Simple Steps for More Family Time

Written by Contributor. Posted in Featured

Published on October 01, 2019 with No Comments

By Family Features

Back-to-school season means busy schedules filled with extracurricular activities, homework and carpools.  It can be challenging to find quality time to spend with loved ones, let alone get a wholesome, homemade meal on the table.

A simple way to create more moments with your family and still serve up nutritious and delicious dinners is to make sure you have canned foods on-hand.

According to a study published in “Nutrients,” a pantry stocked with canned produce helps adults and kids eat more nutrient-rich foods, leading to healthier overall diets. Canned foods also help cut down on meal prep, so you spend less time in the kitchen and more time together with your family doing the things you love.

“As a busy mom, canned foods are my secret weapon in the kitchen and ensure that I always have the makings of a nutritious meal for my family all year long, and especially when the kids are back in school,” said Holley Grainger, registered dietitian and mother of two. “Fresh fruits and vegetables are harvested at the peak of ripeness and canned within only four hours after being picked, sealing in their nutrition and flavor. So, I know I have year-round access to my family’s favorite seasonal fruits and vegetables right in my pantry.”

Canned foods also make it easy to get the kids involved in the kitchen, with recipes like Pumpkin Mac and Cheese or Hearty Chickpea Vegetable Soup, so you can help build a positive connection to healthy eating for your children. Plus, the family can “go green” and recycle the cans after they’re used; in fact, cans are the most recycled food and beverage containers in America.

For more flavorful recipes, and to learn more about the benefits of cooking with canned foods, visit

Create kid-friendly meals using canned foods

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

8 ounces rotini or medium shell pasta

5 tablespoons butter, divided

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk

1 cup milk

1/2 cup canned pumpkin

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 cups shredded Swiss or

Gruyere cheese

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/4 cup breadcrumbs

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside.

Heat oven to 375 F.

Grease 1 1/2-quart baking dish. In 4-quart saucepan over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons butter. Stir in flour; cook 1 minute. Gradually stir in evaporated milk and milk; cook until mixture is thickened and smooth. Stir in pumpkin, salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Remove from heat; whisk in cheeses until smooth. Stir in cooked pasta; toss to mix well. Spoon into baking dish.

Melt remaining butter; stir in breadcrumbs to coat well. Sprinkle on top of casserole. Bake 30 minutes, or until sauce is bubbly and mixture is golden.

Hearty Chickpea Vegetable Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 large garlic clove, minced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 cans (14 3/4 ounces each) low-sodium

vegetable or chicken broth

1 cup water

4 cups cubed butternut squash

(about 1 medium squash)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 can (15 1/2 ounces) garbanzo beans

(chickpeas), drained and rinsed

1 can (14 1/2 ounces) sliced carrots, drained

3 cups kale, coarsely chopped

In 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, heat oil. Cook onion and garlic until just softened, stirring frequently. Stir in cumin; cook 1 minute.

Add broth, water, butternut squash and salt. Over high heat, heat to boil.

Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 20 minutes until squash is tender.

Add garbanzo beans, carrots and kale. Continue to simmer about 5 minutes until vegetables are tender.

A Flavorful Family Meal

If your family struggles to make meal time happen, try creating kid-friendly recipes that bring everyone together at the table. For example, these Pulled Pork Sandwiches from “Family Table by Robert Irvine” can help you incorporate assistance from your kids to nourish both mind and body while committing to the efforts of the National Family Meals Movement, created by the Food Marketing Institute Foundation, to reap the benefits of enjoying more meals together at home.

Find more recipes at

Pulled Pork Sandwiches

1½ pounds pork shoulder

2-3 whole cloves

2 tablespoons smoked paprika or smoky spice rub 

1 red onion, sliced thin

1 cup water

6 ounces barbecue sauce

Stud pork with cloves and rub with seasoning blend.

Place roast in slow cooker and top with onions. Cover pork with water and slow cook 8-10 hours.

Remove pork, discard cloves then drain fat and water. Allow pork to cool then shred by hand or with fork.

Return meat to pot and add barbecue sauce. Heat 1-2 hours. Serve alone or on roll.

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