Let’s face it, the easiest lunch to pack is a sandwich. Just grab two slices of bread, slap on some meat or peanut butter, and you’re just about done.
But if your child — or your spouse or yourself — has to avoid gluten, then the sandwich option doesn’t look so promising.
Sure, you could get gluten-free bread, but you’ve got to be careful there, too. Some gluten-free breads, even when loaded with mayonnaise or PB&J, taste as horrible as the screen you’re reading this on. (And please don’t try to eat the screen to make sure.)
Salads get old after a while, and soups are not always practical — or welcome when it’s 105 degrees outside. So here are five ideas that go beyond the regular soup-and-salad notion and yet manage to avoid gluten.
They’ll will keep everyone happy when it comes time to open that lunch pack.
Lettuce or cabbage wraps — Leftover chicken, beef, pork or seafood cut into cubes can be used in all types of meat salad, which you can then scoop into lettuce leaves. Think of a Mexican fajita blend, a Thai tiger cry-style mix, a shrimp salad with mayonnaise and dill or a simple chicken salad. You can use either large lettuce or cabbage leaves. Just remember to pack them separately so they don’t get soggy waiting to be eaten.
- Cold soba noodle salad — Use the ingredients you like, from cucumber slices and bell pepper strips to cilantro and marinated carrot matchsticks. Then find a dressing or two you like so that you can provide ample variations. Think of an Asian salad with ginger, cilantro and peanuts. Choose either an Italian vinaigrette or a balsamic vinaigrette with tomatoes, fresh herbs and shavings of cheese. Ranch goes well with leftover chicken and fresh vegetables. If you want to avoid the noodles, try lentil salads instead.
Crustless quiche — OK, it’s really a frittata, but the point is that you don’t need to add gluten in the form of a pie crust. Simply use your favorite ingredients, such as mushrooms, sautéed vegetables such as onions or red bell peppers, fresh herbs, sausages, any leftover you have in the house. My mother’s standard is ham, cheese and celery leaves.
- Stuffed celery — When I was growing up, olive-nut sandwiches were my favorite, and I still make the filling regularly. Just mix slivered almonds and salad olives into room temperature cream cheese. It’s great stuffed into celery, too. So are pimiento cheese, beer cheese, benedictine spread, cream cheese mixed with salsa, egg salad, peanut butter or any other filling. Don’t care for celery? Try using a firm, tart apple instead.
Charcuterie and cheese — Just because you’re avoiding the gluten in bread doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite sandwich fillings. Try an array of salumi, or cured meats, such as spicy capicola, sopressata, mortadella or, if your budget allows, prosciutto. The same holds true for the cheeses, though you might need to add a stay-cold pack if refrigeration isn’t readily available. Add a few olives, pickles, dried fruit and nuts to round out your meal.