Summer’s here and chances are you’ll be invited to at least a few outdoor barbeques, picnics, and potluck gatherings where you’ll be asked to bring a dish of some sort. It can be a challenge to come up with something unique and delicious to add to the party fare. Your platter will probably be placed somewhere between the potato salads, deviled eggs, and store-bought cookies, so you will want your contribution to boost the overall health of the available selections and the quality of their preparation and palatability. Your aim is to leave the rest of the partygoers with something satisfying, different, and delectable. You also want to create a dish that won’t leave them groaning and wishing they hadn’t eaten all the less-than-healthy food.
With all that we have to do during these busy summer days, it can be tempting to just cruise by the store on your way to the party and grab a bag of chips and a jar of salsa. But preparing a salad, grain dish, or dessert that will be a real stand out need not be a monumental undertaking. Here are five great tips for creating a successful, healthy addition to the pot-luck table.
Fruits and vegetables in season are plentiful now and offer some exciting options. To create an outstanding contribution to any potluck, use out-of-the-ordinary leafy greens like kale. For instance, a raw kale salad, made with sunflower seeds, avocado, and a delicious dressing is a perfect, healthy dish and very tasty, too. Kale, always a healthy ingredient to use in any dish, is also a super food. It’s high in calcium, fiber and amazing phytonutrients, and is one of the most nutrient-dense plants on the planet. Eating kale and other dark leafy greens helps support and heal many of the body’s vital organs.
Take some of the sting out of the sugary and doughy desserts on the potluck table by offering a healthy and mouth-watering option. We recently made a beautiful watermelon cake for the 4th of July with fresh blueberries and coconut to form the pattern of our national flag. You can use your imagination to create similar fruit desserts for other occasions. Melons can be blended together with lemon or lime to make a fabulous beverage. One of our favorite fresh-fruit beverages is our Watermelon Grenita, blended together with fresh lime and mint leaves.
Think out of the box when it comes to appetizers. The goal is to always add more fresh fruits and vegetables to your creations. Collard roll-ups are a great example of a clever variation on “sushi” rolls. One of our favorite recipes uses collard greens in place of seaweed, with hummus, sprouts, avocados and peppers. Let you imagination guide you: take ideas away from your favorite sushi restaurant, try adding various fresh ingredients, think flavor and color–you’ll find endless, wonderful combinations.
Forget the Pasta. Use grains, legumes, and chopped veggies with a great dressing and seasonings to make a dish with some substance. There are a myriad of options when you use quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice, or millet to make a great grain, greens and veggie salad. Many people are adding a Meatless Monday to their weekly menus now. A grain dish can turn a vegetarian meal into a complete protein meal by adding legumes, such as beans, chickpeas, or lentils along with the vegetables and other ingredients. Potluck guests will enjoy having a delicious, meatless option and may even take home a valuable recipe idea for their next Monday meal.
Add edible garnishes and herbal ingredients to your dish. For example, cilantro and parsley—so plentiful now–can add color, flavor, presentation appeal, and valuable nutrients like calcium and chlorophyll. They also energize and help detoxify the body. You can also create a “flower” arrangement from herbal stems. Parsley can be left in a vase for up to a week and will add visual interest to the counter top or table. If you get into the habit of placing your parsley out where you can see it, you will be more likely to pull a sprig or two onto the counter and add a fresh, nutrient-dense, herbal element to your meals.
When you prepare a unique but simple, healthy dish to bring to your potluck or summer barbeque, your host, the other guests and your body will be grateful.