"Desperation-ize" your family's favorite recipes. That's exactly what Lorene Cook Lambert of Cross Plains, Tenn., did with Grandmother Ebbie's Corn and Tomato Soup.

If you work all day, as Lorene does, you don't often have time to head to the field to pick corn, then cut and scrape the ears. Lorene didn't have her paternal grandmother's prolific tomato vines, either, but that didn't stop her from craving this combination from her childhood."This soup is perfect for a summer evening or for a cold, snowy night," Lorene says. "When I curl up with a cup of corn and tomato soup, I think of Grandmother Ebbie and her cast-iron stove warming the kitchen and our hearts."

After a little experimenting, Lorene came up with a version of the soup that tastes remarkably similar to her grandmother's. Canned and frozen vegetables replace the fresh, along with a few dashes of dried seasonings. She throws it all in a pot, then serves the soup over corn muffins made from a mix instead of the corn bread her grandmother used to bake from scratch.

"My own busy life of work and volunteer activities makes this impossible," she says.

When Lorene mailed us her recipe, we started experimenting, too, adapting her version even more to fit our own desperate style. What we learned in the process can often be applied to your favorite family recipes as well - especially the ones you think you don't have time for anymore.

Ask yourself "What can I substitute to make this recipe faster?" If it's an oven recipe, can it cook on the stove top? Or if it's packed with fresh ingredients, what high-quality convenience items can be used instead?

The trick, we find, is to substitute the highest-quality canned and frozen ingredients you can buy. It's tough to admit, but we've found that if we pay a few cents more for a national brand rather than scrimp with a store label, the results are almost always worth the investment.

Train yourself to notice the details on packages as well. Some frozen corn is labeled "extra-sweet" or "extra-tender," and some has a nice combination of white and yellow kernels. We think frozen cream-style corn tastes noticeably fresher than canned. "Flavored" canned tomatoes have seasonings such as garlic and onions, which cut the raw taste of plain canned tomatoes. For the desperate cook, this reduces the simmer time required for soups and stews.

You might be surprised how an old favorite can be resurrected to suit your lifestyle today. And with it comes all those wonderful memories.

Menu:

Just Like Ebbie's Corn and Tomato Soup

Corn muffins

Broccoli florets with vinaigrette dressing

JUST LIKE EBBIE'S CORN AND TOMATO SOUP

1 package (10 ounces) frozen cream-style corn

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

1 medium onion (for 3/4 cup chopped)

1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic

1 can (14 1/2 ounces) fat-free chicken broth

1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes flavored with garlic and onion

2 cups frozen yellow or white corn kernels

black pepper to taste

4 purchased corn muffins, optional

Make a small slit in the plastic corn pouch and microwave it 3 minutes on high. Meanwhile, melt the butter over medium heat in a 4 1/2-quart Dutch oven or soup pot. Peel and coarsely chop the onion, adding the onion to the pot as you chop. Cook the onion for 3 minutes until slightly softened.

Meanwhile, open the broth and tomato cans. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add the chicken broth, tomatoes, corn kernels and cream-style corn. Raise the heat to high. Bring the soup just to a boil, stirring from time to time, and then reduce the heat to medium. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until ready to serve. If corn muffins are desired, cut them in half, place 2 muffin halves in each bowl, and ladle the soup over them. Serves 4.

Note: This recipe is so quick, there's plenty of time to stir up a box of corn-bread mix if you can't find already-prepared muffins. The muffins act as a giant crouton when the soup is ladled over them. Or you can just serve the muffins on the side.

- Approximate Values Per Serving: 188 calories (14 percent from fat), 3 g fat (2 g saturated), 8 mg cholesterol, 7 g protein, 37 g carbohydrates, 4 g dietary fiber, 563 mg sodium.