Different/tasty gluten free lunch ideas?
December 13, 2008 3:57 AM   Subscribe

Help me with suggestions for special or unusual recipes for gluten and wheat free portable lunches?

I want to surprise someone with a good lunch, but she can't have gluten/wheat - and she's vegetarian. I need ideas for lunches/meals that will travel and store well, so they'll survive being made the night before and transported.

I'm not really looking for utilitarian, easy idea - I can manage basics like a salad or something just fine - and I'd imagine she eats a lot of it.

I'm more looking for extra awesomeness, deliciousness and nutritiousness. This is a gift, not just a meal, but it still needs to be portable and utilitarian enough to be enjoyed on a short lunch break without being too complicated to eat. However, prep time on my end is no big deal.

Allowed: Fruits, veggies, nuts, rice. I'm assuming chickpea is ok. Yogurt is ok, so I'm assuming cheese is, too, but I'm not sure.

Also, bonus points if you have tips on making rice bread that doesn't suck, or suggestions on gluten-free bread alternatives.
posted by loquacious to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
How about zucchini corn patties topped with vegetarian chili? Chili ideas from this question, zucchini corn patty recipe below.

zucchini corn patties:

1 zucchini
1 cup of masa flour OR corn flour (make sure that whatever you use isn't milled with wheat, though)
1 small onion diced
1 egg

fresh parsley OR cilantro
dry dill
cumin powder
garlic powder
chili powder


1. Grate the zucchini into a colander, salt it, let it sit for 30 minutes to get rid of some water
2. Add masa/corn flour (both work but consistency will be a bit different), egg, and onion. Mix.
3. Add spices to taste. I add a lot of each spice.
4. Optional: add grated cheese.
5. Make patties and fry in olive oil (or any oil, really) until crispy.

At home, I like to eat the zucchini patties topped with sour cream and melted cheese and salsa but, for work, topping them with chili is best. It is simpler but get to keep all of the deliciousness.

Also, for a bread alternative you could make buckwheat crepes. Buckwheat, despite its misleading name, has nothing at all to do with wheat. You'd need to track down buckwheat flour not milled in the same facility as wheat, though.

buckwheat crepes:

1.25 cups buckwheat flour
1 cup whole milk
1 cup water
1 egg
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar

1. Combine all ingredients.
2. For best results, let the batter sit in the fridge for an hour or so.
3. Make crepes.
posted by mustcatchmooseandsquirrel at 5:32 AM on December 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Millet flatbread pizza! If you have a toaster over you can do it pretty easily I would think, but it does require you finding out if cheese is OK. I think they have millet flatbread at Whole Foods, but check Trader Joe's and other places like that near you for it, and then just go nuts on choosing the toppings.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:46 AM on December 13, 2008

(I have a gluten-intolerant vegetarian housemate, so...)

A lot of gluten-free food - especially things like pasta, very especially things like breads and cookies and pizza bases, and very very especially pastry - is great just after it's made, but after it's cooled down for an hour or two it becomes a bit unpleasant. Things like pasta salads are therefore a bit dodgy, and I don't know a bread alternative that will still be nice the next day. Corn tortillas, if you can think of a filling that tastes good cold? Though you have to hunt around to find the ones which are actually gluten-free, rather than "normal flour tortillas with a bit of corn flour sprinkled in".

For savoury:

Fresh hummus and a nice green tomato salsa (if you're somewhere where can find green tomatoes this time of year). To make the usual assortment of dippable stuff like "rice crackers, carrots, bell peppers" a bit less dull, steam some nice thick asparagus for a few minutes - as long as you don't overcook it it'll still be perfectly nice left overnight and eaten cold.

Potato patties of some description are handy for a nice big lump of starch. Mash potato; mix in some corn kernels and spring onions and cheese (if it's okay), maybe some spinach, and whatever else you feel might make it interesting and which doesnt need much cooking to be edible, and some fresh herbs of whatever sort will go with whatever else you've put in. Form the mash into patties, roll the patties in gluten-free flour, dip them in beaten eggs, coat them in gluten-free breadcrumbs (available from most health-food shops). Maybe mix some paprika and salt and chopped olives and chopped pine-nuts into the breadcrumbs first. Leave the patties in the fridge for an hour or two and then shallow-fry until golden and crispy-looking.

For sweet, and sticking to recipes I've tried:

Brownies, polenta cake, rhubarb friands (raspberry or blueberry is also good; the friand recipe is one where you can substitute gluten-free flour for plain flour just fine).

There's also Claudia Roden's orange cake recipe, which is (a) fantastic, (b) seems to do decently on the "nutritional" side (nuts, eggs, oranges, no butter), and (c) adjustable - you can add in a bit of cocoa to make it chocolate-and-orange if you like, or substitute half the almond meal with a different sort of nut meal, or use clementines instead of oranges, or whatever. You also get to boil oranges for two hours and then tear them in half with your bare hands, which is great fun. The only downside is that this is such a great recipe that it's become very widespread as a default "cake that gluten-intolerant people can eat", at least in parts of the UK and Australia.

If you do bake something that uses baking powder rather than baking soda, be aware that by default baking powder has gluten in it, and you'll need to hunt out some that's specifically marked as gluten-free; and that even if the recipe doesn't use gluten-free flour, you might need some to flour the cake tin.
posted by severalbees at 6:03 AM on December 13, 2008

And oh, yes, seconding the "buckwheat pancakes", at least in principle. Since they're going to be left overnight and eaten cold I would suggest pikelets instead - they're basically pancakes but smaller, a bit more solid, and very happy to be eaten cold. Leave out the sugar, add a couple of pinches of salt and paprika, use buckwheat flour plus some gluten-free baking powder instead of self-raising flour (the side of the baking powder container will generally say how much to use to make the equivalent of self-raising flour). Add some chopped chives to the mix if you like, or some grated zucchini plus an extra tablespoon of flour. Serve buttered.
posted by severalbees at 6:17 AM on December 13, 2008

loquacious, I just wanted to throw in a word of caution here. I have a friend who avoids wheat and gluten because she has celiac disease. Her sensitivity to gluten is such that a non-gluten meal prepared in a regular kitchen can make her sick just from the cross-contamination factor: enough of the gluten protein can apparently remain on porous utensils and baking surfaces to be a problem, lots of foodstuffs are exposed to wheat/gluten at various stages of factory production (but not identified as such on packaging), and there are other trouble areas that aren’t obvious to someone who isn't well-versed in preparing gluten-free foods. She’s really only comfortable eating food that she’s prepared herself, and the inevitable result of someone else making her a well-intentioned "surprise" non-gluten meal is that she’ll eat (some of) the meal out of graciousness, and then feel really unwell afterwards.

This information may not apply to your situation at all, and I think there's a lot of individual variation in gluten sensitivity, but I thought I'd mention it because this is all stuff I didn’t know about how celiac disease works until my friend explained it to me.

It's lovely that you want to do this for your friend. Might there be a commercial supplier of gluten-free products in your area from whom you could buy your surprise meal? It’s not as personal, but it might be even more appreciated than you think!
posted by Hellgirl at 8:39 AM on December 13, 2008

I second Hellgirl's post. My wife has celiac disease and a surprise gluten-free meal never really goes over well. Whether there's contamination or simple fear there might be contamination, it's just not something that's very easy to pull off.

Prepared GF stuff from a bakery she likes might be a good idea, if possible.
posted by jragon at 1:48 PM on December 13, 2008

Response by poster: loquacious, I just wanted to throw in a word of caution here. I have a friend who avoids wheat and gluten because she has celiac disease. Her sensitivity to gluten is such that a non-gluten meal prepared in a regular kitchen can make her sick just from the cross-contamination factor: enough of the gluten protein can apparently remain on porous utensils and baking surfaces to be a problem,

This bears repeating, but apparently her sensitivity is low enough she can have a beer every so often. Also, I have an array of commercial/NSF stainless steel cookware available as well as a industrial strength washing station. Since it's a group kitchen it's a given that I'm going to scour the steel cookware down to bare metal with metal scrubs and excruciatingly hot water even when I'm cooking for myself, and I would avoid cross-contamination from porous surfaces like plastics and wood.

I was going to confirm a couple of things with her first, anyway, but I wanted to be pre-loaded with meal ideas before making the offer and running the risk of showing up with something boring like a bag of carrot sticks and an apple. :)
posted by loquacious at 2:52 PM on December 13, 2008

If this is in the Bay Area, I would be thinking about things like hot vegetable soup in a thermos, because it's been unusually cold here. This roasted parsnip soup would be perfect, though I suggest making your own vegetable stock. You can also leave out the milk (which I do since it seems unnecessary).
My gluten-free friend eats a lot of bean and grain salads at lunch- grains like quinoa, millet, and buckwheat. This black bean and quinoa salad recipe is similar to one I have made, only I leave out the bell peppers and put in chopped jicama for the crunch.
A yummy gluten free desert is Sagu, a red wine pudding from Brazil.

The other day at a local Oakland wine bar I had warm chèvre under roasted d’anjou pears with a red wine reduction, on toast. You wouldn't want the toast, but OMG I could eat this every day, for breakfast even. Perhaps for your purposes you could serve it on a nice spicy green like endive.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:13 PM on December 13, 2008

Oops, meant to add: sweet potato gratin. I like it cold, and you can make it with Bob's Red Mill gluten free baking mix, easily found at Rainbow.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:18 PM on December 13, 2008

Go Asian. Seriously, plenty of bento recipes that do not use pasta, breads or other glutens. Vietnamese rice noodle dishes for example and spring rolls with rice paper, rice vermicelli and assorted veg stuffings including fried tofu. Bento comes up with a lot of sources on the blue and green here. Other keywords are Mr. Bento on the intertubes.

Some things of note:

* if you decide to do a gluten free pasta try the brand Tinkyada which is way closer to being a decent pasta than some of the other candidates floating out there;

* Bob's Red Mill is your friend. His gluten free line is pretty availabe in a lot of co-ops and health food stores. The pancake mix is popular in my house and can be thinned to make crepes that can be rolled with vegetarian stuffings

* If making goods requires you to have raw ingredients like Xanthum gum; rice flour, tapioca or other gluten free ingredients be prepared to pay the price. I check the provenance of my goods and have, to the pain of my wallet, had to buy much higher priced product produced by folks like Bob's Red Mill because the usual Asian sources prove problematic. I never buy honey from China, as an example, because of the excessive use of antiobiotics and other chemicals in their food chain (various sources)

Gluten free can be delicious.
posted by jadepearl at 6:29 PM on December 13, 2008

If you live somewhere where they offer gluten-free hot dog buns, might I suggest a carrot dog?
posted by Deathalicious at 10:07 PM on December 13, 2008

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