The Family That Eats Together Stays Together

 

Or Forcing Your Family to Mingle

One difficult part of a family reunion or party can be getting your family to mingle during meal time.  We usually have each family group sitting together- the Maddox family, the Wynnes and the Stewarts all sitting in their own little group.  It’s not that we don’t like each other or don’t get along-we just gravitate to our  own family group.

Camp oz 345

Here’s a fun way to mix things up.  Put a pieces of colored tape or ribbon on each chair or seating space (if you’re dealing with picnic benches)  When everyone has begun eating announce that everyone sitting on a yellow space must switch places with another yellow.  A few minutes later have pinks switch and so on.

DO NOT make it too complicated!  If you have green switch with pink and yellow with red, nothing will happen- everyone will remain in their original seat.  If you’re family is compliant and seems to enjoy the mixing up you could try switching two colors at a time but for the most part it’s best  to focus on one color at a time.  You don’t have to mix people up all in one meal- keep the colors on during your entire reunion and only do a couple of swaps per meal.

Towards the end of the meal you can announce “Rainbow Mixup” and everyone has to switch places.

HINT:  Choose a meal that doesn’t have a lot of plates and silverware etc. to be moved.

Planning for Food Allergies at Your Family Reunion

Ten ideas for “accommodating” those with food allergies at your family reunion or party
image

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.
  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.

image

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.”

image

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.

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!

Potatoes-in-a-Bag

A Delicious Idea From My Nephew, Brayden, for Your Family Reunion

Sometimes I get in a rut- I forget that some people don’t pack up and head for the mountains when they plan a family reunion or family gathering- instead they head for the BEACH!  And it was to the beach we went for a fun family party with my brother and his family. 

We packed up the surf boards, sunscreen and mashed potatoes- yes, MASHED POTATOES!  “Potatoes in a bag” is a fun and easy tradition Uncle Brett and Aunt Lisa have implemented in their family and would be a yummy idea for your family reunion no matter what location  you choose.

Most of the prep for “Potatoes in a bag”  was done at home.  Everyone measured 1/2 cup potato flakes in a plastic baggie and added their favorite “mix-ins” to give their bag of potatoes their own special flavor.

DSCN0373

At the beach, Uncle Brett heated up the water in his portable heater.  When the water was hot we added 1 cup to our bag of potatoes and squished it up in the bag until it was well mixed and creamy.  The potatoes were delish!  The beach was chilly  and wet, and the hot potatoes were a welcome treat.

Directions: Mix 1/2 cup of potato flakes with 1 cup boiling water.  Stir until blended. Add your favorite mix-ins: salt, dry ranch Salad dressing, dry onion soup mix, Butter Buds, dried parsley flakes, beef jerky pieces, diced cheese stick and a beef stick. For thinner potatoes, add more water; for thicker, add more flakes.

DSCN0411

If you’ve done eggs in a bag at your family reunion I think you’ll have fun with this idea.  Set out all the ingredients and mix-ins and let your family create their own delicious mashed potatoes.  Your bigger eaters may want to use 1 cup of potato flakes with 2 cups of water.

Thanks, Brayden, for a delicious family reunion idea!

Aunt MO

NOTE: Whenever you add boiling water to your baggie, always use heavy-duty or freezer zip lock bags. Although there have been no claims of injury or illness, Ziploc® states their baggies are not intended to be used at high temperatures, so use at your own risk.

S’mores in a Non-Traditional Way

I couldn’t believe that my brother gave my Mom the assignment to do S’mores for our Wells family reunion.  Not that there is anything wrong with my Mom, she makes delicious S’mores, but we were having our family reunion at a condo in Park City, Utah and Park City is known for it’s amazing skiing not fire pits and marshmallow sticks.

Cute hors3e [pictures PC condo 028

But I wasn’t in charge of the family reunion this year and I decided that I shouldn’t say anything and so I just kept my mouth shut and waited to see what would happen.  (My brothers are laughing as they read this.)

Cute hors3e [pictures PC condo 031

When I saw how my Mom set everything up I was very impressed.  We  got out the barbeque grill and then she arranged all the S’more making supplies on a plastic covered card table. 

Cute hors3e [pictures PC condo 041

We used wood skewers for making Shiskabobs.

Cute hors3e [pictures PC condo 028

Mom thought of everything- marshmallows, chocolate and crackers.  She even remembered the “Peeps” for roasted Peeps.

Cute hors3e [pictures PC condo 040

So thanks to my Mom’s organization and creative thinking, the Wells family had S’mores at our family reunion.

Cute hors3e [pictures PC condo 039

The lesson I learned from my Mom, and my brother too, is that even though tradition is a great thing, don’t hesitate to think “outside the box” and try old traditions in a new way.

And while your eating your S’mores try listening to the S’more song- Catchy S’more Song for  a little “non-traditional” fun.

Aunt MO

Red, White and Blue Strawberries- an Idea for Your Family Party

DSC_2391[1]

My daughter loves chocolate dipped strawberries in fact, she wants to serve them at her wedding reception.  I’ve tried, but I’m just not very good at dipping strawberries.  You’ve probably seen those cute strawberries that look like they’re wearing mini tuxes- they are so cool and look pretty easy but I can’t do them.  So when I heard about making red, white and blue strawberries I just ignored the urge to try them- but they look so patriotic and the more I thought about it the more perfect I thought they’d be for my family 4th of July party.

image

Well, I got up this morning and tried dipping my strawberries in white chocolate and garnishing them in blue sugar sprinkles and actually, I think they look pretty cute. 

Just like any other chocolate-dipped strawberries, the method for making these is very easy. There is only one additional step: dip the tips of the strawberries into some blue sugar once they have been dipped into the chocolate.

Store the berries in the refrigerator until you’re ready to eat them, as white chocolate is a little more heat-sensitive than other chocolates. The berries are best if eaten within a day or two of being made.

Here’s what you need:

1 pint fresh strawberries

DSC_2387[1]

4-oz white chocolate bark or white chocolate chips

DSC_2385[1]

Blue sugar or sprinkles. Put into a small bowl and set it aside.

DSC_2386[1]

Line a baking sheet or an area on your counter with wax paper or parchment paper.

If using bark chop it up roughly with a knife if it is in block form. You don’t need much chocolate, my bark was separated into bars and I only used 3 bars and I even had some left over.

In a small microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate or chips in the microwave. Heat it in 30 or 45-second intervals, stirring between each time to ensure that the chocolate is melting evenly and not burning.

When chocolate is smooth, dip the berries 3/4 of the way into the chocolate, dip the tips into the blue sprinkles, and place on wax paper.
Refrigerate berries until ready to serve.

DSC_2390[1]

Of course my strawberries don’t look perfect but they weren’t hard and the whole process only took about 30 minutes.  If you’re having a family party consider letting guests make their own dipped strawberries and even giving more dipping options such as different chocolates, different colors of sugars or jimmies.

DSC_2393[1]/

If you want to see pictures of “perfectly” dipped red, white and blue strawberries check out the Sisters Café website http://www.thesisterscafe.com/2011/06/4th-july-strawberries and for other fun family reunion and party ideas remember www.familyreunionhelper.com

Cookie Sheet Apple Pie for Your Family Reunion

Now that you have chosen your family reunion theme and planned your games and activities you’ve got to figure out a way to feed all the hungry people that will show up at your reunion.  For many folks the most important part of the family reunion is the – FOOD!

Feeding a 100 family members can be tricky and so I was thrilled when Marilyn Hunsaker shared her “Cookie Sheet Apple Pie” recipe at a family reunion presentation I gave recently.  Most pies serve only 6 or maybe 8 but this cookie sheet pie serves 16-20.  You will need 5   cookie sheet pies to feed a family of 100.

image

Cookie Sheet Apple Pie Recipe  (16-20 Servings)

  • Ingredients
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 cups shortening
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup plus 4-1/2 teaspoons water
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 8 cups sliced peeled apples  (Marilyn uses 6- 8 Granny Smith apples)
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup crushed cornflakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 egg whites, beat until foamy
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup powder sugar

Directions

  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Whisk the egg yolks, water and lemon juice; gradually add to flour mixture, tossing with a fork until dough forms a ball. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Divide dough in half so that one portion is slightly larger than the other. On a lightly floured surface, roll out larger portion to fit the bottom and sides of a greased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan. Arrange apples over crust. Combine the sugar, cornflakes, cinnamon and nutmeg; sprinkle over apples.
  • Roll out remaining dough to fit top of pie; place over apples. Seal edges; cut slits in top. Brush with egg white. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°; bake 20-25 minutes longer or until golden brown.
  • Let pie mostly cool then mix 1/4 cup milk (plus enough more to make a thin glaze) in 1 cup powder sugar.  Drizzle over the top of the pie.
  • Yield: 16-20 servings.

NOTE:  When preparing the apples, Marilyn will peel and slice them the day before and put them in a pan.  She adds enough water to cover the apples and bring them to a boil then she removes them from the heat and lets them cool.  Put a plate on top to push the apples down and refrigerate.  The next day drain the water off the apples and follow the recipe.

Something New for Your Family Reunion Campfire

Campfire Éclairs

clip_image002

Our friends the Cutlers, introduced us to “Campfire Éclairs” several years ago and Campfire Éclairs have been a fun family reunion tradition ever since.  If you need a break from S’Mores (how could you need a break from S’Mores?) try these delicious Campfire Éclairs at your next family reunion.

Spray the end of a 1- inch dowel with cooking spray. Take a biscuit (i.e. Pillsbury dough, bannock dough or other substitute) or two, two if small, one if grand and wrap it around the end of the stick (make sure there are no holes in the dough). Roast over fire until golden brown. Cooking the dough will take a little patience.  You have to really move your stick around so that the end doesn’t burn.  But if you persist the end result is worth the effort.

Remove crust from stick when cool enough to touch and fill with vanilla pudding. Frost with chocolate frosting.

I found a fun new product that adds to the Éclair experience. This product hit the shelves of grocery stores in 2010 and comes from Pillsbury and is called “Easy Frost”.  It was the greatest thing for making campfire “Éclairs”.  It is rather expensive but for our family, the convenience was worth the cost.  Another way we make Éclairs more convenient is by using premade vanilla pudding in the individual serving packages.image

Aunt MO

He has no more backbone than a chocolate eclair
Theodore Roosevelt

Baked Potato, Taco or Dessert- Belly Up To the Bar, Boys

A baked potato bar is a simple way to feed a large crowd at your family reunion or party. It is also makes for a delicious meal where individual tastes and special diets can be accommodated. Everyone puts on their potato or tortilla their favorite toppings while leaving the things they don’t like for someone else. “Bars” or “Buffets” are an economical way to feed your family reunion crowd. And don’t soup, salad and pasta bars. Plan on providing the basics from you family reunion budget and assign out the toppings.

For a potato bar, baking potatoes are pre-cooked and kept warm until serving time. When it is time to eat, guests line up to split open their own potato and top as desired. For a taco bar try using a variety of tortillas and shells- corn, flour, crispy or home-style.

You can keep baked potatoes warm by placing them in coolers. While your potatoes are baking, fill the coolers with hot (not boiling) water and replace the covers. When you are about to take your potatoes out of the oven, empty the hot water and quickly dry out the coolers. Immediately load the potatoes into the preheated coolers. Place the lid on and LEAVE COVERED TIGHTLY. Potatoes will remain hot for several hours and may even continue to cook.

clip_image002

Popular potato bar toppings are:
Bacon bits
Broccoli
Broccoli/cheese sauce
Butter
Celery
Cheddar cheese
Chili
Chives
Diced ham
Diced onions
Green Onions
Hamburger gravy
Minced chives
Minced garlic
Onions
Parmesan cheese
Ranch dressing
Salsa, hot or mild
Salt and pepper
Sour cream
Tomatoes

 

When planning a taco bar or buffet provide at least two types of meat such as ground or shredded beef, pork or turkey along with vegetables, salsa, guacamole and cheese so guests can build their ultimate taco. They sell tortillas warmers in kitchen supply stores that are great for keeping tortillas warm. Another way to keep tortillas warm is to place them onto a plate and cover them with a warm, damp towel. You can also wrap the tortillas in foil and place in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. The tortillas come out hot and soft.

clip_image004

Popular taco bar toppings are:
Chicken
Chopped onions
Ground Beef
Guacamole
Hot peppers
Olives
Peppers, green or red
Salsa
Shredded cheese
Shredded iceberg lettuce
Sliced Steak
Soft and hard taco shells (enough for 3-4 per person)
Sour cream
Tabasco sauce
Tomatoes
Yellow Rice

A dessert “bar” or “buffet” can be a chocolate bar, cake bar, cookie bar, ice cream or just an assortment of favorite desserts. A fruit bar is a fun and delicious way to serve dessert. Provide chocolate and caramel sauces, fountains or fondues and assign out seasonal fruit trays.

A dessert bar is really just a more interesting title for “potluck”. Potlucks are great because you’re guaranteed to have a wonderful variety of foods and it ends up being a community effort. A potluck can save you a lot of money when feeding a crowd.

I once attended a function that had a “Cake Bar”. The hostess made a few specialty cakes that were displayed beautifully on raised cake plates and other cakes were displayed between them. It was a delicious looking display.

clip_image006

You can also have “Chocolate  Bar” or “Anything but Chocolate Bar”. Try a “Sundae Bar” or “Banana Split Bar”. Provide ice cream, chocolate, caramel and strawberry toppings and ask family members to bring their favorite ice cream toppings- sprinkles, chopped nuts, maraschino cherries, chopped fruit etc.

Master List of “Bar” and “Buffet” Toppings
avocado slices or chunks
broccoli
cauliflower florets
carrots
mushrooms, sautéed
fresh or frozen peas
onions
celery
tomatoes
olives
sweet bell pepper
jalapenos Sauces and Dressings
flavored sour creams,
such as chipotle, truffle, Ranch dressing
sour cream dips
seasoned butters
garlic butter
nacho cheese or chili con queso Meats
flaked tuna
smoked salmon
bacon bits
shredded ham
grilled or creamed chicken
shredded or crumbled ground beef
stroganoff or beef tips
chopped barbecue
blue cheese
shredded Parmesan cheese
chopped fresh herbs
pesto
stir fried baby vegetables
roasted red peppers
mixed grilled vegetables
truffle oil
sliced toasted almonds
chopped water chestnut
cheese sauces
Meat sauces
Marinara sauce
Alfredo sauce
chili
dipping oils

Aunt Mo

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” —-Virginia Woolf