Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Lasagna Cupcakes & the Not-So-Master Chef

Of course we love it when kids and families come cook with us at The Kids' Table. You know what we love even more? When we hear kids take the recipe, their newfound skills and peaked enthusiasm, and recreate the dish again at home. That's our definition of a smashing success! It's why we do what we do. Read on for such tale from Sara Youngblood-Ochoa of Macaroni Kid Chicago, a formerly reluctant homecook, and get her son's favorite Kids' Table recipe (for the moment, anyway) - Lasagna Cupcakes!

Before I was a mom, I had a vision in my head of what I would be like once I had a child. Always pulled together, always calm, putting a healthy and homemade dinner on the table every night at 5PM sharp.


Okay, now that we’ve all stopped laughing, let’s talk reality. Motherhood is not always pulled together. More often than not, it’s yoga pants, dirty hair and trying to keep your cool while you tell your child for the hundredth time to “PLEASE PUT YOUR SHOES ON!”


We’re all doing the best we can. We each have our own successes and areas that cause us to struggle. For me, I struggle with healthy meals. I’m don’t know why my pre-motherhood vision included me cooking every night, because I’ve never liked cooking. I guess I thought I’d have a baby and then this inner master chef would magically appear.

Didn’t happen.

But I don’t want to feed my family Kraft mac & cheese every night. And I don’t want to order in every night. To make matters worse, my son LOVES being in the kitchen and wants to cook with me.

Thankfully in a big city like Chicago you can always find someone to help you with the things you’re not so good at it. For me, that help comes from The Kids’ Table! Every summer, my son spends a week at their summer camp learning cooking skills and putting together delicious, healthy, family-friendly recipes. At the end of the week, he has a collection of recipe cards that are easy enough for a novice like me to pull off!

Since my son started summer classes at The Kids’ Table, my family and I have spent more time together in the kitchen trying out the recipes he brings home from camp. He loves showing us all that he’s learned and I love knowing that we’re getting both family time and healthy meals. And we’re definitely a fan of the yummy food. We especially love these Lasagna Cupcakes!

Do I love cooking now? Will I ever be a Master Chef? No and no. But I no longer dread getting dinner on the table. Watching my son become comfortable in the kitchen and spending that extra time with him makes cooking more fun and less of a hassle.

Happy 10th Birthday to The Kids' Table! Here's to many more years of yummy, healthy cooking with our kids! Thanks to you, I feel more confident getting healthy meals on the table. But never at 5PM sharp. What was I thinking???? 

Sara's son during our Cupcake Wars Camp, Summer 2016

Lasagna Cupcakes


For Sauce:
2 medium red bell peppers
2 roma tomatoes
1/2 T olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable stock
1 sprig fresh basil (5-6 leaves)
Salt and pepper, to taste

For Cupcakes:
2 eggs
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp salt
12 lasagna noodles, cooked (do not use "no boil" noodles)
10 oz shredded mozzarella (about 4 1/2 cups)


Roast whole peppers until skin is blackened. You can do this under the broiler, or directly on a gas stovetop burner. Whichever way you go, use tongs to turn the peppers as the skin facing the flame blackens. Almost all the skin should be blistered and blackened when you're done. Put the blackened peppers in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap for 5 minutes to loosen skins. Peel peppers and remove seeds (even though it will be tempting, do not rinse!). Roughly chop peppers and set aside.

Bring a medium pot of water to boil (about 6 cups water). Cut out tomato cores and use a knife to create a small "X" in the opposite end of each tomato. Lower tomatoes into boiling water and blanch for 1 minute, or until the skins begin to loosen. Remove tomatoes from water with tongs or a slotted spoon. Put them in an ice water bath to cool quickly. Peel and roughly chop cooled tomatoes and set aside with peppers.

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add balsamic vinegar and cook until reduced, about 1-2 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes and peppers, along with vegetable stock. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.

While sauce is cooking, tear or snip basil leaves into small pieces. Set aside.

Blend sauce to desired consistency in a blender or with an immersion blender. (A little texture is okay.) Add basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set sauce aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12-cup cupcake mold with nonstick spray and set aside. In a medium bowl combine eggs, ricotta, parmesan and salt, stirring until well combined. Set aside.

Cut lasagna noodles into four pieces each - so that you can make an "X" in each cupcake mold, with a little noodle sticking up over the top of the mold. 

Spread 1 tablespoon of sauce on the bottom of each cup. Arrange two cut noodles in the shape of an "X" on top of the sauce in each cup. Spread 2 tablespoons of ricotta mixture over each set of noodles and top with 2 tablespoons mozzarella and then 1 tablespoon sauce. Arrange one piece of noodle over the sauce adding another 2 tablespoons ricotta mixture, 2 tablespoons mozzarella, and 1 tablespoon sauce. Place a noodle on top. Divide remaining sauce over the top of each cupcake and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella. Bake lasagna cupcakes until bubbly and browned, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. To serve, loosen each cupcake from pan by running a butter knife or thin spatula around the edges to remove. Enjoy!

Makes 12 cupcakes

Sara Youngblood-Ochoa is a wife, mom and publisher for Macaroni Kid Chicago, a free weekly e-newsletter and website of all of the family-friendly events in Chicago. Macaroni Kid is the one-stop-shop for parents and caregivers to find all of the great things to do with their kids, from local events to area family-friendly businesses to kid-friendly crafts, recipes and more. Subscribe and never hear “Mom, I’m bored!” again!

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