Jul 6, 2012

10 Gluten Free Lunch Ideas

Lunch, for our family, needs to be fairly hearty and filling. Casey often comes home for his lunch from work and is very hungry because he doesn't have time to eat breakfast in the morning before going to work at 6 or 6:30am. He likes me to serve meals with meat. Here are some of my lunch ideas that I like to serve:

1) Soup
Whether you like a steaming bowl of chili, chicken noodle soup, or beef stew, soup is a great option for lunch. It can be hearty but is still easy to stretch to feed many mouths or to serve several days in a row. The usual issues you might run into when making gluten free soup are the thickening agent and the occasional inclusion of pasta or barley (a gluten-containing grain). Otherwise, it is usually fairly simple - as long as you are an avid label reader - to convert any of your favorite soup recipes to be gluten free. To thicken a soup, instead of using wheat flour, try combining cornstarch and water or substituting a gluten free rice flour for the wheat flour at a 1:1 ratio. Substitute rice, quinoa, or a gluten free pasta for recipes calling for pasta or barley.

2) Burgers
Making hamburgers at home can be fun and rewarding. You can add lots of tasty ingredients into your ground beef such as Worcestershire sauce, shredded cheese, finely chopped onion, and finely chopped veggies, or, for that matter, you can switch up the meat by trying ground pork, turkey, or chicken. Instead of filling your burger with the typical breadcrumbs called for in many recipes, add an egg, a T. of potato starch, or specifically gluten free bread crumbs. Since we are talking simple and typical week-day lunch options here, try cooking your burgers on the stovetop in a cast iron skillet. There are great and not-so-great gluten free burger bun recipes and store-bought options. The store-bought options are very pricey though so we personally prefer to just eat our burgers sans bun. However, if you really want a bun, try Udi's brand gluten free white burger buns. I don't have to eat gluten free and I found them to be very good which has to be a great review then! ☺

3) Salads
Here is one of the mostly "naturally" gluten free options. A tasty and versatile salad. Your typical base for the salad of lettuce and veggies are naturally gluten free so fill your plate with those choices first. To make it a filling meal, try adding options such as sprouts, cooked beans, cooked meat (cold or heated), shredded cheese, hard-boiled eggs (one of my favs!), and nuts/seeds (such as shelled sunflower seeds). You can certainly add gluten free croutons if you've taken the time to make them yourself (at least, I haven't seen any for sale before). And, lastly, most people think I'm weird because I just top my salad with some salt and pepper, because most people seem to really love salad dressing. Be careful, those bottles at the store may not be gluten free and, even if they are, still have questionable ingredients. Buy a specifically labeled gluten free variety of dressing or just make your own. The internet is full of lovely looking homemade versions that are easy to make and healthier too.

4) Sandwiches
The obvious issue with making sandwiches when you have to eat gluten free or serve a gluten free lunch to someone, is the bread. I know of at least four grocery stores in my area where you can purchase a loaf of gluten free bread. However, I have not found gluten free bread (there are usually bread mixes though) at big name stores like Wal-Mart and Super Target. Of course, if you've been eating gluten free for very long, you know that a gluten free loaf of bread is not an automatic substitute taste-wise for wheat bread. It can be crumbly, dry, and taste like cardboard. Many varieties are only edible when toasted first. Serving sandwiches on toasted gluten free bread is definitely an acceptable option if you can't find one you enjoy straight from the bag. You can even try making grilled cheese, grilled ham and cheese, or a grilled egg/meat/cheese combo sandwich. Just be careful because gluten free breads tend to scorch at a much faster speed than wheat bread. But, I wouldn't know that from experience... ☺ Anywho, there are even gluten free bagels and gluten free wraps available now to further add variety to sandwich making. The usual ingredient options for sandwiches - meat, cheese, lettuce, mustard, mayo, etc... - are usually thought of as gluten free but check the labels to be sure (noticing a theme here?)! We enjoy Udi's and Rudi's brands of bread.

5) Nachos
Let's start off with the fact that chips are often on the menu for a lot of people's lunch menu. There are some gluten free chips out there and there are some that do contain gluten in the seasoning. Read the label! Do I sound like a broken record? You can get real fancy with your nachos or, like us on a busy day, just have chips and cheese. Sometimes we really like the simplicity and speediness of melted cheese (or cheese substitute) on corn tortilla chips and served with salsa. Tasty? Yes. Healthy? Well, probably not. But you do have the option to buy organic whole grain corn chips if you so choose. You may also choose to make a nacho cheese dip on the stove to serve over your loaded nachos - loaded with seasoned meat, beans, olives, lettuce, and tomato. Don't forget the sour cream. When making your meat, cheese sauce, and beans, make you use seasoning packets that are labeled gluten free and or make your own seasoning blend. There are ton of recipes out there but I've found this ONE just for you. Also, to thicken the cheese sauce, think similarly to thickening the soup (remember this if you decide to delve into making homemade mac and cheese too), use your favorite recipe but substitute a 1:1 ratio of rice flour to wheat flour. And, invite us over, because we LOVE nachos! ☺

6) Quesadillas
I am just now delving into the world of making homemade gluten free flour and corn tortillas. But, for now, we'll stick to store-bought options. Build your quesadillas with the freshest white corn tortillas you can purchase (in my opinion - but you can use yellow corn tortillas too) or gluten free wraps (the ones I have tried are made with Hemp flour). We like to make ours with salsa, refried beans, and cheese but meat and veggies are tasty add-ins as well. Fry your quesadillas in a skillet by heating oil (2 T.) over medium heat and then carefully cooking them on each side for 30-45 seconds or until the tortilla begins to brown (don't overfill quesadillas because it will just result in a mess). To bake your quesadillas, line your baking sheet with parchment paper, and bake in a 450° for 10 minutes.
7) Hard shell tacos
In my own personal experience, corn taco shells are gluten free if they are labeled as such. Fill your corn taco shells with seasoned meat, shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, diced tomatoes, and cool sour cream are such an easy and pleasing meal for most people. You can add beans to your meat to make it stretch. You can experiment with other various topping including cilantro, chopped onion, olives, and guacamole. For the meat, you could just use all beans and go "meatless" or try shredded beef, chicken, or pork instead of the usual ground beef option. This is a fast and fairly cheap meal. Remember my tip for seasoning taco-flavored meat: read the labels to find one that is gluten free or make your own seasoning.

8) Pizza
Who doesn't love their own personal-sized pizza? For lunch, just make a regular gluten free pizza crust (mix or recipe) and divide it into equal sized pieces and form into crusts. Top as you would each with each person's preferences. Not necessarily the fastest meal (although, you could prepare these mini-crusts ahead of time and keep them on hand in your freezer), they are a fun option to try. You can do any variation of toppings just as you can with a large pizza for dinner.

9) Rice
Rice is cheap which makes it a winner. If your family tolerates brown rice then by all means serve that. You can also use long-grain white rice. Our favorite rice meals for lunch are fried rice and Spanish rice. Use your favorite fried rice recipe and add shredded meat or extra eggs to make it a filling lunch. Fried rice is a great way to use up carrots and onions and other veggies you may have in your fridge. We make our Spanish rice by cooking the rice with frozen mixed vegetables and tomato sauce and spices and browned ground beef. It is so tasty and filling. And, a one pot meal! Other options for rice: a rice taco bowl, adding rice to soup, and making a meat/veggie stir-fry to serve on rice.

10) Eggs
While not your typical lunch fare, our family does eat eggs for lunch quite frequently. I can buy a dozen eggs for less than $2 and add just a little shredded cheese, diced ham, and chopped onion to make a scrumptious omelet or egg scramble. Red bell pepper is particularly good in an egg scramble too. You can add any other veggie, cheese, and meat combo that works for  you. You can make baked eggs in muffin tins or just have fried egg sandwiches. You can hard boil your eggs and eat them as-is or chop for topping salads. My husband likes egg salad and potato salad made with hard boiled eggs. Both are great additions to the lunch meal.

Get creative and enjoy your gluten free lunch!

What is your favorite gluten free lunch?


Disclaimer: I am recommending these options based on my observation of them being gluten free. Before preparing lunch, be an avid ingredient reader to avoid compromising your or your family's health. And, keep your cooking area clean if you are preparing some gluten free and some non-gluten free meals to avoid cross contamination. Thanks!

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