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Thinking of trimming the budget and waistline after the holidays? This pesto and bean soup is quick, easy on the pocketbook, healthful and delicious. A simple pesto sauce adds body and flavor to this Italian soup.

This meal can be turned into a vegetarian dinner by using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.

The recipe calls for acini pepe, which is a very small pasta that is perfect for soups. You can use orzo, rice-shaped pasta, or any type of small pasta. You can also use any leftover pasta you have. Break it up into equal-size, small pieces.

Helpful Hints:

— Great Northern beans can be substituted for cannellini beans.

— Thick sliced country bread or French baguette can be used instead of Italian bread.

Pasta, Pesto and Bean Soup

Olive oil spray

1 cup sliced onion

1 cup sliced carrots

31/2 cups fat-free, unsalted chicken broth

1/3 cup acini pepe pasta

1 cup rinsed and drained canned cannellini beans

1/2 cup frozen peas

Several drops hot pepper sauce

3 tablespoons reduced-fat prepared pesto sauce

2 tablespoons chopped basil (optional garnish)

Heat a large sauce pan over high heat and spray with olive oil spray. Add onion and carrots and saute, stirring, 3 minutes. Add chicken broth, pasta and beans. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, uncovered 15 minutes. Add peas and hot pepper sauce and simmer 5 minutes. Remove soup from heat and stir in pesto sauce. Sprinkle chopped basil on top.

Yields 2 servings.

Per serving: 455 calories (19 percent from fat), 9.8 g fat (1.6 g saturated, 4.1 g monounsaturated), 4 mg cholesterol, 27 g protein, 67.4 g carbohydrates, 11.8 g fiber, 368 mg sodium.

Roasted Pepper Bruschetta

2 slices Italian bread or 2 Italian rolls split in half

Olive oil spray

1/4 cup sweet roasted red peppers, sliced

Preheat broiler and line a baking sheet with foil. Spray one side of bread with olive oil and place under broiler for 1 minute. Remove and spoon roasted pepper evenly over bread. Return to broiler for 1 minute. Remove and serve with soup.

Yields 2 servings.

Per serving: 90 calories (31 percent from fat), 3.1 g fat (0.3 g saturated, 1.5 g monounsaturated), no cholesterol, 2.2 g protein, 14.4 g carbohydrates, 1.1 g fiber, 173 mg sodium.

Recipes by Linda Gassenheimer

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— Linda Gassenheimer is an author of over 30 cookbooks. Her newest is “The 12-Week Diabetes Cookbook.” Find her on Facebook (@FoodNewsandViews) and Twitter (@LGassenheimer), and listen to her podcasts at www.880thebiz.com.

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