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Changing Up the Classics

Changing Up the Classics

When it comes to cooking delicious meals for my husband and kids, I’m not looking to reinvent the wheel or whip up innovative, surprising dishes that no mere mortal has ever attempted before. Nope, the things I tend to cook on a daily basis are the old standbys… the classics… the delicious dishes that have stood the test of time. There’s something magical about classic—almost vintage—favorites. The flavor is all there, they make you feel good and, most importantly, they’re the kind of meals that keep my family comin’ back for more!


But every now and then, I like to mix things up. Keep my family on their toes. It’s fun to take the classics and change them up just a bit. 


For the next round of Kitchen Conversation recipes, the gals and I are updating classic recipes. Here are some of my favorite old-time recipes that I cook over and over and over, and how I update them.

It goes without saying that in most of them, you’ll find my favorite (and most common) cooking ingredient: Land O Lakes® Butter. It makes every meal even more delicious.


Now, I think my favorite recipes are perfect just the way they are. But, one thing I struggle with is cooking the same things, exactly the same way, all the time. While my family wouldn’t mind it if I never altered a single thing in these vintage recipes, I need a little excitement in my life and am always looking for ways to modernize the old favorite.

Switching out the side dishes is an easy way to change up the same ol’ same ol’. 



These ultra-comforting barbecue meatballs are like tiny rounds of meatloaf. Served with a mound of mashed potatoes, they’re seriously one of the best things you’ll ever put in your mouth. But, I could also serve them with a side of risotto and sautéed kale. (I’ll take some right now!)



It doesn’t get more “throwback” than sloppy Joes. Drippy, meaty, and just as sloppy (and yummy) as you had in your school cafeteria. Sloppy Joes are deliciously vintage!

Instead of chips or fries, however, what if I served them with a cool, refreshing quinoa/watermelon salad or mango pico de gallo? It would totally change things up! (And, sure, it would take a little coaxing to get a couple of my family members to try it… but I love a challenge.)

Sometimes it’s as simple as updating an ingredient or two. This can often transform an old classic into what seems like a brand-new meal. 



There’s the chicken spaghetti casserole my mom always made. It doesn’t get more “comfort food” than this. 



But, I love this grown-up version with wine, garlic, and mushrooms. It’s the same old comfort food I remember, but with a really special flavor.



And for breakfast, I can’t make this charmingly vintage egg-in-a-hole fast enough. There’s a reason kids have enjoyed them since 1950! Toast a piece of bread with a hole cut out of the middle in a skillet of sizzling butter, then crack an egg in the middle and flip it halfway through. What’s not to love?



And while the original will always be the best, sometimes I like to do an updated version of using corn tortillas instead of sandwich bread. A spoonful of salsa really peps it up and sends it over the top. Delicious!



And then there’s my lifelong BFF, macaroni and cheese. A total vintage classic! I’d be curious to hear when it was “invented”! The best mac and cheese starts with a white sauce with a butter/flour base. The perfect beginning for one of the best comfort foods ever. 



I use my base recipe to make this ultra-fancy version with roasted mushrooms, crumbled bacon, caramelized onions, and three different kinds of cheeses. Absolutely to-die-for!

But, most of all, I love dishes that I used to hear about on the old sitcoms I used to watch. (Brady Bunch, anyone?) Chicken cacciatore is the perfect example. Both June Cleaver and Carol Brady totally loved it! Chicken pieces are dredged in flour and browned in gorgeous butter, then stewed with broth and veggies. Divine.

I usually serve it with buttered egg noodles (totally delicious, of course), but how delicious would it be served over a bed of piping hot polenta?

Just to challenge yourself, take a look at some of the dishes you keep going back to. Then endeavor to change one or two things about it next time you whip it up. I promise you’ll see it in a whole new light!

Chicken Cacciatore with Polenta


8 whole chicken thighs, skin on (can use any whole piece chicken)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

4 tablespoons Land O Lakes® Butter

1 whole medium onion, halved and sliced

2 whole red bell peppers, cored and sliced (not too thin) (about 3 cups)

2 whole green bell peppers, cored and sliced (not too thin) (about 3 cups)

5 cloves garlic, finely chopped (about 1 tablespoon)

12 ounces, mushrooms (white or Crimini), sliced

1/2 teaspoon ground thyme

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1  teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

Red pepper flakes, crushed, to taste (optional)

3/4 cups dry white wine or chicken broth

1 (28-ounce) can whole or diced tomatoes, undrained

Chopped flat leaf parsley, as desired

Grated Parmesan cheese as desired

1 cup instant creamy polenta


Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).

Salt and pepper both sides of the pieces of chicken. Dredge chicken in flour. Heat butter in a heavy skillet or Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Place chicken skin down in pan, four pieces at a time. Brown chicken on both sides (5-7 minutes), then remove to a clean plate. Repeat with remaining chicken.


Add sliced onions and peppers, as well as the garlic. Stir around for 1 minute. Add mushrooms and stir around for 1 minute. Add thyme, turmeric, salt, and pepper. (And crushed red pepper flakes if you like things a little spicy.) Then pour in wine or chicken broth. Allow to bubble.

Pour in canned tomatoes and stir to combine. Add chicken back into the pan, skin side up, without totally submerging the chicken. Place lid on the pot and put it into the oven for 45 minutes. Remove lid and increase heat to 375 degrees. Cook for an additional 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook polenta according to package directions for creamy polenta.

Remove pan from the oven. Remove chicken from the pot and place it on a plate. Remove vegetables from pot and place them on a plate. Return pot to burner and turn heat to medium high. Cook and reduce sauce for a couple of minutes.

Spoon polenta on a large platter or in a big serving bowl. Add vegetables all over the top, then place chicken pieces on top of the vegetables. Spoon juices from the pot over the chicken and polenta (amount to taste).

Before serving, sprinkle on chopped fresh parsley and grated Parmesan cheese.

Disclosure: I've partnered with Land O'Lakes for an exclusive endorsement of Land O Lakes® Butter. This blog post is sponsored by Land O'Lakes.


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Ree, Your food always looks so good. I have to tell you, I had no idea that so many people new about the "egg in the hole," so good. I remember my Granny(Great Aunt) making them for us kids a good forty five years ago. They were always so crispy and buttery.

Posted June 21, 2013 by Pam