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non-chowish potluck dish

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I have a sort of mandatory potluck thing at work, and I'm out of luck for ideas. There's probably, maybe, one foodie in the entire bunch, so anything too adventurous wouldn't work. Also, there's probably around 35-45 people eating at a potluck luncheon that happens on a Thursday, so I don't have a lot of time to, well, do anything.

I'm a little desperate since there's only a small toaster oven at work, and I can't take a hot item to work (take public transit at rush hour). At the moment, I'm thinking I may have to resort to something like pasta salad, but I'm wondering if anyone would have any other ideas that might be fast and inexpensively scaled to feed that many people.

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  1. Layered corn bread salad. Sounds odd but tastes amazing, also, a cold dish, no burned commuters!

    Bake a Jiffy corn bread mix as directed (prepare dish the night before.) Mix 11/2 cup of best Foods mayo and 1/2 cup dill pickle juice until smooth. Crumble corn bread into 13x9 inch casserole dish, layer remaining ingredients in order and refrigerate over night.

    16oz kidney beans, drained 1C tomato, diced
    1C green pepper, diced 1lb cooked, crumbled bacon
    1C green onion, chopped mayo, dill dressing

    I hope you get to try this sometime, it really is a surprise!

    1. Ali, I'm in sort of the same situation (but will be able to bring a crockpot) and have asked for help here also...here's my recent topic with some very nice answers...one person suggested a couscous salad and the savory bread pudding idea might work for you too:


      1. I brought some bruschetta to work during one of our potlucks. Made the topping ahead and just brough the bread and a knife tocut it. I assembled right before we ate. It was a big hit!

        1 Reply
        1. re: ctl98

          I have to vouch for this idea--Easy and EVERYONE loves it. Just make sure you use really good tomatoes, fresh basil, and add some vinegar for kick. I pull this out at parties all the time and it always disappears.
          Other suggestion is a taco dip, which actually gets me invited to parties. Soften two bars of Philly cream cheese adn combine with a large container of sour cream. Blend in one envelope of taco seasoning (I prefer Ortega Chipotle). Spread in the bottom of a pan. Then layer whatever you want on top--I usually have fun with black beans or guacamole, etc. And I definitely experiment with different shredded cheeses and salsas. Black olives are unpopular for some reason, so I no longer use them. Then there's shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes, jalapenos, etc. I suppose you could add meat, but I usually keep it vegetarian. Once you have the cream cheese/sour cream/taco seasoning base down, you are free to experiment.

        2. Wheat berry salad. Really -- even non-foodies at my office picnic loved it. It's like a pasta salad, only better. I've tripled the wheat berries and doubled the vinaigrette and add-ins for a crowd. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...

          1. Are you sure we're not involved with the same pot luck?

            Anyway, don't write off your co-workers so easily. Even the less chowish among them will appreciate a more special or refined dish. Unless you're talking about making something like duck patte - it's worth the chow-effort. Of course you don't have a great deal of time, or a crock pot capability. One idea on that would be perhaps to bring the pot to work one day, then bring the well packaged food the next?

            For potlucks at church or work, I often make a more "refined" version of what people already know. Like a nice chowder or bisque style soup, or even just use fancier (for lackof a better word) cheeses and spices in a standard cassarole.

            How 'bout a "real" caesar salad? Make the dressing at home, take the lettuce, croutons, and parm in plastic baggies. I made this at work one year and ended up with 6-7 requests for the recipe.

            1. Cold cooked chicken legs. Dip chicken legs in italian seasoned bread crumbs. Place on oiled foil on cookie tray. Bake at 375 degrees about 35-45 minutes. They look great. Place in refrigerator overnight. They should be at room temperature by lunch time. Serve with tongs or a fork.

              1. Bean salad is easy, and you won't have to heat it up. A couple of cans of black beans (rinsed), some frozen corn (ditto), chopped cilantro, sliced jalapeno, sliced green onion, a little lime juice. You can add chopped tomato too. Or toasted walnut bits for crunch. Easy, portable, and tasty.

                1. How about roasted vegetables with orzo? I cut up whatever vegetables I have around like eggplant, red and green peppers, onions, garlic, and zucchini and toss them with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Put the vegetables on a large cookie sheet and roast in a 425 degree oven till browned, about 40 min. Stir it once or twice during the roasting time.

                  Cook 8 oz. of orzo and put it in a large bowl with the roasted vegetables(make sure you get any juices from the pan too). You can crumble up some feta cheese and add that too, and sprinkle with balsamic vinegar. Shredded fresh basil is a nice touch also.

                  This can be served at room temp. I've made it several times and everyone likes it.

                  1. The crockpot/slow cooker is your friend, if you don't mind carrying it to work. You can make any sort of soup or stew or chili and it will reheat just fine & stay at a serving-safe temp all day in a crock pot. Best of all, you can make a soup-style dish several days in advance & then simply transfer it to the crock pot on the morning of the party. I am making crab & brie soup for my office potluck in two weeks...recipe link for anyone interested: http://www.louisianaseafood.com/recip...

                    1. One of the most popular things at similar events at my old office was a mixed fruit salad that one of my coworkers brought. His "mistake" the first year was using frozen raspberries in sugar syrup, which ended up melting into what amounted to a delicious "dressing." I have used this idea and have added a little orange liqueur to the raspberries in syrup, whirling it in the blender, and using that as dressing. There are lots of variations you could use (add vanilla, lemon juice, etc.).

                      1. Couscous salad w/ pesto, dates, shredded carrots, peas, parmesan cheese (whatever you want really). Some people think it's fancy because they haven't seen it before but they always like it.

                        Oh, another really simple one is to take dough (frozen or make your own), roll it into a big rectangle. Fill the middle third w/ ham and cheese or whatever sandwich filling you want. On the outer 2 thirds, cut towards the center every 1/2-1" and then braid across center. Bake. Cool and cut.

                        1. California Quiche always worked for me. Here's the only recipe I could find:

                          Reverse the fat-free adaptions and you'll be back to the original recipe, using real eggs and real cheese.

                          Double the recipe and it fits into a pyrex lasagna pan. It's nice warm or cold, and it can be cut into as many pieces as needed.

                          1. This summer I did a new one that went over really well - Tabouli salad loaded with lots of stuff (find it next to the coucous, rice) but to make it big and hearty I added chucks of tomatoe, artichoke hearts, cubed mozzerella or feta cheese, carrots, cukes, peppers (yellow, green, red and orange) - I just kept adding color - my dressing was the marinade from the artichokes (just add a little at first, stir - adjust as you like). It was flavorful, colorful and crunchy.

                            1. There's been a lot of raving on this board about this ham spread recipe:

                              I'd make that & bake (the night before or early the morning of) a whole bunch of biscuits or savory scones like this recipe (from a really great farm blog):
                              just stop at a good bakery on the way to work and buy a bunch or rolls.

                              1. Mixed antipasto from epicurious. Completely do-ahead, good at room temp. Can function as an appetizer or entree. Appeals to everyone, not an elbow noodle in sight.


                                1. Make one vegetarian and one regular party sandwiches.

                                  Grab two baguettes and split them lengthwise. Scoop out some of the dough, but leave a decent shell.

                                  Brush the inside with something flavourful - pesto, herb oil, your favourite marinade, whatever. Stuff one with veggies and/or cheese, the other with meat as well.

                                  Wrap them tightly in plastic and refridgerate. Unwrap to serve and let people cut off as much as they want.

                                  Some ingredients to consider: roasted veggies, caramelized onions, marinated artichoke hearts, kimchee, chutney, tapenade, anchovies, hearts of palm, giardiniera, smoked cheese, refried beans, etc.

                                  1. This couscous and lentil salad w/ feta has always been at hit at potlucks in the past. The salad combines mint, arugula, couscous, french lentils, vinegar, olive oil and garlic. You can make it the night before, and severe room temp. The flavors are wonderful, you don't have to be a chowhound to appreciate. And the dish is so easy to prepare, you'll enjoy it as well!