15 Delicious Labor Day Recipes
Greetings from my happy place, friends!
I’m up in Maine with my family this week and not gonna lie, it already feels pretty fall-like up here. Weirdly, I’m okay with that. It’s been a sweaty lovely summer, but I’m very much enjoying the slight chill in the air and resurrecting my sweater collection. You know I love a good knit.
With that said, it’s still summer, we’ve got a few more weeks of the good produce (zucchini and tomatoes forever!), and we must take advantage before we all turn into pumpkins next month. Please and thank you.
To celebrate the last long weekend of the season, I’ve rounded up some of my very favorite recipes for your Labor Day weekend festivities. From baked goods and appetizers to sexy sides, grilled mains, and killer cocktails, there’s a little something to tickle everyone’s fancy on this list. (Fingies crossed.)
p.s. It’s impossible for a weird blog lady to play favorites with her recipes, but if I had to choose my top three from this list, I’d probably go with the Pasta Salad, Cheeseburger Dogs, and Aperol-Grapefruit Margaritas. Just saying…
15 Fabulous Labor Day Recipes:
Whole-Grain Zucchini Bread Bites. This recipe is one of my favorite ways to take advantage of your late summer zucchini bounty. These beautiful bites are perfect for on-the-go breakfasting/snacking, and they freeze like a dream. They also happen to be packed with whole-grain goodness, lightly sweetened with pure maple syrup, and kept moist with unsweetened apple sauce. Not to mention the nutritional boost provided by their namesake zucchini. If you’re not a tiny food fetishist, you can use the recipe to make full-size muffins (just add about 7-10 minutes to the cook time) or a loaf (which should take about 50 minutes or so).
Watermelon Salad with Tomato, Feta, and Herb Vinaigrette. This simple but extremely delicious salad is a show-stopping sweet and savory side for your long weekend grilling adventures. It’s fabulously light and fresh, and the addition of heirloom tomatoes (‘tis the season), crunchy pistachios, and sweet-tangy herb vinaigrette creates a rather mind-blowing taste treat.
Summer Tart with Tomatoes, Corn, and Bacon. Each addictively crunchy bite of this sexy (and deceptively easy) tart is a smorgasbord of summery flavor, and you deserve to experience the magic before the season slips away. I like to slice this tart into squares and serve it as an appetizer (the recipe is easily multiplied if you want to make more than one tart), but it’s also great served as a side dish for a fancy bbq spread or a light meal with a big old green salad.
Pasta Salad with Arugula, Roasted Red Peppers and Sweet Corn. This terrifically tangy, textured pasta salad definitely deserves to be added to your weekend picnicking/potlucking/barbecuing plans. Roasted red peppers and summer sweet corn is a killer smoky-sweet combo, baby arugula provides necessary, good-for-you greenery with a peppery kick, and fresh basil and goat cheese brighten things up. A generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar pack a serious flavor punch while also keeping things light, bright, and (perhaps most importantly) sun exposure-friendly.
Cheeseburger Dogs with Special Sauce. If you’re not familiar with the burger dog, I am thrilled to introduce you to this simple yet beautiful creation: two butterflied hot dogs, lightly charred and topped with melted cheese (I vote for good ol’ American, but you do you), lettuce, tomato, and plenty of Dude Diet special sauce. It’s a hybrid sandwich of dreams and is perfect for weirdos like me that love hot dogs but much prefer burger fixings.
Chicken Paillard with Arugula and Watermelon Salad. Sweet watermelon, peppery arugula and salty feta in a tangy lime-vinaigrette are classically beautiful combo, but pile that goodness on top of juicy chicken paillard and something truly magical happens. This is great quick and easy dinner (Labor Day weekend is long and you may want something light and fresh in the rotation), but I also love it for lunch with a chilly glass of rose. It’s the weekend.
Fiery Barbecue Flank Steak Tacos with Summer Mess Salsa. These grilled steak tacos are the most festive way to celebrate the end of summer. They’re fresh, fiery, and surprisingly light (if portion-controlled, they’re 100% Dude Diet approved), and you can serve them for both lunch and dinner. More importantly, the recipe is ridiculously simple, and if you get two people involved (teamwork!), you could easily pull them off in about half an hour.
Summer Vegetable Quinoa Bake. Featuring all of summer’s best produce (get it before it’s gone!), this bake is a super satisfying vegetarian meal, but it also doubles as a killer side dish with your favorite meat or poultry. It requires a teensy bit of time to come together, but it can be fully assembled up to a day in advance (I like to wait to add the final layer of cheese and panko until baking time) and baked just before serving.
Caprese Quinoa Bake. If the aforementioned Summer Vegetable situation doesn’t speak to you, perhaps this bad boy will. Fluffy quinoa is tossed with roasted petite Roma tomatoes, sautéed shallots and garlic, chopped basil, and grated mozzarella cheese. This heavenly mixture is then topped with slices of juicy beefsteak tomatoes and fresh mozzarella and baked to beautiful, golden brown, bubbling perfection. Fresh basil and a drizzle of sweet and tangy balsamic reduction are the finishing touches on this masterpiece, which is the ultimate tomato season indulgence. It also looks ridiculously impressive…
Mexican Street Corn Salad. If you’ve had Mexican street corn, you know it’s dank. If you haven’t, it’s basically grilled corn smothered in a blend of mayonnaise or Mexican crema, chili powder, and cotija, and usually served with fresh limes and a sprinkling of cilantro. This salad has the same epic flavor profile of said street corn, except it’s lighter and fresher, thanks to sliced chiles, no mayo, and lots of crispy bacon. Each bite is a fiesta flavor explosion that’s smoky, sweet, and slightly spicy with a refreshing citrus tang.
Grilled Peach and Cherry Tomato Quesadillas. Lightly caramelized peaches and onions, juicy cherry tomatoes, and fiery pepper jack cheese make for the most magical of sweet and savory summer flavor parties. And the subtle smoky flavor that comes from grilling the fillings and the ‘dillas themselves? Next level. While you can absolutely crush these quesadillas for lunch and dinner, they also make excellent finger food for late summer soirées.
Summer Salad with Avocado, Corn and Grilled Herb Shrimp. This Summer Salad tastes exactly as it sounds…like summer. Packed with baby lettuces, grilled sweet corn, juicy cherry tomatoes, and buttery avocado, this salad is light, bright and full of fresh flavor. The delicate sweetness of the shrimp is enhanced by a citrusy herb marinade that also doubles as the salad dressing (so efficient!). It would be a great Labor Day weekend lunch, but I love it as part of a larger grilled spread. It’s a crowd-pleaser.
Strawberry Thyme Cooler. As you can see, this cocktail is a very fetching shade of pink and is garnished with thyme, which makes it look all kinds of fancy. It’s boozy thanks to a combo of vodka and St. Germain but still easy drinking, and it performs equally well as a brunch drink, poolside refreshment, or pre-dinner aperitif.
Aperol Grapefruit Margarita. If you’re in search of a signature cocktail for your Labor Day weekend, this baby gets my vote. It’s fresh, herbal and delightfully strong. Go big or go home, friends.
Rose Spritzers. A blend of dry rosé, St. Germain, strawberries, lemon, cucumber and club soda, this “elevated” spritzer is ready and waiting to dress up your Labor Day plans. This recipe is also a “dump and stir” batch cocktail, so it’s ideal for entertaining. I like to mix up a couple batches of the base (each batch serves 6) and let people top off their glasses with club soda—spritz yo’self!
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