Lunchbox Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Filling

Here you will find a recipe for chocolate cupcakes, a vanilla cream filling, and an easy chocolate frosting. They are perfect for your child’s lunchbox.

My little peanuts are very tired from their first few weeks back at school, so I baked them these chocolate cupcakes as a special treat. They were so tasty, with a light and soft texture that is like a boxed cake mix. So many cupcake recipes turn out tough and dry, or just blah, but I promise this one is tender and perfect.

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French Rolls for Sandwiches

We make these rolls every week, on Tuesday.   They are great for Italian sandwiches, cheesesteaks, and whatever sandwich your heart desires.  The dough can also be made into larger round loaves or baguette shapes to serve with dinner.

The best thing about the rolls is that they freeze well for at least two weeks, and can be defrosted in the microwave easily (takes about 1 minute on the defrost setting).  The crust can be recrisped with just a few minutes in the oven.  They have a thin, crisp crust and are super soft inside.

I always, always, always knead and rise my dough in the bread machine, although I never bake in it.  The stand mixer is okay.  I have never had success kneading by hand, but obviously many people do.

This recipe is one of the easiest to make, but also one of the best.  It is slightly adapted from Bread Machine Magic.

You will need:

4 cups of bread flour

1 1/2 cups of water

2 t. salt

2 1/2 t. instant yeast (I like Red Star brand)

Cornmeal and flour for dusting

Directions:

  1.  Combine your ingredients and knead into a soft smooth dough, preferably in a bread machine on the dough cycle.
  2. Cover and allow to rise until doubled.  (The bread machine will take care of this, and will beep when done.)
  3. Divide into 10 equal pieces using a sharp knife.
  4. Shape into rolls, pinching the bottoms until the tops are smooth.
  5. Prepare your baking sheet by either spraying with non-stick spray or covering with parchment, then dust with cornmeal.
  6. Rub flour on top of the rolls. Place them on the baking sheet, slashing a diagonal line with a sharp knife.
  7. Preheat your oven to 450, and place a spare empty baking sheet with a lip in the oven.
  8. Cover your rolls with greased plastic wrap, and put in a warm place to rise.  When they look very puffy, remove the plastic wrap.
  9. When the oven has preheated, pour 1 cup of water on to the spare baking sheet to create steam.  It may buckle.  This is okay.
  10. Put your risen rolls into the oven, and bake for 16-17 minutes.  When done, they will have slightly browned bottoms and feel light for their size.
  11. Cool and use immediately or freeze.

 

 

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Setting Up a Baking Corner

Aren’t these pictures beautiful?

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(both from Pinterest, can’t find the original source)

Please don’t put your baking supplies in a place like this!

It will look great in pictures, and that is about all it is good for.

Put them in your kitchen.

Wherever you stand in the kitchen the most. This tends to be somewhere between sink and stove.

(For me, it is in the corner to the right of the cooktop.)

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Put your flour, sugars, oils, vinegars, salt, and spices in your kitchen “hot zone” where you are standing.  Also your baking powder and baking soda, cocoa, cornmeal, cornstarch, bread crumbs, nonstick spray, and shortening.  All of that stuff.

Mine is the cabinet on the right of the picture above.

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Some baking stuff on the left, spices on the right.

Some can go on the counter. Some in a cabinet.  Deep drawers would be great.

I also have a few things on the counter (white sugar, Brown sugar, panko bread crumbs, and all-purpose flour in the big King Arthur tin.)

My lazy susan holds almost everything else:

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I have a lot of bulk sized items, a lot of unopened extra bags because I stock up when there is a sale, and everything fits easily.  It definitely look better with matching labeled canisters, but it is fine.

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Measuring cups and spoons should be here too, in a spot where you don’t even need to take a step to get them. I have seen pictures of people storing them on hooks inside a cabinet door. I have never tried this but it seems like it would get annoying gingerly placing them on hooks and having them clatter about when you open the door.

I prefer a drawer:

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I moved my spatulas to a canister to make room.

Just keep them nearby. You will soon know exactly where everything is as you use it more.

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Even if you are not a big baker, all of these ingredients are used in everyday cooking too. They belong next to you in the kitchen.

Below this little drawer is a little cabinet for small appliances I use in baking, like the food processor, blender, and bread machine.

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Now this area is all set up for my “everyday” type baking. Breads, cookies, muffins, anything like that can be easily made without trekking back and forth to some distant pantry. It is all right here. If I need to make a marinade, a salad dressing, meatballs, whatever, everything I need is here or in the fridge. The only things I keep in my pantry cabinet, a bit further away, are pasta, canned goods, and unopened extra things like sauces and other fridge stuff.  (Come to think of it, my extra flour, etc. should be probably go there too.)

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Whatever is living in the cabinets by your sink or your cooktop, see if you can give it the boot. If your sugars and flours are in a pantry, take them out and put lesser used small appliances in there instead, or bakeware, or whatever else you don’t use every day that is taking up prime real estate in your cabinets.

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And I think you will find that baking becomes less tedious, as the whole routine of taking things out and putting them back is drastically simplified.

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My mom says it is weird and that all food should be together, in a pantry!  What do you think?


How I am Keeping My Kitchen Clean Every Day

Last summer I started following a homemaking schedule where certain things were done on certain days: “Laundry day”, “Town Day”, etc.  I loved the fact that it gave each day a focus and kept me ahead of the game instead of constantly playing catch up.  I also loved that it had a slightly retro feel.  I felt like a real housewife!  But one day, Kitchen Day, was torturing me.

It was a day for canning, baking, cooking ahead, making freezer meals, and cleaning the kitchen.  This meant organizing the fridge and cleaning the shelves, washing the trash cans, cleaning the sink, organizing the pantry and the cabinets, and all those little tasks that kitchens need.  It was just too much, and it was stressing me out.

I realized I was acting a bit silly, as if federal law had decreed that I must cook ahead and clean the kitchen in one day.  So I decided to change things up and it has been a huge improvement.

Two or three times a day, I go in to the kitchen to make a cup of tea.  It steeps for seven minutes.  During those seven minutes, I do one small task to clean the kitchen.  Just one!

It has been amazing!  The kitchen is always clean, and it feels effortless!  Setting a timer has been so important for this working for me.  

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Here are some of of the chores I tackle during those seven minutes.

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-cleaning the sink with barkeepers friend and filling it with water and a splash of bleach

-organizing and wiping down ONE shelf or drawer in the fridge

-cleaning the fronts of the cabinets

-getting down on the floor with a damp microfiber cloth and mopping by hand (surprisingly quick and effective)

-organizing and wiping out one drawer

-polishing the stainless steel appliances

-filling the coffee maker with vinegar and to clean it

-cleaning the cooktop

-organizing the pantry cabinets

-cleaning the kitchen windows or sliding glass door

-polishing two pans with bar keepers friend, drying them, and putting them back

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I am so happy I changed up this aspect of my homemaking routine.  And it has freed up my Tuesdays so that they are now “baking day”, and I am free to do things like this:

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So if I skip a day, no big deal.  And after the chore is completed, I get to relax with a cup of tea!