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.
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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~

GhostMallows {Sugar-less Marshmallows}

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Honey marshmallows with coconut cinnamon pie spice sugar
Honey marshmallows with coconut cinnamon pie spice sugar

Hooray! It’s Halloween ~ one of my very favorite days of the year. It has been my favorite for as long as I can remember. But now, it has even more meaning to me. Last year on this spooky & fanciful holiday, our third little ‘punkin’ decided that he wanted Halloween as his birthday. I will remember that day forever. It was a peaceful morning, and by no means unexpected, since we were one day shy of 42 weeks and had been expecting an arrival “any day now” for many, many, many days. I awoke at about 6 in the morning feeling unmistakeable contractions that came about every 5 minutes. I rang my mom to start heading over to be here for our older two. By the time she arrived just a little over an hour later, I could barely talk or walk through each crashing wave of contraction.

This was a very special birth for me because we had chosen a more intimate setting at a birth center with a midwife. After two hospital births, I was anticipating an unforgettable and triumphant experience, and I got just that. Things went quickly and, even though the midwife never made it to our birth, I feel like the experience happened just as it was meant to. Even with a very quick turn of events that led to 4 very large calendar-style paramedics rushing into my little quaint birth center room, an ambulance ride downtown to the children’s hospital, an almost immediate intubation, and a week-long stay at NICU. Just in case you were wondering: no, going straight to NICU 3 hours after having a baby and having to experience your postpartum “rest” on a hard sofa in the corner of the room  for a week is NOT ideal.  All things considered, I still look back on that day with a very warm glow in my heart. It was the best morning of my life. Honestly & hands down. My little Halloween pumpkin is one year old today. {typed with a pouty face}

Our family and a few friends will be here on Saturday for a birthday celebration, so I am starting early in preparation, making lots of FUN Halloween treats for my sugar-free kids. Last Easter, I made marshmallows from beet-sugar and brown-rice-syrup, and the kids absolutely LOVED them. On this eve of Halloween, I whipped up a batch of spooky Halloween mallows, partially to try again with a sugarless marshmallow recipe (with an unrefined sweetener), and also because my son’s preschool is handing out orange (food-dyed orange) pumpkin marshmallows as a fun Halloween snack today. Now, my little punkin’ will have a clean and allergy-friendly version of food-love to enjoy.

These sticky sweets are going to be perfect for my treat-table for Saturday’s festivities, especially piped out into these fun ghost shapes, I got nothing but giggles from my peanut gallery when they saw them. My daughter especially appreciates the silliness of these GhostMallows, and has been talking to them since she got home from school.  Hope you enjoy these as Ghost Mallows or as plain ol’ squares. It is definitely a recipe for the “keeper” bin.

I tried these with maple syrup last week and they didn’t turn out as well as they did today, so this is definitely the recipe I will stick with for future batches.

1/3 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons gelatin (prefereably from humainly-raised, grass-fed cows. I like this brand)**
1/2 cup honey (or 1 full cup if using all honey and no maple)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon real salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla

** FOR FULL SQUARES INSTEAD OF PIPING GHOSTS, DOUBLE THE GELATIN AND WATER – SO 3 Tablespoons GELATIN & 2/3 CUPS WATER**

In a large mixing bowl, I stirred together the gelatin, water, and vanilla and let stand while I heated my sweeteners. {I used a hand mixer, but you can use a stand mixer, too, if you prefer that. I like the hands on of making things like these. Its kind of like baker’s therapy for me, so simply use the mixing bowl here that goes with your stand mixer}

In a saucepan, I brought to a boil over medium-high heat my honey, maple syrup, and salt. I let the sugars heat to 240 {soft-ball stage}. I use a candy-thermomter, but you can always use the old-school method of dripping into ice cold water.

I carefully poured my hot honey mixture in a steady stream into my bowl of gelatin and water mixture, beating on medium speed with my hand mixer.

Once all of the honey mixture is incorporated, commence singing “WHIP IT!” because you will be whipping the ever-loving-yumminess out of this bowl of sweet goo until you have a cloud of fluffy marshmallow {about 10 minutes}.

[When a problem comes along….YOU MUST WHIP IT!]

Now – the SKY is the LIMIT with this marshmallow fluff!

Note: You will need some sort of powder substance to help with handling the complete and utter stickiness of the situation these marshmallows will create. Its a good problem to have, trust me.
What I used was my fall cinnamon-pie-spice-“sugar” mixture {which is just my cinnamon and coconut sugar recipe with pumpkin pie spice added in}.
You can use cinnamon, or if you feel like splurging on a bit of cane sugar here since you used honey in your recipe, powdered sugar can be used.

I sprinkled my powdered cinnamon-pie-spice-“sugar” generously on a sheet pan and rolled out half of the fluff. I spread with a spatula I had greased up with some coconut oil. These are now little squares of marshmallow.

Then, I transferred the remainder of the fluff into a zip-top bag and a cut about a half inch wide corner off. To pipe these little GhostMallows, start piping a pretty wide base and pull up. Hard to describe the technique, but you will get the feel of it after your first one or two; and the beauty of these little spooks is in the uniqueness of each little ghost. I used two ENJOY LIFE CHOCOLATE CHIPS for my eyes, but you can certainly keep with the sugar-free theme and try cutting a raisin in half for two eyes, or using a small slice of date.  Whatever you choose, you most definitely should play with your food!!

The mallow that I had spread out into a sheet, I used a few ways:
First, I chopped half of it into squares. Easy to pop in your moth or stick in a cup of cocoa squares. Yum!

Second, I took the remaining half and spread a layer of cashew butter on top. Then, I rolled the sheet of mallow, carefully and stickily, up into a “log” and sliced about 1/2 inch wide slices. You can see these at the back of a couple of the pictures here. they were delicious too!

Third, I needed an icing for the tops of the little sweet pumpkin muffins I made for Finlay’s birthday, so I melted a couple of squares of these marshmallows onto the top of the muffin and it was the perfect, sticky, sugarless topping.

See, the sky is really the limit. So play away, canaries!!
~Happy Ghostmallow Making~

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Salted Maple Candy {Sugar-Free}

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A gluten-free, sugar-free Halloween Treat.

This week, Autumn is in an upswing, as we just turned the calendar page over to my favorite month of the year, OCTOBER! I can’t quite put into words why I am so enchanted with October, except to say that there is something majestically promising about the changes that are always in October’s air. There is comfort in the crispness and fancy in each fall-breeze, as if magic is blowing through my bones. Collections of birds can be caught on their migration paths. So many birds! Kind of creepy, yet mesmerizing. Leaves turn to those golden Autumn hues. We all watch as nature shifts to protection -mode, and the shear fact that it all happens so fluently and artfully makes me feel grounded and cozy.  It seems like each day of October is a giddy anticipation of the playful holiday that punctuates the month {for those who celebrate it} and kicks off the “holiday season”! Now, more than ever, too,  I have such an intimate connection to Halloween, because just last year , at about 10:30 on Halloween morning, our little family welcomed to the world our 3rd little squirrel in the nut-bunch. And his birth was such a cozy affair, gentle and peaceful and natural and wonderful. Yes, October is absolutely my favorite month of the year.

So, if you have read any of my other posts, you know that we are a sugar-free family. You can find some great selections, now, of candies that are chemcial-dye-free and high-fructose- corn-syrup (hfc) free; but, it is tough to find cane-sugar-free candies, I have to say.

On this fine fall morning, I was dreaming of salted caramel. My little wheels got to turning about the little maple candies that I usually buy for my munchkins to have around this time of year, and I got a whim to create my own “Salted Maple Candies”.

This recipe, like most candy recipes, takes a special touch and some caressing ~ but it IS NOT difficult to make. It is actually very simple if you follow the directions well and stay on top of it. If I can do this with an 11 month old on my hip half the time and a five year old chanting,”Is it done yet” on repeat ~ well….you get the picture.

Now, I tend to get excited about special food finds, and last weekend, as you may have read in this post, my husband and I shopped am artisan oiler. There, we picked up some maple-infused aged-balsamic vinegar {yum! yum! yum!}, as well as some vanilla bean sea salt. These are merely options for this candy, and I will put them in the recipe here as such, but these candies will work just as well with more readily available ingredients in their same category, so please don’t feel like this in one of those recipes that you have to spend tons of money on crazy ingredients for in order for this to even work. Not so. Plain ol’ maple syrup and sea salt will work just fine!

Salted Maple Candies

2 cups Pure Organic Maple Syrup (I use Grade B)
1 tablespoon maple balsamic vinegar (optional!)
1-2 teaspoons vanilla bean sea salt, or any course ground sea salt

1) Bring your maple syrup and vinegar to a boil over medium-low to medium heat until a candy thermometer reads 235 degrees fahrenheit, stirring occasionally. I used a medium-sized stainless steel saucepan.

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2) Remove from heat or turn off gas and let sit WITHOUT STIRRING until the temperature cools to 175 degrees fahrenheit. (10-15 minutes)

3) Now, take a wooden spoon (wooden spoons are less likely to cause drastic temperature changes to your sensitive mixture) and briskly stir the cooled syrup for 4-5 minutes, until the color gets light and the consistency is thick and smooth. {Note, I did not get a picture of this because this is a time sensitive part of the recipe. As the candy cools, it will harden quite quickly so you should move as quickly as possible here}

4) Either transfer the mixture to candy molds now until your candies cool completely, or, if you are feeling adventurous, try my method:

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Transfer the thickened mixture, carefully as it will still be hot, to a piping bag (you may use a ziplock if that is all you have and snip off the end). Carefully and quickly pipe out nickle-sized dots and then pull up, to get a sort of “chocolate chip” shape. Again, work quickly as your candy will start to harden. I piped mine onto a silpat (silicone baker’s mat), but parchment will work just as beautifully. I like the uneven shapes of doing these by hand, and my goal was to make the candies look like witches hats, some standing straight up, some flopping over, and some just plain weird. Hey ~ afterall, its HALLOWEEN. 🙂

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5) If you work quickly enough, your candies might still be wet enough for a sprinkle of coarse salt to stick. If not, simply brush the tops with a tiny amount of maple syrup and then sprinkle your salt to the tops of your candies.  I used a Madagascar vanilla bean infused sea salt.

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They are bewitchingly delicious and sickningly sweet {exactly how Halloween Candy should be!} and the texture is like a fresh candy corn. Hope you enjoy the treat.

~Happy October Eats to you and your family~
Kendra

Elvis-Cakes (Coconut Flour Peanut Butter & Banana Pancakes, Gluten-free, Dairy-Free, Soy-Free, Sugar-Free)

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Pancakes. One simple word. But I would be willing to bet my stainless-steel bowl collection that this one simple word can arouse oodles and oodles of memories. Some of you may be salivating jsut reading it. {…she types as she wipes the dribble from her chin.}

Most of us moms {and dads} who have braved the rough waters of a gluten-free or allergy-friendly diet have, somewhere in the beginning, been struck with the urge to recreate the all-time-kid-tastic-morning-wonderland of — PANCAKES —!  We’ve all gone there. Some of those gluten free pancake mixes that you can buy at the store produce this psuedo-cake, not truly worthy of the pancake title, that look close enough to the real thing; yet, when you dig the side of your fork gracefully into the pile, you find your grace leaving the table, trying to pull apart a gummy bite, most likely with a scrunched look on your face and not at all convinced that the bite you are about to take is going to satisfy the craving your tongue, tummy, and heart are having. Such a dissappointment. And after trying a few mixes, you begin to throw those boxes that promise a fluffy pancake into the same category as GMO’s, almost,  holding a burning grudge in hopes of honest labeling!

Admittedly, my very favorite breakfast treat is the gf crepe (which is a pancake of sorts, right?), but these Coconut Flour Pancakes are one recipe that visits our breakfast table loyally.  The original recipe with maple syrup is fine on its own, but the fun part for me, the mom-chef, is creating masterpieces of flavor and fun – suitable for very  ~happy eating~ !  I especially pride myself on getting them to scoff down a plate with something other than syrup – and, since we have a cane-sugar allergy, completely free of refined sugar.

This morning, I was channeling my inner-elvis. I had about 12 bananas getting over-ripe and ready to be moved to the freezer, and so I decided to pair them with a classic organic creamy peanut butter for.

I took the original recipe and added a tablespoon of peanut butter and a tablespoon of our cinnamon sugar to the batter.  I cooked them up in coconut oil, and topped with more sprinkle of cinnamon sugar, sliced bananas, and a dollup of organic pb. Plates were cleaned. Pancake breakfast complete.

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Pepi-Chia Herb Crackers

When I began on our special diet journey for our suffering then-3 year old, we removed in one fail swoop the triad of typical Standard American Eating : Wheat, Milk & Eggs. This is how my career-in-the-kitchen began.

Molly is our little canary in the kitchen, and we have since learned that her immune-dysfunction provides us with a perpetual game of guessing as to what her immune “soldiers” may be bullying around each day.  We have come an amazingly long way since those days of desperate prescription filling (with no avail). Her rashes were given so many names and so many treatments, but it was not until we removed the underlying cause of inflammation that we began to see big changes; and the bonus changes ~ her neurological issues associated with sensory processing disorder, obsessive compulsion, and Aspberger’s Syndrome actually began to improve.  Behaviors that we were settling in on with a “non-progressive but incurable” diagnosis were actually changing. Hope. Light. and a Passion beyond comparison to share this “Secret” with the world, just in case what worked for us may work for other suffering families.

As we began, I worked hard to mimic the flavors and textures that we were all used to eating. But once you go as far as I had to take out milk and wheat and eggs, and once you understand how calming that inflammation has long-lasting effects, effects that may mean the difference between her having to be put on dangerous drugs with very long lists of side effects, or the difference in her developing cancer in her 50’s or 60’s and her living a long a healthful, vibrant life, those choices don’t seem so difficult at all! Quite the contrary.  I get excited about finding new ways to promote our health through food!!

Since I started, I have been traveling ever-further into healthful choices in our kitchen, subsequently we actually do very limited grains now and have severely  down-sized our consumption of animal proteins.

We eat rices, and some quinoa, and occasionally gluten-free oats (on a 4-day rotation), but every once in a while, I still get that craving for a crunch that a simple nut won’t appease. Today, I was having such a craving.

We are relaxing at home today, football playing for dad, kids enjoying the cooler outdoor weather and making “gluten-free mud pies” and I have put on a pot of chili with beans and zucchini and some chopped greens and stewed tomatoes.  In our past life, I would have eaten my chili on a bed of frito chips and a large handful of cubed colby ~ not today.
We now are dairy-free (processed) and have recently decided to take corn out of the equation as well.  So today, I went into creative mode to come up with a cruchy cracker that fit the bill.

My challenge: No Grain, No Sugar, No Fruit, No Eggs, No Milk Crackers
My solution: Pepi-Chia Herb Cracker
My surprise: Everyone loved them, including our 2 year old grazer.


Pepi-Chia Herb Crackers

1 cup + 1/3 cup raw pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)

½ cup non-dairy milk (I like almond or hemp)

2 tablespoons cold-pressed olive oil

2 tablespoons chia seeds

2 tablespoons raw shelled sunflower seeds (or more)

1-2 tablespoons dried parsley

1-2 tablespoons dried rosemary

1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon Real Salt (optional)

In your food processor or spice grinder, grind 1 cup of the pepitas into a meal
or course nut flour.

In a medium mixing bowl, dump in your pepita meal and stir in the chia seeds, sunflower
seeds, herbs, baking soda and Real Salt. Now add the non-dairy milk (or you
could use water) and the oil and stir just until combined.

On a parchment lined baking sheet, spread the mixture into one even layer about
1/4 inch thick. Sprinkle the remaining pepitas over top and bake at 325 degrees
for 25-30 minutes. Take out to and cool on baking sheet. Cut or break into desired shapes.