Lunch Recipe Formula

One of the fun parts about being gluten intolerant is that restaurants become a game of roulette. Even restaurants with “gluten free menu items” frequently screw that up, and I’ve gotten croutons on my gluten free salad before (after a specific request for no croutons). Salad dressings are a gamble – even vinaigrettes, if they’re from a bottle instead of made on site, since they often use thickeners.

The result: I don’t eat out much for lunch.

This means I need to bring my lunch every day. (I got a snazzy new grown-up looking lunchbox when I got my new job, specifically to be large enough to bring leftovers). The gluten free thing also means no sandwiches, and I’m very careful about bringing salads, because I am a giant clutz and always end up having to get oily salad dressing stains out of my shirts.

Alongside trying to eat small meals every few hours (which helps a lot with mood stability), this can be a little tedious, especially if it means cooking big meals every night so I have leftovers. While it’s pretty easy to have leftover chili, it’s harder with other things (like grilled vegetables, which SSH and I tend to just devour with abandon).

My solution recently has been to make a sort of casserole on Sunday with the express idea of eating it for lunch all week. While any casserole will do, one that doesn’t take much work is ideal. A baked (GF) pasta casserole does well and reheats well, as does my current favorite – roasted veggies and chicken.

Roasted Veggie Casserole

You need:

  • about 2lbs of meat, cut into 1” chunks (I usually use chicken breast or pork tenderloin, for a vegetarian version, try canned/cooked chickpeas)
  • Vegetables, cut up into roughly the same sized chunks – I’ve used red potatoes, sweet potato, carrot, beets, bell pepper, onion, zucchini, yellow squash, broccoli, garlic, asparagus, brussels sprouts; basically any veggie you can roast (tomatoes don’t do so well)
  • olive oil
  • white wine or chicken broth
  • spices and salt and pepper

This is basically a recipe shell. I don’t list any spices because you can really go nuts. I’ve made this Scarborough style (parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme), southwest style (chili powder, cumin, oregano), Italian style (Italian spices, garlic powder, crushed red pepper), grilled style (grill seasonings of various blends).

Spray a 9×13 baking dish with no-stick spray. In a big bowl, dump all the meat and veggies, plus a few tablespoons of olive oil and a few sloshes of white wine. Add the spices and mix well. (Do not under-salt this.)

Dump the resulting mixture into the prepared pan, distribute evenly, and cover with foil. Bake at 400F, covered, for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake another 20 minutes, until you start to see some browned edges.

I usually leave this on the counter to cool until it’s lukewarm and then divvy it up into 5 small glass containers (like these little ones) and pop them in the fridge.  (Sometimes if I really fill the baking dish, there’s enough for a weeknight meal too) With a piece of fruit, you’ve got an excellent lunch that only takes a few minutes to get hot in the microwave and is remarkably good for you, with the added benefit that it is very neutral in smell (just the spices), so your coworkers won’t hate you for making the place smell like stale curried fish.

And it’s super tasty too!

This week’s version has chicken, new potatoes, zucchini, onion, bell pepper, and carrots, with Mrs. Dash “Garlic and Herb” plus a good bit of salt and pepper. Next week I’m thinking I’ll try an Italian version, maybe with pesto, garlic and tomatoes.

Easy, Economical Chicken Lasagna Casserole

This is based loosely around Annie’s Chicken and Spinach Lasagna.

You will need:

1 large can of chicken breast meat, drained well
1 can of sliced mushrooms (optional)
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 large can Hunt’s Traditional Spaghetti Sauce (the big one)
12 oz cottage cheese – I used low-fat
1 egg
6-8 Lasagna noodles – use the “cooks in the pan” kind, not the “boil first” kind
1 cup shredded mozarella cheese, divided in half

Italian Seasonings (Parsley, Basil, Oregano)
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil

1 2-quart ceramic casserole dish (I love my Pyrex)
Large skillet of some kind

Heat the skillet over medium high heat with 1 TBSP olive oil.  Saute onions for a minute or two until they start to turn clear.  Add chicken and cook for another minute, until starting to brown.  Add garlic and mushrooms, cook for another minute (DO NOT LET THE GARLIC BURN).  Add 2/3-3/4 of the can of tomato sauce, put the rest in a container and freeze for individual spaghetti serving some other day.  Heat until just boiling, and then add in herbs.  I used about 1 TBSP each fresh parsley and basil, and about 1 tsp fresh oregano.

In a bowl, mix cottage cheese, egg, and half cup of mozarella thoroughly.

Now for the fun part!  In your casserole dish, place a good ladleful of the sauce to coat the bottom of hte dish (this keeps your noodles from becoming cement on the bottom of your casserole dish).  Then a layer of noodles (two for each layer was all I needed).  Then 1/3 of the cottage cheese mixture, spread out.  Then 1/3 of the sauce.

Repeat twice, until you have on top a final layer of sauce.  Sprinkle with the other 1/2 cup of mozarella cheese.

Bake covered at 375 degrees for 30-45 minutes (until bubbly on the edges) and then uncovered for another 10 minutes to brown the cheese.