Comfort Cooking: Potluck Favourites

On occasion, our church will decide to host a potluck luncheon. While sometimes this makes my “ick” radar go off, for the most part, it’s never been a problem. My measure of success? No one’s gone home with food poisoning…

These events always leave me a little stressed, however. I’m usually scheduled for something else at the church and the timing issue leaves me in jitters. I don’t want to have to wake up at 5 a.m. to start cooking a casserole or preparing a slow-cooker dish. My go-to is usually a bunch of frozen meatballs & sauce (dump, toss, and heat!) or a salad.

Once in a while, I want something different, and I go to our family comfort foods (meals that 3 out of 4 agree are tasty) and prepare the day before. I’ll let the kitchen staff worry about heating! For some reason, these comfort foods are always rich and flavourful, and maybe not very healthy. For the potluck today, I made a shepherd’s pie yesterday. I’ve always wondered if it’s truly shepherd’s pie though, as I don’t use carrots & peas but opt for corn, and occasionally something else thrown in the mix.

My shepherd’s pies are never actually the same, which is one of the joys of the dish. Today’s casserole includes a mix of peaches & cream corn with leafy greens on the bottom. The next layer includes a flavourful mix of ground beef sauteed with onions, garlic, and steak spice, then tossed in a gravy of choice. (I cheated and used a packet of peppercorn gravy mix from the grocery store this time.) The final layer is a creamy topping of mashed potatoes – seasoned as you wish. I chose to leave them rustic (i.e. I didn’t bother peeling them) and used my beaters to “mash.” I toss it in the oven to bake when I’m ready to use it as a meal – whether it’s immediately after preparing or sometime in the future.

Other potluck favourites include layered nacho dip (super easy!), crockpot meatballs (as stated), Caesar salad (a classic), slow cooker pulled pork (it always disappears), jerk pork bites (not for the faint of heart), slow cooker scalloped or roasted potatoes, and Italian pasta salad (not a family favourite, but again, easy to make.) If it wasn’t a church potluck (the organizers ban soups and provide desserts themselves), I would consider adding my meatball soup or no-bake cherry cheesecake to the mix.

I know there will be extra bodies in the service today, so I’ve also prepared a second dish. It is a Thai Quinoa salad of sorts – peanutty dressing, lots of veg, and quinoa tossed together. I figure it’s {maybe} healthier than my shepherd’s pie and won’t take space in the church ovens.

I’m basing my efforts off these inspired recipes, but didn’t have cabbage on hand so it’s more of a kitchen sink project – brocolli, carrots, cucumber, pepper, and spinach: Ambitious Kitchen Famous Crunchy Cashew Thai Quinoa Salad and Cookie & Kate Crunchy Thai Peanut & Quinoa Salad. Great way to empty out the crisper!

What are your family’s comfort foods? What is your go-to potluck dish?

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