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Muffin tin mini-meals

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Having read and enjoyed the recent column about cupcakes and muffins, Joanne Jacobsen e-mailed to share a favorite recipe and some tips for mini-muffin-sized hors d’oeuvres.

Lasagna Cupcakes
You will need 1/3 pound ground beef (or 2/3 to 1 pound, if you like a lot of filling, as Jacobsen does), salt and pepper, 24 wonton wrappers, 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese for filling plus 3/4 cup for topping, 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese for filling plus 3/4 cup for topping, 3/4 cup ricotta cheese, 1 cup pasta sauce (Jacobsen likes Muir Glen) and fresh basil for garnish (optional).

Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray muffin tin with cooking spray.

Use a biscuit cutter or a drinking glass, cut wonton wrappers into circle shapes, about 2 1/4 inches in diameter. You can cut several at a time. Or, for a more rustic look and to save time, Jacobsen sometimes doesn’t cut them at all.

Brown the beef and season with salt and pepper. Drain.

Assembly: Press a wonton wrapper into each of the 12 wells in a regular muffin tin. Using about half of each, sprinkle Parmesan cheese, ricotta cheese and mozzarella cheese into each. Top with about half the meat and pasta sauce.

Repeat layers, beginning with wonton wrapper and ending with pasta sauce.

Top each “cupcake” with reserved Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until edges are brown. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Using a knife, carefully loosen the edges and then pop each lasagna out.

Garnish with basil if desired; serve.

“I use wonton wrappers in mini-muffin cups and do all kinds of fillings – all types of cheeses like Monterey jack with salsa on top or brie with raspberry chipotle preserves, chili and cheese, chopped shrimp with cheese.”

You can prebake the wontons weeks ahead and keep them in the refrigerator, says Jacobsen. Press them into mini muffin tins and bake at 350 F for 5 to 8 minutes. The key is to cook them until just crispy because they will brown when you finish baking them after they are filled.

Jacobsen also forwarded a Web site for a new book all about recipes made in muffin tins called “Savory Bites: Meals You Can Make in Your Cupcake Pan” (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2013). The recipe below comes from that book. It seems a little labor intensive and time consuming, which several folks who had purchased the book noted online, but most of the reviews were quite positive. Many of the recipes can be prepared in advance. If you decide to try this one, you might find photos helpful. You can see them at the Web site accompanying the recipes.

Savory Apple Tarts
Filling: Peel, halve and core 4 Granny Smith apples. Cut each half into 6 wedges and then crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces.
Heat 2 tablespoons walnut oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the apples and 1/2 large shallot, finely chopped. Season with a pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes.

Turn off the heat and add 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg. Stir to coat apples. Let cool, allowing time for the juices and fruit to meld, about 20 minutes.

Topping: In a small bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups grated white Cheddar, 1/4 cup turbinado or granulated brown sugar and 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts. Mix in 2 tablespoons unsalted butter and then incorporate 1/4 cup whole wheat flour just until combined.

Assembly: Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 12-well classic cupcake pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Allow a 15-ounce package of ready-made pie dough (2 rounds) to come to room temperature. Unroll onto a flat work surface. Evenly sprinkle 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh or scant 1 1/2 teaspoons finely ground (but not powdered) rosemary onto each round. Gently press into dough. Cut each round in half and then cut each half into even thirds, giving you 12 pieces.

Working quickly place 1 piece of dough, rosemary side down in each well of prepared pan, letting edges of dough overhang the pan.

Distribute apple mixture (approximately 1/4 cup among wells. Do not press down. Top each tart with 1/4 cup of the topping, then gently fold in the excess dough; don't press down to seal-just keep this loose.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until crust is golden. You will now see why the rosemary was sprinkled on the outside of the dough: It emits the scent of rosemary when you remove the tarts from the pan.

Note: The apple filling can be prepared and stored for up to 2 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The tarts can be assembled 1 day in advance and baked the following day.

From http://relish.com/recipes/savory-apple-tarts/.

Just wondering
Several years ago, I did some research and interviews for an article on celiac disorder. Its symptoms can become severe when a person who has an intolerance for gluten consumes wheat, rye, barley or triticale (cross between wheat and rye). Gluten, the protein in those grains, causes the body's immune system to attack and damage the small intestine.

Presently, there is no cure and the only treatment is a strict diet. One of the first things mentioned as a “safe” food was rice. So when I recently read a recipe calling for sticky or glutinous rice, I wondered if it, too, was gluten-free.

I found the answer at celiacdisease.about.com, written by Jean Anderson, writer and editor for several medical publications, and a celiac:

“Despite the name, (glutinous rice) doesn’t contain the form of gluten that’s dangerous to those of us with celiac disease or gluten intolerance; the term ‘glutinous’ simply refers to the fact that glutinous rice gets glue-like, or sticky, when cooked.”

Gluten turns up in unexpected places, including the vinegar used to prepare rice for sushi.

Ingredients such as soy sauce in prepared rice mixes often contain wheat gluten, which may also be used as a thickener. And it may be present in pre-packaged flavored rice in the form of barley-based flavoring, according to Anderson, who offers this recipe.

Gluten-free wild rice side dish: You will need 3 cups of cooked wild rice. Instructions for baking (Anderson’s preferred method) wild rice follow, however you will also find instructions for steaming, boiling and microwaving it at localfoods.about.com.

Combine 1 cup wild rice with 2 cups boiling water or broth and salt to taste in a 2-quart casserole with a tight fitting lid. Cover and bake at 350 F for 1 hour. Check the wild rice. Add more water or broth, if needed, and fluff the rice with a fork. Continue baking until the rice is tender and still moist, about 30 minutes. Makes approximately 3 cups. May be prepared two days in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, thoroughly combine the 3 cups cooked wild rice, 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms, 1 1/2 cups fresh chopped tomatoes or equivalent amount of canned diced tomatoes, drained; 1 cup sliced black olives, 1/2 cup chopped green onions, 2 minced garlic cloves or garlic powder to taste, 1/3 cup olive oil, 1 cup grated Cheddar cheese, salt and pepper to taste.

Pour mixture into a 13- by 9-inch baking dish. Cover with a lid or foil. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes or until the mixture is heated through and the cheese has melted.

Alternatively, this dish can be prepared in a crock pot. Place mixture in large crockpot and heat on high until hot and the cheese has melted.

Follow up
Two weeks ago, I mentioned “Ruth’s Recipes,” a collection of former Longboat Key resident Ruth Goldman’s recipes, compiled by her son, Jay Goldman. A limited printing and a larger than expected response has depleted the supply of printed copies. However, Goldman is willing to share the PDF of the booklet. If you are interested, e-mail him at jgoldman@aasa.org.

E-mail brandtlinda11@gmail.com.

Last modified: September 25, 2013
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