Mini Bites that Delight – Macaroni Bites

mini bitesI love mini bites! You know those cute little bite size foods that you pop into your mouth in one bite and are often bursting with flavor? How do they get all those ingredients into that tiny little compact dish anyway?

I had often wondered why people would want to take the time to make these itsy bitsy bites, other than the fact that they are cute and look pretty (and may possibly even impress your guests when you’re hosting a party). Making them looked like a lot of work and that I thought I would need to eat at least 5 or 6 to feel full.

Then I discovered how fun they were and came to the understanding that they are meant to be served as appetizers, which you are not supposed to fill up on anyway, and not full meals. They are also great for kids, especially ones who have smaller appetites as they can have one or two and feel full without having any waste – instead of having a bigger portion and not eating it all. It is also a great way to introduce new foods to kids as you are giving it to them in a fun way and again with the smaller portion size, if they do not like it the waste is minimized.

mini bitesAnd there are so many different mini bite recipes to try you’ll never run out of ideas. You can come up with almost any combination and likely be successful. So I’ve been on the lookout this month for mini bite recipes to try. Looking for combinations that I knew would work and then considering how I might create one on my own.

This week I started with macaroni bites, which are one of the more popular and common mini bite recipes out there, and usually a hit with kids. I loved this recipe as it has a super cheesy sauce and is simple to make. Also easy to make dairy free, these delicious bites will have you easily gobbling two or three!

Macaroni Mini BitesDairy Free (can be made gluten free if you use brown rice or other gluten free pasta)

1 c. elbow macaroni

2 tbsp. Earth Balance Vegan Spread

2 tbsp. flour

1 1/2 c. almond milk (or non dairy milk of choice)

mini bites2 c. Daiya cheddar shreds

1/4 c. vegan cream cheese

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1 egg beaten

Optional additions: bacon, cayenne, paprika

Grease well your mini muffin tin (like really well. This is the one downside of mini bites is those muffin tins, they stick and are hard to clean. Greasing it well does help but sometimes you have to scoop around them very carefully to get them out. If you can find mini cupcake liners you could use those and it would make getting them out and clean up a little easier. This may not work though if you want a certain look without the papers on them).

Cook pasta according to package directions, rinse and set aside. In a medium size pan whisk the vegan spread and flour together until melted and smooth.

Slowly add non dairy milk and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, add 1 1/2 c. of the cheese, vegan cream cheese, salt and pepper. Stir until smooth and creamy. Remove from heat.

mini bitesIn a large mixing bowl carefully stir pasta, cheese sauce and well beaten egg until pasta is evenly coated and mixed in.

Using a teaspoon, spoon mac and cheese into prepared mini muffin tin, topping each with a small bit of cheese.

Bake bites at 400F for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool 5 minutes, then gently remove bites from tin.

The first time I made these I made the original plain recipe but I felt that they were missing something. So I would highly recommend adding in real bacon bits, or a dash of cayenne or paprika to add a little zest.

These are also a fun and easy recipe to make with kids. They can easily help with mixing it all together and scooping the pasta into the muffin tins. Kids love to help and research shows that if they help make it they are more apt to eat it!

Don’t miss next week’s recipe Quinoa Pizza Mini Bites.

What is your favorite mini bite recipe? Share in the comments below.

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese Dairy Free…What?

Macaroni & Cheese is definitely a kid favorite. One that many of us remember having as a ‘treat’ growing up. We would get so excited when Mom announced that she was making mac & cheese for lunch! I would gobble it down asking for another serving, sometimes overindulging myself as it was sooo good. Yes we were having the Kraft Dinner in a box, full of processed goodies with likely no nutrition at all. But we loved it!

When I became a Mom and was more conscious of what we were eating I began to make my own macaroni and cheese from scratch. It is pretty easy to do. Just cook the macaroni and then add milk, cheese and butter to make the sauce. But then we went to dairy free. Hmmm…I know you are probably sitting there scratching your head wondering, how the heck can you have macaroni and cheese without any dairy. “Impossible!” you say, but I tell you it is not.

Chloe loves mac & cheese!

When we decided to move to a dairy and sugar free household, due to alleriges and personal choice, one of the things that I wanted to ensure was that I could still provide all the things that we liked to eat without having to feel like we were giving things up or the kids feeling like they couldn’t have what all the other kids were having.

I found that with so many good dairy alternatives on the market now that making macaroni & cheese without dairy was actually very easy. I simply substitute Earth Balance, a vegan buttery spread for the butter, use Ryza rice milk for the milk and Vegan Rice Cheddar made by Galaxy Nutritional Foods, for the cheese. Now I have to admit that the vegan rice cheddar is not the same as regular cheese and though it works well in cooking it is not something that I would cut a slice of and put on a cracker.

Matthew enjoying his mac & cheese

Regardless, the dairy free version is a hit at our house, Matthew loves it and eats it up usually a bowl or 2 and the babies have at least 2-3 helpings themselves. When making it for the kids I usually put in 3 cups of macaroni keeping everything else the same. The recipe says it serves 6 but with my kids it is ‘serves 3’.

Matthew is the only one who would know the difference between the dairy and non-dairy version and if you were to ask him now he likely wouldn’t remember. He would just say that what we make is good. He likes to add a little bit of salt and pepper, as well as ketchup (we have a brand of ketchup that is sweetened with honey called Bodacious Ketchup) on his macaroni. I was never a fan of ketchup on macaroni, or eggs for that matter. I always looked at other kids weird when I was at their house and they added ketchup. I thought it was gross, but to each his own.

Whatever condiments you may like to add to your mac & cheese you’ll find this recipe to be a great hit at your house. The original recipe comes from Company’s Coming Pasta, but I have posted the dairy free version we make at home here. One other adjustment that I have made is I use brown rice pasta now too. This makes it a nice gluten free option as well. So make, eat, enjoy! It is super healthy for you. And really with mac & cheese how can you go wrong?

Dairy Free Macaroni and Cheese

2 c. elbow macaroni

1/2 c. rice milk

1/4 c. Earth Balance

1 tsp. onion salt

1/8 tsp. pepper (white is best)

2 c. grated Rice Vegan Cheddar

Cook macaroni in a large pot of boiling water until tender but firm, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain macaroni, rinse in hot water and return to pot. Add remaining ingredients. Heat slowly, stirring to melt cheese.

Serves 6

Luke gobbling it up!