Seriously, one of the reasons to choose the first Monday of fall for Labor Day celebrations was the rather long time period with no holidays at all, from Independence Day in July to Thanksgiving Day in November. That is more than four months. So, in 1894 the very first September Monday was officially proclaimed an annual federal holiday. However, its history is also tightly connected with workers’ strikes and demonstrations which took place in the late 19th century, right at the height of American Industrial Revolution. Their aim was to affirm the American workers’ rights to safe working conditions and adequate wages. Nowadays we can see clearly that it was successfully achieved despite all the difficulties and obstacles.

For us, people of the 3rd millennium, this holiday serves as a reminder that we should value and respect human labor in its diverse forms. Besides, a few days off will become a nice opportunity to spend a great time with our nearest and dearest, and have a wholesome rest before fall finally asserts itself. So before your kids are back to school or college, the last of your colleagues comes back from his or her summer vacation, and the weather gets unbearably chill, what can be better than having a cozy picnic and enjoying the tender warmth of the first September days?

Let the weather forecast, your favorite picnic place and bright summer mood create a relaxing atmosphere. But do not forget that a well-thought menu is certainly one more essential, if not the most important, part of any picnic program. The dishes you are going to take with you should be not only delicious and nourishing, but also easy to cook and portable.

So here are some original and simple ideas for your best and unforgettable Labor Day cookout. By the way, most of these dishes can be made right on the spot, with almost no prior preparations.

Hearty Appetizers: Picnic Must-Have

It is always nice to have several tasty and light nibbles on your picnic menu, something you can heat your appetite up with before a sumptuous main treat. Of course, you can bring some Parmesan cheese and Italian Prosciutto ham, add some of your favorite fresh or grilled vegetables, slice everything neatly and serve a beautiful platter for a quick hors d’oeuvre. You can also make some deli canapés with cream cheese and sliced smoked salmon, seasoning them with fresh fragrant dill. But what about something undoubtedly more striking and delectable?  

  • For an exquisite and easy starter choose meat pâté or smoked salmon mousse. Smear any of them generously on a slice of crunchy baguette and decorate the morsels with dill, sliced olives or a thin piece of cucumber.
  • Instead of thinking how to transport your salad to the place of the picnic, make it right there on…wooden skewers! This will be stylish. Besides, you can taste each ingredient separately enjoying its original and fresh flavor, whether it is previously cut in cubes like cheese or circles like salami, prosciutto ham or strung whole as it is, like a cherry tomato or an olive. Any combination is possible.

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  • Flavorful grilled Brie, Camembert, Mozzarella or Provolone cheese bits do deserve a place among your festive treats. Serve them either on their own, accompany them with grilled vegetables and baguette or crackers, or make some wonderful sandwiches with them.

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Indeed, what picnic can go without hamburgers and sandwiches of all sizes and shapes? Here is a quick and, maybe, slightly unusual recipe for you to try!

Layered Sandwiches (6 servings)

You will need:

  • 1 loaf bakery white bread, unsliced;
  • 1 can tuna fish, drained
  • 3/4  cup mayonnaise, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/4  cup chopped green olives
  • 3 tablespoons sliced black olives, drained
  • 4 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1/4  teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper

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1. Turn bread on its side lengthwise. Slice a 3/4-inch slice from bottom. Repeat 2 times more so that bread is in 4 equal long pieces.

2. In a small bowl, combine  tuna, 1/2 cup mayonnaise, and dill. In another small bowl, combine cream cheese and green olives. In another small bowl, mix together eggs, remaining mayonnaise, black olives, salt and pepper.

3. Spread each of 3 fillings evenly on a layer of bread, then stack layers on top of one another.

4. Cover layers with top of loaf. Slice loaf into 1-inch thick slices and serve with chips or an assortment of pickles.


Go Meaty: Main Picnic Course

Agree that the main role of every festive and outdoor menu usually belongs to meat of different types. So grab your favorite spices and sauces, and heat the grill!

In case you are a conservative in terms of picnics, traditional grilled gourmet sausages are definitely your choice. They will perfectly fit in any summer cookout.

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If it is banned to make a fire at the place you are going to, or if you do not have a grill, make the main course at home. For example, these baked chicken wings will be a splendid alternative. Wrap them carefully in foil so that they did not get cold until you reach your destination.

For Dijon Chicken Wings you will need (6-8 servings):

  • vegetable oil, for brushing
  • 4 pounds chicken wings, split at the joints, tips removed
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated garlic

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1. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 450 degrees F.

2. Brush 2 large baking dishes with vegetable oil. Pat the wings dry; sprinkle with 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

3. Spread in the dishes and bake, rotating halfway through, until golden, 40 to 45 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, mix the mustard, honey and garlic in a bowl. Remove the wings from the oven and toss with the mustard mixture, then continue baking until glazed, 3 to 5 more minutes.


Sweet Finish

Even though you can cook it at home, the picnic dessert should also be easy to transport. You certainly want to be sure that it is safe and sound travelling with you. The other option is to make something bright and sweet right where you are planning to stay. Let us see.

A pie will always make a good ending of a fabulous holiday. So why not take it with you for a picnic, jarred?

Cherry Pie in a Jar (4 servings)

You will need only two ingredients:

  • 1 disc refrigerated pie crust
  • 5 1/2 cups black cherries, pitted and halved, or 12 tbsp black cherry jam

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1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Using the metal top from the Mason jar as a cutter, cut out 4 rounds from pie disc.

3. Use remainder of pie dough, to piece together and place inside of each jar to form outer crust. Making sure that there is enough over hang for you to crimp top with.

4. Fill each jar with approximately slightly smashed cherries or cherry jam.

5. Using a small decorative cutter, cut out 2-3 pieces from dough tops. Secure dough top onto jar and crimp edges. Top with decorative dough cut outs.

6. Place jars into a deep sided baking dish that has been lined with a silpat. Bake for approximately 30-35 minutes or until top is golden.

7. Very carefully remove from oven and allow jars to cool before serving.


Water-melon dessert

A juicy water-melon is another sweet must-have for the Labor Day open-air celebrations. Approach this big guy in a creative way. Slice your watermelon in half lengthwise. Cut two or three triangles for each half moon slice. With a small paring knife, make a small incision in the center of the rind on each triangle, and wiggle in a popsicle stick.

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Bon Appétit!
And Happy Labor Day!