Whole grains, the blank slate in the food world. With a slim flavor profile, grains can be transformed into almost anything — you just have to have a little imagination and ordinary cooked quinoa, buckwheat, rice, etc. into unique culinary triumphs. You probably have a big stock of uncooked grains in your pantry right now with no recipe forcing you to get them out and cook them. Well, prepare to be amazed with these ideas to get you off your computer and start cooking up some flavorful whole grains.

1. Assess What You Have

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Peer into your pantry and fridge and see what exactly you already have on hand–the results may just surprise you. Often it’s hard to remember what you’ve bought if you get in the rut of eating just what’s in your fridge instead of whipping up a meal from all corners of your kitchen. Be like Remy in Ratatouille and put seemingly weird combos together and see what happens. Take that packet of barley, cook it up, and pair it with that sad avocado on the counter or that lonely bok choy in the back of your fridge. Not in the mood for guess and check? Search One Green Planet with the ingredients in your kitchen and see what pops up!

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2. Add in Unique or Exotic Foods to Your Dish

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Goji berries, maca, lucuma, acai berries, feijoa, the list goes on of health store foods that seem impossible to tackle and really utilize. I remember I bought a packet of lucuma powder and left it in my pantry for two months before I actually opened the package. You’re not alone if you feel intimidated by these ‘exotic’ or ‘super’ foods. The best way to incorporate these foods is throw them in a smoothie or on the blank slate that is a bowl of whole grains. You have fantastic recipes like goji berry and maca quinoa balls, acai oatmeal, to feijoa and apple brown rice.

3. Sweeten it Up Naturally

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If you’re going to take your grains on a flavor spin, then you have to explore the whole flavor that is sweetness. Chuck some chopped up dates, raisins, bananas in your whole grain dishes or use a liquid sweetener like stevia, maple syrup, or yacon syrup to boost the nutritional and taste profile of your dishes. Experiment with whole grains like barley, wild rice, and farro that are traditionally used in savory dishes and make them sweet with any of the above sweeteners. For instance, you may want to make a savory pilaf out of last night’s batch of wild rice, but why not make a breakfast dish or a dessert out of it? Either of those ideas will give a completely new dimension to your wild rice, and this applies to any whole grain. Invert your thinking about whole grains that appear to be designated as wholly used for savory or sweet dishes–there are no hard fast rules.

4. Try a Savory Version

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Jumping off on this idea of breaking the “rules” of whole grains, you can use oats, millet, amaranth, and other whole grains that are used primarily in “sweet” dishes and make them savory. Ever heard of savory oatmeal? It’s completely different from what you’d expect, and it’s really delicious. Take a look at what this Green Monster’s done with oats: who would have guessed kale and oatmeal ever went together!? Again, don’t be afraid to experiment with your whole grains and try putting some savory flavors like garlic, onion, spinach, or tamari into your oats, millet, amaranth, buckwheat, it’s up to you.

5. Mix It Up

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Even though whole grains don’t have really distinct tastes, they’re subtle differences and textures between them. The best thing you can do to boost the flavor of your grains is to add different ingredients into your grain-centric dishes, yes, but also to mix together the grains. Why have just brown rice when you could create a combo of quinoa, brown rice, and millet? Don’t like millet? Why not create a cool combo of wild rice, barley, and kamut? Combining different grains together will certainly spice up your whole grains, plus if you add in any of the above steps as well, you’ll have quite a party on your taste buds.

Whole grains don’t have to be boring. There are so many to choose from, and there’s a billion different ways to prepare them, so don’t get in a rut of preparing brown rice over and over again in the same way. Take your whole grains on a flavor spin with these five tips and a little imagination!

Lead Image Source: Quinoa and Sweet Potato Noodle Bolognese With Toasted Crushed Almonds