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“Family Ties”- the Perfect Family Reunion Menu from the Junior League of Houston

Summer is a time for visiting with family and friends, often over a casual backyard barbecue, with the scent of a home-cooked meal permeating the air. Time seems to get away from us during busy winters and we can’t always prioritize family get togethers. A Family Reunion is a perfect way to reconnect with relatives that live near and far, and create family memories that will last a lifetime.

Hosting or contributing to a Family Reunion can be a big undertaking depending on how large your family is. Consider it a labor of love, and keep in mind how much your family will appreciate all your effort!

The Junior League of Houston knows all about doing for others. JHL is service organization made up of 5,000 trained women volunteers, dedicated to building a better community and directly impacting their community with their efforts and volunteerism. All of the proceeds of the league’s publications, including the award-winning Stop and Smell the Rosemary Recipes and Traditions to Remember, are directed right back to those in need in Houston, making the purchase of a cookbook a win-win. You get 500 fabulous recipes in a stunning cookbook, and you contribute to charity at the same time.

In typical DIL Diaries style, Stop and Smell the Rosemary includes a Be Our Guest Section with complete menus, put together by the League, so that the question of what to cook for a variety of occasions is never an issue. Let the Junior League of Houston take the stress out of hosting this year’s Family Reunion with a crowd pleasing menu selection entitled Family Ties, sure to please everyone’s individual tastes. As we know, that is no easy feat!

a lovely addition to every kitchen!

Incorporate family photos and treasures into your decorations, and let everyone share a favorite family story or two. Show the younger generation that family ties bind them together forever.

make memories with reunion touches incorporating family photos

Using tin cans to hold silverware is a great, casual way to carry out the barbecue theme!

The “Lone Star Barbeque” Menu  is sure to be a hit at your next family get-together. This simple and hearty meal, paired with ice cold beer and fresh lemonade, will have everyone back in line for seconds!


The menu!


Southwestern Cheese Spread
Yields 2 cups


8 ounces Cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)
4 ounces Swiss cheese, shredded (1 cup)
4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (1 cup)
2 tablespoons diced green bell pepper
2 tablespoons diced yellow bell pepper
2 tablespoons diced red bell pepper
2 tablespoons chopped green onion
1 1/2 teaspoons minced capers
3/4 teaspoon minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
dash Tabasco Sauce
3/4 teaspoon Cajun spices
2 to 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 to 1/2 cup mayonnaise


  1. Combine cheeses, bell peppers, green onions, capers, garlic, Worcestershire, dill, cilantro, Tabasco, Cajun spices, mustard, and mayonnaise in a large bowl and stir to blend.
  2. Line a 1 quart bowl with plastic wrap, leaving a 4 inch overhang.
  3. Press cheese mixture into bowl and gold plastic overhang over top.
  4. Cover with another piece of wrap and refrigerate.
  5. When ready to serve unfold plastic wrap and invert onto a serving plate.
  6. Serve chilled with tortilla chips or assorted crackers. Garnish with Pico de Gallo.

photo courtesy of myrecipes.com

Black Bean Corn Salsa
Yields 4 cups

2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, drained and rinsed
kernels of 3 ears cooked corn (1 1/2) cups
3 firm tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 cup fresh cilantro, minced
2 to 4 fresh jalapeños, seeded and diced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
freshly ground pepper
3 avocados, pitted, peeled, and diced


  1. Combine the beans, corn, tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeños, and line juice in a serving bowl.
  2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Cover and chill.
  4. Before serving, toss in avocados.
  5. Serve with blue corn tortilla chips.

photo courtesy of teaspooncomm.com

Main Dishes

Lone Star Brisket in Chili Sauce and Beer
serves 8

1 brisket (5 to 7 pounds), trimmed
1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 onions, sliced and separated into rings
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 bottle (12 ounces) chili sauce
1/4 cup water
12 ounces beer, at room temperature


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Sprinkle brisket with seasoned salt, pepper and garlic.
  3. Place brisket in a roasting pan, fat side up.
  4. Add onions and celery in a single layer over top of brisket, covering it completely.
  5. Pour chili sauce over brisket.
  6. Pour 1/4 cup water into chili sauce bottle, shake, and pour over meat.
  7. Roast uncovered 1 1/2 hours, basting every 30 minutes.
  8. Pour beer over meat.
  9. Cover tightly with foil and roast for another 3 to 4 hours, depending on side of brisket.
  10. Remove brisket from gravy and place on a carving board.
  11. Refrigerate gravy or shill quickly by placing in freezer.
  12. When cooled, slice meat without disturbing the shape of the brisket.
  13. Slide the brisket back into the pan.
  14. When gravy is cooled, skim fat and pout gravy over brisket.
  15. Put back into the oven to reheat and serve immediately.

DIL Diaries note: This dish freezes well, already sliced!

This next main dish option is time consuming, but worth it! If you have a family member who likes to man the smoker this will be right up his alley. Meat needs to be tended each of the first four hours, so there will be plenty of time for the cook to visit with guests, too. Just be sure to plan ahead because it takes 8 hours from start to finish. This would perfect for an event in the late afternoon or evening.

Smokey Barbecued Brisket
Serves 8 to 10

1 brisket(8 to 10 pounds), trimmed
green mesquite chips
Basting Sauce:
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup garlic vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 small onion, sliced
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Oven Cooking Sauce:
1 cup Red Hot Barbecue Sauce or bottled barbecue sauce
2 cups red wine
2 tablespoons sugar


  1. Combine water, oil, vinegar, sugar, butter, lemon juice. onion. salt, pepper and Worcestershire in a small saucepan.
  2. Cook until onion is soft and fragrant.
  3. Prepare BBQ pit or smoker by adding green mesquite chips to the hot coals..
  4. Place brisket in the pot or smoker.
  5. Baste meat on all sides with basting sauce.
  6. Let smoke 4 hours, turning and basting every hour with sauce. Do not try to brown or tenderize in pit, but give brisket plenty of smoke.
  7. Remove brisket from pit and place in large roasting pan that has a fairly tight lid. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  8. Combine barbecue sauce, wine and sugar and pour over meat.
  9. Cover and cook for 4 hours, or until fork tender.
  10. Remove meat from pan and skim excess grease from gravy, slice and serve.

Side Dishes

Barley Corn Salad
Serves 6

1 cup barley
kernels of 4 to 5 ears cooked corn (2 cups, or may substitute a 10-ounce package of frozen corn, cooked and drained)
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 large tomato, peeled, seeded, and minced
1 to 2 fresh jalapeños, seeded and minced
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
2 cloves garlic, peeled and boiled 10 minutes
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground pepper


  1. Sprinkle barley into a large pot of boiling salted water. Cook, skimming the foam, for 30 minutes or until just tender. Barley should be firm.
  2. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water. Let cool.
  3. Transfer to a large serving bowl. Add corn, green onions, tomato, jalapenos, and cilantro. Toss to combine.


  1. Puree garlic, vinegar, and cumin in a food processor.
  2. With machine running, slowly add oil in a thin stream until combined.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Pour dressing over salad and toss.

photo courtesy of Tales From a Veggie Kitchen

DIL Diaries note: The next two sides can be made up to a day or two ahead making it that much easier to prepare multiple dishes!

Garden Potato Salad
Serves 10 to 12

1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, halved
30-40 new potatoes, skins on, cut into 1/2 to 3/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup tarragon vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2/3 to 1 cup mayonnaise
2 bunches green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 bunch radishes


  1. Combine oil and garlic in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Boil potatoes in salted water until just tender. Drain. Transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Remove garlic from oil and discard.
  4. Whisk vinegar, salt, sugar, and dil into oil.
  5. Pour dressing over warm potatoes and toss to coat.
  6. Cover and marinate several hours in the refrigerator. (Can be refrigerated for several days.)
  7. When ready to serve, drain excess liquid.
  8. Toss marinated potatoes with mayonnaise and green onions.
  9. Garnish with dill and sliced radishes.

Confetti Slaw
Serves 10 to 12

1 small head cabbage, cored and chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
3/4 cup chopped celery
1 large green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 small cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 large bunch radishes, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1 large onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper


  1. Toss cabbage, carrots, celery, bell peppers, cucumber, radishes, and onion in a serving bowl and set aside.
  2. Whisk vinegar, oil, sugar, salt and pepper until combined.
  3. Pour dressing over vegetables and toss evenly.
  4. Cover and refrigerate.
  5. When ready to serve, drain excess dressing and toss.

Herbed Beer Bread
Yields 1 Loaf

3 cups self-rising flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, freshly grated (1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
12 ounces beer, at room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Grease a 5 by 9-inch loaf pan and sprinkle bottom and sides with cornmeal.
  3. Combine flour, sugar, cheese, and herbs in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Stir in beer to produce a stiff batter.
  5. Pour batter into pan.
  6. Bake 1 hour 5 minutes.
  7. Brush with butter and sprinkle with cornmeal.
  8. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack.

DIL Diaries note: This is another great make ahead side, as it can be wrapped in an airtight package and frozen for up to 3 months.

photo courtesy of Guilty Kitchen


Toffee Chocolate Pecan Pie
Serves 8

1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust
4 ounces chocolate-covered toffee bars, chopped (3 bars)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup light corn syrup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cover bottom of a 9-inch pie crust with chopped chocolate-covered toffee bars.
  3. Combine eggs, corn syrup, butter, sugar and vanilla. Mix well.
  4. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans.
  5. Pour mixture over broken chocolate-covered toffee bars in pie crust.
  6. Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until done.

DIL Diaries note: Feel free to use your favorite homemade pie crust, or take a shortcut and use a store bought one. This pie will be amazing either way!

photo courtesy of Dallas Duo

A+ Cookies
Yields 3 dozen cookies

3 large eggs
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temp.
1 1/2 cups chunky or smooth peanut butter
4 1/2 cups rolled-oats
1/2 pound semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 pound M&M chocolate candies, peanut or plain


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk eggs in a large bowl. Add sugars, vanilla, baking soda, butter and peanut butter, one at a time, blending well after each addition.
  3. Stir in oats, chocolate chips and M&Ms until blended.
  4. Form large tablespoons of dough into balls.
  5. Place on an ungreased baking sheet 4 inches apart.
  6. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, do not overbake.
  7. Cool on wire racks.

Kahlua Gingerbread with Key Lime Curd
Serves 12

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temp
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 large egg
1 cup molasses
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup water
1/3 cup Kahlua
2 tablespoons cold brewed coffee
Key Lime Curd:
1 tablespoon grated Key lime zest
2/3 cup fresh Key lime juice
2 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
4 large eggs, lightly beaten

Kahlua Gingerbread:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees, grease a 9 X 13 inch baking pan.
  2. Cream butter and sugars.
  3. Thoroughly mix in egg, molasses, flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt, water, Kahlua, and coffee.
  4. Pour batter into prepared pan, bake 30-35 minutes, or until cake rested inserted in middle comes our clean.
  5. Serve warm or cold with Key Lime Curd or whipped cream.

Key Lime Curd:

  1. Combine line zest, juice, sugar and butter in top of a double boiler and cook over simmering water, stirring constantly until butter melts.
  2. Gradually stir about one-fourth of lime mixture into eggs.
  3. Add this mixture back into top of double boiler, stirring constantly.
  4. Cook over simmering water, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and coats a spoon, about 15-25 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and strain if necessary.
  6. Cool, cover, refrigerate.

DIL Diaries note: The Key Lime Curd will stay in the fridge for up to two weeks. If you plan ahead this is an amazing homemade touch. If you are pressed for time, any whipped cream will be delicious!

Are you having a family reunion this summer? Do you have any special traditions?

 **ingredients in photos are identical to the recipes in Stop and Smell the Rosemary

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One Response to ““Family Ties”- the Perfect Family Reunion Menu from the Junior League of Houston”

  1. Ali – thanks so much for the shout-out to JLH! These cookbooks really are so beautiful on the outside (and inside) and have wonderful recipes that have been tested and triple-tested by Junior League volunteers!

    This is such a fabulous post and I am now subscibed to your blog and pinterest boards! ;-)


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