Saturday, April 10, 2010

Simple and Perfect Potluck Fare

I don't know about you but I'm a huge fan of potlucks. I love the simplicity, fun and ability to try many new dishes that I otherwise may not have tasted. Actually, I think it's safe to say that I've now been to more potlucks in the past 3 years than I have in my entire adult life. Living in Florida means more opportunity all year round for barbeques, outdoor parties and entertaining so I've started to build up quite the desktop folder of recipes.

I love homemade dishes and think they're almost a must for potlucks. I always try to bring a personal favorite that I've made a few times before, I don't like food 'surprises' when feeding others. Having said that, I love trying new recipes and if I do try something for the first time, I like to make it the night before and always make something that I am able to taste before bringing to the party. This way if it didn't go as planned I have time to whip up something else.

With spring in full swing and summer just weeks away, I know you'll all be enjoying outdoor parties soon enough and whether you are headed to a birthday party or a backyard BBQ, I thought I'd share some perfect and somewhat simple recipes that you can use to impress your friends. *winking* Sometimes the most simplistic recipes are best. As I've said before and I'll say again, when making any savory dish you can't go wrong with a pinch of sea salt, some extra virgin olive oil, fresh pressed garlic and  fresh cracked pepper-it just makes everything so much better.

So, without further ado, here are some classy dishes (and my personal favorites) that you can make to entertain with or feed to your family. I try to make each dish as healthy as possible and keep each one I bring under $10 (several are under that like the potato salad) as I tend to use in-season and local ingredients .

Caprese Salad

Serves 10


4 Tomatoes on the vine (or any other but these have the best flavor in my opinion)
2 small mozzarella balls or 1 package of pre-sliced mozarella ball
6 fresh basil leaves
1 bottle of balsamic vinegar (or you can use premade balsamic glaze)
2 tsp sugar (if not using balsamic glaze)


1. Slice the tomatoes into 1/2" discs and slice each mozzarella into 1/4" discs. Arrange on a platter and tuck 4 basil leaves under each corner diagonally for garnish. You can use premade balsamic glaze or use a 16oz inexpensive bottle of balsamic vinegar.

2. Set your stove to 1 or 2 (low) and let the balsamic vinegar simmer, it will continue to reduce until it thickens. You must keep a close eye on it so it doesn't burn and scorch the saucepan. It will have a very strong, vinegar scent while simmering. Be sure to stir it constantly. You can add 2 tsp of sugar near the end of the reduction to add some sweetness.

3. Drizzle the reduction over the tomato and mozzarella platter. Chop up the remaining 2 basil leaves and sprinkle on top.

This is an easy favorite and it is a crowd pleaser. I made this three weeks ago and decided to snap some pictures so I could share it with you all, knowing I'd be blogging about potlucks. The most quick and simple thing to do is buy pre-packaged sliced mozzarella balls and use a balsamic glaze if you are in a rush but want to bring a great dish.

Classic Bruschetta Bread

Serves 15

1 loaf good-quality crusty baguette
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled
5 medium-sized plum tomatoes, cut into 1/4" cubes with seeds removed
12 fresh basil leaves, chopped (plus extra whole basil leaves for plate garnish if desired)
2 tablespoons red onion, diced
1/4 cup finely shredded parmasean cheese (optional topping)
sea salt and cracked pepper to taste


1. Slice the baguette into 1/2" rounds, cut on the diagonal. Brush both sides of bread slices with olive oil. Broil at 400 degrees for 5 minutes (be sure to watch these, once browned take them out). Rub one side of each bread slice with the garlic clove.

2. Combine tomatoes, basil, onion and salt in a small bowl. Strain mixture so that it won't be too watery. Be sure to keep tomato mixture separate until ready to serve so the bread doesn't become soggy.

3. Divide the tomato mixture between the bread slices, garlic side up, and garnish with parmesean and extra basil leaves if desired. Serve immediately.

I love bruschetta bread, it's a favorite for many and a nice addition to potlucks and I've made it several times. Just be sure to separate the ingredients and assemble upon arrival to avoid soggy bread. The key here is the garlic-rubbed bagette slices, they really pop with flavor!

Healthier Red Potato Salad

Serves 12


12 cups cubed red potatoes
1 cup chopped green bell pepper (about 1 medium)
1/2 cup minced red onion
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
3 cloves of freshly pressed garlic (or more if desired, I use 5)
2 tablespoons deli mustard (dijon with horseradish) the hint of horseradish gives it a nice flavor
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
fresh dill (optional as a garnish)


1.Cook cubed potatoes covered in boiling water, 10 minutes, or until tender; drain well and cool (do not rinse!)

2.In a large bowl, combine potatoes, bell pepper and onion.

3.In a small bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Pour over potato mixture, tossing gently to coat. Cover and refrigerate. You can serve this immediately or let it marinate further.

This is a spinoff recipe from Paula Dean's potato salad. I was surprised that she had a lighter version of potato salad, I'm not a fan of mayonnaise-laden potato salad so this is a great healthier option. I decided to add garlic, fresh dill and changed the dijon to dijon-horseradish deli mustard and it really makes it pop. I'm pretty good with combining flavors and was pleased it worked out. In fact, I made this for a birthday potluck and everyone complimented me on it and one person even said it was good enough to be in whole foods take out bar. Who knew?

Strawberry and Avocado Summer Salad

serves 8


1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon lemon juice
8 cups mixed salad greens (or spinach, that is what I am using)
3 avocados - peeled, pitted and sliced
3 cups strawberries, sliced
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans (toast before chopping at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes)
I'm trying this one for the first time for a brunch with friends after church. I've already toasted the nuts (I'm using walnuts as that is what we had on hand), I made the dressing and it tastes great, just have to chop up the fruit and toss everything together tomorrow. The photo is compliments of where you can also find the original recipe itself.
Banana Cupcakes

My friends can generally count on me to bring cupcakes to a get together, I love making them and even more than that-I love eating them! I can't take credit for this recipe or the photo above, it's Martha Stewart all the way, I forgot to snap a pic of mine. These are yummy, you'll really enjoy them especially if you enjoy bananas, and who doesn't like caramel? Click HERE for the full recipe.

Proscuitto-Wrapped Asparagus

Serves 10


20 asparagus spears
4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3/4 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Salt and freshly ground pepper


1. Rinse asparagus; snap off tough stem ends. Bring a 4- to 6-quart pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add asparagus and cook until crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes; rinse under cold water until cool.

2. Wrap a strip of prosciutto around each spear.  Arrange spears on a platter.

3. In a bowl, mix together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, grated zests, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with asparagus as a dipping sauce.

I love this recipe and have received rave reviews. The saltiness from the proscuitto and the sweet zesty citrus pair up well together. The dipping sauce is a vinaigrette and is really good, you could literally use it over salad and many have asked me for the recipe.

Goat Cheese and Olive Tapenade Crostini

Serves 12-15

Here is another recipe that I didn't get a photo of as I made it as an appetizer for Thanksgiving and it got eaten quicker than I could take the photo. Here is the photo and recipe source. I am a huge fan of both kalamata olives and goat cheese, I used organic olive tapenade from whole foods and it turned out great.

Other great ideas include a veggie platter with hummus and pita wedges, baked brie with crackers, chocolate-covered strawberries, fruit salad with mint, decadent mini cheesecake bites or steamed/grilled asparagus with feta crumbles. What could be better as a dessert this summer than a homemade key lime pie? Yummy!

How about you-do you enjoy potlucks? Do you like to make a dish from scratch or pick something up from a store on your way over to a party? I'd love to see your favorite go-to recipes so feel free to leave a link so we can all try it too. :)

Happy Weekend!


  1. great dishes! can't wait to see your book around, of course I'm in Aus, so I guess it will sell on amazon??

  2. Hi, first visit here. I like the idea of potlucks because the pressure is off, but I'm all about presentation when I entertain, so I usually like to handle all of the food myself. I'd love to try the goat cheese and olive tapenade crostini for my next party. I'll be bookmarking this post.

  3. Thanks Ladies! Yes, Annie it will be available on Amazon. :)

    Karen-I hear you on the presentation aspect,that is my favorite part. Even the simplest salad can be displayed beautifully on the right platter and garnished artfully. It just makes everything that much more appealing.

    I hope you enjoy the recipe for your next party, it's a great savory snack!


Thanks for stopping by, your comments make my day! I read every single one and will answer any questions you have. I hope you'll visit again soon! :)


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