Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Mac & Cheese Muffins

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If there's one dish kids know about, it's macaroni and cheese. Even adults love this comforting dish since it's one many of us grew up on. For my recent Pee Wee Puree Party, I knew macaroni and cheese had to be on the menu but I didn't want to feature dishes requiring the use of utensils. With so many kids and adults coming, having finger friendly foods was the best way to go. When it came to serving up macaroni and cheese, I decided on making individual portions in my muffin pan and that's when these Mac & Cheese Muffins came about. The best part? Not only are they a cute portion to eat, they're packed with some nutrients and a vegetable too. Shhh... what they don't know won't hurt them!

My son is still a bit young to eat solids at this point, but that just gives me more time to figure out ways to sneak in vegetables in his diet later. I've been interested in learning more about using vegetable and fruit purees in everyday recipes that it's been fun to sneak them in wherever I can. For the Mac & Cheese Muffins, I made a traditional mac and cheese recipe using butternut squash puree. What I like about using this puree is that it adds a little sweetness to the dish, along with a great color that blends in nicely. The kids (and adults) didn't notice but loved the flavor nonetheless. You can also substitute the butternut squash puree with a carrot puree or even a sweet potato puree. Either of these will add a touch of sweetness and some color.

And lately, I've been getting a lot of use out of my muffin pan. Baking these into individual portions is great when you're serving a crowd. If you're a small family, you can always bake a large batch and freeze what you don't want to eat right away since this is also a great freezer friendly meal. And when you're hungry, just pull out as many muffins as you want.

Mac & Cheese Muffins
recipe adapted from Tasty Kitchen

2 cups Small Pasta
1 Tablespoon Butter
1 Tablespoon Flour
3/4 cups Milk
1/2 cups Butternut Squash Puree
1 1/2 cup Monterey Jack Cheese
2 Tablespoons Cream Cheese
1/2 teaspoons Salt
1/8 teaspoons Pepper
1/8  teaspoons Paprika
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs for the topping

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Grease or line a muffin pan with liners; set aside.

Bring a pot of water to boil for the pasta. Once boiling, add pasta and cook until pasta is tender (about 7 to 10 minutes). Strain and set aside.

Melt butter over medium low heat in a saucepan and add the flour. Whisk and cook for 2 minutes. It will resemble a paste.

Slowly add milk. Whisk until combined. Next add everything thing else. Stir until combined. Add sauce to the pasta and stir.

Fill each greased/lined muffin cup with the pasta and cheese about 2/3 of the way full. Sprinkle the tops of each muffin with breadcrumbs and bake in the preheated oven for 7-10 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.

Remove from oven and allow to rest for a few minutes before removing from the pan. Tip: the longer it sits in the muffin pan, the more it will hold its shape. These muffins can be served warm or at room temperature.

Note: If you can’t find butternut squash puree, simply cut a butternut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and discard. Place face down on a oven safe dish. Roast in the oven for 50 minutes at 400°. Allow to cool. Scoop the “meat” from the skin and place in a food processor or blender. Pulse until smooth.

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