Simple ways to give meals a boost of flavor

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(BPT) – Flavor is a top priority whether you’re cooking for a gathering or simply putting food on the table for a weeknight meal. Great tasting food can do a lot: turn a party into a success, make guests rave and even get the kids to clean their plates. Luckily, you don’t have to be a five-star chef to give your meals a flavorful boost that everyone will love.

You can easily turn standard dishes into outstanding ones with some savvy cooking secrets. In fact, putting a subtle spin on the classics can surprise everyone at the table. They might not expect more than the average beverage, snack or burger, but with the right ingredients, you’ll hear a chorus of “wows” after the first bite.

To add some extra flavor to your meals and gatherings, keep these tips close at hand in the kitchen:

* Behind-the-scenes burger ingredients. Ground beef can only go so far – it’s up to you to give it the extra edge. Luckily, options to jazz up the average burger are virtually unlimited. Work in spices like cumin or chili pepper, and herbs like basil or oregano. Flavored soup mixes, such as onion, are a great choice as well. Another option for a palate-pleasing surprise is to press two thin patties around your choice of cheese, before grilling to a safe temperature.

* Set out flavor-packed snacks. As the outdoor entertaining season kicks off, having snacks on hand is essential so that guests can graze. Fill serving bowls with something a little out of the ordinary, or a new take on a classic, like Snyder’s of Hanover’s Flavored Pretzel Pieces, which come in an array of flavors like Hot Buffalo Wing, Jalapeno, and Bacon Cheddar. You can also use these tasty treats for creating out-of-this-world chicken fingers – simply crush them up and use them as breading.

* Fill drinks with extra flavor. A cooling beverage is a sublime thing on a hot day, but a basic glass of water just won’t cut it. One tasty – and pretty – way to upgrade tap water is to add flavor-infused ice cubes. To make the cubes, mix water and your chosen ingredients (fruits, herbs and juices all work well) in a blender, pour into cube trays, freeze and pop into your drinks when ready.

* Blend up an unexpected salsa. Whether you scoop it with chips or pour it over grilled meats, a flavorful salsa can earn you some bragging rights. Black beans and olives can bring zest to tomato salsa, and adding chopped avocado to blended tomatillos is a perfect meeting point between salsa and guacamole. Many fruits stand up well in a sweet-and-spicy salsa – try peach, pineapple or mango for a tropical twist that’s bright in color and flavor.

* Spice up your salads. A tossed salad can be a perfect addition to a summertime meal. They tend to be light and nutritious for any guests who watch their waistlines during bathing suit season. It is important to add exciting ingredients to your salad to prevent it from falling flat. Try using Pretzel Pieces flavors like Buttermilk Ranch or Honey Mustard and Onion as croutons to pack an unexpected punch. Find this recipe and more at

Making your meals memorable doesn’t require any special culinary expertise – just a few tips and some creativity. Use these ideas, put your own spin on a dish and you’ll have a table full of happy diners.

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