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Family Central: Hobo Packets, Camp Firesand Ghost Stories

For me, summer is all about the campfire, the hobo packets, the ghost stories and, of course, the s’mores. Here, I entrust you with time-honored secrets of a successful hobo packet, two sure-fire recipes and perhaps the greatest ghost story compilations that you’ve never heard before.

The Secrets of Hobo Success:

Ah, the simple hobo packet. It’s a melding of all those veggie-meaty-potatoey flavors in a tight little packet that intensifies a thing into a glorious meal greater than all its humble sub-parts. Want to know how the pros do it? Here you go:

  1. On packet construction: Use heavy-duty aluminum foil. Tear out 18-inch sheets and double layer the foil so that you have an extra strong base. Before you put the food onto the foil, spray the foil with cooking spray to help keep everything from sticking. Make sure that when you fold and crimp the edges, it is a tight, secure fold. It never hurts to fold over a second time if you have the space.
  2. To solve the different cook times for different ingredients problem: I use frozen vegetables and potatoes. They are always par-cooked before they’re frozen, so it gives them a very similar cook time to the meat. Also, the veggies are pre-prepped to the perfect size, and it makes assembly that much easier. I even like to get pre-seasoned potatoes, the more flavor, the better. I make the hobo packets well-ahead so they’re thawed before they ever hit the fire.
  3. To prevent meat from burning on the bottom of the packet: I always slice onion in 1/4-inch rounds, then cut that in half diagonally, and generously sprinkle the base of the package with the onion. When onion caramelizes on the bottom of the packet, it’s a bonus!

Recipes:

Hello Hobo Packet

Ingredients:
2 lb hamburger meat
2 pkg Lipton Onion Mushroom Soup Mix
salt and pepper
1/2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 onion, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds, then cut in half diagonally
1 pkg frozen broccoli florets
1 pkg frozen portobello mushrooms, pre-sliced
1 pkg red potatoes, pre-sliced (I buy ones that are also pre-flavored with butter, parmesan and parsley)

Directions:
In a large bowl, using your fingers, gently mix the meat with the soup mix, salt and pepper until it’s absorbed. Toss in the broccoli, mushrooms and potatoes; gently toss, no need to be thorough. It shall now be known as the “hobo mix.”

Generously sprinkle onion across the bottom of the packet, and then put about a cup of the hobo mix on top of the onions. Seal up your package. Keep it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to start cooking.

It cooks at 350° F for about 12 minutes or until done. If you’re doing this in coals, nestle the package into the mature coals, and cook for about 12-15 minutes or until done.

View this recipe to print or add items to your Shopping List.

The Lebanese Lamburger Packet

Ingredients:
1/3 lb ground lamb
1/3 lb ground beef
1/3 lb ground pork
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs minced garlic
1/4 cup minced shallots
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
salt and pepper
1 onion, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds, then cut in half diagonally
1 pkg frozen broccoli florets
1 pkg red potatoes, pre-sliced (I buy ones that are also pre-flavored with butter, parmesan and parsley)

Directions:
In a large bowl, using your fingers, gently mix the meat with the olive oil, garlic, shallots, all of the spices, salt and pepper until its absorbed. Toss in the broccoli, potatoes—gently toss—no need to be thorough. It shall now be known as “hobo mix”.

Generously sprinkle onion across the bottom of the packet, and then put about a cup of the hobo mix on top of the onions. Seal up your package. Keep it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to start cooking.

It cooks at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes, or until done. If you’re doing this in coals, nestle the package into the mature coals, and cook for about 12-15 minutes, or until done.

View this recipe to print or add items to your Shopping List.

The Campfire Stories:

I love a good scary story, but I confess that I’m also a chicken! I recommend these two fabulous ghost story compilations for middle grade readers–suspenseful, thrilling and scary but not too scary!

These can be shared on the back porch or by a campfire, or really anywhere dark shadows and creaking sounds lurk.

The first, “13 Scary Ghost Stories,” is a fabulous compilation of scary stories from around the world by 13 different authors, from a Japanese bard singing to a ghostly warrior samurai army, to a ghost from India who drives people bonkers with the sound of her clinking silver anklets. And, let’s face it, who doesn’t find Scottish bagpipes at least a little bit eerie? This fun, multi-ethnic read is a sneaky, spine-tingling way to introduce children to different cultures.

The second, “The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural,” was written by supremely amazing Patricia McKissack. They are original African-American Southern ghost tales told by Patricia’s grandmother when McKissack was a child. Perhaps most haunting of all, these stories were inspired by real stories in their community. Patricia’s knack for phrasing makes it easy to participate in the time-honored tradition of oral storytelling.

Tales like these remind us all that the present is precious, and before the summer’s out, we all must make some memories, some hobo packets and savor every last, spine-tingling drop.

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