Raw Snickerdoodle Donut Holes (paleo, vegan, gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, soy-free, peanut-free)

Over the summer, this recipe crossed my inbox, and I took the cutest video of my then-3-year-old helping me roll out the balls and add the topping. I made this recipe throughout the entire summer because the ingredients were pantry staples and it was so easy to throw together with my little kitchen helper.

 

Cinnamon Sugar Donut Holes aka Raw Snickerdoodle Donut Holes by Betty Rawker <– how cool is that name?!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1/3 cup almonds
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or 1/2 tsp vanilla powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 4 medjool dates, pits removed
  • 2 T grade b maple syrup or raw local honey

Topping

  • 1 T coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 T shredded unsweetened coconut

1. Add coconut to your food processor and run for 30 seconds to one minute to release the oils.

2. Add the whole almonds and process with the coconut until well ground and combined.

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Shredded coconut and whole almonds in the food processor.

3. Add the vanilla, cinnamon, and sea salt, and process until a fine consistency is reached.

4. Add dates. Process.

5. Add honey, Process.

6. Pour the mixture onto a flat surface, and begin rolling into balls. I prefer to use my melon baller to make the process move more quickly.

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My 3-year old helper rolling out the snack balls to make them consistent and perfectly round!

 

7. Roll each ball in the separate topping until well coated.

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My 3-year old kitchen helper coating the snacks with the special topping

8. Eat immediately, refrigerate, or freeze.

Non-Dairy Cheesy Kale Chips (raw, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, peanut-free, soy-free)

My husband is out of town this week (snowboarding in Vancouver with the boys — tough life!), and you’d think that I’d be less efficient getting things done around the house. Unfortunately, it’s quite the opposite because I realize he’s not around to pick up my slack. Last night, I sat down with the kids at the dinner table, and we talked about what they wanted for breakfast and in their lunches the following day. They all decided on Vegan Overnight Oats for breakfast (their favorite!). My 4-year old wanted crackers for lunch, and I realized I didn’t have any on hand, but I did have a bunch of heads of kale and all the basic ingredients to make chips, so vegan cheesy kale chips it was!

Non-Dairy Cheesy Kale Chips

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches of kale (I prefer curly or red kale for kale chips because they hold up their texture and shape the best after being marinated and dehydrated, but any type of kale will do)
  • 1 bell pepper, coarsely chopped (I prefer red, orange, or yellow)
  • 2 tsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 c tahini butter
  • 2 Tbsp unpasteurized miso paste

Optional: chipotle pepper, jalapeno, curry powder

Directions

1. Wash and remove the coarse stems from both bunches of kale, and tear leaves into bite-sized pieces. A quick trick: hold the bottom of the stem in one hand, and with the other hand slowly slide your hand up the stem. The leaves will slide right off.

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Washed and cleaned kale

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Easily remove the leaves by (1) holding the bottom of the stem with one hand,

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and (2) slide the other hand up the stem as the leaves fall off.

2. Place all of the ingredients, except for the kale, in a high powered blender. Mix on high until well blended.

2. Pour the dressing on top of the kale, and use your hands to massage dressing into the kale leaves. If you enjoy the true taste of kale, I recommend mixing just until combined. If you are still getting used to the taste and texture of kale, then I recommend massaging the dressing into the kale for several minutes until the leaves start to break down and become more pliable.

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Nondairy cheesy dressing poured on top of the kale pieces

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Gently massage the dressing into the kale with your hands.

3. Evenly space the kale pieces on dehydrator sheets. The pieces will stick together after they’ve been dehydrated, so be sure to give them a lot of room. I used four dehydrator sheets for two bunches of kale.

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Evenly spread out kale chips on a dehydrator sheet.

4. Dehydrate at 145 degrees for 1 hour, then reduce heat to 118 degrees and dehydrate for 6-8 hours or until crunchy.

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Crunchy and full nondairy vegan kale chips!

My kids prefer to eat their kale chips when they are still wet from the dressing, but they keep much better in their lunches when they are crunchy. Nothing makes me happier than when they sneak raw kale from the dehydrator when they think I’m not looking.

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Sticky fingers stealing the raw cheesy kale chips!

What is your favorite kale chip recipe?

Tandoori Roasted (or BBQ) Vegetables

Last night’s dinner yielded a fun and delicious spin on roasted veggies for dinner. Not that I don’t love roasted veggies with fresh herbs and olive oil, but why don’t I ever think about marinating the veggies first? This recipe calls for a yogurt-based marinade (I used coconut milk yogurt to keep it vegan) with Indian spices, then smothered all over blanched veggies. Yes, blanched veggies! Why didn’t I ever think of doing that to get the broccoli and cauliflower more evenly cooked? Brilliant.

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Tandoori Roasted (or BBQ) Vegetables

Tandoori Roasted Vegetable Skewers adapted from Veggie Belly

Note: I tripled the ingredients from the original recipe to feed our family of five since the original recipe only fed two. See the link above for smaller portions.

Ingredients

  • 2 heads of broccoli, cut into large florets
  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into large florets
  • 4 tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 onion, quartered

Marinade Ingredients

  • 9 Tbsp chickpea or garbanzo flour
  • 1 1/2 cups yogurt (I used two 6 oz containers of So Delicious brand plain coconut yogurt)
  • 6 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 6 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 tsp garlic paste (I used garlic powder)
  • 3 tsp ginger paste (I used ginger powder)
  • 3 tsp garam masala (I used curry powder)
  • 3 tsp paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 3 tsp coriander powder
  • salt, to taste

Directions

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. In the meantime, chop the veggies.

2. Once the water is boiling, add half of the cauliflower and broccoli florets to the boiling water. After 30 seconds, remove the florets and let them cool. Run cold water over them, if needed, to prevent from further cooking. Repeat with the other half of the florets.

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Blanching the cauliflower and broccoli florets

3. Combine the marinade ingredients into a medium sized bowl, and mix well.

4. Add all of the chopped raw veggies (onions, tomatoes) and the blanched veggies (cauliflower, broccoli) to a large bowl. Cover the veggies with the marinade and mix until all of the veggies are well coated. Let sit in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

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Adding the marinade to the raw and blanched vegetables.

5. In the meantime, turn on the oven to Hi Broil, and line a baking sheet with foil, spray with non-stick cooking spray.

6. Once the veggies have marinated, place the veggies on the baking sheet with a bit of space in between each row for easy turning during cooking. (In the alternate, you can put them on skewers and BBQ the veggies.) If you have any leftover marinade, save it to slather on the cooked veggies or use it as a dipping sauce for lunches.

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Marinated vegetables on a lined baking sheet before they go in the oven.

7. Place the baking sheet on the second to top rack, and let cook for 15 minutes or until the veggies begin to blacken.

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Broiling the vegetables on Hi.

8. Turn the veggies over using a fork or prongs to brown the other side for approximately 5 minutes or until the veggies blacken.

9. Gently lift each veggie off the plate and place in one layer on a serving platter.

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Dinnertime! Tandoori Roasted/Broiled Vegetables

Quick Tip: Chop the veggies in the morning or the night before, and make the marinade in advance! It will save you a ton of time in the kitchen, and you’ll only have to broil or BBQ your veggies for dinner!

My favorite part about this dish is that my youngest child thought the cauliflower was chicken, and about an hour after dinner, I found my daughter at the kitchen table eating the leftovers because she loved the veggies that much. Definitely a keeper.

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Round 2!

Frozen Grapes on a Toothpick

It sounds silly, but it is the simplest snack, and kids gobble them up! We made freshly squeezed lemonade in my son’s 2nd/3rd grade class today, and it was a simple customized mixture for each child that consisted of lemon juice, organic sugar, and water. But the crowd pleaser was the grape “ice cubes”! I washed the grapes the night before (this step helps create the icy outer layer), laced three grapes on each toothpick (slice grapes in half for children under age 3), then left them in the freezer overnight. I was barely able to leave the house with them because they were under attack by my children.

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Frozen Halved Grapes on a Toothpick (for children ages 3 years and younger)

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Frozen Whole Grapes on a Toothpick

Thank you, outdoor pool in Las Vegas, for the idea. They were just as fabulous to a crew of 18 moms in 100 degree weather as they were to a group of seven year olds.

Baked Goldfish Crackers!

I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am about this recipe. My kids love goldfish, and now I have a replacement! I heard about the inventor of this recipe, Chef Chloe Coscarelli, through a Marie TV episode. If you don’t know Marie Forleo of Marie TV, she is AMAZING. She is essentially an online business coach whose motto is “Marie TV: The place to be if you want to create a business and life you love.” Her videos are fantastic, inspiring, and motivating. If you have a job you don’t love, or you know you were meant for more than what you’re doing professionally, I highly suggest you start following her NOW. But back to Chef Chloe. She is the first vegan baker who has ever won the reality show Cupcake Wars, and she now has three cookbooks out. I checked out her website and was fascinated with her homemade vegan goldfish crackers. She even has a link to buy the little teeny tiny goldfish cookie cutter shape! I printed the recipe and tried it as soon as I got home. I promised myself that if they turned out tasty that I would invest in the cookie cutter. And guess what, they’re BOMB! Consider that order placed.

Although it does contain flour in her original recipe, I am proud to say that I was able to gluten-free-anize it! My super picky 4-year old said, “Mmmm, these are good!”

Baked Homemade Goldfish Crackers (gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free, peanut-free, vegan)

Recipe adapted from Chef Chloe’s Vegan Goldfish Crackers

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface (for gluten-free, use 1/3 cup brown rice flour, 1/3 cup sorghum flour, and 1/3 cup potato starch or tapioca starch)
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (next time I may use even less because my 7-year old identified it immediately)
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon turmeric (for coloring)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper (optional, but recommended for adults)
  • 5 tablespoons vegan margarine (I used Earth Balance Organic Coconut Spread. It does not taste like coconut, and it is soy-free! Be sure to use directly from the refrigerator because it melts fast, you want to use it in its solid state for this recipe.)
  • 3 tablespoons cold water (I put water in a bowl and added ice cubes, waited a minute, then measured the water from the bowl to ensure it was cold)

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Add all of the dry ingredients to a food processor and process until well blended.

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3. Add the margarine to the food processor, and pulse 15 times until beads of the flour/margarine mixture form.

4. Add the cold water to the food processor, and pulse until just combined.

5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and roll until it’s approximately 1/4″ thick.

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6. Use small cookie cutters to press into the dough, then transfer to the baking sheet.

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7.Bake for 12-15 minutes (a few minutes longer depending on the thickness and size of your crackers as they compare to the goldfish shape).

goldfish4I strongly advise storing some freshly baked ones for lunches the next day, or else they’ll all be gone as soon as they are done.

Apple Chips Two Ways: Crispy or Soft

It’s that time of year again where I begin allergy-free cooking in my son’s classroom! This year we have a few highly severe nut allergies who are sensitive to touch, so while I am well-versed in allergy-free cooking, it is extra stressful making sure I keep these children absolutely safe! Fortunately, I am confident that I can (1) create a fabulous allergy-free cooking program that the kids will learn from as it ties to the curriculum, (2) have fun as we create new foods, (3) teach them to enjoy healthy, nutritious, unprocessed snacks, and (4) keep all of the allergy-free kids perfectly safe!

The first cooking lesson began with Apple Chips. The students were learning about Now and Long Ago, so they compared what we do today to what we did 100 years ago. (Sidebar: Brody told his teacher that his grandma would be 101 years old on Halloween this year, and she asked if he could bring her in! I thought that was the cutest thing — taking my adorable grandma to Brody’s school, so kids could ask her about her age.)

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Apple Peeler/Corer/Slicer

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Mandoline by Pampered Chef

I chose to make Apple Chips because I could show the students what an antique apple peeler/corer/slicer looked like, and we could use one in class. We also used a mandoline and apple corer and said that they also used them 100 years ago. Below are the modern-day tools we used in our classroom:We used the dehydrator to make the Apple Chips, so I could compare them to the way that fruit used to be sun-dried in order to preserve it. I also baked a batch in the oven for the sake of comparison. Each student had their own preference for dehydrated Apple Chips, which made them soft, or baked Apple Chips, which made them crunchy. Here are recipes for both.

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Watching the Apple Peeler/Corer/Slicer in action.

Apple Chips – Crispy & Crunchy (raw, vegan, gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, soy-free, tree nut-free, peanut-free)

Ingredients:

  • 2 ripe (but not soft) apples
  • optional: cinnamon

Tools:

  • Oven
  • Parchment paper or non-stick cooking spray
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Raw apples spread out on the sheet.

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees

2. Slice the apples very thinly using a knife, mandoline, or apple peeler/corer/slicer. I prefer using a mandolin for the most uniformly sized slices.

3. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray, or cover it with parchment paper to prevent the apples from sticking.

4. Spread the apples out evenly on the baking sheet. Optional: Sprinkle with cinnamon.

5. Bake for 1 1/2 hours or until the apples reach your desired crunchiness.

Apple Chips – Soft & Chewy (raw, vegan, gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, soy-free, tree nut-free, peanut-free)

Ingredients:

    • 2 ripe (but not soft) apples

optional: cinnamon

Tools

  • Dehydrator

Directions:

1. Slice the apples very thinly using a knife, mandoline, or apple peeler/corer/slicer. I prefer using a mandolin for the most uniformly sized slices.

2. Spread the apples out evenly on a dehydrator sheet. Optional: Sprinkle with cinnamon.

3. Dehydrate at 135 degrees for 15 hours or until the apples reach your desired texture.

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Dehydrated apples after 15 hours of low heat.

Next up: Teaching the students that every part of our food can be reused! Making homemade Apple Cider Vinegar with the left over cores and peels!

New School Year, New Lunch Boxes & Containers

 

We’re in our last month of summer vacation, and it’s time to think about the latest and greatest lunchboxes on the market. We have used the same lunchboxes and containers for the last several years, but finally, with all of the reports about BPA-free products now containing chemicals that are even worse than BPA, I want to avoid plastic altogether. It’s not that BPA-free is bad, it’s that in order to make products BPA-safe, companies are now using other toxic materials that are just as bad or even worse than BPA since they are still low on the radar and not yet being tested. Refer to these articles for more information:

Tell the EPA: Stop the toxic chemicals that have replaced BPA:

A new study has revealed that the chemicals replacing BPA in most of our plastics are just as bad or worse for us than BPA itself – and all of them are especially dangerous for children. Stop letting companies replace one toxic chemical with another.

Detection of Estrogenic Activity in Plastic Cups and Plates

The Scary New Evidence on BPA-Free Plastics

BPA Free? Just Another Plastic

These specific lines in the last article resonated the most with me:

Don’t be lulled into complacency over BPA-free water bottles and sippy cups. Plastic is not good for you or the environment. Don’t buy plastic bottled water. Don’t feed your children out of plastic containers.

It doesn’t get clearer than that. The last month has put me on a mission to find containers that meet mine and my children’s needs:

REQUIREMENTS

  • no plastic containers or lids – As a result of this, I’ve had to become okay with containers that aren’t 100% leak-proof, which leads to more spills, but at least the toxic plastic leaching into their food is no longer an issue.
  • stainless steel/lightweight – This is so much more lightweight than glass, although I prefer glass any day. The problem is the weight and the fact that it does break every now and then with a heavy throw of the backpack to the ground.
  • easy to open and close for big and little fingers
  • individual containers of differing sizes – This is the one requirement of my children. They do not have time to sit down, open a lunch box, eat from it, then property close it and put it away and still have time to play during recess or lunch. Instead, they want quick, easily accessible, separate containers that they can quickly pull out, snack from, and throw back in their bags. Sadly, this also leads to lost containers, so I write their names on the bottoms and lids from the start and make each child responsible for knowing exactly where their containers are at the end of the day.
  • one large compartment that has the option of staying big or breaking down into two smaller compartments, depending on the food, i.e. lots of pasta, a couple of enchiladas, or a just a half sandwich
  • not cheap – I identify cheap products found at the dollar store with having no rules or regulations, so even if it’s stainless steel, I still want it to be top quality and from a reputable company, not a no-name cheap brand.
  • 4 stars or more on Amazon – Let’s be real, I don’t want to get stuck with a product that other people don’t love, too

My search led me to a variety of products that I like, but not all of them met my requirements:

Kids Konserve mini containers, large containers, and nesting containers – leakproof, but they have the plastic lids I’m trying to avoid 😦

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Kids Konserve

LunchBots Uno, Duo, or Trio – there is no secure way to lock the lid and make sure it stays in place through the day, and there isn’t much flexibility with the divisions of the containers

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Lunchbots Duo

ECO Lunchbox Three-in-One – compartments aren’t small enough for snacking foods that kids can quickly grab and eat during recess or lunch. Instead, they need to take apart a stacking, interlocking system. Probably great for the office, but not great for busy kids

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ECO Lunchbox Three-in-One

ECO Lunchbox Three-in-One – I adore these, but the lids are plastic, and that defeats the purpose of a glass container when plastic is part of it. I’d rather use small canning jars with metal lids and rings if I’m going to use glass.

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ECO Lunchbox Three-in-One

Lifefactory Glass Food Storage in 8 oz, 16 oz – LOVE! But, these are way too heavy and way too big for any of my kids to take to school for lunch.  I do love the rubber coating that protects the glass from breaking. The lids interlock with plastic that lays on the outside of the glass, but it is a very small buttonhole closure that would also be difficult for kids to latch back together. It does concern me that the latch might break easily. These are perfect for me at work!

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Lifefactory Glass Food Storage in 8 oz

Stainless Steel Containers from Daiso, the Japanese Dollar Store – this fits the cheap bill. And I have no idea what the standards are in Japan for making products, so I find it hard to believe that a cheap product that my kids will be eating food out of is actually top quality.

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Stainless Steel Containers from Daiso

Tiffin Boxes 3 Tier Food Containers – These are sold at Indian grocery stores and on Amazon. My mother in law uses these often to transport foods, and I find them a little clunky and inconvenient. All three stack together, so there is only one lid, and the bottom of the container that stacks above it acts as the lid for the bottom two containers. I can only imagine the mess my kids would come home with.

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Tiffin Boxes 3 Tier Food Containers

Planetbox – I love almost everything about the Planetbox, but the lid does not seal completely, and the lunchbox it comes in puts the Planetbox on its side when you carry it, so everything falls to the bottom. We tried this for a month, but it did not fit our requirements because it was big and clunky to wash and it does not have separate compartments. This is probably a great system for kids who are in Kindergarten or younger who sit down and eat their entire lunch with friends before moving on.

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Planetbox

Laptop Lunches Bento Box – I am throwing this in here because this is what I’ve used for the past five years for my kids. When all the reviews about BPA came out, I was so proud we were still using BPA-free plastic. But now I do not even want to touch plastic, so I finally threw them all out. I did have a love affair with Laptop Lunches, though. I loved that the Upright Carrying Case allowed the bento box to sit on the bottom, and the handles were at the top for carrying, plus I could put an extra thermos or drink or extra snacks for a long day in the top zippered compartment. I loved the little tiny dipping containers and that all the containers were interchangeable and could be used with lids. My kids eventually did not like that they had to open the lunchbox to eat, so we did outgrow it at the same time I decided to go plastic-free. But I really did love this system, and it was so durable and long lasting.

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Laptop Lunches Bento Box

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Laptop Lunches Upright Carrying Case

Sooo, after all of that, which product did we decide on? This is what we use:

PackIt Freezable Lunch Bag – Keeps food cold all day long during this summer heat, then we pop it in the freezer at night to get it ready for the next day. No messing around with frozen or defrosting ice packs

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PackIt Freezable Lunch Bag

To-Go Ware Stainless Steel Snack Containers – They seal well enough (not for liquids), and the proportions are perfect. The big kids get two of the Large Sidekick and my little guy gets two of the Small Sidekick. They are easy to open, yet still lock securely with a seal lined in the perimeter of the lid.

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To-Go Ware Stainless Steel Snack Containers

ECO Lunchbox Oval Stainless Steel Food Container – This is the versatility I needed. I can put a couple of enchiladas in here, a few tacos, a couple of sandwiches for a long day, a big salad, or pasta with veggies. Or, I can add the smaller stainless steel container inside of it to separate the foods if I have smaller proportions such as a half sandwich and veggies. I do not like that the smaller container has a plastic lid, but I usually leave the lid off, and the top seals decently enough with the large container’s lid. This container is large enough to hold a sizable amount of food, but small enough to sit upright in the PackIt Lunch Bag, so food doesn’t slosh around. It also has a locking lid that all of my kids can easily use, so it securely fits into place on top of the large container.

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ECO Lunchbox Oval Stainless Steel Food Container

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ECO Lunchbox Oval Stainless Steel Food Container

Whew, that was a lot of research and a lot of information! Which lunch boxes and containers are your favorites, and why? Please share in the comments below, or email me photos of your favorites.

Happy, healthy, and SAFE eating!