Unofficially recognized as the last hurrah of summer, Labor Day should be an event you enjoy, which means taking it as easy as possible—but you’re probably still hosting or at least going to a BBQ, picnic, potluck, or some other get-together, which means you need to make some food. But you shouldn’t stress yourself out about it.
Labor Day celebrates people like you: those who work too much. The Department of Labor says the holiday’s founder, Peter J. McGuire, wanted to honor the people across the country “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.”
Of course by “grandeur” in today’s world, we might mean a clever take on an avocado.
Nevertheless, you deserve a break from your daily grind. Here are some recipes that will keep you off your feet for most of Labor Day weekend yet still impress your peers at a backyard barbecue.
Related Reading: 15 Make-Ahead Labor Day Dishes from Dips to Dessert
Shaved Honeydew and Shaved Cucumber Salad
Shaving fruit and veggies can make anyone look like they spent a lot of time getting ready (just witness our shaved carrot salad above), but this is so easy:
- Quarter a honeydew melon and remove the seeds.
- Using a vegetable peeler, peel strips of honeydew.
- Using a vegetable peeler, peel strips of cucumber.
- Mix with olive oil and lime juice.
Want to make it even easier? Cut the melon and cucumber normally but add feta for that impressive pop.
Kuhn Rikon Y-Peelers, 3 for $9.99 on Amazon
All you need for a fancy-looking shaved salad.
Roasted, Salted Parsnips
It’s not very often that people get a healthier version of fries—or that you see parsnips at a BBQ, but why bring the same-old, same-old stuff (*cough* potato salad *cough*)? Give the people 10 minutes of your (active) time, and something new to talk about:
- Pick out small to medium sized parsnips. Bigger ones have tough cores that don’t cook as thoroughly. Two and a half pounds will make four to six servings, so buy accordingly. Scrub them but don’t bother peeling before cutting them into 1-inch chunks—or slice them into fry-like wedges or strips.
- Mix 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and kosher salt to taste (this amount is for the aforementioned two and a half pounds of veggies, but scale up or down as needed).
- Place cut or sliced parsnips on a foil-lined baking sheet. Pour the seasoning mixture over parsnips and toss to coat. Bake for about 30 minutes at 450°F, stirring about halfway through.
Want to make it slightly more difficult? Toss with minced garlic and parmesan after step three. You can serve these at room temp or throw them on the grill for just a couple minutes to warm them up.
Feta, Watermelon, and Mint Salad
Chances are you’re not going to make it to Greece for this three-day weekend, so you better bring the isles to you. You also want to celebrate summer produce while it’s still around. Here’s how to do both at once:
- Cut a seedless watermelon into cubes.
- Douse some crumbled feta in a bit of olive oil, lemon juice, and pepper.
- Mix gently with the melon, and garnish with torn fresh mint.
Want to make it even easier? Use a melon baller to scoop out the juicy red flesh (bonus: it looks even fancier that way). Want to make it a bit more involved? Grill the watermelon before making the salad.
Watermelon Cube Cutter, $7.97 on Amazon
You could also try this fun little tool—which actually has really good reviews—to cube your melon.
Avocado Halves and Melted Cheddar
Melting cheese takes time, not energy. This is also a great one for your keto BBQ guests:
- Cut firm avocados in half and remove the pits. (You don’t want them to be too firm, but choose one step more firm than you would for guacamole.)
- Sprinkle extra-sharp white cheddar cheese onto the avocados, as if they were nachos.
- Broil (or pop on the grill!) for 3-5 minutes or until the cheese has melted and lightly browned.
Want to make it just a little more difficult? Mix minced chipotle peppers into the cheddar before broiling. If you skip the peppers, you can finish things off with a sprinkling of Trader Joe’s favorite spice blend: Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning.
Trader Joe's Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend, $6.49 on Amazon
Cheaper in stores, of course, but anything for that EBTBSSB fix.
Related Reading: The Trader Joe’s Summer Snacks You Have to Try While You Still Can
Store-Bought Potato Salad…Doctored Up with Eggs, Mustard, and Celery
It’s not cheating; it’s celebrating the holiday the way it was meant to be celebrated—by not working. Here’s what to do instead:
- Buy eggless potato salad.
- Add fresh hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped (not too finely); if you have an Instant Pot, let it boil the eggs for you, no babysitting a saucepan or second-guessing the time.
- Add some sharp mustard to counteract the extra creamy taste. (Often, store-bought potato salad is recognizable because of way too much mayo.)
- Chop small hearts of celery, and mix it in. The crunch of the celery will help to disguise any store-bought mushiness.
Want to make it even easier? Really? That’s pretty much impossible, unless you want to buy precooked, already peeled eggs…
Related Reading: How Long Can Potato Salad Stay Out at Room Temperature?
Pineapple, Onion, and Pepper Salsa (or Peach, Onion, and Pepper Salsa)
Bringing chips and store-bought salsa is a cop out; chopping up a few fresh fruits is barely any harder than grabbing a jar of Newman’s Own, but people are likely to see your effort as heroic. Try this trick:
- Cut a pineapple into small, half-inch by half-inch cubes. (Or cut up some peaches or nectarines if you prefer.)
- Cut red and green peppers into smaller pieces.
- Dice onions for even more crunch, and mix all ingredients.
- Add a few spoonfuls of a simple canned salsa or a basic pico de gallo for the tomatoes and spice.
Peach and Prosciutto Caprese Salad
Change just one ingredient within a classic and people will think you rewrote history. Bowl them over with this simple recipe:
- Mix olive oil, vinegar, and salt to make a simple dressing (shake it up in a jar if you don’t want to whisk).
- Slice firm peaches into rounds or wedges.
- Cut prosciutto into long strips.
- Arrange the peaches and prosciutto on a platter and top with fresh mozzarella or burrata and torn or julienned basil.
Want to make it easier? Skip the prosciutto (then it’s also suitable for vegetarians). Want to complicate it just a little? Add some wedges or slices of heirloom tomatoes too; they actually work really well with stone fruit (and meat and cheese, of course).
Related Reading: The Ultimate Guide to Making Perfect Salad
Happy Labor Day, everyone! May your side dishes showcase the imposter syndrome you display at work on all the other days of the year.