- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 1, 2005

You’re too cold and too tired to go out to eat. You look to the pantry shelf for dinnertime inspiration and wonder if canned soup could be the start of something big.

Mention nacho cheese soup, based on a can of cheese soup, to my children and the line will start forming at the kitchen counter. Everyone is eager for a steaming bowl topped with all sorts of lively Mexican-style garnishes. Normally, I am not a big fan of condensed cheese soups, but in this recipe the canned soup makes things thicken quickly, so there’s no standing around stirring endlessly. With simple pleasures like doctored-up soup, dinner is ready when it’s cold outside. And you have the satisfaction of once again putting a nourishing meal on the table.

Four time-shaving breads to go with soup: Here are some quick alternatives that go nicely with a bowl of soup.

• Frozen biscuits. Heat until browned, then slice, butter and eat. For entertaining, cut the semithawed biscuit into three small rounds, bake and serve in a bread basket.

m Easy garlic bread. Slice a French bread loaf in half lengthwise. Drizzle with olive oil or melted butter, scatter with minced fresh garlic, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Run under broiler until toasted.

• Bruschetta. Slice French bread into 1-inch slices. Drizzle with olive oil and broil until golden brown. Chop fresh tomatoes, garlic and basil and spoon some of topping onto bread rounds while still warm.

m Bread sticks. Again, this is a decent refrigerated dough. Before baking, brush the sticks with olive oil, season with oregano, salt and pepper and then bake.

Nacho cheese soup

8 ounces ground beef round

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 14- to 14.5-ounce can low-sodium chicken broth or homemade chicken broth

1 cups mild store-bought salsa, divided

1 11-ounce can Campbell’s Fiesta Nacho Cheese soup

1 cup tortilla chips

1 avocado, peeled and cubed

1/4 cup fresh cilantro sprigs

Crumble ground beef into a 2-quart nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat and break it up with a wooden spoon. Add cumin and pepper. Cook beef, stirring, until it browns all over and is cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Add chicken broth and 1 cup salsa and bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover pan and let simmer until ingredients cook down a bit, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in cheese soup and cook only until blended but not boiling. Remove pan from heat. Ladle soup into serving bowls and garnish each serving with some of the tortilla chips, avocado, cilantro and remaining cup of salsa. Makes 4 servings.

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