Your plan of attack? Fire up the oven on a lazy Sunday afternoon and roast a whole chicken. It'll provide you with a bounty of juicy meat for a week’s worth of nutritious, never-boring lunches. Keep reading for the easiest way to roast a whole bird and five delicious recipes that’ll energize your lunch breaks all week long.
Sunday: Prep Work
Roast the Chicken
It may seem intimidating, but roasting a bird is far from a high-flying kitchen feat. (If you’re really short on time, press the easy button and simply pick up a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket.) Here's how to DIY.
Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Pat chicken dry and brush 2 tablespoons oil (use a neutral-tasting oil like canola or grapeseed) over the skin. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the excess white, papery covering on a whole garlic bulb and slice in half crosswise. Stuff garlic, 1 quartered lemon, and some fresh thyme sprigs into the cavity. Transfer chicken to a rimmed baking sheet, roasting pan, or cast iron skillet, breast-side down. Cross legs and tie with twine. Roast until an instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees when inserted in the thickest part of the thigh (avoid touching the bone) and juices run clear, about 15 minutes per pound of chicken. Let rest 10 minutes before carving.
Cook the Quinoa
While chicken is roasting, cook up a batch of quinoa.
Directions: Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a heavy bottom saucepan over medium. Add 1 cup quinoa and cook, stirring often, until quinoa is toasted and smells fragrant, about 2 minutes. Pour in 1 3/4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, bring to a simmer, and cook covered over medium-low heat until quinoa is tender and liquid has absorbed, about 12 minutes. Set aside covered for 5 minutes and then fluff with a fork.
Meals in a bowl are a health nut’s secret lunch weapon: They're the perfect way to pack in a ton of nutrition and taste in a contained space. (And this is our fave way to transport them.)
Directions: Whisk together 1/4 cup coconut milk, 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, and 1/2 teaspoon curry powder. Place 1 cup cooked quinoa in a bowl and top with 1 cup baby spinach; 1/2 cup sliced, cooked chicken; 1/2 cup cubed mango; and 2 tablespoons unsalted, roasted cashews. Drizzle on coconut dressing.
Upgrade your sandwiches by ditching the starchy bread for wraps made with healthier, sturdy collard greens.
Directions: Slice off firm white stalks of 2 large collard leaves. With a sharp knife, fillet off the thickest parts of the remaining stalks that run down the backside of the leaves. For each collard wrap, place two leaves head to foot (stalk ends at opposite sides) with the paler sides facing up, making sure to partially overlap the leaves. Slather on 1/2 cup hummus down the center lengthwise and top with 1/2 cup sliced, cooked chicken; 1/3 cup shredded carrot; 1/3 cup sliced, roasted red pepper; and a handful of microgreens or sprouts. Tightly roll the leaves beginning from the bottom, tucking in the sides as you go. Cut in half on a bias. If transporting, insert a toothpick through each half to hold together.
This incarnation of tabbouleh has a flavor sum greater than its parts. Get ready to send your typical lunch salad of soggy greens and goopy bottled dressing packing for good.
Directions: Toss 1 cup cooked quinoa with 1/2 cup sliced, cooked chicken; 1/4 cup sliced oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes; 1/2 cup diced cucumber; 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley; 1 sliced scallion; and 2 tablespoons chopped almonds. Whisk together 1 tablespoon olive oil with 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice and a couple pinches each of salt and pepper. Toss dressing with tabbouleh.
Ditch the canned stuff. Simply fill a jar with these ingredients, add boiled water and…. boom, lightning-fast chicken soup for the soul.
Directions: Place 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, 1 teaspoon lemon zest, and a couple pinches salt in the bottom of a wide-mouth jar. Top with 1 ounce roughly chopped, uncooked vermicelli noodles; 1/2 cup sliced chicken; 1/2 of a celery stalk, sliced; 1/3 cup thinly sliced carrot; and 1/3 cup frozen peas. Seal shut and chill until ready to use. When ready to eat, cover contents of a jar with boiling water, stir contents, seal shut, and let stand until the noodles are tender, about 10 minutes.
This riff on a classic Italian salad deserves to be in regular rotation on your lunch playlist.
Directions: The night before, prepare 1/2 pound whole-grain fusilli or rotini pasta, according to package directions. Reserve 1/4 cup cooking water and drain pasta. Place 1 cup cooked pasta (save remaining pasta for more servings of this dish) in a container and toss with 2 tablespoons prepared basil pesto and 1 tablespoon pasta cooking water. Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, as needed, to help pesto adhere to pasta. Stir in 1/2 cup sliced, cooked chicken; 1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes; and 1/4 cup small bocconcini pearls.