7 ideas to give your barbecue the ultimate flavor boost

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When the temps heat up, home cooks look for lighter, more refreshing food and drinks that still pack a nutritional punch. The cranberry is just the thing — a tangy fruit that adds flavorful zing to sweet and savory recipes. Available dried, frozen, as juice or sauce, cranberries are a good source of Vitamin C and have fiber and antioxidants as well. Offering big health benefits in a little package, cranberries are full of polyphenols not commonly found in other fruits. You can enjoy their robust flavor while boosting your health.

Here are some ideas for hosting a summer BBQ.

1. Quench your thirst

Cranberry juice makes a delightfully refreshing drink on its own or mixed with sparkling water and served on ice. For those who enjoy adult beverages, make a statement at your party with a festive, colorful pitcher of sangria served with fruit. Add cranberry juice to red wine for a zesty, delicious 21+ punch, with orange juice, orange slices and a little extra liquor like brandy or rum.

2. Keep your cool

Cranberry juice boosts the flavor of a fruit smoothie with its sweet and tart flavor. Combine with fruits, such as bananas or strawberries, and your favorite milk or yogurt, adding a little honey or agave if desired. Blend with crushed ice for a healthful smoothie for breakfast or any time you need a quick pick-me-up. The kids will love it. In preparation for extra hot days, make cranberry juice ice cubes or ice pops in your freezer.

3. Fire up the barbecue

A sure-fire hit is to combine cranberry sauce with mustard, vinegar and brown sugar to create a mouth-watering barbecue sauce for all your summer grilling. You’ll have your guests trying to guess the secret ingredient providing delicious tang.

4. Satisfy your sweet tooth

For a refreshing summer treat, create a cranberry parfait in a glass by alternating layers of refreshing ingredients. Get creative and start with a base like crushed cookies, vanilla wafers or graham crackers (reserving some for the topping), then alternate layers of whipped cream, vanilla pudding or your favorite yogurt with jellied or whole berry cranberry sauce. Add a layer or two of fresh blueberries or strawberries for a red, white and blue dessert. Make it family-sized or create individual parfaits to offer your guests a personal treat.

5. Have a cranberry party

The robust cranberry can handle some heat, so create a salsa for your next party. Combine thawed, chopped frozen cranberries with Mexican flavors such as jalapeno, green onions, lime juice and cilantro to create a zesty salsa. Season with salt and sugar to taste.

6. Add zing to your snacks

Combine dried cranberries with nuts and seeds to make trail mix for your barbecue that all your guests will love to munch while you prepare the entrée. Add toasted coconut flakes or chocolate chips for a dose of sweetness.

7. Spruce up your salads

Adding dried cranberries gives any veggie or fruit salad an extra pop of flavor. This whole grain salad recipe from the Cranberry Marketing Committee shows one great way to use America’s Original Superfruit, cranberries, in an “#AllAmeriCRAN,” colorful summer dish.

Cranberry and Cilantro Quinoa Salad

  • 2 cups water
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 cup sweetened, dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup minced carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup yellow bell pepper
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch ground red pepper

In a small saucepan, bring water and pinch of salt to a boil over high heat. Stir in quinoa, reduce heat and bring to a low simmer. Cover and cook until all liquid is absorbed (about 13 minutes).

Remove from heat and transfer to a medium bowl. Cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

To the bowl of quinoa, stir in cranberries, carrots, peppers, onion and cilantro until mixed.

In a small bowl, mix together lime juice, oil, salt and ground red pepper and pour over quinoa-cranberry mixture; toss to coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Does not have to be served cold.

Can’t get enough cranberries? Check out uscranberries.com for more recipes.

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