back to school

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 

Our Favorite Lunchboxes

When I was a kid, my mom sent us off to school with lunch packed in brown bags. Between the weight of the apple and the constant shuffling of stuff against the bag in my backpack, sandwiches never stood a chance. It was a good day when the cookie wasn't crumbled. The earth shifted on the day that my mom decided to pack tortellini for me in a plastic container. 

PlanetBox Rover

PlanetBox Rover

Today's kids are so much luckier. There's no shortage of amazing lunchbox options out there and thankfully, they don't necessarily involve smushed sandwiches or bruised fruit.

We have six lunchboxes that we have been happily relying on for the last several years (PlanetBoxYumbox, Lunch Buddy OfficialOmiebox, Monbento and Lunchbots)  

Planetbox Launch

Planetbox Launch

Each option has pros and cons. I love that the PlanetBox is stainless steel with perfectly sized compartments and a small area for a treat (available in the Rover). We have the carrying bag that has a perfect space for a bus snack and a water bottle. The PlanetBox is expensive, but we've been using ours for over 5 years without any issues so I view it as an investment. There are also stainless steel containers that fit inside so you can pack liquids or things like yogurt and not worry about leakage. We have the Shuttle, the Rover, and the Launch which all fit a great amount of food for lunch. The Launch fits a ton of food - it's great for growth spurts! 



We have two versions of the Yumbox – one with three compartments and one with five. Both are easy to open, a great size and leakproof so I can pack things like hummus without concern that it'll be all over the apple slices. I wish it were easier to clean the skinny grooves on the underside of the tray, but these boxes have been in our arsenal for years and are still going strong. 

Lunch Buddy Official 3-in-1

Lunch Buddy Official 3-in-1

Thanks to our friends at Kivanta, we now have a great new Lunch Buddy Official lunchbox. It has been a wonderful new addition to our lunchbox collection!

This is a stainless steel 3-in-1 two tiered box (second tier not shown here). You don't need to use both levels every time, so it's got built in flexibility for lunch packers. It's easy to clean and I love the simple design, but if you're outside of the EU (like I am), this might be pricey to ship. 



The Omiebox has a neat design that makes it possible to pack both hot and cold foods for school. Score! Here's a tip to keep hot foods hot: fill the thermos part with boiling water and let it sit for one minute. Pour out the water and fill with hot food. That'll extend the amount of time that hot food stays hot. Similarly, pop the thermos into the freezer for a few minutes before filling it with cold food (like yogurt). This box is heavier than other lunchboxes and the top of the thermos is sometimes a challenge for my kids to open, but their teachers have been helpful in those situations. 



The Monbento is my oldest child's favorite box. She likes that it has two tiers, and says that it feels like a lunchbox designed for older kids. I like that it makes her happy! The box is plastic and comes in many colors. You can pack just one layer or two, and I like having that flexibility. This box also fits in a wide range of insulated lunch bags. I use silicone cupcake liners to separate items in this box. My favorite part about this Monbento is that it is super easy to clean. Really, you can't go wrong with that. p.s. here's the link to that cute panda salad dressing container.



The Lunchbots container is great because it's compact and fits into a variety of lunch bags. It's also super easy to clean and fits a surprisingly large amount of food. I wish that it were leakproof and I wish that the top had a sturdy clasp to stay put, but we have had no problem keeping it closed with a rubber band.

Lunch quantity sometimes is a difficult thing... there are days that my kids are super hungry and days that they seem to exist on fumes.  It's comforting to know that some of these boxes have room to accommodate an extra large lunch, for those days when the lunches that my kids pick in advance are on the large side. 

While there's never a shortage of information out there about what to pack, it's also fun to think about where to pack lunch. Check out more of our favorite lunch accessories here. For lunch packing ideas and inspiration, be sure to check out our Instagram where we post daily pics. 


* note: This page contains affiliate links. While I am not paid to provide these reviews, I will receive a tiny commission if you make purchases from here. These purchases will help to keep this blog going, so thank you in advance! 

Back To School Lunches

So here we are at the end of September. I don't know about you, but for me, September is always a nightmare. Here's something that I hear all the time: "the kids are back to school, we're getting into a routine, things feel a little easier but omg. I can't believe I have to pack lunches" 

Yeah, I get it. Lunches don't pack themselves, and it can feel like a chore. I designed the LaLa Lunchbox app to make that chore easier for parents (more about that here) but I also understand that some parents don't want to get kids involved in the lunch packing process. Handing over the reins doesn't mean you let your kid choose from everything under the sun. With the app, there's still division of responsibility; parents control what's available and kids choose from that selection. But of course, there isn't one way to pack school lunch and the world is big enough for all of us. 

Over on The feedfeed, I'm curating the school lunch feed designed to inspire all types of lunch packers. Below is a little sneak peak of what's new there... Hop on over, check it out and share with your fellow lunch packers! We're all in this together. 

Don't forget to follow along on Instagram where I share lunches and other food adventures daily. 

Leftover Pancakes

Leftover Pancakes

Antipasto from @happykidlunches

Antipasto from @happykidlunches

Deconstructed Taco from @onmykidsplate

Deconstructed Taco from @onmykidsplate

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.  

Pancake Egg Muffins

With summer quickly drawing to a close, the back to school season is looming large in my head. This year, my kids are in three different schools, and my eldest has leave the house by 7:00! The logistics are pretty daunting. 

pancake egg muffins.jpg

I contemplated the situation over a leisurely cup of coffee recently and considered two things that my kids love: muffins and eggs. Then it hit me... what if I combined the two? With pancake batter! Perhaps this could help the morning madness? 


After several attempts, I've perfected the recipe and I'm so excited to share it with you. If you make the pancake batter in advance (it will keep for several days in the fridge), these are ready in 20 minutes. That's usually how long it takes for my kids to finally get around to finding their socks! Pancake egg muffins are delicious and fun to eat, and on those mornings when things feel even more crazed than usual, an out-of-the-ordinary breakfast can lighten the anxiety in the house. Bonus: they're perfect for the lunchbox! 

Heres what you need: pancake batter (recipe below), eggs and a muffin tin.


For the pancakes:

  1. 1 cup flour

  2. 1/2 cup oat flour

  3. 1 teaspoon baking powder

  4. 1 teaspoon baking soda

  5. 1/2 teaspoon salt

  6. 2 large eggs plus 12 for the center

  7. 1 cup buttermilk (or plain kefir)

  8. 5 tablespoons melted butter (or avocado oil)

  9. 2 tablespoons maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350. Mix all of the ingredients except the eggs that you’ll use inside of the muffins in a large mixing bowl until the batter is smooth. Grease a muffin tin and pour a bit of batter into the bottom of each. Crack one egg into each and cover the top with more batter. Bake for 17-19 minutes, depending on how runny you want the eggs. 

Use any remaining batter for pancakes (and freeze them for later if you'd like). as an alternative, you can bake these with fruit instead of eggs. Banana slices and fresh peach are in our current rotation. 

If you make these, tag me on Instagram. I'd love to see!