Homemade Sunbutter... Yes, please!

As I mentioned, I eat a lot of sunflower seeds and sun butter. I really love the organic unsweetened version of this brand of Sunbutter because there's just one ingredient: roasted sunflower seeds. I always have sun butter in my house because it's a fabulous nut alternative and when I'm hungry and need a quick snack, a spoon of it is just perfect. My kids love sun butter too, and it's a frequent lunch choice on a sandwich with fresh fruit slices or jam. I decided to try my hand at making my own sun butter.

It's harder than I thought it would be! I tried several times using raw sunflower seeds and adding oil instead of starting with roasted seeds and the result was pretty gummy and not at all smooth and creamy like I had hoped. Blah. Then I tried using maple syrup instead of honey but that didn't turn out well either. I finally got it right using roasted seeds and didn't need to add any extra oil. Victory! My successful recipe had just two ingredients: 1 cup of roasted, salted sunflower seeds and 1 tablespoon of honey. That's it! Next time I plan to eliminate the honey and use vanilla extract and cinnamon instead and see how that goes...  For any nut-allergic folks, be sure to read the label on roasted sunflower seeds to make sure they're not roasted with peanut oil.

1 cup of roasted sunflower seeds.   

1 cup of roasted sunflower seeds. 

 

First the seeds became dry and crumbly. It took patience and time to get to the next stage.  When you think it's time to give up, keep going! The oils take a while to be sufficiently released to produce the desired outcome. 

First the seeds became dry and crumbly. It took patience and time to get to the next stage.  When you think it's time to give up, keep going! The oils take a while to be sufficiently released to produce the desired outcome. 

Finally! After 7 minutes in the processor, the sunbutter began to resemble what I think of as sunbutter. Then I added 1 tablespoon of honey and pureed till smooth. 

Finally! After 7 minutes in the processor, the sunbutter began to resemble what I think of as sunbutter. Then I added 1 tablespoon of honey and pureed till smooth. 

Voila! Creamy and delicious. 

Voila! Creamy and delicious. 

Lunchtime! A great sandwich for a hot day. 

Lunchtime! A great sandwich for a hot day. 

Vacation and pre-camp breakfast

We are on vacation this week and the kiddos are going to camp at the Audubon Society. They'll spend their days on marsh hikes, exploring turtle shells and horseshoe crabs and talking about bats and other nocturnal creatures. 

It's a lot to take in! So this morning, the kids fueled up with whole wheat french toast, scrambled egg from the leftover french toast liquid, peaches and Applegate chicken apple breakfast sausage. 

Ready for the adventure ahead!

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100 Days of Push-Ups

100 days ago, I watched this video of a young girl who does push-ups for 100 days as a means to overcome bad feelings about her body (hat tip, Joanna Goddard) and was absolutely inspired. I watched it with my 8 year old daughter and 4 year old son. Several times. I showed it to my husband, my babysitter, my friends, my parents. I decided to give it a go myself. 

100 days is a long time, and yet for me with these push-ups, it flew by. Each day the alarm went off on my phone and somehow I found the time for push-ups. My kids cheered me on and always celebrated the final push up, dancing around and singing about having a strong mama. That alone is a powerful motivator. Admittedly, I have a shoulder problem so I did these push-ups on my knees but the work was challenging for me nonetheless. And 100 days later, I am absolutely proud to say that I'm stronger, I feel fantastic and though the work was grueling and tiresome at times, overall it was thoroughly enjoyable. 

100 days of push ups

I'm starting the next 100 days tomorrow! Will you join me? #giveit100

p.s. - how cute is that muscle-man Tattly?! 

 

 

Guide to Safe, Nut-Free Lunches

Last year, my son started a new preschool that my family loves. Their overall approach and philosophy are a super fit for my jolly little guy. Beyond that though, they have drawn thick lines in the sand on the issue of nut allergies and as a nut-allergic person myself, it is incredibly comforting. Thankfully, my son doesn't seem to have any food allergies but because of me and as a family, we're hyper aware of those who do. As we approach a new school year, I wanted to repost this guide to help those who need to pack nut-free lunches for whatever reason. 

I grew up at a time when it seemed no one had nut allergies, or allergies at all to things besides dogs or cats or ragweed. My parents had friends who said "send Gillian to our house. We'll teach her not to be allergic." Can you imagine?! Back then, there weren't organized communities of folks to rely on for product recommendations, allergist recommendations, latest news. So today, while the enormous increase in the number of children who suffer from food allergies is perplexing and terribly upsetting, I'm pleased to see people band together to become stronger, smarter, more informed. 

Below you'll find a guide to safe, nut-free lunches, largely based on a great, detailed list that I received from my son's school. A note about safe, nut free lunches: fresh, whole, unprocessed fruits and vegetables are always a great inclusion into any lunch. And always nut free! If you have product recommendations to add to this list, please add them to the comments below so that others can benefit too. Happy back-to-school season! 

Safe, Nut-Free Lunch #1

Safe, Nut-Free Lunch #1

Safe, Nut-Free Lunch #1

Cheese and crackers is always a fun lunch for kids, especially if you add variety with a couple of different cheeses and crackers. 

Here are some crackers that are produced in a facility that does not process nuts:
* Kavli Crispbread - 5 grain
* Back to Nature - Harvest Whole Wheats
* Carr's Whole Wheat Crackers
* Mary's Gone Crackers Original

Hummus produced in a nut-free facility:
* Sabra Hummus
* Tribe Hummus

Want to make your own? Try these:
* Hummus
* Black Bean Dip
* Carrot White Bean Dip

Pretzels made in a facility that does not process nuts:
* Happy Herbert's Pretzels
* Unique Pretzels
* Annie's Pretzel Bunnies

 

 Safe, Nut-Free Lunch #2

Safe, Nut-Free Lunch #2

Safe, Nut-Free Lunch #2

My kids love lunch on a stick. We like to use tongue depressors for our fruit and cheese kebabs.

Yogurts processed in a nut-free facility include:
* Stonyfield Farm yogurt
* So Delicious Vanilla coconut yogurt (dairy free)
* Chobani yogurt
* Fage yogurt

For popcorn kernels to pop at home (we're huge fans!) you can use Arrowhead Mills Organic Popcorn Kernels (also gluten free). 

 

 

 

Safe, Nut-Free Lunch #3 

Safe, Nut-Free Lunch #3

Safe, Nut-Free Lunch #3

We are big fans of sunbutter. It's not hard to make your own at home, as long as you can find sunflower seeds that are packaged in a nut-free facility and not roasted in peanut oil.  My son loves it either with jam or banana slices. You can pack sunbutter as a sandwich or a roll up (made with a tortilla). Sunbutter Sunflower Seed Spread is processed in a nut-free environment and is also gluten free. Cascadian Farm makes Spreadable Fruit, which is made in a nut-free facility. 

* Happy Herbert's* Unique Pretzels* Annie's Pretzel Bunnies

Breads made in a nut-free facility include: 
* Udi's Whole Wheat Bread
* Rudi's Multigrain Bread

Tortillas made in a nut-free facility include: 
* Rudi's Tortilla Wraps
* Alvarado St. Bread Tortillas

Cheese Sticks packaged in a nut-free facility include:
* Organic Valley Stringles
* Horizon String Cheese

Other nut-free facility lunch options: 

Homemade snacks: 
My favorite nut-free and dairy free granola bars, made with Enjoy Life Foods dairy free chocolate chunks
Oatmeal Banana Bars
Dairy Free Banana Bread made with Earth Balance

Graham crackers: 

* New Morning Organic Cinnamon or Honey Grahams
* Annie's Bunny Grahams
* Mi-del Honey Graham Crackers

Cereal:
* Kashi Cinnamon Harvest or Autumn Wheat
* Cascadian Farm Organic Cinnamon Raisin Granola or Maple Brown Sugar Granola
* Cheerios

Rice Cakes:
* Lundberg Organic Brown Rice Cakes or Organic Caramel Corn Rice Cakes or Cinnamon Rice Cakes

Fruit Snacks:
* Just Tomatoes etc. - Dried Fruits and Veggies (also gluten free)
* Little Ducks Organics - Tiny Fruits (also gluten free)  

 

 

 

Phew.

I'm going to put this right out there: my kids are blessed with good health. I was sick a lot as a kid and becoming a mom and being a mom has, at times, been frought with worry for me because of that. I am completely and utterly relieved that my kids have not had health issues like I experienced as a kid. 

So tonight when my son complained of a stomach ache, I suspected gas and went through my repertoire of gas-relieving techniques. When he was doubled over in pain and complaining of chest pain and wailing for 20 minutes though, I felt a bit of panic. I called the doctor. It was after regular business hours and so we were directed to the ER. The ER is never a place you want to go if you can avoid it and while my gut still felt this was some kind of bad case of gas, my heart panicked a little.  

Here's the bottom line: it was gas. My boy is totally fine.  

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He was feeling better before we even got to triage, thankfully. I'm sharing this story because I feel so incredibly fortunate, again, for the miracle and the delight of my kids and I'm also so grateful for the men and women who dedicate their lives to emergency medicine, and to my amazing babysitter who held down the fort at home with  my other two kiddos. The nurses and doctors at Cornell had my sweet little guy smiling and put my mind at ease almost immediately. Thank you, thank you. 

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Bad Mood!

I just picked up this book thanks to a suggestion from a wise friend (and fellow mom of three):

Big Rabbit's Bad Mood

We all get into bad moods sometimes, kids included. I love Big Rabbit's Bad Mood because it provides a playful, tangible way for children and families to address the topic. It's refreshing to read a book that doesn't try to paint the world as a place where we should all be happy and celebrate everything all of the time. Sometimes we have to try several different strategies to shake a bad mood and this book provided lovely conversational moments for my family about just that. Bonus: each page is more adorable than the last with illustrations rich with fun detail. Admittedly, there could have been more meat in the the ending (I won't spoil it here) but the best aspect of the book lies in the process that Rabbit goes through to think about and address his bad mood and for that, it's a thumbs up for me. 

If you have a chance to stop by your local library or bookstore, check this one out! It's going on my gift-giving list for the year ahead! 

Best Lunchbox List

The search is over.

The best-ever lunchbox list is right here. No kidding around. Today I’m posting a week of kid-lunches, plus the grocery list that you’ll need to make it all happen (enough to cover three kids). This list contains 5 days of balanced, varied lunches, 5 delicious, crowd-pleasing meals. If you have staples in your home already like honey and ground cinnamon, which I included on the list, the cost is $4 per day, per kid.  

This list comes directly from my own kiddos - this is pretty much the “most played” list from their LaLa Lunchboxes. The lunches listed here are nut-free.

I use a service called Instacart for my grocery shopping and I love it! I can get groceries delivered to my house in under two hours, from multiple stores which is a huge bonus for pretty much anyone who has a life, let alone kids and/or a job. Ever realized you’re out of something at an inopportune time? Or that you have to get items from more than one store but only have time for one? Enter Instacart. 

Without further ado, here’s a super week of kid meal planning and you can instantly access the grocery list that you'll need to make it happen on Instacart. Now all you have to do is let your little ones choose this stuff with the LaLa Lunchbox app, which you can download for free throughout the back to school season! Here's a sweet bonus: Instacart has offered LaLa Lunchbox fans $10 off groceries plus free delivery (for new customers). Awesome, right? The discount will be applied at checkout. (scroll down to the bottom to immediately access the Instacart grocery list, already compiled for you)

Monday
I used to make my own hummus before the big kitchen accident. For now, I’m still a little appliance-shy and I buy hummus. Both of my daughters love hummus and it's a healthful and easy go-to food for lunch. 

Tuesday

Years ago, our babysitter made these delightful strawberry-carrot combos. My daughter fondly called them ‘lollipops’ and the name stuck. Years later, the kids are still psyched to eat these. (scroll down to save the lollipops image to download to your LaLa Lunchbox Food Library). For sandwiches, I'm happy to pack Applegate products in my children's lunchboxes (and to feature them in our apps) thanks to their commitment to antibiotic free, chemical nitrate-free meats. 

Wednesday

My son might single handedly be keeping the yogurt industry alive. This granola is his new favorite yogurt-topper.

Thursday

The shopping list includes a basil plant. Why? Well, my daughter has a total green thumb. Our basil plant is lush thanks to her and as a brown thumb myself, I get huge joy out of this, not to mention big, fragrant basil leaves whenever I want them. It's good to grow your own herbs and for some lucky folks, it's easy. My daughter occasionally munches on the leaves, which I find hilarious so I figured I’d pass the basil plant happiness your way. If you've got more basil than you know how to deal with, freeze the chopped leaves with olive oil in an ice cube tray! (thank you, Pinterest)

Friday

Friday’s lunch pulls together all of the leftovers from the week. Make pasta Thursday night and use up that bell pepper and those baby carrots. Throw in some basil. Add lemon zest. Boom! Deliciousness. The recipe is right here, and you can download the image below and add it to your LaLa Lunchbox Food Library. If your hungry little monsters have gobbled up the pepper and/or the carrots, pasta with basil and lemon is fabulous too. 

 

Download the images below and add them to your LaLa Lunchbox Food Library! 

Granola

Granola

Lollipops

Lollipops

Basil

Basil

Pasta w Carrots and Peppers

Pasta w Carrots and Peppers

Want these items immediately added to your shopping cart and delivered in 2 hours or less? Voila, here's the Instacart list: 

Any other questions? Just shoot me an email: food@lalalunchbox.com, I’d love to hear from you!
-Gillian 


Pasta with Carrots and Peppers

I don't know about you, but by the time Friday rolls around, I've had it. These feelings hit me like a ton of bricks on Thursday night, at which point, I typically make an easy dinner in boatload quantities so that there's enough for lunch leftovers Friday. Usually there's pasta involved and it works beautifully (except with carbonara, which is gobbled before there are leftovers and is best when served immediately). 

Pasta with Carrots and Peppers

I've compiled the best lunchbox list: a week-long meal plan for kids' lunch, complete with the grocery list that you'll need to make it happen. Day 5 is a Pasta with Roasted Carrots and Peppers. The dish uses the remaining vegetable ingredients from the week of lunches and has a hint of lemon that makes it bright and tasty when served warm or cold. Admittedly, kids are game to try pretty much anything if it's mixed with pasta, which made it easier to throw in the unused veggies here. We've had this many times and though I've tried it with whole wheat pasta, the kids don't really like it. My son has pretty much declared a war against "brown pasta." Taste preferences vary and I'm okay with that and I'll be honest, by Thursday night, I can't fight it anyway. 

For this pasta, first I preheat the oven to 400 and slice the remaining carrots and peppers. I spread them out on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and drizzle with olive oil. 

After about 15 minutes in the oven, the carrots and peppers are done and can be set aside to cool. 

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Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil, add pasta and cook as directed. As the pasta is cooking, tear some fresh leaves off of your basil plant (basil is included in the Best Lunchbox List) and slice thinly. Drain the pasta once it has finished cooking and in a mixing bowl, drizzle with olive oil and salt to taste. Add zest from about 1/2 of a lemon, sliced basil and gently combine. Toss in your roasted veggies and there you go! Perfect for dinner and for lunch leftovers! 

I used Instacart to get the groceries I needed for this recipe. They were part of an entire week's worth of the best lunchbox foods for my kiddos. Here's a sneak peak into that grocery list... you can order and have your groceries delivered in 2 hours! Don't forget to use this coupon to get $10 off your first grocery order and free delivery! 

Here's the recipe made with whole wheat pasta

Here's the recipe made with whole wheat pasta

Pasta with Carrots and Peppers

Ingredients
2 cups of baby carrots, sliced lengthwise into quarters
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups of dry pasta
6 leaves of fresh basil, sliced thinly
Zest from 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Method
Preheat oven to 400. Place vegetables on parchment paper, drizzle with one tablespoon of olive oil and roast for approximately 15-18 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil for the pasta. Cook as directed and drain. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, basil and zest from 1/2 lemon and combine well. Toss in the roasted veggies and mix so that the flavors all play nicely together. Voila.