Camp Lunches

Summer is in full swing here and I've been enjoying the glorious sunny days, feasting on farmer's market gems and generally trying to slow down and smell the roses. 

In the meantime, I'm still packing lunches daily. If you missed our post about making summer lunches easier, have no fear, here you go. The kids are still picking their foods with the LaLa Lunchbox app, (FREE to download!) making my busy life easier, and we're incorporating loads of delicious summer produce. We post daily pics on Instagram, so go ahead and check that out for some fresh ideas every day. If you're here looking for a little inspiration, take a peek below at some of the recent camp lunches: 

hummus with celery, cukes and radishes, black olives, turkey jerky, crackers, coconut chips, cherries and fig

hummus with celery, cukes and radishes, black olives, turkey jerky, crackers, coconut chips, cherries and fig

mango and cherries, wafflewiches with sunflower seed butter, raspberries, yogurt and cereal, green beans and a thumbprint cookie

mango and cherries, wafflewiches with sunflower seed butter, raspberries, yogurt and cereal, green beans and a thumbprint cookie

eggs, wax beans, cherries, apricot, raspberries, strawberries, kiwi and chocolate chips

eggs, wax beans, cherries, apricot, raspberries, strawberries, kiwi and chocolate chips

Leftover chicken drumettes, cherries, watermelon with mint, salad, sunflower seed cookies

Leftover chicken drumettes, cherries, watermelon with mint, salad, sunflower seed cookies

tortellini, plum, nectarine, blueberries, leftover corn and a brownie bite

tortellini, plum, nectarine, blueberries, leftover corn and a brownie bite

Want more camp lunch inspiration? Right this way... 

Tips for Easy Summer Lunches

The weather is warm, the sun is shining for longer, and people everywhere are outside with smiles on their faces. I love you, summer! Whether your kiddos are headed to camp this summer or they'll be enjoying unstructured days, they'll still need to eat lunch. Every day. Look, I realize it can be stressful to continue to pack lunches in the summer after school has ended. I'm right in the trenches with you. Below are some tips to make that task slightly easier so you can kick back with that glass of wine and listen to the crickets. 

1. Produce is your best friend. 
My kids tend to choose more produce-heavy lunches in the summer, probably because summer produce is so ridiculously delicious (I'm looking at you, nectarines, plums, watermelon, melon, strawberries, cukes and green beans!). Lunches that showcase the colorful bounty of the summer are a treat for the eyes, the mouth and the stomach. So don't sweat it if you don't want to pack some elaborate lunch. Let the fruits and veggies do the heavy lifting for you. Plus, have you read this post about how many fruits and veggies your kids should eat every day? Eye opening. 

produce lunch

2. Prep fruits and veggies ahead of time. 
Adding lots of fruits and veggies to your kid's lunchbox is a hundred times easier if they're sliced, cut, peeled and ready to go ahead of time. Pick a day, set aside 30 minutes and get friendly with your cutting board and your favorite knife. Trust me, you won't regret this. The lunch below took all of five minutes to throw together because I had already sliced everything except the salami. 

summer lunch 1

3. Be adventure-ready! 
Some kids love unstructured time but some kids need their days to be more carefully planned. Whichever category your kids fall into, having a lunch that's already packed will make getting out the door much smoother. Best way to do this? Pack lunches at night. Whether your kids are choosing their own lunches or you're the one deciding what they'll eat, lunch packing goes much better with wine than it does with coffee. Plus, if you're packing leftovers, doing it at night makes sense, right? 

lunch 3

4. Don't forget breakfast! 
Who doesn't love breakfast for lunch? Whether it's waffles, crepes, eggs or a yogurt parfait, there are loads of foods that are delicious and fun for breakfast AND lunch. Below are three examples of brunchy lunches that my kids love. 

brunch lunch 1
brunchy lunch 2
brunchy lunch 3

Whatever you pack, be sure to include an ice pack to keep lunch contents safe and cool for the day, as well as a big container of water to keep kids well hydrated. 

For daily lunch inspiration, be sure to follow us on Instagram. Happy lunching! 

You might also like: 
Strategies to Get More Veggies in That Lunchbox
Lunchbox Favorites
Meal and Snack Planning at Your Fingertips

Corn Soup

image courtesy of organicfacts.net

image courtesy of organicfacts.net

While it doesn't feel like summer yet, I'm dreaming of blue skies, warm weather and a hallmark of the season: fresh corn. In preparation, I've created a recipe for an easy Corn Soup that you can enjoy during any season, but one that will taste utterly fantastic with the freshly hulled ears of summer. This version serves 4-6 and is vegan, but you can make substitutions (noted below). 

Here's what you'll need:
• 2 tablespoons of olive oil
• 1 medium white onion, chopped
• 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
• 2 white fleshed sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3 inch chunks
• 2 cups vegetable broth (you can use chicken broth too)
• 1 cup coconut milk (I used full fat. You can use cow's milk too) 
• 3 cups of corn kernels (I used frozen corn for this, but come summer, I'm going fresh all the way) 
• juice of one lime plus 1/2 teaspoon of lime zest
• 1 scallion, chopped (green parts only, for garnish)
• 2 teaspoons smoked paprika (garnish) 
• salt and pepper to taste

corn soup

Here's how: 
1. In a soup pot, heat the oil to medium high and add the chopped onion and garlic. Sauté for about 5-6 minutes.
2. Add sweet potato, broth and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer.
3. After about 5 minutes, add the corn but reserve about a half cup of the kernels for garnish.  
4. Stir, cover and let this cook until the potatoes are soft (but not mushy). Should be approximately 20-25 minutes.  
5. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking.
6. Purée with a stick blender, but leave some chunks for texture.
7. Add lime zest and juice and stir to combine.
8. Garnish with scallions, smoked paprika and corn. 

Enjoy! 

Corn Soup

Lunchbox Homestretch

Every year at this time I am struck by the same feeling: how on earth did it get to be the end of school already? Wasn't it just January?! 

Here in New York City, it doesn't feel like summer is around the corner, but sure enough, my kids only have four weeks of school left. Come September, I'll have a middle schooler, a second grader and a kindergartener! Time is whizzing by. 

With school events, graduations and other ceremonies on top of the every day work and life, parents often find themselves crazed this time of year. I'm feeling that too. While we may be running low on gas because we're pulled in a million directions, it's important to keep lunches healthy for our kids.

Whether you plan and pack those lunches by yourself or you use the LaLa Lunchbox app (free to download), I've started a Lunchbox Homestretch party on Instagram and created a special hashtag as a way to organize ideas and inspire lunch packers. The hashtag is #lunchboxhomestretch and together with some pretty amazing lunch packers from around the globe, we are creating a library of ideas to power you through the end of the year. You can check back on that hashtag whenever you need lunch inspiration.

So go ahead and follow along on Instagram, where I'll be reposting from that arsenal regularly in the coming weeks. I've reposted some of them here to give you a feel for what you can expect. A healthy midday meal will power your kids through the day. You're in the homestretch, parents! Congratulations and keep on trucking! 

Allergy Friendly Meals

I had the honor of doing a takeover for @theallergychef on Instagram recently. I marvel at Kathlena; she runs an allergy friendly bakery and hosts weekly livestreaming cooking demos, but she's allergic to most of the food that she creates and has to wear a mask to handle the fumes. In fact, she's allergic to about 200 things but has dedicated her life to helping others in the allergy community who struggle with what to eat. Incredibly admirable. Beyond all of this though, Kathlena is one of the nicest people I have met. 

For my takeover, I shared ideas for breakfast, lunch, after school snacks and dinner.  If you're looking for more allergy friendly ideas, be sure to follow Kathlena on Instagram and check out more from her here, here and here. I recently did a series about Top 8 Allergy Safe Lunches - with a dozen different lunchbox ideas - and you can find that right here

Without further ado, here's a recap of that takeover with some additional information that might be handy: 

Breakfast.

Banana Oatmeal Bars with Dried Blueberries

Banana Oatmeal Bars with Dried Blueberries

Two things about this breakfast: 
1. It's super easy to make. My kids can make this without an adult and call me in to put it in and take it out of the oven. That's how easy it is. Seriously. 
2. It's ridiculously delicious, as well as filling and healthful. Find the recipe here

Two more things I want you to know about this breakfast: 
1. I've added açaí powder to the recipe (as well as dried blueberries). I'm allergic to fish and walnuts, both of which are rich in omega 3s. I do try and put flax into things when I remember but I definitely don't have a reliably steady source of omega 3s. Açaí is an antioxidant that also contains omega 3s, so I like to to add it where I can.
2. Did you know that non organic strawberries may contain fish DNA? I'm not going to get into the topic of GMOs here but for the sake of allergies, I think it's important to pass this information on. Some strawberry crops are genetically engineered with fish DNA to prevent the fruit from frost damage. I was unable to find any information as to whether this genetic modification had any implications for fish allergies. I'm guessing that it doesn't, but honestly, I don't know. I would guess that the anti-freezing trait is passed on with no other part of the fish DNA but I'm not a scientist and I'm not sure. Read more here


Lunch. 

Below are two lunches that are Top 8 Free. They're simple, easy and fun to eat, loaded with colorful, healthful foods and most importantly, safe for allergic kids. 

Top 8 Free pancakes on a stick

Breakfast for lunch + food on a stick = a super fun, delicious lunch! Here we've got some oatmeal pancakes, free of egg, dairy, soy, gluten and nuts (as well as the other top 8 foods) and you can find the easy recipe right here

top 8 free leftovers

This Top 8 Free lunch has leftover roasted chicken wings, hummus and veggies for dipping (I like Ithaka brand because it's free of soy), plus fruit and a carrot cake cookie, made with this recipe. Substitute flax eggs for the eggs and you're set for a delicious top 8 yummy treat! 


Dinner. 

top 8 free meatballs

I make meatballs fairly often. It's one of those dishes that all five of us enjoy, and leftovers are great for lunchboxes so they're kind of perfect. I love that I can switch up meatballs just by varying the meat and the size. But recently I went on a hunt to find a meatless meatball -- and not just any meatless meatball, I wanted a top 8 free meatless meatball. Tall order! 

Confession: I tried 6 different recipes and some of them were such flops that my kids took one bite and almost staged a coup! Then I came upon this recipe and it was a success. Actually, it wasn't a success the first time, and that's because I used regular green lentils, not french green lentils. I can tell you with 100% certainty - it makes a HUGE difference. Serve these beauties with your fave gluten free pasta (my family likes the ones made from corn and quinoa) and some veggies and you're in business. 

Do you have favorite top 8 free recipes that you love? I'd love to hear about them so please share!

Be sure to follow us on Instagram for more meal inspiration and follow along with The Allergy Chef for some amazing allergy friendly recipes, ideas and products. Plus - a huge bonus: she hosts a livestream cooking demo every Monday. You won't want to miss that.