Pique Your Culinary Curiosity with These Trends

(Family Features) Forget the rules and restrictions. Today’s food trends are about enjoyment and simplicity, from decadent flavors your taste buds can’t wait to explore to convenient packaging that makes it incredibly easy to eat no matter where or when you make time to dine.

Whether you’re a foodie keeping tabs on the latest culinary trends or an everyday eater with a dose of culinary curiosity, these trends can give you something to chew on.

Unique Herbs and Spices

Most often associated with salad dressings and hummus as a flavor additive, tahini has stepped beyond just savory foods and has found its way into many new dishes, including desserts and cocktails. From ice cream and milkshakes to muffins, cookies and other baked goods, this toasted ground sesame seed spread used in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine can also be added as an alternative to nearly any dish that calls for peanut butter.

On the Go

For most people, a busy day is just part of the program. Even if you take your hectic lifestyle in stride, chances are it affects your eating habits to some extent. Fortunately, you’re not alone and conveniently packaged foods can make eating on the go tasty and enjoyable. The options are even crossing into areas traditionally reserved for a sit-down meal, such as Aunt Jemima’s Pancake on the Go Cups, which offer a soft and fluffy texture like the typical pancake in Chocolate Chip or Buttermilk & Maple flavors. They’re surprisingly simple to prepare; just add water, stir and microwave for a pancake in a cup that you can enjoy from anywhere. Learn more at auntjemima.com.

Ugly Eats

Save your judgment for someplace else; ugly produce is actually in vogue. A growing number of chefs and brands are promoting recipes made with ugly foods – usually produce that is perfectly useful and edible but likely to be overlooked at the store due to a physical imperfection. Think oddly shaped tomatoes or a smaller melon than you might not normally choose. Often those options are offered at a discount and it’s a savvy way to reduce food waste.

Hot and Spicy

Palettes are growing ever-adventurous, and that means flavors that pack a strong punch are gaining traction. If you’re not sure your taste buds are up to the challenge, try adding some spice to a familiar dish like rice or pasta. For example, you can find a spicy take on Rice a Roni, Pasta Roni and Quaker Instant Grits with Jalapeno Cheddar varieties, which include cheddar cheese and real jalapeno bits that leave lingering heat. Include these as the perfect side for your next taco night or try in place of mashed potatoes for an extra kick. Find more spicy ideas for dinner at ricearoni.com.

Move Over, Meat

Opting for more plant-based foods in place of meat no longer means forgoing those flavors and textures. While not a completely new trend, plant-based and blended burgers and sliders have become more mainstream and found places on menus at restaurants nationwide with more people (even non-vegans) searching for a break from meat or ways to add flavors like mushrooms into meals and snacks.

Salty-Sweet Flavors

Sweet-meets-salty combos are hardly new, but products featuring this blend are showing up in more and more places, including at the breakfast table. Sea salt is a perfect match for the sweetness of chocolate or caramel; it adds a rich depth of flavor that strikes a balance between too sweet or too salty. Start the day off with an option like Quaker’s Cocoa & Sea Salt Instant Oatmeal, which contains 100% whole grains, no high-fructose corn syrup, no artificial preservatives, no artificial sweeteners, no artificial flavors and no added colors. Explore additional ideas to sweeten your breakfast plans at quakeroats.com.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

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