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Make the Grade in the Kitchen With Canned Foods

/ -- MISSION, KS -- (Marketwired) -- 08/22/16 -- (Family Features) During the back-to-school season, the stress of weeknight cooking can make the kitchen feel like the classroom and dinner feel like a test. But with the right preparation, parents can feel confident about making the grade in the kitchen all year long. Simply follow these steps for wholesome, delicious A-plus meals.

Study ... your pantry
The key to mealtime success is being prepared and having the right ingredients on-hand. With a well-stocked pantry full of canned foods, like protein-packed garbanzo beans and nutrient-rich carrots -- which are already prepped for you -- you always have the makings of a healthy, homemade meal. Just like home canning, cans seal in foods' nutrition, freshness and flavor, and are there for you whenever you're ready to get cooking. From nutritious after-school snacks, like Artichoke Hummus, to hearty dinners, such as Lentil Soup with Bacon, canned foods can help you get through the week with honor roll-worthy meals you can feel great serving your family.

Artichoke Hummus

Ace the test
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's MyPlate nutrition guidelines, half of your plate should consist of fruits and vegetables. Picked and packed at the peak of ripeness, canned produce is on par nutritionally with fresh and frozen varieties, and in some cases even better. With canned foods in your pantry -- or "Cantry" -- you can make eating healthy easy.

Get extra credit
Did you know that most recipes are designed around canned food sizes? Cooking with canned foods can help you waste less food, save time and money, and reduce your impact on the environment.

For more canned food recipes and mealtime inspiration, visit

Artichoke Hummus
Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Servings: 4

1    can (14 ounces) Progresso Artichoke Hearts, drained
1    can (15 ounces) Goya Chick Peas, drained and rinsed
1/4  cup canned Swanson Vegetable Broth
1/4  cup tahini paste
2    tablespoons lemon juice
1    clove garlic, crushed
1    tablespoon chopped Italian parsley, plus more for garnish
1    teaspoon kosher salt
1/4  teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/4  teaspoon ground cumin, plus more for garnish
     olive oil

In food processor, combine all ingredients and pulse until smooth. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if necessary.

Transfer to serving bowl and garnish with drizzle of olive oil, fresh parsley and dash of cumin.

Serving suggestions: Serve with toasted French bread slices, cut veggies or pita chips.

Lentil Soup with Bacon
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Servings: 2

2    slices bacon, diced
1    medium red onion, diced
1    large garlic clove, minced
1/2  teaspoon ground cumin
1    can (15 ounces) lentils, drained
1    can (14.5 ounces) Swanson Vegetable Broth
1    can (14.5 ounces) Del Monte Diced New Potatoes, drained
1    can (14.5 ounces) Del Monte Sliced Carrots, drained
1    can (8 ounces) Del Monte Cut Green Beans, drained

In medium saucepan over medium-high heat, cook bacon until crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove to paper towels to drain. Reserve.

In drippings remaining in skillet over medium heat, cook onion and garlic until tender, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cumin; cook 1 minute.

Add lentils, vegetable broth, potatoes, carrots and green beans; over high heat, heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low; simmer 10 minutes uncovered to blend flavors, stirring occasionally.

To serve, sprinkle soup with reserved bacon.

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Michael French