allergy friendly

Easy Pesto Pasta

Nut Free Pesto Pasta

Nut Free Pesto Pasta

Pesto has got to be one of the easiest, most delicious pasta ideas out there. Unfortunately for a nut-allergic person like me, pesto can be off limits much of the time. In an effort to enjoy pesto safely, I’ve developed a recipe that my whole family can safely enjoy!

There are no nuts or seeds, and it calls for both lemon juice and lemon zest to boost the brightness. The end result is a zesty, satisfying sauce that works deliciously on pasta (and chicken!) and packs beautifully in a lunchbox. With just 7 ingredients, this recipe comes together in the blink of an eye. I love it not only because it’s nut free but also because I can make a giant batch and freeze leftovers.

If you give this a try, drop a comment or tag me and let me know how it goes!

If you’re looking for more lunchbox ideas using pasta, I’ve got you covered.

Pesto ingredients

Pesto ingredients

Just 7 ingredients for this Pesto: fresh basil, garlic, olive oil, Parmesan, lemon juice, lemon zest, nutmeg and salt (with an 8th optional ingredient: fresh cracked pepper). My family loves this with pepper, but they actually prefer to put the pepper on themselves, so I usually leave it out of the recipe.

Pesto made in the food processor

Pesto made in the food processor

Place all ingredients into a food processor and this comes together in minutes!

Nut free pesto

Nut free pesto

Ready in minutes, bursting with flavor - this recipe is a winner! Just add this to already cooked pasta and you’re done!



Pesto Pasta

1 packed cup fresh basil 
1 small garlic clove
1/3 - 1/2 cup olive oil 
1/4 cup Parmesan 
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest 
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste. 

Place the basil, garlic, 1/3 cup of olive oil and Parmesan into the food processor and process until the basil leaves have begun to break down. Add the lemon juice, zest, nutmeg, salt (start with a 1/4 teaspoon) and pepper. Process to desired consistency, and add oil as needed. 

You can freeze leftovers for up to 2 months.

Nut Free Lunchbox Ideas

If your child’s school has a no nut policy, or if you’re navigating tree nut or peanut allergies, this one is for you!

My home is always nut free because of my allergies, and here’s a roundup of some of my favorite no-nut lunches. You’ll see that some of these lunchboxes have sunflower seed butter. We usually use a store bought variety for that, but I’ve also made my own. Patience is key with that, but the reward is great.

Don’t forget that the LaLa Lunchbox app has a special Nut Free Bundle available for download to provide you with some lunch packing inspiration. Let’s get to it…

Nut free granola, grapes, carrots, banana, dates with sunflower seed butter

Nut free granola, grapes, carrots, banana, dates with sunflower seed butter

There’s a lot to love about this lunchbox.

It’s got my favorite homemade granola - which is usually hard to find without nuts. If you’re nut free, trust me, you’re going to want this recipe. It’s perfect for snacking, breakfast or lunch, filled with a variety of wonderful textures and flavors, with exactly the right sweet/salt balance.

Here we’ve also got carrots, grapes, a tuxedo banana, a couple of strawberries and some dates filled with sunflower seed butter. I eat that regularly as a hearty, delicious snack and it always hits the spot.

Lunchbox with prosciutto, peppers, grapefruit, pomegranate, dates with sunflower seed butter and chocolate chips.

Lunchbox with prosciutto, peppers, grapefruit, pomegranate, dates with sunflower seed butter and chocolate chips.

I like to think about this lunchbox as a cold busting-lunchbox. Here we’ve got vitamin C from both the citrus and the peppers, with fiber and magnesium from the dates, protein from the sunflower seed butter, and vitamins B and C from the pomegranate. 💪🏻 As for that prosciutto and the chocolate chips? Well, that’s for added deliciousness. 

In the lunchbox: Turkey BLT with guacamole and peppers, grapes and orange.

In the lunchbox: Turkey BLT with guacamole and peppers, grapes and orange.

How about a turkey BLT for that lunchbox? We make ours with mustard instead of mayo, but you can customize yours however you’d like! The key is to toast the bread first, so that this sandwich stays crispy for lunchtime. This lunchbox features turkey bacon, but any bacon will do. My tomato-hating kid gets a BL sandwich with no T, occasionally with a scrambled egg. Make sure not to place the lettuce next to your condiment, or you’ll end up with limp soggy lettuce!

In the lunchbox: pizza rollups, banana with chocolate chips, cucumber and baby carrots, strawberries.

In the lunchbox: pizza rollups, banana with chocolate chips, cucumber and baby carrots, strawberries.

Here’s a lunchbox that is sure to make the kids smile. These pizza rollups are made with naan, but you can make them with any bread. Here’s how:
Spread marinara sauce on top of the bread. Add shredded mozzarella and fresh basil and place under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese has melted. When cool enough to touch, roll the bread up, and slice to make these bite sized roll ups. The process is very similar to rolling sushi. Want a tutorial? Right this way.

To make that spotted banana, use the pointy tip of a chocolate chip and spear into the banana.

Grilled cheese wafflewich in the lunchbox with strawberries, grapes, tomatoes, cucumber and chocolate.

Grilled cheese wafflewich in the lunchbox with strawberries, grapes, tomatoes, cucumber and chocolate.

When I made grilled cheese wafflewiches for the first time, my kids celebrated! What a fun mash up of breakfast and lunch! They're easy to eat, delicious and my kids dig them hot and melty, or cold from the fridge. It’s a serious win in my book! Hop on over to find that recipe, and be sure to stash some in the freezer!

Nut Free Carrot Cake

Contrary to the last several posts, this blog is not becoming a dessert blog! 

nut free carrot cake

But sometimes there's a lot to celebrate, and that's a good thing. We love to celebrate the first day of school with cake, and each year my kids choose what kind of cake they'd like. Normally there's a fair amount of bickering that goes into that, but this year, the kids settled on carrot cake pretty quickly! 

nut free carrot cake ingredients

Carrot cake is rarely something that we have, because it's usually loaded with walnuts, and I'm deathly allergic. So in order to eat carrot cake, it has to be homemade. I have a vegan recipe that I've been using for years, but I I began tinkering with the recipe when the mood struck for carrot cake but I didn't have all of the ingredients on hand.

The end result is still a nut free delicious cake, with subtle carrot flavor and lots of flavor companionship from cinnamon and allspice. But this recipe is moist and rich thanks to buttermilk, and there was absolutely no need to even add egg to it! What I also love about this cake is that it's decadent, the way a cake should be (it is dessert, after all!) but the added sugar isn't through the roof. The entire cake has 1/3 cup, which equals 16 teaspoons. We usually cut this cake into 15 pieces, so the amount of sugar per slice is just about one teaspoon. 

nut free carrot cake mixing

Anyway, sugar calculations aside, dessert is dessert. And while I wouldn't try to pass this off as breakfast, it didn't leave me with that overwhelming cloyingly sweet sensation, which I greatly appreciate. This was absolutely perfect for our back to school celebration! 

Nut Free Carrot Cake

nut free carrot cake decorated and frosted

3 cups of grated carrots
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup grapeseed oil or neutral oil
2 1/4 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon, plus extra for dusting the top
1 teaspoon allspice

1. Preheat the oven to 350. 
2. Grease a 9x13 inch rectangular pan and line it with parchment paper.
3. In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and allspice. 
4. In a separate bowl, thoroughly combine the carrots, sugar, vanilla, buttermilk and oil. 
5. Gently fold in the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients. 
6. Spoon the batter into the cake pan.
7. Bake for approximately 32-35 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
8. Once cool, spread with cream cheese frosting (recipe below) on top and dust with cinnamon (optional) or decorate as you'd like. 

*this recipe makes one 9x13 cake

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 ounces of cream cheese (softened) 
4 tablespoons of unsalted butter (softened)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar (sifted)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger

Combine cream cheese and butter and vanilla extract in a bowl and mix with either a hand mixer or a standing mixer. If the cream cheese and butter are soft enough (note: do not melt them!) you can do this by hand. 
Slowly add the confectioners sugar. It's much better sifted, as confectioners sugar tends to have lumps, but that said, sifting is annoying and time consuming, so I get that you'll want to skip that part. And that's okay. Make sure then, that you continue to beat until all lumps are gone. Add the cinnamon and ground ginger and thoroughly combine. 
Spread on the carrot cake once cooled.  

* you may have extra frosting... save it! You never know when it could come in handy!

nut free carrot cake

If you make this recipe, let me know! Share your creation on Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest and tag @lalalunchbox #lalalunchbox 

Back to School Lunch Packing Tips


September kicks my butt every year. And though every August I try to will it away and tell myself that this year will be different, it never seems to work out that way. 

The fact is, everything is a struggle in September. It stinks to get back into a routine, and it's hard work to figure out who has to be where and when on which day. On my crankiest days, I even have a problem adjusting to the weather change — and I love fall. 

Its underatandable, then, that just a month or so into a new school year, parents are already over packing school lunch.

Listen, I'm totally with you. I'm over here trying to get my work done, showing up for curriculum night, returning long overdue library books and remembering to buy sneakers in the right size for each kid (how on earth do feet grow so quickly in summer?!). I might have three brain cells left to dedicate to lunch packing. 

I definitely don't have all of the answers, but I have some tips up my sleeve to share with you, and I promise, they don't require more than three brain cells to process.  If you're looking for some lunchbox inspiration, head over to Instagram, where I share loads of lunches regularly. If you're looking for allergy friendly ideas, I've got you covered

Produce Prep

1. Cut your fruit and veggies in advance. Just do it. If setting aside the time is hard, I understand. It's probably not the best thing to do on, say, a Monday morning before school and work. How about at some point on the weekend though? Buy your produce during the week and set up shop with your cutting board and your knife for 20 minutes on the weekend. Your future self will be incredibly grateful. I love produce prep not only because it makes my lunchpacking and cooking easier, but also because it's quiet solo time for me. I take it where I can get it, so I'm calling it a win-win. 

Packed Lunch

2. Stop reinventing the wheel. You really don't need to come up with something new and interesting for lunch all the time. Your kids can do all of that heavy lifting for you. If it's a busy week ahead for me, I let my kids know what's available for them to choose based on what I know I'll have time to pack. Sometimes that's yogurt, fruit, veggies and frozen waffles. Sometimes it's more elaborate. My kids use the LaLa Lunchbox app, but however you hand over the reigns to your brood, make it a system that works for you. 

Using LaLa Lunchbox

3. Meal Plan. The LaLa Lunchbox meal planning app is the only one that involves kids in the process of choosing what's for lunch. It's a fun, simple and interactive platform that engages kids, empowering them to make better choices when it comes to the food they eat. For parents, it generates an easy-to-use grocery list to help them stay organized and on top of their lunch game. The best part is, it's free to download (only available right now on iOS). Give it a try and let me know what you think! 

School lunch can be challenging, but we're in this together. However you handle it at your house, I'm wishing you the best.  

Top Allergy Safe Lunch #12

Top 8 Safe 12

Who says BLTs require bread?! Not us. These bunless BLTs are a fun DIY for kids, who can wrap their bacon and tomato slices inside of lettuce! If you're looking for a bit of a crunch to go along with that, some gluten free corn chips do the trick. This lunch is fun to eat, and fun at lunch is important! Here we've also got kiwi, raspberries, mango and some dairy free chocolate chips.