Menu planning for Labor Day Celebrating

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Long weekends. Who doesn’t love getting to luxuriate in one extra day to spend with family or friends? The best part is Labor Day is one that you get paid to take. Something about celebrating a year of labor with a day paid to not labor is pretty exciting. It’s also a day everyone gets to take (well except perhaps certain retail stores or restaurants).  I don’t know about you, but typically there is at least one party or cook-out in those three days- it somehow isn’t the Memorial Day weekend or the Labor Day weekend without one. While potlucks are uber-easy, hosting a fun get-together doesn’t necessarily require weeks of planning in advance. I’ve put together several scenarios for planning the impromptu Labor Day shindig.  In both instances, I give examples of prep day before and day of timing. I’m a big fan of cleaning as I go and think the multi-tasking of cooking is a fun dance. Decorations are good to help set the mood of your party as Sabrina reminded me at HLS a few weeks back. Pick a color scheme and coordinate around that. For example if yellow is your “it” color right now, maybe fill a glass vase or bowl with lemons and pick up some yellow paper or cloth napkins at the store. This could also inspire your beverage of choice- in this case a citron presse (freshly squeezed lemon juice with sparkling water and agave to sweeten as desired).

Gluten-Free Get-Together

  • MAIN: Marinated flank steak
  • VEGGIES: Summer Squash, Zucchini, coined; Red Onion, slices
  • SIDE: Baby Red Potatoes, cubed with Rosemary, Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper
  • DESSERT: Gluten Free Brownies, topped with a square of attune Mint Chocolate

DAY BEFORE: You’ll want to let the steak marinate overnight so all the good flavor of the marinade gets soaked into the steak. I would also recommend making the brownies the day before so all you have to do the day of the party is serve them. After the brownies come out of the oven, let them sit for 10 minutes. Break attune bars into two squares each. Position one square of attune mint chocolate on top of brownie square and press down so that as it cools, it will be affixed to the top.

DAY OF: Turn the oven onto 400 degrees when you start the grill. When the grill is ready to go, put your steak on- it will only have to grill for 16 minutes total.  Drizzle EVOO on the potatoes and toss with rosemary, freshly cracked black pepper and sea salt until well coated. Once the oven is at the right temperature, stick the potatoes in for about 10 minutes. Pull them out and test to see if they are fork tender- if not, stick them back in for a few minutes. (This is one of my favorite ways to make potatoes- rosemary brings out the best in the potato!)  After the meat is done, remove from grill and let sit for 10 minutes. During that 10 minutes, get those veggies on the grill and brush them with EVOO. With a little bit of prep, you’re ready to go!

Small Soiree (no grill required)

DAY BEFORE: My Mom swears by marinating chicken in milk overnight. She has oft said that it brings out the juiciness of the chicken. After you’ve done that, I would recommend chopping your carrots in angled coins and sticking in a container so they’re ready to go the day of your party. Also if you can bake the pie at this time, it will let the flavors set (and be one less thing on your plate for tomorrow).

DAY OF: Turn the oven onto 375 degrees. Mince a few sprigs of chives. Then start peeling and quarter your potatoes as well as setting the water to boil. Start making the Uncle Sam encrusted chicken breasts (and make sure to pulverize the Uncle Sam cereal in a food processor to make the coating fine). When the oven is at the right temperature, stick the chicken in as it will need to cook for 25 minutes. Once water is boiling, gently drop in the naked potatoes. For the carrots, I’m a big fan of chervil. Set the angled carrot coins on your cooking sheet. Lightly brush with clarified butter (add in some honey, some chervil, a small splash of orange juice and a pinch of salt). Place in the oven for 5 minutes. Check your potatoes and when fork tender, remove and drain them. The way I make mashed potatoes is all about tasting along the way as that helps you know what you need a pinch or splash more of.  So start mashing the potatoes and add some goat cheese, a splash of warm milk and some of your minced chives. Do this until you’re happy with the consistency and taste and perhaps crack some pepper and a little bit of salt on them.  This particular menu incorporates healthier takes on familiar favorites as well as a slice of indulgence.

Any way you serve it up, long weekends are meant to be enjoyed. A brunch would be another different spin on the Labor Day celebration. If you’re planning a party this weekend, what are you cooking?

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