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Last updated: Wed. Jan. 16, 2013 - 08:26 am EDT

Stocked pantry helps whip up healthy meals

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In the pantry

These canned food items are good to have on hand all the time.

•Canned vegetables (peas, corn, carrots, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, spinach)

•Canned tomatoes (sauce, paste, diced, crushed, whole)

•Canned beans (black, pinto, garbanzo, navy)

•Canned fruit (pears, pineapple, peaches)

•Canned seafood (salmon, shrimp, tuna)

•Canned flavored beans (baked, refried, seasoned)

•Canned broth

•Condensed soups

•Canned meat (chicken, turkey, roast beef)

“What’s for dinner?” It’s often the most dreaded question of the day. Between school, activities, work and life, there are nights the big dinner decision doesn’t happen until the last possible minute.

Fortunately, the answer is probably right in your pantry – canned food. Canned foods are not only convenient and budget-friendly, they reduce your cooking time and inspire wholesome and delicious meals your family will love.

Canned items are also one of the best ways to get food directly from the farm to your family’s table. Because many fruits and vegetables are canned directly after harvest, the canning process seals in foods’ freshness and natural goodness, retaining their taste, quality and nutrients. Canned vegetables and fruits often provide as many vitamins and as much dietary fiber as their fresh and frozen counterparts.

Family Fiesta Soft Tacos

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1/2 cup diced onion

1 pound extra-lean ground beef or turkey

1 (4-ounce) can diced, mild green chiles

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, no salt added, drained

1/2 cup drained canned corn

1/2 cup drained and rinsed canned red kidney beans

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Salt, to taste

Spray oil

8 (8-inch) whole-wheat flour tortillas, warmed according to package directions

1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1 cup finely shredded lettuce

1 cup diced avocados

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until lightly browned, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Add beef and cook until lightly browned, about 4 minutes.

Add chiles, tomatoes, corn, beans, chili powder, cumin and pepper and stir until heated through, about 3 minutes.

Season to taste with salt, if needed. Transfer to a serving bowl and keep warm.

Spray a clean skillet with oil as needed and warm tortillas over high heat one at a time.

To serve, plate up warm tortillas, dish up cheese, lettuce and avocado (if desired). Serve with taco meat filling. Assemble and enjoy. Makes 8 servings.

Enchiladas Grandes

Spray oil

4 (6-inch) corn tortillas

2/3 cup canned red enchilada sauce

2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream

1 cup warm taco meat filling (from Family Fiesta Soft Tacos recipe)

1/4 cup finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat large skillet over high heat. Spray with a thin film of oil and wipe out with a paper towel. Cook tortillas on both sides until blistered and soft, about 1 minute per side; keep warm.

While tortillas are cooking, pour 1/3 cup enchilada sauce into a pie plate or small rectangular baking dish, about 6-by-10-inches. Mix the remaining sauce with sour cream; set aside.

Mix meat filling, cheese and cilantro in medium mixing bowl.

To assemble: Fill a tortilla with 1/4 cup of the meat mixture, and roll up like a tight cigar. Place seam-side down in the baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling. Pour enchilada/sour cream mixture over enchiladas. Cover tightly with foil and bake until sauce is bubbling, about 15 minutes. Top with green onions. Makes 2 servings.

Chicken Mediterranean Pizza

2 teaspoons cornmeal

1 refrigerated pizza crust (12 to 14 inches), unbaked

1/2 cup prepared pesto sauce

1/2 cup canned, diced tomatoes, drained

1 (5-ounce) can chunk chicken breast, drained and flaked

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Pinch crushed red pepper, if desired

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Sprinkle cornmeal on bottom of pizza pan.

Place pizza crust over cornmeal. Spread pesto sauce over surface of crust. Top with remaining ingredients.

Bake 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and edges are browned. Makes 4 servings.

Smoky Southwest Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup thinly sliced celery

1 (10 3/4 ounce) can reduced-sodium cream of chicken soup

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1 cup cooked wild rice

1 cup canned, sliced carrots, drained

2 (3-ounce) cans premium chunk chicken breast in water, drained

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Pinch ground chipotle chile

1 cup shredded, pepper jack cheese, divided

1/3 cup evaporated fat-free canned milk or heavy cream

3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Cilantro sprigs for garnish

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat; add onion and celery. Sauté, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes or until softened. Stir in soup and broth. Add rice, carrots, chicken, chili powder, cumin, chipotle chile and 3/4 cup cheese; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes to blend flavors; stir in evaporated milk and chopped cilantro. Garnish with remaining cheese and cilantro sprigs. Makes 6 servings.

Stir-Fried Ginger Beef and Broccoli

12 ounces beef sirloin strip steak, cut in 1/4 -inch strips

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon water

2 teaspoons dark molasses

2 teaspoons cornstarch

Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon vegetable oil (divided)

1/2 large red onion, cut in 1/2 -inch chunks

1/2 cup canned corn kernels

1 (4-ounce) can sliced mushrooms, drained

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon minced gingerroot

1 cup canned, diced tomatoes, drained

4 cups (12 ounces) broccoli florets, cut in bite-size pieces

1/2 cup water

1 scallion, roots trimmed, thinly sliced

Toss beef, soy sauce, water, molasses, cornstarch and crushed red pepper in a mixing bowl until the beef is uniformly coated; set aside for 15 minutes.

Heat wok over high heat until smoking hot. Add 1 teaspoon oil. Add onion and stir-fry until translucent, about 1 minute. Add corn and mushrooms and stir-fry until heated through, about 1 minute. Add garlic and ginger and stir-fry another 30 seconds. Transfer to a clean mixing bowl.

Add another teaspoon of oil to the wok and heat until smoking. Add beef and stir fry until browned, about 3 minutes. Add diced tomatoes and continue cooking until beef is cooked through, scraping any brown bits clinging to the surface of the wok into the mixture. Transfer to bowl with vegetables.

Add remaining oil to wok. Add broccoli florets and stir-fry until bright green, about 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup water, toss with broccoli, cover and steam until broccoli is tender, about 2 minutes.

Uncover, return vegetables and beef to broccoli, and toss until everything is combined. Scrape onto a large serving platter. Garnish with sliced scallion. Makes 4 servings.

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