It can be hard to find the time during a busy work week to create healthy, flavorful dinners from scratch. By prepping some easy meals ahead of time, like on a Sunday night, you can set yourself – and your diet – up for success. There’s no reason meal prep has to equal bland or boring, though. Keep things interesting and your taste buds on their toes by using one main ingredient in a variety of delicious ways.
A great place to start? A whole chicken. Whether you cook the bird yourself or buy rotisserie chicken at the supermarket, a single bird can provide you with simple and tasty meals every day of the week.
Here are two recipes you can prep ahead of time that show you you can use one chicken, five ways:
- White Chicken Chili
Add a little Southwestern flavor to your weekly dinner menu with an easy white chicken chili with a zesty flavor that’s just as delicious in the summer as it is on a chilly autumn day. Making this chili at home means that you can use fresh herbs to season the dish instead of loads of salt or unhealthy artificial additives. Simply slice the vegetables and cooked chicken ahead of time on your meal prep day and store in the fridge in airtight containers until you’re ready to make the chili. You could also cook the chili on Sunday to have a healthy dinner in the fridge all week.
Just follow this simple recipe from Averie Cooks (serves 4):
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups sweet Vidalia or yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1/2 large jalapeño pepper, diced very small
3 1/2 ounces canned green chilies
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 tablespoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
Dash cayenne pepper
5 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, minced
Tortilla strips, diced avocado, shredded cheese, low-fat sour cream (for garnishes)
1. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or other cast-iron pot over medium-high heat.
2. Add the onion, jalapeño and green chilies and saute for 7 minutes or until vegetables begin to soften.
3. Add the garlic and continue sauteing for 1-2 minutes, stirring every so often.
4. Add the chicken broth, cooked chicken, beans, lime juice, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, red chili flakes and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil and allow to boil gently for 7-10 minutes.
5. Add the cilantro and boil for an additional minute.
6. Pour chili into bowls and garnish. Enjoy immediately or store in airtight containers in the fridge.
Pre-cooked chicken goes a long way in delicious white chili.
- Greek Yogurt Pesto Chicken Pasta
Think creamy pasta salad can't be part of your diet? Think again. Greek yogurt provides all the richness of heavy dressings without the calories and fat while making this dish substantial enough for dinner. Portion the pasta salad into right-sized containers so you can grab a healthy dinner on even the busiest of days.
Dig into this recipe from the culinary blog Little Broken (serves 6):
3 cups penne pasta
1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves
4 tablespoons pine nuts
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup olive oil
1 7-ounce container Greek yogurt
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 tablespoon minced red onion
1 cup diced cooked chicken
3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
Salt and pepper
1. Cook pasta according to directions on package. Drain and set aside.
2. Combine basil, pine nuts, cheese, garlic and olive oil until smooth in a food processor to make the pesto.
3. Mix cooked pasta, pesto, Greek yogurt and sour cream together in a large bowl.
4. Incorporate red bell pepper, celery, red onion, chicken, lemon juice and lemon zest. Add salt and pepper as desired.
5. Pasta can be enjoyed immediately or after chilling in the fridge for at least half an hour.