Hosting a Potluck

Sharing food is an intricate part of many get-togethers. Potluck dinners or lunches are a wonderful way to spend time with friends or family. Potlucks make planning a get-together easier than doing everything yourself, especially for large gatherings. The fun of a potluck is in the name because you never know what will be in the pot.

Potluck Basics
Whether you are hosting an after-church function or entertaining in your own home, the basis for a potluck is the same. Everyone brings a favorite dish to share with everyone else. The burden of providing the meal is not placed upon one or two individuals but rather shared among the group. Not only does this mean less work and planning, but potlucks are also great for experiencing all types of different foods. Everyone has their favorite recipe, especially for potluck casseroles. It's all part of what makes potluck suppers great.

Planning a Potluck
Even though many will share in the making of the food, someone still needs to be in charge of planning and organizing. So, to start off, choose a few people to make sure the word gets out, that everyone knows where the potluck is to be held and that someone can handle setup and cleanup.

Next, move on to choosing a location for your gathering. You may have a group of ten or a crowd of fifty. If it is something like an after-church lunch, the meeting place will most likely be established. If not, decide whether you want to have it in your home or if you need to rent a room. Make sure there is plenty of seating room for your guests and that you have access to chairs and tables. You may need outlets to plug in appliances like slow cookers and coffee pots.

However, not every potluck requires tables. Some of the best potlucks are informal, and everyone holds their food on their laps. If you go this route, make sure that the foods people bring aren't too messy. You don't want someone dropping a bowl of chili or soup onto the floor.

Potluck Dishes
The best way to assure an even amount of dishes is to assign people different types of dishes to prepare. You do not have to tell them what to bring; just give them the category. An easy way to break down a potluck is into a few categories:

  • Potluck salads: You want to make sure you have plenty of variety here. You don't want to end up with all gelatin salads. Ideas include cole slaw, potato salad, green salads (don't forget the dressing), pasta salads or vegetable trays.
  • Potluck side dishes: These will go along with main dishes and might include green beans, baked beans, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes or sweet potato casserole.
  • Potluck casseroles or main dishes: Here is the showcase for heartier fare. Meatballs, fried chicken, pasta dishes, rice casseroles, hot dogs on buns and turkey and gravy are examples of foods that fit this category, but don't forget vegetarian options for those who prefer not to eat meat.
  • Drinks and bread: Make sure you have water, coffee, lemonade or other beverages on hand. Bread, rolls, butter and any other condiments would fit into this category as well.
  • Potluck desserts: The dessert area of any potluck table is often the most popular and can feature pies, cakes, cookies, pudding desserts or fresh fruit.

You might assign someone the task of bringing tableware, or you can ask everyone to bring place settings for their own families. Another option is to post a sign-up sheet and have attendees choose their category. This way, they can decide what they would like to bring, but you can still make sure you have an even balance of foods.

Here is a great potluck salad or side dish recipe to get you started:

Asian-Style Noodle Salad

1 large package of fresh cabbage (coleslaw)
1 cup shelled sunflower seeds
1 cup slivered almonds
½ cup chopped green onions
2 packages instant Ramen noodles (choose your favorite flavor-beef or chicken are easy)
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup vinegar
1/3 cup sugar

1. Place vinegar, oil and sugar into a small pan and bring to a boil. Add the seasoning packets from the ramen noodles to the water. Do not add the noodles. Stir to dissolve. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

2. Mix the shredded cabbage, sunflower seeds, slivered almonds and green onions together in a large bowl.

3. When you are ready to serve the dish, add the broken-up noodles into the cabbage mix. Pour the dressing over the salad, and stir well. Make sure everything is coated.

This dish serves six to eight, depending upon the size of the servings.

No matter what you bring, be sure to write the recipe down a few times on index cards. That way, if your recipe is a hit, you can share it with others.

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Easy potluck recipes are often handed down from generation to generation. Chances are, your go-to potluck recipe is the same as the one your grandmother made, and for good reason-the recipe can be made quickly.

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The best potluck recipes are recipes that have history. While there is nothing wrong with adding a new recipe to the mix every now and again, when you hold a family potluck your guests will want the tried-and-true favorites.

Having a potluck dinner is an easy way of hosting a party without having to do all of the cooking. But there are a few points you need to follow to avoid a menu full of potluck casseroles or desserts, not to mention unhappy guests. For example, your potluck will be a problem if more than half of the guests bring potato chips and the other three bring one dish that won't feed everyone.

The joys of group gatherings and potlucks can't be denied. What better way to entertain guests and enjoy a get together than a sampling of everyone's culinary talents?

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