easy recipe

Easy, Homemade Falafel

falafel

All hail the mighty falafel!

Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside and bursting with zingy flavors, falafel is something that I can eat on repeat. Chickpeas, parsley and cilantro are a stellar combination, and when you add spices and garlic, it’s heavenly. Seriously, what’s not to love about this Middle Eastern staple? Budget-friendly, delicious, filling — falafel hits all the notes!

While in Israel this summer, I had falafel every single day. Pretty sure that eating deep fried anything is not sustainable in the long term, but wow did it make me happy! You can use my recipe below to pan fry or air fry falafel; no deep frying necessary. I’ve tried these baked, but I find them too dry, so there are no baking instructions included.

falafel platter

The key to great falafel - as I discovered in my recipe testing extravaganza - is to use raw chickpeas from dried beans that have soaked at least 12 hours. I’ve soaked them for fewer hours, and the recipe works, but I find them tastier when they’re soaked longer. This recipe is perfect for family dinner, lunchbox packing, entertaining, and for feeding folks who are vegan, dairy free and nut free.

I tried making falafel from canned beans and while I really wanted it to work, the texture was off. To me, falafel should have a slightly grainy texture, and that wasn’t coming through with canned beans. Dried, uncooked beans have the starchy quality that helps to hold the shape of the balls.

Falafel ingredients

While falafel are tastiest when hot and freshly cooked, I pack these in lunchboxes for my kids and eat them cold myself. My preference is to eat them with tahini mixed with water, lemon juice, garlic and salt, tucked inside of a pita with pickled red onion, hot sauce, lettuce and tomato. That said, I’ve been known to eat them happily with just tahini sauce and pita or lettuce. Anything goes! If you make this recipe, let me know by tagging me on Instagram!

Falafel

1 cup dried chickpeas (soaked at least 12 hours)
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried coriander
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
3/4 cup chopped cilantro
3/4 cup chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
Neutral oil for pan frying or for brushing on top in the airfryer

Method

falafel ingredients

Place the dried chickpeas in a bowl and cover with water. Let soak for at least 12 hours. If you soak for longer than 12 hours, replace the water. The chickpeas will have grown substantially.
Place chickpeas into a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped, taking care not to over process.

Add the garlic and spices and pulse again.

falafel recipe

Next, add the cilantro and parsley. The mixture will have a lovely green color when pulsed.

Scrape down the sides and add the lemon zest, lemon juice, water and baking powder and pulse again.

Finally, add the flour and combine using a spatula.

Let this mixture rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Form into 2 inch balls and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.

To air fry: place in the air fryer at 360 F for 15 minutes.
To pan fry: heat neutral oil (I used avocado oil) in a dutch oven on medium high heat. When the oil is hot, place falafel in and pan fry (turning occasionally) until golden brown all around. Cooking time is approximately 6-8 minutes per batch, but time may vary according to the size of the balls. If the falafel are burning, turn the heat down.

Makes approximately 20 balls.

Ready to make falafel

Ready to make falafel

Frankly, I prefer these pan fried to air fried, but I realize that air fried makes them healthier. Still, these are simply chickpeas, herbs and spices, so either way I feel good about what I’m eating.

falafel lunchbox

falafel lunchbox

S'mores Brownies

It’s peak S’mores Season now but with this S’mores Brownie recipe, you can channel that campfire beachy feeling all year round! I’ve tinkered with this recipe so many times, and my kids have been bombarded with various s’mores brownies all summer. No surprise, this makes them ridiculously happy.

S'mores Brownies easy recipe

I’ve made this with marshmallows, with store bought fluff and homemade fluff and I have to be honest, the homemade fluff is my favorite. The fluff recipe I followed is from The Kitchn and while I’ve literally never purchased or cooked anything with corn syrup before, it was worth it to make this fluff myself. Once I bought that and a candy thermometer, the fluff recipe took 20 minutes from start to finish.

Homemade marshmallow fluff

Homemade marshmallow fluff

Once the fluff was made, I went to work on the brownies. The base of the brownie recipe is one that I can make in my sleep at this point. It’s a tried and true favorite around here. To assemble the S’mores Brownies, I add half the batter to the bottom of a lined 8x8 pan, add a layer of graham crackers and top those with the remainder of the batter. The batter is thick, so using your fingertips to spread the batter on top of the graham cracker layer is best. (see the full recipe below)

Setting up s'mores brownies

Once you’ve spread that evenly, it’s time to add the marshmallow fluff. I used just under 1 cup of fluff in each batch, but you can use more or less depending on how “fluffy” you like your s’mores. I like to sprinkle the top with graham cracker crumbs for two reasons: it makes the graham cracker flavor come through more and it makes these easier for my kids to hold.

Once these are baked, let them cool completely before cutting them with a super sharp knife. I prefer to serve these in small sizes, so an 8x8 pan makes 25 brownies for us.

s'mores brownies

S’mores Brownies

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)

  • heaping 1/4 teaspoon flaked salt

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 2 large eggs, cold

  • 1/2 cup ap flour (sub with oat flour to make gluten free)

  • 6 full graham crackers, divided

  • 1 cup marshmallow fluff (I used this recipe but you can purchase this already made)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper.

Combine the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add cocoa powder and salt and stir until all lumps are gone. Stir in vanilla, eggs and flour and mix with a wooden spoon until the batter is smooth and thick. Spread half of the batter into the pan. 

Add one layer of graham crackers on top of the batter. This will use 4 1/2 graham cracker sheets. Crumble the remaining 1 1/2 graham crackers into a small bowl and save for later.

Add the remainder of the batter to the top of the graham crackers and use your hands or the back of a spoon to spread evenly on top.

Top with marshmallow fluff and finally graham cracker crumbs.

Bake for approximately 28-33 minutes or until the brownies have set. Let cool completely on a rack. Cut into 25 squares and watch them disappear. 

If you simply can’t decide between S’mores Brownies and traditional s’mores, put together a platter! If you make these and post them on social media, don’t forget to tag @lalalunchbox and #lalalunchbox

S’mores Board

S’mores Board

Blueberry Chocolate Cups

Move over nut butters and raspberry, there’s a new Queen in town!

Blueberry Chocolate Cups

Blueberries and chocolate go together beautifully, and it’s time the two share the spotlight with these delicious mini Blueberry Chocolate Cups! With just 7 ingredients and under 30 minutes to make, gather the kids into the kitchen and watch how quickly the magic of this easy recipe comes together!

Blueberry Chocolate Cup

Blueberry Chocolate Cup

I love these because they’re naturally sweet, quick to make and perfect for little hands. I designed them to be a frozen treat, but you can keep them in the fridge if you prefer. The chia seeds make the inside a bit jammy, and because dates don’t harden when they freeze, you’ll always have a soft middle on these cups. Did I mention that there’s no added sugar? Score!

I’ve made this recipe with dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate. My personal preference is dark chocolate, but you’ll have to try them all to see what works best for you!

If you make these and post them, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram and use hashtag #lalalunchbox!

Blueberry Chocolate Cup

Blueberry Chocolate Cup

Blueberry Chocolate Cups

Ingredients

2 cups chocolate chips

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon neutral oil, divided

1 6 ounce container of blueberries

2 dates

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

1 tablespoon chia

Flake salt for the top (optional)


Method

Melt the chocolate chips over a double boiler with 1 tablespoon neutral oil and let it cool for 5 minutes.

Line a mini muffin tin with liners and place a small amount of chocolate in the bottom of each. This will be the bottom of the chocolate cups. Place in the freezer while you complete the next step.  

Soak the dates in warm water for 5 minutes. Remove them from the water, cut them into chunks and add to a food processor.

Add blueberries to the food processor and blend together until the large chunks have become small. Add 1 teaspoon neutral oil, vanilla and salt and process again. 

Place contents into a bowl and add chia seeds. Stir and let that rest for 5 minutes. 

Take the muffin tin out of the freezer. The chocolate should be relatively hard. Spoon some of the blueberry date mixture into each cup and top with remaining melted chocolate. Sprinkle with flake salt (optional). Place in the freezer again to set. 

Store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 months. Because dates don’t freeze, the inside texture will remain soft. Makes 15 mini cups. If you’d like to keep it at 12, use the leftover blueberry date sauce on sandwiches. 

Blueberry Chocolate Cups

Blueberry Chocolate Cups

Roasted Tomato & Red Pepper Soup

Roasted Tomato Red Pepper Soup Pin

There’s a roadside stand on Route 6 in Welfleet, MA right by the Audubon Society that has the absolute best yellow sungold tomatoes I’ve ever eaten. It’s run by a super friendly sister/brother team who also happen to grow delicious peaches. I haven’t been back to Cape Cod in years, but I’ll never forget the taste of those tomatoes.

Tomato season is glorious, and I love to follow its progression from delicious grape and cherry tomatoes to hearty beefsteak tomatoes to perfectly balanced sungolds. The journey brings me infinite joy every summer.

Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup

Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup

grape tomatoes

grape tomatoes

Seriously though… aren’t summer tomatoes the best?

My Roasted Tomato & Red Pepper Soup is worth turning the oven on for, even in the dog days of summer. It’s something that all 5 of us love and guzzle, so it’s always a welcomed dinner option. It’s also one of those dishes that you can serve to gluten free, dairy free and vegan guests, and with summer entertaining in full swing, that makes it a great back pocket recipe option. Smoked paprika adds a bit of intensity to the flavor here and it’s almost like being at a campfire. (s’mores for dessert?)

You can get this easy dish on the table in under an hour thanks to straightforward, fresh ingredients and a simple three step cooking method. Prep, roast, blend. That’s it. It’s flavorful and screams of summer, but it also freezes beautifully. So make a double batch for those winter days when you need a burst of sunshine.

Added bonus: it packs up beautifully in the lunchbox. To keep this recipe vegan, use vegetable broth.

Roasted veggies for soup

Roasted veggies for soup

Roasted Tomato & Red Pepper Soup

Roasted Tomato & Red Pepper Soup

Roasted Tomato & Red Pepper Soup 
(serves 4-6)

3 pints grape and/or cherry tomatoes
1/2 large red onion, cut into large chunks 
1 red bell pepper, cut into chunks 
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved
2 tablespoons olive oil 
3 teaspoons fresh thyme, divided
1/3 cup fresh basil
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 teaspoon flake salt, or to taste, divided
Fresh black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)


Method
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and add the tomatoes, onion, peppers and garlic. Cut any large tomatoes into pieces similarly sized to the grape tomatoes.
Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoons of fresh thyme and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Roast for 30-40 minutes or until the vegetables have softened and become fragrant. 
Place the roasted vegetables into a blender. 
Add broth, basil, remaining thyme, salt, pepper and paprika. 
Blend together until smooth. Taste to determine whether more salt or pepper is needed. If you find the flavor too acidic, you can add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar.


* Serving ideas: with sourdough croutons and a big, hearty salad.





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

Pesto

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.