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Navigating Nutrition: Easy, Healthy Meals from Your Pantry

May 08, 2020
Navigating Nutrition: Easy, Healthy Meals from Your Pantry

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered just about every aspect of our daily lives, like grocery shopping, visiting friends and going out to eat. Without frequent trips to restaurants or grocery stores to pick up missing ingredients, what should we eat when we’re in a pinch?

Here are a few easy, healthy meals to make with foods you probably already have:

Lentils or beans: Add lentils or beans, dried or canned, to ground meat to help it go a little further. Try tacos with ground turkey and refried beans, or lentil meat sauce and spaghetti. No meat in the fridge? No worries! Try a plant-based option and skip the meat all together. Serve up a veggie focused entrée such as black bean burgers or meatless taco bowls.

To make a plant-based taco bowl, start with a base. Use a grain like rice or quinoa. Add your protein – beans and cheese (if you have it) and fill the rest of the bowl with greens like chopped lettuce or cabbage. Top it off with your favorite toppings like hot peppers, salsa, avocado and sour cream which are my favorites.

Cream of mushroom soup: If you’re like me, you probably have a can (or box) of “cream of something” in the back of your pantry waiting for next Thanksgiving. These soups are typically used in casserole dishes or heavy winter meals. Instead, let’s create a creamy primavera pasta.

Use the canned soup as the sauce base and add fresh or frozen veggies. Add whatever you have in the fridge/freezer. Try frozen or fresh spinach, canned peas, roasted squash, bell peppers or fresh carrots. Add in broth or water to thin the sauce, then mix with your pasta of choice.

Not into mushrooms? Try another creamy soup from the back of your pantry. Butternut bisque, cream of broccoli and creamy tomato are all great options for a pasta primavera base.

Canned veggies: Too many canned vegetables and not enough recipes? Try making vegetable fried rice.

First, strain and rinse your vegetables to get rid of extra sodium. Sauté your vegetables with some olive oil or sesame oil if you have it on hand. Add pre-cooked, cooled rice, a splash of soy sauce and a scrambled egg and your meal is made. To spice it up, top with Sriracha or your favorite chili sauce.

Enchilada sauce: Sometimes we end up with an extra can of enchilada sauce, but no enchilada ingredients like tortillas and meat, etc. How about an enchilada pasta bake to use the extra sauce? This dish will use up those dried or canned beans, too.

Mix the enchilada sauce in with cooked pasta and beans, top with cheese and bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly. If you need an extra kick of spice, add canned green chili peppers or chopped jalapeños.

Random Grains – Have you ever madekin a recipe that called for a small portion of a random ingredient – but you had to purchase a large quantity? My pantry is full of half-used bags of random grains like red quinoa, farro, couscous and Arborio rice – just to name a few. One way to use all your extra grains in one easy meal is to cook the grains in coconut milk (or whatever milk you like). Just add a little cinnamon, a scoop of plain or vanilla flavored yogurt, more cinnamon, a splash of vanilla extract and top with fresh fruit for a perfect quarantine parfait.

Serve these meals with a side of fresh, frozen or canned fruits or vegetables to make your meal complete. A few of my favorite produce items with a longer shelf life are apples, carrots, oranges, squash, potatoes, cabbage and beets.

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