If you hid peas under your plate to avoid eating them as a kid, give these petite power foods another look.
Garden peas -- also called English or sweet peas -- are a perfect package of nutrients and flavor. Cook them briefly so their delicate flavor shines.
"If you want to get someone who thinks they don’t like vegetables to eat them, these are good ones to start with," says Mary Cluskey, PhD, RD, associate professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University.
A cup of peas has 8 grams each of protein and fiber, along with a quarter of an adult’s recommended daily value of heart-healthy folate. The little green goodies also have thiamin, a B vitamin that keeps nerves healthy. Plus, early research suggests that plant chemicals in them may fight inflammation, a condition that can lead to heart disease and cancer.
Check out these ap-pea-ling new ways to prepare peas.
This fast, delicious dish is popular with kids. It looks and tastes best when made with fresh peas. Start with 2 pounds of peas in their pods to get the 2 cups of shelled peas needed here.
Pasta With Peas and Prosciutto
Makes 6 servings
2 cups fresh, shelled green peas
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoons finely minced shallot
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 carrot, peeled, finely diced
4 slices prosciutto (2 ounces), thinly sliced
12 ounces whole-grain fusilli or angel hair pasta, cooked (reserve ½ cup cooking water)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoon lemon zest
⅔ cup (3 ounces) grated pecorino cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh chives
1. In a large pot of boiling water, cook fresh peas for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and drain.
2. Heat a large, nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add oil, shallot, garlic, and carrot and cook 3-4 minutes. Add prosciutto and cook another 2-3 minutes.
3. Add peas and pasta to the pan, tossing to coat the pasta. Heat thoroughly, about 3-4 minutes.
4. Add up to ½ cup of the reserved pasta water to moisten, along with lemon juice and zest.
5. Divide pasta among six plates, and garnish with cheese and chives. Serve immediately.
Per serving: 416 calories, 20 grams protein, 54 grams carbohydrate, 15 grams fat (4 grams saturated fat), 17 milligrams cholesterol, 3 grams fiber, 4 grams sugar, 449 milligrams
sodium. Calories from fat: 33%.
Adding peas to guacamole gives it a lighter, sweeter flavor. Peas also intensify the color; this dip stays green longer than the traditional version.
Using fresh peas? Start with 1 pound of peas in their shells. Frozen works here, too.
Sweet Pea Guacamole
Makes 8 servings
1 cup fresh shelled green peas (can substitute frozen peas, thawed)
6 green onions, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
juice of a fresh lime
1 large ripe avocado, mashed
1 large tomato, finely chopped
2 tablespoons packed cilantro leaves, chopped, with more for garnish
½ teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
1. If you use fresh peas, blanch them: Place them in a large pot of boiling water for 1 minute, then immediately pour peas into a colander to drain.
2. In a food processor or blender, combine peas, onions, cumin, chili powder, garlic, red pepper flakes, olive oil, and lime juice. Process until smooth.
3. Transfer to a serving bowl. Stir in avocado, tomato, and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with whole grain baked tortilla chips, vegetables, or whole grain crackers.
68 calories, 2 grams protein, 6 grams of carbohydrate, 5 grams fat (1 gram saturated fat), 3 grams fiber, 2 grams sugar, 151 milligrams sodium. Calories from fat: 57%.
This recipe uses a food processor or blender to turn peas into a fresh green sauce that tastes great with grilled chicken. If you use fresh peas in their shells, start with 3 pounds to yield 3 cups of peas. Frozen peas also work well here.
Grilled Chicken with Minted Pea Sauce
Makes 8 servings
3 cups freshly shelled peas (can substitute frozen peas, thawed)
½ cup fresh mint leaves
1 cup fresh baby spinach leaves
4 teaspoons honey, divided
3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar, divided
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon orange juice (more if needed)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 (6-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1. If you use fresh peas, blanch them: Place them in a large pot of boiling water for 1 minute, then immediately pour peas into a colander to drain. Return empty pot to medium heat. Add mint and spinach and stir briefly until wilted, 10-15 seconds.
2. In a food processor or blender, add peas, mint, spinach, 3 teaspoons honey, and 2 tablespoons vinegar. Purée until smooth, drizzling in 2 tablespoons olive oil while processing. Thin with orange juice if mixture is too thick. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
3. Make basting sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together remaining vinegar, olive oil, honey, and orange juice.
4. Heat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. Coat with cooking spray. Brush both sides of chicken breasts with basting sauce. Grill 5-7 minutes per side or until an instant-read thermometer registers 165°F. Baste periodically while grilling.
5. Divide minted pea sauce onto eight plates, reserving some for garnish. Place a grilled chicken breast on each plate, and garnish with an extra drizzle of sauce on top. Serve immediately.
294 calories, 42 grams protein, 12 grams carbohydrate, 8 grams fat (1 gram saturated fat), 99 milligrams cholesterol, 3 grams fiber, 7 grams sugar, 263 milligrams sodium. Calories from fat: 23%.
Know the History of Peas?
Because they're so easy to grow, they were popular among American colonists and pioneers heading west.
Christopher Columbus planted peas when he arrived in Santo Domingo in 1492.
English peas were one of Thomas Jefferson’s favorite vegetables. He planted at least 19 kinds in his garden.
Sugar snap peas, first grown in 1979, are a cross between garden peas and snow peas.
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