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Chestnut and parsnip soup

1 tablespoon walnut oil or cooking oil
1 pound parsnips, peeled and chopped (about 3-1/2 cups)
2-1/2 cups shelled roasted chestnuts or one 15-ounce can whole chestnuts, drained
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
3 14-1/2-ounce cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 sprigs fresh marjoram
1 cup half-and-half or light cream
Fresh chives or edible flowers (optional)

1. In a large saucepan heat oil. Add parsnips, chestnuts, onion, garlic, and pepper. Cover and cook 10 minutes or until parsnips are tender, stirring often. Add broth and bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Add marjoram; cook for 10 minutes more. Remove marjoram and discard. Cool soup slightly.
2. Place one-third of mixture in a blender container. Cover; blend until smooth. Return mixture to a clean saucepan. Repeat with remaining soup. Stir in 1/2 cup of the half-and-half or light cream; heat through. Ladle into bowls. Swirl 1 tablespoon of remaining half-and-half or light cream into each serving.
Roasting Chestnuts: To shell chestnuts, use the tip of a sturdy paring knife to carefully cut an "X" on the flat side of each chestnut. Place in a shallow baking pan and roast in a 400 degree F oven for 15 minutes or until corners of Xs curl up. Peel while warm; remove papery skin by rolling peeled chestnuts in a towel. Four cups unshelled chestnuts will yield about 2-1/2 cups shelled. Whole, fresh chestnuts are available from November to January. They will keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator, or several months in the freezer, in an airtight container. You also can find them canned or dried in many supermarkets.  
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