Cooking With Pie Irons

 

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No, we’re not talking about the loved ones that will be attending your family reunion- we’re talking about Pie Irons! Pie Irons are known by many different names, Pudgie Pies, Pioneer Pies, Fire Pies, Toasties and Jaffles, but each name is referring to ingredient-filled "pockets" of bread toasted over a campfire. Cooking with pie irons is a long time tradition at our family reunions.

The Basics of  Cooking With Pie Irons

Camp cooking doesn’t have to be just hot dogs and roasted marshmallows. Our family reunions wouldn’t be complete without a delicious raspberry pie cooked over the campfire and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. With a pie iron, you can cook anything from a simple grilled-cheese and ham sandwich to a delicious berry pie for dessert.

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In its most basic function, a pie iron is a way to cook grilled cheese sandwiches and fruit pies over an open fire. This is done by placing the food inside the pie iron and then locking the two sides closed with a metal hook. Metal rods with wood handles extend from the castings so the user can easily maneuver the pie iron over a campfire. A few minute over the heat, usually 4 to 6 minutes, and you will have perfectly toasted sandwich or pie.

Pie Irons are available in both cast iron & aluminum. Our family prefers cast iron. They come in several different shapes; round, square, oblong and double. For our family reunions, we only use square irons. Aunt Lynn doesn’t think she’s had breakfast unless she has had a piece of toast so we’ve even used our pie irons for toast.

To make the most simple of pies, just take two slices of bread (buttered on the outsides), fill with jam, cheese, meat or pie filling- you don’t need much, then place inside the pie iron and lock it closed. Hold it over your campfire for a few minutes on each side and you’ll soon be eating a grilled cheese sandwich or a scrumptious apple pie.

At our family reunions, we like to make fruit pies in the evening while we are sitting around the campfire visiting, singing or playing games. About ten years ago, at a family reunion, cousin Mindy suggested that we sprinkle our freshly baked pies with sugar and cinnamon when we dump it out of the pie iron. Yummy! Some of our favorite flavors of fruit pies are lemon and raspberry.

Pie Iron Fruit Pies

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Instructions

 Step 1

Build a campfire. Pie Iron pies do best over a hot bed of coals. Try to start your campfire an hour early to let it burn down.

 Step 2

Butter one side of each slice of bread. Place one slice, butter side down, in one half of the pie iron.

 Step 3

Put a spoonful of pie filling in the center of the bread slice. Keep the filling away from the edges, as it may leak while the pie is cooking.

 Step 4

Place the second slice of bread, buttered side up, on top of the pie filling.

 Step 5

Place the second half of the pie iron on the bottom half, squeezing the bread and filling together. Latch the two halves of the iron together, to keep it from opening up while the pie is cooking.

 Step 6

Place the pie iron over the campfire, and let it cook for several minutes (4-6 minutes). Turn the pie over, and check for doneness. The pie is done when both sides are golden brown and toasted.

 Step 7

Put the pie on a plate. If you have crispy edges you may want to carefully trim them. Be careful, as the filling is HOT! Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and enjoy!

Five Things I Will Never Do Again at a Family Reunion

5 things i  will never do at a family reunion

1.  I will never make a fish print t shirt. 

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Fish  print t shirts- it seemed like a great idea- and it fit our theme perfectly but in the end it was an epic fail.   To make the shirts you generously paint one side of the  fish with fabric paint. Then you place the T-shirt front side down on the painted fish and pat in place.

When you lift the t shirt  off the fish you have the imprint of the fish, scales and all, on the shirt. 

I’ve seen cute shirts done this way but the only fish we could  find were HUGE catfish- in most cases bigger than the shirt.  Everyone worked hard to make the shirts successful but when only half of the fish fits on your shirt it’s kind of disappointing. This activity goes down as the worst one I’ve ever planned.

Never again will  I plan an activity or craft without trying it out on my immediate family before using it at a family reunion.

2. I will never let a scientist be in charge  of making gravy

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At a huge family dinner I was in charge of I gave the  responsibility for making the gravy to a scientist who had all the correct formulas for making gravy but couldn’t seem to get it to thicken up.  It looked like brown water.  I had 300 people sitting at tables waiting to be served and no gravy for their potatoes.  Panic mode! 

I finally enlisted the help of a school lunch cook who swooped in  and easily thickened the gravy.  It was kind of a touchy situation- I didn’t want to offend the  scientist but I really needed to get that gravy thickened so I had to turn to the REAL expert.

This “never” item  isn’t about gravy it’s more about assigning people responsibilities that they can be successful  at completing.  I learned to make sure I matched the right people with the right assignment!

3. I  will never hold a reunion without having a plan for bad weather.

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Look at this picture- these are not happy times. A rainy family reunion  is not a happy family reunion. 

We’ve been  holding the Stewart family reunion for 30 years and have only had bad weather two times.  So what am  I complaining about- that’s a pretty good record.  It’s great, unless it’s one of the times it rained for three days. 

Rain and other bad weather can really put a damper on your  family reunion.  Our family were really great sports when it came to this family reunion in 2012 but a break from the rain would’ve been nice.  Now when  I  schedule our reunion I also reserve a nearby church’s cultural hall where we can do activities, eat a meal and get out of the weather for awhile if needed.  We also come prepared with large tarps and portable heaters- just in case. 

Of course, if you hold your reunion at a hotel this won’t be as much of an issue- unless, you plan on attending a theme park or other outdoor activities.  Talk to hotel officials in advance about the use of large conference halls for a bad weather day.

4. I  will never reserve a reunion site without shade.

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Several years ago, we had a difficult time finding a location for our family reunion.  Someone beat us to the punch and we  lost out on our normal reunion site.  (That hasn’t happened since.) In desperation we reserved a campsite at a hot springs thinking that swimming would be great fun  for everyone- it was.  However; there was no shade whatsoever and it was HOT!  We put up some tarps to give us some relief but the sun beat down on us relentlessly.  Everyone was exhausted from swimming in the hot springs pools and then baking in the hot sun. 

Since that reunion I have made it a policy to check out our family reunion sites personally.  A couple of things I look for in a suitable site are:  proximity  to the bathrooms
        suitable sites for tents  and trailers
        Enough parking (most campsites restrict the number of cars) 
        cooking facilities & eating arrangements
        open space for games and activities
        and SHADE!

5.  I will never contribute to a boring reunion.

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This is a picture of the really awesome obstacle course we put together for a family reunion.  Where’s Waldo?  You won’t  find Waldo or any other human in this picture because nobody wanted to do anything- BORING!

I was asked to plan activities for a large family.  My family worked hard at hauling bales of hay, ladders and other props for a dynamite obstacle  course.  We  also organized Frisbee golf and volleyball tournaments- BUT… nobody wanted to participate.  Their reunion consisted of eating, visiting (which  is important) and holding  an auction.  The most frustrating part of the reunion for me was when we finally got enough people together to play volleyball and the reunion  organizers shut us down so they could start the auction.  UGH!

When  I attend a family reunion I want to get to  know family members better- I want to  play with  them, laugh with  them and get a little crazy with them, but if that’s not what’s  important at your reunion  don’t ask  someone  to plan activities. 

I learned from this experience that I had better know who my “audience” is and plan activities (or no activities) depending on their  family makeup and interests.

Getting It Right– Choosing A Family Reunion Location

This is a freelance article authored by Sally Fain

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Getting It Right – Picking A Family Reunion Location

A family reunion can be great fun, but it can also be fraught with difficulties. Every family is different, and therefore likely to react differently to different situations. While some family reunions may work best if the family remains closely grouped and in proximity to one another at all times, other families may understandably feel that being around one another 24/7 is a high-speed route to irrevocable family breakdown! Choosing the right location for your reunion is therefore crucial to ensure that everything goes according to plan. Luckily, there’s an ideal place out there for everyone!

Reunion Locations- Consider The Kids

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One major factor to take into consideration is how many children will be attending your reunion. If it’s not very many, or those that are attending are older teens, then finding somewhere with child-friendly activities is not so much of an issue. However, if a lot of attendees have young kids, then it is crucial to make sure that you book a place which will give the kids plenty to do.

While chatting, reminiscing, and catching up over a few beverages can keep adults occupied for hours, the same is not necessarily true of children. While many kids will, to a certain extent, play together and keep each other entertained, relying solely on the capacity of your children and the children of your relatives to play nicely together can be a recipe for disaster.

You don’t want to spend the whole of your reunion breaking up fights over toys etc, and dealing with bored, grizzly kids. You also would like your offspring to enjoy the reunion as much as you will. As such, it’s probably a good idea to plan ahead and book a place which gives the kids plenty of scope to run around, enjoy themselves, and be nicely tired out by the time the grown-ups retire to the bar for that all-important gossip. Many theme parks like Walt Disney World family reunion packages which are sure to delight both adults and children. If this is perhaps a little too child-centric, try picking a venue with a play-park, a crèche, or a toy-room attached.

Relaxation

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Ideally, many people want to combine their family reunion with a vacation. Meeting up with the relatives can be stressful, so many people try and choose a relaxing location in order to ease the pressure a bit. There are plenty of spas and country retreat which offer a relaxing family reunion package, but smaller families could do a lot worse than to book themselves onto a cruise. While some may quail at the thought of being stuck on a boat with their extended family for days, others will be surprised at just how much scope for family fun and gentle, solo relaxation is provided by cruise lines these days. Even the kids will be happy, as plenty of cruise lines offer a considerable amount of child-centric activity. Most cruises make plenty of shore stops in diverse locations, meaning that you can cement your family bonds by experiencing new places and cultures together, or escape from them all in a foreign port for a couple of hours – whatever floats your boat (excuse the pun).

Accommodation Without Compromise

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Most families, of course, do not fall neatly into any particular category. They are made up of diverse elements, all of which want different things out of a family reunion. Ideally, therefore, a family reunion venue should provide the opportunity both for teenagers (for example) to be alone with their phones, and for grandparents to spend a reasonable degree of time with their grandchildren without compromising either party too much. Parents will probably need a certain amount of space in which to corral their children and recover from familial overload, while at the same time having lots of facetime with relatives they’ve not seen for years.

A cabin vacation can accommodate a variety of such needs, without too much compromise. Retiring to individual cabins (or the beautiful countryside in which many such cabin facilities reside) gives those who need it some alone time, while those who wish to can gather and chat in one of the other cabins. Family can gather together at mealtimes, thus ensuring that time for connection and catch-up is given to everyone. A cabin vacation (or similar) gives individuals a degree of independence while ensuring that family connection still remains at the forefront of the reunion. Perfect for large groups with diverse needs!

5 Gallon Bucket Seats For Your Camping Reunion

Making and decorating their own 5 gallon bucket seat is a great ice breaker activity for your family reunion.

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5 Gallon Bucket Seats for Your Family Reunion

If your family reunion is held at a campground you might find these 5 gallon bucket seats a fun and useful addition to your reunion. They’re easy to make and handy for storing anything you might want to access quickly such as flashlights, sunscreen, bug  spray, gloves etc.

What you’ll need:

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5 gallon bucket (Have everyone bring their own bucket.  If you have family that will be traveling long distances to attend your reunion, purchase their buckets for them.)

Fabric-I like using bandanas

Polyethylene foam or quilt batting for the cushy part of your seat.

Particle board or for a more economic solution use cardboard.

Scissors

Sharpies

Staple guns

NOTE: Be sure and have plenty of scissors and staple guns so that people are not standing around waiting to use them.

Step 1. Cut the circles out of particle board or plywood scraps

Trace the lid for your pattern then use a jigsaw to cut circles from particle board or any scrap wood you may have.  You will want to have these cut in advance if you are camping.  Of course,if you are using cardboard they can be cut at the campsite.

Step 2:  Add The Padding.

For the first buckets we made we used very thick (2- 3 inch) foam but we found that any padding at all makes the bucket more comfortable- even a couple of layers of quilt batting works well.  Our best buckets were made with  1/2 inch Polyethylene Foam.

Place the wood circles on the foam and trace them. Cut the foam to fit.

NOTE: Be sure the handle of your bucket can move up and down. If your foam is too thick the handle won’t be able to move.

Step 3: Attach the fabric

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Lay the wood piece on top of your fabric and add three inches to the circle. Cut out the fabric and then  using staple guns attach the batting and  fabric to the wood circle. Pull the fabric tight before stapling it on the board.

Step 4: Decorating Your 5 Gallon Bucket

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Here’s the fun part!  If someone in your family has a vinyl cutting machine such as a silhouette, ask them to cut a variety of shapes and designs that can be used to personalize buckets.  Supply alphabet stickers, glitter glue, sticky jewels, buttons, ribbon  and permanent markers so family members can decorate their buckets in their own personal style.

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Giant Activities for Your Family Reunion

Miscellaneous” Activities for Your Family Reunion

I considered calling this post ”Miscellaneous” activities for your family reunion because they aren’t theme driven but have proven to be great time fillers for small groups of people during our family reunions.

Giant Checkers Rug

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I have had this giant Checkers Rug for more than 20 years.  We set it out at every family reunion and you will always find two people playing Checkers no matter what time of day it is, usually with a small crowd gathered around cheering for the underdog to win.

Giant Coloring Pages

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Giant coloring pages are always a huge hit at our  family reunions. Of course, there isn’t room for a lot of people to sit around coloring, but it’s a great activities for someone looking for a little down  time.  Coloring pages come in different themes that would go along with your reunion theme- jungle, circus, Medieval etc.  Some pages come with markers for coloring but you’ll need to bring extra.  When your page is complete, roll it up carefully and then enter in your county fair or have it framed for Grandma.

The giant Checker rug and giant coloring pages are both available at the family reunion helper  store  for under twenty dollars.

A Silly Little Camp Song

 

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One side of our family always combines their family reunion with a weekend of camping.  As I’ve been working on a  theme and activities for our camp I found a copy of this silly camp song in one of my files. 

It seems like everything the song mentions happens when we go camping from missing tent poles to getting eaten’ alive by mosquitos. I thought I’d share it- maybe someone will get a chuckle out of it.  The only catastrophe it doesn’t mention is the broken zippers on our tent.  Maybe I’ll make up my own verse to talk about that.’

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“Take Me Out To The Ballgame” Tune

Sing this song to the tune  of “Take Me Out To The Ballgame”

Putting up our old dome tent
Who forgot all the poles?
Rolling out all the sleeping bags
oh no the tent top is starting to sag.

Let me melt my shoes in the campfire,
freeze my toes in the stream.
I’ll eat one, two, three chocolate S’mores
It’s a camper’s dream!

Sleeping out on the hard ground.
My air mattress is flat.
Skunks, mice and squirrels invade my space.
I feel them crawling all over my face.

I’ll wash my hair in cold water.
The headache freeze is a pain.
It takes one, two, three times to rinse.
It’s a camper’s dream!

Lead me back from the outhouse.
Take me back to my tent.
Cook me a hot dog on a long, straight stick.
I’ll eat so many that I’m sure to get sick.

Let’s all sit around the campfire
who forgot the bug spray with Deet?
Now it’s one,two, three mosquito bites
it’s a camper’s dream.

Happy Camping!

 

Quick and Easy Dutch Oven Cookies

I usually mix up a batch of cookie dough to bake in our Dutch oven when we go camping, but on a whim I threw in a package of cookie mix for our last camping trip and it was a hit!

Case of Betty Crocker Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix (12 total)

Using the mix the cookies were quick and easy to stir together and I didn’t have to worry about keeping the dough cold.

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If using a 12″ Dutch oven, you can bake about 8 cookies at one time. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes or until light brown. Use 6 coals on bottom, 22 on top.

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The mixes don’t make a huge batch and as good as fresh baked cookies taste when you’re camping you might want to toss in an extra package of mix.