Pot lucks are just pots full of luck. There's no easier or more delicious way to throw a party. We gathered some classic pot luck recipes from a group of seniors who've been at this a while — and some tips for making your next pot luck priceless.
We've all been to potlucks. Admit it: You love them. You love them because there's super-cheesy yummy stuff there that you'd never let yourself eat at home. Piles of it. And that's before you get to the dessert table.
Wait. OK, that might just be me.
I went to a great pot luck last week, thrown by Asbury Community Seniors, where I had a scoop of scalloped potatoes, watermelon, bean salad, Chicken Divan, Irene Lubiejewski's Cheesy Green-Bean Casserole, a few shrimp with cocktail sauce, one of Jean Pruyn's Coconut Snow Balls, a deviled egg and that's all I can remember before falling into that food coma.
I was treated like royalty, but I was really there to find out about the group, which I find pretty amazing. About 70 people filled the gathering space in Asbury United Methodist Church, at 4703 West Ridge Road, as they do the second Monday of every month.
There are about 10 huge tables laden with food, hot and cold dishes, from fresh veggies to delectable sweets, simple things, deli specials, grandmother's specialties. Steaming casseroles, fresh fruit, muffins — one guy even brought a pizza. I bet he didn't have to worry about leftovers.
"You never know what you're going to get, that's for sure," said group president Nancy Craig, 83. "You can sometimes get a whole table full of sweets."
Not that there's anything wrong with that. Once you've put down your jacket, purse and dish, and picked up your plate, you can wander the room, deciding what looks worthy of a space on your plate.
The group also meets on the fourth Monday of the month, when everyone brings a bag lunch and gets coffee and a doughnut. It's is open to the public and yearly membership is $5. Organizers ask for $1 each meeting to defray the cost of plates and coffee and such.
All the meetings include speakers. Once everyone was finished eating April 10, they heard a talk by Tina Schiefebein about hearing care. Coming up, they'll hear about wealth management, Alzheimer's and the American Red Cross.
"I come for the friendship and the programs are excellent," said Irene Lubiejewski. "We've heard from the Cancer Society and Meals on Wheels and I've met a lot of nice people.
The seniors also go on bus trips when the weather is nice, such as overnights to New York City and Chicago, as well as day trips to Cleveland or Buffalo.
It's unusual to keep a seniors group as robust and active as this one, Craig said.
"A lot of these senior groups have disappeared because there's no one to do the work," she said. "They can't get any officers."
She hummed a vague yes when asked if that included people such as herself, and quickly added that they hold elections every two years.
"I get a lot of friendship and satisfaction in doing things to help other people," she said. "We try to keep things interesting."
Five things I learned:
1. I've organized and participated in more than my share of pot lucks and have plenty of suggestions. They can go off like a well-oiled machine, as the one by the Asbury Seniors did (They've had their share of practice in their 38-year history.) or they can be an occasion of chaos.
The most important advice if you have a small group, is to discuss who wants to bring what, so you don't end up with a table full of doughnuts. We have what we have creatively dubbed "Food Day" in features roughly every last Friday of the month, and sometimes we spend five minutes planning and sometimes we just see what happens. You can guess what happens.
If you truly want a meal, make sure someone has a protein or a soup or cold cuts to build the rest of the meal around.
Hint: George Foreman grills are great for desk-top-grilled hot dogs.
2. This is the stuff you're going to forget: Assign it to the people who don't like to cook. Extension cords for slow cookers, large and small paper plates, flatware, napkins, zip-top bags, plastic leftovers containers, foil, plastic wrap, paper towels, disinfecting wipes and garbage bags.
If you're having beverages, have cups and ice. If you're having soup, have paper or foam bowls. Plastic tablecloths are helpful, but not necessary.
3. Everyone who brings a dish should also bring: Condiments required for consumption, utensils for slicing, scooping, and/or serving, with their names written clearly on every piece of everything they own, including lids. If you're pretty sure people are going to like your dish, bring a few copies of the recipe or have the online link handy.
4. You'll most likely have more food than you need. We always let others in the newsroom come over and eat even if they didn't bring anything, but we ask they put a dollar in a goldfish bowl. (I don't know why it's a goldfish bowl. I don't even know why we have a goldfish bowl) and we give the cash to a charity.
5. Be careful that hot and cold foods don't sit out too long. Two hours at room temperature is pretty much the limit for food safety. It's easy to keep hot stuff in slow cookers, and cold stuff in bowls sitting in bigger bowls of ice. Are we religious about this? No. But we should be.
Also important: At the end, don't just pick up your bowl and go. Help put leftovers into containers, put condiments in the fridge, wash dishes and utensils, wipe down tables. If everyone cleans something, everyone goes home happy.
Jennie Geisler writes about her adventures as a home cook every Wednesday. You can reach her at 870-1885. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/@ETNgeisler.
For more information about Asbury Community Seniors, including upcoming speakers, holiday parties, bus trips and membership, visit http://asburycommunityseniors.weebly.com
IRENE LUBIEJEWSKI'S CHEESY GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE
1 pound frozen green beans
½ pound Velveeta (or any cheese)
1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed
1 stick butter, melted
Cook green beans until tender. Do not overcook. Drain liquid and stir in cheese (cut up) while beans are hot. Keep lid on pan.
Place in casserole and cover with crushed crackers.
Pour melted butter on top.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes at 325 F.
IRENE ALLEGRETTO'S BROCCOLI PUFFS CASSEROLE
2 (10-ounce) boxes frozen broccoli or 1 fresh bunch, separated into florets
1 cup Bisquick baking mix
1 cup milk
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, or a 4-ounce package
Heat oven to 325 F.
Butter a 13-by-9-inch glass cake pan.
Cook broccoli as directed on package, drain.
Beat baking mix, milk, eggs and salt with hand beaters until smooth. Stir in broccoli and cheese.
Pour into cake pan and bake about 1 hour until knife inserted halfway between center and edge comes out clean.
Note: Can substitute spinach, cauliflower or corn for broccoli.
PEG HESS' VEGGIE PIZZA
2 cans crescent rolls
2 (8-ounce) bricks cream cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon dried dill
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Roughly 4 cups fresh vegetables of choice in bite-sized pieces.
Spread crescent rolls over rimmed 11-inch-by-7-inch baking sheet.
Bake as directed on package until browned.
Combine mayonnaise, dried weed, onion powder, garlic powder and spread over crescent roll crust.
Top with fresh vegetables.
JEAN PRUYN'S COCONUT SNOW BALLS
1 stick margarine
½ cup Crisco
2 cups powdered sugar
½ teaspoons vanilla
Coconut, tinted to any color
1 baked angel food cake cut into cubes
Cream together first 4 ingredients to create a frosting. Cover each cube with frosting and roll in coconut.
MADELINE HARTLEB'S BEAN SALAD
½ cup of oil
4 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons dried parsley
Accent and salt to taste
1 (14-ounce) can each wax beans, kidney beans and green beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup sliced red onion
3 sliced carrots
Combine and let marinate 1 hour before serving.
GERRY SPERO'S SPINACH CHEESE CASSEROLE
2/3 cup flour
2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 (24-ounce) container cottage cheese
3 cups grated cheese, your choice
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
Coat 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, beat eggs and flour until smooth. Add spinach, cottage cheese, grated cheese, salt and pepper. Spoon into baking dish and smooth top.
Bake, uncovered 1 hour at 350 F.
PAT YOUNKIN'S CHEESEBURGER SKILLET DINNER
1 (7.25-ounce) package macaroni & cheese
1 pound ground turkey or beef
½ cup chopped onion
1 (16-ounce) package frozen mixed vegetables
1/3 cup ketchup
¼ cup water
½ teaspoon mustard
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Prepare macaroni and cheese according to directions. Meanwhile in large skillet, brown turkey or beef with the onion. Drain. Stir in vegetables, ketchup, water mustard and garlic powder.
Cook until vegetables are crisp tender, about 10 minutes. Add cheddar cheese and stir until melted. Mix in macaroni and cheese.
Season with salt and pepper.
KATHY PIOTROWICZ'S PIZZA PASTA CASSEROLE
½ pound ground beer or loose sausage
¼ cup chopped onion
Sliced olives to taste
1 (2.5-ounce) jar sliced mushrooms, drained
1/8 teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon oregano
6 ounces (2 ½ cups) uncooked egg noodles
1 (10-ounce) can pizza sauce
1/3 cup low-fat milk
½ cup sliced pepperoni
1 (8-ounce) package shredded mozzarella
Brown meat and drain. Stir in onions to saute. Add olives, mushrooms and spices.
Boil noodles and drain. Combine with remaining ingredients, reserving 1/3 of the mozzarella.
Stir meat mixture into noodle mixture and transfer to a 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella to cover top of casserole.
Bake, covered, at 350 F 25 minutes and uncovered for 10 minutes.
JO ANN TOMCZAK'S SWEET POTATO CRISP
4 medium sweet potatoes, cooked, peeled and cubed
1 (8-ounce) package fat-free cream cheese
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 medium apples, quartered
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup quick-cooking oats
½ cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons cold butter
¼ cup chopped pecans
In a large bowl, beat the sweet potatoes, cream cheese and cinnamon until smooth. Spread evenly into an 11-by-7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Place apples and cranberries in a food processor; cover and process until chopped. Spread over sweet potato mixture.
In a small bowl, combine the flour, oats and brown sugar; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in pecans; sprinkle over filling. Bake, uncovered, at 350 F for 35 to 40 minutes, or until topping is golden brown and fruit is tender.
CorrectionThe recipe for Irene Allegretto's Broccoli Puffs Casserole calls for two eggs."