Peas For The Holidays

Looking for something green – and healthy – for your holiday table? Have you considered peas?

Yes, peas. Don’t scoff. I know you want to. I know I did. But this past Sunday I was at a dinner party where my friend Tina served up an outrageous pea dish.

Outrageous. Pea. Dish.

Nope. Not an oxymoron.

To be honest, mashed peas is a dish I had never before eaten, much less cooked. Frankly, the idea of mashed peas did not appeal. Actually it had never even occurred to me.

But Tina’s mashed peas were a revelation.

Healthy and delicious, check. Great for those of us leading lo-co lifestyles. But more than that, this dish is festive and fun. This recipe delivers peas that are a wonderfully vibrant green. So tantalizing were these peas in both taste and appearance that I plan to serve them for Christmas Eve and/or Christmas dinner.

My friend Tina found the recipe on Alex’s Kitchen column on House Beautiful.  The recipe is titled, Alex Hitz’s Roast Leg of Lamb and Mashed Peas.

Mashed Peas – serves 4-5 (recipe says serves 8)

  • 1 package frozen peas (16 oz.) – but see notes below
  • 1 package frozen peas and pearl onions (16 oz.) – but see notes below
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter, melted
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
  1. In two separate small saucepans (or in a microwave) thaw the frozen peas, and the frozen peas and pearl onions over low heat until just warm.
  2. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, puree the peas and heavy cream until smooth. Do not puree the peas and pearl onions.
  3. In a medium-size mixing bowl, stir the pureed peas into the whole peas and pearl onions, along with the melted butter, salt, and pepper. Transfer mixture to a covered baking dish and reheat in a 350 degree oven.

Tina’s Cooking Notes:

  • This is not enough for eight people. To adjust, puree one package of peas and then add 1 1/2 packages of peas and most of a whole package of pearl onions. (Note: this is the adjustment my friend Tina made; you could probably make alternate adjustments but I can vouch that this adjustment was excellent.)
  • If you do not have salted butter, just add a bit more salt.
  • For fewer pots to clean and ease in general, thaw the peas in the microwave instead of using two saucepans.

While it’s not ideal that this dish uses both heavy cream and butter, the quantities of these high fat ingredients are small. In fact, compared with other high-fat holiday side dishes, I’d argue this mashed peas recipe is quite a good lo-co holiday option.

I’m headed out to the store to buy peas, pearl onions and heavy cream so I can test this side dish out pre-Christmas Eve. I’ll let you know how it turns out.


Statins Reduce Flu Vaccine Effectiveness

If you take a cholesterol-lowering statin medication like Lipitor, you are likely familiar with statin side effects, including muscle issues and potential liver damage.

But did you know that taking a statin reduces the effectiveness of the flu vaccine?

Two new studies recently made that discovery. The studies were not small: four countries were involved, including the US, and almost 7,000 adults were evaluated. These two research studies concluded that adults who take statin medications had significantly reduced immune responses to the flu shot, compared with those who do not take statins. As well, the effectiveness at preventing serious respiratory illness was lower among adults taking statins.

In Medical News Today’s Flu Vaccine Effectiveness Reduced by Use of Statins article, the author explains:

“Statin users were found to have a significantly reduced immune response to vaccination compared with those not taking statins, as measured by the level of antibodies to the flu vaccine strains in patients’ blood 3 weeks after vaccination.

The effect was most dramatic in patients on synthetic rather than naturally derived statins.”

As millions of Americans over age 65 take cholesterol-lowering statins – and the flu can be very dangerous for older adults –  this diminished effectiveness of the flu vaccine is a significant, widespread concern.

Of course, this new finding does NOT mean that if you take a statin medication like Lipitor that you should not bother with the flu shot. Rather, it means you should do everything you can to enhance the flu shot’s effectiveness — for example, get the flu shot early in the season, and take extra precautions – don’t assume that since you got the flu shot that you can’t get the flu!

So if you must take a statin because you have had a cardiac event or you and your doctor have calculated your risk and statins are indicated (more info at Why You Should Use the New Cholesterol Guideline Calculator), please be careful this flu season.

But if you are on the fence about statin use for your particular medical situation, perhaps this newly discovered additional downside to statins is something to discuss with your doctor.