It was pretty rare that my kids bought lunch. By lunch, I mean school lunch… you know, long lines… plastic trays… chocolate milk… correct change… chatty kids… noisy chairs… etc… etc… etc…
For the most part, Lauren, Chels and Nick dined on homemade lunches consisting of PB & J, or ham & cheese, sliced turkey with lettuce & tomato, or leftover Little Caesars… there was the occasional homemade goodie, popcorn in a ziplock, Hunt’s Snack Pack Pudding, a piece of fruit and a juice box.
BUT there was one day a month that changed up our game tremendously. On this special day, while the kids crunched down their buttered toast and Cinnamon Life, I got to enjoy my morning coffee and their sleepy stories, uninterrupted by the typical scramble to get lunches made.
Why? Because they were buying.
This particular school lunch was the favorite of all three of the kids throughout all their years in the district; and what I’ve gathered from many of their friends, is that it was a favorite for most everybody.
What was this popular meal?
The kids describe this ultimate lunch as a tomato wrap containing strips of spicy chicken drenched in a fantastically zangy spicy sauce resting on a bed of shredded lettuce, always followed by a zebra cake or a warm chocolate chip cookie.
Pret-ty special. Don’t ya think?
I had the idea to reproduce this meal recently, while sitting in my den, working on Ciao Chow.
The house was quiet, just the way I like it when I’m thinking about food, when my concentration was ceased by the sound of a school bus.
Outside my window, I heard the screech of the brakes, followed by the gentle woosh of the door, then the quiet roar of its departure back up the street.
And what happened next was pretty dramatic. I had a moment. A moment which took me on a journey down Elementary Lane. My little jaunt included memories of backpacks on wheels, plays about Punxsutawney Phil, field trips to the Erie Canal, sweet teachers, and lunch in the classroom…
Lunch in the classroom…which led to Firecracker Wraps and playtime…jungle gyms and touch football…jump rope and Miss Mary Mac…sticker books and friendship pins…
Because when you give a mouse a cookie…
Ahhhhh – those floodgates… good times!
- 4 Tbsp. canola oil
- 2 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken breast
- salt and pepper
- 1 cup cornstarch
- 3 large eggs
- ⅓ cup hot sauce
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp. water
- 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
- ½ tsp. salt
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Cut your chicken into 1-inch pieces and season with salt and pepper.
- Place cornstarch in a gallon-sized ziplock bag, add the chicken and seal. Toss to coat.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Whisk the eggs together in a shallow bowl.
- Dip the coated chicken pieces into the whisked eggs then place them in the hot skillet.
- Cook the chicken for 1-2 minutes on each side, cooking until just browned.
- Place the chicken in a single layer in a 13×9 inch casserole dish.
- Mix the hot sauce, brown sugar, water, vinegar and salt in a medium bowl.
- Pour over the chicken in the baking dish.
- Bake for one hour, turning the chicken once to coat with the sauce.
- Serve as a wrap, or over rice.
(Recipe adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.)