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Please help with potluck brainstorming!

I usually spend a bit of time in the kitchen & enjoy every minute. Right now I'm recovering from surgery but feeling well enough to be frustrated by the temporary limitations. I have a potluck (casual, luncheon, bring a dish) next week which I'd love to attend, but I'm completely blank on ideas.
Constraints: *Finished dish (including serving utensils, platter, etc.) must be under 10 lbs.
*Limited standing for prep work
*Inexpensive (6 weeks recovery = no work = no pay)
*Easily located ingredients since a non-foodie will do the shopping
*Involve no equipment heavier than a 12" fry pan
*If oven needed, be rather light weight due to lift/bend limitations
*I'm a pretty decent cook, but an under experienced baker
Normally I have dozens of ideas, but between the recovery stupor (the living wall has become quite fascinating to gaze upon) & not being able to cook in my usual fashion I am stumped.
The only thing that is coming to mind are some chocolate filled meringue cookies an aunt used to make (I have a hand-mixer, since I can't pull out the big guns). Your ideas very much appreciated!

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  1. Mashed roasted sweet potato "souffle". Wash & prick with a fork about 8 medium sweet potatoes and roast in a medium oven until tender (should have approx. 6 cups of "meat" when cooked & peeled). Remove and let cool. Pull the peels off and put potatoes in large bowl to mix. Add 1/4 cup melted butter, 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and three eggs, a pinch of salt. Mash/mix until blended. Place in a 8 or 9" casserole dish and bake in a 350 oven for about 35-45 minutes. Optional: top with 1/2 cup chopped pecans mixed with 2-3 tablespoons brown sugar.

    It's easily reheated in a microwave, and you can splort on some whipped cream from a can.

    1 Reply
    1. re: weezycom

      Roasted curried sweet potatoes. Peel and chunk sweet potatoes, toss with olive oil, bottled curry powder (McCormick's will do), salt and pepper, and roast on a foil-covered cookie sheet until done. If you want to be fancy, chop up some cilantro and sprinkle on top. Pack it up with a spoon and have fun.

    2. Brussle sprouts.

      Slice them pretty thin so they're shredded (this will be the only time consuming part), and sautee with a bit of olive oil, sea salt, black pepper and a splash of white wine or vermouth.
      Toss in some bacon bits (real bacon please!) for some colour and smoky flavour.

      If you already have the wine, this should cost you next to nothing and anyone can select decent brussle sprouts!

      6 Replies
      1. re: hotsauce28

        Even less prep -- roasted brussels sprouts. Just trim them, remove outer leaves, put in baking dish with salt, pepper, olive oil. I roast mine at 400. Everyone went wild over these for Thanksgiving and they were SOOO easy. If you wanted to, you could add a little Parmesan or lemon juice, but we like them as is. They'll get a nice crunchy crispy outer layer and they're incredibly tender and sweet inside. I wish I had discovered this years ago instead of slaving over complicated dishes to bring to pot lucks... of the three items I contributed to Thanksgiving, this was easiest and most coveted. Everyone was exclaiming "wow" and "tell me HOW you did this?!" ;)

        1. re: foxy fairy

          Hotsauce28 & foxy fairy, Thanks, they both sound great. Would they be good at room temp? This is at a community center & I am unsure if the facility has an oven or microwave.
          Everyones ideas are really helping to jump-start my brain. I think just not cooking for the last month made me a bit rusty!

          1. re: meatn3

            I think so. But if you serve it room temp, i would nix the butter.
            You can call it brussle slaw. =)

            1. re: meatn3

              I find them great at room temp. We had a few left that I didn't bring to Thanksgiving, and three of us devoured these the day after Thanksgiving -- not even room temp. Cold, right out of the fridge. Definitely don't skimp on the salt, pepper, or a good olive oil. Delish!

              1. re: foxy fairy

                foxy fairy, how do you get them crispy?
                i don't think i've ever done crispy brussel sprouts unless i've burnt them!

                1. re: hotsauce28

                  We did a trial run with them, roasting at 400, and cooking anywhere between 30 and 45 mins. They were great at 30, but softish. They get crispier the longer they're in, (with the insides getting sweeter)... although I trimmed and removed tough outer shells, of course, I noticed that with the longer cooking time, the remaining outer shell will peel off the sprouts sometimes, and become like crispy little chips almost - do NOT throw those crispy leaves out when you scoop the sprouts out of the baking dish! They are delicious little crunchies. I know some people actually peel each leaf and cook them that way, and I can see why...

                  I've done the burnt crispy too, hotsauce LOL, one night cooking in my AllClad in bacon grease, they were done but I wanted them to "crisp" as suggested here. This is a very time-sensitive thing, though -- and I decided to run to the other room for something and in that minute they became BEYOND crispy... charred.

        2. Main course, side or dessert?


          1 Reply
          1. re: violabratsche

            These things seem to have a lot of desserts, so I usually bring a main or side to help balance it out...

          2. Corn Pudding casserole. The one that uses Jiffy corn muffin mix, sour cream, creamed and regular corn. You can add green and red peppers, cheddar cheese, etc. Every time I make if for a group, it's the first thing gone and everyone wants the recipe. Plus, it's so easy to make.

            1 Reply
            1. re: rumple

              I love the brussels sprouts idea, but the Corn Pudding is delicious and cheap. Every time I make it everyone goes crazy.

            2. Potlucks do tend to have lots of sweets. I recently took oven fried chicken drumettes to a party and they disappeared quickly. (Admitedly, there were lots of teenagers there. It's not fancy.) I bought the drumettes at Costco and they were really cheap. I know you don't want to use the oven too much, but this isn't a lot of effort. If your non-foodie friend can find falafel mix, it's good, a bit spicy. Just shake the wings in a bag with the falafel mix and bake at 475 for about 20 minutes, turning once. They're fine at room temp..

              1. This is my super easy potluck appetizer:

                -Roast a couple of heads of garlic til the cloves are spreadable
                -Serve with:
                -slices of long, skinny baguette
                -fresh basil leaves
                -crumbled Gorgonzola or your favorite cheese
                -thin slices of prosciutto (optional)
                -a little bottle of balsamic to drizzle on top

                Slap it all on a nice plate and let people construct delicious little sandwiches!

                1. Why not make veggie chili? There isn't much prep if you use canned tomatoes and beans - just chop as many or as little veggies as you want. It's comforting and tasty, and pretty healthy too (though no one really thinks of it that way).

                  Unless that's too heavy, in which case, maybe a veggie tart. Use storebought puff pastry, roll it out, and cover with pesto and thinly sliced veggies. Bake. You can put cheese on there, too, but don't go overboard - the pastry's pretty rich as is.

                  1. Seems to me that I took a slow cooker "casserole" of a modified cassoulet (A recent thread here reminded me of this) to a pot luck. I think I made it much more simply, with boneless chicken (probably thighs), and smoked sausage, and a few other things that made it a little less expensive, but still allowed it to be unusual...and I sure don't recall bringing home leftovers. I DO remember that it was easy to make.

                    I can post a recipe I have here, if you'd like it.


                    1 Reply
                    1. re: violabratsche

                      I just thought to track down that recipe, and I had the good sense to save the source with the recipe. It's one of Rachel Ray's 30 minute deals...I adapt as I go along...
                      I dislike italian sausages, so I used smoked sausage, and I'm sure I did the least cooking and prep possible...


                    2. How about a savory bread pudding? These can be done ahead, served hot or room temp, from fairly basic ingredients (bread, eggs, milk, ham or sausage, some green veggie...) Not too heavy either!

                      1. This is easy - I always just do the mexican layer dip for potlucks. It is always well received and is basically just assembling and a little chopping. You can double the recipe and put it in a 9x13 pan or just do it in a square pan. It's not the perfect, "from scratch" Chowish dish but is always well liked.

                        Can of refried beans (I buy the vegetarian ones so I can say the dip is vegetarian)
                        Packet of taco seasoning mix
                        Taco sauce (optional but nice touch)
                        Chopped tomatoes
                        Chopped iceburg lettuce
                        Shredded cheese
                        Sour cream
                        Big bag of tortilla chips

                        Mix the beans with the taco seasoning and spread in bottom of pan. Top with sour cream or mixture of sour cream and taco sauce if using both. Top with shredded cheese. If preparing ahead, stop here. Just before serving, add chopped lettuce, then tomatoes. Serve with a spoon for people to scoop up dip onto their plates.

                        1. I wish you a speedy recovery! I would buy the prefozen meatballs and then make sweet and sour meatballs (when potluck time came around I would be asked for both of these) and they are so simple) or a Mexican lasagna. Both get cleaned out, and are easy adn tasty.
                          Under $25

                          I actually made the meatballs at work, but just throw everything in the crockpot and plug it in. These are delicious and they eat it all.
                          And for the lasagne,
                          Bake the chicken, use preshreded cheese and layer. I know its not gourmet, but the everyone will certainly understand.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: chef chicklet

                            cc-- would you share your sweet-and-sour meatball recipe? I liked your hot artichoke soooo much (and so do my friends/fam) that I'd love to try another of your standby recipes. thanks! :)

                            1. re: foxy fairy

                              Oh I'd be delighted/ Ok now this is for office potlucks or a quick item for a party and it does involve some canned items if that is okay? I have made these before for my holiday open house, because its easy, inexpensive and very tasty.

                              Let me look up my (ahem) recipe, honestly, people love them. It's basically dumping and adding stuff to the crockpot. Takes about 15 minutes, then turn on the heat and let it cook for a few hours.

                          2. Thanks to everyone for the great ideas! Unfortunately, had a slight setback & wasn't up for an outing. But now I am fully prepared with recipes for the next time!