I like meatloaf. There, I said it.

Meatoaf has a reputation for being greasy, boring, and worst of all, bland. My kids won’t eat regular meatloaf–but I must admit, there are still days when I crave it. My mother used to make the traditional meatloaf, a blend of ground round and breadcrumbs, topped with either ketchup or tomato sauce. I’d happily eat it for dinner and leftovers.

So how do you make kids eat something they loathe? Reinvent it. I mean, who can resist something that looks like a cupcake, but tastes like a meal? These meat muffins really do look like dessert cupcakes. I even serve them in cupcake papers to add to the effect.

To make these savory cupcakes, I use my favorite meatloaf recipe and then divide the meat equally into regular-sized muffin tins. Usually a standard recipe makes about 14 to 16 cupcakes. Lightly grease the muffin cups and fill to the top—remember that the meat will shrink while cooking. Allow the meat muffins to cool slightly before you try to get them out of the pan.

While the meatloaf muffins are cooling, I get to work on the “frosting.” Whip up a batch of mashed potatoes, or you can add a little more color by mixing regular potatoes (I prefer Yukon Gold) and some sweet potatoes. Make sure that your mashed potatoes are extra creamy. I use plenty of milk and sour cream, along with my handheld mixer to create fluffy, airy potatoes. Add the potatoes to a pastry bag fitted with a large-sized star tip.

Place the meat muffins onto a baking pan and swirl the potatoes on each one. (You can just spoon the potatoes onto the muffins, but for a more realistic effect, the pastry bag does the trick!) Place the cupcakes into the oven set to broil and bake until the tops are just slightly golden.

These cupcakes make for a fun meal. My kids are always begging me to make these when friends come over for dinner—their buddies think it’s cool we have dessert for dinner!

Prep time: 40 minutes (+baking time)
Servings: 4-5
Meatloaf Cupcakes

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small onion, diced
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar (optional)
2 eggs
½ cup milk
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon Tabasco
2 pounds ground meat (I use half beef, half pork)
1 1/3 cups bread crumbs or panko crumbs (preferred)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium-sized skillet pan, sauté the onion in the heated oil until they soften. Allow to cool to room temperature.

In a small bowl, mix together the eggs, milk, mustard, spices, Worcestershire, Tabasco, and vinegar (if using; I like the slight kick it gives). In another large bowl combine the meat, panko crumbs (available in the Asian foods section of the grocery store), and onions. Gently blend in the egg mixture using a wooden spoon.

Lightly spray the muffin tin cups with cooking oil. Loosely pack meat into each cup and fill to the top. Bake the muffins for 20 minutes and then check for doneness by inserting an instant-read thermometer; the temperature should read 160 degrees.

Allow the meat muffins to cool in the pan. Carefully drain off the fat and then remove the muffins to a baking sheet.

Mashed potato “frosting”

4 medium-sized potatoes (I prefer Yukon Gold)
1 large sweet potato
6 Tablespoons butter, melted
¼ cup sour cream
3/4 -1 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Using a grater remove the peels from the potatoes. Cut the potatoes into equal chunks about 1 inch thick. Add the cut pieces into a medium-sized cooking pan filled 2/3 of the way with water.

Once all of the potatoes are added to the pot, cook the potatoes at high heat on the stovetop. Add 1 Tablespoon of salt to the cooking water. Bring the potatoes to a gentle boil and continue cooking until they are fork-tender.

Remove the potatoes and place them into a large mixing bowl. Add half of the milk and then blend using a handheld mixer on high power. Add the butter and sour cream and then blend more. Gradually add in the rest of the milk until the potatoes become airy and whipped. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place the whipped potatoes into a pastry bag fitted with a large-sized star tip.

Assembling the meatloaf cupcakes: After placing the meat muffins onto a baking dish, pipe the potatoes on top. Start on one end of the meat muffin and swirl around the outside and then keep swirling until you reach a tip at the top. Broil the muffins until the potatoes are just browned.

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