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The 5 Super Easy Memorial Day Recipes Every Gathering Needs

They are decadently delicious!

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AARP - Memorial Day Picnic
Photographs by Jennifer Chong (Food Stylist: Caroline Hwang; Prop Stylist: Alicia Buszcak)
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Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kickoff to summer and the perfect time to gather with family and friends. While some people like to fire up the grill during the patriotic weekend, our family enjoys a picnic at the beach with good music, games and plenty of food. I prefer to keep things simple, so I bring decadently delicious picnic foods that are quick and easy to make. Here are five of my favorite recipes for a day at the beach, the park or just a fun backyard gathering with the neighbors.

AARP - Memorial Day Picnic
Jennifer Chong | JChong Studio L Jennifer Chong | JChong Studio L


These hearty, flavorful sandwiches are a delicious addition to any picnic.

Serves 4

4 ciabatta rolls or fresh crescent rolls

8 teaspoons pepper jelly

4 teaspoons Dijon mustard

8 ounces thinly sliced turkey

6 ounces brie, cut into 1/2-inch slices

1-2 apples (enough for twelve 1/2-inch slices)

1 teaspoon lemon juice

8 ounces arugula

Mix apple slices with lemon juice and set aside. Halve the rolls crosswise, then spread 1 teaspoon mustard on 4 of the halves. Top each with 2 ounces turkey, the brie slices (divided evenly over the 4 rolls), 3 apple slices, and 2 ounces of arugula. With the remaining 4 halves, spread 2 teaspoons pepper jelly over each one and place on top of the sandwiches. Serve immediately or wrap in foil (or plastic wrap). Keep refrigerated until you are ready to eat.

AARP - Memorial Day Picnic
Jennifer Chong | JChong Studio L Jennifer Chong | JChong Studio L


If you like a little kick with your coleslaw, this recipe is perfect for you!

Serves 8

5 cups coleslaw mix (with shredded carrots)

1/2 red onion, finely diced

3 cups fresh or canned (drained) pineapple, chopped into small pieces

2 jalapenos, seeded and finely diced


1 cup mayo

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

3 tablespoons sugar

Salt & pepper to taste

Mix veggies and pineapple together in a bowl. Set aside. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Add to veggies, mix well, and chill 2-3 hours before serving.

AARP - Memorial Day Picnic
Jennifer Chong | JChong Studio L Jennifer Chong | JChong Studio L


Grilling this juicy fruit brings out all the flavors with a hint of smokiness. Use one or more of your favorite toppings to elevate the taste. Watermelon is best eaten right off the grill but can be packed for a picnic if enjoyed soon after it has been cooked.

Serves 6

1 medium, seedless watermelon

3 tablespoons lime juice

1/4 cup honey

Optional Toppings:

Crumbled feta

Red pepper flakes

Fresh mint leaves, chopped

Fresh cilantro, chopped

Flaky sea salt

Extra lime juice

Extra honey

Whisk lime juice and honey together and set aside.

Cut the watermelon in two halves, then quarters, and slice into 1-inch triangles (leaving the rind on). Brush both sides of the watermelon with the lime/honey mixture. Use olive oil spray to grease grill racks and set to medium-high heat. Grill triangles for 2-3 minutes per side until char marks appear. Serve with your favorite toppings sprinkled over each slice.

AARP - Memorial Day Picnic
Jennifer Chong | JChong Studio L Jennifer Chong | JChong Studio L


A picnic or cookout wouldn't be complete without a side of potato salad. This one has the twist of Green Goddess dressing to add extra zing to the dish.

Serves 6-8

2 pounds small red potatoes, halved

3 stalks celery, diced

3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped

6 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled

4 scallions, chopped

1 cup (or more) bottled or homemade Green Goddess dressing

Salt and pepper to taste

Optional Ingredients:

1 cup cooked peas

Fresh chopped dill

Boil potatoes in water with some salt and cook for 10 minutes or until tender. Drain and cool potatoes. In a large bowl, combine celery, eggs, bacon, and scallions. Add potatoes, seasonings, and 1 cup of dressing. Mix together and, if needed, add more dressing for more moistness. Stir in peas and fresh dill if preferred, then chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

AARP - Memorial Day Picnic
Jennifer Chong | JChong Studio L Jennifer Chong | JChong Studio L


These super easy bars make the perfect sweet finish to any meal. However, if you prefer less sweetness, use less candy and chips. Makes 16 bars

1 box yellow cake mix

1/2 cup melted butter

3 tablespoons milk

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

Pinch of salt

1 cup candy-coated candies (like M&M's or Reese's Pieces)

1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Pour cake mix into bowl with butter, milk, eggs, vanilla, and salt. Mix until it forms a batter. Add 1/2 of the candies and half of the chips and fold gently into the batter. Spread batter into a greased 9x13 pan. Use your hands to flatten it evenly if necessary, making sure batter reaches the edges of the pan. Top with remaining candy and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown on top and firm in the center. Let cool for 1 hour before cutting into bars.

What are YOUR plans for Memorial Day weekend? Let us know in the comments below.


Follow Article Topics: Lifestyle