The Luck of the Pot

By Geekmom

Last night was the robotics picnic.  As the sun went down, it turned from a bit on the warm side to absolutely perfect.  The teens and little ones ran about and played.  In fact, most of them barely ate.  They left that to the adults.  Oh, and what a glorious spread there was to be had.  There was a wonderful mix of casseroles, salads, and desserts with no replication of anything.  That is indeed the biggest issue with potluck dinners.  (Robotics people tend to be on the more geeklike edge so many had emailed what they were making to the whole group – hence the lack of replication.)

 

I think the biggest problem with potluck dinners is what to bring.  Everyone likes the staples, but when you have four pots of baked beans there are issues.  I agonize over the decisions.  I usually make homemade Macs and Cheese, but I am glad that I didn’t last night as someone else did – and it was simply amazing.  The second biggest issue with potluck dinners is how much to bring.  My mother’s theory is that you bring one dish per person attending.  Understandably, that becomes a great deal of food in some venues.  (Today she still brings the number of dishes as she did when we were all home – just in case.)  Other people have the belief that you bring one dish per family.  At times, this results in too little food for the number attending.  I usually come closer to my mom’s theory.  In case of lack of time, I go to the minimum one casserole or salad and one dessert.  Admittedly, I feel badly when I do this.  Mom taught me well.

 

For those of little cooking ability or lack of time, there are wonderful things to bring that do not require nasty cookies or cupcakes from the grocery store bakery.  My mom always makes a plate of fresh from the garden tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers during the summer.  This goes better on a hot day than any cupcakes.  Fruit salads and lettuce salads are also wonderful as few people think to make them.  Jello salads also go well and are easy.  Avoid strawberry pretzel salad as it is very popular.  Instead of potato chips, why not bring tortilla chips and a bowl of good salsa!  Yummers.

 

Yesterday I opted to make Oatmeal Scotchies, Blueberry Trifle, and Mess (a creation of Cookie Queen and me when I was in college – when dinosaurs roamed the earth).  The Scotchies were the request of Missus B, the mother of one of Eldest Ninja Helper Monkey’s best friends.  ENHM was devastated when I sent home the remaining cookies with Missus B, but her joy at getting them overpowered the whining from ENHM.  It made me warm and happy inside.

 

Trifle and Mess are wonderful recipes as in it is really a pattern of steps that you assemble into things.  The ingredients on the other hand are entirely up to you.  Let us start with trifle.  There is a classic English Trifle but that is not what I make.  I could if I used lady fingers and such, but I use what I have on hand to create mine.  In fact, I don’t even have a card in my recipe box with it written down because it is just whatever I want to use at the time.  I did give it to K once so I technically wrote it down once.  Here it is:

 

Fruit Trifle

*Prepare fresh fruit of choice (4 c.) or pie filling for 9 inch pie. Strawberries are best fresh. Sour cherries and blueberries are best in pie filling. And yes, I make my own pie filling from scratch. If you want the recipe, let me know.

* Thaw 12 oz. container of Cool Whip.

*Make a yellow cake. (Mix or scratch… doesn’t matter.)

*Make a large package of instant vanilla pudding.

Assemble in the following order:
1/2 cake crumbled
1/2 pudding
1/2 fruit
1/2 Cool Whip
and repeat.  Put something on the top to pretty it up if you want.

 

Chocolate Brownie Trifle

Step 1: Make a batch of brownies and cool. (My recipe above works or a box mix in a bind.)

Step 2: Thaw a 12 oz. package of cool whip.

Step 3: Make a large package of instant chocolate pudding.

Step 4: Assemble. In large pretty glass dish, layer 1/2 of broken up brownies, then 1/2 of chocolate pudding, then 1/2 of cool whip. Layer the other half of ingredients on top. To make it pretty, sprinkle with chocolate sprinkles.

Cool 24 hours and serve.  If you want it pretty, put chocolate sprinkles or curls on top.

 

The nice thing about trifle is that really you can do whatever you want.  For instance, if you want to use angel food cake or pound cake in the fruit one, go ahead.  Really, you can use whatever you want.  There are no rules.  If you don’t want brownies in yours, just use a chocolate cake.  Want a more adult one?  Soak the brownies in a little Kahlua before you assemble.  In the mood for the tropics?  Use canned pineapple and coconut.  Really, just play with it until you find something you love.  By the way, cheesecake pudding or the cheesecake filling that is not cooked is also amazing in it.  Might want to even use graham cracker crumbs on top.  (Makes me want to do that now with fresh black raspberries – drool.)

 

The second recipe – Mess – is the same sort of assembly recipe.  At its heart, it is pasta, spaghetti sauce, and cheese.

Step 1: Spray and 9 x 13 pan with Pam.

Step 2:  Cook one box of pasta of choice according to package instructions.

Step 3:  Pour into pan with whatever other things you want and about 1/2 c of shredded mozzarella cheese stirred in.

Step 4:  Spread about two cups of homemade sauce or one regular jar of sauce on top.

Step 5:  Cover with 1 1/2 c of cheese.

Step 6:  Bake at 350 degrees for half an hour.  Eat.

 

Really, anything you would put onto a pizza could be put into it.  My favorite is sauteed peppers, sauteed Baby Bella mushrooms, sausage, and pepperoni.  I love onions in it, but I can’t have them.  Do what you want.  This is really just a framework.  BC (before kids), I would find pastas with the same cooking time and mix them together to make a prettier casserole.  Yeah, I don’t do that anymore.  I hope this stirs your imagination!

 

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