Gluten-free School Lunches #1

It snowed today! While the mountains to the east get prolifically snowy each year, our sheltered town never gets snow. Well, never until today. We had fifteen minutes of dancing in snowflakes in our pyjamas this morning, and wasn't it fun!

Then I came in and cooked a hot lunch for the children. We have been eating gluten-free for a couple of months now. It was on a bit of a whim really - the girls had some stubborn, minor problems that weren't really responding to any GP-prescribed treatment, so we thought, well, it can't hurt to try gluten-free for a while. So far, we have seen a significant improvement in one child's eczema, a disappearance of morning tummy-aches, and an unanticipated increase in emotional resilience in another child who shall remain nameless.. which has been very pleasant.

We went back to eating normally for a couple of weeks just to see what would happen, and back came the itchy eczema, the sad tummies and the tears and tantrums, so now gluten-free is the new normal. Because none of us are actually coeliac we have decided that we will be social gluten-eaters - we will eat the birthday cake or whatever else people kindly offer when we are out, because we are polite like that, and also, chocolate cake is still delicious. But at home we are now gluten-free and although at first the girls thought they might die without bread, remarkably they are all still alive and perfectly happy, and never appear to even think about bread, so that's a relief.

However.... school lunches, right? This was what stopped me from even trying this experiment for such a long time. Rosy always took a salad sandwich for lunch, and Posy had a vegemite sandwich every single day of her school life. Because that's all she would eat. How on earth was I going to make school lunches work now? Especially as - I don't really enjoy cooking. Now I think I've mentioned this before - I don't do fancy food. Just plain, but mostly it tastes good. Some people love food and cooking. I love gardening and reading, so cooking is utilitarian, made with real food, and love of the people who will eat it, rather than love of the process. So the recipes you will find here aren't very exciting, but do fill up hungry tummies with a minimum of fuss.

Luckily, last year I bought each of the girls a thermos. Rosy happily takes dinner left-overs in her thermos, but until recently Posy only consented to take one single dish, as long as I made it to her exact specifications. So here is my recipe for Posy-friendly fried rice:

First of all, the day before, I cook a huge, enormous amount of rice, our favourite basmati, when I am making a curry, something I do a lot.

I also save some cooked chicken from dinner, or cook a slice of bacon. Then the next morning, after playing in the snow I saute some chopped capsicum, add a tablespoon of soy sauce, a teaspoon of oyster sauce and a teaspoon of fish sauce to the pan. A teaspoon of honey, then half a cup of stock. Then a heap of frozen peas and corn, Posy's favourite, well-loved by ten year olds everywhere. Then I add the chicken or bacon. Once I forgot and we went vegetarian, and Posy didn't notice..

Now lunch looks like this:

Next I add the rice, which is good and dry now from its night in the fridge. And we're done. Although sometimes I add a touch more soy sauce to taste.

Next, I boil the kettle and fill up the thermos and pop the lid on for a few minutes. This makes the inside of the thermos nice and warm and keeps the food hot longer.

Then I pour the boiling water from the thermos into my tea cup, as a little gift from the hot lunch gods.

Hot lunch!

Don't forget to pack a fork..

This makes three or four lunches for Posy, and makes me feel very virtuous, because, well, cooked lunch. That is a definite good mother halo, right there. That surely gives me a free pass on cleaning the bathroom this week, right??


Unknown said…
I hereby absolve thee oh virtuous one from bathroom cleaning for one week. As if you really need our approval.
Heather F said…
Haha. I'm so awful that sometimes I "forget" my kids' bathroom is even in the house. I never use it, so out of sight, out of mind... Lovely lunch. My kids would eat rice like that every day.
Lisa said…
Brilliant! Just be mindful though that most soy does have gluten, so if any issues start arising it could be that. It's actually hidden in a lot more things that you realise, it's kinda crazy!
Bek said…
Love it. I will have to keep an eye out for a wide mouth thermos like that. Great ideas! I especially love the reuse of the hot water for tea. Nice work.
Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

Lucky you with the snow, great to hear that you all got out and danced around in it. That's the stuff of living. In the far future, many days will be forgotten, but you and your girls will always be able to recall the snow and dancing around of that Monday morning! :-)!

Yeah, cooking is best kept simple and enjoyable otherwise I reckon it can become a serious chore. I'm having to work at the dog food and biscuits just to make it easier and it is quite the learning experience.

PS: I make my own bread here from basic materials (bulk pasta dura flour (although most flours are good), seeds, sea salt, quality yeast - not the supermarket rubbish, and a dash of olive oil). It takes about 5 minutes to prepare a loaf which I can cook for free in the wood oven. It costs about 30 cents of materials per loaf.

Now I'm just sayin this but, commercially produced bread, looks and tastes nothing like home baked bread. It is also chocko full of preservatives - because it has to be, as depending on your supplier of choice it could have been prepared in a factory overseas up to six months ago. As a suggestion, it may not be the gluten that produces the reactions that you are seeing, but the preservatives in the dough which kill off the yeasts as well as any bacteria and / or fungi. Another name for preservatives is - poison - because that is essentially what it is doing as it makes the product unliveable for other creatures that want to eat it.

Bread is a funny product these days and how the manufacturers get it to stay soft for a week is well beyond me as the home cooked stuff here stays soft for about 1 day. As an interesting side note, the chickens here refuse to eat commercial bread.


Jo said…
Thanks Lynda:)

Heather, I 'forget' all sorts of things.. middle age senility is my excuse:)

Lisa, yes, good point, that is gluten-free soy sauce I am using, often I also use tamari. And, yes, it is extraordinary how many foods contain gluten. No wonder it affects so many people. We never get a break from it.

The wide-mouthed thermos is brilliant for keeping left-overs warm for school lunches. Me, I just use the work microwave. Our thermos brand is Cheeki, and the body of the thermos is all stainless steel, and you can get replacement lids which makes me happy.

Chris, when you come up with a winner dog biscuit recipe, do publish it:) And I agree with you - supermarket bread leaves me feeling distinctly off-colour if I have a few slices. I did make a lot of my own bread, and again, yes, the home made version is brilliant. I guess it is worth doing another test at some point to see if it is the gluten or preservatives making the difference.. but right now everyone seems happy and eczema free and I don't want to rock the boat:) That is hilarious about your chickens preferring home-made:)

I thought of you when I heard of news about the snow!! Must read the rest of your post though!
Anonymous said…
Yummy lunch for everyone - not just gluten avoiders. What a mother you are!

Though can you slow your hippification a bit until my visit? Or I'm going to be a loud, brash, city annoyance.
Jo said…
I really, really want to be a hippy though. Chickens next. Maybe you can just think of me as a whimsical tourist attraction?

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