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Muffin-style healthy mac and cheese cups are adorable for lunch

Chelsea is the author of the food blog Chelsea's Messy Apron where she shares a wide variety of recipes including family-friendly and easy meals, lots of baked goods and desserts, and plenty of healthy eats. She received her BA in Exerci...

Bring 'em for lunch! These veggie-filled macaroni and cheese cups are sure to delight

These miniature macaroni and cheese cups are secretly healthy and a great lunch to pack for your child to take to school. Your child will be begging for more, even with veggies included.

I am crazy about macaroni and cheese, and I am always trying to find new ways to prepare it. This recipe features macaroni and cheese in a completely unique way: First, it's healthy, and second, it's in a muffin form. Who knew macaroni and cheese could be so fun?

Bring 'em for lunch! These veggie-filled macaroni and cheese cups are sure to delight

My little 1-year-old absolutely loved these cups, and they were easier for him to eat than regular macaroni and cheese is. I made these in a miniature muffin tin so they would be smaller for him to eat, and I think they look cuter that way. I love miniature foods, and my whole family went nuts over these.

To start out, boil some macaroni for 5 minutes. To make these healthier, I used macaroni made from durum wheat. Next, finely chop some kale and miniature sweet bell peppers.

Bring 'em for lunch! These veggie-filled macaroni and cheese cups are sure to delight

Next, combine some coconut oil, all the chopped veggies and some corn in a saucepan over medium heat. Sauté them all together for about 3 minutes. Since the veggies are so finely chopped, it doesn't take long to get them tender enough to go with the pasta.

Once everything is tender, the pasta gets stirred in. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and set it aside while the healthy cheese and sweet potato sauce is made.

This sauce uses only 1/3 cup of cheese. The rest is almond milk and a sweet potato. Both are so healthy and a great alternative to using a few cups of cheese.

Pierce a small sweet potato in several places with a fork, and microwave the potato for 3 to 4 minutes or until tender. Remove the skin, and slice the potato in half. In a blender, combine the almond milk and the cooked sweet potato.

Bring 'em for lunch! These veggie-filled macaroni and cheese cups are sure to delight

Blend the mixture until completely smooth, and then transfer it into a saucepan. Season with salt and pepper. Briskly whisk in 2 tablespoons of flour, and then whisk in the cheese until smooth and melted.

Then stir in all the pasta with the vegetables. It will be a little bit tough to stir, but keep mixing until everything is well combined. The sweet potato-cheese mixture is thick, but it's important to not try to thin it out, or the cups won't stick together.

Bring 'em for lunch! These veggie-filled macaroni and cheese cups are sure to delight

Once the pasta and sweet potato-cheese mixture are well integrated, use a cookie scoop to scoop the mixture into a well-greased miniature muffin tin.

Press the mixture really hard into the tin's cavities to make sure the macaroni and the cheese are packed in together well.

Bring 'em for lunch! These veggie-filled macaroni and cheese cups are sure to delight

Once all the cavities are filled and everything is packed in there really well, these guys are ready to be baked.

Bake them at 400 degrees F for 10 to 12 minutes, and then remove them from the oven. Let them cool for at least 10 minutes before removing them from the muffin tin.

These macaroni and cheese cups are a perfect on-the-go lunch and a great meal for your children. Plus, they are much healthier than regular mac and cheese.

Bring 'em for lunch! These veggie-filled macaroni and cheese cups are sure to delight

Miniature macaroni and cheese cups recipe

These miniature macaroni and cheese cups are ultra healthy and packed with vitamins and minerals thanks to the addition of all the vegetables. Plus the "secret" sauce has a very small amount of cheese, and the rest is sweet potato and almond milk.

Yields 12

Prep time: 25 minutes | Bake time: 10-12 minutes | Total time: 35-37 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked durum wheat macaroni
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 stem kale, stem removed, chopped
  • 2 miniature red bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 miniature yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/3 cup corn
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 small sweet potato (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Grease a mini muffin pan very well with nonstick cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a small pot of boiling water, cook the pasta for 5 minutes. Drain the pasta, and set it aside.
  3. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the coconut oil. Add in the chopped kale, chopped peppers and corn. Stir around for about 3 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Add in the pasta, and remove from the heat.
  4. Pierce a small sweet potato in several places with a fork, and microwave the potato for 3 to 4 minutes or until tender. Remove the skin, and slice the potato in half.
  5. In a blender, combine the almond milk and the cooked sweet potato. Blend until smooth, and transfer the mixture into a small saucepan over low heat. Whisk in the paprika and pepper. Briskly whisk in the flour.
  6. Whisking constantly, slowly stir in the cheese.
  7. The mixture will be very thick, but that's what will keep these cups together. Just make sure you have stirred out any lumps.
  8. Remove the pot from the heat, and add the pasta and vegetable mixture.
  9. Using a cookie scoop, scoop the mixture into the prepared muffin tin. Press the mac and cheese down really well so the cups will hold together.
  10. Bake the mac and cheese cups for 10 to 12 minutes.
  11. Remove from the oven, and place onto a wire rack to cool for at least 10 minutes. Once cooled, carefully run a plastic spoon around the edges to loosen, and then carefully remove the mac and cheese cups from the muffin tin.

More macaroni and cheese recipes

Gnocchi mac and cheese
One-skillet beef macaroni and cheese
Spicy Swiss chard macaroni and cheese

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