Potluck Recipes & Etiquette

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Your best potluck dish?

June 2013

We're almost done with Potluck Season, but I thought I'd ask this now in preparation for next year! Every year I'm stuck for ideas - what's quick and easy to prepare, kid-friendly, can sit at room temp, no germ sharing (e.g. dips), crowd-pleasing, and as a bonus, would suit most Bay Area food preferences? A quick search on the web gives me mostly crock pot recipes (no go for me) or things that just don't sound/look tasty. I'm tired of seeing so much food wasted at these events - so I know mostly what doesn't work... but what's your sure-fire winner? Do I have to sacrifice one or more of my requirements? Potluck Challenged

Devilled eggs. They're dead simple to make and they disappear instantly, so they don't need to be able to sit around at room temp. They're old-fashioned, but nearly everyone loves them. Make a dozen

My two best are: bring a pizza from Lanesplitter (if you go in person you can get a large cheese pizza for $10 or pepperoni for $15) or make this old-fashioned banana cake with or without the frosting: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/old-fashioned-banana-cake-recipe/index.html I love when people bring salads as I am a lousy salad maker...I love the green salads with lots of stuff in them as well as the quinoa or farro or broccoli salads as I don't know how to make any of them. Big fan of potluck when people actually cook...

Pizza is our best dish. Especially homemade, but frozen and to-go all work in a pinch. Can be made with pesto or no dairy, meaty or veggie. Gourmet or basic and always seems familiar for kids. M

I love having a go-to potluck dish. Takes out all the thinking! Mine is Roasted Carrots. It's good because it's healthy (perfect for Bay Area healthnuts) it's vegetarian, colorful and easy and doesn't have to be kept hot.

Peel and cut carrots into bit size pieces. Smother in olive oil, salt, brown sugar (needs lots of both of those) Roast in oven on baking sheet at 350 for 30 minutes or so, until tender. Toss with chopped parsley. Make sure seasoning is flavorful enough. Potlucker

My best potluck dish is a pasta salad. Simple, delicious, and unique, and usually completely gone. Can be made vegetarian or vegan if desired.
Ingredients: 4 slices bacon (optional) 3-4 sliced garlic cloves 1/4 cup olive oil (more if not using bacon) 1 lb broccoli, cut into small florets 1 lb pasta (rotini or gemelli work well; whole wheat is fine if you prefer) 1/2 cup raisins 1/2 cup sliced almonds 1 pt cherry tomatoes, halved 1/2 cup (or more) shredded parmesan cheese if desired
Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside. Chop bacon and cook in a large pan until crisp (if using), remove from pan to drain and add olive oil to bacon fat in pan. Heat over medium heat and cook sliced garlic until just golden; remove sliced garlic and discard. Add raisins and broccoli, and about 1/2 cup water; cover, and cook until broccoli is just tender. Cool slightly. Add remaining ingredients to pan, toss until thoroughly combined. Serve warm or at room temperature. Karen

I have not brought this to a potluck myself, but at lots of school potlucks I've been to, somebody brings take-out fried chicken, and it disappears immediately. Same for any kind of BBQ. I think it's because people don't really cook it at home, and rarely get it take-out either, so it's a delicious treat!

Inexpensive and easy potluck ideas?

Oct 2011

Between my son's school, my synagogue and community volunteer projects, so many events I attend are potluck. While I love the idea of potlucks, I am on a tight food budget while trying to eat organic and healthy as much as possible. Does anyone have any suggestions of easy to make dishes to bring to potlucks that will feed a big group but won't break the bank buying ingredients? I am feeling stuck with ideas. Thanks for any suggestions you may have BPN!

My favorite is deviled eggs. A dozen eggs, some mayo, mustard, and paprika, and voila. Not very Alice Waters, but people love them. I've taken them many times and don't think I've ever brought a single egg back home. For more of a main dish, I once by happenstance had a batch of tomatican (http://recipebox.wordpress.com/2006/12/30/tomatican/) and not much else to take to a potluck. It was a huge hit. Very easy, very cheap. For more main dishes, there are innumerable crockpot recipes that focus on dry beans (chilis, soups, stews). pot lucky

Here is my current favorite cheap (and easy!) potluck dish, which even my 8 year old son loves:
Moroccan Spaghetti Squash 1 medium spaghetti squash 4 T butter 2 garlic cloves, minced 1 tsp cumin 1/2 tsp coriander 3/4 tsp salt
Pierce squash all over, microwave on high for 8 minutes; turn over and microwave for 8 more minutes. Cool 5 minutes, cut in half and scoop out seeds. Scoop remainder into a large bowl. Melt butter in heavy saucepan, add garlic and saute 1 minute. Add spices and turn off heat. Combine butter mixture with squash. Serve warm. Also you can always add a little ground lamb or diced chicken to make it heartier. Star

cabagge salad: cabbage, carrots, onion, cilantro with homemade dressing (vinegar, oil, lime/lemon, salt pepper garlic). there are tons of different recipes or just make up your own. it's cheap, fresh and grows and reqquires no cooking. i made 2 gallon sized ziploc bags with 1.5 cabbages, 2 carrots,1/4 onion and 1/2 bunch cilantro ahead of time when i went camping and i only used 1 bag to feed 15. lr

Salads (chicken, pasta, spinach, mixed green, etc.) Deviled eggs Spreadable Cheese/Tofu Spread and whole-grain crackers/bread Sandwiches cut up in halves Beans and brown rice Cut up veggies and dips Quiche A bowl of apples/bananas Oatmeal cookies/bars
If you're attending these events often, I would start shopping at Costco to save some money on the bulk. sometime party planner

I find the easiest (and generally appreciated) things are salads. Pasta salad is cheap and easy and filling. You can make it as ''from scratch'' and organic as you like, you can add chicken or pork, or keep it vegetarian.

Green salads are also easy and varied. You can go with broccoli salad, beet salad or cole slaw as well. Anything in the deli case at the store is pretty easy to make at home.

If you have a little time, you can roast a pork loin, ham, or beef roast, slice it, and make a big platter. Surround it with roasted root vegetables. Or if you have a crock pot, you can make stew, chili, or beans easily.

Dessert, of course, has plenty of options, from fruit salad and trifle to muffins, brownies, cookies. I'm always amazed at how many people rarely have fresh, homemade cookies. You can make a couple of pumpkin breads or gingerbreads and slice them, especially this time of year. Bryan in Oakland

Two quick and easy (and inexpensive) things I make for boy scout pot lucks are deviled eggs and corn bread. I boil a dozen eggs in the morning and assemble them right before they'll be eaten. Corn bread can be made with some whole wheat flour and is always gobbled up. Mary in Oakland

Here's what I do: go get some Rosarita refried beans, and heat them up in a pan with cheese, a little butter, salt and pepper. People love this! Also, sometimes I cook my own beans and then I take half of them, put them in a blender with the juice, and then add that blended stuff to the original beans, and heat them in a pan. I use a cast iron pan, but whatever is fine. I put salt, pepper, and chili powder in my beans. Then, throw in a couple of cans of already prepared Rosaritas, and you have some great refries to bring to the potluck. Just don't forget to add the cheese, and a little butter. I usually bring them in a crockpot, plug it in at the event, put a big spoon in the crockpot to serve them, and you have a hit (especially among kids). Many marching band gigs have enjoyed my beans.

Also, deviled eggs are a great idea. mix the yolks in with mayonaise, salt, pepper, paprika, and that's about it. these always get eaten up. Good luck and have fun at your events. love them potlucks

For summer potlucks with kids: a cut-up watermelon or frozen little paper cups cups of juicy drinks on a stick

Potluck for kid's birthday party - uncouth?

April 2004

For the second year in a row, my child has been invited to his pre-school friend's birthday party. Here's my gripe; it has been a potluck both times. We also are expected to bring a gift for the child. Last year she had a piqata that contained various cheap piqata fair, plus some things that were obviously free materials mainly for adult use that she must have collected. My main point though is that I feel that bringing a nice gift for the child and being there to celebrate the child's birthday should be enough. Why are we supplying the food? It she doesn't want to deal with feeding a big crowd of people (she invites a lot more than just her son's actual friends) then simply have the party after the lunch hour and serve cake. The party is for the child, not the adults! I'd like to know if I am being overly critical here. Most people I have mentioned this to expressed surprise that someone would ask you to bring a dish to their child's birthday party. I'd like to hear further comments about this before I decide to say no thanks to next years' invitation. Anon

I have NEVER heard of a potluck for a kid's birthday (and we've been to lots of them)!!! Sounds like you're dealing with a greedy and/or lazy parent. I think you should refuse the invitation. You can just say something like, ''we'd love to attend but unfortunately I don't have the time to make anything.'' That might also give the parent the hint that they are creating resentment, which is bound to reflect onto their own child. What a sad situation. --Birthday party veteran

I JUST sent out invitations for a barbecue for my daughter's 1st Birthday. I feel like a party for a baby that young is really a party for the adults (who will enjoy a reason to get together with their children). I said ''joining us in celebrating is present enough...but if you feel inclined to share, bring a drink or dish''. After reading your message, I hope I haven't offended anyone by that- -BUT I just have always thought it was nice to bring something to share to a party, no matter what kind of party it is. Maybe you just shouldn't attend this party- I think that if you really wanted to be there, you wouldn't be so offended by bringing something to share with the group (and bringing something to put a smile on a kid's face on his/her birthday). Sounds like you should put your effort somewhere else that won't make you feel so annoyed. Maybe not the ''right'' party for you?

It sounds a little tacky to me, but before you make a judgement call, find out if the family possibly cannot afford to do food for a birthday party. True, after lunch cake and a few games would suffice, but check it out anyway. Maybe it's some kind of family tradition that they have a reason for doing???? If you feel that strongly maybe it would be worth being totally honest and asking them what the deal is. Not to say you find it offensive, but that you find it ''interesting'' or ''unusual'' and wonder....blah blah blah. Anyway, there are my 2 cents. anon

I think this situation depends on the family. My daughter is a single child, and many of my adult friends enjoy seeing her on her birthday, as they are also her friends. This year, I had a barbeque, and invited her friends, their families, and several of our other friends without children. As I know most of the invitees fairly well, with the exception of some of her friends' parents, I would not hestitate to have a potluck, given that I am on a limited budget. With the BBQ this year, I did not ask anyone to bring anything, but let everyone know it would be very simple - hot dogs, sausages, salad, and cake. Several people brought a dish anyway, which was much appreciated by all! In doing past potlucks, I have always let people know that if they feel overwhelmed, they need not bring anything expensive or time-consuming. Perhaps the family is just trying to be social, want to know their child's friends' parents better, and/or on a limited budget. Kristen

Not to sound too petty (I hope), but I agree that there is generally an ''etiquette'' for these things, even if it's implicit, not explicit. (If I was asking people to bring food to my kids party, I would add ''in lieu of gifts.'' Some people would bring them anyway, but it would get people off the hook who felt it was too much.) But since it is equally rude to try impose our values or opinions on the host who invites you to a party... if I were you I might bring something super easy, like some baby carrots and a container of hummus, or chips and salsa, etc., and then take it a little easy on the gift. A book or 2(not 4 or 5 books plus a toy!) is a nice idea, etc. The other option is to politely decline the invite. Depending on how old your child is, they will probably never know they missed something. anon

Sounds like you just don't like the 'way' the party is planned. There are all sorts of ways to have a party, you either like it or you don't. Maybe you should ask your son if he would like to go. If the party is to celebrate his friends birthday and he doesn't feel like he wants to go, then you have an 'out'. Personally, i am impressed by all the ways people come up with to celebrate an event. If you feel that you're putting too much 'effort' into a dish and a present, just pare down your style. wouldn't mind that kind of party at all

I too find that totally annoying and uncouth! We have been invited to two pre-school birthday parties and been asked to bring a dish (as well as expected to bring a present, which I am fine with). I can understand it if the party is just a small close group of friends or a family party but it shouldn't (in my opinion) be requested on the invite and mailed to 30+ people. Tacky! Schedule the party before or after lunch, get a cake and make up some games. That's it! I believe if you want food then make it or buy it - don't ask people to bring it. It's YOUR party. You wouldn't ask people to bring food to YOUR wedding would you? Just cake for me

Sure, it is a little unorthodox to have a potluck kid's birthday party...but why make such a fuss about it? You would really refuse an invitation to a pre-schoolers birthday for because of a small deviation from the traditional party structure? Deny your son the fun of going to a party, deny the birthday kid the presence of his friend, and maybe offend the mom...over what? The horrible inconvenience of having to pick up a bag of chips? The three bucks? It's a big planet, and we all have to live on it together. Some people have different ways of doing things. Perhaps this mom comes from a family that always has potlucks, and friends that always have potlucks, and so she just likes potlucks and it doesn't occur to her that anyone else would mind. Just pick up a pre-made snack plate at the market and spend $5 less on the gift than you normally would.

I agree that having a potluck for a kid's bday is not the norm, but I don't think that means it's uncouth. Perhaps the family is trying to make it more of an all-family party, not JUST for the kids. I used to try to encourage parents/siblings to stay, as a way of creating more community (works pretty well when little, not much luck now!). Rather than judging this family, I would encourage you to respond in a way that works for you. If you like this family and want to attend but are on a limited budget, bring a dish and an inexpensive gift like a pack of crayons and a pad of notepaper. If you don't feel like you should do the work of cooking for the party, bring a bottle of juice or some potato salad from the deli. Or, if the whole thing makes you uncomfortable but your child likes that child, ask if you can drop off your child (assuming s/he is old enough). deborah

I completely agree with you! It is totally uncouth. anon

Well, I would say that if a friend invites you to a party and asks for a meal and a gift then you either go bc you are joyous in your heart to go or you dont go if you arent. Honestly, I think her request is ok, Id do anything for a friend if it helped support her. In Europe this is a given...to bring a dish, its just what you do, so why not bring an offering to a celebration? Don't be petty! Open your heart. anon

Everybody does things in different ways. I think they are also usually doing the best they can in the best way they know how. If you don't like the way other people do things, you don't have to participate. So, if it bugs you to go to a party where you are expected to provide food, don't go to the party! anon

I'm with you. If the hostess wants to invite people beyond her immediate peer group, she should have the means to accommodate them. Asking acquaintances to bring food on top of a gift is a bit much. She might be pleasantly surprised by the number of invitees who offer to bring something without being asked - and the resentment factor would be zilch. But regardless, if she can't afford the time or resources to accommodate guests accordingly, she should reconsider what kind of party she's having and why. Hard to say what you could do as a compromise- an RSVP to a potluck pretty much means you'll come bearing casserole. Perhaps you can find out what the birthday boy's favorite food is, and make that your gift? Or bring cupcakes, cookies, etc that kids can decorate themselves as an activity? If it's important to your child to go to the party, it might be better to just bite the bullet; but if your child is ambivalent about going, perhaps it's best to decline next time. Good luck! anon

I don't really have anything to add that others haven't already, except something I recall reading in the ''Miss Manners'' column a few years ago...Technically, it seems, if a person invites others to attend a dinner (at their home or a restaurant) the person who does the inviting is responsible to provide the meal at their own cost. So if we take that as a rule for dining out, all those nice dinner get-togethers that we've attended and split the bill equally amongst the attendees (well, OK maybe we pay for the birthday girl's dinner, too) have been completely against the rules of etiquette. Knowing this, I plan to continue splitting the bill because I like the company of friends and can't afford to pay for everyone (and know that they would be shocked/confused if I did pay.)

So my conclusion is to do what makes you feel comfortable, whether or not it seems tacky, uncouth or against typical etiquette rules. If you truly feel uncomfortable participating in such a party, decline the invitation, but be sure to send a nice bday card from your child. Paula C.

It could be an ''ethnic'' tradition. I come from a filipino family and potlucks for ''family'' parties are very common. And when invited, it is very common that everyone offers to bring something (although the invitations never ask or say ''potluck''). The host family always makes the main courses, and a lot of it. My husband's family is caucasion and they are amazed at the amount of food and drink at our parties. We also send home the extra food to the families. Something my husband still finds hard to accept (he doesn't let his family ''take'' any food home). I do not have potluck parties myself and I am not comfortable accepting offers from non-family members or very good friends, but my family and good friends usually offer to bring something, but I'll have them bring something they don't have to make, ie, drinks or chips, etc. My brother has given several potluck parties and this seems to be the norm within his circle of friends. A bag of chips or dried fruit on a paper plate is simple enough if your child wants to go to the party. Just might be another way of making a ''community'' within your child's circle of friends. another take on the situation