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Creamy Pea Soup

2 1/2 cups dried split green peas
8 cups water
1 ham bone
1/2 cup chopped shallots or onion
1/2 cup chopped carrot
a few fresh celery leaves, if available
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp ground garlic
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1(8 oz) pkg. light cream cheese
diced ham or 1 dash of liquid hickory smoke

Place peas, water, bone, veggies and seasonings into a large pot. Heat to almost boiling. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours or until the peas are tender. Remove bone and bay leaf.

Cut the cream cheese into cubes. Remove soup from pot and blend the cheese and soup together in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add ham(from bone) or liquid smoke. Put back in pot and reheat. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

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