Kid-friendly Totally Tomato Mac ‘n Cheese Cupcakes + Outrageous Orange Smoothies Recipe - Sticky Fingers Cooking
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Family Meal Plan: Totally Tomato Mac 'n Cheese Cupcakes + Outrageous Orange Smoothies

Family Meal Plan: Totally Tomato Mac ‘n Cheese Cupcakes + Outrageous Orange Smoothies

Totally Tomato Mac 'n Cheese Cupcakes + Outrageous Orange Smoothies

by Erin Fletter
Photo by Elena Veselova/
prep time
40 minutes
cook time
32 minutes
4-6 servings

Fun Food Story

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Totally Tomato Mac 'n Cheese Cupcakes

It’s time for a good ol’ fashioned childhood classic, don’t you think? Mac ‘n Cheese is bonafide comfort food, and the roots of this humble dish go way back to President Thomas Jefferson’s era in the early 1800s. On his travels to Europe, he apparently encountered a dish with pasta and cheese and brought the recipe back to the States. Jefferson’s slaves cooked the dish for many of his stately dinners, which likely explains why mac ‘n cheese became such a prominent part of Southern Soul Food cuisine. (Read more below for a brief history!) We add a tomato to the creamy, cheesy sauce in these yummy Mac ‘n Cheese Cupcakes, and then top them with more cheese! They’re kid friendly and adult approved, and we hope you and your kids have a ton of fun chopping, measuring, whisking, and baking!

Happy & Healthy Cooking,

Chef Erin, Food-Geek-in-Chief

Shopping List

  • 1 large ripe tomato
  • 1 banana or ripe pear
  • 1 12-oz can frozen orange juice concentrate
  • 2 C grated cheddar cheese **(see allergy subs below)**
  • 2 T butter **(see allergy subs below)**
  • 1 1/4 C plain full-fat yogurt **(see allergy subs below)**
  • 1 1/4 C whole milk **(see allergy subs below)**
  • 2 eggs **(see allergy subs below)**
  • 1 1/2 C dried elbow macaroni noodles **(see allergy subs below)**
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 T all-purpose flour **(see allergy subs below)**
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract **(see allergy subs below)**
  • 4 C water

Fun-Da-Mentals Kitchen Skills

  • boil :

    to cook a food in liquid heated to the point of gas bubbles and steam forming (boiling point is 212 F at sea level).

  • chop :

    to cut something into small, rough pieces using a blade.

  • knife skills :

    Bear Claw (growl), Pinch, Plank, and Bridge (look out for trolls)

  • whisk :

    to beat or stir ingredients vigorously with a fork or whisk to mix, blend, or incorporate air.

Equipment Checklist

  • Blender (or pitcher + immersion blender)
  • Liquid measuring cup
  • Measuring spoons
  • Oven
  • Muffin pan
  • Paper cupcake liners (optional)
  • Medium or large pot
  • Dry measuring cups
  • Colander or strainer
  • Mixing bowls (2)
  • Cutting board + kid-safe knife
  • Whisk
  • Wooden spoon


Totally Tomato Mac 'n Cheese Cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 C dried elbow macaroni noodles **(for GLUTEN ALLERGY sub gluten-free/nut-free macaroni or other tube-shaped pasta)**
  • 4 C water
  • 1 large ripe tomato
  • 2 eggs **(Omit for EGG ALLERGY + use paper cupcake liners)**
  • 2 C grated cheddar cheese **(for DAIRY ALLERGY sub dairy-free/nut-free cheese shreds, like Daiya brand)**
  • 2 T softened butter **(for DAIRY ALLERGY sub dairy-free/nut-free butter, like Earth Balance, or vegetable oil)**
  • 3/4 C plain full-fat yogurt **(for DAIRY ALLERGY sub dairy-free/nut-free plain yogurt)**
  • 1/4 C whole milk **(for DAIRY ALLERGY sub dairy-free/nut-free milk)**
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 T all-purpose flour **(for GLUTEN ALLERGY sub gluten-free/nut-free all-purpose flour)**

Outrageous Orange Smoothies

  • 1 C whole milk **(for DAIRY ALLERGY sub dairy-free/nut-free milk)**
  • 1 banana or ripe pear
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract **(for GLUTEN ALLERGY use gluten-free pure vanilla extract, not imitation vanilla flavor—check label)**
  • 1/2 C full-fat plain yogurt **(for DAIRY ALLERGY sub dairy-free/nut-free plain yogurt)**
  • 1 12-oz can frozen orange juice concentrate

Food Allergen Substitutions

Totally Tomato Mac 'n Cheese Cupcakes

  • Gluten/Wheat: Substitute gluten-free/nut-free macaroni or other tube-shaped pasta. Substitute gluten-free/nut-flour all-purpose flour.
  • Dairy: Substitute dairy-free/nut-free plain yogurt. Substitute dairy-free/nut-free milk.
  • Egg: Omit eggs + use paper cupcake liners.

Outrageous Orange Smoothies

  • Dairy: Substitute dairy-free/nut-free milk. Substitute dairy-free/nut-free plain yogurt.
  • Gluten/Wheat: Use gluten-free pure vanilla extract, not imitation vanilla flavor. 


Totally Tomato Mac 'n Cheese Cupcakes

boil + drain + preheat

To a medium or large pot, add 4 cups of water. Bring water to a boil. Add 1 1/2 cups dried elbow macaroni noodles and cook until pasta is al dente. Drain and set the cooked noodles aside. Preheat your oven to 350 F.

chop + whisk + add + mix

Chop 1 tomato and add to a mixing bowl. Crack and whisk 2 eggs in a large bowl. Mix in 2 cups of grated cheddar cheese.

measure + whisk

To the egg and cheese mixture, measure and whisk in 2 tablespoons butter, 3/4 cup yogurt, 1/4 cup milk, 1 teaspoon salt, 3/4 teaspoon mustard powder, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and 1 to 2 tablespoons flour. Whisk well to combine.

combine + stir

Add the cooked and drained elbow macaroni to the cheese and milk mixture. Stir to combine. Then, add the chopped tomatoes and gently fold them in to combine.

grease + bake + cool

Grease the 12 wells of your muffin pan or line with paper cupcake liners. Divide the tomato mac' n cheese mixture among the muffin pan wells. Sprinkle each cupcake with more cheddar cheese. Slide into the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly. Let cool slightly before serving!

Outrageous Orange Smoothies

measure + peel

Measure 1 cup milk and add to your blender or pitcher (for use with an immersion blender). Next, peel 1 banana and add to milk. Then measure and add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/2 cup yogurt, and 1 can of frozen orange juice.

blend + pour

Blend until smooth and uniform, then pour and cheers!

Surprise Ingredient: Tomato!

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Photo by Zaitsava Olga/

Hi! I’m Tomato!

"I'm a beautiful, juicy red Tomato. Do you pronounce my name: "tuh-may-tow" or "tuh-mah-tow?" Either way you slice it (or say it), we tomatoes are wonderfully adaptable. You'll find us fresh or cooked on sandwiches, in salads, tacos, soups, stews, sauces, and much more." 

History & Etymology

  • The tomatoes we have now descended from the pea-size fruit of wild plants that grew in western South America. Mesoamericans were the first to domesticate the tomato plant sometime before 500 BCE. 
  • Hernán Cortés, a Spanish conquistador, may have brought tomatoes back to Europe in the 16th century after conquering the Aztec city, Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City). 
  • Tomatoes cultivated in North American colonies in the early 1700s may have been introduced from the Caribbean. Thomas Jefferson also brought tomato seeds back from France. Before tomatoes were used in cooking, the plants were used ornamentally due to some people's beliefs that they were poisonous. One reason for this error was that tomatoes come from the nightshade family, including the belladonna plant (or deadly nightshade), which has highly toxic leaves and berries. Another reason may be that the pewter plates they used back then adversely reacted to the acid in tomato juice. 
  • China is by far the largest producer of tomatoes in the world. In the United States, California and Florida produce the most tomatoes.
  • The American and British pronunciations of "tomato" were made famous by an Ira and George Gershwin song from 1937 called "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off." Americans pronounce the word "tuh-may-tow," and the British say "tuh-mah-tow."
  • The word "tomato" comes from the Spanish, French, or Portuguese "tomate," from the Nahuatl "tomatl."


  • The tomato is a berry from the tomato plant (Solanum Lycopersicum), a perennial vine. It is part of the Solanaceae family, like the potato, pepper, eggplant, and petunia. Since it is a berry, it is a fruit, although mainly used as a vegetable. 
  • A tomato's color is usually red but can also be yellow, orange, green, or purple. Tomatoes can be spherical, oval, or pear-shaped. Their flesh is pulpy with cavities, called locules, that hold the seeds. 
  • There are more than 10,000 tomato varieties. Some are hybrids, and some are heirlooms. An heirloom tomato is a variety that has been grown for generations on a family farm rather than commercially. Unfortunately, in the past 40 years, many heirloom varieties have been lost, along with the smaller family farms that grew them. However, hundreds of heirloom tomato varieties are still available. 

How to Pick, Buy, & Eat

  • If you are growing your own tomatoes, pick them from the vine while still firm, with a slight give, and before their ripe color (usually red) deepens too much. While holding the fruit, twist it off the stem until it snaps off. The leaf on top of the tomato (the calyx) and part of the stem will come with it. You can also snip it off using garden scissors.
  • When you choose tomatoes at the store, pick fruit that has smooth, brightly colored skin with no cracks or bruises, is firm but gives with slight pressure, is heavy for its size, and has a pleasant, aromatic smell. Avoid tomatoes with pale or dark spots.  
  • Store tomatoes at room temperature, as their flavor will decrease in a refrigerator's cold temperature. Wait to wash them until you are ready to use them.
  • If you plan to make a tomato sauce or soup using fresh, raw tomatoes, you will want to peel them first. This can be difficult without some preparation: First, put a pot of water on the stove to boil and fill a large bowl with cold or icy water. Next, after washing the tomatoes, use your knife to cut a shallow 'X' through the skin at the top or bottom of each one. Then use a slotted spoon to place the tomatoes into the boiling water until the skin begins to loosen and peel back at the incision, about 30 to 60 seconds. Finally, immediately dunk them into the ice water. The skin should peel easily now. You can also remove the seeds by cutting the peeled tomatoes in half and scooping the seeds out with a spoon.  
  • Tomatoes are versatile vegetables for cooking. Ripe tomatoes can be prepared fresh, stuffed, baked, boiled, or stewed, and they are the base for many sauces. You can also pickle green, unripe tomatoes, add them to salsa or bread and fry them.


  • Tomatoes are a moderate source of vitamin C, and cooked tomatoes are high in lycopene, an antioxidant, which may help protect your body's cells from damage, strengthen your immune system, and prevent some diseases.


History of Mac 'n Cheese!

Photo by Elena Shashkina/
  • Pasta and cheese recipes were first in 14th century Italian and medieval English cookbooks. A more modern recipe was found in a 1769 English housekeeping book. So how did macaroni and cheese become such a popular American dish? The prevailing story involves Thomas Jefferson, the third US president. Is it way too gouda to be true?! 
  • The story says that Thomas encountered macaroni and cheese when he traveled to Paris and northern Italy in the 1700s. He sketched the pasta and took detailed notes on how to make it. Then, in 1793, he sent an American ambassador all the way to Paris just to purchase a pasta machine so he could make his own macaroni. After a year of waiting, the device was finally brought back to Jefferson, and guess what?  It didn't work!
  • But Jefferson did not give up. He started importing dried macaroni pasta and Parmesan cheese from Italy to serve at his dinner parties at his home in Virginia. In 1802, Jefferson served the very first macaroni and cheese dish at a state dinner, which he named "a pie called macaroni." It was considered an exotic and fancy meal. As far as we know, this was the first time anyone in North America ate mac 'n cheese.
  • At that time, mac 'n cheese was considered a cuisine of the upper-class. However, Thomas Jefferson had slaves who cooked for him and his family. These slaves made this "fancy" dish their own, and mac 'n cheese became and remains a staple southern "soul food" dish. 
  • About two decades (20 years) after Jefferson served the first cheese pasta dish at his dinner party, a recipe called "macaroni and cheese" was published in the 1824 cookbook called The Virginia Housewife. A distant cousin of Jefferson's, Mary Randolph, wrote it. 
  • During the Great Depression in the USA in the 1930s, Kraft Foods created a boxed version: Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. As a result, mac' n cheese became affordable and accessible to all Americans, and it has been one of America's most popular comfort foods ever since.
  • July 14 is "National Mac and Cheese Day!"

Let's Learn About Soul Food!

Photo by Antwon McMullen/
  • Soul food is a cuisine developed by people from Africa who had been forcibly brought to the Southern United States to work as slaves for wealthy plantation owners. These enslaved people took some of the foods and recipes they cooked for their masters, like macaroni and cheese, and made them their own. They also took the provisions they were provided for their own meals, such as cornmeal, turnip, beet, and dandelion greens, and unwanted, leftover cuts of meat, and elevated them with seasoning and cooking methods learned in Africa.
  • Soul food has African, European, and Native American influences. 
  • Some of the other staple soul foods are black-eyed peas, sweet potatoes, fried catfish, and in Southern Louisiana, red beans and rice. 
  • The expression "soul food" originated in the 1960s when the word "soul" was also used to describe African American music and culture.

Lettuce Joke Around

Why do oranges wear suntan lotion? 

Because they peel.

THYME for a Laugh

Why did the tomato blush? 

Because he saw the salad dressing!

That's Berry Funny

How do you fix a broken tomato? 

Tomato paste!

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