The best menu ideas for Labor Day should include foods that are casual and fun to eat while taking advantage of the late summer harvests available in your area. After all, Labor Day was first founded as a holiday to celebrate the American worker and all they have contributed to the prosperity of the United States. You can join in the tradition by celebrating local food growers as you shop for your Labor Day meal at your neighborhood Farmer’s Market.
Though many of the traditions of Labor Day have been lost or transformed since its founding in 1882, the holiday continues to be a time when friends, neighbors and families come together to celebrate the end of summer and take advantage of some well-deserved time off. Whether you are planning a huge end-of-summer bash or a simple family meal, a Labor Day menu should be easy enough to prepare so that you aren’t stuck in the kitchen all weekend instead of relaxing with your guests.
Homemade lemonade or limeade are classic thirst quenchers for summertime get-togethers. For a surprising flavor burst, puree chunks of seedless watermelon with fresh citrus juice then combine the mixture with water and sugar as you normally would. Crush a few mint leaves into the drink and chill until it is icy cold. Serve as is, or make it an adult drink by adding an ounce of vodka to each glass.
Keep appetizers light and easy to serve. Make a “BLT on a Stick” by sliding a single cherry tomato, a leaf or two of spinach, a 1-inch piece of cooked bacon and a bite-size chunk of sourdough bread on a skewer. Drizzle a small amount of balsamic dressing over the bread just before serving.
Whether you make it from a special family recipe or buy it from the deli counter, potato salad is a Labor Day menu must-have. Make or buy a basic potato salad and dress it up for Labor Day by adding a variety of end-of-summer vegetables like red bell peppers, green tomatoes, zucchini and carrots. Keep the veggies raw, but dice them into even ¼-inch cubes. Add a handful of minced chives and a grind of black pepper to add some zest to your “Confetti Potato Salad” and it will make a great accompaniment to whatever kind of meat or fish you decide to put on the grill.
Nothing beats ribs that have been slow cooked on the grill, but having to tend them for hours can keep the cook from enjoying whatever fun activities have been lined up for the Labor Day celebration. Get the best of both worlds by boiling the ribs until they are almost done and placing them on the grill for the final touch. Place a whole rack of ribs in a large pot and cover with water or cola. Add chopped onions, garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Boil for approximately 1 hour or until the meat is tender. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate if you’re preparing them a day ahead. Pat the rack dry and apply your favorite mixture of spices. Grill on high for approximately 10 minutes per side. Apply your preferred sauce before serving.
Apple pie is the perfect dessert for any patriotic celebration, but it can be bothersome to serve, store or travel with. Instead of baking full-size pies, purchase premade tart shells and fill them with your favorite apple pie filling; make room for a few seasonal berries. Kids and grownups can eat these mini-pies out of hand or served elegantly on a plate with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream and more berries.