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Make three different meals out of same ingredients

April 18, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
When money gets tight, it's tough to eat healthy. Many people resort to a meal deal at fast-food restaurants--not usually a health bargain.

So let's get creative in the kitchen. We're cooking a meal that you can turn into two others, without saying the word "leftover."

Start at the market.

"Go in maybe with a rough idea of what you might want to make," said Sunkist Chef Jill Davie. "Really look for affordable and fresh produce. Say,broccoli is in season, it's looking great, or snow peas are on sale. Be open to changing up a recipe."

Davie proved that it's easy to start with good old chicken breasts and marrying them with sassy spices, seasonal produce and a good, healthy carbohydrate.

And once you're home with the groceries on the weekend, get prepping to save yourself from time-crunched workdays.

"When it comes in, get it all done. Get all my stuff ready to go, so that during the week I'm kind of set up for success," said Davie.

Starting with a summer fresh dish: A citrus chicken salad with broccoli, cherry tomatoes, olives, greens and herbs with a citrus dressing that helps act as a salt-ternative.

"I really like to cut down on sodium so I use a lot of natural citrus zest," said Davie.

That's an obvious one since Davie is a chef for Sunkist, the citrus people, but brings up a great point that the zest and juice of lemon, lime and orange can really perk up a plate. She also varies the flavor with fresh ground pepper and a bit of garlic.

Actually, many of the same ingredients are used in a heated penne pasta chicken dish.

"It's got garlic, tomatoes, basil and that navel orange its really going to give it a nice citrus kick," said Davie.

It also has also has Kalamata olives and a smattering of feta cheese. And generally the ingredients in pasta get better when they've been together for a time.

Finally, swap pasta for corn tortillas and get spicy with this take on tacos.

"If you already have cooked chicken, the best thing you can do is when you go to reheat it, put a little bit of olive oil in a pan, put the cumin and chili powder in the pan and then heat it up in that," said Davie. "That will impart all the wonderful flavors of the chili powder and cumin into the chicken."

Serve family style so they can take what they want.

"Put out a really nice bowl of salsa at the table, put out a nice plate of the chicken, the heated tortillas," said Davie. "You know what, let everyone have at it. You did all the work they can help you out a little bit."