gluten free

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

INGREDIENTS

Sauce
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).

Chicken
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

METHOD

Pasta

  1. Cook pasta as directed.

Sauce

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

Chicken

  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

Gluten Free Brownies

For your Valentine or for any time, these Gluten Free Brownies will absolutely hit the spot. Here I’ve made them into heart shaped bites for Valentine’s Day, but this is a recipe that I make whenever the mood strikes. They’re fudgy and satisfying, and perfect to stash away in your freezer.

I love these brownies because they satisfy my chocolate cravings immediately, and in 2 bites. Talk about instant gratification! I normally make these in an 8x8 pan, but I’ve used heart shaped molds here for Valentine’s Day. It works in virtually every shape, as long as you adjust the cooking time. I love that this recipe is easy and flexible like that. The heart shaped mini molds baked for 21 minutes, versus an 8x8, which takes 24-28. The larger heart took 23 minutes to bake. I love inviting my kids into the kitchen for this one!

Gluten Free Brownies for Valentines Day

If you don’t have oat flour and don’t want this to be gluten free, you can substitute ap flour here. If you have oats but no oat flour, you can use your blender or food processor to make your own oat flour. I hope you love these as much as we do! If you make this recipe, tag me @lalalunchbox and let me know!

Gluten Free Brownie Bites

Gluten Free Brownie Batter

1 cup sugar
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 heaping teaspoon flake salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup oat flour

Preheat the oven to 325°F

Line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper. 

Melt the butter and place in a large bowl. Add the sugar and beat to combine. Next, incorporate the cocoa powder slowly and thoroughly. Continue with the salt, vanilla, eggs and flour making sure everything is fully mixed. The batter should be slightly pasty. Pour into your baking pan and bake for 25-28 minutes. 

Notes:

I like to cut mine into small pieces, so for us, this makes at least 20 brownies. 
I’ve used Dutch process cocoa here too, which makes the brownies even fudgier because there is no baking powder as a leavening agent. You can add 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder if you use Dutch process cocoa. I’ve also used half natural cocoa powder and half Dutch process and the outcome was fudgy and delicious. 



The Lunchbox Homestretch

Packing lunchboxes at the end of the school year sometimes feels like the worst. chore. ever. Am I right? Unfortunately those lunchboxes can't pack themselves, so here are some recent lunchboxes that I hope will give you some inspiration to help you through the lunchbox homestretch. If you're looking for more frequent ideas, be sure to follow along on Instagram. And of course, if you want to take the guesswork out of packing lunch, download the LaLa Lunchbox app (free on iOS), hand the phone over to your kids and empower them to make choices -- all within a list of available options that you control. 

Anyway, below are 5 lunchboxes, all with a slightly different approach, but with a common theme: they all have an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, they're all nut free and they all took less than 10 minutes to put together. 

1. Leftovers! My kids had tortellini one night recently for dinner and I made much more than I needed for dinner so that I could pack it in the lunchboxes. Easy peasy. Toss that in the bento with some fruit and a veggie and you're good to go. This lunch is nut free and vegetarian. 

leftovers

2. The Big Dipper. This lunchbox has two dipping options: sunflower seed butter and hummus. There are veggies, corn chips and apple slices for dipping and a fun little polka dotted banana with the sweet treat of mini chocolate chips. It's a finger-friendly lunchbox. This lunch is dairy free, nut free, gluten free and vegetarian. 

Big Dipper

3. The New Outfit. I don't know about you, but I've packed pretty much this same lunch a thousand times. Look closely and let's break it down: it's a cheese sandwich, with fruit, carrots, lettuce and a brownie. But here I've used a different bread (these are bistro buns) and I popped the raspberries on top of the baby carrots. It's old familiar foods, dressed up in a new outfit, and sometimes that's all the jazzing up that's needed. This lunch is nut free, gluten free, dairy free and vegan. 
 

The New Outfit

4. The Crunchy Bruncher. This lunch is half brunch, half crunch. There are wafflewiches with sunflower seed butter (aka: frozen mini waffles made into sandwiches with sunflower seed butter - and any nut butter will do here), and dates for that creamy sweet appeal, plus pretzels, crunchy veggies and guacamole for dipping. There's a sunflower seed butter and chocolate cup for a treat. A fun lunch to eat! This lunch is nut free and vegetarian. 

The Crunchy Bruncher

5. The DIY. Do you have Taco Tuesday at your house? We frequently do, and my kids love to make their own tacos for lunch the next day with leftovers. Here we've got corn tortillas with chicken (seasoned with my homemade taco seasoning) with lettuce and peppers. Kids can put their fixins on at lunch and gobble it up. On the sweet side, we've got watermelon with mint and some dye free gummy bears. This lunch is nut free, dairy free, gluten free and vegan. 

The DIY

What's your lunchbox homestretch strategy? Email me, I'd love to hear it! 

Birthday Brownies

IMG_0289.jpg

The year that I sent my daughter to school with strawberry shortcakes on her birthday will probably go down as the worst.

She's always been a strawberry girl, drawn to both the fresh-picked, tiny sweet ones and the large, often less flavorful ones we find at the market. Ages ago, she came across a fun fact that strawberries were the only fruit that had seeds on the outside, and it became one of her favorite stories to tell for a while. She's also huge fan of all things bready, and biscuits fit beautifully in that category. And fresh whipped cream? It's got her name all over it. My mother made strawberry shortcakes for her one day and she was smitten. 

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So that year for her 5th birthday, I made strawberry shortcakes - at her request - for her in-school celebration. The kids hated them! Okay, hate is definitely too strong, but I learned that kids have expectations for classroom birthdays and strawberry shortcakes didn't make the cut. That's a whole other topic, and I'd love to discuss it but I'm all about the birthday dessert today. Anyway, we had a lot left over that year, which no one here complained about. 

Brownies are universally beloved. 

Brownies are universally beloved. 

From then on, my kids have requested more traditional things for school, like cupcakes or cookies. Works for me. At some point, they'll stop asking for homemade desserts for school birthdays, so I'm happy to comply annually until then. This year, my newly minted 12 year old asked if I could please make brownies for school. Brownies were definitely not going to be panned. Who doesn't love brownies? I *love* them. An extra batch of brownies doesn't stay around for long, and making them is easy and fun. 

The recipe that I've been loving lately is adapted from Smitten Kitchen. The brownies are dark, rich, chocolatey and not too sweet, and definitely not cakey. I made four batches in two days, sending off three to school and saving one for us. I've replaced the AP flour with oat flour, making these gluten free, and I've reduced both the sugar and the cocoa powder. I also found that they needed a bit more time to cook, so I've reflected that in this recipe (scroll down). 

Here's how easy they are to make (as opposed to strawberry shortcakes, which took me way longer, and were much more labor intensive). It's just 7 ingredients and 6 steps --- take a look:  

Brownie ingredients: 7

Brownie ingredients: 7

1. First mix the butter and sugar.

butter + sugar

butter + sugar

2. Add cocoa powder and stir to combine. 

added cocoa powder

3. Add salt. 

Add salt

4. Add eggs and vanilla. 

add eggs

5. Add oat flour and give it one final stir. 

Add oat flour

6. Ready to bake! Place in a parchment lined pan in a preheated 325 degree oven for 25-28 minutes.

ready to bake

 

Birthday 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 oat flour

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or grease with avocado oil or butter.

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 oat flour and mix with a wooden spoon until the batter is smooth and thick. Spread evenly into the pan. 

Bake for approximately 25-28 minutes or until the brownies have set and a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool completely on a rack. Cut into 16 or 25 squares and watch them disappear. 

ultimate brownies

Homemade Nut Free, Gluten Free Granola

Finding a granola that's tasty, nut free and also not loaded with weird ingredients used to be hard. Do you have a favorite brand? There are loads of great options out there, but I found my happy place when I started regularly making my own. Lately I've been leaving the big jar out on my kitchen counter and it gets demolished pretty quickly. My son plans granola + yogurt + fruit for his lunch at least once a week, and with a big jar on hand, it's super easy to pack.

parfait lunchbox

I love homemade granola because it's straightforward, versatile, and with a million different ways to keep it interesting, no two batches are ever the same. Some weeks, ours includes lots of seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame), some weeks it's heavy on dried fruit. Once I got the basic formula straight, it freed me to customize based on my pantry. 

The only hiccup arises when I shut off the oven timer but not the oven, and forget to take it out. Admittedly, this has happened more than once. Sigh. This recipe is easy enough for kids to make on their own, with adult oven supervision. It's perfect for a nut free, gluten free meal or snack, though it's best to always read labels if cross contamination is an issue for you. Be sure to check the recipe notes following the recipe for some variation ideas. 

homemade granola

Ingredients
* 3 cups rolled oats
* 1 1/2 cups mixed seeds, like pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds
* ½ cup dried coconut
* ½ cup olive oil
* ½ cup maple syrup
* 1 teaspoon (or more) kosher salt
* 1½ cups mixed dried fruits cut into small chunks. 

Method
Preheat oven to 350°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Toss oats, seeds and coconut in a large bowl. Add oil and syrup and stir until well coated. Season with 1 teaspoon salt. Spread out onto the pan and bake for about 25-30 minutes, stirring once halfway through.
Use the same bowl for the dried fruit pieces, and add the oats back to the bowl after they cool for 5-10 minutes, and combine.
Don’t clean up the baking tray yet. Pour the mixed granola onto it and let the whole thing cool for a while.
Taste and adjust the salt if needed.
Notes: 
1. If you can have nuts, feel free to add those in! Start with 1/2 cup and go from there. Add at the same time as seeds. 
2. If you don't have coconut oil, any neutral oil (like avocado or grapeseed) will do. 
3. Options for the dried fruit might include chopped dried apricots, or raisins, or dried banana pieces. 
4. I love coconut, but if you hate it, eliminate it. 
5. I've tried this recipe with honey, and I prefer maple's more subtle sweetness. Both are doable in this recipe though. 
7. I've tried reducing the amount of maple added, but it didn't taste as good in my opinion. 

healthy nut free granola lunchbox

Want more lunchbox inspiration? Right this way.... 
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