Muffin Tin Meals! | Enrychment

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Muffin Tin Meals!

I don't know what took me so long, but I recently became obsessed with the idea of Muffin Tin meals. I noticed that Luke was far more likely to eat his lunch (and a good, healthy lunch at that) if it was organized into little compartmentalized plates, presented in little pieces, arranged and paired in new ways, and made to look like fun. I'd just started doing this naturally, catering to his personality, until I found the world of Muffin Tin meals - and now, I am absolutely hooked.

In case you are wondering (and haven't clicked the link), a Muffin Tin meal is...
What is a Muffin Tin Meal?
Pretty simple here. It's a meal served in a muffin tin. For Muffin Tin Mondays we make them for our kids, but anyone can have a muffin tin meal! A muffin tin is also known as a muffin pan, cupcake tin or cupcan pan and for our purposes here, we also use silicone and paper baking cups, pans and tins.
And as you might imagine, the compartments in a muffin tin are small, so the foods presented in them are typically little, piecey, and cut or rolled up. There can be themes or not - some people go crazy with them (oh, I expect to at times!). The great thing about these meals is that they offer kids smaller portions of more varieties of (healthy!) food, in a really fun and different way every day.

I haven't used an actual muffin tin - partially because I only have one (and have yet to make him a feast-like meal with 12 compartments!), and he also really loves his plates that have little divided sections as well as the animals and words and such he discovers as he clears each one. So I suppose I'm breaking the mold a little (no pun intended!), but it's essentially the same idea in a slightly different format. Besides, who likes washing muffin tins, anyway? Not me!

This idea appeals to me on so many levels. I'm a planner - a really, truly, ridiculously overly-detailed planner, and planning out these little meals is SO FUN. In fact, I found this planning sheet over at Second Story Window (you can print them out yourself, if you like!). I think they are adorable, and if I had any kind of budget for printer ink, I would use them myself! Well, that, and since I'm not really using muffin tins, the layout is a little off for me. However, their rating system was perfect, as was the idea in general - so I drew up a couple of sloppy versions myself (one for his little tray-like plates with the compartments, and one for regular plates, where I'll arrange silicone cupcake liners for the sides). They are so sloppy, I'm embarrassed to share them in their full versions - but they serve their purpose for me, and they print out so lightly that they hardly use up any ink.

I really love planning things with a theme (I, love, theme parties!), so doing this on a fairly consistent basis is awesome. Not every day has a theme, but even when it doesn't... I stand in front of my fridge & pantry and sift around for new ideas - trying to think out of the box - coming up with something that will wow Luke when he sees it. The best part of all is the way he smiles and giggles as he climbs into his seat at the table. I LOVE it!

Here are some of this week's lunches:

Fruit salad (honeydew, strawberries & grape quarters), American cheese slices, pretzels & a tbspn of french onion dip. Animal crackers with natural peanut butter for dipping, natural applesauce, and chunks of monterey jack cheese. Cinnamon rasin bagel with 1/3rd fat cream cheese cut into bite sized pieces, raspberries, banana, and chocolate milk mix for dipping. 

(Hover over pictures for more details on the food!)

As you can see, there's not one actual sandwich nor mac & cheese (typical lunch ruts around here) - though those are perfectly fine from time to time, cut up and arranged in different ways. And, with the exception of the massive fruit salad (we're big fruit eaters around here, and who can have too much fruit salad?!), everything is in much more manageable 3-year-old portions.

Animal cracker and natural PB sammies, banana dipped in chocolate sprinkles, carrot sticks with ranch for dipping, and raspberries

Here's today's lunch, and a peek at the planning page. I am SO excited for his St. Patrick's Day lunch! It's going to be a lot of fun!

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