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Strawberries, Oranges, Marinara, and Meatballs: The Perfect Labor Day Lunch

Updated on September 5, 2011
Salad, bread, and marinara with meatballs. The perfect, quick holiday menu.
Salad, bread, and marinara with meatballs. The perfect, quick holiday menu.

What does one do when on a Labor Day weekend? Football is probably your first option. BBQs with friends may be a close second. Why not combine the travel friendly tailgate menu with a more sophisticated spread to entertain your closest friends? Yum! These recipes are a bit of a departure from what I would usually post, and for this you may thank my lovely friend, Kat. (She says, "Hi!"). This dinner spread was quite a hit, so I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

The completed plate.
The completed plate.

When Kat and I first decided to make lunch/dinner, we were rather clueless as to the menu we would be undertaking. I had just attended a Stanford game the previous day and was still in awe of the amazing finger food. So that would be our objective. Create a meal inspired by a classic tailgate food that would not be out of place on a dining room table. And the food item of choice? Meatballs!

The Menu

Appetizer: Orange, avocado, and toasted almond spinach salad (say that five times fast)

Main shebang (Kat's wording, not mine): Turkey and beef meatballs with homemade marinara sauce and toasted dutch crunch bread

Dessert: Hagen-Daaz blackberry cabernet sorbet with a strawberry and mint champagne cocktail

An easy salad using spinach, avocado, oranges, and toasted almonds.
An easy salad using spinach, avocado, oranges, and toasted almonds.



  • Medium avocado
  • Bag o' spinach
  • 1 orange
  • Slivered almonds

Basic dressing:

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Lemon juice ( to taste)
  • Orange juice (to taste)
  • Salt & pepper (to taste)

Orange, Avocado, and Toasted Almond Salad

Is it difficult to make a salad? Not really. You pick your leafy greens, add some salad toppings, and pick a dressing. Kat and I had previously attempted a salad from Kayotic in full, and it was a hit. With limited ingredients we had to substitute almonds for pine nuts, and we were feeling more like spinach than any other kind of green that day. You too can work with what you have or or substitute your favorite ingredients.


  1. Spread slivered almonds on a baking sheet. Put in oven to toast.
  2. Slice orange. Cut orange slices in half.
  3. Cut avocado into chunks.
  4. Add orange, avocado, and almonds to spinach.
  5. In small bowl, mix together olive oil, lemon juice, orange juice, and salt and pepper.
  6. Toss salad with salad dressing right before serving.


  • 1 small onion, finely minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 3 tbsp ketchup
  • One handful parsley (dried or fresh)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 lb ground lean turkey meat
  • 1/2 lb lean ground beef
  • 3 tbsp olive oil

Turkey Meatballs

For our main course, we chose to work off of a recipe from Food Network star Giada de Laurentiis. Her meatballs were turkey only, but to add a little flavor, we used lean turkey and beef equally.


  1. In a large bowl, combine onion, garlic, egg, panko, ketchup, parsley, Parmesan, salt, black and cayenne pepper. It is best to do this by hand.
  2. Now add your ground turkey and beef. Knead mixture by hand to make sure meat is fully covered by flavoring.
  3. Roll out mini meatballs. Giada's recipe claimed to make 42 mini meatballs. I ended up with around 32 (Kat and I kept eating them before they hit the table, so I cannot be sure).
  4. Heat olive oil on high. Using tongs, place meatballs in oil. You may have to pan fry your meatballs in two or more batches.
  5. Use the tongs to turn the meatballs periodically so that all sides are evenly cooked. When done, remove from heat and serve!


  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • 2 tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 5 leaves basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Homemade marinara sauce
Homemade marinara sauce

Marinara Sauce

Yes, you can use store bought marinara sauce. But this recipe is so simple, I do not see why you would want to.


  1. Heat all of your ingredients over the stove top on medium heat. Cover pan to let simmer.
  2. Let everything marinate until onions turn yellow.
  3. Remove from heat and place entire mixture into a food processor. Pulse until all food chunks are no longer chunky.

Note: To make a tomato soup, strain the resulting sauce. Neat, huh?

Note 2: This sauce is too good to waste, so make sure you serve bread with it so you can sop up any sauce remaining on your plate.


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 handful of mint
  • Five large strawberries
  • Champagne

A simple syrup brings champagne to life.
A simple syrup brings champagne to life.

Strawberry Mint Champagne Cocktail

A nice sweet cocktail to pair with your dessert. This cocktail makes use of a simple syrup, which is a recipe you can adapt to many different flavor profiles. Just boil your sugar and water and then add sliced fruit to flavor.


  1. Cut your strawberries into quarters.
  2. Bring water and sugar to a boil. In about a minute, the sugar should be completely dissolved.
  3. Take the sugar water off of the heat and add strawberries and mint.
  4. Let mixture sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  5. Strain out the mint and strawberries and refrigerate the syrup until cold.
  6. Once ready to drink, pour isyrup to taste and then top with champagne. Garnish with fresh mint and strawberries.


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    • BWD316 profile image

      Brian Dooling 

      7 years ago from Connecticut

      sounds like an awesome meal! the salad and champagne look really great!


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