Simplify Meal Time: Kid-Friendly Meals You Can Make in a Muffin Tin

by: Cara J. Stevens
Everything is more fun to eat when it's mini! The next time you're in a meal rut, try one of these bite-sized, make-ahead meals your whole family will love
make-ahead muffin tin meals

Kid-friendly meals that adults love too can seem like the Holy Grail of feeding a family. Either you find yourself eating mac and cheese and chicken fingers, or you end up making multiple meals customized to each person's age, taste, and dietary restrictions. While one-pot suppers and family crockpot meals are a great catch-all for some families, others need more individualized options that don't require a sink's worth of dishes and all the free hours you can muster. Enter muffin-tin cooking to help you create kid-friendly meals and meals suited for a more refined palate at the same time.

When you cook a meal in a muffin tin, you can plan for individual tastes and leftovers, too. They're even good for take-along treats when life intervenes and you need to serve a meal or snack on-the-go.

Hollis Wilder, two-time Cupcake Wars winner, is a big advocate of muffin-tin meals. "Why not re-create the yummy flavors we remember from our childhoods—classic comfort foods like pot pie, lasagna, meatloaf, and French toast—by reimagining them in a new format?" she asks in her book Savory Bites, Meals You Can Make in Your Muffin Pan (Abrams Books 2013). "You can use the cupcake pan to your advantage financially. Small, uniform portions make it easier to avoid overeating, and they also reduce food waste."

 

Basic Supplies

To begin, you'll need a muffin pan, of course, as well as an oven or toaster oven. Spray the cups with non-stick cooking spray to simplify removal and cleanup.

 

Next up is your base, which is anything that can solidify enough to lift out of the muffin tin when it's cooked. Choose from eggs, biscuit dough, wonton wrappers, pie dough, tortillas, bread, puff pastry, cornmeal, or even waffles to begin, then experiment with other items you can cut, flatten, and combine with other flavors.

Once you take the pan from the oven, let it cool slightly to set, then run a plastic knife around the edges of the food to remove it.

 

Breakfast and Brunch

Layered Potato Gratin

A good breakfast is as important as it is difficult to have every day. But, when you prepare individual portions ahead of time, a good breakfast is always only minutes away. Some breakfast items you can prepare the night before and pop in the oven at 3500 for 25 minutes or until set ,like frittatas, omelets, potatoes gratin, French toast, and, of course, muffins. Use your tried and true recipes and spoon individual servings of each into a tin before baking.

 

Recipe for Wafflinis

(Adapted and Reproduced with permission from Savory Bites; ABRAMS; 2013)

Ingredients

  • 24 frozen mini waffles
  • 6 slices cheese
  • 8 ready-made turkey sausage patties, defrosted if frozen
  • 8 large eggs
  • Salt and pepper

 

Assembly

Spray a 12-well classic cupcake pan with nonstick cookingspray and place one mini waffle in the bottom of each well. Reserve theremaining 12 waffles.

Cut the 6 slices of cheese into quarters to make 24 slicestotal, then layer 1 slice on top of each waffle.

Trim the 8 sausage patties, removing an even sliver around theedge of each patty to create 2-inch (5-cm) rounds. Reserve the trimmings. Placethe trimmed sausage patties in 8 wells. Evenly distribute the trimmings amongthe remaining 4 wells, to form a solid layer of sausage in each well. Evenlydistribute the remaining 12 slices of cheese. In a medium bowl, beat the eggsuntil light and fluffy, then season with salt and pepper, and mix well.

Drop the remaining 12 mini waffles into the egg mixture andlet them soak for 3 minutes. Place one soaked waffle on top of each mini meal,then divide the remaining egg mixture between the wells, filling them almost tothe top. Bake at 350°F until cooked through and puffed, 20 to 25 minutes.

 

Lunch and Dinner

Penne Pasta Gratins

 

Photo Credit: Tina Rupp; from SavoryBites; ABRAMS; 2013

Think of your family's favorite baked comfort food. Chances are, they can be made in a muffin pan. Add a teaspoon of flour, bread crumbs, or corn starch to your standard Shepherd's pie, baked mac-and-cheese, Ratatouille, or Eggplant Parmesan recipe to create personalized portions of your family'sfavorites.

 

Personal Biscuit Pizzas

Divide biscuit dough into 12 equal pieces and place each onein its own cup and bake for half the time needed. Remove from the oven and top with pizza sauce, cheese, and toppings, then put the tin back into the oven to bake for the remaining time.

 

Personal Lasagnas

Muffin Tin Lasagnas

 

Photo Credit: Tina Rupp; from Savory Bites; ABRAMS; 2013

Individual lasagnas take a little longer to make than a large family-size serving, but they are a real crowd-pleaser! Use wonton wrappers from the grocery refrigerated section instead of lasagna noodles. They're just the right size and they don't need to be pre-cooked!

How to Make Personal Lasagnas

To assemble, spoon one teaspoon of tomato sauce into the bottom of each cup, then top with a wonton wrapper doubled in half to fit into the cup. Dollop a tablespoon of a mixture of 8 ounces ricotta cheese, 1 egg, and 8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese. Top with a heaping teaspoon of sauce. Repeat this twice more. Sprinkle on a mixture of shredded parmesan and mozzarella cheese, and bake for 25 minutes or until the sauce begins to bubble. If your kids don't like crispy edges, cover the muffin tin with aluminum foil while baking.