There is a flip side to the pan: flip the pan over and you can create edible bowls to serve your meals in. For instance

Bakeware staple pulls double-duty

What do you use your muffin pans for? If you are like me, they’re probably reserved for breakfast muffins, classroom birthday cupcakes or savoury appetizers for cocktail parties. A while back, my daughter discovered an Internet site that had pictures of all the things you can make with a muffin pan. After going through it, I came to the realization that there are so many possibilities!

What do you use your muffin pans for?

If you are like me, they’re probably reserved for breakfast muffins, classroom birthday cupcakes or savoury appetizers for cocktail parties.

A while back, my daughter discovered an Internet site that had pictures of all the things you can make with a muffin pan. After going through it, I came to the realization that there are so many possibilities! This bakeware staple can do double duty, and the old pan sitting idly between baking sessions can really be quite a versatile kitchen tool.

There are so many meals that can be prepared in the muffin pan. Beginning with breakfast, bypassing the fruit-studded muffin, you can make pancakes by pouring batter into greased pan and baking until the pancake looks light and fluffy.

French toast can be prepared by cutting bread into cubes and soaking into tradition egg milk mixture to create a bread pudding like French toast.

For the egg and bacon lover, there is the nested eggs — bread is moulded into the pan and a sunny side egg is cooked right inside.

For lunch, although you can make savoury biscuits and breads, unfortunately I haven’t discovered how to make the sandwich — at least not yet! But a little deep-dish pizza or a macaroni pie have never made a return trip back in school lunches.

Homemade pizza dough or store-bought biscuit dough acts as crust in the pan, and then topped with whatever choice of toppings.

Mac and cheese baked in pan makes a fun approach to the traditional recipe — you can eat it like a muffin, with your fingers!

Besides the deep-dish pizza for supper, you can easily make meat loaf, chicken pot pie and spaghetti in the pan.

Instead of cooking meat in a loaf pan, you divide it into the muffin tin.

For pies with a crust, like chicken pot or apple pie, just roll out the crust, cut out a four-inch circle, and place into pan. Add your fillings, top with lattice strips of crust and bake. My family really enjoys this because there is more crust to filling ratio.

For moulding cooked pasta into the tins, add egg, a little bit of tomato sauce, cheese and bake; serve your individual pasta with desired sauce.

There is also a flip side to the pan too — I mean really. Flip the pan over and you can create edible bowls to serve your meals in.

Remember the infomercial that sells a pan that can turn a soft taco into taco bowl? Hopefully, you didn’t waste your money because you all you do is turn the muffin tin upside down, spray the pan with cooking spray, nestle a few small — around six-inch — tortillas in the spaces between the cups of your upside-down muffin tin, bake at 375C and … voila! In 10 minutes, a taco bowl is formed.

You can also create an edible bowl out of cookie dough. Make a batch of cookie dough, turn and press the dough around the individual muffin wells. The bowls formed are just the right size for a few scoops of ice cream or a dollop of pudding. Just be careful that you choose a recipe where the cookie does not spread too much, otherwise you will have thin, leaky bowl.

Why would you use the hard-to-clean muffin pan?

Well, there is a range of perks when preparing recipes in your muffin tin. It allows for built-in portion control and it is also easy to store individual “muffins” for future meals. They also make it easy for transportation for potlucks and great for on-the go lunches.

The best thing about cooking in muffin trays is that they can slash cooking time — same concept as why it takes less time to bake cupcakes than a whole cake. For most of us who are time pressed, it is a great way to bring the meal to the table faster.

Here are some of my family favourite muffin tin recipes.

Baker’s dozen eggs

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

12 slices whole wheat bread, extra-thin

1/2 pound prosciutto or Serrano ham, thinly sliced

12 medium eggs

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup heavy cream

Fresh chives, chopped, for garnish

1/2 cup Parmesan grated, for garnish

Preheat oven to 375F. Butter a 12-cup muffin tin. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Press each slice of bread, buttered side up, gently into the bottom of a muffin cup. Transfer to oven and bake for three minutes. Gently press ham into each bread cup. Carefully, crack one egg on top of ham. Repeat process until all bread cups are filled. Season each with salt and pepper; top with 1/2 teaspoon cream. Carefully transfer muffin tin to oven and bake eggs until whites are just set, 10 to 15 minutes. Using an offset spatula, remove bread cups from muffin tin and transfer to a serving plate. Garnish with chives and cheese; serve immediately.

Deep dish mini pizza

The ingredients can be as simple or as complex as you like. Feel free to customize them to your family’s tastes.

1 10-count package of refrigerated biscuits

1/2 cup pizza or pasta sauce

various meats and veggies for toppings (cut into small pieces)

1/2 cup shredded cheese

Lightly grease a regular muffin tin with cooking spray. Press one biscuit into each muffin cup. Add 1 tablespoon of sauce to the bottom of each biscuit. Add whatever toppings you like. Top with 1 tablespoon shredded cheese. Bake at 400F for approximately 12 minutes — or until biscuits are golden brown.

Mac and cheese muffins

Water

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked

1 egg

3/4 cup milk

1/4 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup, shredded American cheese

1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs

salt & pepper, to taste

Cooking spray

Bring water, salt and oil to a boil in a large pot. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain pasta and rinse with cold water. In a large bowl, mix together eggs, milk, melted butter and salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in three-quarters of the cheddar cheese and all of the American; add the pasta and mix well. Spray a muffin tin liberally with cooking spray and add 2 tablespoons of the pasta mixture. Top each muffin cup with remaining cheese and sprinkle with 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of breadcrumbs. Bake in a pre-heated 350F oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool about two to five minutes and they should pop right out.

Apple pie

2 pie crusts, homemade or store bought

5 medium apples (peeled and chopped up into small pieces)

3/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

6 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons butter (chilled)

Cut 12, four-inch circles with cup or bowl. You can use the rest of the crust for anything you may want to do on top of the pies. Press each circle in muffin tins until all the way up each side, to form little bowls. Mix all filling ingredients and spoon into muffin bowls. Cut up butter into 12 little pieces and place one piece on each pie. You can decorate them anyway you like with extra crust, or just leave plain. Bake at 425F for 16 to 18 minutes. (Until crust is light brown and apples are bubbling). Remove when cool.

Madhu Badoni is a Red Deer-based freelance food writer. She can be reached at madhubadoni@gmail.com or on Twitter @madhubadoni. Watch for Madhu’s Masala-Mix blog on bprda.wpengine.com.

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