The potluck’s back — let’s eat!

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by Carla Jordon | Metro Creative

Call it a sign of the times or just plain good luck for those of us yearning to swap fast food fare for some tasty home cooking. Potluck gatherings are back and one of this year’s hottest trends in entertaining.

Although these communal “luck of the pot” meals (where everyone brings their favorite dish) hearken back to the late 19th century, they found their footing in the mid-1950’s when it seemed like every mom in the neighborhood was filling casserole dishes for church socials and family get-togethers.
“There are three primary reasons driving the return of potluck — our schedules, the economy and childhood memories,” says Chef Jeff Gillis of www.CelebratingHome.com. “We live such fast-paced lives that divvying up the cooking makes home entertaining more realistic than putting all of the burden on the hostess. Making one dish instead of several also helps stretch the budget — something we’re all looking to do these days. And, let’s face it — after years of dashing through the drive-thru, wouldn’t you like to sit down to some home-cooked food, even if it’s only once a week?”
Got potluck fever but not a clue what to do? Here are four tips that will make your next gathering both tasty and stylish, plus, a family-fave recipe that’ll put your home on the map as potluck heaven.

Organize participants

Divide the meal by categories so guests will have a balance of appetizers, entrees, sides and desserts from which to choose. Cooks need not commit to a specific recipe but it’s helpful to know up-front that a well-rounded meal is in the making.

Agree on advance prep

All dishes should be cooked prior to arrival so only a quick re-heating is required. Everything should also hit your doorstep ready for presentation to avoid last minute searches for serving bowls and platters.

Choose easy-fix, crowd-pleasing recipes

To appeal to guests varying tastes, save the exotic for later and dust off mom’s (or grandma’s) cookbook. Traditional potluck dishes like casseroles, chili, soup, bread, and cakes are always popular and easy to make.

Dress up the table

Remember the special tablecloth mom used for Sunday dinner? Create some memories for your own family with a pretty fabric tablecloth, cloth napkins (pretty and eco-friendly!) and some candles.
A few minutes is all it takes to create a festive look that’ll make guests feel honored to have gathered around your table.


RECIPE: Bean pot beef stew is warm, perfect for potlucks

This twist on an American favorite yields a hearty, flavorful entree that takes less prep time because it slow cooks in the oven in a bean pot.
1 pound round steak, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
6 cups beef broth (or stock)
11/2 teaspoons dried thyme
3 bay leaves
2 cups potatoes, cubed
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
Salt and pepper to taste
Rub steak with olive oil and coat with salt and pepper.
Let steak sit at room temperature in bean pot while preparing all other vegetables. Chop and dice everything, then add to bean pot. Add beef broth (or stock), thyme, bay leaves, diced tomatoes and salt and pepper. Cover and bake in 375 F oven for 3 to 4 hours until meat is tender.
*Recipe courtesy of www.CelebratingHome.com