Spark Your Grains

Switching from processed to whole grains is one of the simplest changes you can make to help your health. Whole grains have more protein and fiber than their stripped-down counterparts, which means they'll help you stay fuller longer. That's because they take longer to digest.
Grains on their own aren't very flavorful, but you can use that to your advantage. Use their mild taste as a blank canvas to complement the rest of your meal. Here are 10 easy ways to flavor whole grains--no recipe needed.
Prepare your grains according to package directions. You'll need 4 servings (2 cups cooked).

Serving suggestions: quinoa, whole wheat couscous, brown rice, bulgur, wild rice, etc.
NOTE: To save time, you can use precooked grains unless noted. Either buy heat-and-eat varieties or make a large batch once a week. 

1. Stir in chopped fresh herbs just before serving.
  • basil, oregano and parsley (1/2 cup)
  • chives and cilantro (1/2 cup)
  • rosemary, thyme and sage (1/4 cup)
If you prefer dried herbs, use half the amount and add before cooking or reheating your grains.
2. Add dried fruit and chopped, toasted nuts just before serving.
Add 2 tablespoons each
  • cranberries and almonds
  • raisins and walnuts
  • currants and pistachios
Note:  To toast nuts, lightly brown in skillet over medium heat.
3. Dry roast 1-2 teaspoons of spices in the pan before adding the grains and water.           
  • cumin seed (whole or ground)
  • coriander (whole or ground)
  • curry powder
  • chili pepper
  • turmeric
  • fennel
Before cooking your grains, heat the spices in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Shake the pan gently to roast the spices. When the spices are fragrant (after about two minutes), add your grain and cook according to package directions.
4. Stir in 1 cup cooked vegetables before serving.
  • Steamed spinach or mixed greens
  • Sautéed or roasted carrots, asparagus or squash
  • Steamed broccoli
  • Roasted, sliced Brussels sprouts
5. Add canned beans for a heartier side.
Add 1 can (14.5 ounces) drained and rinsed beans.
  • black beans
  • chickpeas
  • lentils
  • red beans
  • white beans
  • pinto beans
6. Stir in purees, pesto or salsa.
Add 2 tablespoons or to taste.
  • basil pesto
  • sundried tomato paste (use 1 tablespoon as this is usually concentrated)
  • roasted pepper puree
  • salsa verde
  • any jarred salsa
7. Add sautéed mushrooms and soft, creamy cheese.
Saute 1 cup mushrooms in the pan before adding the grains and water. Stir in 2 ounces creamy cheese just before serving.
  • Shiitake, portabella, cremini mushrooms
  • Soft goat, herb or cream cheese
In a small skillet, saute 1 cup sliced mushrooms in 1 teaspoon olive oil. Add to cooked grains along with the cheese just before serving. (Chopped fresh herbs would also be good.)
8. Stir in your favorite condiment just before serving.
Amounts will vary based on taste preferences
  • Capers (1-2 teaspoons drained and rinsed)
  • Chopped sun-dried tomatoes or roasted red peppers (1/4 cup not packed in oil--add halfway through cooking process)
  • Jarred garlic or ginger (1-2 teaspoons)
  • Dijon mustard (1 teaspoon)
  • Sriracha sauce (to taste)
9. Add citrus zest while the grains cook, then juice just before serving.
  • Zest and juice of 1-2 lemons or limes, 1 orange or grapefruit
Add the zest while cooking the grains, then stir in juice just prior to serving.
10. Cook with stocks or broths and aromatics instead of water.
  • Chicken or vegetable stock (low sodium or homemade)
  • 1-2 bay leaves, a few cloves, 1 sliced onion or a few sliced cloves of garlic