dairy free

Quick and Easy Turkey Meat Sauce

Quick Meat Sauce

A Quick Meat Sauce is a back pocket essential as far as I’m concerned. Most of the time, I make ours with ground turkey, but occasionally I’ll use half turkey/half ground pork, or a turkey/pork/beef combination. I love this dish because it comes together in under 30 minutes, and works beautifully in the lunchbox as leftovers. My kids will eat this cold or hot, but they definitely prefer it packed in a thermos.

With just 7 ingredients, this simple recipe is perfect for a busy weeknight. Add veggies like spinach or chopped bell peppers, and you’ve got a one-pot wonder on your hands. This pairs well with any pasta shape, and we’ve also made it with polenta.

If you make this, let me know how it goes or tag me on Instagram.

Quick Meat Sauce

2 shallots, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped 
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds ground turkey 
28 ounce can of chopped or crushed tomatoes
Chopped basil to taste (I used about 1/4 cup)
Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat a large saucepan to medium heat and add the olive oil.

  2. Sauté the shallots for about 2-3 minutes or until they become translucent. Add the garlic and continue cooking for another minute.

  3. Add the ground turkey and combine thoroughly. Sauté until the turkey is almost cooked through.

  4. Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper and reduce heat to medium low. Cook for another 15 minutes or until the meat is completely cooked through. 

    *Note: my kids like it “meaty.” If yours like it more saucy, simply decrease the amount of ground turkey that you add. 

Chicken and Veggie Lo Mein

Chicken and Veggie Lo Mein

Chicken and Veggie Lo Mein

Chicken and Veggie Lo Mein is on repeat at my house these days. The veggies and the noodles may change depending on what I’ve got in the fridge and pantry, but the sauce! That’s the key here. 😍 

I switch frequently between gluten free pasta and other times I use regular pasta, depending on what I have in my pantry. I often add chicken to this recipe, but it’s definitely doable without any meat. I love this dish because it’s loaded with veggies, protein, and fiber — basically a “bowl in one!” 

veggie loaded

veggie loaded

I’ve adapted this recipe from my friend Karen @healthygffamily and my kids are psyched to get leftovers in their lunchboxes. Check this out if you’re looking for more pasta-inspired lunchboxes.

Chicken and Veggie Lo Mein

lo mein ingredients

lo mein ingredients


5 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon rice vinegar

Lo Mein
12 ounces of dry pasta (gluten free or regular)
1 tablespoon neutral oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2-3 cups chopped vegetables (I used broccoli, carrots, shitake mushrooms, snow peas and bell peppers here but you can use anything you’d like).

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (we prefer the thighs for their juiciness but you can use any chicken part that you prefer)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste



  1. Cook pasta as directed.


  1. Whisk the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.

  2. Place the chicken parts on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

  3. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

  4. Roast for approximately 25-30 minutes until the thighs are cooked through and still juicy.

  5. Remove from oven and slice into chunks.

Lo Mein

  1. Heat the neutral oil and sesame oil in a large skillet or wok. Add the vegetables and stir fry until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes, depending on which vegetables you use.

  2. With the heat set to medium low, add the cooked chicken and noodles to the pan with about half of the sauce. Toss to combine. Taste and add more sauce if desired.

chicken and veggie lo mein

chicken and veggie lo mein

Banana Tahini Bread

Banana bread just hits the spot sometimes, right? Right.

Nut Free Banana Tahini Bread

Nut Free Banana Tahini Bread

It’s easy to understand why banana bread is so universally loved; When done right, the texture has an inviting richness, with a smooth banana taste throughout. It begs you to take the next bite. The tahini in this recipe adds an earthy depth to the banana bread, which I absolutely adore. It’s hearty. It’s flavorful. It’s well balanced on the sweet/unsweet scale. It’s almost confusing… you’ll want to savor a slice of it, and yet shove it in your mouth as fast as possible. Yeah, it is that good.

banana tahini bread with chocolate chips

I cut myself a slice yesterday, toasted it and smeared on some butter and flake salt. The melty chocolate chips with the salted butter was a revelation! Give this one a try. You won’t regret it. Most recently I’ve been making this with fairly bruised, but not super ripe bananas and I might prefer it! The result is a slightly less sweet but equally delicious loaf. This recipe is dairy free and nut free, and can easily be made vegan by substituting flax eggs for eggs. It packs up beautifully in a lunchbox, and you can serve this any time of day.

Banana Tahini Bread ingredients

I’ve made this multiple times, both with and without chocolate chips, and no surprise, my kids usually vote to include the chocolate chips.

If you make this, tag @lalalunchbox #lalalunchbox so that I can marvel at its beauty!

mashed banana

mashed banana

Banana Tahini Bread

3 ripe bananas + 1 banana for the top (optional)
1/4 cup tahini, well stirred 
1/4 cup coconut oil
3 tablespoons oat milk (you can use any milk here)
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar 
1 teaspoon cinnamon 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour 
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional) 

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease a loaf pan with neutral oil.

  • Mash 3 very ripe bananas against the side of a large bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the bowl: tahini, coconut oil, oat milk, maple syrup, eggs, vanilla extract and apple cider vinegar.

  • Mix thoroughly. I always make sure to leave some lumps of banana, because that’s how I prefer it, but you can use a mixer if you prefer a smoother textured bread.

  • Add the cinnamon, salt and baking soda and stir gently.

  • Slowly add the flour, and continue to stir gently until it is fully combined.

  • Add the optional chocolate chips and give it one final mix.

  • Pour into your prepared loaf pan.

  • Slice the 4th banana in half lengthwise. Place each half on the top of the bread before baking.

  • Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

Banana Tahini Bread ready to bake

Golden Milk Waffles (Dairy Free and Nut Free)

Golden Milk Waffles for a dairy free nut free lunchbox

I’m all about my waffle maker these days.
I love making waffles because they’re a fun weekend breakfast treat that can carry over to the week ahead in the school lunchbox. It’s meal planning at it’s finest. Whip up a bath of waffles - these Golden Milk beauties, Veggie Waffles or Cheesy Waffles to make into a Grilled Cheese Wafflewich, and you’ve got some fun options for your child to choose from for the week ahead. You can add photos of these to the LaLa Lunchbox app library for your child to choose any time you’ve got extras on hand.

This sweet, spiced version is perfect with sliced fruit, or you can make a wafflewich with your favorite nut butter. These will stay fresh in your refrigerator for 2-3 days and you can freeze them for a month.


Ingredients for Golden Milk Waffles

1 cup + 2 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 large eggs
1 cup coconut milk (I use full fat)
4 tablespoons of coconut or neutral oil, melted
1 tablespoon date syrup or maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Golden Milk Waffles in the making. Dairy free and nut free.
  1. Preheat the waffle iron and the oven to 200 degrees F. In a medium sized bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients.

  2. In a separate bowl, add the wet ingredients: apple cider vinegar, eggs, coconut milk, coconut oil, date syrup and vanilla extract and whisk together until just combined.

  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, making sure that everything is fully incorporated.

  4. When the waffle iron is hot, pour about 1/4 cup of batter to create each waffle (may change depending on your waffle iron). Close the waffle iron and cook for approximately 3 minutes, or until the steam stops spraying out of the sides.

  5. Use a spatula or your fingers to remove the waffle and repeat until the batter is finished.

  6. Place the waffles on a rack and place that rack in the oven to stay warm and crispy.

Golden Milk Waffles, Dairy Free and Nut Free

Clementine Cupcakes

Clementines are a thing of beauty. They're juicy, flavorful, high in vitamin C, perfectly transportable, easy to peel, easy to eat. The list goes on and on. Am I right? Plus, they've got to be one of the best accoutrements for a Halloween lunch. Just draw a pumpkin face on the peel and call it a day! 

Clementine Pumpkin

After buying two bags of clementines, I wanted to get creative with them. How about Clementine Cupcakes? My son was on board immediately. My older daughter and her friend bake together every Monday, so as it turned out, I didn't have any white sugar in the house. I used maple syrup instead and am happy to report that it worked out beautifully for these cupcakes! These cupcakes have a bold citrus flavor, so if you're looking for more of a "hint" of citrus, reduce the amount of zest that you use. I’ve also added cardamom to add brightness to these cupcakes, and I’ve made them dairy free by using olive oil. The flavor of the olive oil really comes through here, so choose something fruit and flavorful. I paired it with a chocolate sour cream frosting, (because chocolate) and that recipe is also below. 

Clementine Cupcakes

Clementine Cupcakes


1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup of maple syrup
2 large eggs
zest of 3 clementines (or one tightly packed tablespoon)
1/2 cup of orange juice (or a combination of freshly squeezed orange, lemon and clementine)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
clementine segments for garnish

* Preheat the oven to 350. 
* In a large mixing bowl, combine the olive oil and maple syrup.  Slowly add in the eggs. Once thoroughly combined, add the zest, orange juice and vanilla extract. 
* In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients together. 
* Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and use a whisk to make sure there are no clumps. 
* Pour into a muffin tin lined with paper cups and bake for 20-24 minutes or until a knife comes out clean. This recipe makes 12 small cupcakes, or 10 large ones.

Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting

What you'll need: 
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Once the chocolate chips are melted and slightly cooled, add the sour cream, vanilla and salt. Mix thoroughly. This recipe will make more than enough for your cupcakes, which is a good thing because it's kiiiiiiiiiind of irresistible! Garnish the cupcakes with clementine segments and enjoy!