That cozy time of year has started to settle here in Boston (for the moment at least – it was 85 this weekend!) and with that comes a change in the recipe routine. It’s time to start the soups, stews, and hearty meals that stick to our bones and keep us warm. Time to make all those pumpkin recipes you’ve been pining after on Pinterest. Well, my friends, do I have a recipe for you! Cupcakes for dinner! Feels like a treat, looks like a treat, and incredibly satisfying – how could you go wrong? (Wow, this post is already sounding like a sales pitch!)
Of course I’m not talking about regular cupcakes – these are meatloaf cupcakes, personal meatloaves, muffin-shaped meatballs, meat-cakes or whatever you want to call them. They are quicker to bake than one big meatloaf and can be personalized and even decorated if you’re feeling fancy. I’m sure they would be a hit with young kids.
Start with your favorite meatloaf or meatball recipe, grease (or line with baking cups) a muffin tin and smoosh that meat mixture right in those muffin cups. I adapted this scrumptious recipe for meatballs with pumpkin in them and I highly recommend it (just use canned pumpkin instead of the butternut squash to save time). Bake them at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until cooked through and nicely browned. NOTE: You might want to put the muffin tin on a sheet pan just in case the grease spills out and burns on the bottom of your oven.
While they’re baking, chop up some potatoes (any kind), boil, and mash with a bit of butter and milk. Top your tasty meat muffins with your choice of mashed potato or sweet potato “frosting” – piped on if you’re feeling extra special (though if you leave the skins on the potatoes, as I did, piping is a little tricky so I just dollop-ed).
Serve them up with your favorite roasted vegetables, salad, or sauteed greens. Delicious, easy, and sure to make you feel like you’re having a treat.
your favorite meatball/meatloaf recipe
2 lb. ground beef
1 15-oz can pure pumpkin puree
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 tsp. ground cinnamon (sounds weird, but is so good)
3/4 tsp. Kosher salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a muffin pan with cupcake liners or spray with a pan spray. I made about 16 muffins with my mixture.
If you have time and so desire, toast your pecans for a few minutes in a saute pan on the stove or on a sheet pan in the oven. Be sure to watch them so they don’t burn. This should only take a minute and really enhances the flavor of the nuts. In a large bowl, lightly beat your eggs to break up the yolks. Add in the remaining ingredients (including pecans, making sure they’ve cooled a bit) and mix to combine all ingredients.
Divide the mixture between the muffin pans, filling the meat muffins to the rim. You could try mounding the mixture slightly too if you like that look, though they might make more of a mess. Bake in your preheated oven for 20 minutes or until a thermometer registers 165 and they are nicely browned.
Top with homemade mashed potatoes and serve. Yum!