Juiciest Hamburgers Ever

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I have never been a fan of the  pre-formed, shoe leather like burgers you find in the grocery store and so when I found this burger recipe in our community cookbook I’ve never looked back.  If my family is eating burgers on the grill then these are the burgers we’re eating.  They may be more work, but they are so juicy and delicious they are well worth the effort!

burgers

2 pounds ground beef (For best quality buy your ground beef at the butcher instead of the supermarket.)
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
3 tablespoons evaporated milk
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced

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  1. Preheat grill for high heat.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the ground beef, egg, bread crumbs, evaporated milk, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, and garlic using your hands. Form the mixture into 8 hamburger patties. If burgers seem a little to soft or mushy increase the amount of bread crumbs to 1 cup or until the right consistency.
  3. Lightly oil the grill grate. Grill patties 5 minutes per side, or until well done.

The Ultimate Guide For Choosing a Family Reunion Theme

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Excite family members by using a reunion theme!

Are you looking for a way to excite family members and stir up interest about your next family reunion? Choosing a reunion theme is a great way to build excitement for upcoming and make it more likely family members will want to attend. clip_image004

A reunion invitation that invites you to a “Prehistoric” reunion for Brontosaurs burgers and a dinosaur egg hunt is more interesting than an invitation that invites you to a family reunion at “the park” for hamburgers.

A reunion theme helps to drive your reunion and with a little imagination food, games, activities, invitations and just about every other aspect of the reunion becomes a memorable event.

 

clip_image006Themes are inexpensive to implement and can inspire the creative side of many members in your family. Ask for their theme ideas, brainstorm and see what they come up with. Our best family reunion themes have come from brainstorming about themes. When a “Caveman”, Mafia and Oz theme were suggested in one of our brainstorming sessions I was kind of worried about what we would do but those themes are some of our favorites and have left us with some amazing reunion memories. Below are just a few family reunion themes that you may want to consider for your next family event.

All- Sport or Olympic Themed Reunion

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Get away from a boring sit around and just visit family reunion and jump into some action-packed fun with an All-sport or Olympic themed family reunion.

Activities- Soccer, volleyball, “whiffle” ball, Whacky miniature golf. Hold a cheerleader camp for the girls in your family and a sports camp for the boys. Go bowling or hold a family 5K. Give a family reunion MVP award.  For fun variations of these favorite sports- whiffle ball, soccer, bowling, swimming and volleyball plus lots of great ideas for your sports themed reunion.

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Food- Smoothies, “Breakfast of Champions” or “Long Jump” lunch hoagies.

Wear– Favorite team jerseys and t-shirt. Make a family t-shirt fashioned after a sports jersey.

Decorations: Pom, poms, pennants, sports balls, sports posters and plastic tablecloths.

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Olympic Reunion
Family History or Family Heritage Reunion

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If your family reunion is held near where the family originated, then schedule a trip to the old family homestead, church or cemetery. You can use this as an opportunity to share family memories, or go a step further and recruit the clan to clean up the ancestral cemetery plots or research the family in old church records. Hold your reunion at the family home if available or in the town where one of your ancestors were born, raised, married or buried. You can find more Family History ideas for your family reunion at wwwfamilyreunionhelper.com.

Food – Use an ancestor’s home country as theme for your meals. Use recipes from that county and set tables with a centerpiece of memorabilia and a picture of your ancestor. If your people come from Italy, serve a spaghetti dinner, from Mexico, serve tacos, enchiladas or tamales. Box lunches are a fun idea to share an old-time tradition.

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At our Family Heritage reunion, the girls in the family designed and decorated shoe boxes at home. We provided sandwich fixin’s, individual chip packages, fruit snacks and drink boxes along with cookies for dessert. The girls made lunches for two and put them in their box. We gave each box a number and the guys in the family each drew a number out of hat to determine which lunch they got to eat and which girl they ate lunch with. In a few instances, we had more girls than guys and so doubled up.

Activities – Play “classic” games at your reunion such as “3-legged race, gunny sack race, Annie I Over. Create a huge wall chart of your family so everyone can see how they are related. Take “old-time” photos and have everyone dress up. Make a family “time capsule”.

Dress – In the ethnic costume of your ancestors.

Ancestor Coloring Book- Making a heritage-coloring book about one of your ancestors is clip_image022a monumental task but it’s a wonderful way to make family history come alive for the little ones in your family. If you have an artist in the family, then designing a coloring book will be much easier for you. If you don’t have a talented artist in the family a great resource is http://store.doverpublications.com/by- subject-coloring-books.html.

 Family Heritage Reunion

Sun, Sand and Surf Reunion Theme

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If your reunion is in the summertime then it’s the perfect time for a Sun, Sand & Surf family reunion theme. Merge your beach reunion ideas with your Hawaiian reunion ideas for double the fun.

Invitations: Consider sending “Message in a Bottle” invitations to encourage family members to attend your family reunion or write out your reunion invitation on a beach ball with a permanent marker.

Activities: Sand candles and castles, sand art, volleyball variations and swimming pool games.

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Aquatic Obstacle Course: Use sprinklers, Slip-N-Slides, baby pools, limbo sticks and hula hoops to create an obstacle course for wet and wild reunion fun!

Food: Sub sandwiches, fruit trays, shish kabobs, fruit kabobs, gold fish crackers.

Decorations are easy for a beach themed family reunion. Use beach umbrellas, Beach towels, Beach balls, Paper party lanterns, Paper Palm trees and party lights on a string. travel posters, flowers, straw skirt table. Don’t forget to use pink flamingos in your decorating and be sure to include music from the Beach Boys to round out your reunion theme.

Beach Reunion

Wedding Anniversary or Significant Birthday Family Reunion Theme

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Planning a family reunion around an important wedding anniversary or milestone birthday makes for an easy but memorable family reunion.

Invitation – Put two photos of the honored couple on the invitation: their original wedding photo and a current photo.

Food – Finger foods and a “wedding” cake.

Activities- “When You Were My Age” A Celebration of Life’s Memorable Moments. This is such a fun program, fashioned after a Bill Cosby Show episode and was called, “When Mom Was my Age.” We have done variations of the program for 70th and 80th birthdays and 50th wedding anniversaries. Each time we do “When You Were My Age” everyone is a good sport and excited to be a part of the celebration. Everyone has a part on the program and an opportunity to highlight world events and significant family happenings throughout the life of your loved one. Download the “When You Were My Age” from Family Reunion Helper or write a “This Is Your Life” program for your reunion celebration.

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Decorations –Photos and other various memorabilia of the couple’s life together.

When You Were My Age

Three Ring Circus and Carnival Reunion Theme

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Begin your reunion with a circus parade and invite everyone to dress in fun costumes and march around your reunion site.

Food –Circus food- corn dogs, cotton candy and popcorn.

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Activities – As your family arrives, have then guess how many circus animal cookies or peanuts are in a jar. The person who guesses closest to the actual number wins the jar full of treats. Have a carnival. Assign 6- 10 family members a carnival booth. Children earn prizes at each booth. Face painting, fishing booth, fortune teller, Plinko, Dart Throw etc. Consider renting a bounce house for the little ones in your family. For more ideas check out the family reunion “circus” theme at www.familyreunionhelpercom/

Decorations – Balloons, tents and circus animal cutouts.

Circus Reunion

There’s no place like home- Wizard of Oz Theme inspired theme

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Oz Themed Activities

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Design an obstacle course depicting famous scenes from the movie. Run through a tissue paper poppy field, jump over bale of straw etc. Make bottle tornados and make a yellow brick road out of scrap lumber. Plan an activity that represents each Oz character such as paper plate lions, red glitter shoes and

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Decorations- Make flying monkeys from black poster board and hang around your reunion location. Use rainbow colored tablecloths (one color per table).

Food- “Ding Dong” the witch is dead Ding Dong cakes, rainbow lollypops, Lions, Tigers and Bears animal crackers and melted witch treats.

 

There's No Place Like Home

Western Themed Reunion


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Western Reunion Themed Activities

Make ponies from dollar store pool noodles and have a pool noodle rodeo. Shoot at targets with rubber band guns or pvc pipe bow and arrows. Make a family totem pole or try some line dance.

clip_image056Food- Call the food you serve” vittles”. Have a chili cook off., have a Texas Straw Hat food bar or serve barbeque, spareribs or grilled hamburgers. Use tin pie plates, mason jars with handles and lots of bandanas.

clip_image058Decorations- Put up a large ranch sign at the party entrance. Print off some wanted posters. To make it more fun, get hold of some photos of the guests and put them on the posters. Place some paper or real horseshoes on the path leading to the party entrance. Create a teepee out of a large sheet and some wooden dowels. Create a large cactus out of a cardboard box or even buy some inflatable ones. Cover the party food table in a red and white checkered cloth and hang up a sign saying “SALOON”.

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Western Family Reunion

Thanksgiving Gumdrop Turkeys

Thanksgiving gumdrop turkeys for your Thanksgiving table.

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I’ve searched all over the internet for gum drop turkeys as cool as the ones my brothers and I made when we were growing up, but it appears those turkeys were one of a kind creations from my Mom.

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My Mom always put her four children in charge of making the 30- 50 gum drop turkey favors for our Thanksgiving family gathering.  The turkeys were so simple to make that we required no supervision and popping a few raisins or candy corns in our mouth as we were creating them took the edge off our Thanksgiving hunger.  In fact, making gum drop turkeys soon became a tradition at my house when I had children of my own.

Over the years I exchanged the raisins we used to use for Craisens and brown toothpicks for brightly colored ones.  Hint- always use Braches candy corns- they are softer and don’t crumble as easily when you stick a toothpick in them.  Large gum drops can be difficult to find, but after extensive searching, I was able to find some on the bottom shelf, hidden behind a garbage can, (no kidding) on the Wal-mart candy isle.

As I was writing this blog, my 32 year old son walked into the kitchen where I was taking pictures and said, “Gum drop turkeys,  I remember making those!”  Just proves that something doesn’t have to be expensive, complicated or elaborate to make a lasting family memory.

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Gobble, Gobble, Gobble!

Aunt MO

May your stuffing be tasty
May your turkey plump,
May your potatoes and gravy
Have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious
And your pies take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off your thighs!

– Author unknown

Our Favorite Halloween Treat

Peanut butter Eyeballs!

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We love peanut butter eyeballs.  My daughter found  the recipe several years ago  and it has  since been a Halloween family favorite.  The saying, “bet you can’t eat just one!” certainly applies to these delicious treats. 

What you will need:

2 cups confectioners’ sugar, divided
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 pound white candy coating (in small pieces) or white chocolate chips
24 milk chocolate M&M’s
1 tablespoon water
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red food coloring

Directions

  1. Mix together 1 cup of the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter and butter. Roll into 1-in. balls; place on a waxed paper-lined pan. Chill for 30 minutes or until firm.
  2. In a microwave, melt white candy coating; stir until smooth. Dip balls in coating; allow excess to drip off. Place on waxed paper. Immediately top of each eyeball with an M and  M to make the pupil.
  3. Make squiggly lines to make the eyeballs look look “bloodshot”. 

    Makes about 2 dozen eyeballs.

Have a Trail Mix Buffet

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A trail mix buffet is a fun option for your western or rustic themed reunion or party.  If your occasion is more formal you can dress up your buffet with glass apothecary jars for a fancier look which lends itself to fancier parties such as wedding receptions or anniversary celebrations. A trail mix buffet is also a fun treat idea for a movie themed or kid themed party.

For our family reunion of 100 guests we used large tin foil pans to put the many treat options in but using  a variety of glass jars, tin buckets, and baskets are great for holding all the delicious goodies  your guests can choose from. .

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Serving guests is a breeze and everyone fills their own containers (paper sacks, sandwich bags, party treat bags,  boxes or paper ice cream cups) with their favorite treats.

You can use healthy ingredients for your buffet featuring raisins, nuts and seeds or a kids favorite buffet using cereals, M & M’s and gummy bears.  Use your imagination when selecting treats for your buffet.

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Here’s a list of possible options for your buffet:
nuts- almonds, peanuts, pecans, cashews etc.
pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
cereal such as Cheerios, Trix, Chex, Fruit Loops or Captain Crunch etc.
chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, vanilla or peanut butter chips etc.
candy-  M&M’s, candy corn, gummy worms, milk duds, sour patch kids etc.
granola
marshmallows
coconut, banana chips
pretzels, goldfish crackers
raisins, Craisins, chopped dates, yogurt raisins
Popcorn makes a great filler.

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Make signs for ingredients your guests may not recognize. Custom labels, mini chalkboards and cardboard tents designed to  support your theme will do the job. Print off the following food tents for your trail mix buffet. western food tent

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Provide serving scoops such as ice cream scoops, oversized spoons or measuring cups- you’ll need one for each treat in your buffet.  Smallish scoops help control serving size to assure that there is enough if each treat for all your guests.

Accommodating Those With Food Allergies at Your Family Reunion

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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!

Grammie Hooton’s Chocolate Pudding Cake Recipe

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An easy way to feed a crowd

My Grandma Hooton was an amazing cook.  She was famous for her homemade cinnamon rolls, chicken noodle soup and cabbage rolls- among other things such as fudge and divinity.  Grammie, as we called her, would work in the  hay fields all day with the hay crew and then, while the rest of us were taking a break because we were so tired, she would be in  the kitchen cooking up a delicious chicken fried steak dinner with all the trimmings.

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Sometimes Grammie would round off the meal with a yummy chocolate cake and it wasn’t until recently that I realized how perfect it was for large family gatherings.  The  cake is made in a large jelly roll pan and it serves 24 but it’s easy and fast to fix so you can  make two pans fairly simply.

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Grammie’s Chocolate Pudding Cake

1 (5-oz) box cook and serve chocolate pudding mix (not instant)
3 cups milk (for the pudding)
1 box DRY chocolate cake mix
2 cups chocolate chips (semisweet or milk)
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Make pudding to package directions then combine it with 1 package DRY chocolate cake mix. (DO NOT add the eggs and oil etc) Spread in a prepared 9 x 13 inch pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips and chopped nuts on top. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15  minutes (or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.) Cool completely before cutting.

I feel fortunate to have several of my Grandmother’s recipes and some day I’d like to make a “heritage” cookbook but for now I’ll just  share this delicious recipe at my next family reunion.

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

Hobo or Tin Foil Dinners With Variations

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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.

Best Salad Ever!

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My sister-in-law, Pam, brings the most delicious salads to our family reunions and parties but this salad, with pecans and pomegranate seeds, is my very favorite.  If you’re looking for a yummy salad to share at your next family gathering consider taking “The Best Salad Ever”!

BEST SALAD EVER RECIPE

Salad

1 bunch of lettuce greens
Pomegranate seeds or Craisins
1 Granny Smith apple or pear, thinly sliced
1 c. Feta cheese
1 c. chopped sugared pecans
Combine mixed greens in a large salad bowl with pomegranate seeds, feta, pears and  pecan halves.

 Vinaigrette Dressing:

2 T. sugar
1 ⁄3 c. orange juice
1 T. Good Seasons Italian dressing (dry packet)
2 T. red wine vinegar
½ c. olive oil or Canola oil
In a medium bowl, whisk vinegar with sugar, orange juice, dry salad dressing and vinegar. Whisk in olive oil or Canola oil gradually.  Store in refrigerator until ready to serve then pour over greens and enjoy.