Do You Know the Muffin Pan?

The muffin pan is one of the unsung heroes of Meal Prep. Why? Because you can put so darn many things in a muffin pan, that’s why! Thankfully, in recent years there have been many websites with recipes touting the humble muffin pan’s versatility. In short, if you want to make something that’s relatively easy to eat with portion control built in, look no further than the muffin pan. There are a few rules you’ll need to follow when making things in your muffin pan for Meal Prep. Other than that, the possibilities are almost endless for what you can make in a muffin pan.

NEVER EVER EVER use muffin liners. They do not do well with frozen foods because they’ll stick to everything. Instead, grease or spray the muffin cups. Check your baking times. Making something like meatloaf in a regular loaf pan takes around 30-45 minutes, depending on the recipe and size of the pan. If you’re looking to adapt Grandma’s meatloaf recipe to your muffin pan, check for doneness at 15 minutes and go from there. Making something in a smaller size baking pan than you usually use always takes less time to bake.

To measure an exact amount of food for each muffin cup, use a level trigger-style ice cream scoop. It holds about ¼ cup, whereas the average muffin cup holds up to ⅓ cup, depending on the brand. After the food is finished baking, let it cool in the pan 30 minutes to 2 hours. Freeze in the pan 2-4 hours; remove the individual portions from the pan and put them into a gallon-sized resealable bag for the freezer. Always label and date your storage bags and containers before you fill them. You can reheat from frozen or thawed. Thawed muffin cup foods usually take 1-2 minutes, whereas frozen ones take 3-5 minutes. You should almost always bake whatever you’re making in the muffin cup before freezing it. Most muffin pan items can be frozen 3-6 months.

So what can you make in a muffin pan, besides the obvious? For breakfast, you can make a huge pot of your favorite hot cereal and portion it into greased or sprayed muffin cups. If you want things like raisins or nuts, you should sprinkle them on top and lightly pat them down to adhere. You can make a mixture of egg or egg substitute and your favorite meats, cheeses, and veggies. You can also take boxed pancake mix and make pancake muffins.

If lunch is your thing, consider making your favorite mac & cheese recipe as muffin cups. Stir in your favorite add-ins to take it next-level if you want. You can also make muffin cup corndogs. Make boxed cornbread mix according to the package directions. Spoon half the batter evenly among greased or sprayed muffin cup. Cut your favorite hot dogs into about 1” chunks; put 2-3 hot dog pieces into each muffin cup and top evenly with remaining cornbread batter. Bake about the same amount of time as it says on the package for making muffins as opposed to a loaf or square baking pan.

Meatloaf is the obvious choice for dinner, but there are plenty of options here, too. Leftover Thanksgiving stuffing/dressing is perfect for putting into muffin cups. You can make lasagna rolls, too. Make the ricotta filling mixture according to your favorite recipe. Spoon a small amount of sauce in bottom of each muffin cup. Instead of layering the noodles and filling ingredients into a big baking dish, spoon the filling down the center of a cooked lasagna noodle, leaving about an inch at one end. From the opposite end, start rolling it up to enclose the filling. Place one roll into each muffin cup; for this dish you may need to use the jumbo size muffin pans, which are 3-3½” across at the top. Spoon sauce on top, sprinkle with cheese, and bake 15-20 minutes or until done.

Finally, there’s dessert. You can make muffins and cupcakes, of course, but don’t limit yourself. Try making mini pies. Roll your favorite pie crust out and cut with about a 4” round cutter for the bottom crusts. Put them into the muffin cups, being careful to press them lightly to the sides of the muffin cups so you don’t have any puckering. Fill with your favorite filling. Cut 2-2½” rounds for the top crusts; bake until the crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly. You can also blind-bake the crusts and fill them with fresh fruits, pudding, or other fillings that don’t need to be baked. Cheesecakes and custard pies such as pumpkin pie can be made in muffin cups as well. When they’re baked and cooled, carefully run a knife along the edge of each cheesecake or mini pie to remove.

Muffin pans make the perfect portion-controlled meal or snack, and the possibilities are just about endless. What do you like to make in your muffin pan? Let me know in the comments section!

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