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Until recently, nothing could strike fear in me like an invitation to a potluck. To someone with little experience in the kitchen and a tendency to burn food, a potluck meant just another occasion to apologize for not being able to cook. But at least I could be counted on for napkins, soda or rolls, right? Not really: I once volunteered to bring juice and managed to flub it. Guests groused that I didn’t buy enough.
Finally, I discovered a little secret: You can easily toss together lots of impressive dishes (see below for six great ideas) without ever turning on the oven, so there’s no risk of burning anything. Some recipes are so simple and straightforward that you can even add your own “signature” touches without any worries. Before you know it, you’ll even be ready for some recipes that involve turning on the oven.
Now I’m slowly gaining confidence in the kitchen, and am actually looking forward to my next potluck. Whether you take baby steps or giant strides, just keep the following points in mind and you’ll never pout over potluck again:
1. There is no shame in using packaged foods to prepare an inventive dish. Just don’t try passing off store-bought goods as homemade.
2. If a recipe calls for only a few ingredients, make sure they are of the best quality.
3. Don’t get overly ambitious. Your dish will be one of many, and you aren’t expected to carry the event all by yourself.
4. Practice making dishes in advance so you can tinker with them if they don’t work out at first. You can always ditch a recipe and make something else too.
5. Have fun. This isn’t Iron Chef, so even if your dish disappoints, you’ll still feel proud to have made it yourself.
Try these recipes for foolproof potluck dishes:
Paula Bernstein writes the blog Undomesticated Me.
What’s your favorite potluck dish? Chime in below!