Breakfast Cookies

Okay so the words "breakfast" and "cookies" don't really go together. I'm not actually making cookies for my kids' breakfast. But these things are shaped like cookies and the name "breakfast cookies" is a really big hit in my house. 

breakfast cookies

Now that we have that out of the way, I wanted to give a shout out to Produce for Kids, whose Insta post for this recipe was an inspiration to me. (are you following them?) I've modified the recipe slightly and made it completely nut free and I can tell you, these things are an instant hit with my brood and for me. They are delicious with my morning joe. Give it a go! And when you do, keep me posted by tagging us on Instagram

Here goes: 

breakfast cookies with coffee

Ingredients
2 eggs (I used jumbo, because that's what I buy, but large will work too)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 large ripe banana, mashed
1 pear, chopped
1/2 apple, chopped
2 cups of rolled oats
1 cup of flour (whole wheat or white) 
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. 
2. Combine eggs, vanilla, honey, oil, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, banana, pear and apple in a large mixing bowl. 
3. Combine oats, flour, cinnamon and salt in a separate bowl. 
4. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ones until thoroughly mixed.
5. Portion out "cookies" onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, and place about 1 inch apart. Bake for 18 minutes or until firm. Set aside to cool and enjoy! 

5 Strategies to Get More Veggies in that Lunchbox

Last week we teamed up with our pals at Veggiecation to provide 5 strategies that can help parents get more vegetables into their kids' lunchboxes. We love Veggiecation because they're on a mission to promote and educate communities on the health benefits of vegetables. As part of that mission, they teach folks how to prepare them in simple, unique, affordable and most importantly, delicious ways. We were thrilled to join them on this mission and take over their Insta for a week. Without further ado, here are our top 5 best tips to get more veggies into those lunchboxes:

Dipping

lunchbox with dip

Is your kiddo a little dipper? Dipping is a wonderful way to get kids excited about veggies. This lunchbox has 2 great dips: hummus and tzatziki (a yogurt and cucumber dip), with carrots and romaine lettuce hearts for dipping. Also in this lunchbox: crackers, fruit salad and chocolate chips for a sweet treat. 

 

Presentation

lunchbox with kebabs

Who doesn't love food on a stick? Kebabs are fun and they're an easy way to get more veggie variety into the lunchbox. This lunchbox features cucumber, grape tomato, bell pepper and cheese kebabs, and a strawberry, blueberry and golden berry kebab, plus extra strawberries, cheese tortellini and a dark chocolate pretzel. 

 

Roasting

lunchbox with roasted veggies

We all know the struggle is real when it comes to kids and veggies. But roasting them can be a game changer. Just chop or slice, drizzle with olive oil and roast at 400 degrees and then take a victory lap when your kids gobble them up! Roasted carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and zucchini are staples in my house. This lunchbox contains leftover roasted carrots and zucchini plus egg, crackers, raspberries and passionfruit. 

 

Get the Kiddos Involved

lunchbox meal planning with LaLa Lunchbox

Our #1 strategy: involve them in meal planning! The LaLa Lunchbox app makes planning school lunches deliciously simple. When kids have a say in what they eat, they're more likely to get excited about their food. Our app is loaded with healthy options to choose from, it's totally customizable and here's the great news for parents: no more wasted, smelly uneaten foods at the end of the day. You can hand over the reins completely, or plan meals alongside your child - that's up to you! The foods that kids choose for lunch become a handy grocery list for parents, so you'll be organized for the week. 

 

Patience

have patience with that lunchbox and veggies

While we never force kids to eat anything, studies show that repeat exposure to veggies is key. So go ahead and serve veggies that you aren't sure your kids will enjoy, and do it knowing that it may not be an instant hit. Know that you're on the right path, and have faith that you're doing a great job. For daily lunchbox inspiration, be sure to follow us on Instagram or check out our School Lunch Gallery. This lunchbox features a favorite in my house: breakfast for lunch! It's got waffle with mini maple syrup, strawberries, broccoli, apples with sunflower seed butter to dip and chocolate chips for a sweet treat. 

Tips for Preschool Lunches

Getting out the door on school mornings with young kids can be tough. Believe me, I know - I have three kids of my own. While mornings can be hectic, packing lunch to send off with your little one doesn't have to be. Over the years, I've discovered some tips for packing lunches that help mornings run a lot more smoothly. I hope these work for you too because let's face it, having an extra few moments to enjoy that morning coffee can make all the difference in your day ahead. Feel free to let me know if this helps in your home - I love hearing from you! 

Packing lunch at night saves time in the morning.

Packing lunch at night saves time in the morning.

1. Pack lunches at night.
I'd scream this from the rooftops if I could. Packing lunches at night when the day is done is way more relaxing than doing it in the morning. When we're in the midst of dinner clean up, I take the extra 10 minutes to pack their lunches for the morning. Think about it: the kitchen is still a mess. The dishwasher hasn't been turned on. The timing couldn't be more perfect. 

Meal planning for kids.

Meal planning for kids.

2. Get input from your kids. 
Ponder this: you're at a restaurant thinking about what you're in the mood for and before you get a chance to order, the food is brought to you. It may be delicious, but it may not be what you wanted. This is what kids experience regularly - especially preschoolers. It's part of the deal of being a kid, with experienced, responsible adults doing the planning for you. I get that. I decide what my kids eat for dinner every night. But lunch is different. There are several reasons why I let my kids plan their own lunches. One of the big ones is that it makes them feel independent and in control of a small part of their school experience. The lunch room is a social place, and that begins the moment they start eating as a group. I want my kids to feel empowered there, and letting them use the LaLa Lunchbox app to have a voice in their food makes it easy for everyone. Here's an added bonus: it takes the guess work out of my job. After a long day of work and parenting, I simply don't have the creativity to magically come up with something each kid will enjoy. By letting the kids plan their foods in advance (from choices that I've approved and selected), I don't have to reinvent the lunch wheel night after night. Phew.

Simple lunches are best.

Simple lunches are best.

3. Keep it simple. 
There are unbelievably lovely lunches to peruse on Pinterest and Instagram. I love to look at those, but I also know that keeping things simple is my reality. Most of the time, our lunches are straightforward foods, simply packed into lunchboxes (here are my favorites). Look closely at this lunch: there's nothing fancy here. Those eggs are on a couple of lollipop sticks, and everything else is just plainly placed into tidy sections. You really don't need to bust out your cookie cutters and sharpen your knife skills to send your preschooler off with a lovely lunch. Need a little inspiration? Here you go

What are your strategies for packing lunches for your preschooler? Let us know by tagging @lalalunchbox on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram

 

 

My After School Snack Strategy

Some days, my kids are hangry wildebeests when they step off the bus. Other days they're jolly and just a little snacky. Sound familiar? Either way, I need to have food available that satisfies the hunger without ruining dinner.

When I was a little kid, after school meant cookies and milk or leftover rice with salt and butter. Then there was the phase when I regularly ate frozen microwaved burritos after school, but that's another story entirely. Sure, my kids get cookies from time to time but as a regular matter, I like having a solid, healthy plan for after school.  

IMG_1490.jpg

1. Be prepared. Prep extra fruit and veggies in advance and store in the fridge. I do this every week so that our meals come together more quickly, and by adding an extra few pieces of fruit and a couple of vegetables to that plan, I'm all set for after school. My kids have activities after school a couple days a week so prepped fruits and veggies really come in handy when there's not much time to get out the door.

Added bonus: get the kids involved and make it a family adventure. My almost 10 year  old loves to peel and cut; she's becoming super handy in the kitchen. 

snack platter

2. If you build it, they will come. Set out the fruit or veggies in advance so that it's the first option for kids. When my kids are hungry, they'll eat whatever is out. Getting it on the plate is a must, making it look pretty is optional. I usually arrange a snack platter at night while I'm packing lunches so that it's immediately available for them after school. 

Tip: Toothpicks and lollipop sticks have become my best friends - for after school snacking and lunch packing. 

after school snack options

3. Choose door A or B. Sometimes produce just isn't enough. I get that. I like to provide a finite list of options - typically two or three - so that the kids don't make a giant mess rummaging through the kitchen. Here are my favorite go-tos, all of which are delicious with fruits and veggies: 

  • popcorn
  • hummus with crackers
  • cheese with crackers
  • graham crackers with sunflower seed butter and fresh or dried fruit
  • animal crackers with yogurt
  • granola

What are your favorite after school snacks? 

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Packing Favorites for School Lunches

There's no shortage of suggestions out there for packing healthy lunches for the kiddos, but that doesn't make the task any easier. My kids often fall back on their favorites when choosing foods for their school lunch and below you'll see some of the foods they love to pick over and over.

You'll see that some seem like big lunches and some seem rather petite... that's just how it goes around here; some days are hungrier than others. In general, they like to choose a protein, at least one fruit, sometimes a vegetable and a usually also a snack. I make the effort to present the food in an appealing way, but look closely and you'll see that there's nothing particularly fancy going on in these lunches, and that's exactly how I like it. Life is busy and can be stressful; lunch shouldn't add to that burden. For more lunchbox ideas, check out what we're posting on Instagram or head over to our School Lunch Gallery, separated into categories for easy browsing. And of course, you can download LaLa Lunchbox to make planning and packing easier for the whole family. 

Cheese tortellini, green beans, grapefruit, raspberries, dark chocolate with mint.

Cheese tortellini, green beans, grapefruit, raspberries, dark chocolate with mint.

Breakfast for lunch! Waffles, mini maple syrup, egg, chicken apple sausages, apple, grapes. 

Breakfast for lunch! Waffles, mini maple syrup, egg, chicken apple sausages, apple, grapes. 

Ham and cheese sandwich kebabs, mango, apple, chocolate chips. 

Ham and cheese sandwich kebabs, mango, apple, chocolate chips. 

Yogurt with raspberries, egg, clementine, banana, granola. 

Yogurt with raspberries, egg, clementine, banana, granola. 

Banana and sunflower seed butter roll up, peas, blueberries, raspberries, orange, dark chocolate with pretzel. 

Banana and sunflower seed butter roll up, peas, blueberries, raspberries, orange, dark chocolate with pretzel. 

Roll ups with salami, salad, apple, celery and carrots, chocolate chips. 

Roll ups with salami, salad, apple, celery and carrots, chocolate chips. 

Hummus, chips, celery, kiwi, avocado and cocoa cookie.

Hummus, chips, celery, kiwi, avocado and cocoa cookie.

Cheese and crackers, strawberries, nectarine, pumpkin seeds, granola bar. 

Cheese and crackers, strawberries, nectarine, pumpkin seeds, granola bar. 

My Dinner Struggle

Let me just put this out there: My husband and I don't usually eat dinner with our kids. I grew up eating family dinner and the thought of sitting and chatting together around a table of deliciousness sounds fantastic, but I can't quite figure out when that's going to happen around here. Or how. But the problem is bigger than that. 

Timing
My kids are still young (9, 5 and 3) and they eat early, around 5:30 pm; my youngest is asleep before my husband gets home from work. The kids eat together and then later in the evening, my husband and I eat together. Having the opportunity to break bread as a twosome at the end of the day is lovely in many ways. That said, I'm naturally hungry much earlier than we eat so I don't particularly love eating dinner at 8:30 or later. I usually end up sitting down with the kids for a little nibble and then eat another small plate later. Far from ideal. 

kids at the table

Planning
Some nights I'm a rockstar and I make one meal for all of us, and serve part of it to the early birds and save the rest for the night owls. But each and every time, I stand in my kitchen wondering: do I leave this food out on the counter or the stove top for hours? Or do I refrigerate it? I never know the answer.
Despite the fact that I cook dinner for 5 people every day and have been doing this for years, I somehow haven't mastered the art of quantity. Sometimes I cook a meal that I think should be enough for all of us and one (or more) of the kids is hungrier than I'd anticipated so there isn't quite enough for the night owl dinner. On the flip side, occasionally I'll make a meal and my kids aren't as hungry as usual so there are way more leftovers than planned. Other times I'm in the mood for something that I know the kids won't enjoy so I end up cooking twice. That's when  I stand in my kitchen wondering how crazy I must be to make two separate dinners in one day (followed by packing three school lunches). 

I'm tired. 

Supplies
You'll find me in the grocery store about twice weekly -- it takes a lot of food to feed five people and my fridge isn't as big as I'd like. But let's be honest, I also enjoy browsing the aisles and discovering new products. Shopping more than once per week gives my kids more options to choose from to plan their lunches and I like to cook so it felt like a win until I realized that I'm feeling stretched too thin. 

double yolk

The Solution
Something had to give. I decided that any time there was an issue with dinner, eggs were the answer. If I make a dish that I'm pretty sure the kids won't like, I offer it anyway and when it's inevitably rejected, they get eggs (with veggies and fruit). If dinner is gobbled up more than expected, my husband and I have eggs (with veggies). Eggs are a great source of protein and vitamin B and also happen to be delicious! And the money spent on a dozen eggs goes a lot farther than many other proteins. So we're in an egg routine now. I've been buying jumbo eggs for a while now, mostly because of their size but also because finding a double yolk gives me an absolute thrill every single time. 

The Questions

  • I'd love to find dishes and straightforward recipes that can accommodate all of us. Do you make one meal for everyone in your family?
  • I don't know when I'll figure out a way for us to eat dinner together - for now, our family meal is breakfast. Do you eat together? If so, how old were your kids when you started that? 
  • It's pretty lucky that we all dig eggs. For me, it was important to have a fall back option so that I don't feel guilty or stressed out or resentful about dinner. What are your standbys? Do you have a source for recipes that you absolutely love? 

The Recipe
Eggs are so versatile. Here's one of my favorite recipes for Veggie Pie that every member of my family enjoys: 

greens

Ingredients
8 eggs (I use jumbos but large will work just fine)
1 pound of spinach, chopped
1 pound of asparagus, chopped
1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
2 scallions, chopped
1 teaspoon of salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
1 pie crust*
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil

*the pie crust is optional. I've made this dozens of times with no crust at all. 

Method (photos below)
Preheat the oven to 375. Prepare your pie crust as needed. I often use a ready-made dough which needs to be par-baked. Mix the greens, salt and pepper in a big bowl to evenly distribute all ingredients. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the greens. Sauté for just 2 minutes, when the greens begin to shrink. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Place greens back in your big bowl and add the eggs. Combine all ingredients and pour into your pie crust. Bake in the oven for approximately 35 minutes (time will vary depending on the depth of your container, so keep your eye on the oven). 

Chopped greens, all playing nicely together

Chopped greens, all playing nicely together

lightly sauteed greens

lightly sauteed greens

eggs + greens + crust = ready for the oven!

eggs + greens + crust = ready for the oven!

Veggie Pi(e)! 

Veggie Pi(e)! 

Food Conversations with Kids

A couple of years ago, my daughter and I embarked on a conversation about organic versus non-organic, hormones, antibiotics in the middle of the dairy aisle at the grocery store. She wanted to buy a yogurt that I had previously avoided because it was loaded with sugar and not made with organic milk. As she explained why she wanted to give it a try, I realized I had missed an opportunity to explain why we make certain food decisions in my house. (As an aside, I bought her that brightly colored, cartoon character-endorsed yogurt that day. I'm trying to raise flexible, open minded kids who have a voice in their food and as such, I have to model that.) 

chickens and eggs
cow

It's almost funny to have a conversation that touches on economics, politics, animals and the human body in the midst of grocery shopping but that's life. These moments present themselves at interesting times. At the time, I told my daughter that in our family we think that cows should be able to be cows. Chickens should be able to be chickens. Apples should be able to be apples, even if they aren't perfectly shiny and beautiful on the shelf. Animals and produce don't need anything extra to grow faster, bigger or more beautiful. My daughter was sad; why would a farmer give medicine to an animal that it didn't need? Tough questions. I answered as best I could. At the time, my goal was to let her know that while we would rather avoid antibiotics, hormones and pesticides, we can't do it 100% of the time and that's okay. I don't want my kids to be afraid of what they eat; I want them to be aware and to learn over time to make their own healthy decisions

chicken soup

Fast forward a couple of years. My son has been home this week with a fever that seems to have made itself comfortable here. Yesterday he kept me company in the kitchen as I made him some chicken soup. He saw the organic label on our chicken and said "Mama, why do non-organic animals get sprayed with chemicals?" 

Um, what? 

When it was clear that he thought meat was organic because the animals weren't sprayed with pesticides, I realized I had some explaining to do. Like so many things, it's going to take time. Just as I did with my older daughter a couple of years ago, I tried to convey the concepts of hormones and antibiotics and at the same time, let my little kiddo know that it's okay if we don't consume only organic meat, dairy and produce. Life is about balance and we can only do our best. Surely I should find ways to convey these complexities in a simple way... the topic will come up again when my third kid is a little older. But it's not simple. Feeding a family involves constant decision making, and those decisions may be affected by allergies, money, a change of season, the availability of ingredients or even taste preferences. The myriad of factors that influence why I buy organic strawberries but not organic bananas, and why we can't find organic lamb but we typically buy organic chicken are hard to explain to myself sometimes. It's understandably challenging to explain to my young kids. 

Do you talk to your kids about food choices? If so, how do you convey these topics in an understandable way? 

Winter 2015-2016 School Lunches

This time of year, there's a general feeling of UGH in the air when it comes to school lunch. Believe me, I feel it too. I pack lunches at night to save time and energy in the morning, and while it works well for us, there's still no magic fairy packing lunches for my 3 kiddos. If you're looking for a bit of inspiration to get you out of the winter school lunch blahs, look no further -- here are some of the lunches that have been fueling us through winter.  

For daily pics of our three lunches, head over to Instagram and for a look at even more options, check this out. These lunches have been chosen by my kids - and here's what's amazing: when you give kids the power and responsibility to choose, they really do rise to the occasion. Check out these lunches! If you're looking to simplify your lunch-packing life, here's what will make that a reality. Trust me on this. 

hummus with pita and carrots, apple, arugula with lemon and chocolate covered blueberries

Yogurt, "tuxedo banana," raspberries, broccoli and cookies

chicken, cucumbers, mango, golden berries and raspberries and a chocolate truffle

spinach and potato pierogies with sea salt yogurt for dipping, pea shoots, raspberries and dark chocolate

leftover pizza on a lollipop stick, raspberries, mango and chocolate covered blueberries

chicken sausage wrapped in puff pastry, mango, clementine, blueberries and cookies

black beans and brown rice, raspberries, golden berries, apple, green beans and cookies

breakfast for lunch: mini waffles and mini maple syrup, mango, yogurt and blueberries, peas and a cookie

egg, clementine, apple, green beans, rice cakes and cookies

eggs, broccoli, raspberries, coconut date roll, toast sticks, clementine, carrots and a mini no-bake (egg-free) chocolate chip cookie dough bar

banana sunbutter dog with jam, cara cara orange, broccoli, strawberries and homemade granola bar

ham, date, pea shoots, broccoli, blueberries and granola

pancakes, "tuxedo banana," carrots, strawberries and a brownie bite

macaroni and cheese, raspberry and carrot "wands," clementines, fig bars

leftover pasta with turkey meatballs, zucchini, peas and cookies

arugula salad, chicken cutlet, raspberries and brownie bites

cheese and crackers, carrots, blood orange, apple and a chocolate

salad with goat cheese, leftover pasta with tomato sauce, mango and a brownie bite

Looking for lunch containers for your school lunches? Check out our favorites