Potluck in a Pinch

Recently we attended a memorial service in our church.  As with most funerals, a gathering of eating and fellowship followed, and it was asked throughout the community to provide something for the potluck if possible. As it happens, I was terribly busy the days proceeding the funeral and could not think of anything I could make that included ingredients readily available.

I have a few standbys, such as green beans. Does anyone else ever notice how potlucks are seriously lacking in the vegetable department? Since I normally buy green beans by the flat, I usually have several cans available to throw into a pot, heat up, and deliver to a community meal. I also add a bit of chicken bullion to the beans while they are heating up for extra flavor that is sure to leave an empty dish. Another favorite is spinach and artichoke dip. If this wasn’t so fattening I could live off it. I almost always have jars of artichoke hearts and a frozen block or two of spinach in my freezer. 

                                                        Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Whether it be funerals, other church or community gatherings, or in my case just a girls’ night of eating and hanging out, there always seems to be a need for that last-minute dish at the potluck table. So then I thought, what if I could make up a list of potluck-ready ideas? Here is a list of dishes that are potluck-friendly:

  • Deviled Eggs ~ I see these little buggers go like crazy at every potluck dinner I’ve ever been to. I don’t think it’s possible to have too many. I’ve always got eggs in my refrigerator, so whipping up a dozen of these babies is quick work. No matter how you make them (sweet or dilly) there will always be someone who loves them.
  • Salad ~ The word alone is vague because there are about a million different salads to be made. I’m not talking about starchy salads. Potatoes and pasta salads are no healthier fare on a buffet table than the desserts. But if you’re a veggie family and have fresh veggies in your crisper, then any kind of salad will do, from a traditional green salad, to a layered salad with as many types of veggies as you’ve got, to a bean salad, or even a yummy broccoli salad (sans pork bacon of course).
  • Basic Rice Casserole ~ Anything can be put into a casserole if the base is rice. If you have some broccoli or spinach, a little bit of cooked chicken or turkey (or even tuna), some cheese and a can of cream of chicken soup, you’ve got a casserole.
  • Baked Goods ~ That pretty much says it all. If you have the time to bake a batch of cookies or brownies, whatever is leftover, if any, will be welcome back at home, and also freeze beautifully.
  • Cobbler ~ Most fruits can be baked into a cobbler or a crisp, but when I buy apples I tend to buy them by the bag so that I have plenty available for a quick crisp. It’s also a good idea to keep a canister of quick oats in the pantry. You can see my recipe for Apple Crispe in a previous post called Comfort Food https://thehomeheart.wordpress.com/2011/10/19/comfort-food/
  • Super Quick Pasta ~ Prepare pasta such as Penne according to package. Melt 2 T. butter and cook in 2 cloves garlic, minced. Add in 2 T. flour and stir continually. Stir in 3/4 C. broth (any- beef, chicken, vegetable) and 3/4 C. milk until sauce it thick and bubbly. Add in 2 t. parsley flakes, 1/3 C. Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss with drained pasta. This is also a perfect base for adding meat and/or veggies.
  • Tortilla Roll-Ups ~ You’ve seen them and have probably eaten them, but they truly are a super quick and easy potluck-friendly dish. All you need is some tortillas, some lunch meat, cheese, ranch dressing or mayo, and maybe even some lettuce if you want to get adventurous. Just layer and roll, slice and secure with toothpicks. At least you won’t show up at the potluck empty-handed.
  • Mexican Layered Dip ~ Super easy. On a plate place a block of cream cheese. If you want to spread it out into a large, shallow bowl, that works too. Cover with shredded cheddar, a layer of salsa, and another layer of cheddar. Voila! Serve with tortilla chips.
  • Sliced Veggies ~ You might be surprised to know that there are some people who love to see this option at a potluck. Even something as simple as a plate of sliced tomatoes, but of course more veggies are welcome, such as sliced cucumber and carrot & bell pepper sticks. Add a small bowl of ranch for dipping and you’ve got a winner.
  • Pineapple Casserole ~ In 1 qt. casserole dish mix 1 can (20 oz)  pineapple chunks, 3 T. pineapple juice, 1/2 C. sugar, 3 T. flour, 1 C. finely shredded cheddar cheese. Crush 15 Ritz crackers and mix with /4 C. melted butter. Top Pineapple mixture and bake at 350* for 20 – 30 mins.

These are some basic ingredients that should always be stocked in one’s household:

  1. Quick Oats
  2. Corn Flakes
  3. Cool Whip
  4. Vanilla Pudding
  5. Frozen Spinach
  6. Stove Top Stuffing
  7. Cream of Chicken
  8. Canned Chicken (not as good as freshly cooked but perfect in a pinch)

Here are a few of my favorite crowd-pleasing recipes I’ve used at potlucks. Some of them require a bit more planning than others.

Swiss Chicken ~ Preheat oven to 350*. Lightly grease a 13X9 baking dish and place in single layer 6 to 8 cleaned boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Cover chicken with a layer of swiss cheese slices. In a bowl, mix together 2 boxes of Stove Top stuffing with one can cream of chicken soup, 1/2 can of water, and 1 stick melted butter. Cover chicken and cheese with this mixture. Cover with foil and bake 45 mins. Remove foil and allow top to brown and crust- about 15 more  mins. This recipe can easily be halved or doubled.

Hot Chicken Salad ~ Preheat oven to 350*. Lightly grease a 13X9 baking dish. Combine together 6 to 8 cups chopped,cooked chicken (about 4 breasts), 1 cup cooked rice, 1 1/2 cups mayo, 2 cans cream of chicken soup, 6 oz package of slivered almonds, 1 cup sliced celery, and 2 T. onion flakes. Spread into baking dish. In another bowl combine 2 cups crushed corn flakes and 4 T. melted butter, and top chicken mixture. Bake for 30 mins or until heated through. Turkey is a good substitute.

Carrot Mash Bake ~ Preheat oven to 350* and lightly grease a 1 qt. casserole dish. Take a 1 lb. bag of peeled baby carrots and place into microwave for 5 minutes. Make sure bag is on a plate or piece of paper towel, and do not pierce bag. Mash cooked carrots (I use an inversion blender, but a regular blender works too) and add 3 eggs, one at a time until blended with carrots. In separate bowl combine 2 T. flour, 1 t. baking powder, dash nutmeg, 2 T. cinnamon, and 1/4 cup sugar. Add to carrots in blender. Add 1/4 cup melted butter, and 1 t. vanilla and puree until smooth. Pour into baking dish. For topping combine 1/4 cup corn flake crumbs, 3 T. brown sugar, 3 T. butter, melted, and 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional), and sprinkle on top of carrot mixture. Cover with foil and bake for 20-30 mins. Remove foil and continue baking for another 20 mins.

Spinach and Artichoke Bake ~ Preheat oven to 350* and lightly grease 1 qt. casserole dish. Drain and mash artichoke hearts (1 can or jar, 10-12 oz). Thaw and drain 1/2  block of spinach of all water (reserve other 1/2 for another use). Mix together 1/2 cup mayo, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese (shredded is better than grated, but both work), 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella, 1 t. garlic powder, and add to artichoke and spinach. Mix together well and place into baking dish. Cook for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Serve with tortilla chips.

There are probably many more recipes that can be added to this list. The idea was to create a list of fast and easy potluck dishes, so if you have any recipes to add, they are certainly welcome.

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