Foodie Friday: Hobo Dinners

I love using my grill in the summer, and in Oklahoma, summer starts early. There are two BIG reasons I love my grill in hot weather. 1- it doesn’t heat up my kitchen and 2- clean up is a snap!

This week I was feeling particularly tired, and we had hobo dinners. There is nothing I do not love about hobo dinners! If  you’ve never heard of them, they are sometimes called tin-foil dinners or campfire dinners. Basically all of your dinner pieces are wrapped up in a foil parcel and grilled together. There is literally no mess. Once dinner has been eaten, I put our plates in the dishwasher and wipe down the table and counter tops (because there is raw meat involved, you want to disinfect your counters) and that’s it! Some people eat their hobo dinners right out of the foil packet, but I prefer to transfer to a plate because those little packets are hot.

You could put just about anything in these little packets that you like! Just mix and match veggies, starches, and meats to your own taste preferences!

Here’s what I put in mine (this time)

1/4 pound hamburger patties, a handful of baby carrots, a handful of tiny gold potatoes, a handful of cut zucchini and 1/4 of a yellow onion. I made 4 parcels, seasoned the whole thing with a little Greek seasoning, and threw them out on the grill for about 20 minutes (ground beef should be cooked to 160 degrees F).

Here are some other ideas for hobo dinners:

Smoked sausage, green beans, potatoes:


Stew meat (cook to 145), squash, corn, green beans, and potatoes:


Chicken breast (cook to 165), bell peppers, potatoes, and carrots:


Summer Vacation Series Part 3: Hotel Safey


Before coming to work for Oklahoma Cooperative Extension, I earned a bachelor’s degree in Hotel/Restaurant Administration and worked in the hotel business. I have picked up on a few things about safety while traveling and I think it’s important to share that information with you. ** Disclaimer: This blog post is referring to travel within the United States. International travel would come with its own host of safety precautions!

The first thing I want to say is that hotel housekeepers get a bad reputation for being thieves.  The truth is, some are and some aren’t. There will be good employees and bad employees in any industry in the world. So, let’s make clear right now that I do not assume (and neither should you) that your hotel maid will steal from you. That being said, it’s not good practice to give anyone the opportunity to steal from you, and therefore the first safety tip is do not leave valuables out in the open, where they can be seen in a hotel room or in your vehicle. It’s also best not to hold cash in such a way that others can see it. Keep it in your wallet and only take out what is needed at the time.

Now that we’ve gotten the housekeeping issue out of the way, let’s back up to check-in. When checking into a hotel room, it is best to use a credit card, not a debit card. Anytime you use your debit card for point of sale (POS) purchases (groceries, fuel, restaurants) the POS machine will authorize your card for a specific amount, even though your specific purchase amount is not yet determined. This amount is probably set by the establishment. I cannot tell you what the amounts are, but I would guess that it’s an average of what is usually spent. Say at a gas station it is probably somewhere around $50 to $75. This pre-authorization usually goes away shortly after the sale is final, and replaced with the specific amount of the sale. At a hotel, this works a little differently. The machines at the hotel know exactly what your room rate and tax will be. The unknown is the incidental charges from the restaurant/bar, pay-per-view movies, spa, or any other charges you can make to your hotel room. The machine will pre-authorize your debit card for the full amount of room and tax (if your reservation is for 5 days, then 5 nights room and tax) and a percentage above that to cover “incidentals.” Again, the percentage amount is most likely set by the establishment, but the hotel I worked in used a 10% incidental rate. This pre-authorization was held on average for two weeks. I know, because I was the one who got to field the complaints! That means if your hotel rate is $129 per night for 5 nights, at a tax rate of 15%, the pre-authorization on your debit card would be $815.93 and that could be held up from your bank account for up to two weeks!

While we’re on the subject of hotel check in, no one should ever say your room number out loud. If the front desk clerk says your room number, you might want to ask to be reassigned. This could possibly put a target on your family for theft from other hotel guests or employees. The room number should be written on the inside of the key packet.

NEVER LET YOUR CHILDREN GO TO THE POOL AREA ALONE! First of all, many hotels do not employ lifeguards. But even if your children are good swimmers, there are other dangers in the pool area. This is a prime location for predators. Pools can be chaotic and loud, making an abduction very easy. Most hotels have a “guests only” policy, but since there are no lifeguards, there’s probably not anyone checking for room keys in the pool area to make sure that all pool goers are actually paid hotel guests. Aside from drowning and abduction, kids could see things that they should not see in public pools. People tend to drink in pool settings, and may temporarily lack good judgement. While they are impaired, they may do things- right out in the open- that you would not want your kids to see. It’s important that you are there to monitor the situation, and explain things to your kids should they be exposed to lewd adult behavior.

If someone knocks on your hotel room door, do not open it unless you know for sure who it is, and you were expecting them. Make sure your children know this as well. Burglars have been known to wear hotel uniforms or generic maintenance uniforms to gain access to hotel rooms. If the person knocking is a legitimate hotel employee, you would be expecting them (unless it is housekeeping and your room has not yet been cleaned, and housekeeping will not clean with guests in the room anyway.) Trust me on this.

In all other situations, use good judgement and stay alert. Be sure to observe your surroundings wherever you go to ensure you are not being followed or targeted by potential threats like theft of belongings or identity.

Next week is the last installment of the Summer Vacation Series. It’s all about creepy crawlies, and how to avoid bringing them home with you!






Summer Vacation Series Part 2: Road Tripping



When I was a kid, my family never flew anywhere.  If we went on vacation, we drove. Once we drove from Oklahoma to Disney World- that is a long trip! My sisters, mom, and I loved to sing along to the radio, but my dad would get super annoyed after a while and expect everyone to be silent. Let me tell you right now: silence is an unattainable goal with three girls in the car!

Taking a long road trip with kids may sound like a dream vacation to you, or it may sound like a nightmare. If you are on board for road tripping with kids, maybe this blog post will help make your car-time as pleasant as possible!

Pack the car strategically. Remember last week’s packing tips?  Here’s the next step: Line your bags up in the order you will be needing them. Place them into the cargo area/trunk/luggage rack in the opposite order. If you are staying over somewhere for one night, then heading out again, pack one overnight bag for everyone in the family (pj’s and clothes for the next day only). Put that bag and the family toiletry bag into the car last. When you stop for your stay-over, only get those two bags out of the car. this will make things so much easier for you when you are ready to get back on the road in the morning.

Stay hydrated. People may not realize how much water the body can lose while traveling. During a road-trip everyone is sitting still, not being active, but in the summer heat we still sweat no matter how still we are sitting. Be sure that everyone is drinking enough water.

Snack Time! Speaking of water, it’s a good idea to purchase bottled water and snacks ahead of time. Convenience store prices are way too high, and the selection can be pretty narrow. If you take the time to purchase snack items at a local grocery store, you can save time, money and you’ll have the opportunity to make some healthier snack choices. Be sure to buy some snack size zipper bags to portion out the snacks. Some healthy ideas for those little baggies are: dried fruit, small crackers, trail mix, granola/granola bars, dried cereal And if you have a small cooler: fresh fruit, cheese, yogurt (put a straw through the foil top for less mess) finger sandwiches. If you choose to make sandwiches for the cooler, you could reserve those for a picnic lunch along the way to save a little money.

Sun safety: Just like forgetting about hydration, many people don’t think about sun exposure while riding in cars. The truth is, at least one half of the riders will probably be in the sun at any given moment. It’s important to remember sunblock and shades for the windows to keep from getting sunburned before the fun even begins!

Now, if we could just keep the fighting and whining to a minimum… Most cars nowadays come equipped with a DVD player, or a portable one could be purchased for a car that doesn’t have one built in, but it can be grating on parents to listen to kids movies all day long. Here are some other ways to keep kids busy on long car trips:

  • Travel Tickets- give the kids one “ticket” for each half hour of the trip. Take one from them on the half hour. When the tickets are gone, you’ll have reached your destination.
  • Travel Scavenger hunt for preschool or older children.
  • Books
  • Coloring books and crayons
  • Mad libs
  • Singing silly songs, or playing a cd of silly kids songs

Whatever the age of your kids,  hopefully these tips will help make your road trip more relaxing and pleasant.

Spicy Hummus

I think it’s about time for a recipe on this blog!  Over the weekend, I was hungry. Pregnant women are always hungry… Anyway, I was hungry and I wanted something healthy to snack on. I have been in a junk food slump lately and feeling pretty guilty about that. I remembered this hummus recipe from a foods class I took in the Spring semester:


Spicy Hummus

1 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
15 oz can chickpeas (garbanzo beans,) drained (save liquid)
1/4 C bean liquid
1/4 C lemon juice
1/4 sesame tahini
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp cumin, ground
1/4 C green onions, chopped
1/4 C cilantro, chopped

Heat olive oil in a small skillet, saute garlic until tender.
In a food processor, combine beans, bean liquid, lemon juice, tahini, garlic and oil, salt, red pepper, and cumin.
Puree until smooth.
Transfer to a serving bowl and stir in green onions and cilantro.

I devoured served this with some bell pepper strips and tortilla chips.  It would also be delish with pita chips, crackers, celery, carrots… Whatever you like.  It’s a low calorie snack with a moderate amount of fiber.  Tasty and filling!!

Nutrition facts in a 1/4 C serving:

Calories: 79, Protein: 3g, Carbohydrates: 10g, Fiber: 2g, Fat: 3.5g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Calcium: 22mg, Iron: 1mg, Sodium: 206mg

Summer Vacation Series Part 1: Plan Ahead for Relaxing Homecoming



Planning a family vacation is a big job.  There are so many things to think about- hotel, transportation, activities, budget… But planning a vacation can be so much fun!  What’s not fun, is coming home to chaos. Here are a few things to think about when preparing to leave for your vacation, that might make things easier on your return.

  • Make a packing list. First and foremost, this will help you, your spouse and all of your dear littles pack. If you have children who are old enough to pack themselves, making them a list will ensure that they don’t forget an essential like undies or toothbrush. If your kids are still too young to pack, this list will help you to remember everything they will need so you don’t forget an essential like diapers.  Also- each member of the family should have their own bag, with one family bag of bathroom and toiletry items (or maybe one toiletry bag for the kids and one for the parents.)
  • Take your packing list with you!  That way you can double check that you are bring everything back home.
  • Clean the house.  I know this is probably the last thing on your mind while getting ready for a vacation, but trust me- it will make coming home so much more pleasant!  Clean the kitchen really well.  Being away for a few days makes it too easy for pests to move it, especially of the kitchen is not sparkling clean. This includes taking out the trash and cleaning out the fridge. Clean the bathrooms. Everyone feels grimy after a long trip, and a nice soak in a clean tub should make everyone feel better. Make sure the beds are made before you leave. You will be tired, and a nicely made bed will be oh-so-inviting!
  • Did I mention cleaning out the fridge?  One vacation I took with my family, I forgot to clear out the leftovers.  I’m not sure what the offending food was, but our refrigerator smelled awful for weeks after we returned! Be sure to get rid of anything that might go bad during the time you are away, but stock up on a few snack-like items that will keep well. Maybe buy a favorite fruit juice, dried fruit, hard cheese (if you will be gone only a week or so) and some crackers so that there is something for you and the kiddos to snack on the night you return.

Following these tips will make your homecoming feel more like an extension of the vacation, rather than a stressful transition back to reality.

May Is National Physical Fitness Month

May is National Physical Fitness Month, but if you have arthritis or another type of physical limitation, fitness can be difficult to obtain. It is difficult, but not impossible. Why is it important? Studies show that physical activity or exercise can greatly benefit people with arthritis, diabetes, or heart disease. Exercise can also help people to regain or maintain balance later in life, which goes a long way to prevent injuries from nasty falls. Here are a few ideas for exercising with arthritis or other limitation:

Warm-Up with a light activity, like walking, for five minutes.

Stretch: stretching increases or maintains flexibility, which can prevent injury during exercise activity or an accident.

Neck Stretch: While standing or sitting, feet flat on the floor, turn head to right side until you feel a slight stretch. Hold this position for 10-30 seconds. Turn head to the left side and hold 10-30 seconds. Repeat this 3-5 times.


Hamstring Stretch: Sit with legs straight out in front of you, as close together as possible. Keeping back straight, lean chest over knees and reach toward feet. Hold for 10-30 seconds.


Balance exercises are key for improving balance and preventing falls. Try these:

Stand on One Foot: Stand on one foot behind a sturdy chair, holding on for balance. Hold for 10 seconds, then stand on both feet. Repeat 10-15 times on each foot.

Balance Walk: Raise arms to sides, shoulder height. Chose a spot ahead of you and focus on it to keep you steady as you walk. Walk in a straight line with one foot in front of the other. As you walk, lift your back leg, pause for one second before stepping forward. Repeat for 20 steps, alternating legs.

Strength building exercises are important for prolonged independence. A small gain in muscle can help with everyday tasks like getting up from a chair, opening jars, or carrying in the groceries.

Wall push-up: Face a wall, standing a little further than arm’s length away, feet shoulder width apart. Lean your body forward and put your palms flat against the wall at shoulder height and shoulder width apart. Slowly breathe in as you bend your elbows and lower your upper body toward the wall in a slow, controlled motion. Keep feet flat on the floor. Hold this position for one second, then breathe out as you push your elbows straight again. Repeat 10-15 times.


Back leg raise: Stand behind a sturdy chair for balance, breathe in slowly. Breathe out slowly while lifting right leg straight back without bending the knee. Try not to lean forward. The leg your are standing on should be slightly bent. Repeat 10-15 times with each leg.

back leg lift

Source for sample exercises: The National Institute on Aging

For more information on simple exercises you can do with arthritis, please contact Jessica Riggin the OSU Extension Office in Chandler: 405-258-0560.