ADVERTISEMENT

This thick and hearty soup made with ham, lentils and tomatoes takes only 30 minutes to make and is a great way to brighten up a winter evening. It's a whole meal in one bowl.

I find that my family, no matter what the weather, loves a bowl of soup. It warms them up and gets them chatting around the table. Soups and casseroles are great family fare, but usually take too long to make for a midweek meal. This quick meal fits the bill.

This is the type of meal that you can improvise when you haven't been to the supermarket. Canned tomatoes and canned beans are staples in my pantry. Also, I normally have onions, celery and carrots in the refrigerator.

If you don't have basil, leave it out and add any fresh greens you have in the refrigerator. If you prefer vegetarian fare, leave out the ham and use vegetable broth instead of chicken.

Wine suggestion: A rose would be perfect.

> QUICK LENTIL SOUP

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 cup frozen chopped onion

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1/4 pound honey smoked deli ham (optional), cut into 1 thick slice and then 1-inch pieces

2 cups low-sodium canned diced tomatoes

1 1/2 cups water or broth

3/4 cup dried lentils

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute 2 minutes. Add garlic and ham (if using). Saute 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and water. Bring to a rolling boil and slowly add the lentils so that the water continues to boil. Cover with a lid and boil gently, 20 minutes. Add the cumin and vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in basil. Makes 2 servings.

Per serving: 447 calories (11 percent from fat), 5.3g fat (1.2g saturated, 3.1g monounsaturated), 12mg cholesterol, 32.4g protein, 66g carbohydrates, 26.2g fiber, 551mg sodium.

> GARLIC COUNTRY TOAST

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 large slices whole grain country bread

1 garlic clove, cut in half

Spread oil over bread and rub cut edge of garlic on top. Place under a broiler or in a toaster oven for several minutes or until bread is golden. Makes 2 servings.

Per serving: 111 calories (46 percent from fat), 5.6g fat (0.9g saturated, 3.5g monounsaturated), no cholesterol, 3.6g protein, 11.8g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 110mg sodium.