Celebrate Labor Day with Our Make-Ahead Menu!

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Fall may not begin until Sept. 22, but Labor Day, which falls on Monday, marks the official end of summer. Heck, lots of kids have already begun their school year, and the rest will head back to the classroom on Tuesday. Celebrate the end of the season with our easy Labor Day Menu. It boasts lots of fresh, end-of-season flavor, and it’s good for you too.


To sip: Watermelon-Basil Agua Fresca
Nothing says “summer” like watermelon, which is the base for this not-too-sweet Mexican refresher. Add a splash of tequila for the adults–we won’t tell!
Make-ahead tip: Cube the watermelon up to a day in advance, but wait until just before the guests arrive to blend it with the rest of the ingredients so the flavors stay nice and bright.

To snack: Guatemalan Guacamole
Our guacamole, which pairs buttery avocados with red onion, crunchy jicama and hot chiles, is the perfect match for the agua fresca. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips.
Make-ahead tip: Chop the egg, onion, chiles and oregano a day ahead, and then combine with the rest of the ingredients when you’re ready to serve.

To start: BLT Bread Salad with Creamy Buttermilk Dressing
This salad combines the elements of the classic BLT sandwich with a luscious dressing.
Make-ahead tip: Combine the dressing ingredients and refrigerate; toast bread.

The main attraction: Buffalo Blue Burgers with Celery Slaw
Grass-fed ground buffalo is a lean, eco-friendly alternative to beef. Paired with creamy blue cheese sauce and a crunchy celery slaw, these burgers will be a crowd-pleaser.
Make-ahead tip: A day ahead, form the patties and refrigerate. Prep the hot sauce, blue cheese sauce and slaw; chill.

On the side: Corn and Quinoa Pasta Salad
This riff on traditional American picnic fare is a whole-grain bonanza, thanks to the quinoa, whole-grain pasta and fresh corn.
Make-ahead tip: Cook the quinoa and pasta the day before; combine with the remaining  ingredients on party day.

Don’t forget dessert: No-Bake Peanut Butter Popcorn Treats and Mexican Chocolate Brownies
Hey, it’s a celebration, so serve two desserts! The popcorn treats are a crunchy, salty-sweet indulgence. The brownies have the complex flavors of Mexican chocolate (cinnamon, a touch of chile).
Make-ahead tip: Prepare both up to 2 days ahead and store in airtight containers. But we’re not responsible if they “disappear” before the party!

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Buffalo Blue Burgers with Celery Slaw

The inspiration for these buffalo burgers is somewhat obvious — the combo of hot sauce, blue cheese and celery is a buffalo wings classic — but the tie to sustainability and healthy ecosystems might not be as clear. I was turned into a buffalo (bison) lover by Dan O’Brien, of Wild Idea Buffalo, who talked about bringing back bison in order to save his beloved South Dakota plains. The two, it seems, are healthiest when living together … a perfect illustration of a thriving ecosystem. These flavorful burgers will be a hit at any summer barbecue.


Buffalo Blue Burgers with Celery Slaw

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Yield: Serves 4


  1. Hot sauce:
  2. 2 tablespoons Tabasco sauce
  3. 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  4. 1 teaspoon cayenne
  5. Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  6. Burgers:
  7. 1 pound ground buffalo, formed into 4 (3/4-inch-thick) patties
  8. Blue cheese sauce:
  9. 2 ounces blue cheese
  10. 1 tablespoon sour cream
  11. 1 teaspoon mayonnaise
  12. 2 tablespoons buttermilk or low-fat milk
  13. 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  14. Celery slaw:
  15. 1 cup thinly sliced celery
  16. 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  17. 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  18. 1 teaspoon canola oil
  19. 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  20. 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  21. Remaining ingredient:
  22. 4 whole-grain hamburger buns, split


Heat grill to medium-high heat.

To prepare the hot sauce, combine Tabasco, butter, cayenne, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl. Generously brush both sides of burger patties with mixture and set aside.

To prepare the blue cheese sauce, combine blue cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, buttermilk, 1 teaspoon vinegar, and a generous grind of black pepper in another small bowl, whisking until smooth.

To prepare the slaw, toss celery with onion, parsley, oil, mustard, 2 teaspoons vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper in a medium bowl.

Season patties with salt and pepper, and place over direct heat on the grill. Brush with Tabasco mixture. Cook 2-3 minutes, basting once, and flip. Cook another 2 minutes, until medium rare. Place buns cut-side-down on grill and cook until toasted.

Place burgers on buns, top with celery slaw and drizzle with blue cheese mixture.