Labor Day Backyard Barbecue, Mexican Style

What a fun, festive feast this will be to celebrate the last weekend of summer! Start out with a cooler full of ice cold beers and sodas. Bring on the Shrimp in Avocado Boats. Put those chicken breasts on the grill and start cooking! When they're done, heap Poblano Chile Salsa over them and serve with a Watermelon Fruit Salad and Jalapeno Corn Bread. If anyone's still hungry after all that food - well then, bring out the ice cream maker and whip up your own ice cream. (Or, if you're not up for that, buy some!)

Buen provecho - and have a wonderful time. After all, Labor Day signals the end of summer. School starts the next day here in the United States. Autumn is on its way. Enjoy the lingering sunlight, the warmth, the friendship and some great comida!


My family was first served this appetizer almost 30 years ago at the old Hotel Oceano on the malecón (ocean-front board walk) in Puerto Vallarta. Makes me salivate to even think about them! This serves eight, takes only about 10 minutes to prepare, and trust me-it's to die for!

4 avocados, cut in half and seeded (do not remove skin)
1 cup red seafood cocktail sauce
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp American chili powder
1 cup small shrimp, cooked and deveined (2 jars)

Place avocado halves on small plates. In small bowl mix cocktail sauce, lime juice and chili powder. Fill the hollow left by the seed with cocktail sauce. Heap shrimp over the top and serve.


In summer and fall, whenever you're driving through Mexico, it's not uncommon to spot a truck parked every mile or two along the side of the road, its tailgate down and its bed overflowing with sandías, or in English, watermelon. The fruit is just-picked, it's cheap and its sweet succulence is a treat and a half. My family loves watermelon. In fact, it's difficult for me to imagine a summer barbecue (on either side of the border) without a scooped-out watermelon filled with fruit. The avocado dressing suggested here is a rich, totally Mexican, change of pace. If you prefer a leaner dressing, try adding an eight ounce container of non-fat fruit yogurt instead. Makes eight generous servings (pretty much doubles as a dessert too) and takes about a half hour to make.

1 large watermelon, well chilled
1 honeydew melon and/or cantaloupe, scooped into balls
1 cup seedless grapes
1 cup peaches and/or mangoes, diced
1 cup strawberries, halved
1 apple, diced
1 cup sliced bananas, sprinkled with lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped walnuts


1 cup whipping cream (fat free or low fat is okay)
2 tbsp powdered sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 avocados, halved, seeded, peeled and mashed
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1 tsp finely chopped candied ginger

Trace a zigzag pattern horizontally around the top third of the watermelon. Cut through melon with sharp knife, removing top. Scoop out all the watermelon flesh except a shell one inch thick. Scoop removed watermelon into balls.

Combine all fruit and walnuts in the watermelon bowl. Chill until ready to serve.To make dressing, whip cream with powdered sugar and salt. Blend avocados, pineapple juice and candied ginger until thick and creamy. Fold into whipped cream mixture. Pour over salad and toss gently. Serve.


Jalapeño chiles, real corn and lots of cheese distinguishes this corn bread from the old-fashioned, all-American "ya'all" version of corn bread. It's not too fiery, but makes an awesome side dish for roasted or grilled foods. I love it! My mom used to serve it with fresh fried chicken (fresh because the chickens were purchased -- very recently alive -- from ranchos we happened to come upon in our travels up and down the dusty back roads of Baja) during our summer camping trips on the Pacific side of the peninsula back when I was in high school! Nowadays, I prefer grilled chicken breasts. Just a sign of the times, I suppose! Serves eight and takes an hour to prepare.

2 - 10 jalapeño chiles, finely chopped with seeds (depending on how hot you like it!) 1168
¾ cups chopped poblano peppers or green chiles
1 onion, finely diced
1 17 ounce can creamed corn
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup corn or canola oil
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
2 cups yellow corn meal

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 14 inch pan. In a large bowl, mix jalapeños with corn and onion. Beat in baking soda, salt and sugar, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well. Add buttermilk and oil, then cheese and cornmeal.

Pour batter into pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the top is brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan and serve in squares.


Another light, super easy winner that takes only minutes to make and serves eight.

12 filets of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, lightly seasoned to taste
2 cups Poblano Chile Salsa

Pound chicken breasts until 1/4 inch in thickness. Season as desired to taste. Barbecue over grill for 6 to 7 minutes on each side, while heating Poblano Chile Salsa. Pour 1/3 cup of salsa over each 1 ½ -filet serving.


This salsa is wonderful over grilled chicken breasts. It's also delicious over eggs in the morning, and it makes a great enchilada sauce too. Make up a double batch, if you dare. Serve half at your Labor Day barbecue and save the rest for later. Get creative! You won't regret it! Takes about 40 minutes to prepare and makes enough for eight servings.

14 Poblano chiles, either fresh or canned
1 cup chicken bouillon 2630
1 tsp oregano
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup sour cream, fat-free sour cream or nonfat yogurt

Using fresh chiles: In a heavy skillet, lightly toast the chiles. Turn them constantly so they don't burn. When cool enough to handle, hold the chiles under cold water. Rinse out seeds and discard stems. Using canned chiles: Rinse and pat chiles dry, discarding any seeds or stems.

Puree chiles in food processor. In medium saucepan, simmer pureed chiles, oregano and garlic in bouillon for twenty minutes, or until sauce has thickened, or about 20 minutes. Immediately prior to serving, add sour cream. Stir well.

Please visit our top Mexican food recipes section at Top Mexican recipes

Recipe and tips provided by Ann Hazard.

Join author Ann Hazard, as she leads you through four generations of historic Baja culinary adventure. She shares not only her family's favorite travel tales, but also the delicious, easy-to-prepare recipes she has collected and created. By the time you've cooked a meal or two and finished reading the book, you're guaranteed a lasting dose of Baja Magic. The book may even turn your perspective slightly to the South, lighten your heart and forever transform your outlook on life!

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