casserole for potluck

Office Potluck Ideas and Tips

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The majority of the potlucks I’ve attended or organized have been of the office potluck kind. Office potlucks are great for celebrating a birthday, the holidays, or a co-workers promotion or other workplace accomplishment.  We all have that one person in the office who is a potluck aficionado and can whip up a dish for 15 people in a flash.  The secret is organization and having a simple repertoire of recipes to choose from. 

Start with confirming a date and time woks for everyone.

The easiest way is to send out an email with the proposed date and time and check everyone’s availability.  You want he highest turnout for a good spread and fun event.

Once you have the date pinned down send out an invitation.    

The time is important so people know if it’s a breakfast potluck or an afternoon lunch style potluck.

Organize an office potluck : Send out a sign up sheet so you know who is bringing what dish.

You certainly don’t want to end up with 3 green bean casseroles and 10 plates of cookies. Create a sign up sheet with categories so people have some direction of what type of dish to plan on bringing and what’s needed.  Include categories like “Appetizers, Main Dish, Desserts, Beverages, and an Other. 

Not everyone likes to cook, home responsibilities can make it difficult for some people to find time to whip up a recipe, plan on some people bringing store bought snacks like chips and dip.   

When everyone has selected what their bringing, send out the final list to everyone. Send the reminder a day or two before the potluck. 

Consider food restrictions and allergies

Ask the attendees to let you know if they have any food allergies and ask everyone to provide a list of ingredients with their dish.  The last thing you want is for someone to have an allergic reaction.  Let the other people know someone has an allergy, but don’t say Miss ABC is allergic to XYZ, instead simply inform everyone that we have some people who are allergic to (fill in the ingredient), please take this into consideration when preparing your dish. Suggest everyone include a list of ingredients with their dish.  

You can always ask your Human Resources Department if your wording is acceptable.

Think about the flow of the table

For a small department potluck arranging all the dishes on the kitchen table usually works fine.  If the potluck is larger then set up extra tables and divide the dishes up in a manner that makes the flow easy for everyone to fill their plates.

Instead of using tablecloths that need to be wiped or cleaned. Line the table with butcher block paper.  For a more festive feel you can sprinkle some holiday decorations between the dishes.

A good way is to start on one end with the plates, utensils, napkin’s the set up the main dish ingredients, next side dishes, with any breads on the end.  I like to have a separate table for the appetizers, desserts and beverages.

Use place cards in front of the dish to list he name of the dish and ingredients.  Sometimes it’s nice to also list he preparers name, because your dish might be a hit! 

Plates and Utensils for the office potluck

As the organizer it’s a good practice to provide the plates and eating utensils, unless you specify this as an item someone should bring.  Provide paper plates and plastic serving utensils and one larger sharp knife.  Most office kitchens have this type of stuff  on hand, but check first.

As a general rule everyone bringing a dish should also bring the appropriate serving utensils, indicate this in the sign-up sheet.  Have a couple of large spoons available in case someone forgets to bring their own.

Simple ways to transport your dish from home to office

Foil Pans – Foil  pans are lightweight and best suited for salads and cold items.  For the most part I don’t recommend using these, if you need to heat something they can’t go in the microwave.  A stylish way to transport those foil pans is with Fancy-Panz, these are just ingenious and come festive colors.  

Slow Cooker – If you’re a potluck expert you most likely have one or two large slow cookers and transport bags.  However , assuming your slow cooker is the plain home model and  does not have the sealing lid, and you don’t have any special bags, here a few tips for safe transport.

  • First remove the lid and inner crock, cover the crock with aluminum foil, leaving enough to go several inches down the sides.  Mold the foil tightly and replace the crock and pot lid.  This won’t seal the slow cooker completely but it helps to keep the contents contained.  
  • To keep the lid on securely use a small bungee cord; place the hooks on the slow cooker handles, looping the cord under the handle on top lid. The size you depends on the size of the slow cooker.
  • Ideally you have a transport bag for your slow cooker,  if you don’t just use a sturdy canvas grocery bag and place cardboard on the bottom to keep the bag from losing shape and keep the crock pot somewhat level. Depending on the size of the bag, fill in the sides with towels to help the slow cooker from moving around in the bag. Even though you have a sturdy bag, I recommend carrying the bag by supporting the bottom with your hand.  If it’s not to late, consider purchasing  a slow cooker insulated transport bag like this one, it’s fairly inexpensive and makes life so much easier.   

Casserole Dishes This Reusable Organic Food Tote  by APLAT is easy to store when not in use and very stylish.  If you don’t think you will get good use out the tote then an alternate carrier idea is this insulated tote or for a very budget friendly option, wrap your casserole dish in a couple layers of aluminum foil and use a sturdy canvas grocery bag.

A few potluck favorites

  • Deviled Eggs- breakfast or lunch
  • Cheesy Potatoes – breakfast
  • Crockpot Chili – lunch
  • Spicy Meatballs – lunch
  • Pasta Salad – lunch

Mini office potluck ideas for a small group

  • Tea Time – This is so easy.  Ask everyone to bring their own teacup and favorite tea, enough for 2-3 people.  It’s a great way to try new teas.  Designate one or two people to bring in the tea sandwiches, someone else to bring in the plates and napkins, and another person to be responsible for fresh cut flowers and a vase. Make sure to have an electric kettle so everyone can brew their own tea.  This is simple an elegant and just might become a monthly event.
  • Milk and Cookies Clutch – This one is great for a small group of co-workers who love to bake.  The cookies should be homemade and a complete recipe printed and ready to share.  As the organizer, you bring the milk. 
  • Craft Club – Calling all crafters who have a small transportable projects they can never find time to complete! Bring you small project into the offie and a brown bag lunch and get crafting!  What better way to spend your lunch hour than enjoying the company of other crafters.  Instead of sharing food,  sharing craft ideas and expertise.

Check out a few other post from Food Talk

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7 multi-purpose cooks tools to save time and space in any small kitchen

7 Useful Tips to Reduce Food Waste and Save Money


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