Menu Ideas for Memorial Day Gatherings

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Hey y’all - the first celebration of summer is almost here!  Are you excited for a long weekend?

Memorial Day has always been one of my favorites.  Three anniversaries (my grandparents, my parents, and my husband and I) and one birthday (my eldest daughter) have made it extra special.  And with a family that has served our country almost every generation, going back to the Revolution, my parents put a lot of emphasis on remembering those men and women who have given their lives for our country.    

When my daughters were young, we got up early and joined a group in our small New England town that placed American flags by the graves of those who lost their lives fighting in various wars.  Then we walked into town around noon to watch the parade.  I love a good parade, and the Memorial Day parade was always awesome.  I loved the old cars carrying the oldest veterans in the community and the folks dressed up in period costumes marching in formation, representing every branch of the armed services throughout the history of our country.  The fact that they threw peppermints out into the crowd was a plus!    

And finally, while the summer solstice - which marks the official start of summer - is not until the 21st of June, everyone knows Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer.  We usually go up to Maine and while it is colder up there, I love to spend time digging in my garden and walking along the beach.

I think most people spend at least one day of the long weekend with family and friends, and that means FOOD!  In case you’re looking for new ideas, I’ve pulled together some of my favorite recipes for large gatherings.  I know burgers and dogs are a staple for every backyard cookout, but I’m sharing a recipe for slow cooked pull beef and side salads (some of which are vegan and many can serve as a main dish) that will go along well with the standard fare.


Slow Cooker Pulled Beef

Serves 10-12, this recipe requires just 15-20 mins of prep, freezes well

Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 - 3 lbs of boneless beef, chuck roast

  • 1 tbsp oil (olive or avocado)

  • large yellow onion - sliced thin

  • 1 - 6 oz can tomato paste

  • 2 tbsp Dijon Mustard

  • 1 1/2 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 6 large cloves garlic, minced (can sub 2 tsp garlic powder)

  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano

  • 2 tsp chili powder (more if you like a bigger punch!)

  • 2 tsp smoked paprika

  • 1 tsp sea salt

  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper

Process

Take the onion slices and place them in the bottom of your slow cooker.  Depending on the size, you might have more than one layer.  

Cut your beef into 3 chunks of one pound each.  Heat 1 T of oil on medium high heat in a dutch oven or a very large skillet.  When the oil is hot, add the beef and sear for 4-5 mins per side.

While meat is searing, mix together the remaining ingredients.  

Transfer meat to slow cooker, placing it on top of the onions.

Pour the remaining ingredient mixture on top of the beef and onions, stirring to coat the beef well.

Cover and cook on low heat for 8-10 hrs or until the meat is tender and easily shreds.

When the meat is done, remove and, using two forks, shred the beef.  Return to the slow cooker, stirring to make sure it is mixed in well with everything else.

This can be served with or without a bun. 


Magdalen’s Simple Purple Cabbage Slaw (Vegan)

Ingredients

  • 1 large purple cabbage, chopped

  • Juice of 1 large lime

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil - add a little at a time until it seems right.  You don’t want it too oily, but the oil is needed to help it all combine.

  • Sea salt and pepper to taste

  • 1 tbsp coriander or celery seed

Process

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.


Italian Pasta Salad 

Recipe from Pinch of Yum, this is a super simple and fast recipe!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of Fusilli pasta

  • 8 oz fresh small mozzarella balls, cut in half

  • 1 lb summer sausage or salami, cut into chunks (I omit this bc I don’t eat cured meat, but I’m told it makes the dish very good.)

  • 3 cups of cherry tomatoes, cut in half

  • 3/4 cup of black olives, sliced

  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

  • 1 1/2 cups Italian Dressing (see recipe for this at end)

  • Optional: sliced red onion and crumbled feta cheese

Process

Cook the pasta according to directions.  Allow to cool slightly. (IF you are not putting the salad together immediately, toss with a little oil to prevent it sticking together.)

Mix remaining ingredients (except the dressing) together while the pasta cooks.

When pasta is cooked, toss everything together with the salad dressing.

This will keep for 2-3 days.  I always make it a day ahead.

Italian Salad Dressing

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup olive oil

  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar (can use white vinegar)

  • 2 tbsp water

  • 1 tbsp sea salt

  • 1 tbsp dried oregano *

  • 1 tbsp dried basil *

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • black pepper to taste

    *I use fresh herbs when I can.  If using fresh herbs, you should use 1 tsp instead of 1 tbsp.

Process

Whisk the ingredients hard, or run through a blender, to make it thick and creamy.


Vegan Pasta Salad

Serves 6 - recipe from The Awesome Green

Ingredients

  • 3 cups penne or spiral whole wheat pasta

  • 3 cups roasted chickpeas

  • 6 tbsp toasted mixed seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, etc)

  • 3 large zucchini, cut into cubes

  • 3/4 tsp sea salt

  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  • 3 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

  • 6 tbsp vegan pesto

  • 3 large punch of fresh parsley

  • 2 Handfuls of mint leaves, roughly chopped

  • 2 Handfuls of fresh oregano leaves, roughly chopped

Process

Prepare the pasta according to directions.

Drain water and transfer into a large bowl, add pesto, toss to combine, and set aside.

Heat olive oil in skillet over low heat, add garlic cloves and fry for 20 seconds.  Add zucchini cubes.

Cover over low heat for 7 mins, stirring frequently, then season with salt and add to the bowl of pasta.

Add the remaining ingredients and toss well to combine.


Tuscan Pasta Salad

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Can be adjusted for vegans and serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 16 oz bowtie pasta

  • 7 oz sun-dried tomatoes, drained

  • 6.5 oz can black olives, sliced

  • 1 cup spinach

  • 1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese (can be omitted for vegans)

  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

Dijon Vinaigrette Dressing

This is my go-to salad dressing for everything!

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • Juice of 1 large lemon

  • 3 T Dijon Mustard

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 t sea salt

  • 1/4 t ground pepper

  • 2 T fresh parsley, chopped

  • optional - 1 t dried oregano and 1 t dried basil

Process

Cook pasta according to directions.

Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl and set aside while pasta cooks.

Make the dressing, using a whisk or in a jar and shake well - either will make it thick and creamy.

Toss the pasta with the other ingredients and drizzle salad dressing until covered to preference, tossing til combined.


Black Bean and Corn Salad

Vegan and serves 8-10

Ingredients

  • 2 cans of black beans, rinsed and drained

  • 2 cans of white corn, rinsed and drained (“shoe-peg” is preferable)

  • 2 red peppers, chopped

  • 3 scallions, chopped

  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in quarters

  • 2 barely ripe avocados, cut up in small squares

  • 1 bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped

Process

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together, except the avocado.  Toss with my Dijon Vinaigrette Dressing.  For a punch, substitute juice of 2 small limes for lemon juice.

Gently toss in avocado before serving.


Chocolate Brownies

Makes 12

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter, room temp but not too soft

  • 2 1/2 cups of light brown sugar, packed

  • 6 oz. unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped

  • 4 large eggs

  • 2 tbsp pure vanilla extract

  • 2 cups all purpose flour

  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Process

Preheat oven to 350*. Generously grease 9” x 13” brownie pan.  Line bottom of pan with parchment (or wax) paper.

In a microwave safe bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, and chocolate.  Microwave on high for 1 min.  Stir.  If chocolate is not softened, then repeat for 10 second intervals until melted.

Beat eggs and vanilla into the melted chocolate.  Turn-in (mix in) the flour and salt.

Pour everything into the prepared pan, smoothing out the top.

Bake for 35-40 mins, but adjust time if you know your oven needs it.  Prick with toothpick to see if it comes out clean - you want the brownies to be done, but NOT overcooked.  

Place on cooling rack and let it cool.

Turn brownies out onto work surface and cut into squares or, using a cookie cutter into shapes.  You can sprinkle with powdered sugar, regular sugar or cocoa.

Serve with vanilla ice cream!


Mimi’s Chocolate Chip Shortbread, Vegan

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks of Earth Balance vegan butter, at room temp, but not too soft

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 2 cups flour

  • 1 tbsp pute vanilla extract

  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

  • 1 cup vegan chocolate chips

Process

Preheat oven to 375*  Take out a 9” x 13” brownie pan - do not grease it.

In a mixer, beat “butter” with sugar until creamy, but do not over mix.  It should be mixed but not too soft.

Add flour and combine easily.  Add vanilla and salt and combine using a spatula or wooden spoon.

Add chips, combining with spatula or wooden spoon.

Transfer batter into brownie pan and make sure it is even.

Bake for 11 mins, or longer, until top is slightly brown.

Allow to cool in the pan, set on a cooling rack, for 5-10 mins.  Then cut into squares.

These are really good with vegan ice cream or regular ice cream or just as they are!