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Slow Cooker Split Pea & Ham Soup with Seasoned Croutons

Prep: 30 minutes Slow Cook: 3-1/2 hours • Serves: 8

1 bag (16 ounces) dried green split peas, rinsed and drained
1 cup chopped ham
2 medium Idaho potatoes, each cut into 1-inch pieces
1 celery stalk, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed with press
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves plus additional for garnish (optional)
3 cans (14 ounces each) low sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

4 1-inch-thick slices French baguette, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 2 ounces)
Nonstick olive oil cooking spray
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1. Prepare Soup: In 3- to 4-quart slow cooker, layer split peas, 1/2 cup ham, potatoes, celery, carrot, onion, garlic, bay leaf and parsley. Gently pour in broth; do not stir. Cover and cook on high 3-1/2 to 4 hours or low 7 to 8 hours or until peas are tender. Remove and discard bay leaf. Stir in lemon juice, salt and pepper.

2. Meanwhile, prepare Croutons: Preheat oven to 400°. Place bread cubes in large bowl. Lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray and toss to coat bread. Sprinkle bread with garlic powder and cayenne, and toss to combine. Arrange bread in single layer on rimmed baking pan. Bake 5 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp.

3. To serve, ladle soup into bowls, and top with croutons and remaining ham. Garnish with parsley, if desired.

Approximate nutritional values per serving: 330 Calories, 5g Fat (14% of total calories), 1g Saturated Fat (3% of total calories), 9mg Cholesterol, 449mg Sodium, 51g Carbohydrates, 16g Fiber, 22g Protein

Dietary Exchanges: 3 Starch; 3 Protein; 1 Fat

Our split pea soup is loaded with dietary fiber which is important for a healthy GI tract and has been shown to decrease the risk for many types of cancers. Split peas are a type of legume which are excellent sources of dietary fiber, high quality protein and many essential vitamins and minerals.