How muffin tins can save you holiday time

It’s the busiest time of the year, the winter festivities, all of which demand food to properly celebrate the occasions that occur when friends and family gather. Well, your kitchen cabinet likely has a gift for you to ease the hectic time crunches, at least when it comes to serving something special for the table or the party.

Your muffin tin.

There’s the gift, because that bakeware can produce a charming breakfast, lunch, party platter or even dinner, properly accessorized with fancy veggies. The following three recipes are easy, inexpensive, quick and impressive for any holiday gathering, or after-school snack. Best of all, they save time because they can be made ahead, refrigerated, and served warm for fast breakfast fare or spontaneous guest arrivals.

Also for the holiday, we have a Reader Recipe for a five-ingredient bowl of chili that comes together in 20 minutes or less, saving you even more time at this busiest time of the year.

CHRISTMAS EGG CUPS

Red and green bring holiday colors to your morning or lunch

cooking spray

6 large eggs

1/4 C milk

1/8 tsp salt

1/8 tsp black pepper, ground

1 medium bell pepper, red

3/4 C spinach

1 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded

Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray and set aside. Preheat oven to 375°F. Whisk eggs and milk together in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Dice the bell pepper into small pieces. Stack the spinach leaves, roll them up, and slice them thin. Add the peppers, spinach, and shredded cheddar to the egg mixture.

Fill muffin cups 3/4 full and bake for 20-25 minutes until centers are set and no longer runny.

Allow to cool slightly before serving. Makes 6 cups.

Perfect for a festive breakfast or lunch, you might add bacon or ham for hungrier eaters. Serve with apple, orange or pear slices for a festive look.

BAKED BANANA-ALMOND OAT CUPS

A vegan, gluten-free, “almost muffin” treat

1/2 C almond butter

1 1/2 C mashed bananas (4-5 bananas) plus 1 extra banana, sliced

3 C old-fashioned oats

1 1/2 C unsweetened almond milk

1/4 C maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 C raw sliced almonds plus extra for topping

Preheat oven to 375 and place a baking rack in the center. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray. Be sure to get the spray all the way up the sides of the muffin tins, because they will be full. If almond butter is not runny, microwave it for about 30 seconds to loosen it up.

Combine all ingredients except the extra banana and extra almonds in a large bowl and stir until thoroughly combined. Spoon into muffin cups. Top with a few sliced almonds and a slice of banana.

Place on rack in the center of the oven and bake until the oatmeal cups are firm to the touch, about 20-25 minutes.

Set oven to low broil and heat for an additional 1-2 minutes to toast the almonds and caramelize the banana on top. Be careful and watch closely – almonds burn easily! If your broiler is uneven or you’ve never used it before, skip this step.

Remove from oven and wait several minutes for oatmeal cups to cool before running a knife around the edges and taking them from the tin. Serve hot or let cool and refrigerate (individually wrapped) for breakfasts on the go. Serve with berries or cuts of fruit and softened butter or cream cheese. Makes 12 “muffins.”

MINI SAUSAGE AND EGG PIE CUPS

Make ahead and save for busy Christmas season days

for Sausage Mixture

3/4 lb ground pork breakfast sausage

1 medium onion, chopped, about 1/2 c

1 can (4 oz) mushroom pieces and stems, drained

1/2 tsp salt

3 Tbls chopped fresh sage

1 C shredded Cheddar cheese, about 4 oz.

for Baking Mixture

1/2 C pancake/baking mix, like Bisquick(TM) or use a gluten-free baking mix

1/2 C milk 

2 eggs

Heat oven to 375°F. Spray 12 regular-size muffin cups with cooking spray. In 10-inch skillet, cook sausage and onion over medium-high heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently, until sausage is no longer pink; drain. Cool 5 minutes; stir in mushrooms, salt, sage and cheese.

In a medium bowl, stir baking mixture ingredients with whisk or fork until blended. Spoon 1 scant tablespoon baking mixture into each muffin cup. Top with about 1/4 cup sausage mixture. Spoon 1 tablespoon baking mixture onto sausage mixture in each muffin cup.

Bake about 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, and tops of muffins are golden brown. Cool 5 minutes. With thin knife, loosen sides of pies from pan; remove from pan and place top sides up on cooling rack. Cool 10 minutes longer, and serve. Makes 12 servings.

Tip: Pies can be covered and refrigerated up to 24 hours before baking. You may need to bake a bit longer than the recipe directs because you’ll be starting with a cold pie. Watch carefully for doneness and do not over-bake. Remove from oven when toothpick stuck into the center of a muffin comes out nice and warm.

You can substitute chicken or turkey sausage for the pork.

FAST AND EASY CHICKEN CHILI

This Reader Recipe is from Michele Baines of West Deptford

A family favorite, this recipe translates “store bought” to “homemade” and, says Michele, it’s “perfect for impromptu lunches or to tide you over until Christmas dinner.” Because the ingredients are already prepared, “You just put them together and heat,” she noted, adding, “It’s so good that when it’s cold outside, you’re going to feel like chili.” Plus, it freezes well.

Breast and/or leg of one-half a rotisserie-cooked chicken from the store

2 cans chicken broth

1 small jar of salsa (spiciness of chili will depend on salsa “heat”)

2 cans beans, preferably white northern

1 package shredded mozzarella cheese

Pull or chop half or more of the chicken meat to your liking. Save unused meat for other use, such as chicken salad. Heat chicken and all other ingredients, except cheese, in large saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until heated through and well-mixed, about 15 minutes. Ladle into bowls and garnish with cheese. Makes 4 or more servings.

by Jean Redstone

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