Monday morning at 6:30 is no time to start thinking about what to fix for lunch. Whether you’re packing a brown bag for you, your spouse, your kids or all of the above — ease and convenience are paramount when you’re trying to get going in the early weekday hours.
I know you’ve heard this before, but – the key is planning. Having something in the fridge that can easily be plopped into a Tupperware container and deposited in a lunch box, briefcase or brown bag will make your mornings infinitely easier.
I’ve made several variations of hearty salads and brown bag options that will stand up to a few days of refrigeration without wilting including one last Friday. To me, you absolutely need variety in lunches. The same old bologna sandwich gets boring quickly, so having an arsenal of healthy go-tos is essential.
For this one, I’ve tossed tender orzo pasta with lean, high-protein chicken breast, creamy mozzarella, fresh vegetables and some defrosted frozen peas. The extra flavor pop here is the crispy pancetta – a salty, crunchy bite of nom-nom! We need those little extra-somethings in our workaday lives.
The chicken and mozzarella add substance so your stomach won’t be growling at 3:00 – and that’s important whether you’re 8 or 38.
And I know I use these vinaigrettes regularly – but it’s because they’re so versatile! Homemade vinaigrettes add a brightness and zing that you can’t get with any bottled dressing.
Just toss all the ingredients together and voil?! Lunch for the week! If you really want to get ahead of the game, divvy it up into those to-go containers now.
lemony chicken orzo salad
- 1 cup orzo pasta
- 2 slices 1/4" thick pancetta
- 1/4 red onion thinly sliced
- 2 cups grape tomatoes red and yellow if available, halved
- 1 cup frozen petite peas thawed
- 2 cups cooked diced chicken breast
- 1 cup fresh mozzarella cheese cut into 1/2" cubes
- 1/2 cup fresh basil cut into chiffonade
for the vinaigrette
- 1 lemon zested and juiced
- 1 heaping teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
- 1 large clove garlic minced
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water and bring to a boil. Cook the orzo until al dente -- according to package directions. Strain the pasta through a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.
Fold a paper towel over on itself and place on a small plate. Dice the pancetta into 1/2" pieces. Heat a small skillet over medium high heat. Add the pancetta and cook until crispy and browned. Remove from heat and use a spoon to scoop the pancetta, draining any fat, and transferring to the paper-towel lined plate. Set aside.
Make the dressing in a small bowl by combining the lemon zest and juice, dijon mustard, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Whisk to combine.
In a large bowl combine the orzo, red onion, grape tomatoes, peas, pancetta, chicken, mozzarella cheese and basil. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Serve chilled or at room temperature.