I’m a fan of Labor Day for many reasons: it’s the unofficial end of summer, it gives kids and teachers a day off after a whirlwind first 2 weeks of school, and it’s a welcome 3-day weekend after a scorching August. Most importantly, it’s an excellent excuse to gather together friends and family for a cookout before cooler autumn temperatures arrive. But since the Direct Energy bloggers don’t live near each other, we decided to hold a “virtual cookout” and share the recipes with you!
Let’s get the grill going in style with two tasty entrees from Vernon!
1) Jerk Marinated Grilled Pork Loin
Jerk is a cooking spice technique developed in Jamaica that principally focuses on allspice and hot scotch bonnet peppers. This is a stripped-down, basic recipe we’ve fooled around with for a couple years, but there are many variations that also add different amounts of brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, and vegetable oil. Orange juice gives it a nice citrus tang, and the peppers (depending on how brave you are) provide some enjoyable heat.
- 1-2 pounds boneless pork loin
- 1 baseball-sized onion, chopped
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- 2 Teaspoons ground allspice
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
- 1 teaspon nuteg
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
- 1/2 cup orange juice.
- Put everything except the pork loin in the blender. Once you’ve got them mixed together, you can tweak the mixture by adding nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice, black pepper, and salt to taste.
- Add at least one chopped scotch bonnet pepper — but use only as many as you can stand. Be warned: scotch bonnets have a heat rating of 100,000–350,000 Scoville Units, so keep some milk handy in case your guests start belching fire. If you prefer something milder, try substituting jalapenos which are comparatively less spicy. Want even less heat? Use three tablespoons of ground cayenne pepper for quick spicy zing.
- You should have a little over a cup of the spice mixture. Marinade your pork loin in the mixture for at least 30 minutes in the fridge. Since this is an acidic mixture, the meat will grow more tender, the longer it sits.
- Grill on medium a flame (approximately 20 minutes per pound). The target temperature for pork is around 170°F so get out your meat thermometer. (Note: if you have added sugar to your mixture, the sugar will char quickly on the outside of the meat — so do not panic. It’s not ruined. Just scrape off the char when it’s done cooking.)
We plate this dish with red and purple potatoes, grilled squash, and a garden salad, and pair it with an $8 Malbec. Dee-lish.
Somewhere, I have heard “May your life be blessed with beer and onions” was an ancient Eyptian blessing. Oddly enough, that’s exactly how I bless my family when I grill bratwurst for them.
- Bratwursts (enough to feed your crowd)
- 1 medium-sized onion
- 1 12-oz bottle/can of beer
The best brats come from a local meat locker or butcher. Usually, we buy lamb brats from a woman known as “The Bacon Lady” or beef brats from the guy in the old blue Ford pick up at the local farmer’s market.
- Dice up one medium sized onion and put into a 1 quart sauce pan.
- Lightly sauté the pieces, add the meat, and then pour in about 3/4 of a 12 oz bottle of beer (more or less depending on the number of brats).
- Bring this to a simmer for five to ten minutes.
(If you are using a hoppy beer, be extra careful not to boil the meat for too long or the brats may take on a bitter aftertaste. This time, I used a bottle of Onyx Black Ale made by the Steven’s Point Brewery. The beer you use is up to you. Cheap American-style corn lagers work, as do pricey oatmeal stouts. It’s always good fun to experiment, but as a rule never cook with anything that you can’t bear to drink.)
- Lastly, put the brats on the grill. Since they are essentially par-boiled, they will cook fast but the beer-residue will produce a luscious caramel coating on the brat.
- Over an average flame, they’re ready for the table in under 10 minutes.
Hooray for tasty side dishes! Monica goes first.
3) Kiki’s Creamed Corn
- 3lbs. frozen whole kernel corn, thawed
- 1 package cream cheese (8 oz)
- 1/2 stick butter (not margarine)
- 1 Tb. sugar
- 3/4 c. whipping cream
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a saucepan over low to medium heat, melt the butter, cream cheese, and whipping cream.
- Once melted, add sugar and whisk lightly.
- Increase heat to medium and add the corn.
- When heated through, add salt and pepper to taste.
4) Rhiannon’s Awesome Alternative Potato Salad
John follows with a dish his wife makes that he really enjoys.
We are a gluten free household and have many friends that are dairy-free, so this recipe is ideal for a large crowd.
- Equal amounts of sweet potato and “butter” potato
- Apple cider vinegar
- Fresh dill
- Peel and chop all the potatoes into equal sized cubes
- Boil for about 20 minutes or until soft
- Add apple cider vinegar, salt, and dill to taste
This salad is amazing while still warm. And my wife insists that she doesn’t have hard measurements on how much apple cider vinegar, salt, and dill she puts into an average dish, but whatever she does, it tastes wonderful. So, if you’re new to making this dish, it’s best to go slow to start. No one wants to be overpowered by the presence of dill or vinegar.
5) Broccoli Salad
Who says veggies have to be boring? Not Brooke!
I am not usually a “slaw” lover, but this recipe is so so good it’ll impress even the toughest critic. Not only is it delicious, it incorporates veggies and protein-packed nuts, which will help you feel less guilty for over indulging on Labor Day (as so many of us do). With only a few steps, this recipe is quick and easy to make. Enjoy!
- 1 scallion
- 1 package of Broccoli slaw
- 2 packages of Ramen Chicken Flavor Noodle Soup noodles – crushed and uncooked
- 1 cup toasted and salted sunflower seeds
- ½ cup slivered toasted almonds
- 1/2 cup oil
- 1/3 cup white vinegar
- 2 Flavor packets from Ramen soup package
- ¼ cup sugar
- In a large bowl, mix together the scallions, broccoli slaw, uncooked noodles, sunflower seeds and almonds.
- In a separate bowl blend the oil, white vinegar, flavor packets and sugar.
- Then combine all ingredients and mix together.
Hooray! Franny’s here with a tasty treat.
6) Hummingbird Cake
While I’m not that great in the kitchen, I’m a fan of this cake, and this recipe comes from a well-known baking blogger that I trust.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 8 oz. can of crushed pineapple, liquid included
- 2 cups chopped, ripe bananas
- 2 cups pecans, chopped and toasted
- 16 oz. cream cheese
- 1 cup butter
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 32 oz. confectioner’s sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour 3 9-inch cake pans.
- Prepare toasted pecans. Chop pecans in small pieces and place on a parchment covered baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes and keeping your eye on them so they don’t burn. Set aside and let cool.
- Whisk together flour, soda, salt, sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl.
- Add lightly beaten eggs, oil and vanilla to the dry ingredients and stir until combined.
- Add crushed pineapple and cut up bananas and stir until combined.
- Finally stir in 1 cup of chopped toasted pecans. Reserve the rest to sprinkle on top of the cake if desired.
- Spread batter evenly among cake pans and bake for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
- Remove and let cool.
- In a mixer, beat butter and cream cheese until smooth and creamy.
- Add vanilla and beat until incorporated.
- With the mixer on low, slowly add confectioner’s sugar a little at a time until incorporated.
- Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl often.
- Gently level cakes using a large serrated knife to remove any mounded tops.
- Place first layer cut side down and spread frosting on top with an offset spatula.
- Continue with the remaining two layers and then frost the sides.
- Store in fridge until ready to serve.
Finally, what’s an outdoor cookout without some quality libations? Monica is up first with a crowd-pleasing sweet refresher:
7) Sparkling Rosemary Limeade
- 1 cup lime juice (from about 6 limes)
- 3/4 cup sugar
- Peel of 2 limes
- Two 4-inch sprigs fresh rosemary, plus more to serve
- 4 to 6 cups chilled sparkling water
- In a small saucepan, combine lime juice and sugar and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Lower the heat, stirring frequently until the sugar is dissolved.
- Add the lime peel and rosemary springs and simmer for an additional minute.
- Turn off heat, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
- Strain out the lime peel and rosemary and mix with chilled sparking water. Add more sparkling water to taste if you prefer a lighter flavor.
- Serve over ice with a sprig of rosemary muddled into the drink.
And then Brooke brings us home with a bit of “boozy” goodness:
8) Summer Beer
What better way to enjoy the fruits of your labor than by enjoying a nice and refreshing libation during Labor Day? Just a warning: this concoction is really good, but is also pretty strong. Be sure to limit the amount you drink or feel free to cut down on the amount of liquor in the recipe.
- 1 can (12 oz) frozen link lemonade concentrate (thawed)
- 12 oz water
- 12 oz vodka
- 1 12-oz can/bottle of beer
- Put the lemonade in a pitcher.
- Measure out the water and vodka in the lemonade can and add to the pitcher.
- Lastly pour in the beer, mix well and serve over ice.
- To spice it up a bit, garnish with lemon slices or sprigs of mint.
Do you have any favorite Labor Day recipes for a perfect cookout? Share them in the comments!
Happy Labor Day from Direct Energy!