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What I Bring to Potlucks


I feel two ways about potlucks. On one hand, they're the only sensible way for a big group to gather and eat together. In all my magazine-reading (have I mentioned how much I love magazines? The paper kind?), I often come across "Easy Do-Ahead Party Menus!" that look atrocious. More work than I have ever put into having anyone over in my life. Maybe each step is technically easy, but you'd still have to be unemployed (or have a kitchen staff), hyper organized, and LOVE cooking to pull it off. So potlucks solve this problem.

However, *&%$#!. Sometimes too many potlucks stack up in one week, and I find they are just as much work (or more) than what I would have made for my family that night. And I have occasionally cursed potlucks, though please don't tell anyone. Puget Sounders are supposed to love them. Always.

I adore people that bring a hot, main dish to potlucks. People with crockpots (I gave mine away as it was suffering from disuse), people with those handy Rubbermaid sets with thermal jackets. If you're one of those, thank you! Keep doing your thing!

As for me and my house, we will supply the salad. It's usually something like this one--brown rice and kale salad with cranberries and pecans. Here's my reasoning:

  1. It's vegan and gluten free. And I label it as such. 
  2. It's filling. Though I'm not a Main Dish Super Hero (God bless you!), it's conceivable that someone could eat a **#load of this and feel fairly satisfied.
  3. It's delicious. Have I ever let you down? (Don't chime in if I have. I know readers have slaved over some recipes and been ruinously disappointed. I'm sorry!)
  4. It is best served room temperature (Potluck Royalty!).
  5. It can sit in its vinaigrette forever and just get better. You don't have to worry about it getting soggy.
  6. Crazily, I usually have everything I need for a version of this salad--grains, greens, homemade vinagrette. If you wash and dry kale and put it in a ziploc bag in the fridge, it lasts a really long time. (Though it gets gobbled up around here. Along with a latte and Triscuits, it's the food I eat almost every day.)
  7. It looks bright and beautiful with the macerated cranberries and the green kale. There's never any left.

And for those of you that have been following this blog since its inception almost 4 years ago, you might remember the very first recipe I posted was something similar--Barley and kale salad with dried cherries and blue cheese. I had taken it to my Mom's birthday party and been accosted with requests for the recipe. I prided myself on always delivering recipes (handwritten and cobbled together from memory) to people who asked for them, but had the idea of putting it online to save my fingers from so much work. I made up the name on-the-spot, and I've always been glad I didn't think it about it much. Otherwise it wouldn't have happened. (I have a couple dear friends who are contemplating--and contemplating some more!--the idea starting a blog. Just get out there. We'll all be better for it.)

Happy Week of Giving Thanks. As always, I'm thankful for you.

Kale and Brown Rice Salad with Cranberries and Pecans
You could use white rice, barley, quinoa...so many other grains here. The important thing is that it's had a chance to cool down a little bit so the grains can separate. If you can't cook it ahead of time and chill it, just spread it out in a very shallow layer, drizzle a little bit of olive oil over it, and stir it occasionally to release the steam.

4 cups cooked grain (I made brown rice in my rice cooker the day before)
1 large bunch curly green kale, de-stemmed, washed, dried, and coarsely chopped
1/2 c. toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
2 Tb. honey
salt and pepper
2 garlic gloves
4 Tb. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. olive oil 
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced 
1/2 c. dried cranberries

For dressing:
Combine honey, salt and pepper, garlic, vinegar, and olive oil with an immersion blender. (Or with a whisk if you use a garlic press.) Add more of anything to taste. Drop the sliced onions and dried cranberries into the dressing to marinate.

To assemble salad:
In a large bowl, combine rice, kale, and dressing. I use my hands. Make sure everything is covered with the vinaigrette. That's what makes this salad. Scatter the toasted pecans over the top and maybe a little more coarse salt and pepper. 

Reader Comments (11)

I'm with you- I value the gathering more than a perfect menu. Potlucks are perfect for that. (Though, I'm not inundated with them, so it's easy to embrace them right now.)

Your barley kale salad was a huge hit with me. I probably made it once every few weeks for months after you posted it! This recipe will be enjoyed, too. I have a beautiful purple kale in my garden begging to be eaten alongside cranberries. Thanks, Sarah! And Happy Thanksgiving!
November 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKathleen
I've just come across your blog (by way of Remedial Eating) and I'm really enjoying it! Is there a reason why most of your photographs are not "pin-able" (for Pinterest)?
November 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCraftSister
Hi sister. My favorite part:
"someone could eat a **#load of this and feel fairly satisfied"
I wonder if I will ever be the one to NOT bring a baked good to a potluck! Maybe next time I will try this. Yes, I do remember that very first post! I made that barley salad right away and loved it!
November 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNaomi Cox
I'm always the salad-bringer too. In fact when I bring something else, people ask desperately, "where's your salad??!"
This one looks fantastic.
November 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmelia
Yum! My daughter-in-law brought me a bonus CSA box, right before Thanksgiving, and you can't believe the gorgeous bright green kale that was included-----guess what appeared on our Thanksgiving table. Along with everyone's favorite traditional food, it's nice to add in a new tradition, don't you think? We all did!!!!!!!!!!!! Enjoy your holiday season, dear Murphy-Kangas family!!
November 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLynn M
I made this tonight using emmer farro. Beyond delicious!
November 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPam
This has been a staple in our household since your post a few years ago. It's perfect for packing work lunches. Thank you for keeping up with this blog! We love hearing from you!!
November 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJenny Haferbecker
technically this is not vegan since it includes honey but I am not one to quibble over such a thing. Just pointing it out. Both my daughters are "vegan" one is very strict the other one would eat bacon if served it by mistake! I love kale in all ways I have tried it.
December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGram
This is such a great idea - and healthy, too. Tons of people prefer to bring desserts to pot lucks, which means that there is usually an excess of those... My favorite part of your post? "Have I ever let you down? (Don't chime in if I have...)... Lol.
December 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNaomi
I see this is a not-so-recent post, but I wanted to tell you that I just made this salad and it's incredible! Love your blog, it's one of my favorites. I really enjoy your stories and outlook on life in general. Thanks for doing what you do! :)
August 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJessica
excellent sharing i never seen before this type of easy recipe method i really like your posting method. http://recipeslearn.com/how-to-make-zarda-recipe/ i want to bookmark your blog can i bookmark it?? and i want to sharing your recipe with my friends.keep it up very nice work.
June 3, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterali

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