Posts for Potluck Category

Summer’s Last Gasp Chicken Salad

Dinner, Fruit, Potluck, Recipes, Salad - Jennifer - September 12, 2011

I had this great chicken pasta salad at one of our weekly potlucks this summer, and never got around to making it myself.  But since the temps around here climbed back into the upper 80s again today, I really didn’t feel like heating up the kitchen with dinner, and this worked out nicely.


2 boneless chicken breasts poached in chicken broth (maybe in cooler temps – we grilled ours tonight)
1 pound bow tie pasta
1 medium ripe cantaloupe or honey dew (honey dew is not my favorite, but we’ve had one sitting on the counter for a week that was purchased in error, so I guess it was serendipity)
1 8oz pkg swiss cheese
1 bottle poppy seed dressing
fresh mint

Cook chicken breast, chill and then shred with two forks.  Cook pasta according to directions – place in ice water bath to stop cooking.  Cube swiss cheese into small, bite-sized chunks.  Cut melon into cubes or use a melon baller.  Mix pasta, chicken, cheese, mint and some dressing – chill for 12-24 hours.  Before serving, add melon and additional dressing to coat.

I didn’t take a photo tonight before the gang gobbled the salad down, but here it is from the first time I had it, and I believe that’s cantaloupe in there.  Next time I make it, I’ll opt for cantaloupe as well, but that’s just my personal preference.  The true surprise in this dish is the mint.  When it was first described to me, I was skeptical.  But just like I always tell the kids not to pass judgment on food without trying it, I’m glad that I did, and the blend of flavors has won me over.

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Thankfully It Tastes Good No Matter What It Looks Like

Barbeque, Desserts, Potluck, Recipes, Salad - Jennifer - August 8, 2011

I don’t know why she makes it for Christmas, but my aunt makes Jello/Pretzel Salad every year.  And every year, I make up my mind to add it to my summer potluck rotation.  And every year, I follow the directions to the letter, and every year I fail.  Luckily, Cool Whip hides a multitude of sins.  Here’s my step by step near disaster, complete with pictures!

What you need:

2 c. crushed pretzels
2 tbs. sugar
3/4 c. melted butter

Okay, so far, so good.  Mix these three together, and transfer into a 9×13″ glass pan.  Bake at 400 for 10 minutes, and allow to cool completely.

Nice and crust-y!  Next:

8 oz. softened cream cheese
9 oz. thawed Cool Whip
1 c. sugar

Blend these three and spread over cooled pretzel crust.

Now, see the pretzels standing all around the edges?  Don’t do this.  I’m telling you, don’t do this.  My recipe told me to, and I think this decorative touch is the source of my constant woes with this dish.  Instead, make sure you spread the cream cheese mixture all the way to the edges so you get a good seal around the layer.  And then let me know if yours turns out better than mine.

6 oz. strawberry Jello (this is the big box, and trust me when I tell you, two small boxes do NOT equal 6 oz.–that was a return trip to the grocery store for me)
2 c. hot water
2 c. cold water
20 oz. frozen strawberries

Prepare jello according to package directions, and add strawberries.

Look at that!  They float!

Pour jello over cream cheese mixture and refrigerate overnight.

Okay, here’s where it gets tricky for me.  Every time I add the jello, it seeps under the entire thing and starts bubbling like it’s alive.  The cream cheese mixture sort of fragments and floats, which makes the whole thing look like what comes out of my 8 year old after he ingests too much cottage cheese and fruit punch significantly less appetizing.

Cool Whip to the rescue!  What they don’t know won’t hurt them, right?  (Side note:  I love Cool Whip beyond all reason.  I use it so much, I should purchase stock.)

It may not be pretty, but the Lunch Bunch crew loved it, kids and adults alike!

P.S.–Neither Cool Whip, nor Jello, nor Kraft Foods compensated me in any way for this post.  But if they’d like to, I’m willing to talk;)






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Crazy Quilt Summer Salad

Potluck, Salad - Jennifer - August 2, 2011

One of the best things about summer for my family is its easy-going freeform nature.  My kids who played organized sports are through by now, and although we do have regularly occurring events each week, we are generally able to go with the flow, pick up an extra kid here and there, and do what we want.  I love this salad because it has those same characteristics:  throw in what you have, don’t worry about what you don’t, and just go with it!

My must-have ingredients:
Fresh broccoli florets
Grape tomatoes
Red grapes

I’ve added on occasion:
Shredded parmesan
Bacon bits
Green peppers

Add your choice of:
Hellman’s Mayonnaise Dressing with Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Any sweet Italian dressing
(I prefer the mayonnaise version, but if your salad is going to be sitting out in the heat, the Italian is a better option.)

Toss everything together, and voila!

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Summer Potluck-y

Potluck - Jennifer - July 21, 2011

When my oldest was a baby, I joined a moms’ group that met at our local library. I can’t believe that I’ve known most of these women for less than ten years because they are my best buds, and I can barely remember life before them! Anyway, one of the things that binds us so tightly together is our love of food. If we’re not at a restaurant for a “Moms’ Night Out,” then we’re gathering at someone’s house for a potluck, with or without children.

Five years back, in our desperate attempt to find ways to burn daylight with our little kids, we decided to have a weekly traveling summer potluck. We started with seven families, designated Thursday as our day, and made up a schedule. The kids dubbed our weekly gatherings “Thursday Lunch Bunch,” and although some participants have come and gone, the core group has remained together. Here are the rules:

1. The host family provides the main course and the beverages (yes, alcohol is involved, for the mothers, of course).
2. The guest families bring a variety of sides and desserts.
3. The host family is allowed to invite whomever else they want to, which depends greatly on the size of their yard/house and available entertainment options covering a variety of ages. (Our oldest “kid” just turned 18, and the youngest is four, although many of the bigger kids have begun opting out recently. We don’t really care though, because these gatherings are more for us than for them!)

Some of our houses have pools (not mine), and others of us have to get a little more creative, but the general idea is we play outside, unplugged, and old school. Today was the hottest day I can remember in recent Chicago history. I mean it was pure misery, and the host home was one of those pool-less ones. So we broke out the Slip & Slide, and the moms sat with our feet in the wading pool. Then there was a big sidewalk chalk session, where the kids made the longest hopscotch I’ve ever seen. When they got too hot doing that, they kicked the moms out of the baby pool and had a rousing game of “Hot Potato” using an uneaten hot dog for the potato. And of course, there was food. Here’s today’s spread:

It’s pretty modest because we were missing some families and, my God it was so hot no one wanted to cook! (See my “Patrick Mousse” there at the front of the table? No actual “cooking” going on with that one!) But that’s the beauty of a potluck with kids: they’re generally happy with a simple sandwich or a hot dog, and they’d rather graze and wait for dessert anyway. Which leads me to one of the perils of having a regular potluck: we don’t always check in with each other, and sometimes we end up with five fruit dishes or no dessert (which is what happened today, when dessert consisted of popsicles!). But no one ultimately cared because DID I MENTION HOW FREAKIN’ HOT IT WAS? And also because the kids can’t wait for Thursdays, no matter where we end up or what they eat. We’re so lucky!

Keepin’ cool in our fancy pool!

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