9 Surprising Foods You Never Knew You Could Make in a Muffin Tin

muffin tinmuffin tinBy Leonora Desar

If the only times you break out your muffin tin is for making muffins and cupcakes, you're missing out. They're great for cooking up itsy-bitsy versions of some meals you wouldn't expect, which fit neatly into your child's lunchbox-or your car cup holder for your morning commute. And they're great for plated meals too, when you want some built-in portion control. From mini meatloaf to pint-size pizza, here are some tasty tidbits that you can make in a tin. Photo by Getty Images

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1. Meatloaf
Terri Schlather, the brains behind the blog, A Girl in the South, likes how her mini meatloaves provide small, manageable helpings for her and her daughter. "I can portion things out into single servings and freeze the remainder for another time, or even have easy lunches in the following days," she says.

To make: Coat a pan with cooking spray and sauté three minced garlic cloves and 1 cup chopped onion for three to four minutes over medium-high heat. Then, combine in a bowl with ¼ cup barbecue sauce, ½ cup breadcrumbs, ¼ cup chopped parsley, ¾ tsp dried oregano, ¼ tsp salt and ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper. Add one large lightly beaten egg and 1 lb ground sirloin, and blend thoroughly. Coat your muffin tin with cooking spray and fill each cup with your mix, topped with 2 tsp ketchup. Bake your goodies at 400°F for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the tops brown or the middles no longer appear pink.

2. Ice with Fruit
Blogger Kim Davis needed to chill a huge beverage dispenser for a soiree, but had no jumbo ice cubes on hand. A little water, a muffin tin and a freezer to the rescue. "You can use different herbs and fruit to create so many great color and flavor combinations!" she says.

To make: Cut up citrus such as grapefruit, lime, oranges or lemon into half-moons or circles, and stick one slice into each muffin tin cup. Or fill each cup halfway with several berries. Freeze the fruit for half an hour to prevent it from floating to the surface when you add water. Then, cover the fruit with water and freeze until it's solid. To pop out the muffins, dip the tin in a rimmed baking sheet or casserole dish filled with ¼ inch warm water for 10 seconds. Place ice into water that's been chilled, which prevents them from quickly melting.

3. Bean and Cheese Nacho Boats‬‬

Joanie Zisk adores the fact that a muffin tin can create fabulous party hors d'oeuvres. "They're easy to pick up and you don't need a knife and fork," she says. And it was actually a recipe for mini deep-dish pizzas that inspired her. (See slide 10.)

To make: Using a cookie cutter or empty can, cut three medium-size circles out of four or five large tortillas and place them in a muffin tin coated with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside the tin to cook later, and heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1 cup chopped onion and cook for roughly three minutes. Then, add two minced garlic cloves and cook for an additional minute. Combine 1 tsp coriander, 1 tsp ground cumin and one 26.5-oz can of rinsed and drained black beans in the pan and stir thoroughly for three minutes. Next, place 1 to 2 Tbsp of this mixture into each tortilla-filled cup. Place a handful of shredded Cheddar cheese on top and bake at 425°F for 10 to 12 minutes, or the cheese melts and the tortilla's edges brown.

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4. Broccoli Mini Quiches

Gina Lincicum, a blogger and mom of three, loves how easy it is to transport her teeny quiches. "I freeze mine and reheat them in the microwave on mornings that my son has swim practice," she says. "They're very portable!

To make: Blend four eggs and 1 cup milk in a bowl. Then, add 1 Tbsp baking powder, 10 oz of frozen broccoli, thawed and drained, ½ cup flour, 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese and ½ cup diced onion. The flour and baking powder "give texture and fluffiness to the eggs so they're not rubbery," says Lincicum. Add ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper, and spoon your mix into the muffin tin cups. Bake at 400°F for 22 to 25 minutes or until the edges brown.

5. Stuffing
This savory dish is "great for convenient baking and portioning out," says Christine Pittman, who created her recipe in partnership with Produce for Kids, an organization devoted to teaching families about the benefits of healthy eating. Her recipe is also "a way to have an easy and healthy Thanksgiving-style meal whenever the holiday mood strikes," she says.

To make: Sauté ½ chopped red bell pepper, two ribs of finely chopped celery and ½ small sweet chopped onion for about two to three minutes, or until soft, in a skillet filled with 1 Tbsp olive oil, over medium-low heat. Add 1 tsp lemon juice, two chopped pears, ½ tsp salt and ½ tsp poultry seasoning, and blend for another minute. Combine with four slices of multi-grain bread, cubed, and cool. In a bowl, mix ¼ cup unsalted chicken stock and one large egg, and drizzle over the bread mix you just made. Press this into the muffin tin cups and bake for half an hour at 400°F.

6. Ravioli Lasagna
Round ravioli are practically made to go in a jumbo-size muffin tin because of how perfectly they fit, according to cookbook author Brette Sember. "This simplifies making lasagna, makes it easier to serve and provides guaranteed portion control," she says. "Also there's no lasagna pan to scrub!" This recipe originally appeared in The Muffin Tin Cookbook.

To make: Line six jumbo muffin tin cups with either silicone or foil liners, and coat with cooking spray. Then, cook 12 round fresh or frozen ravioli al dente. In a bowl, combine ⅛ tsp garlic powder, ¼ tsp Italian seasoning, 1 Tbsp skim milk, ½ cup part-skim ricotta cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Next, cut each ravioli in half. Fill each jumbo cup with 2 tsp spaghetti sauce. Next, layer the following in each cup: ½ ravioli, skin side down, 1 tsp of the ricotta mix, 1 tsp shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese and 2 tsp spaghetti sauce. Repeat this twice more in each cup. On top of each cup, place ½ ravioli, skin side up, 2 tsp spaghetti sauce and ½ tsp grated parmesan cheese. Bake at 400°F until the mixture bubbles (about 15 minutes).

7. Southwest Baked Egg Breakfast Cups
To get the most out of her recipe, blogger Cheryl Sousan "makes a double batch on the weekend, wraps in a paper towel and stores in an air-tight container in the refrigerator," she says. "In the morning, just grab and reheat for a minute in the microwave for a fast, protein-packed hot breakfast."

To make: Coat a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray and fill each cup with ⅛ cup potatoes, ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 375°F or until the mixture browns on top. Meanwhile, whisk eight eggs and mix with ½ cup California cottage cheese, ½ tsp baking powder, ¼ cup diced bell pepper, ½ tsp salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. When the potatoes finish cooking, fill each muffin tin cup with 1 Tbsp black beans and 1 Tbsp Mexican cheese blend. Then, evenly distribute the egg mix you just made into each cup. Distribute 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, 1 tsp smoked paprika and ½ cup shredded queso blanco cheese evenly over the 12 cups. Bake at 375°F for 25 minutes or until the tops are puffed and "a knife inserted near the center comes out clean."

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8. Crispy Goat Cheese and Swiss Chard Bites
Valerie Rice, who blogs at Eat Drink Garden, cooks her bites in a muffin tin to maintain their elegant shape. She recommends adding a few pomegranate seeds for maximum taste. "They not only look gorgeous but also add a brightness that brings all the flavors together," she says.

To make: Sauté ½ tsp red pepper flakes, two thinly sliced garlic cloves and 2 Tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. When fragrant, add 6 to 8 cups diced Swiss chard, and after one minute, use tongs to toss your mix until it softens. Dash with ½ tsp sea salt, remove from heat and keep tossing for one minute. Brush desired quantity of wonton wrappers with olive oil on both sides, place them into the tin and cook for five minutes at 375°F. When cooked, add 1 tsp goat cheese, 1 heaping tsp of the sautéed chard and about five pomegranate seeds to each cup.

9. Mini Deep Dish Pizzas
Blogger Katie Farrell says this saucy treat is "wonderful as an appetizer, side dish or meal."

To make: Cut three or four circles out of three to four whole-wheat wraps using a cookie cutter or empty can or cup. Place one circle in each muffin tin cup. In a bowl, combine ¼ cup parmesan cheese, one 15-oz can pizza sauce, 1 Tbsp basil/oregano mix or Italian seasoning, ½ Tbsp garlic powder, ⅛ tsp black pepper and ⅛ tsp sugar or artificial sweetener. Then, add 1 or 2 Tbsp of your mix into the tortilla circles. Top each pizza with ¾ cup shredded mozzarella cheese and four stacked, shredded pepperonis, and cook for 12 to 15 minutes at 425°F or until the cheese browns and melts.

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