lthough we look forward to this time, festive entertaining is often more stressful than other occasions. Planning, preparing, and cleanup is quite daunting; as a result, potluck dinners have become stylish. This allows everyone a chance to contribute, join in on the day’s celebration and enjoy each other’s company, including the host.
Whether it’s a cocktail party, brunch or a traditional turkey feast with all the
trimmings, potluck fare reduces the stress of making a full-course dinner. The host typically makes the entrée roast (turkey, beef, ham or lamb) and guests create the side dishes and accompaniments. Here are three ‘secrets’ for the perfect potluck dish.
Often, as oven space is limited, a side-dish prepared and served from a slow-cooker is a winner. Alternatively, bring dishes served cold: mixed bean salad, crunchy coleslaw or a marinated salad.
Special diets or allergies
Check with the host well
in advance. Gluten
intolerance is a growing
concern. There’s a wealth of wheat- + gluten-free recipes that will add wholesome
variety to a holiday buffet table. For vegetarian guests, bring a side dish that doubles as a main course.
Simple = delicious +
Myth: great food has to be elaborate and rich to make
it stand out on the buffet table. Truth: it’s the host
with the roast’s time to
shine! Side dishes play a
support role; don’t upstage the table with indulgent dishes loaded with cream, butter and cheese. Keep it simple: limit ingredients high in fat and calories; choose recipes featuring colourful vegetables or whole grains
to provide added nutrition.
Easy, nutritious +
delicious hostess gifts
Perfect for a cocktail party or casual gathering – the much appreciated food gift. A bottle of wine or box of chocolate is an easy, but uninspired, choice. Add your personal touch with a homemade gift or a collection of your favourite gourmet ingredients.
- Dried fruit + nut sampler
Fill a segmented serving dish with an assortment of good quality dried fruit and nuts. An ideal coffee table snack.
- Homemade granola Perfect for a holiday brunch. Bake up batches of a favourite recipe; fill clear plastic gift bags or glass jars.
- Salad dressing kits Assemble vinaigrette staples – a good quality olive oil, vinegar and dijon mustard along with a glass bottle with a lid.
- Homemade pesto Show off your herb garden with a custom pesto + recipe suggestions.
- Cranberry relish or chutney
A holiday staple to serve with the roast or garnish a simple cheese tray. Pair selections with serving spoon and bowl for an elegant gift. H&L
Roasted Butternut Squash + Quinoa Salad
A triple-duty salad that’s easy to transport and serve; gluten-free, rich in protein and serves as an alternative main course for vegetarians.
1/4 cup (50 mL) apple cider
3 tbsp (45 mL) maple syrup
2 tbsp (30 mL) dijon mustard
1/2 tsp (2 mL) finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp (2 mL) each, salt and pepper (approx.)
1/2 cup (125 mL) canola oil
1 lb (500 g) butternut squash, peeled and seeded
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) dry quinoa
1 cup (250 mL) chopped fresh arugula leaves
1/2 cup (125 mL) each, chopped green onions and dried cranberries
1/4 cup (50 mL) chopped toasted walnuts (optional)
1 Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
2 Dressing: combine vinegar, syrup, mustard, rosemary, salt and pepper. Slowly pour in canola oil, whisking constantly until well combined.
3 Cut squash into 1/2-inch (1 cm) cubes. Toss with 2 tbsp (30 mL) of dressing. Spread on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Roast for 25 minutes or until tender and browned, stirring occasionally.
4 Meanwhile, rinse quinoa in a fine mesh strainer under cold, running water for 2 minutes. Transfer to a saucepan. Add 3 cups (750 mL) cold water. Bring to a boil.
5 Cover; reduce heat to low; simmer 15 minutes or until water is absorbed and quinoa is tender. Fluff with a fork.
6 Transfer cooled quinoa, roasted squash, arugula, green onion and cranberries to a large bowl; drizzle remaining dressing and gently toss to coat. Adjust seasonings to taste. (Can be prepared up to 2 days
in advance and refrigerated.) Serve cold or at room temperature, garnish with toasted walnuts (if using).
Honey + spice nut
Easy to make, rich in protein and fibre, nuts provide a variety of essential nutrients that promote good health. Making your own blend allows you to control added sugar and salt.
Makes 5 cups (1.25 L)
2 egg whites
1/4 cup (50 mL) honey
2 tsp (10 mL) ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp (2 mL) ground cardamom
5 cups (1.25 L) mixed unsalted nuts such as almonds, walnut halves,
pecan halves, cashews or macadamia nuts
1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) coarse or flaked sea salt
1 Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Whisk egg whites with honey, cinnamon and cardamom until foamy.
2 Add nuts and toss to coat. Spread on a large parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until nuts are dry and well-toasted.
3 Remove from oven. Sprinkle evenly with salt; stir well and cool completely.
4 Transfer to an airtight container; store at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
Amy Snider-Whitson, PHEc. and President of The Test Kitchen; recipe developer, culinary nutritional consultant and trends research specialist for over 10 years. TheTK.ca