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Creamy Pea Soup

1 (16 oz.) pkg. split peas
1 (8 oz.) pkg. sliced bacon, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 lg. onion
8 c. water
2 med. potatoes, peeled and diced
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cracked black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 c. half and half
3 beef flavored bouillon cubes

Rinse split peas. In Dutch oven, cook bacon until brown. Remove bacon to paper towel to drain. In bacon fat, cook celery and onions until lightly browned. Add peas, water and next 5 ingredients. Over high heat, heat mixture to boiling. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes or until peas are tender. Stir occasionally. Discard bay leaf. Fill blender 3/4 full with split pea mixture. Blend at high speed until mixture is pureed. Return mixture to Dutch oven; stir in half and half. Over medium heat, cook until hot (about 5 minutes), stir often. To serve sprinkle bacon on top. Makes 12 cups.

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