baking with kids

Brown Butter Bourbon Blondies

Is there anything that browned butter can’t improve?

Ok, fine. Maybe it won’t solve world conflicts. But it takes baked goods to a whole new level, and if you haven’t yet tried it yourself, the only thing standing between you baking with butter and baking with browned butter is patience. So if you can spare an extra five or so minutes, DO IT. Because these blondies with the absolutely divine browned butter and the hint of bourbon are magical, and I don’t say that lightly.

Brown Butter Bourbon Blondies

Brown Butter Bourbon Blondies

Here’s what I love about these blondies: they have the perfect balance of sweet and salt, they’re buttery but not oily, with that slight crackly top, and the brown butter and bourbon add incredible depth to each bite. I promise you, you cannot go wrong with these.
If you make them and post a photo on instagram, tag me @lalalunchbox - I love to see your recreations! And if you’re wondering whether the added bourbon makes these off limits for kids, fear not! The alcohol actually cooks off when you bake them, leaving you with all of the flavor, but none of the actual alcohol.

Brown Butter Bourbon Blondies
Brown Butter Bourbon Blondies


Brown Butter Bourbon Blondies

2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar 
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 teaspoon flake salt
2 scant cups ap flour
1 scant cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350F. 
Line a 9x13 baking dish with parchment. 
Place butter in a saucepan on high heat and turn down to medium when it begins to bubble at the sides. Keep it on the heat even after it’s completely melted. Stir occasionally and wait for it to start forming brown bits on the bottom of the pan. 
Pour butter into a large bowl, and make sure to include those bits. Let cool for five minutes. 
Add brown sugar, vanilla extract, bourbon and eggs to the butter and whisk to combine. Sprinkle the salt all over the batter and stir to combine. Add the flour slowly until it’s completely mixed in. Finally, mix in the chocolate chips. 
Once this is thoroughly combined, pour into your prepared dish and bake for 30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting.

Apple Coffee Cake

Coffee cake is one of the greatest desserts out there. Truth be told, I love most things with a crumb top (who doesn't love the combination of brown sugar, butter, flour and oats?) but this particular recipe is wonderful because it doesn't require any fancy gadgets and it's simple enough for my almost 9 year old to make entirely on her own. I've made this recipe four times in the last week; I've given away one, frozen one and helped to eat two. 

I handed over the recipe card, took out the ingredients and let my daughter do the rest. This is a three-part recipe: cake batter, crumb top and apple slicing. First, she measured the dry ingredients for the cake. 

coffee cake dry ingredients

Next, she made the crumb top and set it aside, chastising me occasionally for nibbling.

crumb top for apple coffee cake

Next, she added the wet ingredients to the dry ones and mixed until a nice batter formed. We softened the butter in the microwave so that all was needed to make the magic happen was a spoon. 

mixing the cake batter

When the batter was mixed completely, she poured half into a ceramic dish lined with parchment paper (easy cleanup!). 

slicing apples for coffee cake

My daughter sliced one apple, placed the slices in a layer on top of the batter and sprinkled with cinnamon. 

apple coffee cake

She poured the rest of the batter on top and spread it around and topped with the delicious crumb top. 

apple coffee cake
happy cook!

She baked it in the oven and the house smelled fantastic! The hardest part was waiting to eat it. I love bringing my kids into the kitchen and it's been delightful watching how skills and capabilities change over time. Once upon a time, she was only able to participate in cooking alongside an adult. Now there are dishes she can make entirely on her own! Added bonus: she rinsed all of the dishes, placed them all in the dishwasher and wiped the countertops. 

A whole new world is opening up in my kitchen and boy am I excited! 

Apple Coffee Cake
Crumb top:
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
dash of salt
4 tablespoons of unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup rolled oats

Cake:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
 1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon plus more for dusting the apples
5 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk (we used unsweetened soy milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 apple, peeled and sliced (preferably granny smith)

Line a ceramic dish with parchment paper (ours is oval, about 8x13). Preheat the oven to 375. In a small bowl, combine all of the crumb top ingredients. Mix them together with your hands, so that the butter is evenly distributed and there's no clumps of flour. We softened the butter in the microwave to make this very easy. Set aside. 
Next, add the flour, baking soda and salt to a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, butter, egg, milk and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and mix completely. Pour half of the batter into the baking dish. Spread the apples on top in an even layer. Dust the top of the apples with cinnamon. Add the rest of the batter and spread evenly. Finally, add the crumb top. Bake in the oven at 375 for 25 minutes and reduce the heat to 350. Bake for another 10-15 minutes. Enjoy! 

Avocado Chocolate Cookies

Okay, I know. It sounds weird. But when I came across the photo of these Avocado Chocolate Cookies on Pinterest, they looked so good, I just had to see for myself. Plus, I had all of the ingredients in my house, so it was an easy experiment. And when I showed the photo to my sweet-toothed son, he was game to make these with me. I mean, look at these things! 

avocado chocolate cookies

I made one substitution in the original recipe (granulated sugar for coconut sugar) and added three ingredients (baking powder, salt and cinnamon). Our recipe noted below. 

ingredients for avocado chocolate cookies

First we cracked an egg and added it to our mixing bowl. Next we used about 3/4 of a large avocado and mashed it. 

avocado and egg for cookies

Next, we added sugar and cocoa. This batter is looking good! 

cocoa and sugar added

Finally, we added baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt, and then the chocolate chips.  

"Mama, can I taste it?" 

"Mama, can I taste it?" 

We spooned the batter onto parchment paper on a cookie sheet and baked at 350 for 9 minutes. 

avocado chocolate cookie batter

Wow. These things! Gooey. Rich. Satisfying! A keeper, for sure. 

avocado chocolate cookies

Here's the recipe: 

Avocado Chocolate Cookies (adapted from the Fit Ninja)

1 extra large egg
3/4 very ripe avocado, mashed
1/2 cup sugar (I used raw sugar. The original recipe called for coconut sugar)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350. Combine the egg and mashed avocado and mix until the lumps are mostly gone (be careful not to overbeat). Add sugar and cocoa powder and mix well. Add baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and stir until you have a nice batter. Add the chocolate chips and mix one final time. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spoon the batter onto the baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes. This recipe makes about 24-30 cookies. Keep in the refrigerator. Enjoy! 

Banana Oatmeal Bars: A Fast, Easy, Healthy Breakfast

'Tis the season to be hectic. 
I don't know about you, but amid all of the awesomeness of the holiday season, I'm just pooped. Truth be told, my husband and I are relieved when the kids want cereal with milk and a banana or toast with a banana for breakfast these days. My kiddos choose their breakfasts and lunches in advance, which certainly makes things easier for me because I don't have the added stress of thinking about what to serve (let alone dealing with an argument about it). That said, I still have to prepare and serve those meals and unfortunately, there are no holiday fairies that take care of that for me. 

It's times like these that make Banana Oatmeal Bars so very amazing. 

LaLa Lunchbox banana oatmeal bars

These things are so easy to make, my kids do it themselves now, which frankly is one of the greatest holiday gifts ever. One batch makes 9 bars in our house – but it can make 16 more if you cut them smaller. My kids generally eat two apiece with breakfast. With just four ingredients, they're simple to prepare, quick to serve, and full of healthy goodness. Trifecta! In fact, putting two of these on a plate with some fruit is even easier than serving a bowl of cereal with milk. These bars also make for wonderful snacks! They're dairy free, gluten free, vegan and naturally sweet thanks to those super ripe bananas. 

Download the image below and add it to your LaLa Breakfast Food Library and/or your LaLa Lunchbox Food Library so that your mornings are just a teensy bit easier. Feel free to reach out with any questions you might have about that. 

Banana Oatmeal Bars

LaLa Lunchbox banana oatmeal bar ingredients

3 super ripe (aka brown) bananas
2 cups of rolled oats (not instant)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
* optional: 1/2 cup of one of these: dried cranberries, raisins, nuts, pumpkin seeds or chocolate chips

How to:

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8×8 dish with parchment paper.
2. In a mixing bowl, mash the bananas until they are smooth.
3. Add the oats and mix to combine.
4. Add the vanilla extract and salt and mix until the ingredients are evenly distributed.
5. Pour into baking dish. Bake for 25-28 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes and enjoy.

Here are some other recipes you might like: 
Banana Sweet Potato Muffins
Banjo Muffins
Oatmeal Muffins
Banana Pancake Kebabs
 

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Strummin' on the Old Banjo

Life is good.

I came across something on Twitter the other day that basically boiled down to 'slow down to recognize all of the wonderful things you already have around you.' Always a good reminder. 
As an aside, my infant is teething. I've been up every hour for two nights and have reached a new level of exhaustion. Or delirium. Or new normal - I'm not sure.  It's hard to notice the wonderful things around you, let alone celebrate them when you're in these kinds of trenches but today I was spending the morning with my son and at some point realized that I was giggling! Loved.That.  

Cooking Banjo Muffins with My Toddler

Cooking Banjo Muffins with My Toddler

My son is regularly this smiley; it makes him a delightful companion. And when it comes to cooking, he scoops and measures with gusto; he pours in cinnamon like there's a present at the bottom of the container; he acts like he's the luckiest guy on earth when he gets to sample the goods along the way. And the best part? He'll often jump off of his "helper chair" in the kitchen and run into the playroom to get a prop and pretend to be the Entertainment Committee, playing his guitar, belting out a song at the top of his lungs. Lately, he's all about being in the kitchen with Dinah, strummin' on the old banjo. And there we were, singing it loud and proud - working on the railroad, fee-fi-fiddly-eye-oh-ing. I felt happy deep in my cells. 

Pretty much everything that I bake, I bake with him. It's all toddler-friendly measuring-pouring-scooping stuff around here. If there are any more complicated steps, I can get those done while he's in the midst of his musical interlude. Anyway, so today he wanted to bake muffins and use our Dora the Explorer cupcake liners. We devised this recipe together, tossing in some beet and apple for color and sweetness. Once cooled, he gobbled one down and declared it "dah-lisheey-ohso!"

Ol' Banjo Muffins
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup grated sweet potato (basically one medium sweet potato, peeled and grated)
1/4 cup grated apple (one medium apple, peeled and grated) 
1/4 cup grated beet (one medium beet, peeled and grated) 
1/3 cup coconut sugar (* you can substitute brown sugar) 
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tablespoons flax meal
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup oat milk (* you can use whatever milk you'd like... we made this dairy free) 
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

Method
Preheat oven to 350. Line a muffin pan with liners (this recipe makes 12). In a bowl, mix together all of the dry goods. Add grated veggies and fruit and mix well to combine. In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, oat milk, oils and vanilla. The coconut oil may be clumpy so using a whisk is probably best. Combine dry ingredients with wet ingredients. Scoop into muffin tins and bake for approximately 20 minutes.
Let cool for 5-10 minutes and enjoy.