Fifteen Minute Bean Soup

Fifteen Minute Bean Soup

Makes 8, One Cup Servings


1 can low-sodium tomatoes, diced

1 can low-sodium great northern beans, rinsed and drained

1 small onion, diced

1 can low sodium chicken broth (or 2 cups of water and one bouillon cube)

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 10 ounce package frozen spinach

½ cup whole wheat pasta, uncooked


  1. In a 2 -quart saucepan, combine all ingredients except spinach and pasta. Allow to boil.
  2. Add spinach and stir to break up as spinach thaws and mixture returns to a boil.
  3. Stir in the pasta and simmer until macaroni is tender, about 6-8 minutes.

Nutrition information per serving

121 calories, Total Fat 1g, Saturated Fat 0g, Protein 6g, Total Carbohydrate 24g, Dietary Fiber 5g, Sodium 196mg.

Are canned fruits and vegetables healthy?


My husband, who grew up in rural North Carolina spent many of his summers with his grandfather. He saw acres of farmland with fresh vegetables including cabbages, collards, green beans, okra, field peas, squash, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelons, cantaloupes, Muscadine grapes, peaches, etc. He and his grandfather would get up early in the mornings to gather the crops. Some would be used for daily meals while others were canned and frozen by his grandmother, sold at the farmer’s market, and given to needy families. They would do this every day until it was time to replant for the next season.

While many of us don’t have access to a large family garden for fresh fruits and vegetables, there are still many available healthy canned options.

Researchers at Michigan State University found that canned fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as frozen or fresh. For canned tomatoes in particular, canning improves the content of B vitamins, vitamin E and carotenoids compared to fresh. Fiber in beans becomes more soluble through the canning process,  and thus more useful to the human body. Additionally, a nationally represented survey of American adults found that adults and children who frequently eat canned foods (6 or more items over 2 weeks) have healthier eating habits compared to those who eat 1-2 canned food items in the same time period.  

Eat the fruits and vegetables you prefer whether canned, fresh, frozen or dried. Canned foods simply make healthy eating easy. Canned fruits and veggies are convenient to have in your pantry for times you can’t get to the store; they can even be kept at work (with a can opener) for a quick lunch or an afternoon snack. Since they don’t expire quickly, you won’t waste money when buying canned veggies – which sometimes happens with fresh produce that goes bad. Here are a few tips when buying canned fruit and vegetables:

Watch for sodium:
Sodium is usually added to canned foods to preserve them. Look for low-sodium, reduced-sodium or no-salt-added labeled foods. Compare the sodium content on the Nutrition Facts label and choose the product with the lowest amount. Drain and rinse canned veggies to reduce sodium even more.

Watch for added sugar: Look for fruit that’s canned in water, its own juice, or light syrup (drain and rinse).

Delicious uses:

  • Add drained cans of corn, tomatoes and pinto beans or any other vegetable to low-sodium chicken broth for a super-fast and filling vegetable soup.
  • Use a blender, food processor or a fork to smash drained and rinsed garbanzo beans, northern beans, or any beans into a bean dip for baby carrots; add a little lemon juice and garlic powder for some zip.
  • Serve canned fruit as a dessert topped with low-fat, no sugar-added yogurt; or top whole grain cereal with canned fruit.

You can feel confident that canned fruits and vegetables are nutritious, safe and full of flavor. Fill up your pantry with your favorite canned produce to help you prepare nutritious, quick everyday meals for your family more often while saving time and money.





Try a pita pocket sandwich

Sandwiches are a common staple food on a lunchbox menu for children, but I’ve noticed sandwiches have gotten a reputation as being boring or bland because children get tired of eating the same old sandwich for lunch every day. Sure, spreading some peanut butter and jelly on bread or just slapping on a few cold cuts makes for a tasty and easy meal, but eating that every day can make sandwiches less appealing. Get creative with new sandwich recipes and combinations to make lunch a meal that your child (and you) will look forward to!

Here are some tips on how to expand your sandwich selections:

  • Swap the usual sandwich bread for a tortilla, open-faced flatbread, or pita pocket. Aim for a whole-wheat option for added fiber, vitamins, and minerals!
  •  Try adding different vegetables (or even fruits!) for variety and color.
  • Have leftovers? Think about how you could put them together to create a unique sandwich.
  • Avocado, in small portions, is a healthy alternative to a popular sandwich condiment: mayonnaise. Mash up an avocado and mix it with plain nonfat or low-fat yogurt to make a creamy spread for your sandwiches. Add lemon or lime juice for extra flavor!

Corner Kick Pita Pocket

Makes 2 servings Serving Size: 1/2 pita pocket



  •  ½ cup spinach, trimmed leaves
  • ¼ cup cucumber, sliced
  • ¼ cup carrots, shredded
  • 1 tablespoon salsa
  • 1 tablespoon fat-free Ranch salad dressing
  •  1 (6 ½) inch pita pocket
  • 4 oz. extra-lean ground beef (5% fat), cooked
  • 1 cup cantaloupe, cubed


  1.  Combine beef, spinach, cucumber, and carrots with salsa and Ranch dressing. Mix well.
  2. Cut pita in half. Using your finger, slowly open the pocket so as not to tear the bread.
  3. Divide beef and veggie mix in half and place in each pocket half.
  4. Serve each pocket with ½ cup cantaloupe.


Who says sandwiches are only for lunch? I’m having this for dinner tonight!


Cara is an EFNEP student intern.

NC EFNEP’s Peach Pointers

North Carolina peaches are a great summertime fruit.  They are most abundant and least expensive June through September. Learn how to select, store, and prepare them in this short video.

For the recipes featured in the video, check the links below:


National Osteoporosis Month

May is National Osteoporosis month. Osteoporosis is a weakening of the bones. Risk factors include smoking, age, being a female, early menopause, and not getting enough calcium or Vitamin D. To make sure that you are getting enough of these nutrients, consume a well-balanced diet with whole grains, fruits and vegetables, protein and dairy products such as low-fat yogurt and low-fat or non-fat milk.

buying milk

Aim for getting some sunlight in your day because sunlight is a great source of vitamin D. Also, getting active or doing weight-bearing activities or even walking is a great way to help build and maintain bone strength. Personally, I like to get out and walk around the park and use park benches for exercises. This helps me get both the activity and the sunlight.

Read here for more information and recipes.

Here’s one of the recipes that is a great source of calcium and tastes delicous with just about anything you can dip into it!

Spinach Dill Dip

¾ c strained yogurt
¾ c cottage cheese
½ pkg frozen spinach, thawed &  drained
4 cloves garlic
½ c fresh dill
Black pepper

Blend yogurt and cottage cheese.  Add remaining ingredients and mix.  Chill thoroughly.

Nutritional Information: Servings: 8, Amount/Serving: Calories 53, Total Fat 2g, Sat. Fat 1g, Cholesterol 9mg, Sodium 105mg, Total carbohydrates 3g, Sugars 2g, Dietary Fiber 1g, Protein 5g, Calcium 104mg, Vitamin D <0.8 IU.

Strawberry Season

My family can’t eat enough strawberries at this time of year! They are a good value at the farmers markets and grocery stores. Be careful to only purchase what you will use within a couple of days, to avoid having the strawberries get moldy and go bad. If you plan to buy strawberries in bulk, it’s a good idea to freeze what you’re not ready to use.

Strawberries are great as a snack. I like to add strawberries to vegetable salads or mix strawberries with different seasonal fruits for a beautiful and tasty fruit salad. Our favorite strawberry dessert is strawberry shortcake, using angel food cake or homemade biscuits as the “cake”.

If you are growing your own strawberries and have an abundance of them, try making strawberry jam. Your local Extension office can provide you with a recipe.

One of my favorite EFNEP recipes is the Strawberry Spinach Salad. Try for yourself!

1strawberry salad

Strawberry Spinach Salad
Makes 6 servings
Serving Size: 1 cup

1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
dash paprika
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons minced onion
1/4 cup vinegar
1 9-ounce bag fresh spinach
1 pint fresh strawberries, sliced
1/4 cup nuts, chopped (optional)

Dressing Directions
1. Combine all ingredients except spinach, strawberries, and nuts.
2. Using a fork or wire whisk, mix until well blended and sugar melts.

Salad Directions
1. Clean spinach and pat dry. Cut off stems and place in bowl.
2. Add sliced strawberries.
3. Drizzle dressing lightly to taste over spinach and strawberries.
4. Toss to coat.
5. Sprinkle nuts over top.

*Note: You can use leftover dressing for other salads or to marinate vegetables. You may add other fruits like drained pineapple chunks, grapes, or blueberries.