Wheat and egg free food fun!
June 2, 2013 4:32 PM   Subscribe

Anyone have any ideas for easy, tasty, gluten and egg free lunches on a budget?

I recently started a new job and am rapidly getting bored with my lunches! Technical difficulty: I recently discovered I'm allergic to wheat and egg whites.

Right now, I'm usually taking some sort of spinach salad with vegetables and dressing, with lots of fruit, yogurt, and cheese on the side to snack on. Or leftovers when I can find them (living with my family of 6 adults, leftovers are scarce most days. I have discovered a bread I like but its really crumbly and doesn't tend to last until lunch very well.

Does anyone have any tasty, cheap and EASY lunch ideas? I'm willing to prep something on the weekend to eat or 5-10 mins the day of/before to eat. Any suggestions would be awesome! I love most types of food, including Thai, Korean, Indian, etc. I'm also not a picky eater and will try almost anything. Vegetarians options are welcome as I LOVE veggies and could comfortable be vegetarian but also happen to like meat.
posted by snowysoul to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I make a moo-shu-style filling that's great on its own. I stir-fry carrot/broccoli slaw (I get it bagged in the supermarket) with some scallions, pre-cooked chicken, hoisin sauce, soy, ginger, garlic, and sesame oil. I can eat that right out of the wok and it also heats up well. The slaw turns into something akin to making "spaghetti" out of spaghetti squash.
posted by xingcat at 4:47 PM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

This may be too obvious and it's not fancy, but I enjoy hummus and raw veggies for lunch.
posted by michellenoel at 4:47 PM on June 2, 2013

If you are ok with meat, then you can do a lot with a crock pot, your chosen veggies/seasonings, and maybe some rice.

My husband is wheat/egg/soy/dairy allergic, so our biggest concern is cooking from scratch, as pre-made mixes tend to have mystery allergen ingredients. Just buy your spices and herbs fresh.

When you have to eat out, Pei Wei, PF Chang's, Outback, and Boston Market all have good allergen-free options. Lots of other places have GF menus, but may can't guarantee that the food is prepared on surfaces that didn't have gluten or other allergens on it, so if you're really sensitive that's something to look out for.
posted by emjaybee at 5:07 PM on June 2, 2013

Do you have access to microwave, toaster or any other cooking stuff? One of my go-to quick gf lunches is gf toast w/peanut butter & honey and an apple. Soup is always a good option if your family leaves you any - or you make big batches on weekend. I also like hummus and veggies - add feta, dolmas, grape tomatoes, baba ganoush, tabbouli made with quinoa for variety. Beans, rice with veggies in so many permutations - again if you have leftovers or cook specifically for lunch.
posted by leslies at 5:10 PM on June 2, 2013

"Twice-baked" potatoes are easy to make in a big batch and freeze. The Cook's Illustrated recipe is a good place to start from.

What's For School Lunch? is an interesting source of inspiration, especially from the foreign-to-you countries.
posted by kmennie at 5:15 PM on June 2, 2013

oh yeah: gf pbj sammies! yum!! with a glass of milk and some carrot sticks = feel like a third grader again.
posted by michellenoel at 5:16 PM on June 2, 2013

How about taking a can of soup to work with you, and nuking it for lunch?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:17 PM on June 2, 2013

Stuffed bell peppers travel really well and are fairly cheap and absolutely delicious. This recipe might be a little more involved than 5 minutes and cleaning the peppers is a bit of a pain, but it really doesn't take that much more than 5-10 mins to make not including the time in the oven (passive time). I think this is all gluten free (beans, rice, etc.) but my apologies if it is not!

- 4 sweet bell peppers, whichever is your favorite color
- 1 can black beans
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 1 cup rice (I use pre-cooked frozen brown rice from Costco or Trader Joe's)
- 1/2 cup grated cheese

Start a large pot of water filled halfway, get it to a rolling boil. I think about 6 cups of water in there.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Trim the tops of the bell peppers and clean out the seeds.
Place the cleaned out bell peppers in the boiling water for about 5 mins or so to get them to soften up. You can start putting together the filling while this is happening (see below). After 5 mins or so, remove the bell peppers and drain on a paper towel, then place them in a baking dish.
In a large mixing bowl, put the following together and mix: 1 drained and rinsed can of black beans, 1 can drained diced tomatoes, 1 cup cooked rice, and 1/2 cup cheese.
Mix together and then spoon the mixture into the bell peppers. You can top with a little ketchup if you love ketchup. It's still good without it though.
Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
posted by belau at 5:20 PM on June 2, 2013

I've been having an unintentionally egg- and gluten-free lunch lately. I've been roasting a bunch of sweet potatoes and chicken on weekends, and then using them as the basis for my lunches most days. I like to cook the sweet potatoes really well (prick all over with a fork, roast at 400 for at least an hour), and I prefer to use bone-in chicken breasts because they're an easy way to get juicy, flavorful white meat (sprinkle with salt, bake at 350 for an hour). The result is a surprisingly substantial basis for meals. I tend to sprinkle the sweet potato with a little salt, nuke it, and maybe add something sweet or spicy (like cranberry sauce or chipotle pepper). I usually eat the chicken cold on the side, on its own or incorporated into a green salad. I add some fruit and chopped veggies, depending on what I have.
posted by Meg_Murry at 5:24 PM on June 2, 2013

Easy: gluten free tortialla roll-ups with ham and cheese and salad. You can drizzle with oil and vinegar. Serve with pickles on the side.

If you have access to a microwave, you can bring Tostitos Natural Yellow or Natural Blue Corn Chips, a baggie of grated cheese and a jar of salsa (store-bought or home-made) and make luncheon nachos.

OK now I want nachos.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:28 PM on June 2, 2013

Bean salads. No cooking.
(The easiest ones: White beans+feta cheese+parsley+dressing. Kidney beans+corn+red onion+(bell pepper)+dressing.) Look up some recipes and get creative. Have some spinach/arugula/other veggies left over? Just add to a bean salad recipe.

Lentil stew.
Potatoes+onions+lentils+curry+broth+veggies(carrots/spinach/celery or other). You can add yoghurt/cream/cheese at the end.

Have a blender? Try blending beans or lentils together with arugula/spinach, salt+pepper+cheese for a great spread. Or like suggested above, make some hummus.

I think leslies mentioned tabouleh - I use buckwheat (it's not wheat! It's gf!) and add a bunch of veggies (onion+parsley+pepper+peas) +dressing. If you like you can add roasted chicken.

Those are all really easy+cheap+healthy options. Travel well and don't need cooking (if you use canned beans/except the stew) or reheating.
The dressing is just olive oil+lemon juice+salt+pepper+herbs if you like.
posted by travelwithcats at 5:29 PM on June 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

Lunch meat and veggie rollups, chicken salad with vegan mayo, tapinad and hummus with raw veg to dip, shrimp taco salad with salsa and Greek yogurt as dressing, steamed veg tossed with garlic and glutten free soy sauce, salads with strawberries (you don't really need dressing when there is a lot of fruit.) Add a little bit of very so sf trong cheese like feta to the top of salads or chop up half a piece of bacon over mixed veg. Simple homemade soups like gaspacho, tomato or chilled avacado-cucumber. Grilled veg are supper good cold and keep for near a week. Qinoa, arugala, cucumbers and strawberries with a splash of red wine vinagerette is pretty spectacular.
posted by Blisterlips at 5:30 PM on June 2, 2013

I make fun salads over the weekend and then divide them into containers for lunches throughout the week. Some examples might be:

- Quinoa w/herbs, olive oil, vinegar, feta cheese & olives
- Cucumber slices w/tahini & dill
- Leaf lettuce w/cherry tomatos, red onion, cheddar, ham cubes & ranch dressing
- Chopped romaine w/bleu cheese & bacon
- Chicken salad w/faux mayo & chipotle powder

You can get super creative with salads honestly. The sky's the limit and you can tailor them to your tastes by just adding & removing ingredients. Plus, they are usually pretty easy to make — just stir up in a bowl! You could also buy or make soup and/or stew and pack that in a thermos or plasticware if you have a microwave at work.

If there's a Whole Foods near you you can get some pretty great snack options like chips & crackers made from lentils/hummus/rice.
posted by annekate at 5:42 PM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have exactly the same limitations - no gluten or eggs.

Seconding several of the tips above. Here's more:

I have a lot of salads when I go out for lunch, usually with chicken/fish on top to ensure I get protein. Often at restaurants, I almost always wind up with a chicken + vegetables or fish + vegetables meal. When I bring lunch from home, it's generally leftovers from dinner the night before (Lunch = chicken/fish + vegetable + potato/rice). My most common cuisine when eating out is Mexican, since they're more corn-based than wheat-based. Almost any burrito place will do a burrito without the wrap. And I've found the chicken soups at Mexican restaurants rarely have wheat in them.

When eating out, keep in mind that some of those cuisines you mentioned might have wheat in the sauces -- soy sauce, in particular, is one you should be mindful of, and some Indian dishes also might use wheat. Some Thai restaurants around me have been really good about educating the staff about which dishes have gluten, but others may not be as mindful.

You're going to need to get used to asking questions at restaurants. Telling the server you have limitations that make 90% of the menu off-limits can be a bit daunting for them, so starting the conversation by identifying a couple dishes you suspect are fine helps things go well -- and you need the staff in restaurants to want to help you if you're eating out with those kinds of limitations. I find I get better responses if I start the conversation by saying "I'm thinking about having dish A or B, but I can't eat gluten or eggs -- do you think one of those dishes might be egg-free and gluten-free?" rather than starting with a statement "I can't eat..." And unless exceptions are okay, you should always double-check before ordering, since you never know when some place adds wheat to the soup, or dusts the chicken with flour, or has wheat on the counter when making the falafel.

There are also plenty of gluten-free replacements for wheat products - crackers, cookies, whatever - and you can find them without egg, but they're a lot harder to find when you're avoiding eggs too. For plain crackers, you might try the following and see what is to your liking: Mary's Gone Crackers (original flavor - I've heard the others are weird), Blue Diamond crackers (a whole line of cracker options, many with what my spouse amusingly refers to as "flavor powder"), Nairn's (if you can eat oats, and if ingredient-level avoidance of wheat is adequate), and we've recently discovered Glutino brand makes a plain cracker that's a lot like saltines without the salt, which is a great vehicle for whipped cream cheese + lox.

You will no doubt find that gluten/egg free bread and crackers are invariably more crumbly than what you're used to. You can adjust for this by choosing softer spreads - the whipped cream cheese instead of non-whipped, soften your butter or have a tub of earth balance on hand because it spreads better right out of the fridge than butter does, etc.

I've had good luck with Bob's Red Mill bread mixes -- the Homemade Wonderful Bread mix for a white bread replacement, and the Hearty Whole Grain mix for a nutty loaf that tastes rye-like. I make them with Ener-G egg replacer, and make it in a bread machine. Yum! Good option if you like sandwiches for lunch. Tip: I just discovered after a couple years of making GF/egg-free breads, that when using egg replacer, it is good to use about 1.5 times the amount of "egg" as called for in a recipe -- so if the recipe calls for 2 eggs, use 3 egg's worth of replacer.

The last idea I have is that if you're going to be bringing food from home a lot, then definitely get yourself a good solution for carrying the food back and forth. Find a way to make it easy on yourself -- bringing food into work that will last a couple days so you don't need to carry every day, or splurging on containers that make you smile, or getting multiple sets of whatever you use so that if you don't feel like washing one evening after work, you have other containers to use the next day -- if bringing food in might have barriers, try to think creatively about how to make this fun and as easy as possible, given that finding foods to eat might take a while to get used to.

And, there are lots of good food blogs out there. Sorry I don't know them off-hand, but if that's your thing, there's a whole GF blog scene.

Hope those tips help! It's really not that bad, it just takes a while to get used to. Feel free to send me a personal message if you want to check in further.
posted by quinoa at 11:31 PM on June 2, 2013

For blog suggestions and more ideas: previously.
posted by quinoa at 11:39 PM on June 2, 2013

Just a clarification:
For the tabouleh I meant to write (onion+parsley+ BELL pepper+peas). And add tomatoes.
And for the bean paste I usually add tomato paste.
posted by travelwithcats at 6:20 AM on June 3, 2013

One more I just remembered:

Potato apple salad with yoghurt and mustard (no mayonnaise)!
posted by travelwithcats at 11:46 AM on June 3, 2013

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