- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 7, 2004

It doesn’t seem possible that school has started in some areas of the country and that after Labor Day, the majority of children will be back at their desks, working away.

Gone, perhaps, are the lazy days of summer for this year, and with us now are the crazy days of fall, when schedules crank up and we’ve got to get organized.

I feel good if they get a protein source, a starch, a fruit or a vegetable, and something tossed in just because I love them.

These peanut-butter muffins account for the latter. They’re great for children of any age, and they can be baked ahead, frozen and added to the lunchbox ready to thaw.

Five time-shaving lunchbox tips:

• Keep flour tortillas in the refrigerator and roll them around sandwich meat or leftovers from the night before: ham and cheese, grilled chicken, seasoned taco beef, black beans, you name it. Children love these burritos.

• Think subs. The same old sandwich bread has gotten stale, so to speak. Buy submarine loaves like the popular restaurants serve, and add sliced meats and cheese, shredded iceberg lettuce from the bag, tomatoes, and seasonings.

• Buy a small thermos for soup. This has been a godsend because my 10-year-old daughter loves to tote soup in the fall months, whether homemade or from a can. Add crackers, some fruit and cheese sticks, and you have a nutritious and satisfying meal.

• Picky eaters who won’t touch a sandwich often like to dip and dunk. Heat up chicken strips and pack them with barbecue sauce for dipping. Add carrot waffle chips from the produce section and a little container of ranch salad dressing. The ideas are endless: Add apple slices and caramel or strawberries and yogurt for dessert.

• Pack the lunch the night before. If needed, place the lunchbox in the refrigerator to keep it cool.

Chocolate peanut-butter muffins with peanut-butter drizzle


24 to 28 paper liners for muffin pans

1 18.25-ounce package plain devil’s food cake mix

1 3.9-ounce package chocolate instant-pudding mix

11/2 cups buttermilk

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup vegetable oil

4 large eggs

1 cup peanut-butter chips

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips


2/3 cup creamy peanut butter

1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

Line 28 muffin cups with paper liners. Set aside. Place cake mix, pudding mix, buttermilk, peanut butter, oil and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute.

Stop machine and scrape down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase mixer speed to medium; beat 2 minutes more, scraping sides down again, if needed. The batter should look thick and well-combined.

Fold in peanut-butter chips and chocolate chips, making sure they are well distributed throughout the batter. Spoon batter into lined muffin cups, filling each liner 3/4 of the way full. (You will get 24 to 28 muffins; remove the empty liners, if any).

Place pans on center rack of preheated 350-degree oven. Bake muffins until they spring back when lightly pressed with your finger and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 22 to 25 minutes. Remove pans from oven and place them on wire racks to cool for 5 minutes.

Run a dinner knife around edges of muffin liners, lift muffins up from bottom of pan using the end of the knife, and pick them out of the cups carefully with your fingertips. Place them on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes before serving.

For the drizzle, place peanut butter and sugar in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at high power until peanut butter is just melted, 30 seconds. Stir to combine well. With a dinner knife, drizzle glaze over top of muffins. Let the muffins rest for 10 minutes before serving. Makes 24 (21/2-inch) muffins.


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