Have you discovered your muffin pan?

I LOVE TO COOK and when I am not cooking, I am searching for recipes and planning my next kitchen-creation. Sometimes I draw my inspiration from the ingredients in my refrigerator, but most of the time inspiration comes from the recipes that I find in a magazine,  the Internet, or a meal that is prepared on one of my favorite shows (I love you Michael Symon and the CHEW Crew!!)

One Saturday morning, while sitting at the kitchen table watching lil’ Jojo eat daddy’s homemade blueberry pancakes, I decided to scour the Internet for toddler friendly recipes. Since I was planning on going to the grocery store later in the day, it was imperative that I figure out what I was going to cook Jojo for the week . Yes, the art of planning is vital to my survival!! What would I make for his lunch? What would I make for his dinner? Will what I make be freezable? Will it be delicious, but still be filled with the right amount of fruits, veggies, grains and proteins? Will I have to stand in front of it while it cooks? Can I just let it bake? Is there a lot of prep? Will there be a mess? Is it something I can prepare even if I have to leave him whining in the highchair while I cook it? All are questions that a working & health-conscious mom needs to consider before committing to a recipe. Ya gotta have a game plan!

Considering these types of questions combined with the ridiculous amount of related/non-related information that comes up when you search “toddler friendly recipes” was enough to make me want to grab my coffee, sit on the couch and give up, when EUREKA! The perfect article from “parenting.com” appeared in the search results  that highlighted 5-Mini Meals (click this link to visit the recipes) that could be made using a muffin pan. The recipes seemed simple enough and delicious enough, and the idea of 5 Mini Mealsusing the muffin pan to cook was very alluring. I figured any recipe that  calls for quick prep time, one pan and oven baking was definitely one worth trying. And I am happy I did! Not only were the recipes yummy, but using the muffin pan completely revolutionized the way I think of preparing meals for Jojo.

I highly recommend visiting the site and preparing the Pot Pies, Broccoli & Ziti Cups and Chili Corn Muffins. Both Jojo and I loved them and they were sooo easy to prepare! Read below to see how I tweaked each recipe to meet Jojo’s yummy level (good enough that he’ll say yummmm when he eats it).

Of the 5 Mini Meals I recommend the Pot Pie, Ziti & Broccoli Cup and the Chili Corn Muffin. They are very basic and can easily be modified for your toddler’s tastes. Think of them as blank canvases.

Pot Pie – I added additional chicken, frozen vegetables and 1 tbsp of wheat germ.

Ziti & Broccoli Cups – I added a 1/4 cup of peas, 1/4 cup of chicken, 1/4 cup of whole milk yogurt, two additional tbsp of parmesan cheese and  used whole milk instead of heavy cream. (Just remember that whole milk will be more watery than heavy cream so you may have to adjust the cook time in the recipe).

Chili Corn Muffins – Instead of chili, I filled each corn muffin with taco. If you want the muffin to surround the meat you have to  only fill the cups half full and make sure that the muffin mix surrounds it. Also, since cornbread can tend do be a little dry you can either decide to take it out a few minutes early or be sure to top with a sauce to moisten the bread. Jojo liked a dollop of plain greek yogurt, diced tomatoes and a sprinkl of cheese.

If you plan on trying the mini calzones, make sure that you let your pizza dough cool otherwise you will be fighting to stretch the dough into the form.

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as Jojo and I do.  I make them regularly and have them frozen for when I need a quick, healthy and delicious meal.

Tips for the Hubby: If you are planning on making this meal for your entire family, I would suggest that you make a side of gravy for dunking. Remember these are muffin size portions so I would also consider cooking a protein on the side. They make a great accompaniment to a baked chicken or even a chicken cutlet. You can roast sweet potatoes or carrots while baking the muffin cups and have a delicious no fuss meal.

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