Savory is the new sweet when it comes to cupcakes, thanks to Hollis Wilder, three-time champion of Food Network's Cupcake Wars and author of the recently released Savory Bites: Meals You Can Make in Your Cupcake Pan.
With nearly 100 recipes offering decadent options for breakfast, lunch and dinner that are small in size but big on taste, Wilder proves that the trusty cupcake pan can double nicely as a mold for satisfying mini meals, keeping both portion control and convenience in mind.
"College students are contacting me to say they cook all of their breakfasts for an entire week and share them with sorority sisters, so they have a perfect portion every time," she says. A former personal chef, Wilder has worked for Demi Moore, Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Jay Leno, and the cast and crew of TV hit Will & Grace.
"Each meal is approximately a half-cup of food. This is a perfect portion when I pair it with a larger portion of less caloric foods, like salad, vegetables and fruit in any form."
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For novice cooks or those who find it challenging to feed a family of fussy eaters, Wilder recommends starting with her recipes for classic dishes like lasagna, tacos or chicken tamales, which use ingredients most likely already in your fridge and pantry. Make a dozen and give everyone one or two cupcakes, she says, along with a salad or sauteed vegetable.
"The book is not about restricting in any way. If your family buys anything from Velveeta to strictly organic items, the idea works," Wilder says. "Europeans have this figured out. They eat the fullness of fat and flavor that each food has to offer. It's just a smaller portion."
Pulling out the cupcake pan also piques the interest of children and provides the perfect tool for getting them involved in making dinner. Wilder says most recipes, like the classic lasagna and curried vegetable hand pies, are customizable to adjust to kids' often picky palettes.
"You can use ground chicken, peas and ham in the lasagna and traditional flavors like pesto or French herbs in the vegetable hand pies if the kids don't like curry," Wilder says. "Pack up the leftovers in plastic containers for snacks, school lunches or for any meal on the go. All will last for four to five days."
The mini meals also make for easy brunch or cocktail-party menu planning. Visual stunners sure to impress include the smoked salmon egg salad sandwiches on pumpernickel and ricotta al forno charlottes.
"The traditional potluck has been elevated to a 'potluxe,' using the cupcake pan instead of an endless casserole," Wilder says. "Share your favorite recipes and have a perfect portion -- with a beginning and an end."