Saturday, July 24, 2010

It's Almost Back to School Time

..which means it's almost back to packing lunches. What will you send to school? If you're like me, you'll be packing lunch. And, if you're like me, you'll be wanting some variety in your daily packing. One of my favorite ways to ensure variety in my children's lunches is by cooking ahead and freezing individual portions. Little sweets freeze well, and allow you to dole them out every now and then...a sort of unexpected happy ending to a wholesome homemade lunch.

I'd like to invite you to follow my lunchbox journey this school year, which I'll chronicle at my new blog, 360 Lunch Boxes (pardon the layout changes while I find a look that suits me). Between now and the start of school, I'll be posting some how-to guidelines using some of my favorite new tools to make lunches more exciting. Once school begins, I'll be posting my kids' (and husband's, sometimes) lunchboxes with instructions when appropriate. I hope to expand my repertoire and inspire others to move beyond the square-shaped PBJ.

For us, school begins in less than two weeks. Because it's creeping up on me, I'm starting my preparations now. Today, I'm baking tiny maple cupcakes. These freeze very well. Popping a frozen cupcake into a lunchbox keeps it fresh and stable until lunchtime. Using a mini variety and all-natural ingredients makes me feel good about sending this bite-sized treat to school with my girls. I hope you enjoy it.

Mini Maple Cupcakes with Honey Butter Frosting
(cupcakes gently adapted from this recipe at Baking Bites)

What You Need:

for the Mini Maple Cupcakes:
  • 1/2 cup sweet cream butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar (try maple sugar in these!)
  • 2/3 cup pure maple syrup (grade B is best)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk (I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
  • 1 tsp vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (you can make your own like me!)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
for the Honey Butter Frosting:
  • 1 cup sweet cream butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 4 tsp 5 cups confectioner's sugar
How it's Done:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 36 mini muffin cups with papers. Stir together in a small bowl the milk and vinegar. Set aside. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set it to the side.
  2. Beat the butter on medium speed until light, about 30 seconds. Add the sugar and beat again. When the sugar's all incorporated, slowly pour in the maple syrup with the beaters going at medium speed.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Then, add the vanilla extract.
  4. Pour the now curdled milk into the mixing bowl and beat again to combine.
  5. Slowly add your flour mixture with beaters on medium-low speed until all the flour has been added. Turn up the mixer to medium-high and beat for two minutes.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared cupcake cups. Fill them almost completely.
  7. Bake ten to twelve minutes. Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting.
  8. To make the frosting, beat the butter and honey on medium-high until creamy and smooth.
  9. Slowly add the confectioner's sugar, scraping sides as needed. Beat until the desired consistency is met.

Baker's tip: Have everything ready to go before the beaters hit the batter. Now, I don't have any of those cute prep dish sets (but boy, do I want them!), so I use what's on hand. But having everything ready to go -- pans greased, ingredients measured, oven preheated -- helps keep me on task. A side benefit is never realizing halfway through a recipe that you're missing a key ingredient. Take a moment and do your prep work. It's worth the effort.


Jenn said...

Oooohh...the honey butter frosting sounds delicious!
I love the idea of your new looks great so far! I think so many parents would love this..I'm going to tell a few of my friends that have kids, they are always talking about what a hard time they have figuring out what to do for their kids lunches!

PACountryMouse said...

Ooooo... These sound awesome! I love the new blog idea & I am now following. Baby #3 is due in September, so I know I will need a lot of help in being creative with lunch prep this year. Thanks :-)

Lisa said...

Do you freeze them with the frosting on? How long will they last in the freezer?

Michelle said...

Lisa, I do. I frost them, put them on a cookie sheet (not touching one another) and freeze them solid, then I transer them to a freezer bag. I've kept cupcakes for 2 months frozen without a problem. They've never lasted longer than that around here. They get eaten too quickly. But they do freeze wonderfully.

Lisa said...

Cool, I'll have to give this a try. Now that I'm back to work full-time, cooking/baking ahead is a must, if I want to feed my family well.

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