12 Retro Food Fads (and Modernized Recipes for 2016)


“We didn’t have kiwi when I was little,” I explained to my kids. They were baffled. “I’m sure it existed somewhere, but, uh, just not where I was.” Then, bam! Kiwi burst onto the scene for Americans in the ’80s, and talk about a runaway hit. Remember life before baby carrots? Extra virgin olive oil? Some food fads have such a great flavor, neat technique, or interesting and new presentation that they just never fade. These are my family’s favorites.

Goat Cheese Salad

What is it about a warm little pillow of goat cheese, toasted and crunchy on the outside, melted and gooey on the inside, perched atop a crisp green salad that’s so hard to resist? If you haven’t introduced your crew to this classic, try The Pioneer Woman’s technique that gets the best results every time.

Perfect Pot Roast and Vegetables

If you grew up in the ’60s or ’70s, you probably had pot roast for big family dinners. My husband grew up eating pot roast and veggies every Sunday, and now we’ve got Ree Drummond’s mouthwatering version to serve to our own crew.

Ham-and-Egg Quiche

I had no idea that little kids love eggs so much. This make-ahead meal, originally from the decade in which I was born, works perfectly for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Bonus: You can even double the recipe and save a second quiche in the freezer for an instant meal another day.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

Thirty years ago Americans fell in love with a new kind of flavor that’s all at once tangy and sweet, and the affair is hardly over. In fact, our family’s go-to homemade balsamic vinaigrette is so good our kids lick it off their lettuce. Seriously, licking. Then eating. Because it’s just so good.

2 Kinds of Fondue: Italian Cheese or Chocolate

Giada’s version of this ’70s classic combines traditional cheese fondue technique with just a hint of Italian flavor for a 5-star dish your family will have a ball eating together. Want a dessert version? You can’t go wrong with Ina’s Chocolate Orange Fondue.

Buffalo Chicken

This Buffalo chicken salad puts a cool and refreshing spin on a major flavor of the 1980s and 1990s. It’s a dish your whole family will enjoy — especially if you let everyone assemble their own plates with all the toppings they love.

Chinese Chicken Salad

One thing I love so much about watching Barefoot Contessa is listening to Ina Garten casually mention how she’s been making some particularly delectable dish for 20 years. Her Chinese Chicken Salad is one of those throwback recipes with a perfectly updated spin. Crunchy asparagus and bell peppers mingle with juicy roasted chicken before the whole thing gets doused with a simple ginger dressing.

Ranch Dressing

I distinctly remember the commercials for this NEW kind of salad dressing: Tidy rows of vegetables grew peacefully in a sundrenched valley. My favorite way to use ranch dressing these days is to blend it with plain yogurt (flavor plus protein) and serve the mixture to the kids as dip.

Veggie Burgers

Sometimes in college I’d visit my grandmother for the weekend and she’d always take me to a drive-thru burger joint near her home on the Puget Sound. “Two veggie burgers, please!” we’d shout through the window of her Jetta. Neither of us had any idea what went into those newfangled things, but, man, were they good. Twenty years later the mystery is solved, deliciously. Try Food Network Magazine’s make-at-home recipe for yourself.


Remember the first time you saw a platter of sizzling fajitas pass your face at a Mexican restaurant? Because you can cook them so quickly and they’re full of flavor, chicken fajitas make a great family meal at home, and this top-rated version can’t be beat.


This Italian import is easier to make at home than you think. Case in point: Giada De Laurentiis’ recipe requires only seven ingredients, and one of them is chocolate shavings.

Homemade Granola

If there’s one food that reminds me of growing up in the 1970s, it’s granola. Too bad we didn’t have Ina’s granola recipe back then; it’s full of flaky coconut, decadent amounts of dried fruit and toasted nuts.

Charity Curley Mathews was born in 1973 and has four small kids who can’t believe she didn’t grow up with frozen yogurt or Parmesan cheese that didn’t come out of a can. She’s the founder of Foodlets.com: Mini Foodies in the Making…Maybe, a site full of simple recipes, plus tried-and-true techniques for teaching kids to love real food for life.