Alicia Ross
Universal Uclick

Bulk soup mixes seem to be all the rage these days. Just a few years ago, you could only find bean soup mixes on the bottom shelf in the grocery store aisle. Now the shelves are filled with bulk mix options.

Some mixes even include flavor packets that make it easier to pull off a pot of soup. Iíve tried flavor packets, but often find them too bland for my taste. Friends have often expressed a similar problem, but for them the soup is too salty. Whatís a desperate cook to do?

For todayís soup, Italian sausage takes the lead for flavor. Then we pump it up with dried Italian seasoning and just a couple of tablespoons of Italian-style tomato paste, which comes in a tube for easy measuring.

Feel free to get as creative as you want by adding more vegetables ó onion, garlic or sweet red pepper. If you choose a sturdier bean mix than lentils, then be sure to simmer according to the package directions, so your beans will be tender. This will be delicious!

Simple Sausage

and Lentil Soup

1 lb. sweet Italian sausage

1 cup chopped celery

5 cups water

1 cup veggie soup mix (see note)

1 tbsp. dried Italian seasoning

3 tbsp. tomato paste

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

In a large soup pot with a lid, cook Italian sausage and celery on medium until sausage is lightly browned, about 6 to 7 minutes.

Add water, soup mix, Italian seasoning and tomato paste and stir well to mix. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cover and cook for 1 hour or until lentils are tender. Stir occasionally.

Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately or remove from heat. Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to two days.

Makes 4 servings.

Note: For testing purposes, I used Bobís Red Mill Vegi Soup Mix with lentils and alphabet pasta. Add an extra cup of water to package directions and simmer for recommended amount of time to make sure the beans are tender.

Each serving has about 384 calories, 12 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 36 milligrams cholesterol, 30 grams protein, 41 grams carbohydrates, 14 grams dietary fiber, 688 milligrams sodium.

Alicia Ross is the co-author of three cookbooks. Contact her c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106, email tellus@kitchenscoop.com, or visit http://kitchenscoop.com.