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Flavorful Food for Outdoor Dining!


Courtesy of National Cooperative Grocers Association News Service
Adapted by Cristin Burns, Marketing & Project Manager

What’s on your summer barbecue menu? Whether you’re planning a backyard grill out with the family, an intimate picnic at the park, or a big bash with friends, put a little extra fireworks in your celebration this year by enlivening some of your traditional favorites! All it takes is a tweak here and there to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. Here are just some possibilities:


  • Season burger meat with a natural, dry salad dressing mix (such as Ranch or Caesar) before forming into patties. Grill and serve on sourdough bread, topped with aioli, sautéed onions, avocado slices, and Muenster cheese.
  • Serve Reubenburgers, with Emmenthaler cheese, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing on marble rye bread.
  • Substitute grilled portabella mushrooms, salmon fillets, veggie burgers, or turkey burgers for beef burgers. Top with blue cheese, thick slabs of tomato, and drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

Hot Dogs

  • Spread warm cream cheese on buns for hot dogs—or sausages or tofu dogs—and top with plenty of sautéed sweet onions.
  • Top hot dogs with crispy bacon and blue cheese dressing or sundried tomatoes and Dijon mustard.
  • Place sliced Monterey Jack cheese on flour tortillas. Wrap around cooked hot dogs. Serve with spicy mustard or taco sauce.

Corn on the Cob

  • Pull back the husks on corncobs, leaving the bottoms intact. Remove the silk, then soak the corn in water for about half an hour. Season the corn cobs (here’s the fun part): wrap the cobs with bacon strips; or slather with chipotle sauce, sour cream, or horseradish; or drizzle with maple syrup or balsamic vinegar and olive oil; or rub with a combo of softened butter and Parmesan cheese. Tie the husks over the seasoned corn and grill.
  • Serve corn on the cob with an array of condiments, such as pesto, Mexican Seasoning and lime juice, and herbal butters (simply combine softened butter with your favorite herbs and spices, like oregano, basil, thyme, and marjoram).
  • Combine husked, halved corncobs with halved red potatoes in a bowl. Toss with olive oil and garlic powder. Roast or grill until nicely browned. Combine with chopped red pepper, sliced red onions, coarse black pepper, and sea salt. Drizzle with an Italian vinaigrette dressing.

Side Salads

  • Jazz up your coleslaw—made with shredded green and red cabbages, grated carrots and chopped jicama—with a tamari dressing (combine tamari or soy sauce with sesame oil and vinegar). Toss in some roasted cherry tomatoes, green onions, and lightly salted peanuts.
  • Serve warm new potato salad with a vinaigrette and plenty of fresh dill and black pepper. Or make it a sweet potato salad with a ginger and orange dressing and top with golden raisins and toasted pecans. (To make dressing, combine orange juice with minced fresh ginger, wine vinegar, olive oil and honey.)
  • Transform your favorite baked bean recipe by including new beans—black beans, adzuki, even limas. Add some grains for a tasty addition—like quinoa or barley—or even some tiny, cooked pasta. Top with a dollop of sour cream mixed with molasses, or a spoonful of cranberry sauce, pineapple chunks, or apricot chutney.
  • Elbows and shells are great, but pasta salad can also feature bow tie pasta, orzo, soba noodles, ramen, etc. For a quick and stunning side, toss spiral pasta with sautéed leeks, grilled chicken cubes, grape tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and pesto. Sprinkle with roasted cashews.

Deviled Eggs

  • Combine mashed yolks with Parmesan cheese, garlic pepper, basil, mayonnaise, and a dash of lemon juice. Fill egg halves as usual, and then sprinkle with cayenne in place of the usual paprika. Other fun additions to the mashed yolks: cooked and chopped shrimp, mashed avocadoes, chopped green olives, sundried tomatoes, cottage cheese, cream cheese, capers, Dijon mustard, horseradish, jalapeno peppers, salsa, and spices like curry powder and cilantro. By the way, it’s fun to pipe the filling into the eggs with a pastry bag and decorating tip -- it’s easy to do and looks fancy! (Don’t have a pastry bag? Just use a plastic baggie and snip off the tip for a quick DIY version.)

Seasonal Fruit

  • Watermelon is a great stand-alone summer staple, but it also makes a great salad. Combine cubed watermelon with some kalamata olives, slivered red onion, lime juice and chopped mint.
  • Make red, white and blue fruit kebabs with strawberries, blueberries, and marshmallows. (Look for natural marshmallows at your co-op.) Drizzle with fruit juice and sprinkle with fresh mint.
  • Use fresh cherries to make a compote to serve alongside main dishes, like burgers or steaks. Place pitted cherries in a pot with a little water sweetened with sugar or honey and seasoned with fresh herbs, like rosemary or lemon thyme. Cook until thick.
  • Combine whatever fruit is most readily available in your area (such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, melons, peaches, nectarines, grapes, and cherries) with a blend of equal parts yogurt and cream cheese, a little maple syrup or honey to taste, and a touch of vanilla extract. Garnish with fresh mint.

All the Rest

  • To fill in any gaps in the menu, head to your Co-op. You can customize your beverage selection by choosing single serving beverages like all-natural soda, tea, juice or beer. Deli salads make excellent additions to any dinner and recycled napkins and earth-friendly plates are the final touches.

Inspired? No doubt you’ll think of many new twists to try on old favorites, once you get started. For additional recipes, visit www.newleafmarket.coop/recipes. Happily, there’s still plenty of picnic weather ahead!

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