Monday, September 26, 2011

School Lunch: Chicken Pita Sandwiches

It's that time of year again: fall is here. It blew (and poured) in with conviction, unlike summer, that so-called season that never really showed up to the party. You know, like that friend, the one who RSVP'd and said she would be there, then texted and said she was on her way, but then didn't actually show up until the party was nearly over..that was summer. Fall, on the other hand, showed up in a big way. The party pretty much started when she walked in the door, and there was never a  moment of doubt that she had arrived. 

I like fall. I like pumpkins, and soup, and pumpkin soup, and pumpkin beer. I like apple cider and pear crisps. I like the red and orange leaves on the sidewalk, and the feeling of new beginnings. For some of you, fall is back-to-school timetime to dust off the ol' red Garfield the Cat lunch box, and fill it with sandwiches and snack packs (but not gogurt...that stuff weirds me out). I haven't had a first day of school since my senior year of college5 years ago! I guess some of you might not think that's so long ago, but going back now seems nearly impossible. Homework? Tests? Studying?! I can't even imagine giving up paychecks for tuition, and Friday Night Lights on Netflix for term papers. And while it seems crazy to me after only 5 years, Amanda is about to have her first first day of school in 7 years. 

My big sister, the girl I've been following my whole life, is about to start grad school. When Amanda started playing softball in elementary school, I did too…even though I was afraid of the ball. When she campaigned for student government and tried out for cheerleading, so did I. Her first car became my first car, and, like all the hand-me-downs I took from her over the years, I was stoked about the level of coolness her things would bring me. Amanda graduated from high school and moved to Seattle for college, and two years later, I followed her up here. And now, here she is, headed back to school. While I'm not in a hurry to follow her there, I'm once again in complete admiration of how cool she is. And how brave. And how crazy, definitely a little bit crazy. 

So, for the first day of school, while Amanda's sharpening pencils and buying text books, I'm coming up with back-to-school lunches to fill up her Garfield lunch box. The one she left on the bus and cried hysterically over. Boy was I jealous of that lunch box and school bus. 

While this portable lunch might not be quite right for the elementary school cafeteria, it packs up awesomely for work or big-kid school lunches. Super thin, flavorful chicken stuffed in a pita with fresh veggies and hummus. People will be jealous. And it's super easy to pack the components separately and combine at lunch. And, when you grill the chicken for dinner the night before, you get two meals in one. Just the kind of efficiency working moms or working grad students need. 

Grilled Chicken Pita Sandwiches
For chicken:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Juice from 1 large lemon
olive oil
Paillard your bird. Ok, that sounds complicated and fancy, but it really just means to make your chicken super thin (which means it cooks quicker but stays tender, has more of the seasoning rub in each bite, and goes further). Here's a good guide to paillarding
Rub your chicken paillards with olive oil, douse in lemon juice, and heavily coat in oregano, salt, and pepper. 
Grill indoors or out until cooked through, only a couple minutes on each side. Oh the joys of the paillard!
For dinner, slice one breast and add to salad or pasta. Slice the 2nd paillard, and refrigerate. 
For sandwiches:
Pack chicken and a pita. Pack fresh spinach leaves, diced red onion, red pepper, tomato, and cucumber in a to-go container or baggie. 
Add a spoonful of hummus to a baggie.
To serve, cut the corner off the hummus baggie and squeeze hummus into pita (way less creepy than gogurt), then fill with veggies and chicken. 
Done…(school) lunch is served. 
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