One of the things I love most about living in the Pacific Northwest is the availability and quality of year-round local produce. Every weekend we can venture out to markets in search of bins overflowing with colorful carrots, crunchy greens, and beautiful beets. By Sunday evening my refrigerator is bursting with all sorts of fresh goodies just waiting to be cooked. And then Monday arrives.
Despite my best intentions, with a busy husband, a part-time work at home gig, and full time duties chasing a toddler around, we don’t end every night with a fresh homecooked meal on the table. In fact, I often find myself staring into the pantry at 6pm desperate to get something healthy and quick onto the table. Enter: the pantry.
Just because you don’t have time to prep and cook fresh vegetables every night, that doesn’t mean that your only alternative is ordering pizza or boiling a package of pasta. There are plenty of nutritious options within your cabinets or pantry door, and you can feel good knowing your family is still getting plenty of color on their plates, and veggies in their meals.
Click through to see seven tips for jazzing up your meals with canned vegetables!
Jazz up your meals 1 of 8
Click through for ideas on how to boost your meals using some staple pantry goods!
Enhance flavors and create quick appetizers 2 of 8
Some of the biggest culinary flavors seem to come from some of the smallest cans and jars. Keep your pantry stocked with things like olives, pickles, marinated roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, and stuffed garlic cloves. In a pinch, these can be arranged alongside hummus and pita for a quick meze appetizer plate! These tangy, salty flavors can also boost up a basic pasta or grain dish, and add new flavorful dimension to what was once bland.
Make an easy vegetable soup 3 of 8
My mom has this amazing dish called Hodge Podge soup that she's been making for us for over 30 years. As a child I thought it seemed so complicated and fancy, and I laugh now when I think about how truly easy it is to make. She hasn't shared the official recipe (family secret!), but I know it's basically a combination of about 10 different canned vegetables and soups. Simple stuff! By combining things like canned carrots, green beans, tomatoes, peas, and potatoes, and maybe even adding in a few canned soups like minestrone or tomato garden, you can put together a delicious soup in minutes.
Beef up a hearty bowl of chili 4 of 8
Is there anything better than chili in the fall? Some of my favorite vegetarian chili components come from cans. Most notably, canned tomatoes are key when making any sort of traditional chili. Grab a variety: plain diced, hot and zesty, and maybe even a few that have some green chilis. Add a few cans of corn, and you'll have a hearty bowl, and hopefully plenty of leftovers.
Add some green to a simple pasta dish 5 of 8
Whenever we are in a pinch for dinner, I find myself resorting to pasta. But I cringe thinking about serving my family a big bowl of brown with no colorful veggies to round out both the flavors and the nutritional profile. There are lots of healthy and nutritious green items found in the canned veggie aisle that work well with almost any pasta dish — green peas, green beans, and asparagus are three of our favorites!
Use vegetable purees as healthy substitutes in baking 6 of 8
When you think about purees, your mind might wander to baby food, but there are a lot of great uses for blended vegetables other than first foods. Canned pumpkin and squashes make for fabulous, healthy additions to baked goods, adding moisture and flavor in place of oils and other fats. Who doesn't love a good loaf of pumpkin bread in October?
Turn up the heat 7 of 8
Whether you're making a fiery chili, a zesty salsa, or a smokin' enchilada sauce, canned chilis are your friend. If you're in a mild mood, go with basic green, or if you're feeling adventurous, grab the jalapeÃ±os or habaneros. A bit of spice and heat can really bring a recipe to life!
Layer into lasagna 8 of 8
For a quick, make-ahead meal, grab a few cans of veggies to layer into your favorite lasagna recipe. Broccoli, carrots, and squash all pair well with tangy tomato sauce and creamy cheeses. If you don't have time (or energy!) to chop, dice, and saute fresh vegetables in advance, canned alternatives work just as well in a fraction of the time.