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 

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. 


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

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

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. 


Oatmeal-Carrot Griddle Cakes

We eat a ton of oats and oatmeal in my house (literally, my infant eats oatmeal *every* morning. I kind of wonder if she's able to differentiate between day and night solely because oatmeal comes reliably at 7:15 every morning.) Last night I made braised chicken with steel cut oats and chard from Mark Bittman's Food Matters cookbook, which I absolutely love. I've made it before but not for a while and as expected, it was gobbled up. 

Well, actually, my 3 year old requested that the "green parts get taken out." And my 7 year old hand-picked out the onions somehow. But they ate the rest with pleasure. My infant? She devoured it! Extra thumbs up for a dish that everyone eats!

While I had the book open I flipped to another one of my faves: oatmeal griddle cakes. I've been on a carrot kick lately so I made a batch of these pancakes and added shredded carrots. I made them egg free and dairy free by using soy milk instead of cow's milk and cooked them in Earth's Balance instead of butter so that my infant could taste them as well. I want my kids to know what's in their food and develop confidence around their own taste preferences, so I don't want to hide the fact that I added carrots to their morning pancakes. Frankly, while I see the merit in adding vegetables to certain recipes (like this one or this one) or other dishes where healthful ingredients might not otherwise be expected (like this one), I am never okay with not being truthful about it.  

So today when my babysitter arrived and my son happily declared that he got oatmeal carrot pancakes for breakfast today, well, I felt proud as a peacock. 

Here's the adapted recipe for Mark Bittman's Oatmeal Griddle Cakes:  

Oatmeal-Carrot Griddle Cakes

1 teaspoon flax meal
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup soy milk
1 1/4 cups cooked oatmeal (I used Bob's Red Mill rolled oats)
2 carrots, finely shredded
Earth Balance for frying

In a small bowl, mix the flax meal with water and set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, rolled oats, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. 
Gently incorporate the soy milk and cooked oatmeal into the dry mixture. 
Add the flax/water to the bowl. 
Mix in the carrot. Batter should be a bit pasty. 
Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and add Earth Balance (I used 1/2 tablespoon for each set of fist-sized pancakes)
Flip the pancakes when small holes or bubbles appear on the top (approximately 2-3 minutes per side).

** These griddle cakes are great for breakfast and can also be used as mini sandwich bread substitutes for a fun change of pace.