Labor Day always sneaks up on me. I think it’s because with all the whirlwind of back-to-school schedules and activities to get used to, I’m so ready for a break that I don’t really plan much of anything. I’m ready to just chill. This year, my family is co-hosting a backyard grill-out. We won the lottery when it comes to neighbors because our co-hosts across the street are proud owners of a gorgeous pool, deck, and huge yard perfect for a volleyball net and giant slip-n-slide for the kids. Our guests are all in charge of contributing an appetizer, side dish, or dessert to share.

I’ll be manning the grill over at our humble abode and in addition to the meat, I’ll be grilling a boatload of fresh asparagus. It lightens the whole menu and is always a crowd-pleaser. For perfect grilled asparagus, I drizzle the spears with a little olive oil, season with salt, pepper, and just a pinch of ground cardamom… it’s that thing that makes everyone go, hmmmm, what is that?

After preheating the grill on high, I place the asparagus on the grates in a single layer, turn the gas to low, shut the lid and leave it on for no longer than five minutes. Remove the grilled asparagus and drizzle with a balsamic vinegar reduction. It’s health food that is seriously like candy to me! In addition to grilled asparagus, here are ten more alternatives to help keep your Labor Day festivities light and fun this year!

1. These Chipotle Stout Sloppy Joe Sliders from the Beeroness pack a powerful punch with a good stout beer, chipotle peppers and smoked paprika. Keep things light by using lean, grass-fed beef.

2. These Chicken Tequila Burgers from Annie’s Eats are sure to please the heartiest partiers while still keeping things light with fresh-ground chicken breast.

3. This festive red-colored Walnut Red Pepper Dip from MyRecipes uses Omega-3 loaded walnuts as its flavorful base.

4. Corn is certainly plentiful in the Midwest this time of year. Put it to good, grilled use in this Grilled Corn Guacamole Recipe from The Pioneer Woman.

5. For a super-quick and easy yet impressive appetizer, I urge you to try my Strawberry Balsamic Bruschetta recipe, found over at my blog Foodtastic Mom.

6. Who doesn’t love Mac ‘n cheese at a party? This recipe from The Comfort of Cooking keeps things healthier by adding plenty of roasted veggies and using olive oil instead of butter.

7. I’m a veg-head, meaning no one has to tell me twice to eat my veggies. I am simply in love with this idea of skewering Brussels sprouts and basting them with a whole grain mustard marinade, courtesy of Rose Married.

8. Rounding third and coming home for dessert are these adorable Angel Food Cupcakes from Cooking Classy. You’ll knock it out of the park with these babies!

9. And what’s a summertime party without a frozen treat? These festive popsicles from the mom-blogger at In Sock Monkey Slippers use simply plain yogurt and berries for their beyond fresh flavor.

10. And finally, this patriotic Watermelon Lemonade from Love the Day will keep your guests cool even if you aren’t near a pool.