Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Labor Day Ideas

Labor Day is the holiday that declares the unofficial end of the summer season and it’s also the time when we are supposed to take a break from all the hard work we put in day after day.
Ironically, this is the time of the year when we are pulled in a million directions, kids are back to school, the summer’s over and for adults it’s time to jump back into work with both feet. Why not slow down for one last weekend, savor the flavors of a farmers market, enjoy the most beautiful weather of the year and curl up with friends and family by a bonfire…winter will be here before we know it! These are some of my innovative and inexpensive entertaining ideas on how to spend special time with friends and family and not break the bank while doing it!

Screen a movie out doors on the side of your house:

Create your own drive in movie on the side of your house; it can be anything from Aladdin for kids, to Animal House for adults. You can rent a TV projection machine inexpensively from (or maybe borrow one from a school) and hook it up to a VCR or DVD  player. You can use a sheet on the side of the house as a screen or screen the image directly on the side of your house. Create a “candy” buffet filled with Milk Duds, Mike and Ikes and licorice. Make a bunch of popcorn and big pitchers of lemonade (or margarita’s!). Set out Tiki torches and luminaries so folks can find their way in the dark. Ask everyone to bring, quilts, blankets or beach chairs to sit on and start the movie when it gets dark! (If you want to make an entire evening out of it, put together a pot luck dinner beforehand so everyone has a chance to chat before the movie!)

Cuban “So-long-to-Summer” Soiree:

This is for those people who have to be pulled away from summer kicking and screaming…I say why take it lying down? Get in there and whoop it up in a big way one last time! Create Havana in your backyard and stage a living room/ lounge outdoors. Bring indoor chairs and tables outside, string white lights in your trees, use brightly colored or checkered oilcloth tablecloths and use lots of colorful dahlias and sunflowers in vegetable cans (leave the labels on!). Use various colors of napkins and make napkin rings out of brown paper to look like cigar bands. Set out domino sets, lots of votive candles and small bottles of hot sauce on the tables. Offer cigars for after dinner and play lots of great Latin music, Tito Puente, Cesaria Evora and Buena Vista Social Club. Serve a buffet of black bean and corn salsa with chips, grilled pork tenderloin tacos with fresh tomato and cilantro, grilled fish tacos with tomatillos, grilled corn on the cob dipped in cayenne butter and grated manchego cheese, spicy coleslaw and Popsicles for dessert. Add a little heat in the cocktail department with mojitos, caipirinhias, fresh limeade fizzes, peach margaritas and ice cold beer.

Pot luck /recipe share dinner:

Invite a bunch of friends for a pot luck dinner that love to cook and then ask them to make their favorite dishes using ingredients from the farmers market. Ask them to bring along copies of their recipe for their dish printed out to give to the other guests. You’ll enjoy a wonderful evening with other “foodies”, you don’t have to do all the cooking yourself, you’ll go home with as many new recipes as there are guests and you can guarantee there will never be a lull in the conversation!

Dessert and Stargazing/ Fire pit with blankets:

Spend an evening watching the stars with someone special. Fun with friends and family comes in quiet forms also and this is a great way to enjoy the end of summer even as the weather starts to cool off a little in the evenings. These days you can find a fire pit ( a large copper bowl that holds logs for a homemade bonfire) pretty inexpensively, particularly at the end of the summer. Be sure to set it up in a safe secure spot in your back yard, surround the fire pit with chairs and put blankets/ quilts on chairs and turn out the outdoor lights around your house. Invite friends over for a rich dessert and red wine or champagne, or just make smores and serve beer. Stay up late enjoying the fire and the stars, telling stories and reliving the glory days of summer.

Farmers market dinner:

There is no better pleasure for a cook than to prepare a meal using produce at it’s peak of flavor, and Labor Day is the prime time for that. Create a menu using only fresh local produce – you’ll be supporting local farmers and enjoying all the best flavors of summer –I have great recipes for lobster/ basil/corn risotto, heirloom tomato quesadillias with corn and cilantro, eggplant bruschetta, linguini with “late tomato” sauce and peach crostata.

“Put up” vegetables for February:

My sister in NC does this and she gets to enjoy the sweetest, most delicious summer corn on the coldest Jan. day. It’s simple to do and nothing brightens up a meal than fresh summer produce. I can share easy methods that don’t take up loads of time or require all sorts of special equipment. I have great cold weather recipes for corn risotto, tomato soup, spicy pepper sauce/ nachos, and pasta with zucchini sauce…they will inspire you to prepare now and enjoy later!