7 Nutritious Family Meals with 5 Ingredients or Less

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Seven nutritious family meals, each using 5 ingredients or less … that’s a job for my super cantry! I’ll explain.

Cooking is one of my very favorites things to do. My mom and grandma started sharing their secrets for making yummy, satisfying meals with me when I was 12. Because I was born and raised in Mexico, most of my creations are Mexican, of course, which is a great thing, because who doesn’t like Mexican food, right? But now that I’ve been living in California for more than a decade, I’ve been exposed to an amazing variety of fare, including Thai, Vietnamese, Italian, and more. All of this allows for a little fusion and more options for getting lost in the kitchen.

But with two small school boys, a husband, a house, and all this blogging, my life — like yours too, I’m sure — is incredibly busy. So we need to get creative to keep offering our families great dinners in less time. And when I talk about a great dinner, I mean something delicious, visually beautiful, nutritious, and satisfying.

To that end, we moms and dads have a few tricks up our sleeves, and one of my favorites is to have a pantry, or should I say, cantry, with a variety of canned foods. I like to use canned foods, because cans seal in freshness, flavor, and nutrition naturally. It’s one of the best ways to get food from the farm to my family’s table! Did you know canned tomatoes, for example, have more lycopene, which is associated with reducing cancer risk, and more B vitamins than fresh tomatoes? (Miller S and Knudson B, Nutrition & Cost Comparisons of Selected Canned, Frozen and Fresh Fruits and Vegetables.  Michigan State University, March 2012).

If you were to get a sneak peek into my cantry, here’s what you would find:

  • Beans: pinto, black, refried, with chipotle, and so on. We eat beans pretty much every day, so I am always well stocked.
  • Condensed milk: for my favorite desserts, like 3 leches cake and jello.
  • Evaporated milk: for those fantastic, creamy soups.
  • Tomatoes: whole, in paste, in sauce, diced. For our pizzas, soups, pastas, and meats and salsas.
  • Pumpkin: because I like to make pumpkin pie all year long. What can I say?
  • Peppers: chipotle, jalapeños, serranos. A staple in my Mexican kitchen.
  • Tuna: lots of it. One of my husband’s favorite meals is my so-called Silvia’s Mexican Tuna Salad, which I can make in 15 minutes and is full of veggies tossed in a lime-based Mexican salsa.

Just writing about all these gets me thinking about what I am going to cook for dinner tonight.

Because I know you are incredibly busy, too, I thought I’d share this gallery of very simple, 5-ingredient main dishes for you to try. And yes, each of them uses at least one canned food, making homemade easier.

Buen Provecho!

  • 7 Easy Recipes with 5 Ingredients or Less 1 of 8
    7 nutritious family meals

    Click through to see every tasty dish.

  • Balsamic Rotini Pasta 2 of 8
    Balsamic Rotini Pasta MamaLatinatips

    This dish includes beautiful canned tomatoes and zesty balsamic vinegar. This would be perfect for a light meal on a warm, late-summer evening out on the deck. It's a hit with both of my boys and my husband. Cook the pasta al dente, and then add a cup of cold water right when it's done to stop the cooking. Get the recipe here.


    Photo credit: ©

  • Tuna-Filled Avocado 3 of 8
    Tuna Filled Avocado

    The beginning of a beautiful friendship: a can each of tuna and sweet corn, a hint of salt, creamy avocado, and a zip of lime makes this light meal a big hit with my bunco friends. You'll want mature avocados that yield a little to the touch. Chill your ingredients beforehand. Get all the details here.


    Photo credit: ©


  • Molletes 4 of 8
    Molletes MamaLatinaTips

    Molletes are ridiculously simple and fast to make. But don't let that fool you: These are exceptionally tasty, almost surprisingly so, and they take less than 10 minutes to prepare. They'd be perfect to take to work for a short lunch break. Just keep the toppings separate from the toasted bread until just before eating. The secret: a specially flavored can of beans. Get the full recipe here.


    Photo credit: ©

  • Creamy Squash and Carrot Soup 5 of 8

    Heavenly. My cousin always makes me prepare this bowl for her when I visit Mexico, and it's perfect for cooler autumn evenings. I use Mexican squash — they look like a light green zucchini, and you can often find them at Mexican markets. Plus, they have been showing up in other markets more and more often, too. The canned evaporated milk, carrots and squash make for a very nice balance of sweetness. Get all the details here.


    Photo credit: ©

  • Enfrijoladas 6 of 8

    My husband and boys love enfrijoladas for a meal we call cena, which is like a light supper. A can of pinto beans with chipotle and queso fresco make for an amazing combination. This is a great one for poker night, because they are fast and it's easy to just keep making more and more when they come back for seconds, thirds, and fourths. Get the full details here.


    Photo credit: ©

  • Crushed Pepper Salmon Cakes 7 of 8
    Salmon Cakes

    Whether you're serving fish lovers or more timid fish eaters, this is the perfect choice. Also, they are great for when you have unexpected guests, as they are both fast and festive. Just grab a can of salmon and you are ready to go. Get the details here.


    Photo credit: ©

  • Citrus Chicken with Thyme and New Potatoes 8 of 8
    Citrus chicken with new potatoes

    Fragrant thyme and a citrus pop make this simple recipe "taste fancy," or so my son says. It's a real hit with him. It includes a can of new potatoes and more. Drop a sprig of thyme and a thin slice of lemon on top for presentation. Get the recipe here.


    Photo credit: ©


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Mama Latina Tips Logo for 5 Ingredient Main Dishes Silvia cooks yummy Mexican food, plays with her kids, and takes pictures at  Read Silvia’s Disney Adventures in Español at Disneylandiaaldia.comFollow her on Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, and Facebook.


Article Posted 3 years Ago

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