Back To School Lunches

So here we are at the end of September. I don't know about you, but for me, September is always a nightmare. Here's something that I hear all the time: "the kids are back to school, we're getting into a routine, things feel a little easier but omg. I can't believe I have to pack lunches" 

Yeah, I get it. Lunches don't pack themselves, and it can feel like a chore. I designed the LaLa Lunchbox app to make that chore easier for parents (more about that here) but I also understand that some parents don't want to get kids involved in the lunch packing process. Handing over the reins doesn't mean you let your kid choose from everything under the sun. With the app, there's still division of responsibility; parents control what's available and kids choose from that selection. But of course, there isn't one way to pack school lunch and the world is big enough for all of us. 

Over on The feedfeed, I'm curating the school lunch feed designed to inspire all types of lunch packers. Below is a little sneak peak of what's new there... Hop on over, check it out and share with your fellow lunch packers! We're all in this together. 

Don't forget to follow along on Instagram where I share lunches and other food adventures daily. 

Leftover Pancakes

Leftover Pancakes

Antipasto from @happykidlunches

Antipasto from @happykidlunches

Deconstructed Taco from @onmykidsplate

Deconstructed Taco from @onmykidsplate

Tips for Easy Summer Lunches

The weather is warm, the sun is shining for longer, and people everywhere are outside with smiles on their faces. I love you, summer! Whether your kiddos are headed to camp this summer or they'll be enjoying unstructured days, they'll still need to eat lunch. Every day. Look, I realize it can be stressful to continue to pack lunches in the summer after school has ended. I'm right in the trenches with you. Below are some tips to make that task slightly easier so you can kick back with that glass of wine and listen to the crickets. 

1. Produce is your best friend. 
My kids tend to choose more produce-heavy lunches in the summer, probably because summer produce is so ridiculously delicious (I'm looking at you, nectarines, plums, watermelon, melon, strawberries, cukes and green beans!). Lunches that showcase the colorful bounty of the summer are a treat for the eyes, the mouth and the stomach. So don't sweat it if you don't want to pack some elaborate lunch. Let the fruits and veggies do the heavy lifting for you. Plus, have you read this post about how many fruits and veggies your kids should eat every day? Eye opening. 

produce lunch

2. Prep fruits and veggies ahead of time. 
Adding lots of fruits and veggies to your kid's lunchbox is a hundred times easier if they're sliced, cut, peeled and ready to go ahead of time. Pick a day, set aside 30 minutes and get friendly with your cutting board and your favorite knife. Trust me, you won't regret this. The lunch below took all of five minutes to throw together because I had already sliced everything except the salami. 

summer lunch 1

3. Be adventure-ready! 
Some kids love unstructured time but some kids need their days to be more carefully planned. Whichever category your kids fall into, having a lunch that's already packed will make getting out the door much smoother. Best way to do this? Pack lunches at night. Whether your kids are choosing their own lunches or you're the one deciding what they'll eat, lunch packing goes much better with wine than it does with coffee. Plus, if you're packing leftovers, doing it at night makes sense, right? 

lunch 3

4. Don't forget breakfast! 
Who doesn't love breakfast for lunch? Whether it's waffles, crepes, eggs or a yogurt parfait, there are loads of foods that are delicious and fun for breakfast AND lunch. Below are three examples of brunchy lunches that my kids love. 

brunch lunch 1
brunchy lunch 2
brunchy lunch 3

Whatever you pack, be sure to include an ice pack to keep lunch contents safe and cool for the day, as well as a big container of water to keep kids well hydrated. 

For daily lunch inspiration, be sure to follow us on Instagram. Happy lunching! 

You might also like: 
Strategies to Get More Veggies in That Lunchbox
Lunchbox Favorites
Meal and Snack Planning at Your Fingertips

Allergy Friendly Meals

I had the honor of doing a takeover for @theallergychef on Instagram recently. I marvel at Kathlena; she runs an allergy friendly bakery and hosts weekly livestreaming cooking demos, but she's allergic to most of the food that she creates and has to wear a mask to handle the fumes. In fact, she's allergic to about 200 things but has dedicated her life to helping others in the allergy community who struggle with what to eat. Incredibly admirable. Beyond all of this though, Kathlena is one of the nicest people I have met. 

For my takeover, I shared ideas for breakfast, lunch, after school snacks and dinner.  If you're looking for more allergy friendly ideas, be sure to follow Kathlena on Instagram and check out more from her here, here and here. I recently did a series about Top 8 Allergy Safe Lunches - with a dozen different lunchbox ideas - and you can find that right here

Without further ado, here's a recap of that takeover with some additional information that might be handy: 


Banana Oatmeal Bars with Dried Blueberries

Banana Oatmeal Bars with Dried Blueberries

Two things about this breakfast: 
1. It's super easy to make. My kids can make this without an adult and call me in to put it in and take it out of the oven. That's how easy it is. Seriously. 
2. It's ridiculously delicious, as well as filling and healthful. Find the recipe here

Two more things I want you to know about this breakfast: 
1. I've added açaí powder to the recipe (as well as dried blueberries). I'm allergic to fish and walnuts, both of which are rich in omega 3s. I do try and put flax into things when I remember but I definitely don't have a reliably steady source of omega 3s. Açaí is an antioxidant that also contains omega 3s, so I like to to add it where I can.
2. Did you know that non organic strawberries may contain fish DNA? I'm not going to get into the topic of GMOs here but for the sake of allergies, I think it's important to pass this information on. Some strawberry crops are genetically engineered with fish DNA to prevent the fruit from frost damage. I was unable to find any information as to whether this genetic modification had any implications for fish allergies. I'm guessing that it doesn't, but honestly, I don't know. I would guess that the anti-freezing trait is passed on with no other part of the fish DNA but I'm not a scientist and I'm not sure. Read more here


Below are two lunches that are Top 8 Free. They're simple, easy and fun to eat, loaded with colorful, healthful foods and most importantly, safe for allergic kids. 

Top 8 Free pancakes on a stick

Breakfast for lunch + food on a stick = a super fun, delicious lunch! Here we've got some oatmeal pancakes, free of egg, dairy, soy, gluten and nuts (as well as the other top 8 foods) and you can find the easy recipe right here

top 8 free leftovers

This Top 8 Free lunch has leftover roasted chicken wings, hummus and veggies for dipping (I like Ithaka brand because it's free of soy), plus fruit and a carrot cake cookie, made with this recipe. Substitute flax eggs for the eggs and you're set for a delicious top 8 yummy treat! 


top 8 free meatballs

I make meatballs fairly often. It's one of those dishes that all five of us enjoy, and leftovers are great for lunchboxes so they're kind of perfect. I love that I can switch up meatballs just by varying the meat and the size. But recently I went on a hunt to find a meatless meatball -- and not just any meatless meatball, I wanted a top 8 free meatless meatball. Tall order! 

Confession: I tried 6 different recipes and some of them were such flops that my kids took one bite and almost staged a coup! Then I came upon this recipe and it was a success. Actually, it wasn't a success the first time, and that's because I used regular green lentils, not french green lentils. I can tell you with 100% certainty - it makes a HUGE difference. Serve these beauties with your fave gluten free pasta (my family likes the ones made from corn and quinoa) and some veggies and you're in business. 

Do you have favorite top 8 free recipes that you love? I'd love to hear about them so please share!

Be sure to follow us on Instagram for more meal inspiration and follow along with The Allergy Chef for some amazing allergy friendly recipes, ideas and products. Plus - a huge bonus: she hosts a livestream cooking demo every Monday. You won't want to miss that. 

Valentines Day Drinks

LaLa Drink.jpg

With Valentine's Day here already, my kids have been excitedly checking the mailbox every day after school in hopes of Valentines from friends and loved ones. They've been dutifully making and sending their own Valentines too, and decorating our apartment with hearts, doilies and scratch and sniff cupcake stickers. 

These Oooh LaLa Drinks are now a Valentine's Day staple in my house. They're ice cubes made with mint and raspberries and they are absolute palate pleasers. They also couldn't be easier to make. So if you're a bit of a procrastinator, fear not. These will add a special touch to any Valentines Day celebration. As the ice cubes melt, they add more raspberry-mint flavor to your water plus a wonderfully festive pink color!  Happy Valentine’s Day!

These are super fun to make together and delicious to drink. Here’s what you’ll need:

Setting up the ice cube tray
  • 1 pint of raspberries
  • A few sprigs of fresh mint
  • A heart-shaped ice tray
  • Fancy straws (we used paper straws that are biodegradable)

Here’s how to make Oooh LaLa Drinks:

1. Wash and smash your raspberries into a puree using the back of a spoon

2. Chop the fresh mint

3. Place the raspberry puree into some of the sections of your heart-shaped tray

4. Place the mint into the remaining sections and fill with water

5. Freeze overnight

6. Fill a glass with water

7. Add heart-shaped ice cubes and straw



Gluten Free Chocolate Cake

I made four cakes for my daughter's 4th birthday party. Sounds a little extreme, I realize, but I had fun doing it, and wanted to be sure that everyone had cake. We had 12 kids and 20 adults. There were several allergies to accommodate - my daughter's cow dairy and strawberry allergy and a sweet friend's gluten, cow dairy and chicken egg allergy. Cake can absolutely still be delicious without any of those ingredients! 

I consulted Jenny Rosenstrach's new book How to Celebrate Everything and found her chocolate cake recipe and adapted for our needs. This was a hit! It's a deep, cocoa flavor with the right amount of sweetness. It's a two layer cake and I added blueberry jam in between the layers (hers calls for mint chocolate chip ice cream), plus a dairy free frosting and gluten free gummy bears on top. 

gluten free chocolate cake

Gluten Free Chocolate Layer Cake with Blueberry Jam
1 1/4 gluten free flour (I used King Arthur brand) 
2 cups of granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs (I used duck eggs to accommodate a chicken egg allergy)
3/4 cup room temperature of brewed, strong black coffee
1 cup of goat milk (original recipe calls for buttermilk, but I avoided cow dairy here)
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used avocado oil) 
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup blueberry jam

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9 inch springform pan with vegetable oil. Pour the goat milk into a bowl and add the lemon juice. Let this sit for about 10 minutes. The milk will look like it's a bit curdled - it's a great way to make your own buttermilk substitute! 
In a separate bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients. Add eggs, coffee, goat/lemon mixture, oil and vanilla and stir until everything is well combined. 
Pour into the pan and bake for approximately 35 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. 
Allow the cake to cool completely. Using a sharp, long knife, split the cake in half and use a plate to remove the top half from the bottom. Smear the bottom half with blueberry jam and place the top half back on. 

Dairy Free Blueberry Frosting
1 cup coconut yogurt (I used Anita's) 
5 tablespoons confectioners sugar
2/3 cup blueberry jam
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly. Be sure to keep refrigerated, as this is a thin frosting. Spread evenly on top of the cake.