With Thanksgiving next week and Christmas soon to follow, the time for those holiday potluck parties has arrived. For a foodie, these situations can be cause for either dread or excitement – either you dread it because you’ve been pigeon-holed into making the same dish you’ve made for the last five years because everyone loves it, or excitement at the fact that you get a chance to show your kitchen skills off to your coworkers. As for those who aren’t so experienced in the kitchen, potlucks mean a quick trip to the bakery section of your closest grocery store for a pre-made dessert.

Well potluckers, this post is for all of us; those who love it, hate it, and would rather let Harris Teeter make your contribution. Let’s make this year’s potluck season a success!

If you’re like me, potlucks are the worst part of the office environment. It’s strange for a foodie to hate potlucks, right? Well, call me a strange foodie, because I hate them. I enjoy eating other people’s food, and I don’t mind cooking for my co-workers, but there is always so much stress involved in deciding what to cook. Should I make something hot or cold? A side dish or a dessert? Then you have to contend with food allergies, personal likes and dislikes, and worse, if someone has already chosen your dish. If your dish is chosen, then you’re back at square one. HATED IT. Here’s a fix: come up with a list of five dishes that you would like to make, then choose two that are at the top of your list; one is your preferred choice, the other an alternate in case your preferred choice has been chosen by the lady down the hall that you know can’t make it better than you. This tactic usually takes the stress out of potlucks (or at least some of it!)

If potlucks are your favorite office activity, try and make it into a challenge this year. Step out of your comfort zone and make something new – either a dish you’ve never made or something that your coworkers wouldn’t expect from you (y’all know that’s the theme around here!). The worst part about being known as the person who loves to cook is that you become pigeon-holed into making specific dishes every year because “that’s what everyone likes”. Allow me to share a personal example: about four years ago, I found a recipe for sweet potato cheesecake, which I made for a holiday social for my friends and a few get-togethers. Pretty soon, that was all anyone wanted me to make, which irked me because I am capable of making more than sweet potato cheesecake. So, I stopped making it because I got tired of that being the “go-to” dish.  Foodies, don’t let this happen to you! Be daring! If you normally make the best candied yams, push the envelope and try candied pumpkin or roasted butternut squash. Or, try your hand at a dessert – baking really isn’t as hard as you think!

Now, for my “grocery store chefs”… let me first say that no one expects your dish to be Julia Child-perfect, just edible. This being said, step away from the bakery section, and put that pre-made pie down! There are plenty of dishes that you can make that do not require you to know very much about cooking. For instance, one year at my company’s Thanksgiving potluck, one of my coworkers brought in a veggie pizza appetizer: canned pizza dough is cooked and a veggie cream cheese dip is spread across the surface. Fresh veggies like broccoli, carrots, and onion were finely chopped up and spread over the top. That dish was quick, easy to transport, and everyone loved it. The only interaction with the stove in this dish was cooking the pizza dough, which is as easy as making canned biscuits. So, stop relying on the grocery store, and try your hand at making something you can actually say you made! Try making a tasty dip to serve with tortilla chips or crackers, like a smoked salmon dip (a Fab Foodie fav!)or hummus, which is easy to make, tastes delicious, and can also be paired with baby carrots and celery. Whatever you decide, let it be something that you made, not the lady at the deli counter at your local grocery store.

A Few More Tips on Potlucks:

*Don’t make anything that should be served right away, like fried desserts or appetizers such as egg rolls. No one likes reheated soggy fried foods full of grease.

*Presentation is just as important as the food. If you have a serving bowl or platter that you can bring from home to showcase your dish, bring it! Just make sure you get it back at the end of the day.

*Try to bring some healthy alternatives if your office potlucks are heavy on sweets and starches. A cold veggie tray with a homemade dip is always a good choice. If you prefer to have a hot option, pull out your trusty George Foreman grill and try grilling some peppers, onions, and eggplant and serve them with warm pita points and a mediterranean sauce.

*Finally, if you are going to make a dessert, find a dessert that you can make easily and doesn’t require any assembly to serve, unless you are planning to do the work yourself. This rule can actually be applied to any dish you plan to contribute. There is nothing worse than having to put together or cook someone else’s dish the day of the potluck (I’ve seen it happen!).

There you have it, holiday honies! Enjoy the potluck season! (Don’t forget to bring The Fab Foodie a plate!)

Happy eating!

The Fab Foodie