Pantry Essentials for Nutritious Homemade Meals


(Family Features) Every parent has been there. It’s Thursday afternoon and the kids are asking, “What’s for dinner?” Searching for inspiration, you head to the refrigerator, only to realize that the groceries you bought on Sunday have run out or spoiled. But before the panic sets in and you reach for the takeout menus, remember that the solution for a wholesome, homemade meal is right in your pantry — or “Cantry.”


“With a well-stocked pantry full of canned ingredients, I know I always have the makings of a nutritious and flavorful meal,” said Kelsey Nixon, host of “Kelsey’s Essentials” on Cooking Channel and Food Network. “Fruits and vegetables are harvested at their peak of ripeness and canned in just hours, making the can one of the best ways to get food from its source to my family’s table. I just open up a can, unlock that flavor and goodness and make it a ‘Cantry’ Thursday night!”


With canned food staples like canned beans, chicken, green beans and broth on hand, you’ll be well on your way to savory meals like Quinoa Chicken Vegetable Salad and Nixon’s Pasta e Fagioli Soup.


For more information about the canning process, delicious recipes and to learn how you can get cooking with canned foods, visit


Mediterranean Chicken PitasMediterranean Chicken Pitas

Prep time: 10 minutes

Servings: 2

1          (10-ounce) can chicken breast, drained and flaked

1/2       cup finely chopped cucumber

1/2       cup finely chopped red bell pepper

1          (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chilies, drained

1/4       cup Greek yogurt

2          tablespoons fresh chopped dill

2          whole wheat pitas

4          lettuce leaves


In large bowl combine chicken, cucumber, red bell pepper, green chilies, yogurt and dill; toss to mix well.


Cut each pita in half horizontally; carefully open each pita half. Fill each with 2 lettuce leaves and half of chicken mixture.



Pasta e Fagioli SoupPasta e Fagioli Soup

Recipe created by Kelsey Nixon

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Servings: 4

2          tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4          ounces chopped pancetta (about 1/2 cup)

1          medium yellow onion, finely chopped

3          cloves garlic, minced

2          teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

1/2       teaspoon kosher salt

1/2       teaspoon cracked black pepper

2          (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1          (14.5-ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes

3          (14.5-ounce) cans chicken broth

1 1/2    cups ditalini pasta (short tubular pasta)

1/4       cup grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish


In large heavy-bottomed pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Brown pancetta bits just until they start to crisp before adding onion, garlic and thyme. Season with salt and pepper, and saute until fragrant and golden brown.


Add canned beans, tomatoes and chicken broth. Bring soup to rapid boil before adding pasta. Reduce to simmer and cook soup covered, stirring occasionally for 8–10 minutes or until pasta is cooked al dente.


Season with salt and pepper to taste before serving. Garnish with Parmesan cheese and serve with crusty bread.


Note: You can substitute bacon for pancetta, if desired.



Quinoa Chicken Vegetable SaladQuinoa Chicken Vegetable Salad

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Servings: 6

1          (14.5-ounce) can chicken broth

1          cup quinoa

1          (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained

1          (10-ounce) can chicken breast, drained and flaked

1          (8-ounce) can cut green beans, drained

1          (8.75-ounce) can corn, drained

3          tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2          tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2          tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

1/4       teaspoon ground black pepper


In medium saucepan over high heat, heat chicken broth and quinoa to boiling. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.


In large bowl, combine cooled quinoa, diced tomatoes, chicken breast, green beans, corn, olive oil, lemon juice, parsley and pepper; toss to mix well.



Pea and Corn RisottoPea and Corn Risotto

Servings: 4

4          cups canned low sodium chicken broth

2          tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1          small onion, diced

1          cup Arborio rice

1          (11-ounce) can no salt added whole-kernel corn, drained

1          (8.5-ounce) can low sodium peas, drained

1/4       cup grated Parmesan cheese

1          tablespoon butter

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste


In 2-quart saucepan over high heat, heat chicken broth to simmering; keep warm.


Meanwhile, in 3-quart saucepan over medium heat, in hot olive oil, cook onion until tender-crisp, stirring occasionally. Add rice and cook for 2 minutes until coated with oil. Gradually add chicken broth, 1/2 cup at a time, until absorbed, stirring frequently. Continue adding remaining broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring occasionally, cooking rice until al dente, about 25 minutes.


Stir in corn, peas, Parmesan cheese and butter to heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.



Almond Cherry Tres Leches CakeAlmond Cherry Tres Leches Cake

Recipe created by Kelsey Nixon

Servings: 12


1 1/2    cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2    teaspoons baking powder

1/2       teaspoon salt

1/2       cup unsalted butter, softened

1          cup granulated sugar

5          large eggs

1/2       teaspoon almond extract

1          (14.5-ounce) can pitted cherries, thoroughly drained

Tres leches mixture:

1/4       cup heavy cream

1          (12-ounce) can evaporated milk

1          (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk


1 1/2    cups heavy cream, chilled

4          tablespoons powdered sugar

1/4       teaspoon almond extract

1/4       cup chopped almonds, toasted


For cake, preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 9-by-13-inch cake pan.


Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt into large mixing bowl.


Cream butter, sugar and eggs with electric mixer on high until yolks turn pale yellow. Mix in almond extract. Slowly incorporate dry ingredients into wet ingredients until fully combined — avoid over-mixing. Pour into prepared pan, evenly spreading batter out.


Bake until cake has cooked through, 30 minutes. Cool slightly, then pierce surface of cake with fork several times.


Combine heavy cream, evaporated milk and condensed milk in small bowl or pitcher. Drizzle milk mixture over top and allow cake to sit and absorb milk mixture.


For icing, whip together heavy cream, sugar and almond extract. Spread evenly over top of soaked cake. Top with toasted almonds.


Refrigerate at least 2 hours or until ready to serve.

Source: CMI


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