Halloween Lunches

The stretch up to Halloween is always an exciting one. Lunch is my favorite place to insert some Halloween magic, so today I'm sharing some of our Halloween-themed lunches to show you how you can make it fun in the days leading up to the holiday without making it all about sugar and candy. All you need are some well placed props! Check it out, and be sure to follow us on Instagram where we're posting our lunches daily:


Mini quiche, clementine pumpkins, banana ghost and some mini apples.  

Mini quiche, clementine pumpkins, banana ghost and some mini apples.  

Egg monster, veggies, apples with spider, yogurt with blueberries.  

Egg monster, veggies, apples with spider, yogurt with blueberries.  

Eyeball yogurt parfait, banana ghost, clementine pumpkin and baby carrots.  

Eyeball yogurt parfait, banana ghost, clementine pumpkin and baby carrots.  

Raspberry eyeballs! Plus salad, cheese and crackers and carrots.  

Raspberry eyeballs! Plus salad, cheese and crackers and carrots.  

Apple monster with sunflower seed teeth and eyeballs affixed with sunflower seed butter.  

Apple monster with sunflower seed teeth and eyeballs affixed with sunflower seed butter.  

My personal fave: pear ghosts with berries, yogurt with a candy finger and dried apple, spider egg, banana ghost.  

My personal fave: pear ghosts with berries, yogurt with a candy finger and dried apple, spider egg, banana ghost.  

Bake It Happen: Baking for Breast Cancer Research

Bake It Happen

My sister was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. I don't typically discuss personal family details on this blog, but I discovered a baking/fundraising for breast cancer research site called Bake it Happen (more on that below) and wanted to provide context for how and why I'm participating. As you can well imagine, the shock of a cancer diagnosis shook all of us at our core. Here's what I can tell you: 

  • Cancer is always awful, no matter how old the person is at the time of diagnosis, no matter the prognosis or the stage or the treatment. It has changed all of us. Permanently.
  • Chemo and radiation are terrible, but I wish that more was written about the journey that happens after treatment. My sister, her family and my family were in "go go go" mode during her treatment, and while that was helpful to get through it all, there is a storm of emotion that didn't begin to crop up until after all of the treatment had finished. Not to mention all of the post-treatment meds, the side effects, the check ups, the anxiety. 
  • People are wonderful. We are lucky; our family and friends came together to support my sister and her family last year in ways that I couldn't have predicted, and I am grateful in a way that I'm not yet able to fully articulate.

The good news is, my sister is now cancer free. 

Banana Chocolate Chip Loaf

During this journey, I discovered a site called Bake It Happen which helps raise awareness and money for breast cancer research. The program began out of a food blog called My Judy Foodie, named for a woman named Judy whose life was cut short from a long breast cancer struggle. I didn't know Judy, but I've read that she was a skilled cook and baker who spread her love through her meals. Her daughters, Shari and Stacy realized that they needed to spread the love of their mom's recipes in the name of cancer research. They hope to create a breast cancer baking fundraising movement to carry on their mom's culinary legacy and hope for a cure. For every person who bakes one of Judy's recipes and posts on social media, $5 will be donated to the Pink Pumpkin Patch Foundation for breast cancer research. The Pink Pumpkin Patch Foundation is a non-profit that raises money through proceeds from the sale of all natural pink pumpkins. The foundation works with participating pumpkin growers to promote and sell the pink skinned pumpkins, giving a percentage of their proceeds from each pumpkin sold to breast cancer research. Last year, efforts from the two organizations provided $20,000 for the cause. 

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

I'm committed to the cause and was happy to bake Judy's Banana Chocolate Chip Loaf and share my photos on social media (here, here and here). Want to sign up? Here's how. As an added incentive, your post (must be done by 10/31) enters you to win an iPad Mini and 100 Baked By Melissa Cupcakes. 

The Banana Chocolate Chip Loaf recipe made one loaf + 12 muffins! I was happy to bake these alongside my eldest child because it provided both the opportunity for us to talk about the importance of supporting worthy causes and a sweet and tasty way (literally) for us to reflect and find gratitude.  

Want to bake to support breast cancer research and get the recipes emailed to you? Right this way. 

6 Ingredient Carrot Squash Soup

I am struck by fall every year. 


Let's face it, the beauty of fall is complex and emotional, and perhaps that's part of it's allure. The whole notion of finding and appreciating such breathtaking beauty amid decay is complicated. The mood is such a departure from the carefree days of summer. 

farmers market squash

The food is also so different. Fall's harvest has such a different look and flavor profile from the bounty of produce that we pick in summer. Think of a delicate raspberry side by side with a hearty pumpkin. So when I stroll through the farmer's market and see long tables of squash and gourds, it officially hits me that summer is gone and it's time to usher in the new season. 

Nothing says fall like a thick soup made from root veggies, so that's exactly what I decided it was time to make recently. But I don't want fall soups that put me into a winter hibernation. We're not there yet. I don't want fall soups that are too heavy or creamy. They should provide comfort to take the slight edge off of the newly chilly air. They also need to be easy and fast, because let's face it: with back to school and curriculum night and new sports teams and the general chaos of a new school year, there just isn't time for anything complicated. Carrot squash soup to the rescue!

carrots for soup

This soup has just 6 ingredients, it can be prepped and served in under an hour and though I made the most recent batch with chicken stock, this recipe can be made completely vegetarian.

carrot squash soup

6 Ingredient Carrot Squash Soup

Here's what you'll need:  
2 pounds of carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 pound of butternut squash chunks (from one medium butternut squash, or from a package of already prepped chunks)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 tablespoons of olive oil
32 ounces of stock (chicken or vegetable) 
2 tablespoons of fresh sage, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional garnish: fresh sage and croutons

Here's what to do: 
In a soup pot on medium high heat, add the olive oil. After a few moments add the onions and reduce heat to medium. Stir until the onions are translucent, about 5-6 minutes. Add the carrots, squash and stock. Bring to a boil, stir, cover and simmer until the vegetables are soft (about 25 minutes). Add the sage. Using a stick blender, puree the soup right in the pot. If you don't have a stick blender, you can puree this soup using a traditional blender, working in batches. Add salt and pepper to taste if you'd like. 

Carrot Squash Soup

Gluten Free Chocolate Cake

I made four cakes for my daughter's 4th birthday party. Sounds a little extreme, I realize, but I had fun doing it, and wanted to be sure that everyone had cake. We had 12 kids and 20 adults. There were several allergies to accommodate - my daughter's cow dairy and strawberry allergy and a sweet friend's gluten, cow dairy and chicken egg allergy. Cake can absolutely still be delicious without any of those ingredients! 

I consulted Jenny Rosenstrach's new book How to Celebrate Everything and found her chocolate cake recipe and adapted for our needs. This was a hit! It's a deep, cocoa flavor with the right amount of sweetness. It's a two layer cake and I added blueberry jam in between the layers (hers calls for mint chocolate chip ice cream), plus a dairy free frosting and gluten free gummy bears on top. 

gluten free chocolate cake

Gluten Free Chocolate Layer Cake with Blueberry Jam
1 1/4 gluten free flour (I used King Arthur brand) 
2 cups of granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs (I used duck eggs to accommodate a chicken egg allergy)
3/4 cup room temperature of brewed, strong black coffee
1 cup of goat milk (original recipe calls for buttermilk, but I avoided cow dairy here)
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used avocado oil) 
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup blueberry jam

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9 inch springform pan with vegetable oil. Pour the goat milk into a bowl and add the lemon juice. Let this sit for about 10 minutes. The milk will look like it's a bit curdled - it's a great way to make your own buttermilk substitute! 
In a separate bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients. Add eggs, coffee, goat/lemon mixture, oil and vanilla and stir until everything is well combined. 
Pour into the pan and bake for approximately 35 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. 
Allow the cake to cool completely. Using a sharp, long knife, split the cake in half and use a plate to remove the top half from the bottom. Smear the bottom half with blueberry jam and place the top half back on. 

Dairy Free Blueberry Frosting
1 cup coconut yogurt (I used Anita's) 
5 tablespoons confectioners sugar
2/3 cup blueberry jam
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly. Be sure to keep refrigerated, as this is a thin frosting. Spread evenly on top of the cake. 

Gluten Free Wacky Cake

gluten free wacky cake

Wacky Cake has long been a favorite in my house. It's super easy to whip up when friends come over and you want something sweet. It's great for those occasions when you need a cake but don't have enough eggs or milk. Admittedly this has happened to me more often than I am comfortable with, but frankly, with the Wacky Cake recipe practically committed to memory, I don't stress about this anymore. 

It's been the cake of choice at some of our birthday parties too. This year, I've altered the recipe slightly to accommodate some allergies and it's still a no-fail dessert! 

Wacky cake ingredients for gluten free cake

Gluten Free Wacky Cake

1 1/2 cups gluten free flour (I prefer the King Arthur brand, but also tested a recipe with Enjoy Life brand) 
1 cup of granulated sugar
1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon of white vinegar
1 cup of water
6 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used avocado oil)
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 cup dairy free mini chocolate chips (optional. I used Enjoy Life brand)


Preheat the oven to 350. Mix all of the dry ingredients together and sift them to prevent the cocoa from getting clumpy. Add vinegar, water, oil and vanilla extract and stir until thoroughly combined.  Add chocolate chips. Line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper or grease with more of the vegetable oil. Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.