One chicken, five easy school lunches
For me, nothing signals the end of summer like quiet Sunday nights. The weekend hustle and bustle is behind us. The new school week has yet to start. The kids are tucked into bed to ready themselves for the unseasonably early rise and shine. And it’s just about that time when I plop down on the couch with either Don Draper that my recurring nightmare hits.
It’s time to make the lunches.
I’ve spent many a late August Sunday night combing the cabinets for feasibly healthy—yet yummy—lunches for my children. I now avoid that frustrating adventure with a little planning and a roast chicken.
You can buy a rotisserie chicken, but I typically roast a 4-pound bird. From this one bird, I’ll yield five sets of lunches for my two kids.
In Monday’s bag, they each get a lopped off chicken leg and a wing. I throw in some sliced bread, a bit of cheese, a piece of fruit and a bottle of water and send them on their way.
For Tuesday’s lunch, I take one of the breasts, cube it, toss it with a mayonnaise, curry powder, a touch of honey, chopped celery, a few chopped almonds and a handful of plumped raisins. I send this Coronation Chicken Salad to school with a fork and several whole wheat crackers, cucumber slices, a handful of berries and a container of milk.
On Wednesday, it’s Asian Chicken and Cooking Greens Wraps. With this recipe (below) I’ve concocted a spring roll that swaps out the rice noodle wrapper (they can dry out in the lunchbox), with a hearty cooking green leaf. These bundles come together quickly and can last refrigerated for up to five days. I give each child four wraps filled with shredded dark meat chicken, flavored rice and easy pickled carrots and reward the green eating with a sweet in the lunch pail.
For Thursday, I chop up the second breast and keep with the Asian theme by making a “whatever’s in the fridge” fried rice.
I prep the Friday noon meal while getting the kids ready for bed on Thursday evening. I take the naked carcass, put it in a pot large enough to cover it with cold water, add few carrots, onions, celery and herbs and make my own broth. On Friday morning, I pour hot broth into thermoses with previously cooked noodles and chopped carrots. Nothing like Mom’s homemade chicken soup to finish the school week on a great footing!
Christine Burns Rudalevige is a classically trained food writer, recipe developer and cooking instructor. Her two biggest culinary critics are Owen, 13, and Eliza, 10.
Asian Chicken and Cooking Greens Wraps
(Makes a dozen wraps)
12 long chives or scallion tops
¾ cup cooked rice
½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy or tamari sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
¼ teaspoon sugar
1 carrot, grated
4 radishes, grated (optional)
3/4 cup shredded cooked chicken dark meat
12 large bok choy, chard, collard or mustard greens, washed and dried
24 cilantro leaves, removed from their stems and washed
Place chives or scallions in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Leave for 10 seconds and drain. Set the blanched chives aside.
Mix together rice, sesame oil and tamari/soy sauce in one small bowl.
Stir together rice vinegar, sugar, carrots and radishes in a second small bowl.
Take one leave and cut off the large part of the stem. Press your finger along the remaining part of the leaf’s rib to relax it. Lay the leaf flat. In the bottom middle of the leave place a tablespoon of the rice mixture. Top that with a few mushrooms and some carrot/radish pickle. Top with a few cilantro leaves.
Fold in the sides of the leaf over the top of the filling and roll it up away from you. Secure each wrap with a blanched chive.
Serve cold. You can serve them with a dipping sauce of 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar (or a substitution of rice wine vinegar), 3 tablespoons water, a bit of hot sauce and grated ginger to taste and sliced scallions.