Friday, Oct 19, 2018

Family Reunion Meals Made Easy

We just had a wonderful family reunion with my in-laws in Ashton, Idaho.  It involved staying in a massive cabin with 17 adults and 17 kids, a hike to a nearby waterfall (Mesa Falls), and trip to the gorgeous sand dunes in Saint Anthony.   We also ate a lot of good food and played a lot of deep belly laughing games.  To make sure no one person was stuck in the kitchen the entire time, we organized it so each family teamed up with one other to make dinner on one of the nights.  Breakfast and lunch was set out by the reunion hosts.

Our first night in Ashton we had a hot dog bar with 3-4 different signs instructing you how to make your hot dog special.  Very cute idea!  There were toppings to make a Chili Dog, Chicago Dog, American Dog, etc… at each station.   It was delicious and all ages were happy with the meal.

Monday night was dutch oven night (and is a skill I admire a lot, for I do not know how to cook in a dutch oven.)  We had savory chicken and potatoes and for dessert, chocolate cake and peach cobbler.

On the last night, I teamed up with my sister-in-law Kristie to do a Cafe Rio night.  I was in charge of the shredded pork and rice and Kristie made the chicken and the cilantro-lime dressing. Together we diced up all the toppings.  For dessert Kristie put together an easy ice cream cake that was to DIE for. 

I did not take a picture, but it was a combination of these two ice cream cakes.  There were layers of mint ice cream sandwiches and it was topped with whipped cream, chocolate sauce,& caramel sauce drizzled on top with broken pieces of Heath bar.  Wow.  It was SO good.

Recipes are below.  If you are in charge of a reunion dinner this summer, I highly recommend cooking your food ahead of time and freezing it so there is less time spent in the kitchen at the reunion, less to pack and less clean up.   Also, I made my meal ahead of time because I was worried about keeping the pork roast the right temperature during our 4 hour drive to Idaho. I’d hate to be the person at the reunion that gives everyone food poisoning.

5 lbs chicken breast- boneless skinless
1 small bottle zesty Italian dressing (or lemon garlic marinade)
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cumin
3 cloves garlic, minced
Mix all ingredients together in a large crock pot.
Cook on low for 4 hours. Remove chicken and shred with fork. Reserve a small amount of juice and pour over shreeded chicken to keep moist. Keep warm or freezer for later with juices.
3-5 lb pork roast (the more marbled the better)
1 bottle of honey BBQ sauce
1 liter of Root beer, or Dr. Pepper (caffeine is not needed)
Place all ingredients in large crockpot and cook on low all night. In the morning take the roast out leaving the juice in the crockpot, shred the roast. Then place the shredded roast back in the crock pot and cool it in the refrigerator.  Scoop off the fat after the meat cools and either serve warm or freeze shredded pork with juice in zip top bags for later.  To serve, just warm the pork and serve with the juice.
Lime Rice
In a sauce pan saute:
2 Tbsp butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
In a large pot, bring the following to boil
6 2/3 C water
3 Tablespoons chicken bullion
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
2 teaspoons cumin
2 small cans diced green chilies
2 Tablespoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 Tbsp lime zest (optional)
Add onion and garlic to boiling water. Add 3 cups long grain rice. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. You can freeze a whole lime or just lime peels for future zesting. Just place in a zip top baggie and freeze.
Fresh Salsa
4 fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 white onion, chopped
1/4 bunch cilantro, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp lime juice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Combine ingredients together in a medium bowl.

Cilantro Lime Dressing

1 pkg of Hidden Valley Buttermilk Ranch Dressing dry mix (There is a substitution for this you can make from scratch in my book.)

1 cup buttermilk (an easy substitute is 1 cup of milk and 1 egg beaten together)

1 cup mayonnaise

1-2 tomatillos, peel

1 clove garlic minced

1/3 bunch cillantro, chopped

1/2 tsp lime juice

1/2 small jalapeno, seeds removed

Blend ingredients together in a blender. Add additional mayonnaise if dressing is too thin. Keep refrigerated. This sauce will not do well frozen. I will figure out a way to make it possible to freeze because this is my favorite part of them meal. It is the mayonnaise that does not freeze well, so I will try substituting in plain yogurt or sour cream.

Serve in the following order:

Tortillas, Shredded cheese, Chicken or Pork, Black or Pinto Beans, Lime Rice, Red and Green Leaf Lettuce, shredded, Salsa, Guacamole, Fresh Cilantro, Parmesan cheese, Fresh lime slice, Cilantro Lime Dressing, Enjoy!

Ice Cream Sandwich Cake
Yield (1 9 by 13 ice cream cake)  We made two of these to serve 17 adults and 17 kids

24 ice cream sandwiches
1 family sized container of Cool Whip
1 jar caramel sauce
1 bag of Heath Bits (baking section) or 4 smashed Skor bars
9 by13 pan (a disposable deep baking pan is the best)

1. Unwrap and cover entire bottom of pan with ice cream sandwiches.
2. Spread Cool Whip over top of bars, reserving half for the second layer.
3. Drizzle with caramel sauce and chocolate syrup.
4. Sprinkle with Heath bits.
5. Repeat above, beginning with the ice cream sandwiches, topping off with remaining Heath Bits.
6. Freeze. Remove from freezer approximately 10 minutes prior to serving. ENJOY!

Thank you for the picture of the heath bar cake and the recipe.

Thank you also for the ice cream cake picture.



  1. How many of these recipes can you make ahead and freeze, I would like to do this for my daughter’s baptism in August.

    1. I’m so confused. I thought I replied to this question yesterday, but my response is nowhere. Sorry, I will answer this great question again. If you have family favorite recipes you want to make for the baptism in August, I can tell you what parts of the recipe you can make ahead of time. These recipes I posted (the hot dog bar, Cafe Rio and ice cream cake) can all be frozen ahead of time. Hot dog bar: freeze hot dogs, buns until the big night and then add fresh toppings. Cafe Rio: you can freeze cooked shredded pork, shredded chicken, shredded cheese, rice and tortillas. On the day you are serving the meal add salsa, beans, salad and cilantro lime dressing. You can freeze the ice cream cakes up to 2 months before the big event. Just take out of the freezer 10 minutes before you serve them. Please let me know if you have any more questions. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. YUMOLA!
    Thank you for sharing these recipes!

  3. Ooooh. That chicken recipe sounds really good. I can’t wait to try it. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Thanks. I actually love the Cafe Rio Recipes. I have to try to chicken one here, but that is exactly what I have been wanting to serve at the Luncheon after the Baptism. Thanks a ton. I love the recipes and your cookbook, and had to get a Bosch after you did a presentation for enrichment in Smithfield. Everything I have made have been delish, including the chicken pot pie we had for dinner tonight, from the freezer. Thanks.

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