Hit up the farmers market on Saturday or Sunday for many of the ingredients in this ideal Labor Day menu. Lots of fresh produce and herbs are in most of the dishes. Since Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer for many people, shouldn’t the best of what the summer had to offer be honored? And, since it’s Labor Day, buying food and beverages from local producers will honor the hard labor they put in all year round to provide for you.


With the exception of grilling the chicken, everything can be made long before your guests arrive.

Marinated, boneless chicken breast is used so the cooking time should be less than 20 minutes. You’ll have time to enjoy your party instead of spending half your time in the kitchen and the other half slaving over the grill.


BLT Bites – Cherry tomatoes are stuffed with mayo, bacon, green onions and more. Prepare the stuffing and the tomatoes separately the day before, and then stuff the tomatoes early the morning of the party.

Garden fresh salsa – This basic salsa recipe has so many fresh flavors running through it, people can’t resist it. You’ll definitely want to make a double batch. Serve with organic tortilla chips.

Raw vegetables with homemade onion dip – Slice carrots, celery, and different colored peppers to dip in this onion dip that will definitely not be mistaken for the kind that has a packet of dry soup mix in it. The dip and slicing the veggies can be done the day before.

Main dish

Grilled Tequila-Lime Chicken – This recipe that serves six can easily be doubled or tripled to accommodate how many guests you have at your party.

Side dishes

Green Bean and Cherry Tomato Salad – Prepare the vegetables and the vinaigrette separately for this salad the day before. Toss them together right before serving. You can give that task to one of the guests that have asked, “What can I do to help?”

New Red Potato Salad – Potato salad is a must at summer BBQ’s and picnics. This is a basic potato salad that is sure to please everyone. You’ll want to make this one the day of, but it can be done several hours in advance.


Fresh cut up summer fruit – Put out a tray of watermelon and cantaloupe slices that can be sliced the day before.

Apple Pie – Local apples should be plentiful at the farmers market by Labor Day. This recipe has a crumb topping so you don’t have to worry about the top of your pie looking perfect (Not that I ever do, but I know people that hand me a pie and apologize for things like imperfect crimping).

Watermelon, Lemonade and Blueberry Ice Pops – This is the most labor-intensive recipe in the bunch because you have to freeze each layer before you can add the next. But it looks so pretty and screams summer so I wanted to bring it to your attention. If this is too much work, try the recipe below.

Lemon Juice Ice Pop – Easier than the one above, and perhaps a bit kid-friendlier. The fresh lemons make an icy, refreshing treat for kids and grownups.


Go local with your wine and beer for this Labor Day menu. A crisp, cold white wine from a local winery will be a good pairing with the Tequila-Lime Chicken. Light summer ales from nearby breweries will refresh your guests.

An Organic Lime Rickey would complement the main dish, too, and this recipe makes enough for a crowd.

Iced Tea – You need to provide something for guests who don’t want to imbibe. Here’s a basic iced tea recipe for a crowd that you can make the day ahead. Provide lemon wedges on the side for those that want lemon in their tea.

One last tip to lighten your workload. If you have a guest who offers to bring something, but doesn’t have anything specific in mind, why not give them one of these appetizer or side dish recipes so you have one less thing to make? My sister-in-law sometimes will e-mail the exact recipe she would like made for a get-together, and I think it’s a terrific idea.

MNN homepage photo: fotohunter/iStockphoto

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Ideal make-ahead Labor Day menu
Lots of make ahead dishes with local ingredients let you enjoy your guests over the holiday weekend instead of slaving in the kitchen.