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Labor Day weekend prep: your menu, my obsession with lists and that baked beans recipe I always talk

One of our favorite things about having our house is getting to have big BBQ's. It's not often that we can get our group of friends together, so when everyone is back from being offshore it's really special to be able to get everyone at the same table. And let me tell you... it's never boring! These sailors bring home some TALES (one of my favorites is about a pilot in Singapore who came onboard the ship to navigate it to the berth with his lucky cricket in his shirt pocket!).

So when I'm planning a BBQ for anywhere from 8-20 people, what is the one thing I do to make it successful???

Make a list...and check it twice.

In our house, lists are sacred. Chase carries a notebook in his pocket at all times with a running list reminding him about anything from a task at work he needs to complete to a part he needs to pick up for the house. I've got a similar book with my work projects and my weekly meal list. The first thing Chase and I do in the morning over coffee is make our list for the day and when Chase is offshore he always starts with "what's on the agenda today??" We're a little (or a lot) psycho about our lists. You don't need to be like us. But you do need a list for your BBQ.

Write down everything you are going to make for your BBQ and ask yourself three questions: what ingredients to you need? Where are you going to cook it? When are you going to cook it?

The ingredients list is an obvious one. Don't leave for the grocery store without a list! If you go without a list, you'll forget something. That something will be sour cream. And honestly, nothing tastes as good without sour cream.

The "where are you going to cook this" questions sounds weird. But whether you have a 1950's kitchen with limited space or not, you need to understand where you need to be cooking. Otherwise, an hour before the party you'll realize you have 5 things that need to cook in the oven. If I see my list is skewed with mostly dishes that require cooking in the oven, I'll swap some dishes out.

The "when" question is the most important to answer so you can actually enjoy your BBQ! What can you make the day before? What can you prepare and have in the fridge to pop in the oven? What absolutely has to be cooked right before you serve it? Knowing this helps you decide whether you can play (i.e. dominate) one more game of corn hole or not.

Labor Day BBQ Menu


  • Caramelized Onion Dip: I always have at least one dip as an appetizer, mostly because they are ALWAYS a crowd pleaser. Also, they taste better when you make it ahead of time. Most dips need at least 8 hours to set up. By the time people arrive, all you have to do is take it out of the refrigerator & serve. BONUS: dips are great to bring if you are going to someone else's BBQ because they travel well. This caramelized onion dip is a pumped up version of your classic powdered onion dip.

  • Chorizo Meatballs: Take your favorite meatball recipe and swap out the meat for a 1/2 chorizo, 1/2 ground pork mixture.

  • Lemon Garlic Shrimp: Lemon + garlic + parsley + butter; blend; place on top of shrimp; bake. Easy-peasy-lemon-shrimpy.

  • 8 Layer Dip: This appetizer is usually associated with Super Bowl, but I think it's a hearty addition to any menu. Top with an avocado tomatillo salsa to make this dish special.


  • My Tender & Sticky Ribs From Tuesday: This one really doesn't need an explanation, here's the recipe.

  • Conner's Spicy Turkey Burgers: As a red meat lover, my initial thoughts about turkey burgers were "No". Boyyyyyy, was I wrong. You know those dishes that just taste better when someone else makes them?? These turkey burgers are one of those things (Chase's mom's tacos are another). These just always taste better when Conner makes them. Between onion seasoning, jalapeños, and sriracha, these burgers are fiery with flavor. I serve them with on Hawaiian sweet rolls with American cheese. I like having a second option for people as a main dish and these burgers are the size of sliders so you can eat one (or three) alongside your ribs.


  • Brown Sugar Baked Beans: There's no dish that people talk about more than this baked bean recipe. WARNING: you will never be able to go back to canned baked beans again.

  • Oven Roasted Veggies with Feta: Take whatever veggies are in season and on sale (some of my favorites are zucchini, asparagus, yellow squash, red onions, cherry tomatoes), season, bake, and top with feta cheese. Simple, healthy, and a perfect lighter compliment to the meal.

  • Twice Baked Potatoes: There's no such thing as a BBQ without potatoes. Whether you prefer fries, a hash or mashed, potatoes have to be at the party. The reason why I like twice baked (other than sour cream & cheese) is because you can make them in the morning, assemble them and then put them in the fridge. You only need to pop them in the oven for about 15 minutes before serving.

  • Corn Salad: Grilled corn + avocado + cherry tomatoes + blue cheese. Did you really think I was going to have a menu without blue cheese?????


  • Peach Cobbler with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream: Nothing says summer like peaches. Peach cobbler is easy to whip up & it's served at room temperature. You can bake earlier in the day and let cool.

  • Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies: I always have cookie dough in the freezer. In between dinner and dessert, put in some cookies. Not only will that cookie smell overtake your dirty kitchen, but everyone (even those people who say "I don't like dessert!") will have at least one. Take your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe & add 1 tablespoon of instant coffee.

Check back tomorrow for my Friday Favorites featuring favorite BBQ sauce!



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Peach Ice Cream


Friday Favorites: New Years' Resolutions, Winter Decorating  Inspo, and More!

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