Easy summer meals stretch pantry supplies, dollars

Learn to make a cream sauce to complement the tortellini and fresh or frozen vegetables, designed to be an easy summer meal.

We’re all starting to slowly ease back into our former home, work and social routines guided by new health and safety restrictions.

Many of us also are dealing with new challenges to our family budget and loss of income. If your pantry and freezer are stocked with canned or frozen goods, you can add seasonal fresh produce to create new, budget-friendly variations on your favorite family recipes.

Here are some ways to “shop” in your pantry or freezer to cook up simple meals with a seasonal twist that everyone will enjoy!

Choose new, interesting or favorite vegetables from a local farmer’s market to add to your recipes. Vegetables have lots of nutrients and fiber to help you feel full. Have vegetables washed, cut and ready in the refrigerator to add to meals or eat as snacks.

Select from a variety of healthy foods so that you don’t get bored with the same meals. Try sandwich wraps with meat and fresh veggies inside, and a combination of fresh and canned fruits for sweetness and nutrition.

Enjoy the foods of summer — blueberries, strawberries, peaches, watermelons and fresh garden veggies are always a treat. If you eat produce while it’s in season, it typically costs less and it tastes better, so your family will be more likely to eat it and enjoy it.

This flavorful dinner recipe for Creamy Veggie Tortellini and Fruit Salad With Spiced Syrup for dessert is an easy way to combine fresh produce with groceries that you may have stocked up on due to the COVID-19 crisis.


This recipe features a delicious cream sauce packed with spices that complement the tortellini and fresh or frozen vegetables. If you don’t have half and half on hand, you can substitute 1/2 cup canned evaporated milk or regular milk. Just be sure to stir in 4 1/2 teaspoons of butter after all the other ingredients have been incorporated to add richness to the sauce that the half and half would have provided.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic minced

2 tablespoons Italian or poultry seasoning

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg or cloves

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or dash of hot sauce

2 (14 ounce) cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes with juice

1/2 cup half-and-half

3 cups baby spinach, chopped; or Swiss chard, stems removed and chopped; or 1

(10 ounce) package of frozen spinach, thawed and drained

1 (10 ounce) package tortellini, fresh or frozen

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese, optional

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil, then add the onion and saute for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, Italian or poultry seasoning, salt, pepper, nutmeg or cloves and cayenne pepper or hot sauce, and cook about 1 minute.

2. Add the tomatoes and half-and half, stir and bring mixture to a simmer, about 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Add the fresh spinach or Swiss chard in handfuls, stirring until it wilts down before adding more. If using frozen and thawed spinach or greens, add to the sauce and stir to combine.

4. Stir in the tortellini. Cover and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, gently stirring once or twice, until the tortellini are tender, plump and cooked through. Sprinkle with cheese, if

desired. Serves 4.


This syrup-and-spice blend adds a punch of flavor to a fruit salad whether you’re using fresh or frozen fruits or a combination of both.

3/4 cup water

1/2 cup honey, agave nectar or sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 strip fresh lemon peel

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

6 cups fresh fruit (a mixture of sliced nectarines, plums, strawberries, blueberries and raspberries and/or frozen fruit, thawed)

1. Using a small saucepan, combine the water, honey, agave or sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon peel. Heat to boiling over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 3 to 5 minutes to slightly thicken, stirring occasionally.

2. Remove saucepan from heat; stir in lemon juice. Cool syrup to room temperature.

3. In a large bowl, combine fruits and syrup. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours. Stir before serving. Serves 6.

Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children’s author, culinary historian and the author of seven cookbooks. Her website is www.divapro.com. © 2020 King Features Synd., Inc.

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