Labor Day Cookout 2017

One week to go and it’s Labor Day – the unofficial end to summer and the Backyard Party Season. Labor Day is an American celebration of the workforce. The very first Labor Day Parade took place on a Tuesday, September 5, 1882. It was the brain-child of Peter J. McGuire, a carpenter and labor union leader. Mr. McGuire felt the span between Independence Day and Thanksgiving was far too long, and the workers deserved a holiday all their own somewhere in between. His inspiration came from America’s northern neighbor, Canada. In 1887, Oregon became the first state to declare Labor Day as a public holiday. By 1894, Congress had unanimously voted to approve legislation to make Labor Day a National Holiday, moving the date to the first Monday in September.

All I know is that Labor Day is one of my all-time favorite National Holidays. Who doesn’t love a three-day weekend? It’s a last hora for the barbecue/picnic season, and it means Autumn isn’t far off – my favorite time of the year in the kitchen.

While I’m not sure just where we will be this Labor Day, my menu is planned and I’m excited to get cooking! First up, this year’s menu. Those of you who have read my blogs of the past know that one of my favorite things to do is to create menus. There’s something wonderful about the thought and reflection that goes into a set menu. Sometimes I fear the meal planning  task is a lost art for the homemaker of today. So busy with work, the children and running Mom’s Taxi Service, meals are often last-minute decisions.

Appetizers and Munchies:
Red, White & Blue Deviled Eggs
Roast Beef Spirals with Cream Cheese-Horseradish Spread
Store-Bought Chips, Dips and Assorted Munchies

Main Goodies:
Grilled New Mexican Marinated Flank Steak
Spice-Rubbed Picnic Chicken in Sourdough Bread Bowls
Hot Dogs & Hamburgers

Side Dishes:
Butterfly Pesto Pasta Salad
Mema’s Potato Salad
Watergate Jello Salad
Sliced Mellons such as Cantaloupe and Honey Dew

Sweet Delights:
Shirley Temple Bundt Cake
Platter of cookies or store-bought mini cupcakes

Red, White & Blue Deviled Eggs
For The Eggs
16 Hard Boiled Eggs (or as needed, see tip below)
1 Cup Mayonnaise
3 Teaspoons Dijon Mustard (or your favorite style)
4 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
Onion powder to taste
Garlic Powder to taste
Kosher Salt and White Pepper to taste

Tip: Boil 2 or 3 eggs more than required to fill serving tray. The extra eggs give more yolk filling, the extra whites allow for tasting and adjusting seasonings if necessary.

To Boil eggs, place eggs in a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to a full boil. Remove from heat, cover and let rest for 12-14 minutes. Drain, then plunge eggs into ice-cold water to cease the cooking process. The results will be a perfectly cooked egg with a sunny yellow yolk.

Tips for Peeling Hard-Boiled Eggs: Once eggs are cool enough to handle, roll gently on counter to crack shells. Place into cold water, refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from water and peel. Water will work its way into shell, the result is an easily peeled egg. Farm Fresh eggs are difficult to peel. Try to buy your eggs at least a week in advance.

Peel eggs and cut in half lengthwise. Remove egg yolks and place yolks in food processor with mixing/chopping blade. Set whites aside and mix coloring.

For The Coloring
2 or 3 teaspoon Royal Blue Food Coloring (more if needed)
2 or 3 teaspoon Red Food Coloring (more if needed)
2 tablespoons white vinegar, divide

In a glass bowl, mix 1 cup hot water, distilled white vinegar and Royal Blue Food Coloring. Mix well and add more coloring if desired. In another glass bowl, mix remaining cup of hot water, distilled white vinegar and Red Food Coloring. Mix well, and add more coloring if desired. Set coloring bowls aside until ready to color.

Mix/chop yolks until fluffy and are fine grade resembling bread crumbs. Add mayonnaise and mustard and mix until creamy. Mix in red wine vinegar one tablespoon at a time and season to taste. Transfer yolk mixture to a bowl and chill until ready to fill.

Divide egg white halves into three groups. One group is to remain uncolored, the remaining two are colored red and blue.

Color one-third of the egg whites, one at a time, in the blue mixture. Allow egg white to soak undisturbed for about 3 or 4 minutes. Turn gently to allow other side to soak.. Once desired color is reached, remove dyed white from coloring. Lay on a paper-towel lined baking sheet cut side down and let drain/dry. Repeat until a third of the egg whites have been colored blue.

Color another third of the egg whites in red coloring as above.

To assemble: Place 12 white halves on serving dish or egg platter. Select best of the halves.

Spoon filling mixture into a piping bag fitted with desired tip. (I like the larger star for deviled eggs), then pipe into egg white halves.

Tent with plastic wrap (using toothpicks for “tent) and refrigerate until ready to serve.


Roast Beef Spirals with Cream Cheese-Horseradish Spread
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
2 green onions, chopped about 1/2 cup
1⁄4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish, drained
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon garlic powder
8 ounces deli roast beef, sliced
2 10-inch flour tortillas, (flavored add a nice touch)

Combine cream cheese, green onions, parsley, horseradish, salt and garlic powder. Blend until smooth.

Place the two tortillas on work surface, spread half of cheese over each, top each with half of the roast beef slices, leaving a 1/2 inch border around edges.

Roll up, wrap tightly in plastic wrap.

Refrigerate until firm, 30 minutes or up to 1 day ahead. Remove from refrigerator, unwrap and cut diagonally into 1/2 inch slices. Arrange cut-side up on serving tray.

Note: For a red, white and blue presentation, add a little blue food coloring to the cream cheese mixture and use white flour tortillas.

New Mexican Marinated Flank Steak
For the Steak
2 to 2 1/2 pound flank steak

Place flank steak in a large casserole dish, allowing steak to lay flat. Set aside while marinade is made.


For the New Mexican Marinade
2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons Mexican Oregano, crushed between your palms
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon powdered cumin seed
Juice from 2 limes
4 to 5 cloves minced garlic

In a medium-size bowl, combine all the ingredients. Whisking to blend well.

Pour marinade over steak. Cover, refrigerate, and let marinate overnight or at least 8 to 10 hours, turning several times.

When ready to cook, remove from refrigerator 30 minutes prior to grilling. Prepare and pre-heat your grill for cooking. Grill the marinated steak 5 to 7 minutes per side, is medium rare or until the internal temperature reaches desired temperature on your meat thermometer. Flank steak is best when grilled rare or medium rare. Overcooking will result in a tough, dried out hunk of meat.

Remove from heat and let steak rest 5 minutes before slicing. With a sharp knife, slice steak thinly against (diagonal) the grain.


Spice-Rubbed Picnic Chicken in Sourdough Bread
For The Rub:
6 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
¼ Cup Kosher Salt (reduce by half if using table salt)
¼ Cup Chili Powder
½ Cup Paprika
4 Teaspoons Black or White Pepper
½-¾ Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper (increase for spicier flavor)

For The Chicken & Everything Else
2 bone-in Split Chicken Breasts, trimmed, skin slashed, cut in half
4 Bone-in Chicken Thighs, trimmed and skin slashed
4 bone-in Chicken drumsticks, trimmed and skin slashed
2 Large or 4 Small Bread Bowls, hollowed out (save bread)
2 Large or 4 small sheets of foil (to wrap the chicken-filled bowls)

Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with foil and top with wire racks. Set aside.

Combine sugar, salt, chili powder, paprika, pepper and cayenne in a small bowl. Coat chicken pieces with spice mixture, gently lifting skin to distribute spices underneath while leaving skin attached to chicken. Place chicken skin-side up on prepared wire racks, tent with foil and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, up to 24 hours for best flavors.

Adjust oven racks upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 475-degrees.

Remove foil covering from chicken and roast until brown, crisp and breasts register 160-degrees. Roast chicken for 20 minutes. Switch and rotate baking sheets, continue to roast 15 minutes longer.

Transfer breast pieces to a platter or dish, cover to keep warm. Continue to roast thighs and drumsticks until they register 175-degrees, about 10-15 minutes longer. Turn off oven. Place an assortment of chicken pieces inside each bowl. Top with bread “lid”. Wrap tightly in foil and keep in the warm oven until ready to  place on the table, no more than an hour to prevent everything from drying out. Once removed from oven, keep everything wrapped in foil until ready to serve. Bread will absorb some of the chicken flavoring while keeping the chicken warm.

Butterfly Pesto Pasta Salad
3 Garlic Cloves, unpeeled
1 Cup Fresh Basil
1 ½ Cups Baby Spinach
¼ Cups Pine Nuts
¼ Cup Olive Oil
3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
Salt & Pepper
¼ Cup Parmesan Cheese
½ Cup Best Foods Mayonnaise
1 lb Farfalle Pasta (bow-tie)
1/4 Cup or so Reserved cooking water

Toast garlic in a small skillet over medium-heat, shaking pan occasionally, until fragrant and color deepens slightly, about 7 minutes. Let garlic cool, then peel and chop coarse.

Process garlic, basil, spinach, pine nuts, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in food processor until smooth, stopping to scrape down bowl as needed. Add Parmesan Cheese and mayonnaise, continue to process until thoroughly combined. Transfer pesto to a small bowl, cover and refrigerate until needed. (Mixture can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours).

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rapid boil. Add pasta and cook, stirring often, until pasta is just past al dente. Reserve ¼ cup of pasta cooking water, drain pasta. Toss pasta with a little olive oil and spread into a single layer on rimmed baking sheet. Let pasta cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, toss cooled pasta with pesto, adding reserved pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until pesto evenly coasts pasta.


Mema’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)
1 Cup Mayonnaise
1/4 Cup Sour Cream
1 Tablespoons Mustard
2 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar plus a sprinkling for potatoes
Kosher Salt & Fresh Black Pepper to taste
¼ Cup Parsley or green onion for garnish

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.

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. Once cooled, roll egg on counter to crack the shell. Return eggs to cold water and let sit for about 15 minutes. This will help to make the eggs easier to peel.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine onions, celery, bacon drippings, mayonnaise, mustard, sour cream 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. Sprinkle top of salad with parsley or chopped green onion for added color. If desired, sprinkle lightly with paprika. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until well chilled.


Watergate Salad
8 oz Cool Whip
1 Box Pistachio Pudding Mix (low-fat)
16 oz Crushed Pineapple with juice
1 Cup Mini-Marshmallows
1/2 Cup Chopped Pecans, optional

Fold pudding mix into cool whip until well incorporated.

Add remaining ingredients.

Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least an hour.

Note: To add a little more color, try using colored mini-marshmallows or garnish with maraschino cherries or both!

Shirley Temple Cake
The Bundt Cake
1 1/2 cups butter softened
3 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons lemon extract
3/4 cup 7-Up
1 jar maraschino cherries 10 oz, drained and juice reserved

Pre-heat oven to 325.

In large bowl mix together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add in the eggs and continue to mix until blended. Next add the flour and mix again until smooth. Add the lemon extract and 7-Up. Beat lightly to combine.

Gently fold the cherries into the batter. Set aside until ready to bake.

Grease a bundt pan with shortening, then dust it with flour.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 1/2 hours or until center is set.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remember, the cake will continue to cook while in the pan.

Turn the cake out on a cooling rack, then turn again so that it is right side up. Place the cake while still warm onto a serving dish.

Using a skewer, poke holes all over the top of the cake. Slowly pour the reserved cherry juice over the cake and let it all soak in. Don’t worry if the juice soaks all the way to the bottom. It will be fine. Let the cake cool completely. While cake cools, make the glaze.

The Glaze
2 cups powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon lemon extract
3-4 Tablespoons milk

In a bowl, mix together the powdered sugar and lemon extract. Add milk, one tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.

Once cake is cooled, drizzle with glaze. Garnish with cherries and serve.

Wishing you and your family a wonderful, fun-filled Labor Day! If you are looking for more Labor Day recipes, check out a few suggestions from the past:

Labor Day Picnic – A Fond Farewell To Summer

****** The Menu ******
The Main Dishes
Grilled Onion Hamburgers
Bratwurst in Beer – Picnic Style
Italian Muffuletta Picnic Sandwich

The Side Dishes
Cooler Corn on the Cob
Mema’s Potato Salad

The Salads
Asparagus and Tomato Salad with a Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette
Red Potato Salad*

Tropical Pineapple-Lime Jello Salad 

The Sweet Dessert:
Peach-Almond Upside Down Cake

Labor Day – Oh My!

****** The Menu ******
The Grilled Meats
Grilled Smoked Sausage with Barbecue Sauce 
Boozy Bacon Bourbon Barbecue Chicken Kabobos 
Grilled Flat Iron Steak with Chimichurri Sauce 
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

The Salads
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 

If nothing else, I hope you come away with some inspiration and create your own Labor Day celebration that is perfect for your family and friends.

Labor Day – Oh My!

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 a few Uncles and Aunts – we were easily a dozen kids or more. 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.

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.

Oh, one last thing before we get started – make as much or as little as you like. 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 *
Grilled Flat Iron Steak with Chimichurri Sauce *
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*

The Salads
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
Watermelon Wedges

* Recipes Below

****** Grilled 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.

This recipe can easily be increased depending upon how large a crowd you plan to serve.

DSC_0067-1024x680Boozy 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.


Grilled Flat Iron Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
Ingredients: Flat Iron Steak
1 Flat Iron Steak, about 1 1/2 – 2 pounds
1 Tablespoon Montreal Steak Seasoning

Take the steak out of the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before cooking, rub with steak rub, and let it come to room temperature.

Build a fire in the charcoal grill, heating grill to medium-high heat. Clean grate and wipe with a little oil to prevent steak from sticking.

Place Flat Iron Steak on the grill at an angle. After about 3-4 minutes, or when nice grill marks start to form, rotate steak 45 degrees using tongs and continue to grill for about 3-4 minutes more on first side.

Flip steak over, again at angle and repeat grilling on second side. Continue to grill until cooked to your liking. Flat Iron Steak should be cooked no more than medium rare, for about 12 minutes, depending upon thickness of the cut.

When steak is done to your liking, remove from grill, tend and let rest for 5 minutes to allow juices to settle. Slice steak thinly across the grain. Serve hot, with Chimichurri sauce drizzled down the center. Serve remaining sauce on the side to add as desired.

Ingredients – Chimichurri Sauce
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves (about 1 cup before chopping)
1/2 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley leaves (about 1 cup before chopping)
2 Tablespoons Roasted minced garlic
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 Teaspoons White or Red wine vinegar
1/4 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup olive oil

Wash cilantro leaves and parsley leaves and dry with paper towel or spin dry in salad spinner. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, finely chop the cilantro, parsley, and garlic.  Transfer mixture to a glass bowl.

Add lemon juice, wine vinegar, and seasonings. Whisk to combine.  Slowly whisk in olive oil. Let sauce stand at room temperature for a minimum of 30 minutes for flavors to marry. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.


****** Sides ******

roasted rosemary potatoesRoasted 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 BeansSlow 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 ButterWarm 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 ******

Tomato-and-Asparagus-SaladAsparagus 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.

Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette
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 saladRed 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 Lime JelloTropical 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 ******

Lemon Pie SquaresLemon 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 PizzaSugar 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.

****** Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor this Labor’s Day ******


Labor Day Picnic – A Fond Farewell To Summer

I love picnics, don’t you? There’s something magical about eating outdoors – be it on the patio, at the beach, along a riverbank or under the canopy of beautiful trees that seems to make everything taste better. And what better way to bid farewell to summer than with a picnic. Labor Day and Picnics are a tradition. All across America, there are colorful parades (yea!) and wind-bag speeches we could all do without. We can listen to wonderful music from bandstand pavilions and the laughter of children at play. As always, there will be plenty of yummy foods. Labor Day is a celebration of the accomplishments of the worker, and a time to enjoy the purpose behind all our hard work in the first place – our families.

It’s one thing to plan a menu for backyard entertaining – with a nice big grill and a full kitchen at your disposal. With such luxuries,  there are no limitations to the menu. It’s another thing to plan for a picnic in the great outdoors. I like to have both hot foods and cold foods to choose from, with a variety of sides and beverages. Picnics involve the need to haul everything in and haul out again. Forget something – like the buns or meat and it could be disastrous.

When we have a picnic, I always make a check list – and check it twice. When making a check list, it helps if you are familiar with the site and you don’t have any surprises such as no tables or no grill. When in doubt, plan to bring your own. (When using grills at a picnic site, it’s always a good idea to bring a wire brush to scrub the grate clean and maybe some foil just to be on the safe side).

To make things a little easier, I’ve arranged the recipes for the menu into the day before and the day of – some things (like steeping the bratwurst in beer and boiling the water for cooler cob corn) can be started at home, then finished at the picnic site.

In addition to the menu that follows; might I also suggest some cold chicken (or a bucket of KFC), fresh fruit and well-chilled slices of watermelon. As always, take what you like – add to it your traditional favorites or let these recipes inspire you to create something new. Above all else, have fun!

Recipes on the Menu:
Grilled Onion Hamburgers
Bratwurst in Beer – Picnic Style
Italian Muffuletta Picnic Sandwich
Cooler Corn on the Cob
Mema’s Potato Salad
Peach-Almond Upside Down Cake

 Day Before Picnic:

Italian Muffuletta Picnic Sandwich
1 Large Sourdough bread round
Balsamic Vinaigrette as needed
2-3 Garlic Cloves, chopped
Salt to taste
Fresh Pepper to taste
8 oz Smoked Ham or Prosciutto
8 oz Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella, thinly sliced
1 Cucumber, thinly sliced
8 oz Pepperoni and/or capicola, mortadella and salami
6-8 Fresh Basil leaves, torn
8 oz Bacon or Pancetta, fried and crumbled
1 Red or Purple Italian Onion, sliced
1 Roasted Red Pepper
2-3 Roma Tomato, sliced
1 Tablespoon Fresh Oregano, chopped
1 Tablespoon Fresh Thyme, chopped
4 Green Onions, sliced
Green Olives, sliced OR Green Olive Salad Spread

Quick fry bacon or Pancetta, crumble and set aside.

Slice cucumbers, set aside until ready to use.

Slice Mozzarella, wrap to keep from drying out and set aside until ready to use.

Peel and thinly slice onion, set aside until ready to use.

Slice tomatoes, toss with oregano and thyme. Set aside until ready to use.

Hollow out bread round so a 1/2 inch wall of bread remains.

Brush the inside liberally with balsamic vinaigrette a couple minced cloves of garlic and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Begin filling the inside with layers.

  1. Smoked ham or prosciutto.
  2. Fresh buffalo mozzarella.
  3. Thinly cucumbers. Drizzle with vinaigrette before beginning next layer.
  4. Pepperoni and/or capicola, mortadella and salami.
  5. Fresh basil leaves.
  6. Bacon or pancetta, crumbled.
  7. Purple onion
  8. Roasted red pepper
  9. Roma tomato, fresh oregano and thyme
  10. Sliced green olives or olive spread. Drizzle with more vinaigrette, salt & pepper before continuing.
  11. Finish layers with one more layer of smoked ham or prosciutto.

Press down to compact ingredients. Top with bread “cap” and press down again. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap.

Place on a plate and weigh down with the lid of a cast iron dutch oven (or something heavy.)

Chill in refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Remove weights, pack in picnic basket. Slice to serve.

Original Recipe:


potato_saladMema’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 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.

Keep potato salad in a cooler until ready to serve.


Morning of Picnic:

Peach-Almond Upside Down CakePeach-Almond Upside-Down Cake
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 medium peaches or nectarines, pitted and cut into 6 wedges each
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole almonds
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup whole milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a 9-inch-round cake pan. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add 3/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon water and cook, stirring occasionally, until smooth and deep golden brown, 8 to 11 minutes. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and tilt to coat the bottom. Arrange the peach wedges snugly in the bottom of the pan in a single layer, cutting to fit if needed.

Combine the flour, almonds, baking powder and salt in a food processor and pulse until the almonds are finely ground.

Beat the remaining 7 tablespoons butter and 3/4 cup sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts. Beat in the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour mixture; beat in each addition until just incorporated.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool 30 minutes. Invert onto a plate and let cool completely.

Don’t forget to pack a knife for slicing the cake!


Dog - BratwurstBratwurst in Beer with Onions – Picnic Style
1 or 2 Package Johnsonville Bratwurst (2 per person)
1 Onion, sliced *
Beer – enough to cover Bratwurst
1 or 2 Package Steak Rolls or Bratwurs Buns- depending upon number of bratwurst to be cooked

AT HOME: Peel and slice onions into thin rings, set aside.  (*Plan on 1 onion for every 5 Bratwurst)

Pierce Bratwurst with a fork to allow fat to drain and beer to soak into meat. Place Bratwurst in a large pot. Cover with beer, top with onion slices and let soak for about 45 minutes.

Remove onions from pot, place on some paper towels to drain. Make a pouch from aluminum foil, place onions in pouch and seal well. Pack onions for picnic.

Turn heat on under soaking bratwurst. Let sausage simmer in beer for about 10 minutes. Remove from beer, wrap in foil and pack for picnic.

AT PICNIC: Heat a portable gas grill or build a fire in a small charcoal grill. When grill is hot, place packets of onions on grill to warm.  Arrange bratwurst on grill and cook until outer skin begins to brown and blister, turning as needed, about 5 or 6 minutes per side.

Spread mustard or favorite condiment onto bun. Top with bratwurst and onion.


Grilled HamburgersGrilled Onion Burgers
2 lbs Ground Beef
1 lb Ground Pork
1 Envelope Dry Onion Soup Mix
3 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
Salt & Pepper to taste
Sliced Cheddar Cheese as needed
Hamburger Buns

At Home: In a bowl, combine ingredients until well-mixed. Divide into 6 large burgers or 8 medium patties, separate each patty with waxed paper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to pack.

At Picnic: Remove burger patties from cooler, keep wrapped until ready to grill.

Prepare grill for burgers.

Season meat with hamburger seasoning. Cook hamburgers on hot grill until cooked through, turning once, about 5-6 minutes per side.

Remove burgers to serving platter. Top half with cheese. Tent to keep warm.


corn-on-the-cob-547x365Cooler 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.


Iced TeaBeverage Suggestions:
Assorted Cans of Soda on ice
Thermos of Lemonade
Thermos of Ice Tea


Picnic Packing Check List:

Food Check List:
Hamburger Patties
Cheese for Burgers
Bratwurst Steeped in Beer
Italian Muffuletta Picnic Sandwich
Corn on the Cob
Butter for Corn
Potato Salad
Peach-Almond Upside Down Cake

Cooler for perishable foods:
Container of Ketchup
Container of Mustard
Container of Mayonnaise
Container of Hamburger Pickles
Container of Lettuce (for burgers)
Container of Sliced Tomatoes (for burgers)
Container for Potato Salad
Container of Butter for Corn

Thermos for Lemonade
Thermos for Ice Tea

Plenty of Ice

Cooler for Corn

Basket for non-perishable foods:
Hamburg buns
Bratwurst Buns
Salt for Corn
Seasoning for Burgers

Basket for Plates; platters and utensils:
Knives to spread condiments
Knife and Server for Cake
Knife and Server for Sandwich
Platter for burgers and bratwurst
Platter for lettuce, tomatoes and pickles
Platter for Cake
Serving Spoon for Potato Salad
Fork for Tomatoes
Tongs for serving Corn
Plates for Food
Plates for Dessert
Forks for Food
Forks for Dessert
Cups or Tumblers for Beverages

Barbecue Tools: Wire Brush, Tongs and Spatula Burgers
Picnic Tents to keep the bugs away
Table cloth

Bag for dirty dishes
Bag for trash
Bag for empty cans (don’t forget to recycle)



Hope you had a wonderful summer filled with love, laughter and memories to warm the heart.