A little over two years ago, I experimented with making pizza cups in a muffin tin as part of my sustained school lunch counter-programming regimen (you can read about that experiment here; I’m not sure why I haven’t done it again). Since the new school year began, ushering along with it a new era of both expanded tastes and advanced intermediate pickiness, I have taken the muffin tin out again and dusted it off because a.) cupcakes are soooo 2009 and b.) I suck at muffins and c.) I need to make new inroads in expressing my expert-level parenting through the awesomeness of the lunches I pack for my son.
Earlier this week, I attempted the Mac, Chicken and Cheese cups from Weelicious, which were pretty easy to make, if not sort of fussy unless you happen to keep diced, pre-cooked chicken on hand that you can just toss into the mix after you cook the pasta and bechamel before you actually start assembling the dish. Now, when I make mac and cheese from scratch, it is an epic affair calling for a LOT of high-quality cheese. It is luxurious beyond belief and my husband and I love it. (We only eat it when I’ve cooked it for a new mom, because no one on this earth deserves mac and cheese this decadent more than a mama who has recently given birth.) The kids, though, are not super-keen on scratch mac and cheese, and a little voice in my head reminded me of this as I proceeded.
“No big deal!” I thought. “It’s got little chunks of chicken in, plus I’m just using regular old cheddar. They’ll eat it this time!”
What is that saying about the definition of insanity? Yeah.
As usual, my husband and I enjoyed them (although we missed the nutty ooze of the Gruyere that goes in the fancy version) and the kids acted like I was trying to poison them. (The green beans were eaten, though, so it’s not a total loss.) I think it’s the breadcrumbs on top that put them off. Maybe I’ll try these again and leave the breadcrumbs off…
Slightly more successful were the turkey meatloaf muffins I attempted last weekend. These were ridiculously easy to make, too.
I bought a pound and a half of garden-style turkey burgers (that’s ground turkey thigh; green, yellow, and red bell peppers; onions; panko; salt and pepper) from Whole Foods, added some shredded carrot, then distributed it into about 10 muffin cups that had been sprayed with oil. I then baked them in a 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes. These were really, really delicious, and when served with a nice green salad and the end of the summer corn, made for a really satisfying and wholesome meal. (The boy ate one then asked for more corn, so if nothing else, my muffin tin experiments are inspiring increased vegetable consumption!)
Finally, for a vegetarian (and chock-full of veggies) option, you can make individual frittatas in your muffin tin. I adapted the recipe from the Mom 100 Cookbook.
What I love about these is that the tarragon and parsley add a nice flavor dimension to a light-yet-protein-packed morsel. The veggies balance out the cheese (of which there is only about a tablespoon per mini frittata), and there’s really not much in the way of added fat or carbs, depending on what kind of veggies you choose to put in. Add some nice, crusty bread and good butter and you’ve got a pretty darn delicious dinner on your hands.
There are plenty of other entrees you can make in muffin tins. When the weather cools down a bit more, I’m very keen to try making chicken pot pies and lasagnas in my muffin pan. In fact, if I’m lucky, I may never have to use my muffin tin to make actual muffins ever again.
Muffin Tin Frittatas
adapted from the Mom 100 Cookbook
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, diced
1/2 pound fresh spinach, washed and patted dry
1/4 pound sliced cremini mushrooms
Kosher or coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 large eggs
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley or basil (optional)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack (or mozzarella or provolone) cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
2. Melt the butter over medium heat in a skillet. Add the onion and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook the onion until it is tender, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach and mushrooms and saute until just soft, about 1 minute or so.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, parsley, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Prepare a muffin tin with cooking spray, then cover the bottom of each cup with a spoonful of cooked vegetables.
5. Place a pinch of cheese on top of the vegetables in each cup.
6. Pour the egg mixture on top of the cheese and vegetables in each cup, filling the cup to just below the brim.
7. Place the muffin tin carefully into the oven. Bake for 15 minutes or until set.
8. Remove the pans from the oven and let the frittatas rest for about 5 minutes.
9. Loosen the frittatas with a fork by running it around the edges of each cup.
10. Serve and enjoy!
Yield: about 12 mini-frittatas
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.livemom.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/11/melanie.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Melanie Haupt is a wife, mom, cook, writer, teacher, and friend. She has lived in the Austin area (off and on) since 1988 and did both her Bachelor’s and her PhD at UT-Austin. She is a sometimes-runner, local food junkie, and knits dishcloths to keep her hands busy.[/author_info] [/author]