Baking & cooking with an enthusiastic amateur
After making falafel earlier this week, I found myself with several pita breads, three-quarters of a red onion, and some extra tzatziki sauce. I’ve been eating less meat lately and more vegetarian meals, but I had a hankering for my favorite protein staple: Chicken breast.
I’ve heard professional cooks denounce the use of boneless, skinless chicken breast in favor of whole chickens, thigh meat, or pieces of chicken with bones and skin intact. However, I still prefer using boneless, skinless chicken breast, due to its convenience, low cost, and lower fat & calorie content as compared with dark meat. It’s also extremely versatile, which makes it a great food to buy in large quantities and freeze.
To make my chicken into something that would go well in a pita, I opted to concoct a mixture of spices that was tasty but not terribly complicated. Cumin and coriander go very well together, and fit just fine for a pseudo-Mediterranean flavor. Salt and pepper are a no-brainer. To give it a bit of a twist, I added cinnamon as my final ingredient, which is less commonly seen in savory recipes. By itself, this spice rub gives the chicken a distinct note of cinnamon; when the chicken is served in a pita with sauce and veggies, it melds nicely together, and the cinnamon isn’t overpowering at all.
As an extra protein boost, and to avoid the temptation for an empty carb side dish, I opted to make some tofu fries. These fries are a recipe originally from Poor Girl Eats Well. Mine didn’t turn out nearly as gorgeous as hers, but they were still tasty! If you have a limited budget though, be careful where you buy tofu. I found it for $1.99 for nearly a pound at Trader Joe’s, but prices are easily twice that at some other grocery stores.
Spiced Chicken in Pita Bread
½ pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon coriander
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
One tablespoon of olive oil
Two 5’ pita breads
Four thin rings of red onion (optional)
Tzatziki sauce (optional)
Cut any white bits off of the chicken. Cover it with saran wrap and place it on a cutting board. Flatten the chicken with the bottom of a frying pan or saucepan until it’s approximately half an inch thick.
In a small bowl, mix together the spices. Remove plastic wrap from the chicken and sprinkle on about half of the spice mixture, using your fingers to evenly distribute it and rub it in slightly. Flip over the chicken and repeat with the other side.
Pour the oil into a nonstick frying pan. Bring to medium heat, then place in the chicken. Cook for 3-5 minutes per side, until the inside is no longer pink. Remove from the pan.
Meanwhile, cut the pita breads in half, forming two half-moon pockets. Slice the chicken into strips. Stuff the chicken and red onion into the pita pockets, garnishing with tzatziki sauce.
Makes two servings.
Cost per serving: $1.40 (excluding tzatziki sauce)
Calories per serving: 250 calories (excluding tzatziki sauce)
5-6 ounces of plain greek yogurt
Juice of half a lemon
¼ of a large cucumber (or ½ of a smaller cucumber)
1 clove garlic
2 tsp dried dill
Peel the cucumber, remove the seeds, and chop finely. Mince the garlic. Combine all ingredients. Serve chilled.
Makes 4-6 servings.
Total cost: $1.94
Calories per serving: 40
Adapted from Poor Girl Eats Well
8 oz extra firm tofu
1 cup of panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
½ tsp granulated garlic
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
Cut the tofu into strips about half an inch thick. Let rest on paper towels for 15-20 minutes, turning once, until much of the exterior moisture has been absorbed.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray or grease lightly with oil.
In a bowl, beat the egg. In another bowl, combine panko, garlic, salt, and pepper. Dip tofu strips first into the egg, then coat with panko mixture. Lay them flat, not touching each other, on the cookie sheet. Bake 10 minutes on each side.
Serve with a combination of ⅓ cup of ketchup and one tablespoon Sriracha, well-mixed.
Makes two servings.
Cost per serving: $1.10
Calories per serving: 300