Tapas for Tweens
October 29, 2011 10:58 AM   Subscribe

What can I send for a kid's school lunch that doesn't need heating or refrigeration, has a super-fast prep time, and doesn't contain gluten, peanuts, or dairy?

My poor peanut-allergic fourth grader has been diagnosed with IBS, and we need to try her on a gluten-free diet for at least the next few weeks to see if that's the cause of her ongoing stomach aches. Help the two of us figure out what she can bring for lunches that meet her criteria:

* OK stored at room temperature for up to five hours
* Easily portable
* Does NOT contain peanuts, gluten, or dairy (other nuts are... iffy)
* Does not require reheating, as in a microwave
* Suits a fourth-grader's kind of picky palate
* And for me: Not a massive prep time. I'd really prefer things that don't need heating up and putting into a thermos. This is probably the one criteria most likely to go, sigh.

Before this, she's been eating the school lunches. She does not have access to a refrigerator or microwave at school.

Things we've tried:
* Sandwiches on gluten-free bread. She hates all of the gluten-free sandwich breads we've found (I can't blame her).
* Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables: berries, apples, raw bell pepper, baby carrots, even frozen mixed vegetables (they thaw by lunch, and she likes 'em cold). She likes these quite a bit, but it's not enough for a whole lunch.
* Roll-ups of sliced turkey or bologna. She likes this... kind of, but not a lot, and not for every day. We need other options.
* We've nervously let her eat almond crackers. She's fine with them and loves them. Might plan on sending almond thins and sliced turkey pepperoni as a lunch, with some red bell pepper.

Things we haven't tried, and the reasons why:
* Tuna, egg, chicken salads. She dislikes mayonnaise-based salads intensely.
* GF pasta or rice salads. She might or might not like them, and either way, they require a whole lot of advance preparation.
* Hard-boiled eggs. She dislikes eggs of all kinds.
* Hummus. She doesn't like this, either.
* Nuts. She's recently OK with foods containing almonds, but she has a strong aversion to most things that have a nut flavoring, much less any outright nuts. She also doesn't like sunbutter.

The child in question is very smart and responsible, and she will be reading this thread, so you're welcome to make a case directly to her for trying new things, or giving a fresh chance to something she has tried before but didn't like at the time.

Whew. Help, help! I don't want my poor kid to have to eat nothing but cold lunchmeat for the rest of her school career!
posted by Andrhia to Food & Drink (48 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
If you get a rice cooker, it doesn't take all that long to make rice. (More important, it's hands-off.) It will keep at room temperature from breakfast to lunch. It's a little bland tasting, I guess, but there are ways to make it more interesting, including different ways of spicing it, or including various veggies. And of course there are different kinds of rice, for variety.

Rice with veggies is the typical Japanese "bento".
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:02 AM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Try making chicken salad with an oil and vinegar dressing, rather than mayo, with a little salt and peper, sundried tomatoes, and maybe some of those almonds. This works for tuna also (put in capers or pieces of pickle instead of sundried tomato). Also consider mixing in bean sprouts.
posted by beagle at 11:06 AM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't think my kids would eat plain turkey or bologna, but they would be thrilled with salami. Thrilled. Try some different meats. Some kids bring cold hot dogs to school.

They really like lentil soup in a thermos. Microwaving soup for a thermos is actually quicker for me than making a sandwich at 7 am. They bring leftover red beans and rice with sausage sometimes too. My daughter will bring salad, too. Green salad with chicken or something.
posted by artychoke at 11:08 AM on October 29, 2011

My roommate makes a mean tofu dip. Because it's so bland, it picks up the flavor of whatever you stick in the blender with it. So you might try some experimentation - would be good on a GF cracker. Too much soy is not a good thing, apparently, but now and then it could be a break from turkey rollups.

Dried fruit

Lentil salad? You can flavor the crap out of that stuff. Dill, basil, balsamic, olive paste, garlic ... depending on what she likes. A generous dash of olive oil makes it tasty.

Cold chicken, as opposed to actual chicken salad, with some cooked veg. A frozen juice box or something in her lunch box with it should keep it cold enough.
posted by bunderful at 11:08 AM on October 29, 2011

guacamole, scooped up with carrots, celery, red peppers or even the almond crackers? If you're making it yourself, I'd omit the tomatoes bc they can water down the guac.

Has she tried other different varieties of hummus such as roasted red pepper hummus?

What about fake hummus, such as ones made with white beans or red lentils?

I love sweet potato fries (that are actually baked). Or yucca fries, but those require boiling before you bake them with oil. Plantains are good too. All of the these can be eaten cold.
posted by Neekee at 11:14 AM on October 29, 2011

Most chicken salads and the like can be made with plain greek yogurt instead. If the recipe calls for 1 cup of mayo, I tend to use 3/4 cup of greek yogurt and 1/4 cup of Spectrum Light Canola Mayo (eggless, vegan). I am not a great fan of mayo either and this combo binds the salad nicely and doesn't trigger all my "OMG EW MAYO" switches.
posted by Medieval Maven at 11:14 AM on October 29, 2011

If she's happy with what you guys eat for dinner, it would be easy enough to make an extra serving and put it away for her lunch the next day. Quite a lot of things are fine eaten at room temperature - especially for a fourth grader, since most kids don't like things piping hot anyway.

I do this for myself as I have plenty of time to cook dinner once my infant son goes to bed, but not really time to make lunch the next day.
posted by sonika at 11:17 AM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you use gluten-free corn tortillas, you might have a lot of options for fillings and making burritos that she can eat.
posted by dilettante at 11:18 AM on October 29, 2011

I eat a diet with similar restrictions so I think I can make some great suggestions, but first I think we all can provide better answers if you give us some information about what foods your daughter does enjoy. Whether they are permissible under her new diet or not, just a list of foods she likes would help us come up with the most likely suggestions.
posted by telegraph at 11:23 AM on October 29, 2011

The Japanese children show off not with cool clothes or shoes. They show off with how cool their lunches are!! Cooking with Dog is one of my favorite YouTube shows. I am sure you can find shows that will demonstrate a quick meal for your daughter. Plus, she can watch and see if she would enjoy that meal before you make her lunch. Eggs Japanese style is a little different, see if she would like it that way and then add something that will provide a great source of protein (good brain food!)

For something less Japanese, maybe an easy bento box lunch will be better.

If you get all of the ingredients together that you have been making the lunches for her with, fry it up with some brown rice, you will make a great meal that keeps and doesn't take a lot of work. Fried rice is just all sorts of stuff cut small and then tossed about in a pan. You can put anything in it! Here is a demonstration.

For us Asians, presentation is everything! We imagine it tastes good just because it LOOKS good! : )
posted by Yellow at 11:27 AM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by Bruce H. at 11:28 AM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

You could try looking up gluten-free recipes at bento (Japanese-style lunch box) sites - some of them take some time, but others are simple. And some of the ones that take time can be made for dinner and the leftovers packed for lunch the next morning.

Traditional bentos are made to be eaten at room temperature anyway, so if you follow tips and recipes (they're not all Japanese recipes!) from these sites, many of them should last until lunchtime and be eaten at room temp just fine.

Just Bento's gluten-free category

Cooking Cute is almost all GF, and has a page with a GF product list.

Lunch in a Box has tips for food safety, and the vast majority are meant to be eaten at room temp. There's a GF category and other categories as well. (Most of the lunches were made for her 3-4 year old, but can be scaled up or changed around for an older kid's tastes.)
posted by telophase at 11:29 AM on October 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

Cups of apple sauce and other fruit compotes? How about biltong or other kinds of dried meat? Rice cakes could be a replacement for crackers, and maybe babaganoush (you can make it with oil not mayonnaise) or salsa to dip? How about stuffed vine leaves - with the frozen juice box to keep them cool. In fact Greek mezze might be a good thing to look at - gigantes beans, mini meatballs, red pepper dip, even taramasalata.
posted by acalthla at 11:30 AM on October 29, 2011

I can't really help with the main dish aspect since my GF kid loves PB&J on Udi's bread.

I can give a few suggestions for sides though.

Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Pebbles bars. I don't know if they're dairy free, but my kids love them.

EnviroKids bars. More expensive than the Pebbles bars, but they're organic and bigger.

You could let her make her own trail mix. There are lots of options that don't have to include the nuts she doesn't like.
posted by TooFewShoes at 11:34 AM on October 29, 2011

as another bread-style-thing alternative, make a big flat tray of polenta (add in some olive oil and flavour with some bouillon mix), cook it until it's very firm and then when it's cold slice into fingers - very tasty I think. You can also cube it as a version of 'croutons' for a salad. And you can do a bunch in advance and freeze in baggies until required.
posted by acalthla at 11:44 AM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Baked lentil chips. Veggie pate (easy enough to make, just search for recipes and pick one that sounds appealing). Bean salad. Rice noodles, veg, chicken/tofu tossed in a bit of wheat-free soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil (or whatever other dressing combination strikes your fancy), quinoa and veg salad, edamame, potato salad (doesn't have to be made with mayo).
posted by Felicity Rilke at 11:49 AM on October 29, 2011

Look to Japanese and Mexican traditional foods to find genuinely tasty food without gluten & peanut (you may have to delete or substitute [daiya!] dairy in Mex) . Try corn masa, in all of its glorious incarnations: burritos/tacos in corn tortillas, tamales, tamale pie, pupusas.

Lots of things taste good in nori rolls: red pepper, avocado, carrot, cucumber, omelet. Also, they look extremely cute.

Spring rolls wrapped in rice paper.

Easy in a thermos: franks & beans.
posted by apparently at 12:00 PM on October 29, 2011

Amy's Kitchen has a slew of products that saved me when I went through something similar. My kid particularly loved the GF/dairy free mac and cheese; I'd nuke it in the morning with some veggies and throw it in a thermos. Still warm at lunch and no complaints.

We're not fans of the GF bread, either, but GF bagels are good. You can try sandwiches on those.
posted by kinetic at 12:00 PM on October 29, 2011

You can make tuna salad (and doubtless chicken salad) without mayo -- I hate mayo too. I make a tuna salad with sour cream and mustard and it's very good. This is the recipe I've been using.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:20 PM on October 29, 2011

Bean or meat taquitos. They're often in frozen foods if you don't want to roll them. Can be precooked. Also good w/ guac.

Mashed potato or sweet potato made with coconut oil and garlic powder. Precooking, but not elaborate; most time is steaming tuber chunks. Not eating wheat/bready things, while good for the gut, makes me unhappy and yummy mash helps ease that.

If you get to the point of reintroducing bread, look into Ezekeal (sp?) products. Mixed grain that's sprouted which helps digestability.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 12:27 PM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Marinated mushrooms, either in like oil and vinager, or plain old butter-and-garlic fried, work fine cold. How would olives work? Tapenad is nice even on dorkey GF crackers. Dolmadas are pretty nommy, even the ones from a can. There's a lot of those sort of canned mediterrenian/middle-eastern dishes. Has she tried babba ganoush? Rissottos work as slightly cooler dishes as well.
posted by Iteki at 12:28 PM on October 29, 2011

Also, I get that she doesn't dig mayo, would salad dressing or pizza sauce work? 'cause most health food bread needs saucing and toasting to help them along,.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 12:35 PM on October 29, 2011

Beef jerky.
posted by rhizome at 12:44 PM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

We always did tuna salad with italian dressing. Add some celery for crunch and it's delicious. If she can do it on the crackers, then tuna salad and a slice of cheese on a cracker makes a delicious home-made lunchable. In fact the crackers + different stuff to put on top lunchables model got me through much of elementary school (not actual lunchables, but homemade ones), so I'd focus on finding a few brands/types of gluten-free crackers so it's not always the same? Gluten-free tortillas would also be good.
posted by brainmouse at 12:51 PM on October 29, 2011

My kids aren't gluten free but are allergic to dairy and don't happen to like most sandwiches or nuts. I've tried lots of different lunches. Here's some things they do like. Do you have a Trader Joes near you? We do a lot of shopping there...here's a list of their gluten free items:
* Trader Joes Edamame hummus (different than any other hummus..more lemony)
* Wheat free waffles (cut into sticks for dipping) and a side of turkey bacon
* Trader Joes chicken tamales
* TJ's chicken taquitos
* Black beans in a thermos--with corn chips and salsa on the side
* TJ's Butternut squash soup
* Applegate Famrs organic salami (better than most salamis)
* Cowboy caviar and corn chips: It does take some preparation but can be made the night before and I like it too.
posted by biscuits at 12:53 PM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I checked back on this thread and realize, I'm an idiot. DAIRY. HELLO.

Is it just cow dairy or all kinds of dairy? My friend is pretty specifically very allergic to cow dairy but does okay with sheep and goat dairy. It would depend on taste and consistency, but if you are able to use either of these kinds of yogurt, my suggestion still holds. Otherwise, the spectrum mayo is very good and STILL doesn't freak me out. Mea culpa on the yogurt thing. Jeeze, me.
posted by Medieval Maven at 1:08 PM on October 29, 2011

Tuna, egg, chicken salads. She dislikes mayonnaise-based salads intensely.

I also came in to say oil and vinegar or some kind of tolerable dressing for tuna and chicken salad. Also, you can buy gluten free tortillas, and if those pass a taste test I'd be adding that to my luncheon staples. Also, it is worth pondering what foods the you Ms Andrhia the Younger might like cold. In this house, we eat cold pizza, Chinese food, Mexican, pretty much anything very happily. This opens up a tiny selection of Amy's burritos and possibly pizza for the lunch box. Also nthing sushi variations and roasted veggie skewers or uh other things you can skewer.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:20 PM on October 29, 2011

Hi, kid. I don't like mayonnaise either. Is it the taste or the texture? For me it's a bit of both. I also dislike cold pasta, because it feels slimy; and I always assumed I'd hate cold rice, for the same reason. Then I went to Japan, and tried bento for the first time - and it turns out I love cold Japanese rice, especially if it's mixed with vinegar or eaten with nori (which can be crispy or soft, and has an interesting flavour). The texture is fine, and it tastes good. The things that go well with Japanese rice also taste good. And if you eat it as onigiri (filled rice balls), it's equivalent to a sandwich - there's no mess, you can eat it with your hands, and you can put whatever you want in it. You can even get Japanese onigiri molds in fun shapes - like cookie-cutters, but for rice - if you can get to a good Japanese store.

Hi, OP. I'm nthing bento boxes, as you can see. They're more effort than sandwiches, but if you get into the habit of putting the rice on to cook when you get up so that it's ready when you want it, they're not too much more effort. Also, look how cute they can be... though, yeah, those might take a bit longer! And here's a set of instructions for making onigiri (the easy way). That's pretty much the method I use, and I'm down to under five minutes per rice ball.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 1:21 PM on October 29, 2011

Hi OP's kid! Is it the chickpeas you don't like in hummus? If so, you might prefer Greek Lima Bean Dip (flavoured with dill, oregano and/or mint; if you don't like garlic you could leave that out). It actually tastes better at room temperature than cold out of the fridge.

Tabbouleh with quinoa (instead of bulgur wheat) is a delicious source of gluten free protein.

Good luck--I hope you find out what's causing your stomach aches!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:22 PM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Make it Fast Cook it Slow and More Make it Fast, Cook it Slow by Stephanie O'Dea are slow cooker recipe books with recipes that gluten-free and kid-tested.
posted by amapolaroja at 2:38 PM on October 29, 2011

My gluten free kid takes leftovers often. He says he's with you on gluten free bread cold in sandwiches with one major exception - he loves the brioche and sub rolls from Celiac Specialties. You can mail order them and they might make sandwiches a viable option. We also like Crunchmaster, Mary's Gone Crackers and Cracklebread. All are good with spreads or coldcuts. You can get sunflower butter at Trader Joe's - very decent pb substitute.

We have an insulated lunchbag. A reusable cold pack or a cold juicebox works fine to keep stuff cold in warm weather. Most of the time he just takes stuff at room temperature though.

Hopefully going gluten free will solve or at least greatly improve the IBS!
posted by leslies at 2:42 PM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have you tried LaraBars? I had them recently on the advice of a nutritionist and they're great. They're a bar (like a chewy granola bar but not made with granola) made with minimal ingredients, they're gluten free, and they come in lots of flavors. Next time you're at the store check out the health food bars and see if they have flavors that have suitable ingredients. (Some flavors have nuts.) If you end up liking them, you can make your own in the blender and pack them for lunch in saran wrap.

Do you make risotto or polenta for home? Both can be made with many different flavors mixed in (tomato, mushroom, ...) and the leftovers can be shaped into little cakes and fried (optional: roll the cakes in gluten free breadcrumbs before frying for a crisp outer shell.

For roll-ups, you can think about using lettuce as a wrapper, even making something like a spring roll. The lettuce doesn't taste like much but it might make the roll-ups feel more like a dish unto themselves.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:14 PM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hi Andrhia's daughter! What a pain in the butt for you and Andrhia. I'll tell you how I think about my lunches, and maybe that will help you.

I make sure that my main lunch dish has a decent amount of protein. If i don't, i get pretty sleepy in the afternoon. Some of the time it's cold cuts, sometimes leftovers from dinner. The off-limits nuts and dairy are both good sources, but actually, meat is probably better. You could also do beans, or some vegetarian option like tofu.

I try to include a vegetable or fruit, and often fail. The fact that you like veggies puts you ahead of me. :) I know you don't like hummus, but how about a white bean dip? You could put white beans and spices you like in a food processor, and eat it with the veggies and almond crackers. This would give you the protein, too. The other thing I thought of is making a sandwich with lettuce instead of bread, like a wrap. You could pack things separately (chicken or other meat, shredded carrot, raisins, other veggies) and put it together at lunch.

I also always stick a little dessert in my lunch, so I have something to look forward to. :)

As for the stuff you don't like, like hummus and mayonnaise, have you and Andrhia ever tried making them yourselves? Mayonnaise is a little tricky, but hummus just needs a food processor, and you can flavor it how you like. It would definitely give you more lunch choices.

Oh, one recipe I make, which is very adaptable, is turkey meatloaf muffins. You need a 6 muffin tin. Spray the tin first with cooking spray so things don't stick. You take a pound of 99% fat free ground turkey and add pretty much whatever you want to it. I add a shredded piece of bread and a beaten egg (I cheat and buy a carton of egg whites) to each pound. You can skip the bread, but the egg helps hold everything together and you can't even taste it. You put the meat mixture evenly into each spot in the muffin tin and cook it for 20 minutes in a pre-heated 350 degree oven. I reheat them for my lunch, but I bet they'd be okay cold, too. You could totally do this yourself with a little help from Andrhia, mostly with the oven.

Things I add:
Onion soup mix and ketchup or barbecue sauce
Craisins and sage and puréed butternut squash
Harissa (it's a North African red pepper sauce - spicy,), ginger pepper jelly and garlic
Tomato paste and Italian spices

But really, you could just add some spices and be fine.

Anyway, good luck with your lunch challenge. Hope it all works out! Oh, wait... Could you see if your school would allow a microwave if parents donated money to buy one? Maybe your class could have a bake sale. Just another idea. Good luck!
posted by booksherpa at 3:17 PM on October 29, 2011

Correction: all the Larabar flavors have at least one kind of nut. Some have only cashews, some have only almonds.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:28 PM on October 29, 2011

Well, in high school, a thermos of gazpacho served me for many, many a lunch. Nutritious and light. And sorry to hear about this. I developed diverticulosis later in life and the nutritional limits drive me NUTS!
posted by Samizdata at 4:35 PM on October 29, 2011

This won't be enough for a whole lunch, but could be something to bring as a vegetable side: kale chips. I'm making some right now to bring to a party, and I know it will be hard for me to resist eating most of them before I go.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:18 PM on October 29, 2011

Baked potatoes are great even cold. You can slice them and sprinkle with veges, herbs, tuna, chicken... I usually put a couple of potatoes in the oven every time I have it on for anything else, and then I have a couple of lunches ready to go.

Baked sweet potatoes even work kind of like dessert. You can add a side of maple syrup and/or soy yoghurt for dipping slices in.

I like "salads" made up of cubes of various roast veges (pumpkin, potato, sweet potato, corn, onion) sprinkled with a little curry powder or just pepper, salt and paprika. You can add chickpeas or beans for extra protein. These are fine served hot or cold. You can make a big heap of this early in the week and then use it for three or four lunches, so the prep is one-off.
posted by lollusc at 6:09 PM on October 29, 2011

You could look into Primal and Paleo box lunches. No gluten, light on the dairy (often no dairy).
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:25 PM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was going to suggest cold baked (or twice baked) potatoese! Those things a re awesome, I loved it when my mum put them in my lunchbox. We have just gone wheat free for my toddler so one of our standbys is baked beans (from a tin). You can make your own and you can fancy them up, but they're tasty, do well at room temperature and are pretty good for protein. I usually put cheese in but some friend onion is good as well. Check out thermos lunches for warm stuff (soup!) because that's a whole realm of tasty right there.

I recommend making hommous as well - you can go right from scratch (soak the beans, then cook them, then blend while warm with tahini, garlic and lemon) or use tinned stuff. Doing it yourself means you can control flavours (don't like tahini? Leave it out) (if you don't like sun butter, that's probably why you don't like hommous as well). I love my hommous lemony and garlicky so I out heaps of both things in. You could use beans instead as well.

Is curry okay? That would be nice in a thermos. We are going to try some wheat free tortillas as well, which means burritos for lunches, and nachos, and quesadillas. Without cheese or sour cream is a little hard, but avocado and guacamole would be a start for substitution.

And I agree that cold Japanese rice is very different to cold normal rice.
posted by geek anachronism at 8:28 PM on October 29, 2011

My kid is dairy- and peanut/nut-allergic.

His snack is a granola bar from nonuttin foods, or some fruit, or a fruit bar/fruit leather.

His staple is ham and (dairy free) Daiya cheese. I've sent baked beans in a thermos for lunch in the past, and that's gone over well. I also send him with dairy-free ravioli — but not GF, unfortunately, though you might be able to source some now that the GF community has gotten so large.

We've also done chicken strips, bake in the morning at breakfast, then sliced and put into thermos so that it's lukewarm but not bad by lunchtime. (I think it's a little soggy but he didn't complain at the time, as long as he had ketchup.)
posted by wenat at 8:42 PM on October 29, 2011

-bean dip and corn chips
-grilled chicken strips with bbq sauce
-diced salads (look up videos on youtube for how to chop stuff...you will amaze yourself at how fast you can get with a minimal amount of practice...i like any combination of: cucumber, carrot, bell pepper, tomato, hearts of palm (for some reason they have these at every 99cent store in town, but they gor for $8/can at the grocery store...go figure), canned corn(!)(yum!), celery, etc...toss with italian dressing and maybe a little pepper)
-hard-boiled egg
-yellow rice
-seaweed salad
-brown mushrooms sauteed in a bit of olive oil with basil
-rice crispy treats
-basalmic vinegar tomatoes with fresh basil
-grilled fish with lemon and dill (make extra with dinner and chill)
-pickled herring (it took some convincing to get me to try it...now i cant stop thinking about it)
-fried rice (tho, my friend who has a wheat allergy has trouble with soy sauce) or leftover chinese take-out

to make it easier on yourself: make 10 menus...2 weeks is more than enough variety for lunch...write it up as a list. by the time you have done the cycle twice it will become automatic. for added interest, give each lunch a theme...japanese. mexican. chinese. breakfast for lunch! southwestern. italian. french. indian. lettuce wrap day (surprises (by which i mean leftovers) wrapped in lettuce leaves) ...and um one more

these might come in handy for the lunch bag...
posted by sexyrobot at 11:27 PM on October 29, 2011

Beans and rice, with meat and/or veggies cooked with it?

It's a pretty basic, staple dish for a lot of different cuisines, and can be made in endless variations, what with all the types of beans and rice available. I have a pot of it cooking for my lunches this week.

I also love beef stew with rice, especially sticky rice. (I'm not gluten intolerant, I just really prefer rice to bread. And sticky rice is a lot of fun to eat, if it can be made well.)
posted by spinifex23 at 11:40 PM on October 29, 2011

(And while the beans take a while to soak and cook in the crock pot, it really is just a case of 'throwing a bunch of stuff into a pot, turning it on, and ignoring it for 8 hours or so. If you want to get fancy, you can cook up a nice sofrito with the vegetables, but it's not mandatory).
posted by spinifex23 at 11:42 PM on October 29, 2011

Get plenty of small containers, and let her assemble lunch at school. Get some gel-packs that you can freeze, and tuck in the lunchbag with cooked chicken, pork or beef.
Column A - rice, polenta (great idea), corn or rice tortilla, rice noodles, GF breads or crackers that she likes
Column B - tuna, chicken, beef, pork, beans (chick peas, black beans, lima beans, etc), sliced or cubed tofu, lactose-free cheese, if allowed, baked beans, bean salad
Column C - Spinach, onion, broccoli, peas, sliced red bell peppers, sliced cabbage(sweet & sour red cabbage), beets, cucumbers, sauerkraut, pickles of all kinds, coleslaw, cranberry jelly,
Column D - soy sauce, vinaigrette, asian dressing, Trader Joe's goddess dressing, balsamic vinegar, pesto w/out cheese, chutney, etc.

Have her help you choose 1 from column A, and a selection from B & C, and probably D. So, maybe a rice wrap with rice, spinach, and bean salad, or rice with baked beans, and cran jelly on the side.

A baked potato can be re-heated and topped with olive-oil sauteed broccoli. A baked sweet potato can be re-heated and topped with some dairy-free margarine, and maybe some black beans.

Sweets are nice. Sliced apple, with lemon to keep it from going brown, and some cinnamon sugar to dip it into. GF brownie mix is pretty easy to find.

Also, this thread is a big help.
posted by theora55 at 7:43 AM on October 30, 2011

I would recommend reconsidering the thermos. The key things are 1) get two good thermoses- the expensive stainless steel kind. I find that ones with plasic lids and plastic bodies are harder to get closed.and 2) buy two of them. My kid is notorious for not unloading her lunch sack.

I portion out my daughters leftovers into a bowl or measuring cup the night before so it's super easy to throw in the microwave for a few minutes while breakfast is cooking.
posted by vespabelle at 9:48 AM on October 30, 2011

Response by poster: This has all been extremely helpful to me, now to get the girl to read and see what she thinks, too. I'll let you know what she likes. :)

To follow up on a few things, though:

I do have a rice cooker, but alas it just broke -- it stops the cycle well before the rice is cooked and needs repeating a few times. Takes forever. Even aside from that, my experience with bento-style lunches is that they take forever to make and forever to clean up from. And I am very, very time-crunched that time of morning. (Some days, like today, she has to be at orchestra or chorus rehearsals by 7:20. And then after that, I have to get her sister to kindergarten by 8:30. So inefficient!)

Before, she liked to eat things like Beefaroni, chicken nuggets, penne with butter, cheese quesadillas; high-carb, processed, bland. Even before she did not like hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza. Getting adequate protein into her for lunch has always been hard. At least she likes vegetables...

She will also eat a lot of the more healthy stuff I make for dinners, though: Roasted chicken, just about any kind of white fish or salmon, risotto with sausage, rice and beans, leek soup, broccoli, peas, corn, latkes. (I like cooking... I don't like to *have to* cook, esp. if it means losing half an hour of sleep I already don't get enough of.)

We have past history from kindergarten with even nice screw-top stainless-steel thermoses leaking when I send in dinner leftovers, or never making it back to the kitchen to be washed, and not keeping the food warm unless I do a 10-minute rigmarole involving letting hot water heat up the thermos before I put real food in it. Alas.

At any rate: Thanks a lot for your help -- I really think some of these ideas will be winners. I'll keep you posted on how she does with them. (And! For the first time in recent memory, she doesn't have a stomach ache today! So that's something!)
posted by Andrhia at 6:29 AM on October 31, 2011

I know this is an old thread, but have you considered tahini based salad dressings? Mix tahini with lemon juice for a really crafty and easy dressing that tastes fantastic.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:15 AM on August 9, 2012

Response by poster: That's a great idea in principle, oceanjesse! In practice this kid has a mild sesame allergy and we wouldn't want to push it. ^_^

For those of us following along at home: We ultimately had to do a hard-core elimination diet, and her problem was actually with fructose, of all things. We cut out smoothies, juice, and excessive amounts of fruit/HCFS and the kid is fine now. Who'd have thunk? O_O
posted by Andrhia at 1:21 PM on August 11, 2012

« Older Wordpress Install on a Subdomain   |   Playlist Please... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.