Ask the grumpies: Potluck dishes

Debbie M. asks:

What’s good for potlucks?

Spinach balls! Pasta salad.  Casserole?  Cookies.  Cake.  Rolls.

This is a hard one for #2– lately I’ve been bringing things like “soda” and “cups” to pot-lucks.  It’s not that I don’t like to cook, it’s just that I don’t have the time or that’s what I’m assigned.  I think the last pot-luck I was assigned to bring Pocky.

One pot-lock I brought a chicken pate thing that nobody ate at all.  It was delicious later with my RAs, but sad at the time.  (#1 has tried this recipe and ATE IT ALL UP!)

My Swedish rose cookies are always a hit (butter cookies with a thumb-print of raspberry or strawberry jam in the middle).

If asked to bring a salad, I will often make champagne salad , which was my mother’s potluck standard.  It’s kind of like a healthy ice cream, for some definitions of healthy.  I make it with whipped cream instead of cool-whip.

#1 is too tired to cook most of the time, but I generally try to bring something I’d like to eat; something easy; something that’s ok at room temperature; or something I had lying around anyway.  Ain’t nothing wrong with bringing a store platter of hummus, pita, cheese, grapes, etc.  I can barely get up the motivation to cook my OWN food sometimes!

Golly gee wiz, I just don’t know.

Grumpy Nation:  The potluck season is upon us.  What is good for potlucks?

49 Responses to “Ask the grumpies: Potluck dishes”

  1. First Gen American Says:

    For the no time to cook crowd, I do good cheese, mad crackers, hummus, pita, raw meat to throw on the grill, beer, wine, chips, dip, artisan bread with a herb butter.

    I often host these so I am making the meal. The other day I roasted a whole sheet pan of different fall veggies…acorn squash, butternut, garlic, red onions, beets…yum and easy. Along that line, the fall soups and stews are also a good potluck item.

    The time before that, I had a baked potato and make your own salad bar….so all I had to cook was potatoes and the rest of the items were toppings. I did have chili as well that night.

    Last but not least, I do theme nights. People are requesting another Bollywood night. We usually do a kitschy movie from the theme country to accommodate the food which is always a blast. Depending on how motivated your crowd is, it is usually pretty good when people research recipes. We have a lot of foreign nationals doing bubble assignments here so the theme often includes at least one couple who can actually cook the food authentically.

  2. Practical Parsimony Says:

    When I was too busy to cook or was going to have to buy ingredients, or buy deli food, I had one standby that worked and everyone enjoyed. t is sooo easy! I bought two packages of grape tomatoes that I washed and drained and dumped into a bowl. There were always murmurs of approval and none left to take home. Grape tomatoes taste wonderful even in the winter. I could have bought leaf lettuce to line the bowl. Nope

    The most well-received items I took were homemade cornbread (still hot) and chocolate pound cake. The beauty of my chocolate pound cake recipe is that it is best if baked 4 days earlier. If I were ambitious, I took lemon curd I made to top the chocolate pound cake I made and found people putting it on blueberry pie! When I had more energy, I made cucumber sandwiches for my friend’s open house every year, cutting the bread, loaves of bread, into circles, slicing too many cucumbers and mixing and applying the spread. People grab these as I am going to the table.

    Now, I am hungry.

    As far as what other people bring, just anything that is not runny, soppy, and hard to dip without making a mess and runs all over my plate.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Cucumber sandwiches were always my favorite at church potlucks. With a little dill on top.

    • Contingent Cassandra Says:

      Along the same lines as the grape tomatoes, clementines work pretty well (if several other people didn’t already have the same thought).

      Also nuts, plain roasted (preferably without too much salt) or with spices of some sort (probably better in settings with a preponderance of adults who may be looking for tasty snacks that they can reasonably tell themselves are semi-healthy, and few to no children too young to steer themselves away from possible allergens).

  3. Mrs PoP Says:

    Homemade hummus looks really impressive but takes virtually no time or skill to make, just a food processor. Add some cut veggies and you’re good.
    I also made layer dip ( for one of the last potlucks we went to. Took time, but was a huge hit.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I think we’re going to be doing white bean dip for our next required potluck (this one for DC1’s school)… we’re supposed to bring in something Italian and all the obvious stuff has already been signed up for.

  4. Holly@CLubThrifty Says:

    Our extended family always gets together for Thanksgiving and we are each assigned a dish. This year I am supposed to bring a pie of some kind and something kids will eat. I will most likely make a homemade pumpkin pie and something snacky. One year I made a huge vat of homemade mac-n-cheese and not a single person tried it =/

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      It’s always so weird when nobody even tries something.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That’s super-weird, I would TOTALLY eat your mac-n-cheese!

    • Practical Parsimony Says:

      At one potluck, the parents of a three-year-old brought cheese puffs for her. (the bag of cheese snacks, whatever they are called) She rejected a napkin and suggestions about using it. When she left, there were marks on newly painted walls that never quite came off. All door facings from three feet down were yellow, not white. She only swung on and wiped her hands on newly upholstered furniture. I sort of hated the parents who not once noticed how destructive she was or how yellow her face and hands were.

      • First Gen American Says:

        Maybe it crosses a parental line that shouldn’t be crossed, but I’ve been known to wet wipe a child’s face and hands even when they are not my kid. If they are at my house, they are fair game and are usually close enough friends that no one has ever said anything. Basically the kids can’t go play in the living room or other furniture ruining spots until after they’ve been cleaned up a bit. It’s a rule for all the kids, not just mine. If the kid prefers mommy to clean them up, then I hand her the pack of wet wipes. It’s non negotiable and most people don’t say, no thank you, I prefer my child to be dirty. I do let the kids run wild all around the house so usually they like being here even if it requires an occasional hand wiping.

        That cheese doodle story makes me so mad for you.

  5. Steph Says:

    If I have time, I make corn pudding – mix frozen corn, canned creamed corn, milk, sugar, and a bit of butter on top, then bake for 90 min. I’ve also taken homemade cornbread, and bean dip with pita in the summer.

    • The frugal ecologist Says:

      I love corn pudding! Probably because it was never something we made at my house so I only got it at potlucks!

      My potluck criteria are similar to those above – can be served room temp, easy to transport, not messy to eat.

      Things l like to bring include sweet potato casserole (topped w pecans and brown sugar, never marshmallows!), homemade brownies, or quiche (ok as long as it doesn’t get too cold). But as a few people have noted, the lovingly prepared dish might get passed over for something store bought.

      Store bought hits include a bucket of fried chicken or a dozen tacos.

  6. Beth Says:

    We tend to bring this and it’s always a hit: Plus: bonus, it’s super easy b/c all you have to do is toss together store-bought stuff with a bagged salad mix.

  7. bogart Says:

    DH bakes an utterly delicious chocolate pecan pie and I can do a ridiculously easy chocolate mousse (that can also be used as a pie filling with a homemade or store-bought graham cracker crust), so if we are going to the sort of place where we want something nice or it’s a repeating family event, we’ll often take one of those.

    I’ve been known to bake banana bread as this is something DS enjoys helping me with. Basically with a little supervision, he can make it, while I do other things that need to get done in the kitchen.

    I’m convinced that at most potlucks, everyone hopes someone brought (more) brownies and am not the least bit above bringing a batch a made from a mix. I never take any home. If one anticipates arriving late, a dessert item’s always a good choice, anyway.

    Roasted veggies (root veggies, or brussel sprouts) would be good, provided one had a way to get them warm or keep them warm.

    Couple slabs of decent cheese and some crackers.

    Array of fruit (grapes, strawberries, peeled citrus sections, apple slices if there’s a way to keep them from turning brown — the bagged ones work fine) with a dip made from about equal parts sour cream and honey.

    Deviled eggs.

    This summer I had, and then made several times, a really delicious salad that consisted basically of chunks of water melon + chopped mint leaves. One could then add other things — sprinkle in some salty nuts, add goat cheese or blue cheese. Or not. If one buys the watermelon where the slicing’s already started for one (i.e. you just need to dice the stuff up smaller), this takes ~10 minutes (or less) to prepare.

  8. Chelsea Says:

    Meatballs cooked and served from a crock pot. There are tons of recipes for sauce online that involve dumping things like a bottle of barbecue sauce and grape jelly (really) together. I also like veggies + dip because sometimes that’s the only veggie dip that shows up. Good bread is also a nice potluck item.

  9. ChrsinNY Says:

    I make side salad/dishes. I have a great recipe for orzo salad (with pecans, capers, currannts red pepper, lemon juice, parsley) or cheese tortellini on toothpicks with a peanut dipping sauce (I have a recipe but can take an Asian sesame ginger salad dressing and add peanut butter in a pinch). I often get asked for the recipe for the salad as it is different.

  10. Katherine Says:

    I usually bring this kale salad if the weather is warm:

    Sometimes I make homemade hummus instead.
    If the weather is cool I like to bring tamale pie.

    I usually try to bring something vegan gluten free that can serve as a main dish. I am not gluten free but my mom has celiac, and I know how it feels to not be able to eat anything other than what I brought myself. A main-dish-like thing covers me in case that happens, and also hopefully saves other people with dietary restrictions from that situation.

  11. chacha1 Says:

    I completely ditched our office potluck yesterday. :-) Didn’t even go up for leftovers. By the time all the setup commotion, traffic, and noise had settled down, all I wanted to eat was a large Manhattan.

    And I think this is going to be my modus going forward. Anything at the office is a NO. If a friend hosts something I would just bring whatever’s assigned, and do my best to find a prefab version of it, because cooking is the last thing I want to spend time on right now.

  12. Rented life Says:

    Shrimp cracker spread: mix can tiny shrimp with cream cheese. That’s your bottom layer. Top layer iscocktail sauce. Put on crackers.

    I’ve also done spinach dip, sweet and sour bacon wrapped water chestnuts (always a hit), or we bring wine. Once I did beer bread. Husband and I were the only ones who ate it.

  13. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    I LOVE beer bread so much. I would also just straight-up bring the beer. Or wine. Hm, maybe a pitcher of mojitos.

  14. SP Says:

    I’m a fan of spinach artichoke dip if you can bring something warm. I love this dip, because it has 2 vegetables in its name but its really just CHEEEESE. (But I never add the bacon – bacon overwhlems too many dishes. If I want bacon, I’ll eat bacon!) Actually, it is not so great for potlucks though, unless it is at your house or your neighbors.

    This post & comments made me think of this video that was all over my facebook this week: “I feel like in the midwest, they are a little loose with the word salad”

  15. Leah Says:

    Things I love to make for potlucks:
    – fruit salad
    – broccoli salad (mayo, broccoli, red onions, craisins, with real bacon bits on the side if someone wants meat)
    – any dessert that serves a crowd — wacky cake (a vegan cake from the Depression era/WWII) is easy and yummy, tho I make mine with lemon juice instead of white vinegar.
    – Cookie bars are also good. Take cookie dough, mash into a pyrex 9×13 pan, bake — super easy.
    – Deviled eggs! Can’t believe no one has mentioned them. A bit time consuming to making but *always* a hit.

    I have before gone quite fancy and made stuffed shells, eggplant parmesan, and some Iranian egg dish for potlucks (that was a themed potluck — forget the name, but the dish was good).

    I have lived in Minnesota for 6+ years now and have yet to bring or eat tator tot hot dish at a potluck. I think I run with the wrong crowd . . .

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