Kid-friendly Corny Veggie Mac 'n Cheese Cups Recipe - Sticky Fingers Cooking
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Recipe: Corny Veggie Mac 'n Cheese Cups

Recipe: Corny Veggie Mac 'n Cheese Cups

Corny Veggie Mac 'n Cheese Cups

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

Fun Food Story

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Corny Veggie Mac 'n Cheese Cups

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!) These Mac ‘n Cheese cups are loaded with veggies and melted cheddar and cook up in a muffin pan with a crispy golden-brown crust on the bottom and a Veggie Streusel on top. They’re kid friendly and adult approved, and we hope you and your kids have a ton of fun chopping, mincing, mixing, brining, and baking!

Happy & Healthy Cooking,

Chef Erin, Food-Geek-in-Chief

Fun-Da-Mentals Kitchen Skills

Equipment Checklist



Corny Veggie Mac 'n Cheese Cups

  • 1 C uncooked macaroni or other small, shaped noodles **(for GLUTEN ALLERGY sub gluten-free/nut-free noodles)**
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 C mixed raw veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, tomato, small sweet potato, parsnip, etc.)
  • 2 eggs (sub 2 to 3 extra T of heavy cream)
  • 2 T butter
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp garlic or onion powder (or 1 fresh garlic clove, minced)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/4 C heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 C grated cheddar cheese (or Gouda or Colby-Jack)
  • 3/4 C frozen corn
  • Veggie streusel crust:
  • 1/2 C reserved minced veggies (from veggies for Mac 'n Cheese Cups)
  • 1/4 C Italian or panko breadcrumbs **(for GLUTEN ALLERGY sub gluten-free breadcrumbs)**
  • 1/4 C all-purpose flour **(for GLUTEN ALLERGY sub gluten-free flour)**
  • 2 T butter **(for DAIRY ALLERGY sub olive oil)**
  • 1 pinch salt

Food Allergen Substitutions

Corny Veggie Mac 'n Cheese Cups

  • Gluten/Wheat: Substitute gluten-free noodles for macaroni. Substitute gluten-free flour for all-purpose flour and gluten-free breadcrumbs for panko breadcrumbs in Streusel Crust.
  • Dairy: Follow Vegan Corny Veggie Mac 'n Cheese Cups recipe.


Corny Veggie Mac 'n Cheese Cups

preheat + brine + mince

Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a medium-sized pot or large mixing bowl, soak 1 cup of uncooked macaroni in 3 cups of warm water + 2 teaspoons salt for 10 to 20 minutes. Chop your choice of veggies to total about **1 1/2 cups (reserve 1/2 cup for the Crispy Veggie Streusel Crust (recipe below). Chop all veggies into tiny pieces! If using parsnip or sweet potato, grate them.

whisk + grate + mix

Crack and whisk 2 eggs in a mixing bowl. Using a box grater, grate 2 tablespoons of butter. Add butter to the eggs, then measure and mix in 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, 1/4 cup heavy cream, 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese. Drain noodles in a colander and add to egg mixture along with ¾ cup frozen corn and ¾ cup of the minced veggies, then mix again.

grease + scoop

Grease a muffin pan and then use an ice cream scoop to divide the Mac 'n Cheese into the wells of the pan.

streusel: mix + sprinkle

In a mixing bowl, add 1/2 cup reserved minced veggies, 1/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup flour, 2 tablespoons butter, and 1 pinch of salt. Mix with hands until a crumbly texture forms. Sprinkle evenly over Mac 'n Cheese Cups just before baking for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the tops are golden brown. Enjoy!

Surprise Ingredient: Corn!

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Photo by Leon Rafael/

Hi, my name is Maizy, and I'm an ear of corn!

“I'm pretty close to my dad—his name's Pop Corn. (I know, my humor can be kind of corny … but, that's me!) I'm great to eat on the cob, either boiled or grilled, especially at summer picnics. If you buy me in a store, make sure my husk is still on and pull it back just a bit. My kernels should look fresh, plump, and juicy! (A kernel might just squirt liquid when poked or eaten!) So, how do you eat corn on the cob? Across, down, or both?"  


  • Corn was first cultivated by indigenous people in southern Mexico anywhere from 7 to 10,000 years ago.
  • Corn is unique: most vegetables and fruits we eat today are domesticated versions of wild plants humans discovered long ago. Corn is a human invention and did not exist in the wild first, although it did start from a wild grass called "teosinte." Teosinte didn't look like modern corn on the cob looks today. The kernels were much smaller and further apart.
  • Corn was known as "maize" by Native Americans in South and North America, and they eventually depended upon this crop for food. Over time, maize was selected to have more kernels, bigger cobs, and more kernel rows.
  • Many Native American tribes tell the story of the origin of corn. Tribes preserved their tales and retold them over many generations. They passed down stories through oral tradition, writing down only some of the stories. According to Native American lore, corn came to Earth by various routes.
  • When Spanish explorers arrived in the Americas, they had never seen corn before, among many other things the indigenous people showed them. 
  • Corn is produced on every continent in the world except Antarctica! As a result, corn and cornmeal are staple foods of many regions.
  • Native Americans used to braid corn husks to make masks, moccasins, sleeping mats, baskets, and dolls.
  • Today, corn is in many products we use daily. Cornstarch is used to thicken sauces, to strengthen the fabric used to make clothing, and to bind books. Soft drinks are sweetened with corn syrup, chickens and cows are fed corn, and the ink in pens is made from corn oil. Corn is used to make glue, shoe polish, marshmallows, ice cream, and makeup. Corn is also used to produce ethanol—a liquid biofuel used to power cars.
  • Corn comes in many colors, including black, blue-gray, purple, green, red, white, and yellow. 
  • The six main types of corn are: "Sweet" corn is the kind we eat. "Dent" corn is fed to cows and chickens. Another variety is "Popcorn," a popular snack food. Its hard kernels inflate and burst open when heated. "Flint" or "Indian" corn is multicolored and often used for Thanksgiving decoration, although it's also used to make popcorn and blue and red corn chips and tortillas. "Pod" corn (or wild maize) is a mutated type of corn that grows glumes (leaf structures) around each kernel and is used for ornamental purposes. Finally, "Flour" corn is mainly used to make corn flour (that makes sense!). 
  • The early settlers to North America considered corn so valuable they used it as currency to trade for other products such as meat and furs.

Anatomy & Etymology

  • Corn is a tall plant grass that has large ears with many seeds or kernels. 
  • Most corn plants have a single stalk. The stalk grows vertically up from the ground, and the variety of corn and the plant's environment will determine how tall it grows. 
  • Corn plants have both male and female parts—the name for this type of plant is "monoecious." The male part, the tassel, emerges at the top of the plant when all the leaves have formed. The tassel contains many branches that house many small male flowers. The female part of the corn plant is the silk that grows out of the ear. The immature ear consists of a cob, eggs that develop into kernels after pollination, and silks.  
  • One corn plant will produce more than one ear of corn, with the ear at the top of the plant usually growing the largest. 
  • According to the USDA, corn can be used as a grain or a vegetable, depending on when it is harvested. If corn is fully mature and becomes dry, it is considered a grain. It can then be ground into cornmeal or corn masa, which you'll find in corn tortillas, cornbread, etc. Popcorn kernels are also whole grains that are harvested when mature. Corn on the cob and the corn kernels found in frozen or canned corn are picked when the kernels are soft and full of water. In these forms, corn is considered a starchy vegetable. 
  • One ear of corn has, on average, as many as 800 kernels in 16 rows! Corn will always have an even number of rows on each cob. Each kernel can potentially become a new plant!
  • The word for "corn" that is used by most of the world is "maize," which comes from the Spanish word "maiz." 

How to Pick, Buy, & Eat

  • Fresh corn on the cob is seasonal during July and August. Choose ears of corn with yellow or white niblets and inspect each ear of corn before buying. Avoid any corn that has dark or dried spots. Store fresh corn in the fridge until ready to use.
  • Frozen corn is a great alternative when fresh corn isn't in season. You don't have to thaw frozen corn before adding it to baked recipes, soups, pasta, chili, or risotto! However, if adding frozen corn to sautéed recipes, run a colander of frozen corn under warm water to thaw it out a bit first. 
  • Sauté frozen corn rather than boiling it—boiling will destroy all the flavor! Butter, salt, and pepper are all you need. When sautéing corn, add the salt right at the end. Since salt draws out moisture, salting too soon will dry out your corn.
  • Frozen corn tastes fresher than canned corn. Many grocery stores even sell frozen cobs of corn. Frozen corn will keep for months.


  • Phosphorous is a mineral the body uses to build strong bones. Phosphorus also helps the body to produce energy. Starches in corn also provide you with long-lasting energy.
  • Fiber helps to keep our inner pipelines clean and clear. Drinking plenty of water helps move fiber through our intestines to clean them out! Vegetables, fruit, and grains have the most fiber of any food. Fiber is also important for our hearts! Leaving on the edible peels of vegetables and fruits also helps us to eat more fiber.
  • Potassium helps balance water in the body when eating salty foods by maintaining normal fluid levels inside our cells. Salt or sodium regulates the fluid outside of our cells. It is also necessary for proper muscle contraction, nerve transmission, and better blood pressure.


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.

THYME for a Laugh

What do you get when a corn cob is run over by a truck? 

"Creamed" corn.

The Yolk's On You

What do corn cobs call their fathers?

Pop corn.

That's Berry Funny

Why shouldn’t you tell a secret on a farm? 

Because the corn has ears and the potatoes have eyes.

THYME for a Laugh

What is the most mythical vegetable?

The uni-CORN.

The Yolk's On You

Customer: "Excuse me, waiter, is there Mac 'n Cheese on the menu?" 

Waiter: "No, madam, I wiped it off."

That's Berry Funny

What do you call a pasta that is sick? 

Mac and Sneeze.

THYME for a Laugh

Why didn't anyone laugh at the gardener's jokes?

Because they were too corny!

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