For the Fried Bologna Sandwich recipe, click here.

Chili Cheese Tater Tot Casserole

Chili Cheese Tater Tot Casserole
Jacqui Wedewer

This Midwestern classic is the definition of comfort food. It’s also called a hotdish (another name for a casserole typically containing a meat, a vegetable, a starch and a can of condensed soup). Whatever you call it, it’s delicious.

For the Chili Cheese Tater Tot Casserole recipe, click here.

Pizza Tacos

Pizza Tacos
Shutterstock

If there are two foods nearly every kid adores, they’re pizza and tacos. When combined, they’re dinnertime nirvana. Start with a tortilla “crust” topped with marinara and pile on mozzarella and pepperoni. Or do the opposite — use refried beans as the “sauce” with cheddar cheese, olives, and tomatoes as the “pizza” toppings.

For the Pizza Tacos recipe, click here.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Tuna Noodle Casserole
istockphoto.com

Another divisive dish, this one may either conjure up comforting childhood memories or strike fear the moment you get a whiff of canned tuna cooking in the oven. Either way, this casserole was a dinner table staple for many kids while growing up. If you’re eager to relive those days, try this easy version.

For the Tuna Noodle Casserole recipe, click here.

Crescent Roll-Ups

Crescent Roll-Ups

Courtesy of Pillsbury

 

Roll-ups come in handy when parents need to get a kid-friendly meal on the table pronto. These are made with ingredients that are often already found in the fridge, or that are easily tossed into the grocery cart. Plus, kids tend to love any food that’s rolled up.

For the Ham and Cheese Crescent Roll-Ups recipe, click here.

Taco Salad

Taco Salad
istockphoto.com

Also known as “taco-on-a-plate,” this one is hit because A) tacos in any form are amazing and B) it’s essentially the “Choose Your Own Adventure” of dinners. If you want to make a grown-up (aka healthy) version, try substituting ground turkey for ground beef, and get creative with the toppings.

For the Turkey Taco Salad recipe, click here.

Pizza Rolls

Pizza Rolls
istockphoto.com

Pizza is a universal childhood favorite, and is made even more fun when it comes in a unique shape. This recipe is like a homemade version of those frozen-food-aisle pizza rolls you remember eating as a kid.

For the Easy Cheesy Pizza Roll-Ups recipe, click here.

Enchilada Casserole

Enchilada Casserole
Eyecrave/iStock

One-pan meals are popular with parents for good reason — minimal dishes and thrifty ingredients save the day when time and budgets are tight. Try making this throwback favorite in your Instant Pot.

For the Instant Pot Beef Enchilada Casserole recipe, click here.

Frito Pie

Frito Pie
istockphoto.com

If you grew up in the South, you’ll definitely remember this delicious dish of layered corn chips, chili and cheese. It can be made in a casserole dish or served single-serving style by layering the ingredients in a bag of Fritos, which is perfect to take on the road (or in the mini-van).

For the Frito Pie recipe, click here.

Tater Tot Mac and Cheese

Tater Tot Mac and Cheese

Courtesy of Green Giant

Is there anything more crowd-pleasing than a big dish of cheesy pasta? How about the same dish topped with tater tots? This version sneaks in some vegetables, something we all were on high-alert for while growing up, but the benefit of which we now understand — maybe.

For the Veggie Tot Mac and Cheese recipe, click here.

Pita Pockets

Pita Pockets
istockphoto.com

No one wants a boring old sandwich for dinner, but fun ingredients stuffed into a pita pocket? That’s a way more exciting meal. This basic recipe can be used as inspiration for many variations, and just might remind you of quick dinners from long ago.

For the Stuffed Pita Pockets recipe, click here.

Chicken Fingers

Chicken Fingers
istockphoto.com

There’s a reason that chicken fingers are a staple on restaurant kids’ menus across the country — they’re so darn tasty, can be eaten with small hands, and everyone loves a food that can be dunked into sauce. This homemade version is even better than you remember.

For the Breaded Chicken Fingers recipe, click here.

Corn Dog

Corn Dog
istockphoto.com

Dinner becomes exciting when you can bring a favorite carnival food to the table. Size matters, too — any food becomes even more kid-friendly when you make a mini version of it.

For the Mini Corn Dogs With Green Chile Mustard recipe, click here.

Bagel Melt

Bagel Melt
istockphoto.com

Bagel melts aren’t just for dinner — they can be great at any meal. They’re so versatile, you can create one with whatever ingredients you happen to find in the fridge (which may be why they were a popular choice for a quick dinner back in the day).

For the Bacon and Tomato Open-Faced Bagel Melt recipe, click here.

Cheeseburger Soup

Cheeseburger Soup
istockphoto.com

This recipe is an easy way for parents to get kids to eat their soup — by tossing in all the flavors of a cheeseburger. It’s not only delicious, but really fun to eat.

For the All-American Cheeseburger Soup recipe, click here.

Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed Peppers
istockphoto.com

Stuffed peppers are easy to assemble and require just a handful of ingredients. It’s not hard to find a version to please even the pickiest eaters in the family, making this a busy parent’s dream dish through the years.

For the Stuffed Peppers recipe, click here.

‘Breakfast for Dinner’

‘Breakfast for Dinner’
istockphoto.com

Kids love the thrill of having a meal during a time when it’s normally off-limits, and parents love that the ingredients are usually already in the fridge or pantry. Scrambled eggs, French toast, pancakes, bacon… It can be hard to choose when there are so many easy, delicious breakfast-for-dinner ideas.

For the Best Breakfast Recipe in Every State, click here.

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