GF Bento Lunch

Mañana es viernes. Wahoo!
Friday! I *love* Fridays.
Almost as much as I adore Saturdays, but not quite.

I can sleep in on Saturdays. Nothing beats that.

Last Friday my colleagues had a potluck lunch meeting. The gals were so sweet. One of them came to see me the day before about the beef/steak stew she was going to make everyone for the main dish. She asked about dredging the meat in flour (umm.. no-go, I told her). Let me just stop you all here and say this: I have worked here for five years and this is the second time someone has figured out that eating with the group might be tough for me. I was touched. Sincerely. We, teachers, don’t get a lot of actual “adult time” in our lives. The fact that I had even hit her radar with her 160+ student caseload was awesome to me. Seriously.

And I also don’t think she should have to even worry about me at all. So I told her so much. Bah, go ahead and make what you LIKE to make and what you want to eat/serve! Don’t worry about me. She said, “No way, I want to try this.”

I insisted that she not worry. I told her I was bringing something for myself to eat and that she needn’t make a fuss. (Really, this is always a safer option despite all the love and good intentions.) She reassured me that she would do the best she could, and I smiled and thanked her.

And then, well, then as she left my classroom, she stopped and waved back through the door, “Umm, Kate? I just thought of something. Am I going to be able to find stew flavoring/seasoning packets without flour? “

Then she laughed, “Oh man! Is this what you go through?”

Well, kind of. But I just don’t use seasoning packets, I thought.

“No worries!” I told her.

Really. It takes a long time to figure out all this gluten-free stuff. I certainly didn’t learn in a moment and am still learning every single day.

Every time a manufacture changes a recipe or refuses to answer the question (Q: “Is your product gluten-free?” A: “We cannot confirm that our product IS or IS NOT gluten free at this time.”).

Every time a student swings by my desk munching on their bagel/cookies/chips/blah over my coffee. I glance at my cup and know that I will just have to toss out that cup full of coffee too.

Every time we are tired and don’t want to cook – no matter how hard we pound our feet against the ground in an “oh-how-I-wish-I-could-still-get-away-with-that-sometimes” kind of way.

I used to get so tired. Some days I still do. But mostly now, I just wait until I get a second wind (or third or fourth or…) and I suck it up. God knows I’ve gained back all the weight I lost while sick AND then some (apparently for good measure). I can certainly adjust my mode to the best of my ability.

So lately, I’ve been bringing GF treats to work once a month to share with my “lunch buddies” (about 10 other teachers). These guys are a kick and have NO idea that they are eating anything “special”, really. They are just eating to eat. Good people. OH! I love them so!

Usually whatever I’m eating causes them pause. Not in a negative way, but in a curious “Oh-I-Want-That-Too” kind of way. Heck, everyday they eat the same thing. I kid you not. Everyday. I can tell you who is bringing what (and whose wife cooks and whose doesn’t) and who is going to give what in a swap for what. I swear elementary school never ends, huh?

I think I would cry if I ate the same thing everyday. Really. LOL. The blessings of becoming gluten-free include the opportunity to break out of that lunch rut. I rarely have the same thing twice (um… unless I’ve made sweet potatoes the night before… LOL) and have always had fun making lunch MORE FUN!

So in celebration of all things FUN for Lunch, here are a few of the latest lunches I’ve brought to school:

1. Wrap sandwiches with goat’s cheese, cranberry sauce and Boar’s Head roast chicken.
2. Garden salad with herbs, hazelnuts, and dried cranberries with walnut vinaigrette.
3. Homemade California rolls (wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate a “log”, cut at work)
4. Homemade soups: Chinese Chicken and Corn, Potato & Leek, etc.
5. Shaped eggs (hard boiled) like cars, etc for salads or just eating as is.
6. Onigiri (rice balls) and sake-eggs (mmm!)
7. Risotto with fresh veggies
8. Spring rolls
9. Fresh almond butter with Glutino crackers.
10. ….and desserts! Like Aunt Selma’s, Dark Chocolate Custards, and Maple Popcorn (which is a great snacking food too when my days run into their 10th hour..blech!)

And, no. I don’t get up early to do this. LOL. NO WAY. Mornings are for pillows. And warm sheets. And sweet nothings from my love (“Um, honey. Get up! You’re late!!”).

I’ve seen you all planning your Menus for the week. Do you plan your lunches as well? Now that you’ve seen a partial lunch list, do you think I should log my lunches for a while and post a month’s worth of ideas? Just a thought.

For now, however, I’m off to bed with happy thoughts for tomorrow’s lunch. A bento box filled with 2 onigiri (rice), sake-eggs, herb salad with dill and candied pears. Oh baby. Bring on Friday. I’m ready!

Happy Friday to you all as well!


  1. my weekly plan always includes lunches, since i have no time during the week, even in the evenings, to think about prepping and cooking. weekends are my cooking madness, and packing everything up so it can be pulled out of the fridge or freezer. this weeks lunch has been sticky white rice, daal, and tri colors peppers with a GF spicy stir-fry sauce i cobbled together. tastes even better than the bottled szechwan sauce packed with gluten i was trying to imitate!

    bentos are definitely the way to go for lunch. following the five color principle really allows you to make sure you have a well rounded meal, nutrition wise. and as most Westerners will look at a bento and go, “it’s so small! i’ll starve!” it is automatic portion control to where we should be eating. i’ve never starved with what i’ve put in my bento. in fact, i’m usually a little full, and have to leave some in there.

    i am always game for new lunch ideas as they are the main meal of my day (dinner is always a salad, or bowl of broccoli and a GF hotdog!). i say blog away!

    I love the idea of the 5 color principle. I have, um… upon occasion, looked down and realized I’ve packed an “all green” or “all white” lunch, sadly. LOL. This is a great plan! Thanks for the idea/tip. I’ll start tracking my lunches and see where I go with them. I usually fly by the seat of my pants and modified leftovers. LOL. -Kate

  2. Yes, please post your lunch ideas. I just take leftovers normally, and last night, I was uber-fussy that I had nothing to take. Fortunately, there is a Chipotle across the street from my office, so I am going to decompress from my anal retentive boss and go have lunch. And please share your soup recipes! Fall/Winter is a perfect time for the crockpot and soup recipes – hmm, that’s a blog posting I just decided (I’m off to post!)

    Ok, babe, I’m gathering soup recipes. Funny, ’cause I have already taken a couple pictures of soups this week. I’ll have to get on the posting now! ACK! The pressure!!! Bwahahahaha! =) -Kate

  3. Hi I’d love to see what you have for lunches. My four year old has decided he wants a lunch box for school and while he doesn’t have problems with gluten I don’t want him to end up just having sandwiches everyday so ideas would be great, even better if i can make some f me too to have at home, being pregnant and feeling sick at lunch I’m often needing something quick and brainless to stave off the sick feeling so making myself a lunch with his might be a good idea.

    Esther – congratulations on the (1) 4 year old! and (2) the incoming bundle of joy! I’ll make sure to add some cook now – eat later ideas to the list. That’s usually how I operate for lunch any way. My luxurious lunch “hour” of 22 minutes is barely enough time for microwave reheating and a bathroom run. LOL. =) – Kate

  4. Great post Kate!

    I love bento boxes and all, and spring rolls, I peeked at your recipe/technique and they are the same. I use a sweet chili sauce to dip mine in, do you?

    I used to make them (before gluten free, and children) when my husband and I would bike ride for the day..wrapped in damp paper towels with peanuts and chili sauce lunch ever! I only make them for special occasions now.

    I would love to get more into bento….we are in the middle of a remodel..maybe when that’s done… :)

    Love the lunch ideas, even though I am a stay-at-home Mom, we need to eat lunch too, and there are days I need to pack one, and I always love good ideas when someone has experience with it!

    Yes, bentos are fun – and I’ve been enjoying it. However, I have realized that making a “bento” is very similar to packing my little tupperware leftovers… I now just have compartmental things so I can add a little diversity to my lunch.

    Spring rolls definitely happen in waves around here too. They are easy to make -and OH MY – YES – I *have* to make or buy the Sweet Chile Sauce to dip into! I have played around with some different fillings – but always find my way back to the traditional one at some point in the cycle. =)


  5. So what are those cute little rice ball thingys? I need to know how to make those, too!
    I hope you had a good Saturday sleep in! I slept til 10 a.m. and couldn’t believe it!

    Sadly, my Saturday sleep in was cut short at 7AM! It’s unGodly, I tell you! LOL. Well… ok… that’s what I was thinking at 7AM. Now I’m just back to hopeful that I will be able to sleep in TOMORROW! LOL.

    Those rice balls are super easy to make, Ging. Just make some Asian sticky rice (short grain, regular Asian rice). Fluff it up a bit when it’s hot. While it’s still warm, you shape it into triangles or balls (or buy molds to shape it to save your hands from a bit of a burn.) with your wet hands (sometimes wet hands with a bit of salt). You can also “fill” them by dabbing a bit of a savory filling into it before filling (like tuna or salmon, etc). Do a google search of Onigiri. I’ll try to talk my love into taking pictures for me next time we make them. =) -Kate


  1. […] written a little about bento boxes before. I love the egg-molds you can use to make little cars, etc out of hard-boiled eggs. There […]

  2. […] wrote about lunches last year too.  I think the lunch thing always hits me hard when school starts.  I’m no longer at […]

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