‘Tis the season. Potluck season, that is.
During the approximately five weeks between Thanksgiving and the end of the year, even the most reclusive of hermits ends up with a social calendar that is as full as Scarlett O’Hara’s dance card. Family, friends, co-workers, associates. One must celebrate the birth of the Savior and the death of the current year with each and every one of them.
And generally speaking, one is requested to bring something. A dish of some sort. An entrée, a side dish, maybe a dessert. And who has time to make a fresh batch of Memaw’s special fried apple pies for each and every one of these momentous occasions? Quite frankly, nobody does. Even if Memaw taught you how to do it.
But who wants to grab a pie at the supermarket bakery? You know it will just sit there, alone and unloved, on the far end of the dessert table while the homemade desserts are being snatched up and gobbled down. If you really must go that route, get one of those ginormous pecan or apple pies from Costco that are as big as a large pizza. They’re pretty good, sheer bulk makes them impressive, and the folks at the party who don’t have Costco memberships will think you’re a magician. Don’t even try the “hide the box and pretend it’s homemade” trick. Do you have a pie pan that big? No, you do not. Should someone ask, how long does it take to bake a pie of that magnitude. An hour, two hours, the same as a 20-pound turkey?
And if you were going to say 15 minutes, then clearly, you don’t spend much time in the kitchen. But that’s OK. There is some tasty stuff out there that is easy. And quick.
Did you know you can make a pasta salad in 20 minutes? Not one that comes in a box, and certainly not the one where you boil a box of pasta, sling a couple of olives in it, and douse the whole mess with bottled Italian dressing. That pasta salad is going to be at your potluck, but you don’t need to be the guilty party who took up valuable space on the buffet table with such a shabby lack of creativity.
With 20 minutes and the most rudimentary of kitchen skills, boiling water and basic chopping — and it doesn’t get more basic than boiling water — you can concoct a pasta salad with two kinds of protein, a tasty, homemade dressing and plenty of color. It’s actually probably pretty healthy, if that sort of thing matters to you. And if you don’t know how to chop an onion and some fresh parsley, there is surely a YouTube video which explains how to make big pieces smaller without cutting off a finger.
A few more recipes follow, some requiring a bit more skill but not too much, and none requiring more than half an hour of your valuable holiday time. A few require some additional baking time, but you can utilize that time for another seasonal chore. If those gifts you’re taking to the party haven’t wrapped themselves by now, they’re not going to.
Tuna White Bean Pasta Salad
You can’t beat 20 minutes start to finish. Start the pasta water boiling first. Work on your prep while the water boils, and make the dressing while the pasta cooks. After rinsing the pasta, it’s a quick stir. And it tastes good hot, cold or room temperature.
(4 to 6 servings)
1/2 tsp. salt and pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 small minced red onion
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
2 -15 ounce cans white beans, such as Great Northern or cannellini
2 -5 ounce cans tuna fish, drained
1 pound pasta, such as penne rigate or fusilli
5 ounces of baby spinach
Bring a sauce pot of water 1/4 way full with 2 tablespoons of salt in it to boil for the pasta. Whisk together dressing: oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and red onion together. Set aside. When pasta is a minute from being done add the spinach to the water. Drain the water and leave the spinach with the pasta. Add the beans and tuna to the pasta and spinach. Pour the dressing over everything. Mix well. Taste it. It may need a little more salt, pepper and oil. Let sit for at least 5 minutes before serving or refrigerated and serve later as a cold salad.
Kale and Chicked Salad
Andrea Anderson says this goes together almost instantly, and people love it. She says it’s always the first thing to be finished off.
kale salad mix
Get the packages of kale salad that have shaved Brussels sprouts, and come with packs of dressing. Tear up pieces of deli chicken over the salad, or you can use rotisserie chicken if you want to.
Deviled Egg Salad
25 minutes for a new take on a classic.
12 eggs, hard boiled and peeled
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
3 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp. cider, white wine or sherry vinegar
A few drops of Tabasco or other hot sauce
1/4 tsp. paprika
Salt and black pepper to taste
To hard boil eggs, place them in saucepan and cover them with at least an inch of water. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 10 to 12 minutes.
Chop the eggs coarsely and put them into a large bowl. Add the green onion, celery, red bell pepper. In small bowl, mix together the mayo, mustard, vinegar and Tabasco. Gently stir the mayo dressing into the bowl with the eggs and vegetables. Add paprika and salt and black pepper to taste. Best served chilled.
Hot Shrimp, Corn and Basil Salad
15 minutes for this recipe that’s sort of a slad and sort of a skillet.
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small red onion, diced
4 ears of fresh corn kernels
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup basil, finely shredded
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and then add the red onion and corn and sauté for 2 minutes until the vegetables are just a little softened. Remove from the heat and add the jalapeno, cherry tomatoes and basil and season to taste with kosher salt. Transfer to a bowl or serving platter. In the same pan over high heat add the shrimp and sprinkle them with kosher salt. They will cook in the oil remaining in the pan. Cook them until they are golden around the edges and just opaque in the center, about 1 minute on each side. Add the shrimp to the corn salad and serve hot or at room temperature, although it is also good cold.
Healthy No-Bake Brownie Bites
Balls of brownie goodnes are ready in 20 minutes. Don’t let the fact that they are “healthy” scare you off. They’re tasty enough that no one else will know they’re not bad for you.
1 cup walnuts
1 cup Mejdool Dates, pitted (about 11)
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. melted refined coconut oil
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup chocolate chips
Place walnuts in a food processor and blend on high until finely ground. Add the remaining ingredients (except for the chocolate chips) and pulse until a uniform dough has formed.
Place dough into a medium size bowl along with chocolate chips, then mix together with your hands. Take one heaping tablespoon worth of dough at a time and roll into balls. Refrigerate for at least thirty minutes before serving. (Refrigeration isn’t necessary but it helps them solidify) Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or at room temperature for up to one week.
Creamy Meatball Casserole
This a real old-school comfort food casserole, and goes together in 15 minutes, thanks to the old-school use of lots of cans and frozen stuff. Use the 1-hour baking time to catch up on some other neglected holiday chore.
2 10 3/4 – ounce cans condensed cream of mushroom soup or cream of onion soup
2 cups milk
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 -10 ounce packages refrigerated red-skinned potato wedges
2 -16 ounce packages frozen cooked meatballs
2 -16 ounce packages frozen stir-fry vegetables (any combination)
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, combine soup, milk, sour cream, salt, and pepper. Stir in potatoes, meatballs, and frozen vegetables. Transfer mixture to two ungreased 13x9x2-inch baking dishes. Bake, covered, about 1 hour or until heated through.
Creamy Scalloped Potatoes
You will be everyone’s hero for bringing a potato dish that isn’t mashed potatoes or potato salad. Half an hour to prepare and an hour to bake is a small price to pay for hero status.
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup whipping cream, half-and-half, or light cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
Snipped fresh chives (optional)
In a small saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Add whipping cream all at once. Cook and stir over medium heat till thickened and bubbly. Stir in Parmesan cheese (mixture will be thick).
Arrange half the potatoes in overlapping slices along the bottom of a buttered 2-quart shallow casserole or baking dish. Spread half the sauce over the potatoes. Repeat potato and sauce layers.
Bake, covered, in a 325 degrees oven for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake for 25 to 35 minutes more, until edges are brown and potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife. If desired, sprinkle with snipped chives before serving.
Tortilla-Black Bean Casserole
Really colorful and festive. 25 minutes to put together and another 35 to bake. An hour invested, nore than half of which you can be doing something else.
2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 cups chopped green sweet pepper
1 -14 1/2 – ounce can tomatoes, cut up
3/4 cup bottled picante sauce or green salsa
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 -15 ounce cans black beans and/or red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
12 -6 inch corn tortillas
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup chopped cherry or grape tomatoes
Chopped fresh cilantro, sliced green onions, and/or sliced pitted ripe olives
1/2 cup light sour cream or plain Greek yogurt (optional)
In a large skillet combine onion, sweet pepper, undrained tomatoes, picante sauce, cumin, and garlic. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Stir in beans. Spread one-third of the bean mixture over the bottom of a 3-quart rectangular baking dish. Top with six of the tortillas, overlapping as necessary, and 1 cup of the cheese. Add another one-third of the bean mixture; top with remaining 6 tortillas and remaining bean mixture. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake, covered, in a 350 degrees oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until heated through. Let stand 10 minutes. Before serving, if desired, top with tomatoes and cilantro, green onions and/or olives. If you like, serve with sour cream.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.