Gluten-free Lunches on the Go

As the year winds down, packing lunches seems more and more daunting each day. Some of you may already have finished school for the year, but up here in the Boston area we still have a couple more weeks to go. Then (we hope!) the 2nd wind comes in to continue to pack lunches for camp or family picnics or the office.

Having a child with celiac disease, when we go on road trips or day trips, I often have to pack lunch because we cannot trust that we will find a place that has gluten-free meals. I like to use leftovers when I can and have lists of what my options are for lunches to help take the stress out of it. Here are some ideas for you:

Leftovers can be delicious! Make these Apricot Wings for dinner or appetizers then enjoy them for lunch the next day!

Quesadillas are the perfect on-the-go lunch. I use Rubbermaid Lunch Blocks containers most days for the kids school lunches and on road trips.

Leftover barbecue chicken makes a great lunch. The crackers pictured are one of my favorite gluten-free crackers – Van’s Lots of Everything Crackers.

Wegman’s has snack size yogurts, which fit perfectly into the kids’ lunch boxes. Throw in some lunch meat and Lance’s cheese crackers and the kids are happy πŸ™‚

My children often want a variety in their lunch. If I give them one thing, like leftover pasta in a thermos, they like it but say that they need more than one item to eat πŸ˜‰ Kielbasa, blueberries, my favorite crackers and a common accompaniment some carrots or peppers and hummus, give them enough to choose from.

As a sweet treat on the road or to bring with my son to a birthday party, I use Ziploc round screw top containers to carry a cupcake. I try to make a batch regularly and keep them in the freezer to pull out when needed, but in a pinch Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s both carry delicious gluten-free cupcakes.

What are your favorite on the go lunches and sweet treats?

The Best Recipes of 2016

To celebrate the end of 2016, I’m sharing this list of your favorite recipes from Mamma’s Cooking. Thank you for reading!

1. Β Appetizer Ideas for Thanksgiving

2. Rainbow Pizza

3. Cooking Your Thanksgiving Turkey

4. Spoon Roast

5. Gingerbread Cookies

6. Gluten-Free Holiday Treats

7. Holiday Mashed Potatoes

8. School Snack and Lunch Ideas

9. Apple or Pear Crisp Recipe

10. What to do with Leftover Cod

This completes my 31 days of posts! I challenged myself with a post a day in December and I did it! Best wishes to you all for a great celebration tonight and an even better 2017. Look tomorrow for my 2017 Cooking Bucket list.


Potato Leek Soup

Soup is the perfect warm and comforting lunch for a blustery winter day. Great Β with a grilled cheese sandwich for when you come in from a walk in the cold, or skiing or sledding.

I love to make potato leek soup around this time of year. It is so velvety and delicious. You can even make it for an elegant New Years Eve dinner with mussels and a nice loaf of gluten-free bread πŸ™‚

Potato Leek Soup


2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions, diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 large leeks, cleaned and diced

8 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves taken off stem

2 teaspoons of salt

ΒΌ teaspoon pepper

1/8 cup of white balsamic vinegar

About 2 lbs of potatoes, peeled and diced

4 Β½ cups of stock (I like to use chicken, but vegetable will work too)

ΒΌ cup of milk or heavy cream, optional


Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.Β  Add onions, garlic, leeks, thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Stir and cook until onions are translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add potatoes and stir. Pour in stock and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes until the potatoes are soft.Β  Either blend with an immersion blender or allow to cool and pour carefully into a blender. Add more stock or some milk or heavy cream if too thick for your liking. Serve.

You can make this ahead of time and pour it into a crock pot on warm or low to keep it warm until you are ready to serve.

If you are in the mood for another type of soup, check out these other ideas:

Hot and Sour Soup to Warm your Soul

Chicken Noodle Soup

Coconut Curry Sweet Potato Soup





Snacks and School lunches…Creating endless possibilities

It is difficult for many of us to keep the snacks and lunches we send off to school interesting. Whether or not you have food allergies in your family, more and more are dealing with allergy free classrooms and as in our family, celiac disease. Not only do we need to keep all these restrictions in mind but still need to keep the food tasty, easy, cost-effective and healthy. How do you keep it all organized so that you are not running to the store every night or panicking while filling in yet another form for an activity and realizing that you have to send in extra snack tomorrow?!


A friend shared a great idea with me, which I have attempted to implement. It puts the kids to work packing their own lunches and snacks. I have 5 shoe box sized storage bins I stock each weekend:

1. water bottles
2. juice boxes
3. snack bags, like popcorn, pretzels or veggie sticks
4. apple sauce pouches
5. yogurt pouches and cheese sticks in the refrigerator.

The kids know that they cannot take from these boxes for snacks at home, but know that they can take 1 or 2 items (depending on the size) plus a water bottle for snack. I’ve provided them with many healthy, allergy free options, Skinny Pop, being their current favorite.  The individual bags work great as a worry free snack to bring to school. I also like to make muffins on Friday afternoons or when we have time at some point over the weekend. I always make a double batch, so that we have plenty to use for a quick snack during the week, whether it goes to school with them or as an after school snack before we start homework.

As this is the beginning of fall, I had to try out a pumpkin muffin recipe. I used the basic muffin recipe from The New York Times Cookbook and adapted it to be gluten free. They were eaten so fast, I couldn’t even get a picture!

Pumpkin Muffins (adapted from the New York Times Cookbook, Craig Claiborne)
2 cups of your favorite gluten-free flour (I use Cup4Cup or King Arthur’s multipurpose gf flour)
5 Tablespoons of brown sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom 
pinch of ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3 eggs, well beaten
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1 cup of milk
1/4 pound of melted butter
3/4 cup of canned pumpkin

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and spices.
Mix the eggs, vanilla, milk, butter and pumpkin.
Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and mix together completely.
Spoon into 12 well-greased muffin tins, or line with cupcake liners. Fill cups about 2/3 full.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out clean. 
Lunch, I am still working on organizing, but the kids can add the snacks above to their main lunch easily. I have found that breaking lunch up into multiple pieces makes it less daunting. I created 2 lists: main lunch possibilities and snack possibilities. I mix up the main lunch options throughout the week, adding 1 to 3 of the snack options depending on how big the main lunch is. 

There are so many possibilities, that if you are anything like me, you won’t be able to make a decision unless your lists are in front of you! Our rotation includes leftovers (anything from meatballs to quesadillas to grilled chicken), lunch meat roll ups, antipasto (cut up salami, cheese, olives and tomatoes) or hard boiled eggs. These are all items that are easily made or found allergen-free, taking the stress off of your planning whether or not you have a child with allergies.

You don’t have to have a fancy bento box or lunch container with many dividers. Use paper cupcake liners or reusable silicone ones (though my kids have thrown a couple of those out, so I refrain from using them) and a square Tupperware container and you are good to go! I like the Sistema snap lid containers in different sizes or the Rubbermaid Lunch Blocks. Although I usually send my kids with cold food, if your kids prefer hot, get a thermos and while you are getting ready in the morning, fill it with hot water.  Pour the water out and add your heated leftovers and it will stay warm until lunch time.
These meatballs can be served warm or cold with lunch:

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

2 lbs cooked meatballs 
1 cup of your favorite GF barbecue
1 cup of apricot jam
Place all ingredients in crockpot.
Cook on high for 2-3 hours or low for 4-6 hours.
With a little organization it can be less stressful to have allergy-free, gluten-free good food for snacks and lunch. If you have something you would like to create or adapt to fit your gluten-free needs, let me know! I’m always up for a cooking challenge.

Back to reality, work and school…

I finally feel like I am coming out of the storm that was in my head after my son’s celiac diagnosis. I have my cooking groove back. We even made a trip out to the midwest and hosted friends at our house without any incident. I feel more grounded, more myself. I grilled pizza for the first time in a long time! One gluten free and one not. No cross contamination! Yay! Now I just need to figure out who to make my own gluten free pizza dough and how to make my gluten filled pizza dough without feeling like I have to scrub down the entire kitchen so no flour cross contaminates anything! We also met with my son’s nutritionist at Children’s, who made me feel good, like we are on the right track. Woo hoo! Let’s just hope his blood tests in the fall come back showing that the diet is working! Fingers crossed.

Anyway, back to the food! End of summer and early fall still leaves plenty of time to grill. I love to grill pizza, sausages, steak, chicken, pork, salmon, shrimp, corn, green beans, zucchini and I could keep going. To make our grill gluten free, I scrubbed it down and then turned all the burners on and let everything just cook off for about 30 minutes. When I grill something with gluten, like pizza, I usually cover that section of the grill with foil and go through the heating process before the next time I grill. I’m probably going a little overboard, but better safe than sorry!

I’m starting to see my favorite fall foods in the grocery stores…butternut squash, acorn squash, I can’t wait! That however means its also back to school and for me back to work! My kids will all be in school full day so that means three lunches to make, everyday. I have to also send a snack for my 1st grader and donate bulk for the class for the twins and make sure Paul has a selection of gluten free snacks at school. My entire Friday was basically spent at 2 different grocery stores and I still didn’t get everything! Luckily the 2nd store (Big Y) has a Kid’s club, where the kids are happy to play the Wii while I shop, but of course make the sitter buzz me while I’m in the middle of checking out because they have to the go the bathroom πŸ™‚

Here is what my menu plan looks like for back to school week, starting with tomorrow, Tuesday (the first day of school!):


Breakfast – oatmeal and fruit (if I find the energy tomorrow I will make THIS one in the crock pot over night, if not it is Chex gluten free oatmeal packets. (Oats are inherently gluten free, but are often grown and/or processed with wheat, so you have to make sure it is gluten free if you need that).

Lunch – Leftover asian noodles (used rice noodles and gf soy sauce with leftover grilled chicken for dinner on Monday night),  hummus with carrots and fruit

Dinner – Grilled cheese and french onion soup in the crock pot. I have adapted the recipe linked from my earlier blog post and just throw everything in the crockpot (substitute white balsamic for the beer) for 6-8 hours on low.

Snacks – yogurt, grapes


Breakfast – hard boiled eggs with fruit

Lunch – ham and cheese or sun butter (hopefully the kids like it! I have never used it before) and jelly sandwiches with fruit. (I use Udi’s bread for Paul)

Dinner – pancakes [King Arthur Flour’s GF pancake mix or Bisquik’s GF pancake mix are the best I’ve found so far, until I make my own blend :)] and sausage with fruit

Snacks – cheese and crackers, bananas


Breakfast – cereal and fruit

Lunch – turkey and cream cheese roll ups, celery, sunbutter and craisin  “ants on a log” and pretzels

Dinner – Pasta with meatballs (going to try ronzoni gluten free) and the meatballs are Mama Mancini’s Gluten Free from the fridge section in Shaw’s. I add some fresh ricotta and basil. Yum.

Snacks – yogurt, plums


Breakfast – Toast with peanut butter and honey and fruit

Lunch – ham and cheese or sunbutter and jelly sandwiches with fruit OR Leftovers

Dinner – Pizza (I usually use Udi’s GF crust for the kids and whole foods or trader joe’s pizza dough for Tim and I) served with salad  or carrots and hummus and fruit.

Snacks – celery, cream cheese and craisin “ants on a snow covered log”, pirates booty

Coming up…if the cold weather starts to set in, chili with zucchini cheddar corn bread and my butternut squash soup! all in the crock pot πŸ™‚ Stay tuned! I’m writing down my ingredients now so will actually have measurements for recipes!

Good luck with the new school year everyone! You can always ask Mamma if you need any new ideas or have a question about what to make! Just email me at

Its been way too long…

So, its been way too long since I posted, but I’m a mom and things don’t always happen when you want them to, right? πŸ™‚ Anyway, now that summer seems to be here in Seattle (and we have a new backyard!), I have been trying to find ways to grill instead of cook. So recently my go to meals have included:

Grilled flank steak (good deal right now at Costco!) that I marinated in soy sauce (1/4 cup), bbq sauce (1/2 cup), garlic (1.4 Tbsp) and honey (to taste) with a corn, black bean and avocado salad. Soooo good! For the salad I just used canned corn (hadn’t gone to the store to buy the good ears of corn out now), canned black beans and some avocado and lightly dressed with lime juice, salt and pepper. Karina loved it!!!! She usually doesn’t want to eat meat on its own, but also loved this steak! Then S’mores for dessert πŸ™‚

Grilled salmon (copper river season!) (cover with pesto and enclose in foil), mussels (cook with chicken broth or veggie broth, white balsamic vinegar, shallots, butter and garlic, then toss in fresh basil before serving), good bakery bread and caprese pasta salad (make some whole wheat pasta, after toss with olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic, fresh basil and fresh mozzarella).

This past weekend we drove out to Harstene Island, WA off of the Olympic Peninsula and drove the through Grapeview, WA and by the Stretch Island Fruit Co. They are the ones who make these great fruit leathers that are 100% fruit (no sugar added) that Karina absolutely loves! I thought it was funny as she was eating one as we drove by it and didn’t even know they were there πŸ™‚ That has been a great portable snack. She also has her snack cup, usually filled with whole grain goldfish and craisins or shredded wheat and craisins. I also have started buying some oatmeal raisin granola bars that she really likes. So easy when we are on the run. Why does it feel like you are always on the run when you have a 19 month old! ?

When we are at home, she loooooooooves her apple sauce and smoothies. I also have found a great timesaver for lunches! I went to Whole Foods the other day, which I don’t often do because it is across town (although soon I hear the new one will open on Interbay) and bought some organic frozen brown rice, to check it out. Karina loves brown rice, so this helps make lunch so easy. We come back from our morning activity and I put the rice with some frozen peas or edamame in the microwave for a minute and a half and poof = lunch! If she is starving because we were out way past her breaking point, I give her some ham or turkey lunch meat to snack on while I put the rice and veggies in the microwave. Sooooo easy! I tried the rice too. Its pretty good.

Happy grilling and happy eating!

What is on the menu for the week?

Karina has been a bottomless pit. I know that seems like it shouldn’t be a problem, because most toddlers won’t eat anything, but to have to feed her every 40min to an 1hr…it is ridiculous! (Especially after I just put her back to bed at 10:30pm because she wanted a snack). I’m trying not to, but if she’s hungry then I will give her a snack. I am just really trying to keep it healthy. Maybe its because she started walking this week…

So, as I’ve mentioned before I have started doing meal planning for each week and then shopping just for what I need. It has made a difference in our shopping budget and the amount of space in our fridge!

Its been a while since I posted a meal plan for the week…so, here is what I have planned for the week: (who knows if it will actually happen, but most of it is what I have on hand)


  • Breakfast = smoothie (I mix plain yogurt with frozen berries and apple juice.)
  • Lunch = sandwiches (turkey, cheese and tomato or roast beef cheese and tomato) or leftover swedish meatballs and cauliflower mashed potatoes
  • Dinner = Fish (still to buy tomorrow), rice (made in the rice cooker) with edamame (frozen and then takes 3 minutes to steam in the microwave)
  • Snacks for Karina = cheddar cheese, grapes, apple sauce, goldfish crackers, craisins


  • Breakfast = one egg, whole wheat toast and sliced pear
  • Lunch = leftover rice and edamame + deli turkey meat
  • Dinner = roast pork (cooked in the slow cooker with beef stock, balsamic vinegar, worchestershire sauce, dried rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper.), cauliflower polenta (buy the tubes from Trader Joes or Safeway and just mix in some steamed cauliflower, parmesan and milk) and salad
  • Snacks = yogurt, whole wheat pita with white bean hummus, carrot sticks, craisins and goldfish.


  • Breakfast = oatmeal and apple slices (or a whole mini apple that I discovered at Trader Joe’s last week. A friend turned me on to their mini pears, but I couldn’t find them, then I found the mini apples – perfect size for a toddler’s hand)
  • Lunch = quesadilla with leftover pork, black beans and cheddar cheese
  • Dinner = Whole wheat pasta with tomato sauce. (If I have time, I put a couple of cans of diced tomatoes in the slow cooker while Karina’s eating her lunch, with a diced onion, some garlic, bay leaf, touch of oregano, rosemary, salt and pepper. Otherwise, I just used jarred).
  • Snacks = orange slices, cheddar cheese, grapes, whole wheat pita, craisins and goldfish (sensing a pattern…?)


  • Breakfast = egg, cheerios and peaches (canned peaches).
  • Lunch = pasta, deli turkey and green beans (frozen, steamed in microwave for 3 min)
  • Dinner = French onion soup (this is more for me, its an amazing recipe from Rachel Ray’s Comfort Foods…mmm…we’ll see if she likes it) and leftovers.
  • Snacks = apple sauce, grapes, cheddar, carrot sticks, goldfish and craisins


  • Breakfast = smoothie.
  • Lunch = turkey, cheese and blackbean in a whole wheat tortilla wrap.
  • Dinner = leftovers
  • Snacks = peaches, cheddar, whole wheat pita with white bean hummus, grapes, apple


  • Breakfast = egg, toast, orange slices
  • Lunch = peanut butter and jelly sandwich, mixed veggies (frozen, steamed in microwave for 3 minutes).
  • Dinner = TBD (either order food, see what’s on sale that day at the grocery store or my husband will pick something up at Pike’s market on the way home from work).
  • Snacks = apple sauce, yogurt, whole wheat pita and whatever else is left in the house until I go shopping on Friday πŸ™‚

That is a fairly typical week for us. It really has taken a lot of the stress out of cooking to have the meals planned. Things always come up though, so having a couple nights of “leftovers” or keeping pasta and jarred sauce or tortillas, canned black beans and cheddar on hand can make easy pasta or quesadilla nights or allow you some flexibility.

Karina finally meet a cheese she didn’t like this week (to my surprise)…Gorgonzola. She really is her father’s daughter…

Happy cooking!