Kid food goes bite-sized for grad open houses

Forum News Service

It’s not a bad thing really. During the next few weeks many of us will spend meal times standing in someone else’s garage eating dinner off a paper plate. It’s graduation season in all its scotcheroo-eating 7-up/sherbet punch-drinking glory.

For graduates, it’s their day to be king or queen, to pick their favorite foods, and watch as other people eat it (some of whom will even leave cash or a check before they go… score.)

In a day full of reflections – picture boards, scrapbooks and kindergarten art projects on tables – isn’t it appropriate to serve nostalgic childhood favorite foods? Of course, that could be everything from pizza to grilled cheese to hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken noodle soup. But for today, I’m concentrating on chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Rather than go through the drive-thru for nuggets, tearing open Kraft’s blue box or slapping together a few sandwiches, here are recipes you can use to to turn those childhood favorites into party food – like “I-want-little-food-so-I-can-cram-more-of-it-on-my-paper-plate” party food. Tiny bites full of big memories. Congrats, grads!

Visit for the Fast Food Nugget recipe.

Readers can reach Tracy Briggs at (701) 451-5632.

Mini Macaroni and Cheese Bites

Serves: 48 mini muffin-sized bites

12 ounces elbow macaroni

5 ounces garlic and herb cheese (boursin, alouette, or even herbed cream cheese works – any soft, spreadable herbed cheese)

2 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter

2 large eggs

3/4 cups milk

1/4 cup sour cream

Pinch salt and pepper

For the crust:

2 cups crushed Ritz Crackers

6 tablespoons butter, melted

1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees; spray 2 mini muffin tins with cooking spray.

Begin by melting the 6 tablespoons of butter and then mixing in the crushed Ritz and the 1/2 cup cheddar. Press about 1 teaspoon of crumb mixture into the bottom of the mini muffin tin. Press down until firmly packed. Crust should come up a little on the sides.

Prepare macaroni noodles. Cook in boiling water until a few minutes shy of al dente. When done, strain and put into a large bowl. Add the herbed cheese, cheddar, sour cream, milk, eggs, cold butter and salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly until cheese is starting to melt and no large clumps remain. Spoon about 1 to 2 teaspoons of mixture into each well over the prepared crust.

Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit at least 10 minutes. If you try to remove them before that, they will crumble as you take them out. After 10 minutes, run a knife around the edges and then gently remove each one. Serve warm. Enjoy!

Recipe courtesy of

Mini PB&J Cupcakes

Serves: 24

1 box yellow cake mix

1 1/4 cups water

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1/4 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

1/2 cup heavy cream

6 ounces cream cheese

1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup creamy peanut butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup grape or strawberry jam

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place mini baking liners in mini muffin tins.

In a large bowl, beat together cake mix, water, peanut butter, vegetable oil and eggs until combined. Divide batter into mini cupcake wells, filling each well about 2/3 full. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or using a hand mixer, whisk heavy cream until soft peaks form.

In another large bowl, beat together cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, salt, peanut butter, and vanilla on medium speed, until combined. Then carefully fold the whipped cream into the peanut butter icing until smooth and fluffy.

Fit a piping bag with a star tip, then fill the bag with jam. Inject the tip into the center of each cupcake and squeeze to fill the center of the cupcake with jam, just until it swells but does not overflow. Into a second piping bag, fill grape jam on one side and peanut butter frosting on the other side. Pipe frosting into a swirl on each cupcake. Let cupcakes set in the fridge for about 15 minutes before serving.

Recipe courtesy of