Don't be a potluck party pooper
// Leanne Kriz

The moment you agree to attend a potluck – the very second you RSVP – you are entering a social contract. It goes something like this: “I hereby agree that I, said potluck attender, will attend your potluck. In doing so, I will bring a portion of food that will be enough for everyone to eat. In return, I will eat all the food that my friends have brought. It will be delicious. It will be fun. It will be great.”

Those are the binding terms of the potluck. Some people arrive with crappy store bought cookies; those people are jerks, those people are an insult to the world of potluck. An attempt, or at least some veggies and dip, is better than nothing, and much better than store bought cookies. A good rule of thumb to live by in these situations is bring what you would want to eat and cook to impress, or at least do your best! Your effort will always be appreciated.

With that being said, some days you just don’t have the time. You spent all day tossing around in bed and watching TV, or maybe you were huffing it at work for the past eight hours. I’ve been there, and I understand. However, throughout my potluck years, I have found some standout recipes that are extremely convenient and never fail to impress. They are fast, simple, and above all, super scrumptious. Each one has its pros and cons, but whatever the situation may be, one of them usually does the trick.

Puff Pastry Brie with Roasted Pecans

Pros: Salivation City! This recipe takes delicious one step further. Impressive presentation, slightly unusual, versatile, and effortless; everyone will hail you. 
Cons: Can get pricey depending how many you are feeding, and time can be an issue. It’s simple to make, but it must cook for 20 to 30 minutes, and then cool for an hour or so. Luckily, if you are getting ready for a party, you can pop it in the oven while you are doing that, and then let it cool as you make your way to the soiree!

Approx. 350g wheel of brie (does not have to be exact)
400g package of puff pastry
3/4 cups chopped pecans or almonds

1. Before starting, preheat oven to 400 F.
2. Lightly grease a cookie sheet.
3. Lightly toast your almonds or pecans over the stove. To do this, all you do is simply place your nuts in a pan and turn your stove to medium heat. The key is to watch your nuts; don’t leave them unattended. They will quickly and easily burn, so toss frequently! They are done once they are browned. If you are not sure, let one cool and try one.
4. Roll out the puff pastry into a size that will completely wrap around whatever size of Brie you have.
5. Place the nuts in the centre of the pastry (exactly where your brie will sit). You can also get creative and use dried cranberries, or cranberry sauce. A sprinkle of brown sugar and thinly sliced apple is also delicious. Or for a more savory twist, try adding sautéed onions and mushrooms!
6. Place brie down on nuts and fold the pastry around it. Pinch the dough together. Place the pinched side down on the cookie sheet. The pecans will now be on the top of the Brie. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
7. Let cool for about an hour. You can cut it sooner but beware: it will ooze everywhere. Not necessarily bad!

Chocolate Tofu Pie

Pros: Extraordinarily good, full of protein and so easy to make! Shocking ingredients make for a fun time. You can be sneaky and not tell your friends it has tofu in it until the end!
Cons: Requires refrigeration time after making it so that it stiffens, but since it is a dessert item I usually find I can pop it in the fridge the second I get to the party, and it is ready a little later on; around desert time.

2 300g packages of soft tofu (must be soft!)
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 Tbsp honey
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 premade graham cracker crust

1. Use a thick-bottomed pot and melt chocolate on the stove at a low heat. You can use a double boiler, if you prefer. Stir often to make sure the chocolate does not burn.
2. Have your blender ready beforehand with the tofu, vanilla, and sugar in it. Once the chocolate is melted, pour it into the blender; blend until smooth. Test your mixture; if you can taste the tofu, you need a bit more chocolate!
3. Pour the smooth chocolaty mixture onto the premade crust. These crusts can be found at all big grocery stores; you can make your own, but I’m usually in a hurry so I do not.
4. Let it cool in the fridge for minimum of one hour or until firm. You can pop it in the freezer for the first ten minutes or so to speed up the process, but don’t forget about it!
5. Serve in small pieces; it can be quite rich.


Pros: Easy, and requires no cooking time! Everyone loves hummus!
Cons: Not terribly exciting, but you can garnish it with an olive and paprika to make it look professional!

1 (540mL) can of chick peas
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp tahini (or peanut butter)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup of liquid from chick pea can
3 cloves crushed
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp salt

1. Drain the liquid from your chick peas and save it in a bowl.
2. Pour chick peas and all other ingredients in a food processor. Tahini (a paste made of ground sesame seeds) and peanut butter are interchangeable; I prefer tahini, but you may not have this ingredient, so peanut butter will do the trick!
3. Blend until desired smoothness is attained. I prefer mine a little more grainy, personally.
4. Garnish with an olive and a sprinkle of paprika and serve with pita bread. Warm the pita for extra yumminess!

A potluck is a beautiful thing. It is a time to share some of your favourite and most appetizing recipes with all of your beloved friends. It doesn’t take much to whip up something delicious; you just need the right recipe or idea. Whether you blow some taste buds with melted Brie, be the talk of the party with a tasty tofu pie, or keep it classic with hummus, one thing is for sure: you will be on your way to being the potluck party hero.

Chow chow, thrifty friends!

Leanne comes from a long line of food lovers, and has been cooking since she was eight years old. She has spent many years creating the perfect chocolate chocolate chip cookie. In spite of all of her food experimentation, to this day her favourite meal is still a delicious bowl of popcorn.

//Leanne Kriz, columnist

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