Ohmygoodness you guys! First of all HELLO! Where in the world have I been? Well, no where in particular to be quite honest – just wanted to take a break. It has felt so good to step back… but a the same time I’ve totally missed posting. I have so much to fill you in on. Like why in the world I would post a recipe titled ‘cocoa-lentil cupcakes’. A month ago exactly, I was invited to attend a Pulses Culinary Immersion at CIA Greystone (Napa). What in the world is that you say? Well I’ll dive into pulses a little more in just a minute. First lets talk about the fact that I was invited to the CIA. Not the government CIA, the Culinary Institute of America. One line into reading the email and I was over the moon elated. Me? Really? Yep!
The immersion was all about pulses (dry peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas) and gave me an opportunity to learn more about these superfoods, plus I got a chance to go “hands on” in the world famous CIA kitchens. I heard from Cynthia Sass (RD and pulse expert) and had the opportunity to participate in a training session from celeb trainer Gunnar Peterson (but due to exhaustion, I ended up passing on that). I had never been to Napa Valley but as a HUGE fan of The Parent Trap – both old and new – I couldn’t wait to check it out. I spent the weekend immersed in all things pulse related. Did you know that the United Nations has declared 2016 as the International Year of Pulses? The hope is that they take the world by storm as their nutritional benefits are incredible.
I’ll break down the weekend a little bit more later, but in one of our hands-on kitchen workshops I had the pure joy of making a Moist Cocoa-Lentil Cake with Italian Buttercream Frosting. It was honest to goodness one of the most delicious cakes I’ve ever sank my teeth into. So rich. So moist. So chocolatey. SO perfect! I knew that when I got home that would be the thing I would want to recreate. At the CIA we had used all purpose flour and canola oil, so I switched things up just a little bit to try to make them even healthier. Results? Total success! I hope you’ll give them a try rather than letting the word ‘lentil’ scare you off. Be sure to read on to hear all about my experience in Napa!
Items used in this post:
Cocoa Lentil Cupcakes
- 3/4 c. lentils
- 2 c. water
- Preheat oven to 350. Line muffin pan with cupcake liners or grease with cooking oil spray. For the lentil puree bring the lentils and water to a boil. Cover and simmer for 7 to 9 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid. Add 1/4 c. of the liquid back into the lentils. Puree in a blender or food processor; set aside. Beat the sugar, oil, and eggs together for 2 minutes. Add the lentil puree and vanilla to the creamed mixture. Mix for 1 minute. Sift the dry ingredients, add to the batter, and beat for 2 minutes on high speed. Pour into prepared cupcake pan and bak for 15-20 minutes or until top springs back when touched lightly (or toothpick inserted comes out clean). Remove from oven and place on cooling racks. Cool completely. Frost with your favorite icing.
- At the CIA I made the most delicious Italian Buttercream. I found a great tutorial with step-by-step photos here: http://honestcooking.com/make-perfect-italian-meringue-buttercream-step-step/
2:45 PM Shuttle departs from hotel for CIA Greystone campus
3:00 – 5:00 PM Opening remarks, presentations, and tasting
5:00 – 5:30 PM Tour of historic Greystone campus
5:30 – 7:00 PM Reception-style group dinner
6:50 AM *Optional for attendees* Attendees meet in hotel lobby, depart at 6:50 AM for training session with celebrity trainer Gunnar Peterson
7:00 – 8:00 AM *Optional for attendees* Training Session with celebrity trainer Gunnar Peterson
8:45 AM Shuttle departs from hotel for CIA Greystone campus
9:00 – 9:30 AM Breakfast
9:30 – 10:15 AM Cynthia Sass presentation: Pulse Appeal – Why (and How) to Eat More of These Surprising Superfoods
10:15 AM – 1:15 PM Hands-on kitchen workshops
1:15 – 2:00 PM Buffet Lunch from production
2:00 – 2:30 PM Mintel Presentation: Pulses Consumer Trends
2:30-3:30 Culinary demonstration with tasting
3:30-5:00 PM *Optional for attendees* “Market Basket” exploration time: Free time to experiment in the world-class CIA kitchens, with a variety of ingredients available and guidance as needed from CIA chefs; OR shuttle back to hotel
5:00 PM Shuttle back to hotel, dinner on your own, OR:
6:30 PM *Optional for attendees* Attendees invited to optional group dinner at Calistoga Inn Restaurant
7:15 AM Shuttle departs from hotel for CIA Greystone campus
7:30 – 8:00 AM Breakfast
8:00 – 11:00 AM Hands-on kitchen workshops
11:00 AM Program concludes, buffet lunch from production available with to-go boxes; attendees depart directly from CIA Greystone campus or shuttle back to hotel as needed
It was pure excitement from the moment I was dropped off at the airport here in Salt Lake City at o’dark thirty the Saturday morning. I met some really awesome people, ate some REALLY delicious food and saw some of the most beautiful land I’ve ever seen. The weather has been unusually rainy in California therefore it was much greener for that particular time of year than normal. I was in absolute awe of the number of grapevines that paint the rolling hills. It was exactly what I had pictured it to look like.
What I’ve learned of pulses and what I encourage you to do is to take the Pulse Pledge with me! What is it? It is a 10-week challenge, by which you commit to eating pulses at least once a week for 10 weeks (there’s not much time left, but you can still join to see what it’s all about). Starting Jan. 1, 2016, anyone in North America can visit www.pulsepledge.com, where they will have access to recipes, nutrition tips, resources and inspiration. The general public takes the pledge by entering their email address. Upon pledging, you are entered to win one of 5 monthly “cooking with pulses” starter kits. When you complete the 10-week challenge, you are also entered to win a larger grand prize at the end of 2016.
I know what you’re thinking. ‘I still don’t understand exactly what pulses are?’Let me explain further. Pulses are the edible dry seeds of legumes, including dry (whole or split) peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas. According to a 2015 study in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, women who eat pulses at least twice a week are 24% less likely to develop breast cancer. Another study in The New England Journal of Medicine on people who ate pulses at least three times per week showed a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, inflammation, and cognitive decline than a standard low-fat control diet. While many other superfoods (like quinoa, pomegranates, or acai berries) can be expensive or hard to find out of season, pulses are available year-round, inexpensive and better for the environment than almost any other food group. Pretty amazing right? Pulses are so nutrient-dense that they are considered both a protein and a vegetable, and their dried, shelf-stable form makes them a valuable food source in food deserts, where fresh produce isn’t readily available or would go to waste along the distribution chain! SO why not jump on board. You’d be surprised just how many recipes and meals you can make out of pulses. I spent an entire weekend and tasted 30+ different ways they were prepared. ALL delicious!!
A very special thank you to USA Pulses for providing an extraordinary weekend in Napa Valley California. Though flight and hotel were provided complimentary, as always, all opinions are my own.