10 Tips for Bringing a Dish to Pass

posted by Andrea | 07/13/2016
Print pageEmail page

10 tips for bringing a dish to pass

Dave and I are lucky that many of our extended family members and almost all our friends live within 30 minutes of our house (and many more tend to visit our area during the summer months). This means lots and lots of parties, BBQ’s, picnics, and gatherings from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

And what’s a great party without great food?

Most of the parties we’re attending (or hosting) are some sort of potluck where each person brings a dish to pass and everyone can try a little of everything — potlucks are my favorite! I love the simplicity of making one large dish of food to pass (with only one dish to wash after the party) and in return, getting to sample 15-20 different things.

For me, potlucks are one of the simplest ways to enjoy a variety of foods with minimal effort on my part. However, after talking with several friends and family members, and after receiving many emails from readers, I realized I might be one of the few weirdos who feels like potlucks are super simple.

Many people I talked with have mentioned how hard it is for them to decide what to bring, or how they always bring the exact same things every year, or how they can never get the timing just right and their food is either underdone or over-done and then doesn’t get eaten.

I know there are hundreds of “recipe round-up” posts out there — so I’m not going to share specific recipes with you today (although feel free to browse my online recipe box when you’re trying to decide what to bring to your next party). Instead, I’m going to share some of the things I personally consider when I’m bringing a dish to pass at an office potluck, summer BBQ, church picnic, or whatever. 

If you’ve ever dreaded “bringing a dish to pass” or stressed about what type of foods you should bring to your next potluck party, I hope my tips below will help.

.

1. Find a recipe that can be made in advance.

Whenever I’m making food to take along with me, I always make sure there is little to no last-minute prep work — partially because I don’t want to monopolize the host’s kitchen or assume he/she has certain tools I might need, but also because I don’t want to be cooking or assembling food when I’m at my party. I’d rather bring a more low-maintenance food that I can simply set on the buffet table and then go mingle.

I usually look for recipes that can be made the day before or the morning of, and then kept warm in the slow cooker during the party — think slow cooker meatballs, bacon-wrapped sausages, make-ahead lettuce salad, cookies, bars, or cake that can be made the day before (or, if you’re like me, pulled from the freezer the day before!) Even a pan of lasagna can easily be assembled the morning of and then just pulled out of the oven before you leave (after baking for an hour, it should stay hot for a long time!)

By making your food ahead of time, you’ll eliminate stress from the day of your party, and you’ll be able to enjoy your party more.

2. Consider food that can be eaten at room temperature.

The food will be hot (or cold) for the first round, but what happens after it’s been sitting out for an hour or more?

If you bring an ice-cream dessert (I’ve seen this done SO many times and still wonder why) it’s going to melt and be ruined. If you bring a breakfast casserole that tastes disgusting at room temperature, you’ll either need to re-heat it or you’ll end up taking most of it home again. If you bring something with mayonnaise or sour cream, bring an extra bowl filled with ice so it will stay chilled longer.

I usually steer clear of everything I mentioned above, just because it’s extra hassle and not necessary in my opinion.

There are so many other recipes to choose from, and I can always find something that tastes good at room temperature (or something that can be made in a slow cooker to keep warm.) In fact just last weekend I brought a bunch of bars, cookies, and muffins to one party and the bacon-wrapped sausages in a slow cooker to another party. Never once did I need to worry about keeping things hot or cold or reheating anything. I just plugged the slow cooker in and set out the baked goodies. Done!

3. Create small portion sizes.

I don’t know about you, but when I have 30 food options sitting in front of me, the last thing I want to do is take a monstrous serving size of one particular food. I want to take a tiny bit of everything so I can try each different recipe.

Whenever I bring food to a party, I always keep this in mind and make sure the food I bring is in “mini form”. I’ll make my cookies bite-size, I’ll make mini muffins and mini cupcakes instead of more traditional full-size items. I’ll cut larger chunks of meat or cheese into bite-size pieces, and always set out a knife next to my food for anyone who only wants a half.

4. Bring food that is easy to serve with one hand.

Although I love a good soup and salad buffet, or a make-your-own-sandwich bar, those types of food are usually not practical for large crowds of people all standing in line waiting for the people ahead of them to move forward. Anything that involves using both hands to add a variety of toppings or extras is going to majorly back things up — not to mention create chaos for parents trying to assemble plates for small children at the same time!

I personally try to stay away from any recipe that involves adding toppings or “extras” — unless it’s adding whipped cream to pie! I try to make sure that all the person needs to do is scoop or stab or grab with one hand while their other hand is free to hold their tray or squirming child 🙂

5. Plan ahead for “wet” foods.

If you’re going to bring a very liquidy or “wet” food like my delicious hot fruit salad, fresh salsabaked beans, etc. plan ahead and have small serving cups or bowls ready to go. Or, better yet, quickly dish up small servings in cups before people go through the line. This way, they won’t “ruin” everything else on their plate with the juices from your food, and the line will keep moving.

6. Choose something you’ll eat as leftovers.

There is nothing worse than bringing a massive amount of food to a party only to come home with most of it because people didn’t show up, there were too many other options, or maybe people just didn’t love your dish. For this reason, I always try to bring recipes that Dave and I will happily eat as leftovers so I won’t be totally crushed if I bring most of my food back home again.

This brocoslaw recipe actually tastes better the 2nd day, so I’ll often bring this to BBQs or cookouts. And of course, almost all cookies, brownies, bars, crackers, cheeses, etc. taste fine a day or two later. We also LOVE leftover cheesy potatoes, leftover meatballs, leftover pasta, and leftover casseroles — so I’ll usually bring something like that over something else that might be completely soggy by the next morning. Plus, the casseroles and other hot dishes can be made ahead and served from a slow cooker (see #1 and #2 above!)

7. Consider the type of party or the theme of the party.

This is not necessarily a huge concern for me; however, the type/theme of party you’re attending could potentially play a role in how you choose your recipe.

Where I live in Michigan, most summer and fall parties are outside… while winter holiday parties are always inside due to freezing temperatures. So, if your party will be outside, you’ll want to realize that bugs and other weather conditions might affect your food. Plan accordingly and bring a towel or lid to keep your food covered.

Also, I’d definitely bring something different if I knew I was going to an appetizer / dessert party versus a full-blown Thanksgiving church potluck with piles and piles of delicious foods. And I would most likely alter my recipes if I’m cooking for just adults or including kids in the mix — so it always pays to consider who, what, where, when, etc.

8. Stay away from foods that look gross 🙂

Sorry, I’m not sure of the best way to word that — but you know what I’m talking about. Some foods, no matter how delicious they might be, just look very unappetizing.

I certainly don’t think all potluck and party-going foods need to have a professional looking appearance, but when you bring a pot of chili that looks like road-kill or a cheesy dip that looks like orange slim, it might not go over as well as you were hoping.

Now, if the recipe is something you’d love to eat as leftovers (see #6 above) then you’ll be fine. However, if you don’t want to bring it home with you, pick a recipe that is more visually appealing!

.

9. Take the time to list out ingredients.

I don’t always do this, but if I’m going to a gathering with people I don’t know that well, I often bring a recipe card or at least a list of ingredients and tape it to my dish. That way, if there is any concern with allergies or food sensitivities, it’s not MY fault!

We are fortunate not to have any allergies or food intolerances in our family, but lately, it seems like every time I turn around, someone else is going gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian, allergic to peanuts, allergic to ______, you name it.

I don’t want to be the one who caused them to get sick, so by listing out the ingredients, I feel like I clear myself and make it easier for those people to know if they can or cannot eat my food

10. Keep it simple.

One of my favorite things to bring to almost any party is cheesy potatoes because they are SO simple to make, can easily be made ahead of time, kept warm for hours in a slow cooker… and EVERYONE loves them. They also go with almost any type of meat and work almost any time of the year.

Trays of cookies, brownies (from a box), rice krispy bars, and other bars are also a staple for me as they can be made ahead of time and cut into small bite-size servings.

Sometimes, I feel like we needlessly try to come up with elaborate creations to bring to our holiday parties… when simple chocolate chip cookies or cheesy potatoes would be a huge hit.

Of course, there are occasions when I take a little extra time time to whip up my famous holiday four-layer chocolate, peanut butter, caramel fudge (seriously, divine!) — BUT for the most part, I find it’s so much easier and less stressful if I keep things simple!

Oh, and don’t feel bad if you go the store-bought route. I happily scooped up a piece of store-bought triple-chocolate cheesecake at a potluck this weekend and I savored every last crumb!

Where to find your next potluck recipe!

If you’re looking for a good recipe to take to your next potluck, picnic, or party, I would suggest searching through my recipe box (all those recipes are simple), searching Pinterest, and browsing AllRecipes.com — you are bound to find at least 10-15 recipes that use ingredients you have in the house and won’t take more than 20-30 minutes to whip together.

If all else fails, just Google “super simple potluck recipes” and see what you come up with!

OK, are you excited to start cooking and baking for your next BBQ, party, potluck, or picnic? 

Hopefully these tips will give you something to think about as you cook and bake your way through the summer season and beyond!

What are your best tips for bringing a dish to pass?

photo source

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Filed under: FoodHoliday FoodsTips and ToolsEntertaining

 
 

Leave a comment

42 comments

  1. Diana

    07/18/2016

    I made your layered salad for a 4th of July potluck and every bit was eaten. It was really nice to be able to make it ahead, and I went ahead with a cold dish because I knew there wouldn’t be many other fresh veggies on the table. I forgot to put the grape tomatoes in, so then I had a brilliant idea to make a flag decoration with the tomatoes, so I put them in stripes alternating with the parmesan and used chopped green onions for the star part. Not quite traditional colors but it definitely made it look appetizing!

    These are great tips. I almost always have to bring a full meal at a potluck because we have had some food allergies, and if I (or my child) wants to eat a full meal, I have to bring some of everything. That definitely makes it harder! But once you do something several times it gets a lot easier, and in a situation like that, I just make the same thing every time. I make a double batch of polish sausage and sauerkraut, rolls, and cooked veggies the night before. Then I take the leftovers (I portion them out beforehand so we don’t double-dip) to the potluck. Sometimes we just go without dessert and sometimes I manage to bring one of those too.

    [Reply]

  2. Linda

    07/13/2016

    What is the dessert between #7 and #8? It looks fabulous!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — those are my yummy chocolate peanut butter cookie bars. They are fabulous (and SUPER easy!) Here’s the recipe: http://andreadekker.com/chocolate-peanut-butter-cookie-bars/

    [Reply]

  3. Nancy Johnson

    07/13/2016

    A few years ago, I rediscovered our big cooler – or as I now refer to it, the “temperature maintainer.” One Thanksgiving, a turkey hotline posted that your turkey can be kept at temperature for a couple of hours in your “cooler.” What an epiphany that was! I now use it to maintain temperature on any number of hot main dishes that I want to fix ahead of time and not have to be working in the kitchen when guests arrive. Lasagna is moist and delicious, cheesy chicken moistens while it sits, etc. I usually sit the pan on a thick folded towel in the cooler so it won’t melt the cooler and I keep the food covered as well.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    this is an awesome tip! Thanks Nancy!

    [Reply]

  4. Christine @ The (mostly) Simple Life

    07/13/2016

    People always seem to underestimate a good, simple dish. Just a fruit or veggie tray is so simple, but everyone always eats it all up. Or cheese and crackers. Sometimes when you’re eating a lot of different dishes you’re not used to, some basic food help your stomach not feel funny.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    agreed! Sometimes (often) simple is best!

    [Reply]

  5. AnnTV

    07/13/2016

    When our children were small, and we were going through the food line at a potluck, I found it challenging to hold their plate & mine at the same time. My solution? Stack the child’s empty plate under my plate & fill my plate generously. When I sat down at the table with my child, I would then fill the child’s plate. (from my own plate) It was much easier! As a parent you know what they will like and eat!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yup, that’s what I do — and I always grab LOOOOOOOTS of extra napkins!

    [Reply]

  6. Dee

    07/13/2016

    These are all great tips, but I would add one more. If you take a dish that needs to be refrigerated, put it in a sturdy dish with a hard flat lid on it. Refrigerator space may be limited and dishes will need to be stacked. You can’t do this if they are covered with plastic wrap or aluminum foil.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Great tip Dee!

    [Reply]

  7. Deb

    07/13/2016

    “food that looks gross” bahahahaha

    And if you are in doubt, send a couple pre teen boys through first and watch their reaction! 😉

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    or a 4 year old with a VERY opinionated personality 🙂

    She’ll just blurt out that something looks gross or weird or yucky right in front of everyone!

    [Reply]

  8. Brandi Clevinger

    12/19/2014

    I don’t know what I enjoyed more – the simplicity of picking a dish or the delicious looking recipes! Either way, thanks for making potlucks easier to cook/bake for. Merry Chrsitmas!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Brandi — Merry Christmas to you too 🙂

    [Reply]

  9. Jennifer C

    12/18/2014

    I find “finger food” often the best item for a potluck. For a breakfast potluck I love to bring my hash brown casserole or a baked egg dish, since everyone else has brought muffins and cinnamon rolls. If I can’t cook and/or am being lazy, frozen taquitos go super fast at any potluck I bring them to. It just depends on the potluck! Great tips Andrea.

    [Reply]

  10. Melissa D.

    12/18/2014

    Are all of the recipes for the photos of the foods in this post available on your website? They look very yummy! And, perhaps “a dish to pass” is more of a midwest thing? We say it in WI all the time! 🙂

    [Reply]

  11. Demagogue

    12/18/2014

    i like to bring deviled eggs. I have a tray from P.Chef that I freeze so they stay cold. I try to buy the eggs the week before because I have found over the years that the ‘freshest’ eggs are the most difficult to peel. I don’t ever bring any home. I use Hellmans/BestFoods mayo, pepper and a dash or two of Tobasco sauce if I have it (and, no, doesn’t make them spicy.) people RAVE about them and it is two-four ingredients and my time. I always laugh to myself when someone asks me for the ‘recipe.’

    [Reply]

  12. Kristen @ Joyfully Thriving

    12/13/2014

    I bring a lot of dips…and a variety of desserts as my standbys. At a potluck, most people want to try little bits of everything (I know I do!) so to me, side dishes do better than heavy main dishes. I do have a great slow cooker creamed corn that I bring too. Yay for potlucks!

    [Reply]

  13. Suzanne

    12/11/2014

    What is the crescent roll type, yummy looking meat items just above #5? I want to eat one just looking at them? Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Hi Suzanne, Those are my stromboli bites — SO yummy and SO easy!

    [Reply]

  14. Leigh

    12/10/2014

    What is that picture under #10, the bars right above “Bonus Tip”? Is that a recipe of yours, or just a beautiful picture? Whatever it is, it looks delicious!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — those bars are the four-layer caramel, peanut-butter fudge that I mentioned right above the picture 🙂
    They are amazing!

    [Reply]

  15. Tara

    12/09/2014

    I’d like to comment to the success of bringing the same dish every year/month/week. Our church has a potluck every month and it used to stress me out to think of what to bring. Then I thought back to the church we attended when DH was in dental school. As a mission to the many students who attended, they had potluck every week. Most people brought the same dish every week. And those dishes were the ones we LOOKED FORWARD TO all week more than any of the variables.

    So I picked a simple recipe with ingredients I almost always have on hand. It’s easily adaptable if I’m missing one or two ingredients. Now, when I bring my dish to church for potluck people get all excited and say, “Mmmm! I can’t wait to have your curry! I hope it doesn’t run out before I get to it!” I come home with an empty pot and rice pot (I start my Tiger rice pot in our church kitchen before I head to service) every time. In fact, I happen to know that the potluck crew typically dishes themselves out servings before putting it out on the table for everyone else.

    So, my tip is to find something simple that gets good reviews and bring it every time. You’ll save yourself a lot of stress. People will look forward to your dish. Save the spontaneity for another day. 🙂

    [Reply]

    Diana Reply:

    I do that too! Mine is polish sausage and sauerkraut. I make a double batch the night before, and we eat it for supper. Then I take the “leftovers” to the potluck, either in a crockpot or glass dish depending on whether there’s a microwave or not.

    These are great tips and recipes! I always appreciate ingredient lists too, coming from a food-sensitivity (though not true allergy) lifestyle.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I had to laugh because I’m doing the same thing for a party later this week. I’m making a double/triple batch of one of our favorite pasta dishes so we can have some for dinner the night before and then bring the rest to our party the next day 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Tara — great point. I definitely don’t think there is anything wrong about bringing the same dish over and over again (especially if you know people love it). I guess what I was thinking of when I said “don’t be afraid to try something new” are the people (many of whom are coming to mind right now) who always bring the same thing because it’s really cheap or easy and no one really likes it. Or, the people who complain about bringing the same thing and want to try something new but just don’t dare to try.

    I have had LOTS of those situations over the years — so that point was more directed at them.

    By the way, your curry sounds amazing!

    [Reply]

  16. Rachel

    12/09/2014

    Thanks for suggesting an ingredient list. As the parent of a kid with a food allergy, I would find that incredibly helpful. I would never expect it but it’s a nice idea!

    [Reply]

  17. Holly Moran

    12/09/2014

    Very good tips! I am from the south & have never, ever heard the phrase “bringing a dish to pass” so that is interesting to me—we always call it Pot Luck. And I am totally CRACKING UP at the road kill reference! That is probably my favorite thing you pointed out- if something doesn’t look good I am not going to try it!

    [Reply]

    Alicia Reply:

    I’ve never heard that phrase, either! Coming from the north west. 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Seriously! But isn’t that what you do? You bring a dish to pass and share with everyone else — and then you sample the different dishes everyone else has brought 🙂

    [Reply]

    lily Reply:

    Ha ha! Actually, when I first quickly read your title, I thought it was an article about which dishes NOT to bring (ie: dishes to “pass” on or not use at a gathering)!! Then I re-read it and figured out what you meant. Coming from the west & mid-west, we said/say Pot Luck or “bring a side/dessert/something to share”. Interesting hearing new terms!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes Holly, we call them “potlucks” too. But for a potluck, everyone “brings a dish to pass”. Or for a holiday party, everyone “brings a dish to pass”. Or for the anniversary dinner, we all “bring a dish to pass”.

    right?

    [Reply]

    Angela R Reply:

    I’m also from the NW and had never heard this term 🙂 We say bring “a dish/item to share”. It is ” to pass” part that is new. I like your version though. It is fun to read differences in vernacular.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    that’s so interesting… I’ve heard and said that phrase hundreds of times 🙂

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    From Illinois, we say all the time

    [Reply]

  18. Debbie

    12/09/2014

    Looking at the pictures of these dishes is making me hungry. We’re not thinking of hosting any parties yet but we are going to a couple of them and required to bring goodies. I’m making Mexican Caviar for tonight and I prepared it ahead last night. All I need to do is add the chopped avocado and tomato, bring the chips and we’re ready. The other party this Saturday is a little more complicated. It’s a Filipino party and we’re asked to bring a main dish and dessert, enough for 10 people. Not so easy task because if you know Filipinos side dishes are not considered main dish. They’re also not into lasagnas or other dishes that can be prepared ahead. I’ve got a plan but I’ll need to make it a few hours before the party. Not so fun.

    [Reply]

  19. Summer

    12/09/2014

    Great tips, as always! I, too, love to bring a dish to pass! It’s so simple and that way everyone contributes and it takes pressure off one person to do it all.

    I have to comment though, off topic of holiday gatherings, but with some children who have graduated. I can’t believe the amount of times it would have been so much easier, less expensive & less wasteful to have a potluck for school/sporting events. I can’t tell you the amount of times I had to chip in at least $100 for the end of season meal, coach gifts, cake ect. and, so often it was pasta served from a restaurant and half the cake went in the trash. For a family of six on a strict budget sport budgets can be challenging.

    I’m interested to see how YOU go about these types of activities and school once your little ones start! And I wish I had your helpful hints yeeeeears ago!

    Happy Holidays Andrea! Many blessing to you and yours!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes, I totally understand about all the sports dinners. My sisters and I each played 3 sports in high school — and 2 in college (so a lot of team dinners!) However, I will say that almost every single one was potluck style with the parents bringing the food. If they would have asked my mom for $100, I think she would have rallied with other parents to do their own thing 🙂

    [Reply]

  20. Emily

    12/09/2014

    Great tips!! We have house church twice a month and we always have a potluck. Meatballs are my go to recipe plus some type of cookie or bar that is easy to grab. I like your idea about bite sized portions. Potlucks are awesome!!

    [Reply]

  21. Meredith

    12/09/2014

    #4 is critical, and something my mom always taught me growing up—if you’re bringing food, make sure the food is easy for people to eat! SO many times I’ve seen entire cakes go untouched because people don’t want to be the one to cut into it. In college we had a little “end of semester” party for one of my classes; I bought the pull-apart cookie dough and threw them in the oven. People gobbled them up and were so impressed that I “baked”—it was barely any more effort than buying some Oreos. 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Simple is almost always better at potlucks or group parties… I’m reminded of this over and over and OVER again!

    [Reply]