Add a Twist to Your Classic Childhood Meals

As a child, I imagined adulthood a eating burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches. But as I “matured” my taste buds matured too and every so often a childhood classic still hits the spot. To make sure you revisit the past in the tastiest way possible, we’ve rounded up some upgrades to the foods you love.

Haute Dogs

Try These Tasty Upgrades to Your Childhood Meal Classics

As a child, I would eat my hot dogs microwaved until they exploded, then I would plop it on a hot dog bun and slather it with mustard and relish, but now i’ve become older and fancier now and while I rarely eat hot dogs, I really enjoy them when I do. To ensure you enjoy every hot dog that touches your tongue, consider a few of the following techniques and toppings.

First of all, did you know you can marinate these suckas? Score ‘em (or spiral, which we will cover in a minute) and let them soak in a bath of ketchup, soy sauce, red wine vinegar, chili oil, and Worcestershire sauce for at least eight hours. What you’ll get is a super-flavorful frank, with a sweet and spicy glaze.

Once they’re flavor-blasted, you’re going to want to spiral-cut it.


Not only does cutting the hot dog this way increase its surface area, allowing for more tasty browning reactions to take place, but it also creates handy crevices for packing in toppings.

Speaking of toppings, they’re one of the most exciting aspects of the hot dog. Fancy mustards are all well and good, but don’t limit yourself to squeeze bottles.

Get funky: Kimchi, sauerkraut, all the pickled peppers, pickled onions, pickles, Asian slaw, spicy mayo, blue cheese

  • Get decadent: Cheese, chili, bacon, potato chips, macaroni and cheese (two classics in one!), nacho cheese, cotija cheese.
  • Get some veggies on there: Tomato, thinly sliced onion, grilled onion, salsa, guacamole.

Finally, don’t forget about the bun. A soft, white bun will get the job done, but a pretzel roll, King’s Hawaiian bun, or Martin’s potato roll will give your dog a particularly tasty place to rest.

Get Grilled Cheese in Your Grill

Try These Tasty Upgrades to Your Childhood Meal Classics

I will always be satisfied by two pieces of grilled, buttery Wonder Bread on either side of a couple slices of American, but there are more mature (and delicious) ways to go about getting your grill on. The best grilled cheeses are filled with gooey, stretchy, completely melted cheese, and some are more suited for the job than others. Though every cheese has its own special time and place, not every one of them will work in a grilled sandwich situation.

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The key is in the pH. This entails a lot of chemistry that I can’t explain, so you guys can watch the explanation here via The Reactions YouTube Channel

Of course, cheese is only half the battle. You should also pay attention to the bread. Choice of loaf is a matter of personal preference and a sourdough, or a fancy French boule are all good options, but garlic bread would really take it to flavor town. The most important thing is avoiding bread with a lot of holes. Holes lead to lost cheese, and lost cheese is very sad.

This method, suggested by J. Kenji López-Alt over at Serious Eats, will up your grilled cheese game without a lot of added time:

The best method I’ve ever seen for making a perfect grilled cheese comes from Adam Kuban. His secret? Grill the bread on both sides. That’s right. Grill two slices of bread in butter, flip’em over so that the browned sides are facing up, add your cheese, and close your sandwich so that the cheese is sandwiched between the browned surfaces. Not only will this get you better tasting bread infused with more butter, but it’ll also give your cheese a head start on getting extra-melty.

But, if you want your sandwich to be a little more “fancy”, there are some add-ins you could consider.

Some ideas to get you started:

  • Plant parts: Basil, spinach, hot peppers, pickled peppers, sundried tomatoes, pickles
  • Spreads: Membrillo (quince paste), fig spread, any of the jams from IKEA, chocolate spread (surprisingly great with brie), honey, pesto, olive tapenade
  • Fruits: Apples, strawberry slices, fresh tomatoes, avocado, pineapple
  • Proteins: Bacon (duh), salami, prosciutto, tuna, hummus, carnitas (Trader Joe’s has a great pre-cooked option), buffalo chicken

Return of the Mac (and Cheese)


First, pick a pasta. What you’re looking for here is a cheese delivery system, so pick something with folds, nooks, and crannies. Macaroni elbows and shells (duh) fit the bill, but if you want to venture out and explore some exciting shapes, consider trying gigli (“lilies”), pipe rigate, or riccioli.

To skip the packet of orange powder and make a super creamy, cheesy dish, start by cooking your pasta in milk. Doing this helps the pasta releases its starch into the milk, creating a thickened, creamy sauce. Once the pasta is cooked, just chuck your cheese in and stir until melted. Boom. You have the creamiest, easiest mac and cheese of your life.

Another, slightly more involved, but just as delicious method starts with making a roux. If you’ve never made a roux before, don’t be intimidated. It’s just cooking equal parts flour and fat, and it will open up a whole world of saucy possibilities. Once the roux is made, pour in some warm milk (eight times the amount of butter and flour) and whisk until the roux is smooth, just simmering, and coats the back of a spoon.

Just chuck things in like you just don’t care! Don’t just grate some cheddar and call it a day; get some fancy cheeses in there. Fresh chevre will add some nice grassy notes, crumbled gorgonzola adds some funk, and, for my personal favorite mac and cheese, Dubliner will add a sweet, nutty flavor. When your mac is as cheesy as you like it, it’s time for fancy add-ins.

  • To make it a meaty meal: Grilled or shredded chicken, skirt steak, prosciutto, bacon, chorizo, pancetta, even lardo
  • To make it a bit more healthful: Spinach (add at end), kale (add a little earlier), caramelized onions, zucchini, grape tomatoes, mushrooms, roasted garlic, olives
  • To take it up a notch: Hot sauce, cajun seasoning, za’atar, lemon zest, preserved lemon, hot honey, worcestershire, nutmeg, basil, pesto, toasted pine nuts

You could stop there and dig in with a fork, or you could transfer to a baking dish, top with tasty bread crumbs (and more cheese), and pop it under the broiler for a crunchy topping.

While it may not be exactly what your younger self had in mind, this will satisfy your inner child.

Photos by Stu Spivack, Mack Male, Kirbie’s Cravings and Wafoodie.


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