How wonderful are Labor Day vacations? They snag the last bits of summer, salvaging time with family and friends before the rush of fall schedules pulls us in different directions. They celebrate cooler weather and golden sunlit evenings. They offer rest.
When I was growing up, Labor Day was our favorite family vacation time. We reshuffled our homeschooling schedule and headed to a lake outside Poestenkill, NY to be “away from it all,” without internet or phone lines. We canoed, hiked, and if we weren’t afraid of cold water, we water-skied or swam. Some years we made our way even farther north, up to the Adirondacks, to a campsite only reachable by boat. Over an open fire, my mother cooked the sausage we’d purchased from the mainland’s general store. When I was old enough, she offered me coffee percolated over the campfire, which still ranks as the best cup of coffee I have ever tasted. I now appreciate the amount of work that went into all of this. It was hardly a rest from labor for her, but she always put a lot of thought and energy into making Labor Day vacations memorable.
To make your Labor Day vacation or picnic memorable–and hopefully restful, too–here are the top 15 easy, in-season, picnic-ready meals from our blog. Click on the titles to get the recipes!
Grilled Peaches with Riesling Reduction and Amaretti Cookies
Think beyond the classic peach pie or cobbler with this elegant dessert… another dessert delight from the kitchen of Marie Connell. “I just love peaches,” she says. When peaches are in season, they are available by the bushel. Grilled peaches, says Marie, are a different, elegant way to “showcase the fruit.”
Brie Quesadillas with Peach Compote and Basil
The brie-peach combination is a match made in heaven and should definitely be a match made on Labor Day vacations. Both brie and peaches are sweet and soft, and brie adds a layer of saltiness that will have you wondering where all the quesadillas went soon after you set them down on the picnic table! These Brie quesadillas, made with a sweet balsamic peach compote recipe from Lori Scheckler of DiBruno Brothers, are best when baked. (They’re hard to flip in a frying pan.) While they are probably not the best bet for camping trips or far-from-home picnics, they are delicious for backyard celebrations!
Peach Oat Crisp
Here’s a favorite peach dessert from Wolff’s chef, Chuck Smith. For this recipe, Smith says to select ripe peaches (easy this time of year). He advises cooks to pay attention to the crust, making sure it doesn’t get overcooked. He recommends it after a meal of pork and cold beer.
This delicious peach cobbler from the kitchen of Gloria Sands of Boyertown, PA blends the flavors of peaches, nutmeg and buttermilk. It’s become a Wolff’s favorite!
I never thought watermelon could be more refreshing than when eaten by the slice, but this salad proves that it can be! Combined with cool cucumbers and pops of ginger, this salad is the ultimate cool-down treat.
Here’s another amazing, healthy and refreshing way to capitalize on in-season watermelon! “When you have a hankering for soup, but it’s just too hot, a gazpacho is the way to go,” says Janice Kelsey, who shared her recipe with Wolff’s blogger Jennifer Hetrick. “This one has the added cooling flavors of lime and ginger. And when it’s hot out, we often don’t feel like eating much. Serve this with a whole wheat baguette and some olive oil and you have a light, healthy, satisfying summer meal.”
Sugary beverages call to us during the summer months, but when you make your own soda, you get to control how much sugar (or honey or stevia) is in each glass. When you make homemade sodas with fresh fruit and herbs, you add nutritional value to that refreshing beverage!
Grilled Spanish Corn
‘Tis the season for sweet corn, and this recipe from Wolff’s chef Chuck Smith adds new energy to this summer standby with a dash of cayenne, crumbled Cotija cheese, lime juice and homemade mayonnaise.
Rachel VanDuzer, Wolff’s Apple House marketing consultant, offers a delicious lower-fat alternative to traditional guacamole, complete with green onions, cilantro, avocado and roasted sweet corn. Yum!
Open-Face Tomato Sandwiches
Local tomatoes brighten up every recipe you add them to, and this recipe, made with filling baby bella mushrooms, a fried egg and tangy chimichurri, puts them to a particularly zingy and satisfying use.
Indian Summer Salsa
Here’s another great side dish from Rachel VanDuzer. It captures all the flavors of September: tomatoes, peaches, corn and basil. “Dice the tomato and peaches finely,” says Rachel, “and especially finely chop the jalapeño so no one gets caught with a big bite of jalepeño! The basil and peach really make this recipe stand out. The peaches are a sweet complement to the heat of the jalepeños, and the basil is an unexpected undertone.”
Caprese salads keep things simple and flavorful, highlighting the flavors of local tomatoes, creamy mozzarella cheese and tasty basil. Here’s what Lori Scheckler of DiBruno Brothers in Philadelphia, said about caprese when Jennifer Hetrick caught up with her last summer: “You’re getting your vegetables, but you’re also getting your protein to give you the energy you need. And of course there’s the calcium content, since mozzarella is very high in calcium.”
These gluten-free Italian delicacies look like classic cannoli desserts and are great for a fancy meal to serve during the Labor Day vacation. To make this an easy and fancy meal, use bruschetta canned ahead of time from your garden-fresh tomatoes!
Leek Tart with Bacon & Thyme
This leek tart, made with a delectable cheese crust and Crema Mexicana, has a rich, creamy texture. With leeks, bacon and thyme, it’s a picnic for your tastebuds for sure!