A Memorial Day Celebration in Food

Wow, May is nearly over – Memorial Day Weekend is going to be upon us before we know it! Cannot believe that Spring is behind us already. Where the heck did it go?

In preparing this year’s Memorial Day Menu, I brought out some faithful recipes from the past. I wanted something for everyone without the usual hamburgers and hot dogs. Three different kinds of meats for grilling. The side dishes are all popular with our family. Best of all any of the recipes can easily be adjusted to fit the size of your crowd.

When serving up a variety of dishes such as these, the best way to keep the hot foods hot is to invest in disposable chafing dishes (find them at the party goods store). Buffet/banquet tables draped in decorative disposable covers, and baskets with disposable flatware wrapped napkins work well while setting the mood. If at all possible, allow the tables to sit in the middle of the patio or backyard so that two lines can go through. Hot foods at one end o the buffet, cold foods at the other, each dish with two serving utilizes helps. Bottled soda in large buckets of ice (think large galvanized bucket – these can be found at a garden supply or feed store), beverage dispensers with lemonade and ice tea can be set up as a “bar”.

Feeling overwhelmed by all the various dishes? In our family, we’ve worked out a plan of attack that works well. The hosting family does the grilling, and the attending families complete the rest. One family can do the salads; another the sides; and so forth. Remember; the menu (although complete with yummy recipes) is nothing more than suggestions – and hopefully a source of inspiration.

Nothing like kicking the grilling season off with a big bang!

****** The Menu ******
The Grilled Meats
Grilled Smoked Sausage with Barbecue Sauce *
Kentucky Bourbon Grilled Chicken *
Tri-Tip Barbecue with Gourmet Rub *
Hot Dogs or Hamburgers for the Children

The Side Dishes
Cheater’s Chili with Chorizo *
Cooler Corn on the Cob *
Northern Style Corn Bread *

The Salads
Mema’s Potato Salad *
Pasta Salad *

Green Leaf Salad with assorted Dressings

The Refreshing Ends
Memorial Day  Berry Trifle *
Blackberry Cheesecake Bars *
Watermelon Wedges

Fruit Platters

* Recipes Below

****** The Meats ******

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.


Kentucky Bourbon Grilled Chicken
1 Tbs. canola oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup bourbon
1 Grilling Pack Chicken, about 8 pieces
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Make the bourbon-molasses sauce

Prepare a hot fire in a grill.

In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the ketchup, molasses, vinegar and bourbon and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

Season the chicken pieces with the salt and pepper. Lightly oil the grill rack. Place the chicken pieces, skin side down, on the rack over the drip pan, positioning the legs, thighs and wings closest to the heat. Cover the grill and cook, turning the pieces occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a thigh or breast (not touching bone) reads 170°F, about 50 minutes. During the last 10 minutes of grilling, brush the pieces generously with the sauce. Remove from the grill and serve.


Tri-Tip Barbecue with a Gourmet Rub
1 Tri-Tip Brisket, about 3 lbs
1/2 Tablespoon Fresh Ground Black Pepper
1 ½ Teaspoons Sea Salt
½ Tablespoon Smoked Paprika
¼ Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
½ Teaspoon Dijon Style Mustard
¼ Cup Red Wine
¼ Cup Olive Oil
6-8 Garlic Cloves, crushed
1 Teaspoon Onion Powder
1 Teaspoon Dried Rosemary, crushed

Mix all ingredients for gourmet rub. Rub into tri-tip brisket. Wrap brisket in plastic wrap, refrigerate for 2 or 3 hours minimum – the longer the better. Remove from refrigerator, let stand on counter for 45 minutes prior to grilling.

While the tri-tip comes to room temperature, build nice bed of hot coals. Open the bottom and top vents half way, place grate over coals and close lid to heat, about 5 minutes. Clean grate and oil paper towels dipped in vegetable oil.

Raise coals to high position (or lower grate, depending upon grill). Grill meat, fat side up, for 3-5 minutes or until nicely seared. Turn using meat tongs (NEVER stick a fork into it – the juices will run out, and that just makes for a dry hunk of meat) and sear other side. Lower coals (or raise the grate, depending upon grill), cover and continue to cook meat 7-10 minutes longer. Check for doneness using an instant read thermometer. You’ll want the thickest part at the center to be about 140 degrees. A thick tri-tip might need to be turned for a final time and grilled 5-8 minutes longer.

The key to a juicy piece of meat is to let the meat rest 10-15 minutes after grilling to allow the juices to soak back into the meat rather than run all over the cutting board. Keep in mind that while the meat rests, it will continue to cook, raising the internal temperature as much as ten degrees.

When carving, go ahead and slice on the serving platter. That way, any juices that escape can be spooned over the sliced meat when serving for extra flavor.

****** The Side Fixings ******

Cheater's Chili (4)

Cheater’s Chili with Chorizo
1 Large Can Dennison’s Hot Chili (no other brand will do!)
1 lb Chorizo
1/4 White Onion, finely chopped
1 Jalapeno Pepper, chopped (optional)
1/4 Cup Beef Stock
Grated Mild Cheddar Cheese for garnish
Additional Chopped onion, if desired, for garnish

Place Chili in a large pot over low heat.

Cook Chorizo meat, breaking into small pieces as it brown. Drain well and place in the pot with chili. Mix well.

Fry onions and Jalapeno pepper briefly in chorizo meat drippings (about 1 tablespoon of drippings is all that is needed) until tender-crisp.

Add onions and Jalapeno, mix again. Add beef stock, just enough to create a gravy-like consistency to the canned chili.

Cover and simmer on low for about 30 minutes, stirring pot as needed to prevent beans from sticking to the bottom and burning.

Note: This can be made in a crock pot. Cover and cook on HIGH 1 hour or LOW for 2 hours. The longer the chili simmers, the more the flavors marry and become one. When using a crock pot, there is no need to tend the beans, simply let them cook until ready to serve. Serve straight from crock pot with cheese and chopped onions on the side for garnish.


Cooler Corn on the Cob               

12-24 Ears of Corn
Boiling Water, enough to cover corn

Husk, clean and trim ears of corn.

Place corn in a clean camping cooler. Bring several kettles or pots of water to a boil, enough to cover corn.

Pour boiling water over corn, close lid and let steep for 30-45 minutes.

Note: Start corn steeping before leaving for picnic. CAREFULLY pack cooler in the trunk or back of the car. By the time you arrive, the corn should be done. It will keep warm for several hours. Drain excess water and don’t forget to pack the tongs for serving.


Northern-Style Sweet Corn BreadNorthern Style Sweet Corn Bread
Dry Ingredients:
1 1/2 Cup Flour
2/3 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Yellow Corn Meal
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Salt

Wet Ingredients:
2 Large Eggs, slightly beaten
1 1/4 Cups Milk
1/3 Cup Vegetable Oil
3 Tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Lightly grease an 8-inch square baking pan. Set aside until ready to use.

Combine dry ingredients in a medium size bowl. Set aside.

In another bowl, lightly beat eggs. Add wet ingredients and whip until well blended.

Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Mix until well incorporated. Pour batter into baking pan.

Bake until golden brown, about 35 minutes. Remove from oven, serve warm with plenty of sweet, creamy butter.


****** The Salads ******

Memapotato_salad’s Potato Salad
3 lbs Yukon Gold Potatoes
4 Eggs, hard-boiled
1 Red Onion, minced
2 Celery Stocks, minced
1 Tablespoon Bacon Drippings, warm (Optional)
¼ Cup Parsley
1 Cup Mayonnaise
1 Tablespoons Mustard
2 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar plus a sprinkling for potatoes
Kosher Salt & Fresh Black Pepper to taste

Peel and slice potatoes into large chunks. Place potatoes in a stockpot and cover with 1-inch of salted water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are just tender but not soft, about 10-15 minutes. Drain well. Sprinkle LIGHTLY with red wine vinegar and set aside in refrigerator to cool.

Using a thin needle, carefully poke a tiny hole into the smaller end of the egg-shell. Place eggs in a saucepan, add cold water to cover eggs. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and cover. Let sit for 12-14 minutes, then plunge eggs into cold water to stop cooking process. Set in refrigerator to cool.

In a bowl, combine onions, celery, bacon drippings, parsley, mayonnaise, mustard and red wine vinegar. Whisk to combine. Taste dressing and season with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.

Peel and chop 3 eggs. Add to dressing. Cut V marks in 4th egg to create two tulip flowers. Reserve 1 flower, chop other and add to dressing. Taste dressing a second time, adjust seasonings as necessary.

Place potatoes in a large bowl. Pour egg dressing over potatoes and toss to coat. Smooth out top. In the center, using the back of a spoon, create a small indentation. Place Egg flower into indentation. If desired, sprinkle lightly with paprika. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until well chilled.


images (28)Colorful Pasta Salad
1 lb Cork-Screw Pasta (tri-color is a nice touch)
2 Jars Marinated Mushrooms with Juice
2 Jars Marinade Artichoke Hears with Juice
1 small jar Marinated Stuffed Olives, sliced
1 Red Bell Pepper
1 Orange Bell Pepper
1 Yellow Bell Pepper
¼ Cup Green onion, chopped
¼ Cup Pitted Green Olives, sliced
½ Bottle Zesty Italian Salad Dressing (approximately)
2 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
Salt & Pepper to taste
3 Bell Pepper Rings, 1 of each color

Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water according to package directions. Drain and rinse well under cold running water. Set aside to continue draining.

In a bowl, reserve liquid from marinated mushrooms and artichoke hearts. Chop mushrooms and artichoke hearts into salad-size pieced. Place in a large serving bowl, preferably glass.

Core and slice bell peppers into ring cuts, reserve 1 of each color ring, chop the rest of the bell pepper into salad-size pieces. Add to the marinated vegetable mixture. Add green onions and sliced olives.

Combine reserved liquid, ½ cup salad dressing and 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar. Whisk to blend.

Add pasta to vegetable mixture, toss to combine. Pour enough dressing mixture to create a light coating over pasta. Refrigerate any remaining dressing. Season pasta salad with salt and pepper.

Cover and refrigerate salad over night for flavors to meld. Note: The salad may appear dry the following day since some of the liquid has been absorbed into the pasta. Add enough dressing to return to the desired dampness. Taste and adjust flavors with additional Zesty Italian Dressing, salt and pepper according to personal preferences. Smooth top of salad and arrange pepper rings in a decorative patter.

Salad2026-thumb-596x350-136535Simple Toss Green Salad – Favorite Home-Made Packaged Salad Mix take on a whole new look when placed in a wooden bowl with wooden servers. Have an assortment of the usual favorites such as Ranch Dressing; Italian or other popular selections. Place dressing into small bowls with small serving ladles and a bowl of croutons to accompany your salad.

****** The Sweet Endings ******

Berry TrifleMemorial Day Berry Trifle
1 package (3.4-ounce) instant vanilla pudding
2 cups fresh berries strawberries, washed and hulled, plus extra for garnish
2 cups blueberries, plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
24 to 36 ladyfingers

To make the fillings, prepare the pudding according to the package directions and chill it.

Slice the strawberries, then toss all of the berries with the lemon juice and the 1/4 cup of sugar. Set aside for 30 minutes to allow the berries to release their juices.

In a medium mixing bowl, whip the cream, vanilla extract, and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar until soft peaks form. Set aside.

To make the layers, set a layer of ladyfingers (around 7 or 8) on the bottom of a large, clear serving bowl. Top with about a third of the berries, then with half of the pudding.

Add another layer of ladyfingers, another third of the berries and juice, and the rest of the pudding.

Add a final layer of ladyfingers and berries. Top with the whipped cream and a berry garnish.

Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.

Note: If ladyfingers are not available, a loaf of Pound or Angle Food Cake cut into cubes make a wonderful substitute. Okay to make late in the morning, but not the night before or the cake becomes soggy.


Blackberry Cheesecake Bars
1 tube (16-1/2 ounces) refrigerated sugar cookie dough
1-1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1 carton (8 ounces) Mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon orange juice
1 tablespoon Amaretto, optional
1 cup seedless blackberry spreadable fruit
2-2/3 cups fresh blackberries

Preheat oven to 375°. Let cookie dough stand at room temperature 5 minutes to soften. Press onto bottom and 1 in. up sides of a greased 13×9-in. baking dish. Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat ricotta cheese, Mascarpone cheese and sugar until blended. Add eggs; beat on low-speed just until combined. Stir in vanilla, lemon peel, citrus juices and, if desired, amaretto. Pour into crust.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool 1 hour on a wire rack.

Place spreadable fruit in a small microwave-safe bowl; microwave on high for 30-45 seconds or until melted. Spread over cheesecake layer; top with blackberries. Refrigerate until serving.

Note: This yummy dessert can be made a day ahead of the big celebration.

Let cold, sweet watermelon slices, assorted fruits and Memorial Day themed cupcakes round out your dessert buffet.

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