I’m sure that I’m not the only one who gets slapped in the face by holidays. Labor Day has snuck up on me once again. Thankfully, I’m not too late to help you out, my friend. Because I know Labor Day BBQs are about to go down, I’ve compiled a roundup of my go-to entertaining recipes. I’ve even broken them down into categories I label: “I ain’t got time for all ‘at”, “I’m going to go all out,” and, “Y’all gonna eat whatever I put out.”
Yep, you’re going to be set with this roundup.
If your Labor Day is fast and furious,
here’s what I recommend:
If you’re in the same boat as I am this year, you’ll need a menu that doesn’t require tons of labor. I mean, Labor Day is about taking a break from labor- is it not? The following recipes were selected for the “I Ain’t Got Time for All ‘AT” menu because they’re easy to assemble or make. Because of their ease of preparation, you can make these the day of- or a day ahead- and still be the primo party host(ess).
Greet your guests with a round of these Blackberry-Vodka Smash Cocktails. Buy a big ol’ container of blackberries and mash them ahead of time (just one day ahead, though). Or, better yet, pick up a bottle of this Blackberry Puree and save a couple of steps.
Make this cocktail in a pitcher and set the garnishes out alongside a bucket of ice and let your guests do the all of the shaking.
After you’ve plied your guests with alcohol, stave off any of their gnawing hunger pangs with this boozy, sweet and savory jam. If you have guests like my husband and his friends, they’ll appreciate the addition of bourbon. Serve this with some crackers, toasted baguettes or…
…with this epic Meat and Cheese Board. This has been my go-to starter for decades. Buy a nice charcuterie board and a couple of pounds of sundry meats and cheeses and you’ll be bougie without minimal effort. This, along with the Bacon and Bourbon Jam is enough to get your Labor Day shindig started.
Grilled Pork Chops with
Blueberry Balsamic BBQ Sauce
Season the pork chops the evening before- or early in the morning- and leave them to do their thing. The Blueberry Balsamic BBQ Sauce can be made up to a week ahead, so feel free to make that, like, now. Once your guests begin arriving, throw the chops onto your pre-heated grill and, before you know it, they’re going to rave about how skilled you are.
Nothing goes better with BBQ’d meat than a cool coleslaw. Make this Peruvian-inspired dish the evening before and portion it out into ramekins. Now all you need to do to serve them is…well…serve them. The overnight rest period makes the coleslaw even more flavorful than it already was.
But, if you don’t have time to make it ahead, it’s just as easy to assemble the day of. Just give yourself about 45 minutes to prepare it and allow the flavors marry.
Speaking of ramekins, this Blackberry Cobbler recipe is convertible. Serve it in a big casserole dish, or as individual desserts by baking it in ramekins.
Be sure to have some vanilla ice cream on hand to serve it a la mode!
Another option for a quick dessert is this Quick Lemon Curd & Raspberry Tart. Since my lemon curd is so easy to make, make it this weekend and assemble the tart the day of your party. Be sure to use a tart pan that has a removable bottom to make it even more serve-friendly.
If you have a minute to labor on Labor Day,
try this menu:
Because I know some among us are more efficient in the kitchen, I want to suggest a more labor-intensive menu. In contrast to the previous menu, this one will require anywhere from a couple of hours to a day of prep. But I know you can swing it. After all, you’ve been hanging around here for a hot minute.
Seems like this Cucumber Lime Agua Fresca is a chameleon of a libation. Can it be served to kids? Yes! Can I add alcohol to it and serve it to my buddies? Yes, again!
Because it’s so versatile, you need to be sure to label your pitcher. You don’t need the kiddos dipping into the grown folks drinks. Since this beverage requires some blending, I recommend prepping the cucumber-lime base the day before and adding the water and ice a half-hour before serving.
Jamaica (the flower, not the country) is nothing more than an iced tea. As such, I would brew the tea the day (or a couple of days) before and store it in the same pitcher I plan to serve it out of. Set up a DIY cocktail bar for your guests. Give them the option of making this margarita with tequila, or turning it into a daiquiri with rum. Be sure to set out a bowlful of those lime wedges, which you’ve cut earlier in the day [wink, wink]!
While this Roasted Poblano Queso Dip requires some prep work ahead of time, if you’re attentive, you can let it do its thing without having to babysit it. Serve it straight from the cast iron skillet you made it in, or transfer it to a slow cooker set on warm. The key to prevent the queso’s curdling is to stir it occasionally and make sure that the heat under it is low.
Warm tortilla chips, pretzel bites, or sliced, toasted baguettes are all you need to accompany this.
My pals, at Danish Creamery, and I concocted this make-ahead friendly masterpiece. Assembled the mac & cheese the day before and store it- covered- in the fridge. About an hour and a half before the party starts, top it with the breadcrumb topping and bake away. Because this dish is such a hit, I recommend doubling the recipe.
These ribs give you the benefit of smoking without all the babysitting. You can even braise these the day before and finish them off on the grill just before your guests arrive. Don’t get all fancy with the serving, either. Throw some butcher’s paper on a couple of sheet pans and there’s your serving platter!
These Texas Baked Beans are made with dried beans, which take a few hours to soak and cook. Starting these the day- or even two days- before is the key to infusing those rich flavors into the beans. I start soaking the beans two evenings ahead. I par-boil and slow cook them completely the day before. Finally, I put them into the oven to warm them the day of. No fussing, and I’m able to serve a labor-intensive dish without having to stress over it.
Break away from those played-out red, white, and blue poundcake deals. This riff on the classic tiramisu screams “‘Murica”, which makes it perfect for Labor Day. Begin the sponge cake a day (or two) ahead to give it time to dry out. Assemble the Berry-Misu one day ahead.
You can’t get more U-S of A than an old-fashioned apple pie. Not only can this be made a day ahead, you can make it today, freeze it, and thaw it out next week and still be a rockstar. Again, a scoop of vanilla ice cream keeps it classic.
Keep Labor Day festivities simple with
these cocktail party recipes:
Maybe you don’t feel like going all out with fancy menus this year. Hey! Ya know, I get it! I mean, I’m still in this rinky-dink apartment, so hosting is not on my agenda.
If that’s you, this menu is yours. Blast out a mass email to your pals (just don’t tell them I told you to do it, because that’s annoying AF) and ask them to bring a dish to share. As for you- make one, all, or just some of the following recipes and you’ve done your due diligence as a host(ess) and friend. Likewise, if you’re the guest, whip up a couple of the following and you’re guaranteed future invites.
I don’t know about the weather where you live, but, right now- at the end of August- it’s currently 93°F where I’m at. A refreshing drink is a must. If that refreshing drink just so happens to have Brazil’s national liquor stirred in…well, then, even better!
My Caipirinha melds one of my favorite cocktails with a drink that’s popular in equatorial countries- sugarcane juice. This is another one of those pitcher-friendly drinks, so invest in a plastic or durable pitcher in case you need to travel with. May I suggest waiting to add the liquor until you get to where you’re going? I mean, we don’t need a citation for traveling with an open container, or some crap.
On the flip-side, plain Guarapo (Sugarcane Juice) is just as refreshing- and its ingestion is less likely to result in you ending up in a mugshot. Both this version and the alcoholic one are make ahead-friendly, but only up to two days for this version. Any longer and the Guarapo will start to ferment and leave you with, well, a mugshot.
No one has ever had an attitude with me for making my Middle Eastern Hummus. Have they gotten one because I didn’t make it, though? A resounding YES! I’ve had severe stank-eye (which we all know is more potent than stink-eye) served to me when this didn’t make an appearance at my parties. My husband’s former Soldiers- especially- would get all bent out of shape if they showed up and it wasn’t around.
Don’t get caught up in hummus-less drama. Make this a day ahead and serve it with pre-cut veggies from your grocer’s salad bar or produce section. Toasted naan or pita bread wedges are also good suggestions to serve alongside this hummus.
Now we’re getting into the big-shot recipes. These Chicken & Biscuits are another of my Danish Creamery collabos, and one that has garnered me much attention when I’ve showed up with a platter of them, as well. I mean, it’s never been about me, people just get excited about the chicken and biscuits, and I’m okay with that.
Biscuits= make ahead. Chicken= marinate the day before. Maple-Butter Dip=make ahead. You can’t go wrong with this dish.
You can’t go wrong with this dish, either. Who doesn’t like buffalo wings and blue cheese dip?!? This recipe is great, even for those friends of yours who can’t handle spice. Marinate the wings and mix the blue cheese dip the day before. On party day, just fry them up and keep them warm in the oven set to the lowest temp possible. Let’s be honest, who among us has complained that our wings aren’t scaldingly hot? Especially if the wings are as good as these, your guests will rave about them no matter the temperature you serve them at. But- I mean- don’t serve them cold, that’s just gross.
For lighter fare, nothing beats this sweet and savory Greek Farmer’s Salad. Replace the traditional tomatoes with sweet, juicy watermelon.
Nothing beats the time I showed up to my friend’s house for an Independence Day cookout and found she was making my Elotes. That’s a pretty awesome feeling, to be honest.
It’s also great knowing that this recipe is adaptable to serve large crowds. We- because somehow I, and later, the Soldier, ended up grilling- threw the corn onto a big grill and left them to steam and char. The schmear was quadrupled, then corn and schmear, both, were served a la carte. It couldn’t have been more of a crowd pleaser.
Winding down our Labor Day recipe extravaganza is another Danish Creamery recipe. These Lemon Meringue cupcakes also include Meyer Lemon Curd, which (again) you can make ahead- up to one week. The meringue topping does need to be made the same day. When it comes to the cupcakes, themselves, I’ve been known to bake them weeks in advance and freeze them for dessert emergencies. You can- most certainly- make them in the coming days and freeze them until the day prior.
Last, but not least, are my go-to Soft Sugar Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting. These are so versatile because you can change the flavorings in, both, the cookie and the icing. Top them with red, white, and blue sprinkles, color the icing, or leave them as is. They’re always a hit at any party where I serve them.
So, that’s all you need for an epic Labor Day!
Three different menus to accommodate all sorts of holiday schedules and motivations. Be sure to pin this guide for any future holidays you think it would fit. And, if you’re hosting or attending a Labor Day party, share this with your guests to “inspire” them to bring something to the table!
Enjoy your Labor Day, my friend!