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12 Fresh Food Pairings for a More Appealing Lunch

12 Fresh Lunch Pairings (Including Many Gluten-Free) What was the last homemade lunch you truly enjoyed?   I like to find a balance between variety and keeping things simple. Even folks like my husband, who are willing to eat the same sandwich five days in a row, appreciate an upgrade from time time.

Whether you pack a lunch for work, make lunches for kids, or just want something different on the weekend, it is helpful to have a creative range of mid-day options.  Yet when life gets busy I start forgetting about the breadth of possibilities available.  I fall into food ruts.  Sometimes I overlook something simple and obvious–that I could make from pantry ingredients I already have.  Or I neglect some delicious recipes posted a while ago on this blog!

So when you need a change from the usual sandwich routine, here are 12 fresh lunch options–paired up for your convenience and mine.  Because some days I get stuck puzzling over what to make.  Don’t we all?  The first eight pairings are all gluten free (GF), and none of the twelve involve sliced bread.

Celery Sticks + Gluten Free Pineapple MuffinLadybugs on a Celery Stick + Pineapple Almond Muffin (GF)

Gluten Free Summer Rolls + Mango Lemon BarsShrimp or Chicken Summer Rolls + Mango Lemon Bar (GF)

Gluten-Free Pigs in a Blanket + Napa Cabbage SaladGluten Free Pigs in a Blanket + Napa Cabbage Salad (GF)

Asian Cucumber Salad + Pumpkin Bites (gluten-free)Tangy Cucumber Salad with Chicken and Peanuts + Pumpkin Coconut Bites (GF)

wrap + chai CollageHam and Pear Lettuce Wraps + Chai Chokladbollar (GF)

Rainbow Potato Salad + Tapenade and Buckwheat Crackers (gluten-free)Rainbow Potato SaladBuckwheat Crackers with Cilantro Olive Tapenade (GF)

Ham Musubi + Creamy Pea Salad (gluten-free)

Ham Musubis + Creamy Sweet Pea Salad (GF)

Bacon Avocado Tomato Kebabs + Sweet Potato and Lentil SaladBacon Avocado Tomato Kebabs + Wild Rice Salad (GF)

Ham and Broccoli Pocket + Cherry Chocolate PuddingHam and Broccoli Pockets + Fresh Cherry Chocolate Avocado Pudding

Green Bean Foccacia + Deviled EggsGreen Bean Foccacia + Tapas-Style Deviled Eggs

Taquito + Fruit CollageChicken Taquitos with Cranberry Salsa Paradise Fruit Salad

Mango Chicken Curry + Naan Bread (dairy-free)Mango Chicken Curry + Dairy Free Naan Bread

Feel free to mix and match options that work best for you and your situation.   Many of the recipes double as appetizers and sides that can be made a day or more ahead of time and served as part of a meal (if you like).  Set aside portions for lunch and you are set for the next day.   Then, instead of sighs, let there be smiles of anticipation when you think about lunch!

I like to share ideas here , at Homemade Mondays, and at Allergy Free Wednesdays.


Instant Banana Coconut Grain-Free “Oatmeal”

So easy to make you won’t believe it, this paleo “oatmeal” is the best!  And the minimum number of ingredients?  Two.  Coconut and banana.  I sat amazed after the first bite!Grain-Free Coconut "Oatmeal"

This ultra simple recipe came about because starting every day with eggs was getting boring.  Furthermore, eating nothing but protein in the morning seemed to result in a headache.  In my quest for variety in the grain free realm, I researched a few paleo “oatmeal” recipes.  But they were either complicated or required expensive ingredients.  This recipe is not like that.  Plus  it offers endless mix-in options!spoon-coconut-up

Lately I’ve seen lots of healthy recipes that call for coconut butter, which is pricey to buy or requires a Vitamix to make your own.  I have nothing against having a fancy blender, but it falls in the same category as a big flat screen T.V. for our family right now–nice but not essential.  And thus prompted by hunger, I devised this low-cost breakfast in a bowl using coconut flakes.  And all it requires for blending equipment are these:Fork and bowl to mash banana

Got a fork and bowl?  You are just one minute away from breakfast bliss.

What will you mix into yours?

Instant Banana Coconut Grain-Free Oatmeal

  • Servings: 1
  • Time: 2 min
  • Difficulty: very easy
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  • 1/3 cup unsweetened finely shredded coconut flakes
  • 1/2 to 1 ripe banana

Optional Mix-ins:

  • nuts
  • almond butter, peanut butter, etc.
  • chocolate chips, cacao nibs, etc.
  • berries
  • use your imagination!


  1. Add water (or almond milk) to coconut flakes until they are moistened completely.  Heat wet coconut mixture to boiling, either via microwave or stove.
  2. Mash in banana and stir until well blended.  Add any mix-ins you like.  Serve warm.

Grain-Free "Oatmeal" Made from Coconut ShredsI share recipes here and at Allergy Free Wednesdays.


Gluten-Free Pigs in a Blanket

Good bye gluten, hello easy lunch!  These pigs in a blanket made with rice wrappers provide a superbly simple alternative to their doughy counterparts.  Let the good times roll!

Gluten-Free Pigs in Rice Wrappers

Is avoiding gluten a good move?  When  I lived in Vietnam, I ate far less gluten than I do now.  We also didn’t own a car, so I did a lot of walking, and I was ten years younger.  So I am wondering if avoiding gluten will help me get into better shape or not.  Cutting out wheat is not easy since I love bread.   Further more, where I live in Canada, even store bread tastes almost as good as homemade.

However, in my quest to eat less wheat, I invented this new version of pigs in a blanket.  Rice paper is so much simpler than making some sort of gluten free dough that doesn’t quite measure up to wheat-based dough.  I did make a version of traditional pigs in a blanket for my kids.  But then I happily rolled up this spring-roll-like version for myself in just a few minutes.  The results were fabulous!  Even when my kids were happily munching on their homemade wheat bread “blankets”, I did not feel that I was missing out at all.  I was the fortunate one!  So even if you aren’t eating gluten-free, these are a delightfully different take on a classic.

Gluten Free Pigs in a Blanket

  • Servings: 6 to 8
  • Time: 30 min
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


Gluten-Free Pigs in a Rice Sheet

  • 16 to 20 round rice wrappers (9-inch diameter)
  • 2 carrots, peeled into thin strips
  • 3 Napa cabbage leaves, thick portions removed, cut into strips
  • 8 to 10 gluten-free beef franks, pork wieners, or vegetarian hot dogs


  1. Cut hot dogs in half.  Preheat oven (or toaster oven) to 350 degrees F (180 C).  Soften one rice wrapper in warm water.  Wrap a hot dog in cabbage and carrots strips and then fold and roll the hot dog and vegetables in a soft rice wrapper, like a burrito.  Repeat with remaining wrappers, hot dogs, and vegetables.  Baste each wrapped hot dog with oil.
  2. Place wrapped hot dogs onto a baking sheet lined with parchment and bake for about 15 minutes, until wrappers are slightly crisp.  Serve warm with dipping sauce such as sweet chilli sauce.



Gluten-Free Pigs in a Blanket


I like to share recipes here and at Allergy Free Wednesdays.


Kohlrabi Cube Salad

Kohlrabi Cube Salad

Kohlrabi–that curious vegetable that abounds at farmers markets, yet few people know how to  prepare.  Wonder no more.  Chop it up into a cool, colourful salad.  White potatoes, move over, there’s something better.  And feel free to spice up the flavour with a sprinkling of cumin or fresh herbs like basil.  That’s next on my list to add.

This summery salad was inspired by one of our family favourites, Rainbow Potato Salad.  Yes, they both contain ham.  But if you are vegetarian or averse to pork, all you need are beets as a vibrant substitution.  Then after you finish your low carb salad, you have my permission to indulge in some freshly baked butter tarts spiked with berries and rhubarb.  It’s all about balance, right?

Kohlrabi Cube Salad

  • Servings: 4 as a side dish
  • Time: 25 min
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1.5 cups fresh carrots, peeled and cut into 1-cm cubes
  • 1.5 cups kohlrabi, cut into 1-cm cubes
  • 1 cup ham or beets, cut into 1-cm cubes
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • chopped green onions, optional
  • sea salt, to taste


  1. In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to boil.  Add chopped vegetables.  Boil for a few minutes, until tender-crisp.  Drain and rise under cool water.
  2. To cooled vegetable cubes add ham, mayonnaise and chopped onion.  Stir to mix.  Season with sea salt to taste.  Serve cool.Kohlrabi Cube Salad

I am sharing this recipe here and at Allergy Free Wednesdays.


Canadian Butter Tarts with Berries and Rhubarb


Canadian Butter Tarts

Butter tarts are among the most quintessential of Canadian desserts.  Rich and super sweet, most have too much sugar for my taste.  Yet I believed that there must be butter tarts out there that have just the right amount of sweetness.  And once I spied a recipe for Rhubarb Butter Tarts, I pounced.

To my one little cup of chopped rhubarb I added an equal amount of fresh Saskatoon berries (though blueberries would have been another fine match).  I rolled out my tart crusts, filled them up with purple-red filling, and slid them in to the oven with high hopes.  Out came the most amazing tarts!

Bubbling with buttery goodness, they are gush-worthy.  O Canada, with your fine baked goods, here is my contribution to the butter tart tradition.  And though the bar is set high up here, these berry rhubarb tarts can contend with the best.  Make these and your mouth, wherever you are, will cheer!

Butter Tarts with Berries and Rhubarb

Best Butter Tarts with Berries and Rhubarb

  • Servings: 12
  • Time: 60 min
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print
adapted from Will Cook for Shoes


For the tart shells:

  • 2 cups unbleached flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup salted butter, chilled
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons cold water

For the filling:

  • 1 cup rhubarb, chopped
  • 1 cup Saskatoon berries or blueberries
  • 1/4 cup butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  1. To make the homemade tart shells, combine dry ingredients and add butter.  Blend together with a pastry blender or food processor until pea-sized bits of butter are visible throughout.  Gradually add cold water until a dough forms.  Cover dough and chill for 15 minutes or more.  Keeping the other portion chilled, roll out half of dough on a floured surface and cut out 5-inch (12 cm) rounds. [I used a plastic lid and traced it with a butter knife.] Continue to roll out dough until twelve rounds are made.
  2. Preheat oven to 370 degrees F (188 C).  Gently arrange circles of tart shell dough into muffin tin cups, fluting the edges.  [I found I preferred the tarts baked without paper muffin liners, but you may line the cups if you wish.]
  3. To make the filling, soak chopped rhubarb in boiling water for 5 minutes.  Drain rhubarb and combine with butter cubes in a small mixing bowl.  Add brown sugar and stir until sugar and butter form a paste.  Add berries, maple syrup, egg, and vanilla.  Stir until thoroughly combined.
  4. Carefully spoon filling into unbaked tart shells.  Bake at 370 degrees F (188 C) for 22 minutes or until crust is golden.  Allow tarts to cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.  Serve butter tarts slightly warm or at room temperature.

Canada Food Day Menu


These Canadian butter tarts were part of today’s Food Day Canada menu, celebrating Canadian cuisine.  Also included in the meal is kohlrabi salad and lentil soup in a honey wheat bread bowl.  All main ingredients were grown and produced in Canadian provinces, including Saskatchewan.

I am also sharing this recipe  here.


Cherry Coconut Banana Ice Cream {Dairy-Free, No Added Sweetener}

Creamy coconut milk, naturally sweet bananas, and fresh B.C. cherries swirl together in this cool treat that offers guilt-free indulgence.  Kissing sugar goodbye is a lot easier with ice cream like this!

Dairy-Free Cherry Coconut Ice Cream3-scoops-ice-cream-with-cherries

I’ve seen so many tempting ice cream recipes this summer, and I would love to try them all.  Last week, however, I decided I needed to eat healthier so that I can keep wearing the same size clothing as last year.  This naturally sweetened ice cream was the result.  Because ice cream is a summer necessity, is it not?  I also splurged a little with a drizzle of honey-sweetened fudge sauce and pecan topping.  All my cold cravings were completely satisfied.Dairy-Free Cherry Coconut Banana Ice CreamIce-Cream-Spoon-Up

Cherry Coconut Banana Ice Cream {Diary-Free, No Added Sweetener}

  • Time: 30 min
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 bananas, chilled
  • 12 cherries, pitted and cut in half
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, optional
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract


  1. Add coconut milk and bananas to blender jar.  Cover and blend until smooth.
  2. Pour into prepared ice cream maker* and churn for 15 minutes or until ice cream starts to thicken.  Add cherries and churn for 5 more minutes.
  3. Serve immediately.  Top with fudge sauce and nuts if desired.

* To make no-churn ice cream, start with chilled coconut milk and frozen banana chunks.  Blend until thick and frosty.  Fold in cherries.  Freeze until set.

Note: Any remaining ice cream can be frozen in a covered container for future use.  After time in the freezer it will need to be set out to soften for about 10 minutes prior to scooping and serving.

I’m sharing my recipe at Allergy Free Wednesdays and here.


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