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4.18.2013

Fast, Easy lunch ideas

I'm in the middle of writing a post on violence and nutrient deficiencies, but had to break for lunch and it got me thinking...

I will scream to the heavens that you can't have fast, easy, cheap, AND healthful food, you have to pick which are the most important to you.  If you want cheap and healthful, they will NOT be quick or easy, if you want easy and cheap, they will NOT be healthful... see where I'm going?

But no one likes to slave over lunch.  And there are lots of lunch ideas out there that are at least fast, easy, and healthful.  This post is as much for my own reference as it is for yours- because no matter how many ideas I think I have, once 11:30 roles around I can't seem to remember any of them!  So here is a list of ideas.  Most are gluten and/or grain free.  All or as healthy as the ingredients you put in them (so choose wisely!).

Totally Gluten and Grain Free ideas:
  • Simple soup. simmer veggies and leftover meat in bone stock (that you keep in the freezer at all times, of course!).  If you're feeling sassy, whisk in some eggs.
  • Egg, tuna, and chicken salad are NOT just for sandwiches.  Serve them wrapped in a large lettuce leaf, with nut thins (or other grain free crackers), over a pile of greens, with flat veggies (like cucumbers or wide pepper slices) to dip in... or just with a fork!
  • Stuff on a plate.  Yeah, that's what I actually write on the meal plan.  I need to come up with a better name- sometimes my kids call this a healthy lunchable, at least when it involves nut thins, meat, and cheese (and always a vegetable, unlike the store version).  But other times it includes carrots, fruit slices, chunks of cheese, and peanut butter to dip.  Whatever you have on hand that makes a good finger food would work.
  • Frittata/omelette.  Eggs are a go-to food for me when I'm stumped for either lunch or breakfast.  Sautee some veggies (a great use for leftovers or those last bits that are gonna go bad soon), meat or cheese if you wish, and serve next to a small salad, sauteed greens, or sliced raw veggies.  And if any one food actually does meet all of the above criteria, it's eggs.  Even the best, most expensive eggs are frugal for what you get out of them, and they're fast, easy, AND healthy... and they also taste good.  It's no wonder I repeatedly say eggs are the most perfect food!
  • Paleo PB&J.  Jonesing for PB&J but avoiding grain and refined sugar?  Give this combo a go- take some frozen raspberries, warm them up (I usually just run them under warm water, but you could warm them on the stove as well), add a scoop of your choice of nut butter (I like the taste of almond best...), and mash.  This with a side of veggies would make a delightful light lunch. 
  • Leftover baked potatoes?  Make hash... or potato pancakes... or hash browns and eggs... or fish cakes.  I MAKE baked potatoes so I can use the leftovers (because I don't like baked potatoes...).
  • Hummus and dippers.  It's a "duh" one, but not as duh as a sandwich...
  • Fish cakes.  These can be made with tuna, salmon, or leftover whitefish.  I have different recipes for all three (all grain free), let me know if you want any of them (the whitefish one, btw, is the one with the leftover potatoes in it...).
  • Potato and cauliflower soup.  Simple- simmer one diced onion (I usually saute the onion in butter and bacon fat first for added flavor, while I dice the other veg), three diced potatoes, and one good sized diced head of cauliflower, and some thyme in stock for about 15 minutes.  Hit with your immersion blender to desired consistancy, salt to taste, add a little milk or cream, and serve. 
Gluten Free but Not Grain Free:
  • Shaboo Shaboo.  This recipe came from the blog Laurelofleaves.com, and is basically either cooked rice or quinoa, whatever veggies you have on hand, and a really basic asian sauce.  And it's super tasty.
  • Same soup as above, only with added rice or barley.
  • Chicken fried rice.  Saute leftover cooked rice, veggies (I would use peas and carrots, but you can use what you like), leftover chicken, and scrambled eggs with soy sauce and healthy oil of choice (might I suggest coconut oil).  Garnish with a little toasted sesame oil.
  • Homemade chicken nuggets.  This is bordering on too-ambitious-for lunch, at least for me, but it happens occasionally.  They are also one of the few times I will employ my nemesis, the boneless skinless chicken breast.  But they really are easy.  I simply cut the chicken breast into nugget sized pieces, crust in (gmo free) corn meal (seriously, no wet dunk first, it just makes the breading fall off), and saute in coconut oil.  My kids think they are amazing.
  • Chicken liver pate.  Yep, I said that out loud.  I serve it with rice crackers or nut thins, and my kids eat it, I swear.  Okay Oliver eats it.  But Izzy has tried it and she didn't die, I swear.  And I'll probably bribe encourage her to try it again.

Not at all Gluten Free:
  • Quesadillas.  We're mostly avoiding gluten containing grains right now, but only because it's spring (or at least it's supposed to be...) and according to Aryuvedic dietary principles the diet during spring should be high in leafy veggies and low in fats and grains.  But since it's not due to any specific health condition, we're making an exception once or twice a week and eating some organic whole wheat tortillas.  We particularly like cheese quesadillas, especially if I get really crazy and throw a scrambled egg on it (I mentioned I like eggs, right?).
  • Homemade mac-n-cheese.  Macaroni and cheese is so simple to make at home, I don't really understand why anyone would buy the blue box stuff?  Okay, so it takes 2 pans instead of 1, but you use one just to boil the pasta, so it's not like it's truly a dirty dish...  To make, boil 1 box of whole wheat pasta of choice (little pastas work best, like elbows, shells, penne, etc).  In a smaller pan, melt 2 T. butter over medium heat and add 2 T. flour.  Mix until a paste forms and starts to brown just slightly (30 sec- 1 minute).  Add 2 cups of milk (see that- 2, 2, 2... that's the formula for a white sauce) and whisk over medium low heat until it begins to thicken (up to 5 minutes, but your pasta won't even be done cooking yet).  Stir in about a cup of shredded cheddar or whatever cheese you like.  Remove from heat until pasta is done cooking.
  • Pasta Salad.  I love making pasta salads for lunch in the summer, because you can eat them cold, and you can make big batches and eat off of them all week.  My favorite includes homemade greek dressing, feta cheese, tomatoes, and olives.
What are your ideas for simple, fast, healthy lunches?

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