There’s nothing like food to transport us back in time to some of our happiest moments. Just flipping through the pages of a dog-eared family cookbook or hand-written recipes in a well-loved binder is like getting in a time machine.
As we settle into this cozy season, what better time to rediscover nostalgic favorites—but with a contemporary twist. Chef RJ Harvey, Director of Culinary at Potatoes USAhas rounded up some of his favorite updates to classic comfort foods, along with his advice on why you should play with your food even as a grown-up.
“Cooking is all about making food that’s delicious and fun,” said Chef RJ. “With nostalgic dishes, familiarity and comfort create this fantastic space to experiment with new flavors or ideas you might not normally try.”
Potatoes are America’s favorite vegetable, and for good reason. In addition to having the highest potassium among the top 20 most eaten vegetables and 3 grams of plant-based protein, potatoes are also a versatile ingredient that can shine in almost any dish.
“Cooking is a type of play for adults, so it makes sense to revisit the dishes of our childhood,” added Chef RJ. “Potatoes are perfect for this, not only because they’re a part of so many childhood favorites, but also because they work in just about every type of dish and cuisine you can think of.”
Here are some of Chef RJ’s favorite updates to classic dishes, with easy-to-follow recipes, from every section of your grandma’s recipe book!
Retro Recipe Remakes with Potatoes
Chicken pot pie has long been a homecooked comfort haven. This recipe keeps the rich and creamy chicken and veggie filling but subs the traditional pie crust for a tot topping. Using tots gives you extra flavor and texture while adding another vegetable to the mix.
Craving Mom’s meatloaf? She might have served mashed potatoes on the side, but this version combines protein and vegetables all in one pan, making prep and clean-up a breeze.
Soups and Stews
Chicken and dumplings is a beloved classic that gets a lighter twist when you use pillowy potato gnocchi instead. It’s a lighter version of this staple that’s time-saving and doesn’t scrimp on taste. (If you have a little extra time, though, you can make your own gnocchi with this simple, five-ingredient recipe.)
Even mashed potatoes get a new spin with this lighter version. Skip the butter and milk, but don’t lose the flavor; use olive oil and yogurt in your whipped potatoes instead. Boost the taste and add crunch by topping it with sunflower seed dukkah, an Egyptian nut and spice blend.
Nothing’s more nostalgic than chocolate cake, but this recipe has a surprising secret ingredient. Mashed potatoes make it incredibly moist. Plus, vegetables in dessert? Talk about having your cake and eating it too!
Want More than a Little Taste of Nostalgia?
Add more potato goodness to your favorite classics with these extra recipes.
Adding A New Twist to Your Favorite Childhood Dishes? Let Us Know!
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 Source (top 20 vegetables): https://www.fda.gov/media/70792/download
Top 20 = Most frequently consumed: https://www.fda.gov/food/food-labeling-nutrition/nutrition-information-raw-fruits-vegetables-and-fish