Labor Day is but a week away – can you believe it? When our children were still children, Labor Day wasn’t about picnics or backyard barbecues – it was about running away from home – headed up the California Coast and cool ocean breezes. Now, we are more home bodies – and Labor Day involves extended family – which is fine. I like my nutty family. Besides, planning family events teaches our children (or in this case, our grandchild) the importance of family ties. The older we get, the more we appreciate those ties.
When I was growing up, so much of our lives revolved around extended family gatherings. It seemed most gatherings were at our house. After all, we had the space. It wasn’t just the big enclosed patio, but a large backyard and big, beautiful shade trees. A Family Affair wasn’t just a few Uncles and Aunts and maybe a cousin or two – we were easily a dozen kids or more. Extend family meant anyone close to our parents – neighbors, friends and relatives alike. And it wasn’t just Christmas or Easter or even Labor Day – we are talking Sunday dinners after church. Every Sunday, without fail. Oh how I miss those days. We are so scattered now. By the time our motley crew grew up, we had scattered to the four corners. Our gatherings these days are much smaller, but no less precious. Enough about childhood memories – it’s time to get to planning . . .
Decisions, decisions! Hamburgers? Hot Dogs? How about some foot-long franks? Chicken? Ribs? Salads – green leafy salad? Pasta? Potato? Oh, and remember those old-fashion Jell-O salads! (My mother use to make a lime concoction with chopped lettuce – not one of my fonder childhood memories). It’s just so hard to come up with new recipes without falling back on the tried and true. Besides, family gatherings are all about two things – reminiscing and creating. It’s always nice to look back while at the same time making new memories to add to the scrapbooks of our hearts.
Oh, one last thing before we get started – I tend to get a little crazy – and a little carried away. As for what you like – make as much or as little as you like of my recipes. Add to your family favorites or just be inspired – whatever suits your fancy!
****** The Menu ******
The Grilled Meats
Grilled Smoked Sausage with Barbecue Sauce *
Boozy Bacon Bourbon Barbecue Chicken Kabobos *
Hot Dogs or Hamburgers for the Children
The Side Dishes
Roasted Rosemary Potatoes *
Slow Cooker Smokehouse Bacon Beans*
Warm French Bread with Melted Garlic Butter*
Asparagus and Tomato Salad with a Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette*
Red Potato Salad*
Tropical Pineapple-Lime Jello Salad *
The Refreshing Ends
Lemon Pie Squares*
Sugar Cookie Fruit Pizza *
Mini Cupcakes (from your favorite bakery)
* Recipes Below
****** Grilled Meats ******
When it comes to backyard barbecues and family gatherings, hamburgers and hot dogs are an automatic “gimme” on the menu. This is especially true for “holiday” parties, when everyone is feeling a bit nostalgic. Food on a stick such as barbecued chicken and smokey sausages slathered in barbecue sauce are super easy to make, to grill and to serve.
Grilled Smoked Sausage with Barbecue Sauce
2 Packages Hillshire Farms Smoked Beef Sausage
1 Cup Barbecue Sauce, any flavor
Heat small grill gas grill for direct cooking. Split sausages in half width-wise to create 2 halves. Split again lengthwise to open sausage. You will now have 8 “J” shaped sausages.
When grill is ready, place sausage haves on grill skin side up until nicely cooked. Turn, brush with barbecue sauce and continue to grill until heated through.
Serve with additional barbecue sausage if desired.
This recipe can easily be increased depending upon how large a crowd you plan to serve.
Boozy Bacon Bourbon Barbecue Chicken Kabobos
2 cups Bourbon Barbecue sauce (Recipe below)
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1″ pieces
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
6 slices raw bacon, cut into small pieces
Light the grill and heat to medium-high, or heat a grill pan over medium-high heat.
In a food processor, combine the kosher salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, dark brown sugar, smoked paprika, and bacon. Pulse until completely smooth.
Put the chicken thigh pieces in a bowl and then rub with the bacon paste. Once well-coated, thread the chicken thigh pieces onto skewers (pre-soaked, if they’re wooden).
Place the kabobos on the preheated grill. Cook for about 5 minutes per side. Mop the kabobos with the bourbon barbecue sauce and cook for an additional minute or two on each side.
Serve with the remaining BBQ sauce.
Smoky Bourbon Barbecue Sauce
2 cups Ketchup
1/2 cup Lemon juice
4 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
4 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
2 Teaspoons Dry Mustard
1 Teaspoon Onion Powder
1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 Teaspoon Cayenne Powder (or heat to taste)
4 Tablespoons Honey
1 Tablespoon Liquid Smoke (or smoke to taste)
1 cup Bourbon
In a pan mix the ingredients. Bring sauce to a simmer to thicken. Keep warm until ready to use.
****** Sides ******
I don’t know if you could call warm bread a side, but who doesn’t like a big hunk of bread all slathered in butter? The Rosemary Potatoes go well with our chicken as well as our smoked sausage. And beans? Oh yeah, barbecues and beans just go hand in hand, don’t you think?
Roasted Rosemary Potatoes
12 medium red potatoes
4 tsp. olive oil
3 branches fresh rosemary
freshly ground black pepper
freshly ground salt to taste
To peel or not to peel, that is the question. If you seriously dislike potato peels, go ahead and remove them. But if you leave them on they will become crispy and delicious during the roasting process.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Oil a baking pan with 1 tsp. of the olive oil.
Wash the potatoes, cut them into cubes and place them in the baking pan. Cut the rosemary into pieces about 1 inch (2.5 cm) long and sprinkle over the potatoes. Grind some pepper over the potatoes. Drizzle with the remaining 2 tsp. olive oil.
Roast for half an hour, give the potatoes a stir, and return to the oven for about another half hour, until the potatoes are golden and starting to brown. Be careful: The amount of roasting time will depend on your oven, so keep checking to make sure the potatoes do not get too well done.
Remove from the oven when ready. Add the salt. Serves 6. May be increased for larger groups.
Slow Cooker Smokehouse Bacon Beans
32 ounce package dried pinto beans
1 pound thick cut bacon, cooked and diced
1 medium yellow onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups water
¼ cup molasses
1 cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup ketchup
1 tablespoon dried chipotle chili pepper
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Sort through beans and pick out any stones, small and shriveled, excessively dirty (like a black spot covering a whole side of a white bean), or otherwise look old and mishandled beans.
Pour beans into a large sieve or colander and rinse well. Pour rinsed beans into 6 quart slow cooker and cover with water by 2 inches. Place cover on and leave slow cooker OFF. Allow beans to soak overnight (about 8-12 hours).
Drain the soaked beans and rinse the slow cooker. Place onions, garlic and bacon into the slow cooker. Then add beans back into the slow cooker. Add water, molasses, brown sugar, ketchup, chili pepper, vinegar, and pepper. (Salt will be added at the end).
Cook on high for 10-12 hours until beans are tender. Add salt to taste, we use the full 1 tablespoon.
Serve and enjoy!
COOK’S NOTE: If you want your beans really thick, after about 10 hours remove 2 cups of beans from cooker and smash them. Add them back to the cooker and stir.
Warm French Bread with Melted Garlic Butter
1 Loaf French Bread
1/2 Cup Butter, Melted
2 Tablespoons Johnny’s Garlic Spread
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
In a small bowl, mix melted butter with Johnny’s Garlic Spread.
Split bread lengthwise, leaving about 1/2 inch still connected to create a butterflied loaf. CAREFULLY open bread on a shallow baking sheet.
Brush bread with butter mixture. CAREFULLY close bread, turn so that cut side is up, hinged side is down. Slice bread almost all the way through, leave “hinge” in tact.
CAREFULLY open bread, place in oven open to warm. Warm until lightly toasted. CAREFULLY transfer loaf to a clean kitchen towel. Wrap and place into a French Bread Basket.
To serve, pass wrapped loaf around the table, inviting diners to “break” off a piece of bread.
****** Salads ******
Now I suppose you could serve a toss salad and call it a day. That’s fine, and a salad served with a selection of favorite dressings such as Ranch or Thousand Island or even Creamy Blue Cheese would be great. So would a nice tomato salad, or a quivering jello salad. And who can pass up a good potato salad?
Asparagus and Tomato Salad with a Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette
Asparagus and Tomato Salad
1 bunch of asparagus
4 large tomatoes
1/4 heaping cup fresh basil, cut into ribbons
Remove the woody ends from the asparagus. Lay asparagus on a cutting board, tips even. Beginning at tips, cut trimmed asparagus into thirds.
Bring a small pot of water to a boil, add the asparagus and cook for 1 minute or until crisp-tender. Using a large slotted spoon or small strainer, pluck asparagus from the boiling water and immediately plunge into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Let asparagus remain in ice water for about a minute. Remove asparagus from ice water, place on paper towels to drain, folding more towels over top to absorb excess water.
Place blanched asparagus into a large bowl and set aside.
Cut tomatoes into bite-size pieces. Rinse, removing seeds and pulp. Pat dry with paper towels and place into bowl with asparagus.
Lay three or four basil leaves in a stack. Roll into a cigar shape. Cut width-wise into thin ribbons. Sprinkle over salad. Toss to combine. Chill well until ready to serve.
While salad is chilling, make dressing.
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon raw honey
1 large clove garlic, grated
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
In a small bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Whisk together until combined and honey has dissolved.
Place dressing into a small container with a tight-fitting lid. Set aside until ready to serve.
When ready to “dress” salad, shake dressing well to emulsify. Drizzle over salad and toss to coat. Serve remaining dressing along side salad with a small spoon to drizzle as desired.
Red Potato Salad
3 pounds red potatoes, cut into chunks
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup Mayonnaise Real
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon white vinegar
4 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
1 dill pickle, chopped
1/3 celery stalk, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
1 dash hot sauce
1 tablespoon dried dill weed
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 dash onion powder
salt and pepper to taste
Place the potatoes in a pot with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork. Drain, and transfer to a large bowl to cool.
In a medium bowl, mix the sour cream, mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, eggs, pickle, celery, green onions, and hot sauce. Season with dill, garlic powder, onion salt, salt, and pepper. Pour over the potatoes, and gently toss to coat. Chill at least 3 hours in the refrigerator before serving.
Tropical Pineapple-Lime Jello Salad
1 Large Can Crushed Pineapples, well-drained
1 ½ Cups Mini-Marshmallows
1 Box Large Box Lime Jello
1 Cup Cottage Cheese, small curd
1 Cup Cool-Whip, thawed
Drain pineapple juice into a measuring cup. Add enough water to create 1 ½ cups liquid. Bring to a boil. Add marshmallows, allow to melt.
Add Lime Jell-O, stir to dissolve. Cool until thickened. Add Cottage cheese and cool whip, stir to blend.
Place in a mold or glass serving dish. Chill overnight.
****** Refreshing Endings ******
There’s something about lemon desserts and being outdoors that just appeals to me – maybe it conjures up images of tall glasses of lemonade on a hot summer day. Fresh fruit is always a welcome treat. Even better on a cookie, don’t you think? And cupcakes and watermelons – talk about a trip down memory lane!
Lemon Pie Squares
2 envelopes cook & serve lemon pie filling
3 cups of graham cracker crumbs
12 tbsp melted butter
2 tbsp sugar
1 pint Heavy Whipped cream to top
1/4 Cup Sugar (or to taste)
2 Lemons, sliced for garnish
Prepare pie filling according to directions. Let cool in fridge.
Mix graham cracker crumbs with sugar and melted butter. Press into greased 9″ X 13″ inch pan. Pour filling onto crust. Place in fridge to chill.
Whip cream with sugar until stiff peaks form. Remove Lemon Pie Squares from refrigerator. Top with whipped cream and sprinkle with graham crumbs.
Serve chilled, garnish with slices of lemons, if desired.
Sugar Cookie Fruit Pizza
Sugar Cookie Crust
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature*
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 & 1/2 cups spoon & leveled all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 &1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the softened butter for about 1 minute on medium speed. Get it nice and smooth, then add the sugar on medium speed until fluffy and light in color. Beat in egg and vanilla. Scrape down the sides as needed.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cornstarch. With the mixer running on low-speed, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in 3 different parts. Once completely combined, cover the dough tightly and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes and up to 1 day. Without chilling, your cookie dough may spread over the sides of the pan.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12-inch pizza pan with cooking spray. Remove chilled cookie dough from the refrigerator and press onto the pizza pan in an even flat circle, as pictured above. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the eyes are very lightly browned. Over-baking will lend a hard crust. Allow crust to cool completely before decorating. After 10 minutes of cooling; crust can be placed in refrigerator to speed up the cooling process.
While crust cools, cream frosting and chop fruit.
Cream Cheese Frosting and Fruit Topping
8 oz Cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1-2 Tablespoons cream or milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Kiwi, peeled and sliced
Handful of Blueberries
1 Mandarin Orange, peeled and sliced
1 Small Basket Strawberries, sliced
In a medium bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar and 1 Tbsp cream. Beat for 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and 1 more Tbsp cream if needed to thin out. Beat for 1 minute. Spread in a thick layer over the cooled sugar cookie crust.
Decorate with fruit. Cut into slices and serve.
Fruit pizza may be made 1 day in advance, covered tightly, and stored in the refrigerator before serving. Leftovers keep well in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Don’t forget to stop by the bakery for some Labor Day inspired cupcakes all decked out in their red, white and blue. And watermelon – cold, crisp, wet – will someone pass the salt?
****** Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor this Labor’s Day ******