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Brown Rice Soup with Asparagus

2/3 c Brown rice
12 oz Asparagus
2/3 c Celery -- chopped fine
1/3 c Onion -- chopped fine
1/3 c Carrot -- chopped fine
1/2 ts Thyme
5 c Chicken broth, defatted
2 tb Green onions -- minced
1 tb Parsley -- chopped fresh
1 tb Soy sauce, low sodium
1/2 ts Hot pepper sauce
Fresh ground pepper
Parsley sprigs -- for garnish

Combine rice with 1 1/3 cups water in medium saucepan. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer until rice is tender and water is absorbed, 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, trim woody ends off asparagus; discard ends. Bring large pot of water to boil. Add asparagus and cook until tender-crisp, 2 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Cut into 1-inch pieces, reserving 1/4 cup tips for garnish. Set asparagus aside.

Coat bottom of large pot or Dutch oven with vegetable cooking spray. Add celery, onion, carrot, and thyme; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, over low heat, until tender, 10 minutes. Add broth and rice; bring to boil and simmer 10 minutes.

Transfer to blender in small batches and carefully blend until smooth. Return soup to pot. Stir in asparagus, green onions, parsley, soy sauce, pepper sauce, and pepper to taste; return to simmer. Ladle into bowls and garnish with reserved asparagus tips and parsely springs. Makes 7 cups.

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