Recipe: Mexican Quinoa

by Cate on November 29, 2012

Mexican Quinoa

We eat with our eyes first. I have long since believed this, and there are a million and one studies that back this up. And that’s probably not even an exaggerated number. Most recently, Dr. Wansink agrees with me. At his Cornell Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University, and in his book, Mindless Eating, he reinforces the concept that if we make simple, small (read: doable!) changes in our food and how we present it, it’s received much more positively.

He calls it “seductive nutrition.”

Which means if you can present fruit and vegetables in a pleasing manner … to even the pickiest of eaters … they will be more inclined to eat it.

Now *that’s* some research I can get behind.

This explains why there are buzz words like “sizzle” or “hearty” used in food commercials.

And why ambient lighting, pretty plates, and attractive decor in restaurants is so important.

But we can translate all those to our very own kitchens too.

When it comes to restaurants, we all know how we can get quickly swept up in the menu description of something, and all the sudden, our taste buds are salivating. As Dr. Wansink pointed out, “Using words like creamy, hot, or spicy on a menu board have been shown to help increase food sales in restaurants by up to 28 percent; and, in one of our studies, we found it led people to view restaurants as more ‘trendy and up-to-date.’ It’s an easy change to make. For example, including descriptive adjectives can turn your everyday mashed potatoes into ‘creamy, whipped mashed potatoes,’ and a yogurt parfait into a ‘silken yogurt parfait.’

Sometimes a few fun, descriptive words can entice someone, whether young or old, to try something new. To intrigue them into a healthier option.

And then there is the presentation. A yogurt parfait suddenly appears way more alluring when it’s presented in a pretty glass with layers that you can see. The more colors on a plate, the more you’ll want to dive into it.

Balsamic Strawberry Parfait

The group at Unilever Food Solutions recently hosted a “select group of chefs and restaurant operators at the Culinary Institute of America-Greystone (CIA) to highlight their efforts to help people choose delicious, slightly healthier meals when they eat out through ‘Seductive Nutrition.’ Developed by Unilever Food Solutions after the release of a global World Menu Report, ‘Seductive Nutrition’ nudges guests to choose top menu items made slightly healthier through small changes to ingredients and preparation methods, with more enticing menu descriptions.”

Dr. Wansink also suggests using geographic labels when naming or describing your food. Which means this Mexican Quinoa I made last week is right on target. Hearing Mexican Quinoa, you immediately think of bold flavors, right? And when you see how simple this recipe is, you’ll want to try it. One of my co-workers has been extolling the virtues of quinoa for as long as I can remember, and she finally got me onto the bandwagon last year. My kids are still not huge fans, but they’ll eat it, especially given the bright colors of this recipe. And the leftovers? A perfect all-in-one dish for a few days worth of lunch for me.

For more information on how professional chefs and restaurants are using “seductive nutrition” to bring you the very best (and healthiest!) dishes, and how you can interpret these ideas into your very own home kitchen, visit Unilever Food Solutions.

*Astute readers might have noticed I didn’t share the craft as promised today. I had to do a little last-minute rescheduling due to deadlines, so the craft will be shared on Monday instead. Tomorrow? Cheesecake. Promise!

Mexican Quinoa
Recipe from Annie’s Eats, who adapted it from Peanut Butter Runner
Yield: about 6 servings
Ingredients

2 tsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 jalapeños, seeded and finely chopped (I skipped)
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed well and drained
1¼ cups vegetable broth
1 can (1½ cups) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, with juices
1 cup frozen corn (or kernels cut from 2 cobs of corn) (I used one small can)
½ tsp. kosher salt
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 quarter of a lime, juiced

To finish:
Shredded cheese, sour cream, salsa, and/or avocado

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and jalapeños to the pan and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the the quinoa, veggie broth, beans, diced tomatoes, corn, and salt to the pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover. Simmer for about 25 minutes, or until the liquid is fully absorbed. Remove from the heat. Stir in the cilantro and lime juice. Serve as desired with cheese, salsa, avocado, and/or sour cream.

I received compensation for this post as part of a sponsored opportunity from the Mom It Forward blogger network for Unilever Food Solutions. As always, all ideas, images (unless otherwise credited), and opinions are my own.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Joanne November 30, 2012 at 7:25 am

I’m so intrigued by behavioral science, especially how it pertains to food and our relationship with it! It’s definitely true that colorful food just seems more appealing. I mean, your mexican quinoa makes me want to whip up a batch ASAP!
Joanne recently posted..Recipe: Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos with Swiss Chard Pesto

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Sarah Caron November 30, 2012 at 10:53 am

Mmm. Looks tasty!
Sarah Caron recently posted..Roasted Carrots with Thyme

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