Today, I am opening a special gift that I’d like to share with you. It’s the gift of a lunchbox from Valerie, a new friend from City|Life|Eats. I hope her guest post inspires you as much as it inspires me!
Hello Gluten-Free Cat readers! Heather guest-blogged a wonderful lunchbox completely suited to my various food intolerances and restrictions last week on my blog, so I am thrilled to be making her a lunchbox today. There is one catch, in that we do not live in the same city, so sadly I cannot actually give Heather this lunchbox to take with her to work, but I hope it still provides inspiration for her and all of you.
Switching to a gluten-free diet, whether because of a Celiac diagnosis or non-Celiac gluten intolerance, entails so many changes - scrutinizing labels, reinventing old favorites, reorganizing kitchens and pantries - but I think for many of us, one of the biggest changes is eating out, especially when on-the-go, whether on your lunch break or out on the weekends. I know before switching to a gluten-free diet, I brought my lunch to work almost every day, but I also knew I could rely on local lunch places if need be. This is no longer the case since discovering I am intolerant to gluten, dairy and chicken eggs and also choosing to avoid refined sugars and a few other foods that do not agree with me. Yes, I can and do eat out, but it requires time, forethought and asking questions, and is not usually compatible with a short lunch break.
So now I pack my lunch and snacks without fail. Last September, I started writing a series on my blog called Today’s Lunchbox, thinking my lunchboxes might interest some of my readers. I vastly underestimated the interest people have in this series. What was initially a week-long project became month-long, and has now passed its six-month mark. I mainly write about lunchboxes I bring to work (which generally include a lunch and a couple of snacks) but also weekend lunchboxes and travel lunchboxes.
As you know from reading Heather’s blog, she has a pretty packed schedule between teaching elementary school all day and leading intense exercise classes (see, the Accumulator) so her main requirements for a lunchbox are that it be gluten-free and high enough in protein to sustain her energy. My job is much more sedentary but I think we can all relate to wanting a nutrient-dense and energy-packed lunchbox. This is the lunchbox I came up with for Heather and one I enjoyed thoroughly last week:
- Veggie-full Breakfast Hash from Ricki Heller’s new book Good Morning! Breakfasts without Sugar, Gluten, Eggs or Dairy. This e-book came out yesterday, but I actually was a recipe tester, so have been making this hash for a couple of months now. It is technically a breakfast recipe, but I love it as a lunchbox staple. While the recipe calls for tempeh or black beans, I use both to up the protein, and because I love the combination of textures of the tempeh, beans, sweet potatoes and vegetables.
- Sides of roasted carrots and steamed kale. I like how well steamed kale holds up in a lunchbox and it is a vegetable with a comparatively high amino acid profile, so I make sure to include it often in my lunchboxes.
- A Pumpkin Cranberry Muffin from Carol Kicinski’s upcoming book Simply… Gluten-Free Desserts (reviewed here). This muffin is made with almond flour and eggs (I substitute duck eggs for the chicken eggs) so packs quite a protein punch. I love this as a late-morning snack.
- Pumpkin Chia Pudding – I am a huge fan of this recipe by Gena from Choosing Raw. It has protein, healthy fats and some fiber, not to mention all the goodness from pumpkin and cinnamon. I like chia puddings generally because they are easy to digest, have protein and are nutrient dense. I often include a chia pudding in my lunchboxes and have made numerous variations, whether from other bloggers or variations of my own.
Packing a lunchbox requires forethought and time, but it is worth it to me. I generally rely on leftovers and recipes such as the hash and the chia pudding that generate multiple servings. I also like to rely on staples that are similar but not identical (like hummus, bean dips, or nut-based dips) which are easy in that the food processor does most of the work, and can be used to supplement a lunchbox (as a snack with veggies and/or crackers), or be the central component of a lunchbox (in wraps).
Valerie blogs at City|Life|Eats about food, life, work, and living with food allergies and a modified diet. Her lunchboxes and recipes are gluten-free, dairy-free and often, but not exclusively, vegan. You can subscribe to City|Life|Eats via RSS or email or connect with Valerie via Twitter or Facebook.