Pool Noodle Ponies For Your Western Reunion

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At our western themed family reunion we created our own pool noodle ponies.  Everyone, no matter what their age, made a pony until we had a whole herd of them.  DIY pool noodle ponies are a great activity for a multi day reunion.  We had the whole first day to create our ponies and used them for fun activities on the second day.

For each pony you need one swimming noodle  the skinnier ones work best and you can usually find them for $1.00 at dollar stores.

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twine or yarn
felt (9 x 12 sheets work well)
large wiggly eyes
low temp glue gun and glue
scissors
Permanent markers
Decorations

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For your ponies head, bend the end of your noodle over and use twine or yarn and tie  tightly to hold in place.  This will be the ponies bridle.  Attach a longer piece of rope to make the reins. You may want to braid this part of the bridle or add bows etc.

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For the mane of the pony make a slit, about 1/2-1 inch deep, into the pool noodle with a box cutter, pocket knife or one side of a pair of scissors. Cut felt so it is fringed on both edges then stuff the felt (center first) into the slit.

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The felt will stay put without gluing.

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Cut another strip of felt with points on both ends to make the ears.  Put the ears under the bend of the head and pull upward.

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Encourage pony creators to be creative.  Provide permanent markers, stickers and jewels and see what they create.  We have found that the more time you give them the more creative the ponies got.  We even got a long necked giraffe (made from two pool noodles).

Finally, put together a rodeo or horse show for your horses to  compete in.  Give prizes for

Helpful hint- If you have a large crowd making ponies, write names on your trusty steeds.  Although each is unique they may still  be difficult to pick out of the crowd.

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For more fun ideas for your western themed family reunion or party check out familyreunionhelper.com

Western Family Reunion

Accommodating Those With Food Allergies at Your Family Reunion

food allergies

Ten ideas for “accommodating” those with food allergies at your family reunion or party
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Allergies to gluten, eggs, milk, seeds, nuts, peanuts, and more make it impossible to eat “normal” family reunion food. In our family we deal with life threatening food allergies every time we get together for a family reunion or party.  Below is a list of things we have found make a difference when planning family reunion food around food allergies:

  1. As the family reunion chairman make sure you know about any food allergies or other food restrictions. 
  2. As a family member with allergies be specific when you let the reunion food committee know about your allergies.  Don’t just say “gluten-free crackers,” but suggest a brand and where to purchase it.  No one is going to be as concerned about food allergies as you are. They may not consider some things that you feel are obvious so speak up.
  3. If you are planning a potluck meal for your family reunion make a note of food allergies in your family.  For instance you could add,  “Please remember, no nuts” (Be specific) on your invitation. For some fun recipes check out these 10 Delicious Nut Allergy Friendly Recipes.
  4. Some meal ideas that make dealing with food allergies at your family reunion a little easier is salad, taco or potato bars.  Family members with allergies can take only those foods that are safe for them.  See Aunt Mo’s blog on “Belly Up To The Bar” for more food bar ideas.  However if the food allergy is life threatening you must be aware of cross-contact when eating at buffets or food bars.
  5. If you have food allergies, it is often safest to bring your own food.  Instead of planning meals around the entire family consider doing some meals “on your own”. 
  6. Offer to bring safe food so that you know there will be something there that you can eat. 
  7. If you’re on the food committee consider keeping the original boxes and packages for food you’ve used so that parents can read the packages for themselves.  Even though you may think you’ve taken all the precautions only those with experience will know for sure.
  8. If  you are on the food committee for your family reunion don’t let those with allergies feel like a burden or annoyance. Let them know that you are want them to be safe and enjoy the reunion food just like everyone else.  For help with planning food for a large reunion check out our “How Much Do I Need To Feed a Hundred” chart.

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My sister-in-law, Lisa, has a couple of children with food allergies.  Over the years she has developed her own ways of coping with food allergies at family reunions and parties.  Lisa added her own suggestions to the list I made:

  1. Often food is given as prizes and treats at family reunions. Lisa suggests bringing your own bag of treats.  Make sure the treats for those with allergies are “cool” treats like Pop Rocks or fruit snacks.
  2. Lisa also carries fast to fix food for her children like cereal, instant oatmeal, Cup of Noodles and instant mashed potatoes for when surprise situations arise.

Lisa says, “It’s nice when people make an acceptation for my kids but I don’t plan on it or expect it.”  When talking about her daughter’s sensitivity to dairy she says, “It’s my job to take care of it and I plan ahead for unforeseen situations.”

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One of my nieces, McKell,  is a vegetarian and we accommodate that at our family reunions by reserving a serving of Dutch oven potatoes before we add the bacon etc.  She loves vegies and we always make sure there are several choices for her.  McKell’s uncles like to tease her about her food choices but in the end they all respect her and work to make sure she can eat with the family.

When it come to food allergies any food allergy can be life-threatening. As the Aunt to several children with food allergies, I try to be a meticulous label- reader and remove all nut- containing foods when I’m in charge of the food at a family reunion or party but honestly, I’m never going to be as good at identifying problem foods as Lisa or her children. Lisa has taught her children to accept some responsibility for the food they eat.  They have learned to ask questions before they eat foods that may be  a problem for them.

And lets not forget those family members that may eating healthy or trying to lose a few pounds.  Its such a welcome surprise for them when they find healthy options amidst all the high calorie foods usually found at a reunion. Check out our list of 30 healthy snacks all containing less than 70 calories for great snack ideas that won’t be detrimental to your health.

You’ll find seven delicious and decadent recipes for those that are trying to eat healthy, like carrot cake bites and peanut butter cups here. Seven Guilt Free Recipes for Healthy Desserts

There's No Place Like Home  Medieval Reunion   Family Heritage Reunion

A little extra planning can help those with allergies  feel like they’re part of the group.  If you can prepare one or two food items around your reunion theme.  For instance, if you’re having “Bronasuraus Burgers for dinner make a vegie burger for you vegan family members.  You will find some fun reunion reunion theme ideas here.

Sometimes those with food allergies have apologized for being a problem and for the extra work it takes to accommodate them.  Honestly, ensuring safety for family members is not being “accommodating”, it is being responsible and loving- and that’s what families do!

Olympic Themed Family Reunion

“OWN THE PODIUM!” An Olympic Inspired Family Reunion or Party

There are few times that the world comes together to celebrate, cheer and honor its people – the Olympics is one of those occasions. This global event has the power to unify the world and inspire peace for a moment in time. To celebrate this extraordinary event and its athletes in your own corner of the world, host an Olympic Family Reunion! Everyone can be a gold medal athlete at your Family Reunion Olympic Games. No training is required; all you need is the desire to have a good time. Enjoy classic Winter and Summer events plus amusing twists in “Silly Olympic”contests. This Olympic reunion includes more than 40 pages of tips, tricks and shortcuts for “Owning the Podium” at your next Olympic games.

Purchase this Olympic theme at
http://familyreunionhelper.com/products/products.php?ProductID=8

Olympic Reunion

http://familyreunionhelper.com/products/products.php?ProductID=8

Nail It Game!

nail it

I love finding a new game to share with my family and friends and the game I’m sharing today is a good one. Simple to put together and simple to play. This version of the “stump game” can be played by everyone and we call it “Nail It”.

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Nail It Game Tools

To play you need a tree stump, as many nails as there are players, and one hammer.   The nails we used are pictured below.

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How to Play the Nail It Game

Everyone puts their nail into the stump just enough for it to stand nice and sturdy (in the order that you are standing in the circle). Each player then “claims” a nail by placing his or her finger on the nail to claim it as theirs. This will be his nail for the duration of the game. It is generally understood that people will claim the nail directly in front of them.

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The first player taps the hammer two times on the stump and then takes a swing at any of the nails but their own.  They either hit the nail or miss the nail- either way the hammer is then passed to the next person in the circle and they repeat.

Winning the Game

The goal is to hit everyone else’s nail until it is flush with the stump and to be the last nail standing.  A player is eliminated from the game (and thereby takes no more turns) once any part of the head of his nail passes below the level of the surface of the stump (including bending over the edge of the stump without actually entering it). Use your fingernail to test if the nail is flush.

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It is common for the winner of the game, should he choose to do so, to drive his own nail fully into the stump in a victory drive.

I have to say I was a surprised when, doing research for this blog, found that the “stump” game is actually a drinking game.  So, as a disclaimer, let me say that we have played this game and never, at any time, have we had to have a can of beer in our hand to have fun playing it.  It’s a great game for family members of most ages and abilities.  Sometimes the most powerful hammer swingers are the worst players. 

Nail It Game Tips: 

*You may all stand or all sit to play
*Keep your face a safe distance from the stump so you don’t get hit in the head.
*Be careful reaching across the stump to hit a nail- you may hit your palm on a nail and it doesn’t feel very good.
*Choose good, sturdy nails- too small and some players can drive them in one swing.

Giant Yardzee Game For Your Reunion or Outdoor Party

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I’ve never gotten too excited about all the “giant” yard games you  find on the internet but a couple of weeks ago I actually saw a giant Yahtzee game. I got to touch it, roll the dice and count up my score and I thought, “Hey this would be fun for our next family reunion!”  (I  think that about a lot of things)

Giant Yardzee is pretty simple to make.  You’ll need  5 dice cut from 4″x”4″ fence posts.  Cut each cube to 3.5 inches to make a perfect cube.Sand as necessary and paint in bright colors.  To make dots use a circle template to paint them on or use stickers or circles cut with a 1 inch hole punch.

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This is a very cute bucket to store Yardzee score cards and markers in but a 5 gallon bucket is more practical as it will also hold your dice.

Print off giant sized Yahtzee score cards- there are many free ones on the internet- here’s one resource.http://www.memory-improvement-tips.com/support-files/yahtzee-score-sheet-large.pdf

Playing using normal Yahtzee rules.

Did you know- A single “dice” is called a die and multiples are called dice. The round dots on a die are called pips!

Orange You Glad It’s Summer!

orange blog

What a clever way to say thank you to a teacher, friend or co-worker.  Include a basket or gift bag full of “orange” items.Some orange things you can include are:
orange jello
orange gum
orange breath mints
orange Kool-aid
orange soda such  as Shasta orange or Sunkist
Reese’s Pieces
non-food items such as orange colored pencils, markers, lip gloss, post it notes, straws or nail  polish.

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Put items in a cute gift bag or box (preferably orange).
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Copy the orange at the top of this article, cut out and attach with bright orange ribbon to your gift.  Don’t forget to right your own personal message.

Use the “orange” theme to say thank you to special people at your reunion or “orange you glad it’s your birthday” for someone who celebrates their birthday during your reunion. 

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You can also create a “box of sunshine” for someone by replacing orange items with yellow things- yellow Jell-O, lemonheads and lemonade mix etc.

Or put  together a green  basket filled with green Mike  and Ikes, peace tea, wintergreen life savers, green  pear, green apples and fruit gum.  It’s perfect for St Patrick’s Day or use as a thank you at your family reunion- “We’re LUCKY to have you in our family.”

Silver Dollar Game for Your Independence Day Party

silver dollar game

We have a Independence Day tradition in our family- Whenever we get together for a family or reunion or party around Independence Day we play the “Silver Dollar” game. The Silver Dollar game is a game my Mom invented to encourage us to remember our American history and important United States facts.

Mom would ask a US history question and the first one to get the answer right would get a sliver dollar. Mom has a fun way off tossing the silver dollar to the winner- I’m not sure how to describe,  it  but basically she just tosses it to the family member that has the correct answer to the question.

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Plan to play the Silver Dollar game at your Independence Day family reunion or party. Don’t have Silver Dollars? How about using 50 states quarters, red, white and blue taffy, or patriotic pencils?

Warning: If your family is competitive, like mine is, you may have to assign someone to be the judge and determine who is the first to raise their hand and watch out- even if you do get the answer right someone may just reach out and snatch your prize right out of the air, Oh well, it’s just part of the game and family fun!

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Below are a list of questions you can use for your Silver Dollar game:

1. What is the title of the National Anthem? 

Answer: The Star Spangled Banner

2.  Which right is guaranteed by the first amendment

Answer: Freedom of Religion

3.  What is the title of the head of a city government

Answer: Mayor

4.  Who has the ability to declare war? 

Answer: The Congress

5.  How many full terms may a Senator serve? 

Answer: No term limits for Senators

6.  How many full terms can a President serve?

Answer: 2

7.  How many years is a full term for a Representative? 

Answer: 2

8.  Which amendment sets the minimum voting age to 18? 

Answer: 26th

9.  Who becomes President if both the President and Vice President die?  

Answer: The Speaker of the House

10.  On July 4th, 1776 we declared Independence from whom? 

Answer: Great Britain

11.  How many branches of government do we have?

Answer: 3

12.  Which is part of the Judicial branch at the federal level?  

Answer: The Supreme Court

13.  Who elects the President of the United States? 

Answer: The Electoral College

14.  How many states are there? 

Answer: 50

15.  How many stripes are there on the American Flag? 

Answer: 13

16.  Who was the President of the United States during the civil war? 

Answer: Abraham Lincoln

17. What is the introduction to the Constitution called?
Answer: The Preamble

18. Who is the President of the United States?

Answer:  Barack H. Obama

19.  Who is the current Vice President of the United States? 

Answer: Joe Biden

20.  Why did the Pilgrims come to America? 

Answer: to find religious freedom

21.  How many total Senators are there? 

Answer: 100

22.  The Constitution has how many Amendments? 

Answer: 27

23. Who was the main writer of the Declaration of Independence?
Answer: Thomas Jefferson

24.  According to the Constitution, a person must meet certain requirements in order to be eligible to become President. Name one of these requirements.

Answer: Must be a natural born citizen of the United States; must be at least 35 years old by the time he/she will serve; must have lived in the United States for at least 14 years.

25. How many Presidents have been impeached

Answer: 2 Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton.

26.  What is the Official Language of the United States? 

Answer: None

27.  Who was the first Vice President of the United States? 

Answer: John Adams

28.  Who said “Give me liberty or give me death?” 

Answer: Patrick Henry

29.  How many Presidents were assassinated while in office? 

Answer: 4 Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley, John F. Kennedy.

30. Is it ever appropriate to fly the flag upside down?

Answer: Yes, but only in an emergency. “The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.”

5 Top Tips for Planning a Successful Family Reunion Cruise

cruise blog

Written by Sally Fain

Planning A Family Reunion Cruise

Choosing to hold your family reunion on board ship has a great many things going for it. For a start, although you may not think so, a cruise can often be cheaper for a large group event over several days than a land-based event. They also require a lot less logistical planning, and provoke fewer arguments over what to do/where to go on each day of the reunion. Not to mention the fact that a cruise is exciting, and a lot of fun! However, it can take a bit of planning during the early stages. Here are a few tips to help you plan a family reunion cruise:

Start Planning Early

This goes for all family reunions, but it’s worth restating at the outset nonetheless! Remember, there is no way that you’re going to please 100% of your family members 100% of the time, but with a little compromise and negotiation, you can come up with something that will please the majority. However, in order to achieve this nice result and have a great event, you need to start talking to people and planning the kind of things you’d like fairly early on. On a financial level, getting your plans together and booking early can mean considerable discounts from cruise lines, so it’s worth getting started about a year or so before you actually set sail! Of course, there are some things you can’t really work out until you’ve booked or are close to booking – quite how you’re going to get everyone to the port, for example – but putting in the majority of the ground work early will pay off in the long term!

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Choose Your Reunion Cruise Well

The majority of cruise companies offer pretty good deals for large groups, some even with things like cover-all insurance etc included as part of the deal. Others will expect you to provide certain things on your own initiative. Both of these formats have advantages and disadvantages – the all-inclusive nature of many cruises means that you have far less of a headache organizing things like meals and entertainment, while the more self-driven option allows you more freedom of choice when covering yourself and your events, and choosing things to do/eat. In general, the nature of a cruise means that reunion event planning is an awful lot easier, logistically speaking, as you’re all on the one boat, and mealtimes, entertainment etc can be co-ordinated by the cruise company themselves. However, different cruises offer different kinds of things, and will provide different incentives for large groups. If families will be part of your plans, choose a cruise that caters to children with activities and entertainment to their liking. It’s well worth doing your research properly in order to get the best deal for you. You’re not going to please everyone, but you can make your cruise get as close as possible to the majority desire with a little research.

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Get A Reunion Cruise Team Together

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You can’t do this alone! Pick a couple of family members whose skills compliment your own (and each other’s) to help you out. It’s essential that at least one of you is good at communicating with the group at large. You’re likely to have a lot of generational differences and a range of interests in your family group, so it’s important to have someone on the organizational side of things who can take on board the varying needs and desires of your group. If you’ve got someone who’s got at website management then that’s fantastic – setting up a website (or even just a social media page) can be a fantastic way of getting your ideas together, keeping everyone up to date, and making people feel involved.

Negotiate

As a reunion cruise involves a lot less logistical planning than most other kinds of reunion, the major work you’ll have to do is that of negotiating. Negotiating with your family, negotiating with cruise providers…it may sound arduous, but it’s worth doing! You can get quite a lot of good deals and incentives if you’re prepared to communicate with the cruise lines. They’ll be happier than you might think to modify their structures and routines for the benefit of your family reunion – it’s just a case of asking them! Negotiating with the cruise companies will also be good practice for negotiating with your family – who are all bound to have different opinions on the kind of thing they want, and the best way in which to conduct the event. Good luck!

Making a Family Parade Float

parade blog

Small Town Parades

My favorite parades are those in small communities.  The parade in our town is only two blocks long and lasts about 20 minutes, but we always arrive early so we can get a front row seat.  We don’t want to miss those great family floats!

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When I was growing up we always had a Hooton family float.  My Mom and her sister would design and make a float for all of my Grandparents’ grandkids to ride on.  I don’t remember a lot of the details about creating the float but I do remember having lots of fun with my cousins. I also liked getting a free ticket to the local movie theater and 25 cents to buy a treat which was the prize for having an award winning float.

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Highlight Your Family

Having a family float in a local parade can be a fun activity for your family reunion.  It’s also a great way for Grandma and Grandpa to show off their posterity.  The Brown family counted all their posterity and celebrated by building the family float pictured below.

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Here’s some tips to having a great family reunion float:

Register Your Float or Parade Entry

#1.  Be sure to register your float with the parade  committee in advance.  Find out the specifics about entering before you begin building your parade float. Some parades have restrictions about throwing candy or passing out flyers so find out the rules and safety requirements.

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#2. Once you know the size requirements and approved vehicles for floats, you will need to find either a truck and trailer or flatbed that you can use as a base for your float.  If you don’t have access to a truck and trailer let your family ride their bikes or walk in the parade.  Children in the family can dress in their team uniforms, dance costumes or school shirts and ride decorated bikes  in the parade.

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Another option is to put everyone in matching family reunion shirts and make a banner with your family name on it. Give everyone a helium balloon and wah la- you have a “walking” family reunion float.  Like they say, sometimes- “less is more”.

#3.  Make sure  you have plenty of help when assembling your float.  You will have to build your float in a few hours so you will need to be organized. Be sure you have all supplies on hand.

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#4. Money is probably going to be an issue for your family reunion float but floats don’t have to cost a lot of money to be fun.  There are inexpensive supplies that you can use to make a fun float. Colored butcher paper, paint, cardboard, straw bales and balloons can create a very nice float. Cut out props from the cardboard boxes. Try making props more three dimensional by using folds or tape and glue. Make them big, the bigger the better, because your float will be viewed from a distance. Paint these props colorfully and be sure to adequately secure them to the vehicle or trailer.  Balloons are a great filler as are colorful crepe paper streamers. Make skirting to cover the sides and wheels by wrapping and securing colored butcher paper with tape and a staple gun.

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#5.  Last of all, be sure you have a safe driver for your float.  Grandpa is a good option if he doesn’t already have an assignment.  After you have put your family reunion float together with crepe paper, balloons and staples, all that’s left is to add your family.

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And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.

Hobo or Tin Foil Dinners With Variations

tin foil dinner blog

One of our favorite family reunion and campfire meals is Hobo dinners or Tinfoil dinners.

We love tin foil dinners so much we sometimes make them in our oven  at home.  Our favorite recipe for tin foil dinners is as follows:

Traditional Tin Foil Dinner Recipe

Place the following items on a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Spray with nonstick cooking spray to prevent sticking.

Ingredients:

1 hamburger patty per dinner- 1 pound ground beef will make 4 patties
1/2 cup thinly sliced carrots
1 potato, peeled and sliced thinly or diced 4 potatoes, peeled and cubed
Onion slices 
2 Tablespoons cream of chicken condensed soup

Place patty in the center of each piece of foil. Put vegetables on top of meat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add cream of chicken soup in two dollops on top of dinner and fold foil up tightly around the entire meal.

Cook on a grill on medium-high heat or in a campfire for 25-30 minutes, or until vegetables and meat are cooked through.  You can also cook dinners in the oven (350 degrees for an hour) by placing meals on a cookie sheet before baking. 

Be careful when opening the foil- it is very hot! 

Tin Foil Dinner Secrets to Success

Identify your foil dinner by writing your name or an identifying mark with permanent marker or by folding the foil in an unusual  way.

You may substitute the soup with a few sprinkles of Worcestershire sauce.

When cooking on a fire (when its easy to burn dinners) make an extra meal.  If a meal gets too crispy you’ll have an extra meal and no one goes hungry.

Add a tablespoon or two of water before sealing dinner up to steam your meal.

Turn packets half way through cooking process, using oven mitts or leather gloves.

Tin Foil Dinner Variations

On a family and friends camping trip one of our friends made their tin foil dinner with chicken and rice.  I thought that was a little odd but it got me thinking about variations to our basic recipe.

Tin Foil Dinner Seasoning Variations

Try one or more of the following in your dinner: garlic salt, season salt, lemon pepper, Italian seasoning, BBQ sauce, Ranch salad dressing (delicious on chicken) chili powder, or steak sauce.

Breakfast Tin Foil Dinner

Prepare one thin sausage patty made from lean country sausage, place on foil; add 3/4 to 1 cup frozen hash browns creating a nest in center of your potatoes; add one egg to the nest; wrap. Sprinkle with grated cheese just before serving.

Glazed Ham Tin Foil Dinner

Place one carrot thinly sliced on foil, salt and pepper to taste; place a slice of ham on top carrots, about 1/2-inch thick; place a ring of pineapple on ham; drizzle with 1 tablespoon honey, wrap.

Ranch Chicken Tin Foil Dinner

Combine 1 packet dry Ranch dressing mixed with 3/4 cup corn flake crumbs and 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Dip one boneless, skinless chicken breast in melted butter, Ranch dressing mix and place on foil.  Add potatoes and carrots.

This will make 4 to 6 chicken breasts.