Our Halloween Candy Strategy

I have a sweet tooth. There used to be a time in my life when I ate a lot more candy than I do now (red swedish fish and peppermint patties were some of my favorites). I read this post by Sally of Real Mom Nutrition and like so many of her posts, I felt she was speaking my language. Once I began connecting the dots between how I felt and what I ate, my habits changed and so did my life. I still have a sweet tooth, and while I'll always have a soft spot for homemade chocolate chip cookies, I mainly stick to seriously dark chocolate these days. 

trick or treating

My kids eat something sweet pretty much every day. I'd love to sit on a high horse and say 'well, it's not junk,' but frankly, I think sugar is sugar. They get heaps of candy for Halloween from trick or treating and eat whatever they want that night. They leave about 10 pieces of candy under their pillow that night for the Candy Fairy, who replaces them with a small toy or book. After that, they can choose one per day until the stash runs out or until the holiday season, when Halloween candy gets dumped out. 

FARE teal pumpkin

This year, I've decided to forego buying Halloween candy and will be giving out glow-in-the-dark bracelets and glow in the dark fangs to trick-or-treaters. They're seasonally relevant and they don't contribute to the candy overload of the holiday. They're also safe for kids with allergies, and while I don't have a teal pumpkin, I will print out a photo of one and attach it to our door. 

What's your Halloween candy strategy? 

Make Your Own Applesauce!

Now that we have a billion apples, we eat applesauce with almost every meal. I've been using a dozen apples for each batch but that lasts just a day or two! The hardest part of this recipe? Waiting. Great applesauce takes a long time because you have to cook them slowly to yield the best flavor and texture. My family likes it chunky and with cinnamon. We don't add sugar or sweetener of any kind because the natural sugar from slow-cooking, caramelized apples is perfect as is. 

Here goes: 

Peel a dozen apples. 

peeled apples

Hmm... probably a good idea to peel an extra apple or two to accommodate hungry apple thieves in your kitchen!

apple thief!

Cut the apples into chunks and place in a pot. Smaller chunks will yield a smoother sauce. 

chopped apple

Add 1-2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon and the juice of 1/2 lemon. Stir well. 

apples cinnamon and lemon juice

Simmer and cook slowly for approximately 60-90 minutes (or longer!) until the consistency is to your liking. Want to add other fruit? Here's a great recipe for apple-mango sauce



Apple Picking & Apple Cinnamon Pancakes

apple picking 2014

We had our family's annual apple picking day yesterday - one of my favorite things to do in early fall. I hadn't realized until yesterday that in the 9 years that we've been doing this, we always go before Columbus Day weekend. Unfortunately for us, pretty much all of the apples on the trees at the orchard where we've been going for years had already been picked! They had giant bins with loads of different apples, separated by variety for latecomers like us. 

Frankly, October 12 doesn't seem particularly late in the season and this was a big disappointment for my adventurers who like to wield the heavy apple picker each year and carefully inspect their findings before adding them to our bag. Rather than go straight to the bins, my crew checked out what still remained on the trees and apple-picked the old fashioned way. When we exhausted our on-the-tree options, we headed for the bins.  

apple picking 2014
apple cinnamon pancake batter

For the next week or so, it'll be round-the-clock apples. This morning, we began the day with Apple Cinnamon Pancakes and there's enough batter left over for tomorrow morning. 

Apple Cinnamon Pancakes (makes enough for about 6-8 servings, depending on size)

1 cup plain kefir
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1 large egg
2 tablespoons coconut oil, plus more for frying pancakes (or use butter)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 large apple, shredded (I used a cheese grater) 

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well, making sure to eliminate flour lumps. Fry with coconut oil or butter and serve with fresh apple chunks for extra apple goodness! 

Apple Cinnamon Pancakes with apples

iOS 8 Bugs and Fixes

Agh! iOS 8 has caused some unexpected bugs in our apps, namely weird glitches with the Manage Food screens and with the grocery lists. Huge apologies from the LaLa Lunchbox team. We've fixed the problem on LaLa Breakfast, and that update is available. We are waiting for the release of the update for LaLa Lunchbox. It should be soon. 

Please bear with us and thanks in advance for yourOS 8

i understanding! 

If you'd like a set of LaLa Monster temporary tattoos as a token of our appreciation for your patience, please shoot us an email: help@lalalunchbox.com 

Thanks for being part of the LaLa family!


Dairy Free Dessert for a 2nd Birthday!

This little gal is 2 today! 

Two years ago!

Two years ago!

It's hard to know where the time goes. As parents, we marvel at this all the time. "Time flies," we say, as if it's just chatter. But milestone moments truly bring that issue to the table. Just yesterday, when she was born, my son was 2. My daughter was 6. And somehow two whole years have passed and this person, who was once just a thought, is running around the house with opinions about her clothing and deep affection for everything yellow and a penchant for gnawing on ribs. She's a stellar combination of determined and graceful and our little family is deeply grateful for her big belly laughs and her winning personality. Time flies because our lives are full. This is a good thing. 

The mid-week birthday is often thought of as challenging but in fact, I think it's a blessing. We celebrated my big 2 year old this past weekend with part of our family and we'll celebrate again tonight with others and we'll celebrate yet again this coming weekend! Three well-deserved celebrations for this jolly gal. 

She can't have cow dairy so we got creative with this classic vanilla cupcake recipe from cooking veteran Ronnie Fein and used goat milk in place of cow's milk and Earth Balance in place of butter. My little lady loved it. 

Today I'm making this 5 Minute Fudge Brownie recipe and have substituted coconut oil for butter. I'm certain it will be a winner. Not sure what to make for this coming weekend's celebration... suggestions gladly accepted! 

The Good Bean: Great Snacks Made with Chickpeas

The Good Bean roasted chickpea snacks

The Good Bean roasted chickpea snacks

I am always on the lookout for simple snacks that are tasty and nut free. As luck would have it, I recently received a delightful box containing several flavors of roasted chickpea snacks from The Good Bean for my family to taste.

In a word: Yum!

Good Bean Chocolate Flavor

My kids were thrilled to open the package and find seven different flavors to try: Sea Salt, Cracked Pepper, Smoky Chili & Lime, Mesquite BBQ, Thai Coconut, Chocolate and Sweet Cinnamon. These definitely satisfy the crunchy snack craving and they were filling too, thanks to fiber and protein. It was fun to see which flavors my kids were drawn to: my 8 year old loved the Smoky Chili & Lime best, my 4 year old loved the Chocolate flavor and my littlest one is pretty much equal opportunity but seems most fond of the Sea Salt flavor. These snacks are particularly wonderful for us because they are produced in a dedicated nut-free facility. My son's school is very strict on the issue, so it has become something that we pay close attention to.

We make our own roasted chickpeas at home from time to time but I would absolutely use these for an added layer of texture. My son specifically requested the Sweet Cinnamon flavor with his yogurt the other day. 

Fruit & No Nut Bar

The Good Bean also sent us some Fruit & No Nut Bars to try. These are not made in a dedicated nut-free facility but they follow Good Manufacturing Processes to address issues of cross-contamination. All 3 flavors are chewy and flavorful without that pasty-bean aftertaste. My favorite was the Apricot Coconut bar - earthy and sweet with a surprising hint of nuttiness, without nuts! Delicious.  

In short, thumbs up for The Good Bean! You can find out where to get them with their Store Locator.

*Full disclosure: these products were sent to me for free but I have not been paid to provide my opinion. We genuinely enjoyed these!

Why I Give My Kids a Voice in Their Lunch

I was never a PB&J kind of kid. When I was growing up, my mom never packed the same lunches for me that the other kids got. I was okay with that; I never liked bologna and cheese and it's not like she was sending me to school with a sprouted lentil loaf, if you know what I mean.

My favorite lunch as a kid that I can remember was cheese tortellini with a homemade vinaigrette. My mom usually packed an apple with it and some kind of snack, like pretzel rods. I *loved* this lunch. My friends thought it was interesting and cool, without being weird. And that's the thing... lunch is social. It's a delicate balance for a kid to find something that he or she enjoys eating and at the same time, feels confident about. Let's not pretend that kids aren't conscious of this dynamic; it's one of the big reasons behind lunch trades and wasted food. My daughter loves to eat certain foods at home but refuses to have them in her lunch. It's disappointing, but I can't fault her for this, because I remember the feeling. 

This is a big part of the reason why I'm happy to give my kids the opportunity to plan their own lunches. Allowing them to choose the foods they want to eat for lunch (within set parameters, of course) helps them not only to find their food voice, but also to discover new taste preferences. Seeing new options in a visually simple way enables kids to think about foods that aren't otherwise top of mind. My daughter is on a huge goat cheese kick now for this very reason. While they're thinking about what to pack, undoubtedly they are considering the social impact. Will it be too smelly? Too weird? Is it something I'll want to eat in front of my friends? If you think about your own brown bag lunch experiences as an adult, the same issues may come into play, but your dining companions (at work or otherwise) can likely hold their tongues if they don't like what you've brought. Ever been on an airplane next to someone who opens something that you find horrific? Ever decide not to bring something on an airplane because of the reactions of others? Then you'll know what I'm talking about. 

Some families I know operate on the "parents choose the what, kids choose the how much" philosophy. I completely get that. That's how we operate for dinner. But navigating the social dynamic of school can be challenging, even for the most confident kids. For that reason (and so many more), I'm happy to empower my kids to be part of the lunch planning process. They're excited to choose their lunches with LaLa Lunchbox on my phone (the app is free for the back to school season, btw) but it began as a paper-based project that my gal and I did together. There's no right answer of course. As with all parenting-related things, you have to find what feels right and even within the same family, some kids are more sensitive to these social issues than others. What works in your house? 

No matter how you and your family choose to pack lunches, we wish you the best of luck with the back-to-school season!