kids in the kitchen

Brown Butter Bourbon Blondies

Is there anything that browned butter can’t improve?

Ok, fine. Maybe it won’t solve world conflicts. But it takes baked goods to a whole new level, and if you haven’t yet tried it yourself, the only thing standing between you baking with butter and baking with browned butter is patience. So if you can spare an extra five or so minutes, DO IT. Because these blondies with the absolutely divine browned butter and the hint of bourbon are magical, and I don’t say that lightly.

Brown Butter Bourbon Blondies

Brown Butter Bourbon Blondies

Here’s what I love about these blondies: they have the perfect balance of sweet and salt, they’re buttery but not oily, with that slight crackly top, and the brown butter and bourbon add incredible depth to each bite. I promise you, you cannot go wrong with these.
If you make them and post a photo on instagram, tag me @lalalunchbox - I love to see your recreations! And if you’re wondering whether the added bourbon makes these off limits for kids, fear not! The alcohol actually cooks off when you bake them, leaving you with all of the flavor, but none of the actual alcohol.

Brown Butter Bourbon Blondies
Brown Butter Bourbon Blondies


Brown Butter Bourbon Blondies

2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar 
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 teaspoon flake salt
2 scant cups ap flour
1 scant cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350F. 
Line a 9x13 baking dish with parchment. 
Place butter in a saucepan on high heat and turn down to medium when it begins to bubble at the sides. Keep it on the heat even after it’s completely melted. Stir occasionally and wait for it to start forming brown bits on the bottom of the pan. 
Pour butter into a large bowl, and make sure to include those bits. Let cool for five minutes. 
Add brown sugar, vanilla extract, bourbon and eggs to the butter and whisk to combine. Sprinkle the salt all over the batter and stir to combine. Add the flour slowly until it’s completely mixed in. Finally, mix in the chocolate chips. 
Once this is thoroughly combined, pour into your prepared dish and bake for 30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting.

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.... 
Looking for meal planning help with lunchboxes? I've got you covered

Olive Oil Lemon Thyme Cookies!

Cookie season is here and I couldn't be happier! I've said this before, but this kind of important thing bears repeating. Cookies make the world go round, as far as I'm concerned. Sayonara candy, cake and pie. 

olive oil lemon thyme.JPG
olive oil lemon thyme 2.JPG

My youngest is dairy free, so over the years I've found some terrific recipes for dairy free cookies that satisfy my cookie craving and are also safe for all 5 of us to enjoy. These Lemon & Thyme Olive Oil Cookies have become some of our favorites! Beyond the flavor, which I can assure you as a cookie snob, is out of this world, the texture is fantastic. I'm making a triple batch of these to bring to a Christmas party.

Here's the recipe, courtesy of Une Gamine Dans La Cuisine. The original recipe calls for almond extract, but my family is nut free, so I've eliminated that. 

Lemon & Thyme Olive Oil Cookies
makes about 28-32 cookies

ingredients
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest (about 2 regular-size lemons) {note: save the lemon}
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon finely minced thyme
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 egg
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

topping
1/2 cup granulated sugar for rolling

method
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sugar (1 cup) and lemon zest. Rub the zest into the sugar until it's evenly moistened and aromatic; Set aside to marinate for a few minutes.

In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and thyme; Set aside. 

Add the olive oil, egg and lemon juice, to the lemon-sugar mixture. Mix either by hand or with a mixer until smooth. (About 3-5 minutes.) Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 3 hours - this part is key. 

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. 

Place the 1/2 cup of granulated sugar (for rolling) into a large, shallow bowl. 

For each cookie, measure out about 2 well-rounded teaspoonfuls. Roll into balls and roll the balls through the bowl of sugar until evenly coated. {Note: Don't worry if the dough is a bit crumbly. If you work the balls of dough long enough with your palms, it will come together.} Place the sugar-coated cookies onto prepared sheets and use your hand or the bottom of a cup to flatten slightly. 

Bake for 8-10 minutes. The cookies will have puffed up slightly but will still look pale. (Mine were just right after 8 minutes.) Remove the cookies sheets from the oven and let the cookies rest for about 3 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

Recipe adapted from Mama's Gotta Bake

 

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: 

Breakfast.

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


Lunch. 

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! 


Dinner. 

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. 
 

Polenta: versatile, easy and gluten free

My dearest friend lives on the other side of the country and it sucks. When we are able to get together, we dream about life as neighbors, but of course I picture being able to walk down the hall of an apartment building in New York while she thinks about side by side homes in southern California. Sigh. 

lunch with polenta leftovers

I love her daughter like she was my own, and after she was recently diagnosed with celiac disease, I went on a hunt for approachable gluten free recipes to add to their family rotation (like this one or this one with gluten free pasta or these granola bars). Thankfully, there's a lot out there nowadays for gluten free families (we recently also launched a new gluten free bundle on the LaLa Lunchbox app) and I'm sure they'll find their way but something that immediately came to mind was polenta.

polenta ingredients

Polenta is basically a blank canvas that can take on any number of flavors and that versatility is under appreciated in my humble opinion. Cornmeal, the main squeeze of polenta, is great for a gluten free diet. It has iron, fiber and a bit of protein and while it's not a nutritional powerhouse, there's plenty to celebrate. Polenta is basically boiled cornmeal and when you add milk, butter and cheese to that, you've got something mighty tasty. You can make polenta for breakfast and serve with cinnamon and maple syrup. You can serve it with dinner and top with roasted vegetables, or sauteed greens with garlic. You can serve alongside meat or with a vegetarian meal. You can make fun shapes with it and it instantly becomes a kid-pleaser. It's terrific for lunchboxes too. Polenta is like the little engine that could! 

Here's how we do it around here:  

Ingredients for basic polenta (cheese optional)
1 cup goat milk (you can use any milk; my youngest is allergic to cow dairy so we use goat)
1 cup water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup gluten free corn grits
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional) 

Method
1. Pour the milk and water into a sauce pan, add butter and salt and bring to a boil. 
 

milk, water and butter

2. Slowly add the cornmeal and whisk continuously. Reduce the heat to medium low. 

add the cornmeal slowly

3. Continue to stir until it becomes creamy. Reduce the heat to low and keep stirring for another several minutes until it becomes creamy. 

creamy polenta!

4. Once it starts to come together and the liquid has all been absorbed, you can be done! But if you want to add cheese, fold it in slowly and stir to combine. 

cheesy polenta

5. Once done, spread it out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and set aside for about 30 minutes to cool. 

polenta

6. Now comes the fun part! Get the kids involved, get your cookie cutters and make some shapes! 

polenta cakes

And there you have it. Five ingredients (6 with cheese), and 6 steps to immediate deliciousness! 

polenta cakes