(Family Features) Back-to-school season means busy schedules filled with extracurricular activities, homework and carpools. It can be challenging to find quality time to spend with loved ones, let alone get a wholesome, homemade meal on the table.
A simple way to create more moments with your family and still serve up nutritious and delicious dinners is to make sure you have canned foods on-hand.
According to a study published in “Nutrients,” a pantry stocked with canned produce helps adults and kids eat more nutrient-rich foods, leading to healthier overall diets. Canned foods also help cut down on meal prep, so you spend less time in the kitchen and more time together with your family doing the things you love.
“As a busy mom, canned foods are my secret weapon in the kitchen and ensure that I always have the makings of a nutritious meal for my family all year long, and especially when the kids are back in school,” said Holley Grainger, registered dietitian and mother of two. “Fresh fruits and vegetables are harvested at the peak of ripeness and canned within only four hours after being picked, sealing in their nutrition and flavor. So, I know I have year-round access to my family’s favorite seasonal fruits and vegetables right in my pantry.”
Canned foods also make it easy to get the kids involved in the kitchen, with recipes like Pumpkin Mac and Cheese or Hearty Chickpea Vegetable Soup, so you can help build a positive connection to healthy eating for your children. Plus, the family can “go green” and recycle the cans after they’re used; in fact, cans are the most recycled food and beverage containers in America.
Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
8 ounces rotini or medium shell pasta
5 tablespoons butter, divided
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
1 cup milk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups shredded Swiss or Gruyere cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside.
Heat oven to 375 F.
Grease 1 1/2-quart baking dish. In 4-quart saucepan over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons butter. Stir in flour; cook 1 minute. Gradually stir in evaporated milk and milk; cook until mixture is thickened and smooth. Stir in pumpkin, salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Remove from heat; whisk in cheeses until smooth. Stir in cooked pasta; toss to mix well. Spoon into baking dish.
Melt remaining butter; stir in breadcrumbs to coat well. Sprinkle on top of casserole. Bake 30 minutes, or until sauce is bubbly and mixture is golden.
Hearty Chickpea Vegetable Soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 cans (14 3/4 ounces each) low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup water
4 cups cubed butternut squash (about 1 medium squash)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 can (15 1/2 ounces) garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) sliced carrots, drained
3 cups kale, coarsely chopped
In 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, heat oil. Cook onion and garlic until just softened, stirring frequently. Stir in cumin; cook 1 minute.
Add broth, water, butternut squash and salt. Over high heat, heat to boil.
Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 20 minutes until squash is tender.
Add garbanzo beans, carrots and kale. Continue to simmer about 5 minutes until vegetables are tender.