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Picnic scene: croissants, strawberries, lemonade on blue blanket.

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STATEWIDE — You might be looking forward to a day off because of Labor Day, but a long weekend could also mean more cooking.

Well, if you are not looking forward to putting a celebratory meal together, consider trying some of these simple Labor Day recipes.  All recipes are courtesy of NY Times Cooking, Food Network, and Taste of Home.

Vanilla sundae ice cream in cup

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Side Dishes

7-Layer Pasta Salad


Kosher salt

8 ounces farfalle

2 stalks broccoli, cut into florets

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Juice of 1 lime

Freshly ground black pepper

2 avocados, diced

One 12-ounce piece deli ham, diced

8 ounces yellow Cheddar cheese, shredded

1 small head romaine lettuce, sliced

2 tomatoes, diced


1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente (about 2 minutes less than the label directs), adding the broccoli during the last 4 minutes of cooking. Drain the pasta and broccoli and rinse under cool water; shake off the excess. Remove the broccoli and pat dry.

2. Whisk the mayonnaise, buttermilk, 1/4 cup chives, the parsley, half of the lime juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Toss the pasta and a few tablespoons of the dressing in a medium bowl.

3. Assemble the salad: Toss the avocados with the remaining lime juice in a large glass serving bowl and season with salt; arrange in an even layer. Top with layers of the ham, broccoli, pasta, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes. Drizzle some of the remaining dressing on top and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon chives, or cover and refrigerate the salad and dressing separately up to 6 hours.

4. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Pasta salad. Traditional Italian pasta with cherry tomatoes, olives, feta cheese, green lettuce

Source: Gingagi / Getty

Classic Potato Salad


3 pounds russet, Yukon Gold, or Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

Kosher salt and black pepper

1 cup mayonnaise

¼ cup sweet relish

1 tablespoon yellow mustard

1 teaspoon granulated onion or onion powder

6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and diced small

2 celery stalks (optional)

Sweet paprika, for garnish


1. Set the potatoes in a large pot; add 1 tablespoon salt and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Set over high heat and cook just until fork-tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. (You still want the potatoes to still have some shape to avoid turning the dish into mashed potatoes.) Drain potatoes, and set them aside to cool.

2. As potatoes cool, make the dressing: To a large bowl, add mayonnaise, relish, mustard and granulated onion; whisk to combine.

3. Add the potatoes to the dressing, along with the diced hard-boiled eggs, and celery, if using; stir gently to combine. Taste and season with salt and black pepper as needed.

4. Chill for at least 2 hours, and up to overnight. Serve cold. Finish with a sprinkle of paprika. Potato salad will keep for 4 days in an airtight container.

Houston Chronicle

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Mushroom Cheese Bread


1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1 can (4 ounces) mushroom stems and pieces, drained

1/3 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons chopped green onion

1 pound unsliced French bread


1. In a small bowl, combine the mozzarella cheese, mushrooms, mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese and onion. Cut bread in half lengthwise; spread cheese mixture over cut sides.

2. Grill, covered, over indirect heat or broil 4 in. from the heat until lightly browned, 5-10 minutes. Slice and serve warm.

Toasted sandwich from traditional sourdough bread with cheese and brown mushrooms seasoned with rosemary herb on a wooden board, top view

Source: Esin Deniz / Getty

Main Courses

Pigs in a Blanket


1 tube crescent rolls

1 package cocktail-size mini hotdogs, drained and patted dry

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted (optional)

Flaky salt (optional)

Sesame seeds (optional)

Honey mustard sauce, ketchup and mustard of choice, to serve


1. Heat oven to 375 degrees with the rack in the middle position. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Remove the crescent roll triangles from their packaging and place them on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, slice each triangle lengthwise into 3 thin triangles (you should have 24 triangles in total). Place the mini hot dogs on the wider end of each triangle and roll. Arrange seam side down on the prepared baking sheet, about 1 inch apart.

3. If using, brush the tops with the melted butter and sprinkle on a little flaky salt or sesame seeds. Bake until golden, 13 to 16 minutes.

4. Serve the pigs in a blanket hot with honey mustard sauce, ketchup and mustard.

American Pigs in blanket

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Juicy Lucy Burger


Kosher salt and black pepper

1½ pounds ground beef, at least 15 percent fat

4 slices American cheese

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 large yellow onion, peeled and cut into ¼-inch rounds

½ teaspoon granulated sugar

1 to 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

4 potato rolls or soft hamburger buns, split

Bread-and-butter pickles, for serving


1. In a small bowl, stir together 2 teaspoons salt and 1½ teaspoons pepper. Divide the beef into four equal portions, then halve each of those portions. Gently roll each portion into a ball using the palm of your hand, then flatten each into a disk shape on a large cutting board, pressing with your fingers and palm until just over 4 inches wide and ¼-inch thick. Repeat to form eight patties. Season both sides of each patty with the salt-and-pepper blend.

2. Add one slice cheese to the center of one patty, folding any overhanging corners of the cheese inward. Using a spatula, lift another patty from the cutting board and place it on top of the cheese, pressing gently to connect both patties. Gently pinch the edges of the patties together to thoroughly seal, then use your fingers to round the edges by pressing and patting along the perimeter. Repeat with the remaining patties, forming three more burgers, and set aside.

3. In a large (preferably 12-inch) cast-iron skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion; sprinkle with sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, adding 2 tablespoons water about every 5 minutes to prevent burning, until tender and caramelized, about 20 minutes. Once the onions are caramelized, transfer them to a bowl. (If you have any bits left in the pan, wipe them out.)

4. Add the oil to the skillet to lightly coat the bottom and heat over medium-high until scalding-hot, about 2 minutes. Add the burgers and cook until seared and dark brown on the outside, 3 to 5 minutes per side. (You’ll want to let the burgers cook undisturbed as long as possible to develop a crisp sear and to prevent them from splitting. Their insides will cook through by the time the outsides form a proper sear. Resist the urge to cut them open, as the cheese will spurt out.) Transfer burgers to a clean cutting board to rest.

5. Meanwhile, toast the buns: Scrape up and remove from the pan any cheese that may have leaked, leaving a thin layer of accumulated fat in the pan. Reduce the heat to medium. Working in batches, toast the buns cut-side down until warmed and toasted in spots, about 1 minute. Form sandwiches by layering pickles, patties, then caramelized onions on buns. Serve immediately.

Homemade Juicy Lucy Cheeseburger

Source: bhofack2 / Getty

Ham & Jack Pudgy Pie


2 slices sourdough bread

2 tablespoons diced fully cooked ham

2 tablespoons canned sliced mushrooms

3 tablespoons shredded pepper jack cheese

1 tablespoon salsa


1. Place one slice of bread in a greased sandwich iron. Top with ham, mushrooms, cheese, salsa and remaining bread slice. Close iron.

2. Cook over a hot campfire until golden brown and cheese is melted, 3-6 minutes, turning occasionally.

Delicious crispy sandwich with chicken breast, tomatoes, ketchup and spices

Source: Dmytro Chernykov / Getty


Hot Dog Cookies


White frosting

1 vanilla wafer, such as Nilla Wafers

1 miniature chocolate or cherry chew, such as Toostie Roll Midgees

Yellow gel food coloring

1 green gummy bear


1. Spoon about a teaspoon of white frosting onto a piece of parchment paper and spread into a small circle. To make the hot dog bun: Cut a vanilla wafer in half. Arrange the wafer halves cut-side down over the white frosting. Sandwich the chocolate chew between the wafer halves.

2. Mix white frosting with yellow food coloring in a small bowl. Transfer the yellow frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a very small round tip. Pipe the yellow frosting onto the chocolate chew as mustard. Finely chop the gummy bear and sprinkle on as relish.

Green Plate Special vanilla nilla wafers

Source: Portland Press Herald / Getty

Quick and Easy Fruit Tarts


All-purpose flour, for dusting

2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed

1 pint blueberries

2 cups halved strawberries

1/3 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 lemon, juiced

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons heavy cream

Whipped cream


1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper.

2. On a lightly floured work surface, lay out the puff pastry. Cut the puff pastry sheets in half, making 4 rectangles. Place 2 puff pastry rectangles on each sheet pan. Set aside.

3. Add the blueberries and strawberries to separate bowls. Divide the granulated sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice between the bowls. Season each with a pinch of salt and stir until well combined.

4. Divide the blueberries between 2 of the puff pastry rectangles, leaving a 1/4-inch border on all sides. Do the same with the strawberries and the remaining puff pastry rectangles. Pinch the corners of each rectangle, creating a slight lip. Brush the edges with the cream.

5. Bake in the lower half of the oven until golden and crisp, about 20 minutes.

6. Transfer the tarts to a cutting board. Let the tarts cool slightly before slicing approximately 6 times across each tart to create thin slices. Transfer to a serving platter. Scatter the mint leaves over the tart pieces and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve alongside whipped cream.

Small tartlets with fresh raspberries and blueberries.

Source: igorr1 / Getty

No-Bake Chocolate Mousse Bars


18 whole graham crackers

8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 pound semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

3 cups cold heavy cream, plus more for serving

2 teaspoons instant espresso powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt (separated from other salt)

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Whipped cream (optional)


1. Make the crust: Line a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 sides. In a food processor, or in a resealable plastic bag, crush the graham crackers until you have fine crumbs (but stop before you have dust). You should have about 2¼ cups. Transfer the crumbs to a medium bowl. Add the butter, sugar and ¼ teaspoon salt and stir until evenly moistened. Tip the crumbs into the prepared pan and press them down into an even layer on the bottom. Transfer to the freezer while you prepare the filling.

2. Make the filling: Set the chocolate in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup cream, espresso powder and ½ teaspoon salt until hot but not boiling. Pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate and let it stand for 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and whisk until smooth. Set aside to cool completely.

3. In a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the remaining 2 cups heavy cream until you have stiff peaks. Add the chocolate mixture and gently fold to combine. Pour the mixture over the prepared crust, and spread it out into an even layer. Cover with plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 2 hours. To serve, cut the two edges without parchment free with a sharp knife then use the parchment overhang to transfer the bar to a cutting board. Cut into squares and serve with a dollop of whipped cream, if desired.

Mango and chocolate mousse on wooden black

Source: Anton Dobrea / Getty

Blueberry Lemon Trifle


3 cups fresh blueberries, divided

2 cans lemon pie filling

2 cups lemon yogurt

1 prepared angel food cake, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 carton frozen whipped topping, thawed

Optional: Lemon slices and fresh mint


1. Set aside 1/4 cup blueberries for garnish. In a large bowl, combine pie filling and yogurt.

2. In a 3-1/2-qt. serving or trifle bowl, layer a third of the cake cubes, lemon mixture and blueberries. Repeat layers twice. Top with whipped topping. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Garnish with reserved blueberries and, if desired, lemon and mint.

Lemon Blueberry dessert

Source: letterberry / Getty