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Lentil Tortellini Soup

1/2 cup dry lentils
2 cups coarsely shredded carrots
1 large onion -- finely chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped cooked ham or Canadian-style bacon
2 garlic cloves -- minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 2 tsp dried
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves or 1 1/2 tsp dried
1/4 teaspoon pepper
5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup water
9 ounces cheese-filled tortellini, refrigerated
4 cups fresh spinach leaves; torn

Rinse lentils; drain. Place in the slow cooker. Add carrots, onion, ham or bacon, garlic, and pepper. If you are substituting dried herbs for fresh, add them now. Pour broth and water over all. Cover and cook as directed for desired heat setting: low heat: for 6+1/2 to 7 hours; high: for 3+1/4 to 3+1/2 hours. Stir in the pasta (note: if using low heat, reset to high). Cover and cook 30 more minutes on high. Stir in fresh spinach, and fresh herbs if using. Serve at once. Yield: 6 servings

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