Early summer brings fresh peas to gardens, farmers markets, and grocers everywhere. I have vivid memories of driving out in the country as a little girl with my mother until we found a farm field with pea picking equipment hard at work. We always called them pea viners. We would stop and my mother would have me go out to the end of the rows while she waited in the car and ask the laborers for free peas. Now I know why my sisters or brothers always seemed to disappear when we were craving Peas & Dumplings! We always came away with a bushel or two of vines meant for the local canning company. Who could say no to a little girl? Nice trick, Mother! The fresh peas were worth the begging! Peas are so nutritious and no frozen pea can begin to compare with fresh! Fresh peas are good cleaned and prepared right in the pod. They are extra good shelled. True that is a bit of work (worth it!) but you may be lucky like my sister and always seem to find bulk, shelled and fresh peas at the local farmers market. If you cannot find fresh peas, or are looking for a comfort food in the middle of the winter frozen sweet peas will work. This recipe has little fat, and little sodium, as you will see. You can keep it vegetarian by leaving out the ham. Either way, it is a favorite.
3 2/3 cups fat-free milk
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon ground mustard
1 ½ cup lean, diced, low-sodium ham
2 cups ‘lite’ baking mix
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
In large ducth oven slowly heat 3 cups milk and spices. Add fresh peas and heat until a slow simmer begins. Stir often to prevent scorching. It is important to heat this slowly and on no more than medium heat.
Combine 2 cups baking mix, parsley, and 2/3 cup milk. Stir with fork just until blended roughly. Batter should look a bit coarse and lumpy, but evenly moistened.
Once you have reached a slow simmer with milk and peas drop dumpling mixture into pan by large tablespoons. Dot top of milk and peas with dumpling mixture. Be sure heat is at medium and cook 10 minutes without stirring, uncovered. After 10 minutes cover and cook ten additional minutes. Remove pan from heat and allow to set covered for 5 minutes before serving.