Easy peasy kid-friendly meals
Its lunchtime, you’ve a hundred and one jobs to do, and the kids are divebombing the fridge and tap-dancing on the dining table.
We’ve all been there, and I will be the first to stand up and say that gluten free toast and baked beans have been my saviour on many an occasion. But I have also learned a few other tricks for getting healthy meals on the table quickly and I’d like to share some of them with you here.
My first line of defence is the freezer. In it I keep little pots of mashed potato, boiled or fried rice and noodles, home-made sausage rolls, balls of home-made pizza dough, frozen home-made bread for sandwiches (we use shop bought for toast), and two types of pasta sauce – one based on bolognaise and the other tuna – which I freeze in icecube trays and then put into freezer bags.
I also keep a range of shop bought convenience foods like gluten free chicken nuggets and fish bites in there too as well as left over meatballs/hamburger patties/sausages (and you can chop any of these up and thread onto a blunted wooden skewer with favourite raw veg for picnics or school lunches). It is also useful to have some cold chicken meat roughly diced and pressed flat in freezer wrap so you can break off little pieces easily to add to pasta or noodle-typle meals.
You will also find frozen gluten free cupcakes, fruit sorbet and ready made pastry in my freezer so you can just imagine how crowded its getting in there. If I had another gluten free child I have no doubt that I would need to move house just to sqeeze in a larger freezer.
My next line of defence is the kitchen cupboard, and mine is stuffed to the brim with every conceivable type of gluten free cracker and savoury snack on the market (we rotate so we don’t get sick of having the same thing over and over). We use the Dovedale rice and chia bread (from Coles) for everyday toast and even sandwiches (we cut off crusts, refresh bread in microwave, add a delicious filling and then cut into fingers.)
We also use vacuum packed commercial bread and rolls (from Schar which you can buy at Harris Farm and some IGAs) for travelling and emergencies.
In our cupboard are lots of little tins of beans, corn and tuna, which make great additions to our dietary arsenal, and lots of fruit and jelly pots for taking out and about with us. GF marshmallows, meringues and lollypops are favourite treats but handed out sparingly.
Time to cook up (serve any of the following with as complete meal or accompaniement to favourite meats, veges, toast or crackers)
There is no limit to what I can put together quickly from the above ingredients, which means we can always have a balance of different food groups in any given meal. If you are wondering where the fresh vegies and fruit are – well we have those too – the fruit is handed out as a snack and the veg is generally included in fairly small pieces to our pasta sauces, noodle and rice meals or in the form of raw vege sticks on the side of the plate.
So here are some of our lunchtime favourites:
Noodles (rice vermicelli) and veg
Cook noodles according to packet instructions and spread them flat in a drainer to dry out for a while (and Chang’s now do a pre-cooked version too). Chop your veges really fine (we use things like grated carrot, sweet corn, capsicum, bak choy etc). You can also add a little chopped chicken, ham, egg or bean curd.
Cut up the cooked noodles (we use scissors) and then start frying them together with the rest of the ingredients with some soy sauce and honey- or a little sweet chilli sauce (or even a little slightly moistened gluten free stock if you prefer). You can also add a little ginger or garlic if you want a slightly richer flavour. Make a double portion and freeze the rest. You can also add chicken or ham – or serve as side dish to sausages or chicken breast nuggets.
Clear noodle soup
Add a Massell gluten-free stock cube (I use chicken flavour) to half a small saucepan of water and add a few diced vegetables (I use sweetcorn and carrot – but any favourite veg will do). Add small pieces of pre-cooked chicken and 1-2 portions of gluten free vermicelli rice or bean thread noodles. Boil lightly until noodles are tender. For extra flavour you can add a little garlic and/or soy sauce (I usually add these along with some chopped green vegetables for myself after I have served out children’s portions). Depending on their preferences you can serve up as much or as little of the soup stock as you like. (My little guy just loves to tuck into the drained noodles and veg with a few dots of soy sauce added.)
Cook up gluten free pasta from supermarket and add 5 ice tray cubes of sauce per cup of pasta. This is quite dry but kids seem to like it best this way. Sauce may be bolognaise left over from another meal (and frozen) or you can also make up a white sauce from gluten free flour, stock and milk (or alternatives) and add finely chopped veg, tuna or chicken.
Eeeesy fried rice
This is really simple and quick. Take out some leftover rice, put into frypan, add some soy sauce or gluten free stock (and a little optional golden syrup or sugar for extra flavour) some grated carrot, a few frozen peas or small pieces of celery, and fried egg, chopped chicken, ham or sausage – and a few teaspoons of water if it is a little dry. Simple and delicious. Can be a main meal – or served as sidedish to sausages or chicken breast nuggets.
Simple sausage rolls
Take cooked or partially cooked leftover sausages and roll carefully in gluten free puff pastry (which is better if it has been rolled out a little thinner than it comes in the packet).
If the sausage has a tough outer skin I score the length and circumference of the skin in several places to make it easier for younger children to chew. (Pastry is available from Coles in the gluten free freezer section). I cook the entire roll as one as the pastry has a tendency to dry out as it cooks – and only chop them once I take them out of the oven. These can be easily stored and reheated for a quick and easy lunch. Pies can be made with the shortcrust version of pastry using a slightly oiled muffin tray. Fillings could range from mince and gravy to the chicken/tuna and veg pasta sauce recipe here.
Gluten free pizza
Make a thin pizza base from a commercial mix (or use generic brand gluten free burritos from Woolies) and cover with anything you like (a cheese replacement like cheezly could replace dairy if it is tolerated – or simple tomato paste with a dash of white sauce and favourite ingredients on top may suffice). Bake in oven till it looks cooked and base is not too hard. Slice and store in freezer for a later date.
Gluten free burgers
Take some high quality lean mince and add rice flour and an egg so it will hold together (I usally use about half a small cup of flour and one egg for half a kilo of mince – but find what suits you) as well as pinch or two of salt. Create a bunch of small meatballs which you can then flatten and shape into mini burgers with your fingers. Dip each side innto a plate of rice flour before cooking in a reasonably hot fry pan. I usually do 4 mins each side for small ones – (but you must check the mince is fully cooked through by chopping one of the fatter ones in half before you serve). Then I use a gluten free roll – or two slices of bread (toasted and cut into a round shape with kitchen scissors) as a ‘bun’. The children can then choose their own additional fillings/sauces etc.) Serve with salad or raw carrots on the side. Freeze any leftover patties in a bag for a future meal.
Mini tortilla quiches
Press some small corn tortillas into a muffin tray (trim if necessary), then tip in an egg mixture made up of one egg, a dash of milk (or milk substitute) and grated cheese, diced ham, veg, or whatever you like. Cook in oven for about 15 minutes. (If tortillas are too firm to put in tray then you can soften them first in the microwave).
Tuna beans/sweetcorn mash
I dont think I even need to write a description for this one as the title is self explanatory. Same combo works nicely in a baked potato, and if tuna is unpopular you might like to draft in some of that ubiquitous bolognaise sauce instead! And sometimes we even just combine mash and baked beans together 50/50 for a tasty mini meal.
But what of those days when you don’t have the time or the energy to get out those saucepans? Well there is always the bread in the freezer for making sandwiches or toast, and baked beans in the cupboard. Easy.