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Urban Foodies

Crab Mac & Cheese Bites Recipe

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 These mini mac & cheese bites are ooey-gooey with just a touch of crab for an elegant twist that makes them the perfect party appetizer!  

Crab Mac & Cheese Bites

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you purchase one of the products via the product link,  I’ll receive a small commission.

While mac & cheese may not exactly be part of your New Year’s healthier eating plan, I believe indulgences are an important part of life, so I’m sharing one of my favorite indulgences – Crab Mac & Cheese!!  I mean, what’s not to like about crab, creamy cheese, and pasta!!  

When I was a kid my grandmother used to make mac & cheese for us when we went to visit. I’m not talking about something that comes from a box or out of the freezer, I’m talking about real cheesy delicious baked mac & cheese from scratch! Even since then, homemade mac & cheese has always been one of my favorite things. I love to mix it up with different types of cheese and different things added in.

I fashioned these into mini bites so you can either serve them as a party appetizer or if you are in the mood for comfort food you can grab a couple of them for lunch or dinner. The nice part about making them minis is you can decide how many you want to cook (or reheat) at one time. They are absolute gooey, cheesy perfection!!

Contents:

Why you’ll love this recipe

  • Simple ingredients. Other than the crab meat, the ingreidents for this receipe are pretty simple and you may already have them in your panty and fridge.
  • Make-ahead option. You can do most of the prep work ahead of time so all you have to do is bake and serve when it’s party time!
  • Great for parties. With a creamy cheese sauce and a touch of crab, these bites are always a hit with party guests.
Crab Mac & Cheese Bites

Recipe ingredients

The full list of ingredients and quantities can be found in the recipe card below.

  • Lump crab meat: You can generally find lump crab meat in the seafood section of the grocery store.
  • Elbow pasta: While I have tried it, I don’t recommend gluten-free pasta for this recipe as the bites won’t hold together very well.
  • Cheese: I generally use a combination of yellow and white cheddar with a little parmesan or asiago thrown in. You could also add some mozarella, goudo or swiss cheese if you like.
  • Milk: 2% milk is ideal as it will give the cheese sauce the best consistency.
  • Bread crumbs: I generally prefer to use panko bread crumbs in most recipes, however, you could also use standard Italian bread crumbs.
  • Spices: ground nutmeg, sea salt, ground pepper
  • Pantry staples: all-purpose flour, salted butter

How to make this recipe

I love this dish because it can be prepped ahead of time and it gives you an elegant, tasty appetizer that is always a hit with party guests.

Cook the pasta. Boil the pasta in well-salted water, making sure to follow the package directions for timing for al dente pasta. Drain the cooked pasta and set it aside.

Prepare the muffin cups. Spray each muffin cup with non-stick cooking spray and then sprinkle a bit of the panko breadcrumbs in the bottom of each muffin cup.

Make the cheese sauce. This cheese sauce starts with a roux (a mix of flour and melted butter). First, you melt the butter and then stir in the flour and cook for about 30 seconds. Then you’ll slowly add the milk, stirring constantly until small bubbles form at the edges of the pan. To get a smooth cheese sauce, you want to remove the pan from the heat and add the grated cheeses, stirring until the cheese melts and you have a smooth sauce.

Make the bites. You’ll add the cooked pasta and the crab meat to the cheese sauce, and stir until everything is coated. Using a small spoon or dough scoop, add the pasta mixture to each muffin cup, repeating until all of the pasta has been used.

Bake the bites. Bake the bites for about 20 minutes, until the edges start to turn golden brown. Remove the pans from the oven and let the bites cool for about 10 minutes before removing them from the muffin pans. Serve immediately.

Make-ahead tip: Since these are cooked in a mini muffin pan these can be pre-assembled, refrigerated for a few hours, and cooked right before the guests arrive. Since the sauce is dairy-based, I don’t recommend freezing these bites.

Additional notes from the kitchen

  • The recipe is designed to make about 3 dozen bites, however if you want more you can always double it. They will keep in your refrigerator for 2-3 days after baking. For best results when reheating, place them in the oven at 250°F for 10-15 minutes.

Mini Muffin Pans –  Mini muffins tins are a super handy kitchen tool. I’d recommend enough to make at least 24 minis. I happen to like the 12 per pan size as they are easy to store and sometimes I only want to make 12 minis!

Coconut Oil Spray – I’ve switched to mostly using coconut oil spray when I need non-stick spray for cooking. Look for one like Spectrum that is expeller pressed. You can also use standard coconut oil to grease pans like the muffin tins if you prefer not to use a spray.

Serving suggestions

These bites are a great addition to any cocktail party menu. I’d add a nice cheese board, these Baked Arancini, this Caramelized Onion Dip and these Baked Avocado Wontons.

Or check out all of the appetizer recipes for more interesting ideas.

If you want to serve them as more of a light dinner, I’d pair them with a simple green salad or this chopped kale salad for some greens.


Mini Crab Mac & Cheese Bites on a metal pan

Crab Mac & Cheese Bites Recipe

These cheesy minis are ooey-gooey with just a touch of crab for an elegant twist that makes them the perfect party appetizer!

Prep Time 15 mins

Cook Time 30 mins

Total Time 45 mins

Course Appetizers

Cuisine American

Ingredients  

  • ½ pound mini elbow pasta
  • ¼ cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • 1 ½ tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¼ cups 2% milk
  • 2 cups grated cheese, pick your favorite types
  • 4 oz lump crab meat

Instructions 

  • Heat the oven. Preheat oven to 400°F.

  • Cook the pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add pasta and cook until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain well.

  • Prepare the muffin cups. Spray 36 mini muffin cups with coconut oil spray, or coat with coconut oil. Sprinkle the bottom of each muffin cup with a small amount of panko.

  • Make the cheese sauce. In a large saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook for 2 minutes. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper and whisk until combined. Whisk in the milk and cook until small bubbles form at the edges of the pan; about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and add the cheese, stirring constantly until smooth. Add the pasta and crab, stir until coated with the cheese sauce.

  • Bake the bites. Using a small dough scoop add about a tablespoon of the mixture to each muffin cup. Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges of the pasta begin to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes. Carefully remove each bite from the muffin tin and serve immediately.

Keywords : mini mac n cheese, Party appetizers





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Urban Foodies

Celebrating Our 20th Anniversary at Taco Maria (During Covid) –

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Taco Maria in Costa Mesa has always been one of our favorite Mexican restaurants in LA.

Chef Carlos Salgado is originally from Mexico but spent over ten years training in some of the best kitchens in the US, including 2-Michelin starred restaurants like Coi in San Francisco and Commis in Oakland. He opened Taco Maria in 2013.

Prior to achieving a Michelin Star, Chef Salgado was a James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef West consecutively for the past four years, and was named Food & Wine Best New Chef in 2015.

Dining During Covid

Notoriously challenging to book, this Michelin-starred restaurant got even harder to book during Covid. They removed all indoor dining and limited seating to parties of four. They also opened up bookings only 1-2 weeks in advance, so Bryan diligently logged onto their website (at midnight in Hong Kong!) to grab seats for us during popular, coveted weekend slots.

Taco Maria – The Food



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Urban Foodies

Visiting Family in Los Angeles During Covid

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Returning to the US



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Urban Foodies

A Weeknight Meal for Two

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This Deconstructed Skillet Lasagna gives you that great lasagna taste without all the fuss of traditional lasagne, making it an easy weeknight meal for two!  

Skillet filled with lasagne with bread, wine and cheese on the side

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product via these links, I will earn a small commission which helps to keep this blog running!

There is nothing like a good hearty pasta dish on a chilly winter night! This creamy, deconstructed lasagna takes all the components of traditional lasagna and incorporates them into an easy-to-make version. No need to spend time layering anymore. 

This skillet version might just change the way you make lasagne forever!

Contents:
Deconstructed Skillet Lasagna shot from overhead on a teal blue napkin

Recipe Highlights

  • Cheese sauce! Do I really need to say more?!
  • Designed for two. Since it’s made in small skillets, this lasagna is the ideal two serving meal.
  • Easier than traditional lasagna. Traditional lasagna can be time consuing to make. By deconstructing it a bit, this recipe is ready in just about 30 minutes, making it a weeknight staple.
  • Make-ahead option. You can make everything ahead of time and refrigerate until you ar ready to cook. Then just pop the skillet in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
  • Packed with flavor. Cheese sauce, red wine, tomatoes and ground beef combine to give this dish loads of flavor.

Key ingredients

The full list of ingredients and quantities can be found in the recipe card below.

Ingredients - corkscrew pasta, tomatoes, onion, red wine, cheese, herbs and garlic

The key ingredients include…

  • Cellentani pasta: This corkscrew style pasta works well with both the meat and the cheese sauce. Cavatappi also works for this recipe.
  • Ground sirloin: I typically use at least 90% lean ground beef.
  • Beef broth: Purchased beef broth works fine for this recipe.
  • Red wine: I recommend a fruitier red wine, but your favorite varietal or whatever you happen to have open will work.
  • Diced tomatoes: Ideally, you’ll use petit diced tomaotes for the best consistency in the sauce but sometimes they seem to be hard to fine so standard diced tomatoes also work.
  • Italian blend cheese: I normally prefer to grate cheese instead of purchasing pre-bagged, grated cheese, however since you want an Italian blend it’s easiest to purchase a bag.
  • Pamesan or Asiago cheese: Freshly grated is the best option here.
  • Spices: dried basil, dried oregano, dried thyme, sea salt, ground pepper
  • Pantry staples: Garlic cloves, milk, butter, all-purpose flour

How to make this recipe

Since it’s ready in just about 30 minutes, this lasagna is ideal for any night of the week.

Cook the pasta. I always recommend following the package directions, since cooking times for pasta vary based on brand. You want to cook to al dente.

Make the meat sauce. You’ll start by browning the ground beef, then adding in the beef broth, wine and tomatoes.

Make the cheese sauce. Starting with a traditional roux (butter + flour) gives you a nice, thick cheese sauce that eventually combines with the meat sauce to give you cheesy goodness in every bite.

Assemble the lasagne. You’ll divide the pasta between the two skillets, then top with the meat sauce, and then pour the cheese sauce over the top. Next, you’ll bake the lasagna for about 15 minutes and dinner is ready!

You can cook the pasta, make both the meat and cheese sauces and assemble the lasagna ahead of time. If you will be refrigerating for more than a few hours, I don’t recommend using cast-iron skillets. Stainless steel skillets or small ceramic baking dishes will be a better choice.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I don’t have mini skillets?

If you don’t have mini skillets you can either use another small baking dish, or you can make this in a larger skillet though you will need to increase the cooking time by about 5 minutes.

How should I store leftovers?

If you used cast iron skillets, I recommend removing any leftovers from the skillets and storing them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.

Close up of Deconstructed Skillet Lasagna with a glass of red wine

Tools you’ll want for this recipe

Small cast iron skillets – Cast iron skillets are great for cooking so many things. Something about 6″ in diameter is ideal. I like to keep two of the smaller version in my kitchen for smaller servings. You can also use a small stainless steel pan.

Serving Suggestions

To keep it simple, I like to pair pasta with a nice green salad. My quick and easy salad is greens topped with some shaved asiago, toasted pine nuts, a squeeze of lemon juice, some olive oil, and a bit of balsamic glaze.  

And of course, you can’t go wrong by adding some homemade garlic bread to soak up any extra sauce! Add a nice glass of red wine, perhaps the merlot you used in the sauce, and you have the perfect meal!

More pasta recipes

If you are looking for other easy pasta dishes check out these reader favorites:

  • Creamy Lemon Pasta. While this recipe is easy enough for a weeknight meal, the bright lemon flavor and parmesan breadcrumbs give it a touch of elegance.
  • Roasted Tomato Summer Spaghetti. This is pasta is perfect for an easy, everyday meal. Tomatoes, mozarealla, pesto and pasta combine for vegetarian dish that’s ready in just under 30 minutes.

Skillet filled with lasagne with bread, wine and cheese on the side

Deconstructed Skillet Lasagna Recipe

This Deconstructed Skillet Lasagna gives you that great lasagne taste without all the fuss of a traditional lasagne, making it an easy weeknight meal for two! 

Prep Time 15 mins

Cook Time 15 mins

Total Time 30 mins

Course Pasta & Grains

Cuisine Italian

Ingredients  

For the meat sauce:

  • 1 cup Cellentani pasta, uncooked
  • pound ground sirloin
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 2 ounces beef broth
  • 4 ounces Merlot, or other fruity red wine
  • 1 15- ounce can petite diced tomatoes

For the cheese sauce: 

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup non-fat or 1% milk
  • 1 cup shredded Italian blend cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • Grated asiago or parmesan for topping

Instructions 

  • Heat the oven. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat two small cast iron skillets with olive oil. 

  • Cook the pasta. Cook the pasta according to package directions for al dente pasta. Drain when pasta is done cooking.

  • Brown the ground beef. While the pasta is cooking heat a large skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the ground sirloin and onions; cook for 4-5 minutes until the ground sirloin is browned. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Add the basil through pepper and cook for an additional minute until fragrant.

  • Make the meat sauce. Add the beef broth, wine and tomatoes; continue to cook until the mixture begins to boil. Reduce heat and simmer while you make the cheese sauce.

  • Make the roux. melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until a thick paste forms.

  • Make the cheese sauce. Slowly add the milk, a small amount at a time, stirring with a whisk after each addition until the sauce is smooth. Once all of the milk has been added cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, whisking constantly, until the sauce begins to thicken. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese; continue stirring until the sauce is smooth (sauce will be quite thick). Add the pepper and nutmeg; stir to combine.

  • Assemble and bake. Add half of the pasta to each of the prepared skillets. Top each skillet with half the meat sauce mixture then half of the cheese sauce. Bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese sauce begins to bubble around the edge of the skillet. Top with grated cheese and serve

Notes

  • If you are saving one or both of the skillets for another time, wait to put the dish in the skillet until you are ready to bake. You can refrigerate in an airtight container and then transfer to the cast iron skillet. Alternatively use a non-cast iron mini skillet or baking dish. 
  • When ready to eat, cook as directed, however, you will need to increase the cooking time by 5-10 minutes to ensure everything gets hot!

Keywords : cast iron cooking, pasta for two

This post was originally published in January 2016. It was updated in January 2022 with some new photos and information. No changes were made to the original recipe.





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