25 Super Easy Gluten-Free Lunchbox Ideas that DON’T include Ants-On-A-Log :)

When Back-To-School ads start up, some moms start planning out outfits, and some start sorting out school supplies. In our house, this mom’s brain goes straight to the box ~ the LUNCHBOX! I am constantly considering how to send interesting foods to school with my kiddos, lunches that will make them SO excited about eating lunch that they will forget all about what the majority of their classmates are sitting down to {less than ideal school lunches of empty calories, lacking nutritional value, and a lot of allergens that we must avoid}. 

I put together 25 quick and easy ideas this morning. I hope these can inspire you to get creative with your lunch box options as you send your students off to the lunchroom this year.

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1. Apples with Nutbutter or Seedbutter: Sliced apples can be soaked in lemon water, or in water with a drop of lemon or lime essential oil (food grade & organic preferably). Pair this with a small container of almond butter or, our favorite is Cashew Butter. There are a few companies that even offer small single serving pouches that are great to pack in a lunch box. For all-natural varieties, try Justin’s or Barney Butter. If you want an organic, raw variety and are willing to spend a little extra money, look for the Artisana brand.
Apple & Nutbutter

2. Gluten Free Pretzels and Mustard for dipping
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3. Mama Chia Pouches, or your own homemade chia pudding.
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4. Spring Rolls. I love to make these rice paper spring rolls. I can fit ALL sorts of raw veggies into them. I like to quickly blend some frozen mango, a little lemon or lime juice, and a little avocado oil to make a quick dipping sauce, too!  The rice paper can be found at most grocery stores on the ethnic isle. Give yourself some practice time, but I know you will be able to roll a spring roll in no time!
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5. Ham or Prosciutto wrapped pears or apples. Yummy!
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6. Lunchmeat Pinwheels. Roll with cheese, or, if you are dairy free, you can use hummus and veggies and roll them up into your favorite nitrite free lunch meat. Serve as is, or slice into little bite-sized pinwheels.

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7. Gluten Free Bread (toasted optional) or Organic Rice Cakes topped with Nut or Seed Butter. We like to vary these. Sometimes we top with fruit and almost always our mix of cinnamon and organic granulated coconut sugar.
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8. Bento pressed rice. These are just fun and cute and kids love them! You can find some fun bento molds and cutters on amazon.
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9. Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps – Perfect for leftover chicken. I use homemade mayo or even hummus as a dressing and send in lettuce wraps.

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10. Gluten-Free Tortilla Wraps – Trader Joe’s Brown Rice Tortillas work well here at our house. There are also potato tortillas, corn tortillas, or venture out and make your own, like these cauliflower pita wraps!
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11. Yogurt & Berries
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12. Meatballs – We do meatballs in our thermos often! You can send them just alone, or put some rice, quinoa, or mashed potatoes in the bottom. Kids love a hot meal at lunch.
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13. Fresh Fruit and/or Nuts – Need I say More?
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14. Gluten Free Pasta Salad – I like to use a organic brown rice pasta, like Tinkyada brand or Jovial brand. Great for leftover pasta, you can dress with a vinaigrette, like one of our favorites by Annie’s Naturals called Papaya Poppy-Seed, or you can use a high-quality or homemade mayo, or even hummus. Be sure to add lots of fresh veggies. Olives are a favorite here, too!
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15. Organic Rice Crackers sandwiched with nutbutter or seed butter
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16. Yogurt with Granola – We are Dairy, Soy, and one of us is Coconut Free, so this Almond-Milk based yogurt by So Delicious is a great option for us!
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17. Hard Boiled Eggs : serve them any way you like them. We do them plain, we do them deviled, and we do them “Greek”, with the yolk removed and replaced with hummus! You can even replace the yolk with guacamole, although I find that avocados don’t always last well all the way until lunchtime, so we save our avocado-eating for home where we can serve them up fresh. 🙂

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18. Veggies & Hummus – we love the individual size organic hummus from Costco. They are really friendly on the budget, too. Serve with any raw veggies you like! My kids really like sweet peppers, blanched green beans, carrots, even black olives!
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19. Gluten Free Garlic Bread Sticks with Pizza Dip – This can be as simple as taking your favorite brand of GF bread  {or your homemade cauliflower pita), rubbing it with butter or coconut oil, sprinkling with garlic, and toasting. Cut into strips, & serve with a side of Organic Pizza or Pasta Sauce. If you really want to get fancy, wrap the bread sticks with nitrite free lunch meat or pepperoni, too!
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20. Oatmeal in a thermos – who says you can’t send breakfast for lunch?! My daughter loves oatmeal, ANY time of day! { Or really porridge of any kind }. We do a thermos of oatmeal sometimes, and then I send a small container of dairy-free milk and some great healthy toppings for her to create her own lunch masterpiece with.

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21. Nitrite Free Pepperoni or Salami
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22. Skewered Chicken & Pineapple – another great way to use leftover chicken!
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23. Thermos of leftovers – I could create another 25-log list on JUST the leftovers I have sent in a thermos to school! I love a good crock pot meal that leaves enough leftovers for the next school day! Meatloaf, soups, stews, roasts, pulled pork, mashed sweet potatoes with coconut sugar and pecans, sauerkraut and hot dogs, beans, beanie weenies… ANYTHING!
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24. This kind of goes along with the previous, but there are lots of store-bought soups that go great in your thermos as well. One of my daughter’s favorites is Pacific Foods’ Lentil Soup. For gluten-free options, check the labels and try to avoid anything with a rue or with regular pasta. For dairy free, be sure you check the bottom of the ingredients list for the words CONTAINS: MILK or check highlighted ingredients inside the list.
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25. Tomato and Mozzarella Skewers – For some reason, anything skewered become more appealing to kids! This is one of my son’s favorite combinations. We look for organic, preferably raw mozzarella when we can find it. For my dairy-free kiddo, we just do veggies and leave off the cheese. We love raw cauliflower in our house.
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Best of luck getting your little ones off to a healthy school-lunch start this school year! Share you successful lunch box stories with us! And share your ideas if you have them, too! I would love to hear the healthy ways you are navigating the lunchroom!  ~Happy Lunchboxing~

Grain Free Lemon Muffins / Cake {and a cake-ball fail}

So, I happened upon this really cute cake-ball photo on pinterest or instagram, I can’t remember which now. The little cake balls were made into golf balls for Father’s Day. I happen to have a cute little silver tin that my mind was picturing filled to the brim and over flowing with these tasty golf-ball-cakes! Since the plan was to serve these to dad for Father’s Day, the obvious flavor selection here at our house was a lemon-cake. I have made a variation of this lemon cake before and we all really enjoyed it, I changed a few things up and baked these in my large muffin tins {the idea was to have more of the browned edges in my cake balls for added flavor}.

Lemon Cake

Step one turned out deliciously! One taste test, honestly, was not quite enough.

Then, I crumbled the muffins in my mixing bowl and added a mixture of 1/4 cup of honey and the juice of 1/2 of a large organic lemon (careful to not include any seeds). I rolled this delicious crumble of goodness into golf-ball-sized balls and stuck them into the freezer for a bit while I concocted my icing.

Crumble

Enter: The icing, a.k.a the beginning of the end, a.k.a the reason for this epic cake ball FAIL! 😀

I think it is just as important, on occasion, to post about the flops as it is to post about the successes. Even those of us who have been gluten free home-chefs for as long as we can remember will have a recipe that just doesn’t quite come together. Don’t ever be discouraged about the misses, because you will learn a little something from each one! Maybe that’s why I have learned SO much over the years! 😀

Today’s Grain Free Lemon Muffins / Cakes:

1 1/2 cup cashew meal
1 cup almond meal*
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
3 large pasture-raised eggs
1/2 teaspoon real salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Zest of 1 large ORGANIC lemon
1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup oil (I used coconut)
2 teaspoons organic lemon extract
Juice of 1 lemon

* you could also use almond flour here, I just only had meal on hand and we are okay with the thicker crumbles
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, mix first your dry ingredients until well combined. Then, add in your wet ingredients. Stir well. Transfer to oiled muffin tins. I used large tins and this made 6 large muffin sized cakes.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the edges and top begin to brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Let cool for 15 minutes in your tins.

NEXT STEP IF MAKING CAKE BALLS:

Next, I crumbled the muffins into a mixing bowl. I added a mixture of lemon juice from 1/2 a large lemon (about a tablespoon) and 1/4 cup honey. I stirred this mixture up and then rolled cake ball shaped in my hands.

THE ICING FAIL:

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So, I tried using a mixture of honey and cacao butter for an attempt at a white-chocolate dipped icing. I really wanted it to be white for the golf balls. My idea was to use the end of a stir stick to make the dimples once the chocolate started to set up. HAH!! This never really occurred. I couldn’t quite get the consistency of the white chocolate right. The recipe I was going from was from the amazing blog site The Spunky Coconut. Kelly has a recipe for strawberry white chocolates that use these ingredients along with coconut mana / coconut butter and powdered freeze-dried strawberries to sweeten instead of the honey that I used. It was a good thought, but just didn’t quite work for this application, so I may just have to go back to the drawing board on this one ~ but our Daddo still enjoyed the cake-balls, even though they never quite made it to the golf-ball stage.
Cake Ball Fail
I will say, though, the concoction worked as chocolate candies, so we used the last little bit in our mustache molds for these little cuties. All-in-all the project at hand was not exactly a success, but we all enjoyed our time in the kitchen and got some delicious eats from the venture ~ Happy Failures, canaries! ;o)
White Chocolate Mustaches

Watermelon Lemonade {no sugar}

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Ever notice that MELON and LEMON have all the same letters? Sounds like a perfect match to me!

Fresh watermelon juice was created by blending fresh seedless watermelon (cut from the rind) in my Vitamin blender. Once it was well blended, I strained it all through a fine-mesh nut-milk bag to get a smooth and grit/pulp-free juice.

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Strain blended watermelon through a fine-mesh bag to get roughly 2 cups.

Now comes the hard part. Okay, just kidding – now simply add in 1/4 cup of organic lemon juice. Yes, that’s it!  SO very refreshing and SO watermelony 🙂       {watermelony? … Works for me!}

Once special touch that I did add to these cups of melon goodness is the flake-salted rim. Does this sound odd to anyone? My mom is a salt-lover. My daughter is also a salt-lover. Both of these girls-of-my-world seem to believe that watermelons and salt go hand in hand; one simply can’t happen without the other. So, I thought the perfect way to celebrate this combo was to do a salted rim. The salt I used was a pink Himalayan flake salt. I thought it was an interesting and fun addition, and it definitely got a thumbs up by my sweet girly.

Happy Weekend!

Watermelon Lemonade In The Grass

To DO List: Eat Mo’ Vegetarian Brekkies ~ Our Pick 4 Omelet Station

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I am mom. This may not be the case in every household, but I am also cook. To me, the fact that I am responsible for filling their plates every day means that I am also responsible for the nutrition that my children receive. Its a job I take seriously – yes, in a fun and silly way, but still, seriously.

One of the constant goals of mine as the NUTRITION-PROVIDER of my household is to not only get it in ’em, but teach them along the way to LOVE the nutritious choices, so that when I am no longer the one in charge of filling their plates, hopefully the lessons they are learning now will carry over. It is constantly in my mind as I plan out meal times, even planning the treats! I explain to them every step of the way the reasons “WHY” I am selecting certain ingredients and constructing a balanced plate of food, or sometimes a balanced day of food, since every single meal isn’t perfect nutritionally speaking. I truly aim to make the healthy decisions be appealing and fun! This is all a part of my master plan to grow healthy, happy eaters who WANT to be healthy, happy eaters! {don’t tell them , but I think it’s working}

My favorite meals are ones that encourage the whole family to try new textures, new tastes, and new colors of food. This may seem very elementary, like the classic phrase,” EAT THE COLORS OF THE RAINBOW”, but even as adults, sometimes, we get sedentary on what we know and forget to broaden our taste buds on occasion. Every color of food makes up the phytonutrients and vitamins that our bodies need to function at their best.  Meals like this are great for EVERBODY to explore something new, and for some reason, it makes it more fun to get to have control over those choices! I am talking about our super fun breakfast this morning BUILDING YOUR OWN omelet.

To begin our Omelet bar, I used a dozen farm-fresh, soy-free, gmo-free, pastured chicken eggs and cracked them into a bowl for a good whisking. The carton was now empty, so I thought: What a great vessel for dividing our omelet selections. Because there are 3 kiddos here, I simply cut the carton into 3 equal sections of 4 “holes”. The rule: PICK FOUR!  Want to know what the coolest part was?  They all picked more than 4! :D. I love this.

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So, I chopped from the fridge some piles of tomato, orange bell pepper, broccoli, and spinach {we only buy organic produce as to reduce our exposure to pesticides and herbicides}. From our home garden {organically grown}, I collected, chopped, and piled some parsley, some rainbow chard, and some chives.  The kids took turns filling their sections and we labeled their containers and lined them up for cooking.
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It was so much fun watching them get excited about their selections and watching their faces as they cheered on each other’s omelets over the flat-top and excitedly waited for their own to cook.  We made omelets, we made a fun memory, and we all had something green for breakfast. A win, win, win in my book!!! 🙂

~Happy Omelet Making, Canaries ~

Red, White & Blue Frozen Bananners

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I love recipes that the kids get to help with, and this one was perfect to include them on. We had lots of fun, and they helped come up with the idea for what was RED and BLUE and HEALTHY to use as “sprinkles” on our Nanner-Pops, too. Smartie pantses ;)!

I still want to perfect this dip, but it was definitely a hit with the kids, and it checked all of our allergy-friendly boxes here, so that is always a bonus!

First, prepare you toppings. We used some fresh organic strawberries, some fresh organic blueberries, and even some freeze-dried organic blueberries. Any nuts WOUDL be fabulous! Get creative!

Next, prepare your bananas by peeling, cutting in half, and skewering with kabob skewers, popsicle sticks, or I used cake pop stick that you can find at almost any craft store. Set aside.

Now, in a small saucepan {you will want one deep enough to be able to dip, or at least roll, the sauce 3-4 inches deep onto the bananas. IN the saucepan over medium heat, combine:

3 tablespoons of coconut oil
&
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon coconut butter (coconut manna)
&
3 tablespoons of honey

Once the coconut butter has melted down, add in:

6 tablespoons of coconut milk (or more if you feel like your sauce is still too thick)
&
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)

Stir together until smooth and then turn off your heat.  Now, simply dip your banners and set them onto a freezer-safe dish. Take a pinch of your topping of voice and sprinkle it onto the dip. Continue with all of your banners until done. Now, simply freeze until you are ready to enjoy! (we could only wait about 2 hours!).  Enjoy!

Saturday Breakfast, Gluten-Free Breakfast Quesadillas

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Saturdays. Sweet, sweet Saturdays.

It seems like a recurring theme for me. I always try to pretend like I am going to steal some time for myself come Friday evening, like I am going to sleep in, no matter what the rest of the family need on Saturday morning! . Most stay-at-home moms will probably understand that sentiment. I FINALLY have an extra pair of hands home for two full days and I won’t have to rush out of bed to get the day started, get lunches packed, get kids motivated to do their morning routines to get off to school without their teachers or peers knowing JUST how close we are each morning to NOT making it to school in one piece {let alone with a special-diet lunch & snack in tow for two kids}.

Every week on Friday evening, I take a deep breathe and celebrate the weekend, and I tell myself, “I am totally sleeping in in the morning.”. 

Every Saturday morning, I wake up {halfway} to a nursing baby who has been by my side since the first time he cried from his crib in the middle of the night. I wake up a little more when my seven year old come and wraps her little arms around me and steals all of my fuzzy cover for herself. And then, I wake up almost completely by the time my five year old makes himself a nest in the bend of my knees and starts whispering, “Momma. Momma, is it time for breakfast yet?”

He is a boy after his Mommy’s heart! Breakfast is hands-down my favorite mealtime. I am a waffle-a-holic, a crepe-addict (never planning to recover, either), and a lover of breakfast muffins and breads! But, today, I was in the mood for some eggs, and so I set the kids up with a cartoon, waited on my husband to roll out of bed and start a pot of coffee, and I began whipping up all the fixings for some breakfast quesadillas: got some nitrite-free bacon cooking in the oven, had some organic refried beans warming in a small saucepan, and scrambled up some beautiful pastures eggs.  I oiled the griddle with a little coconut oil and placed a brown rice tortilla down {I had some from Trader Joe’s}. The, I smeared some refried beans onto the tortilla, piled on some eggs & some bacon pieces, and topped with another brown rice tortilla. I let it all crisp up a bit and then flipped. I cooked that side to a golden brown and then transferred to a cutting board to cool and slice.

Me and Daddo  {this is my husbands official father name, by the way} had some salsa Verde and some raw cheddar cheese on ours and called it a delicious start to our day! Hope yours was delicious, too!