Monday, October 17, 2011

Potlucks, Sweet Potato Casserole and a Giveaway!

I just love a potluck. Churches put on some of the best potlucks around – and my church is no exception. Yesterday we had a special homecoming celebration and people brought their best homemade dishes to share. There were the potluck essential meats – first and foremost, ham. There was also some turkey, but believe it or not, no fried chicken. Then there were the salads – green salads, pasta salads, fruit salads and deviled eggs (that I will put into the salad category).  And there were veggies – my favorite was some plain ol’ lima beans. But, what do you have more of than anything at a potluck? Casseroles! The perfect one-dish meal that’s easy to transport and easy to heat up.  There was squash casserole, green bean casserole, scalloped potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and lasagna.

And finally, my favorite part – the dessert table. We had a couple of cakes that were donated by a local bakery. But, there were plenty of homemade specialties like skillet apple pie, buttermilk pie, caramel cake and cookies. I made my Mama’s banana pudding – and it was a hit. The only taste I got of it was by scraping the bowl clean!

Potlucks can be a bit stressful. You wait in line, you don’t know what’s ahead, you don’t know what that mystery casserole is, your baked beans are running into your squash casserole, and worst of all – you hear after the fact how good something was that you missed out on! Here are a few tongue-in-cheek rules to help you navigate the potluck most effectively:

Rules of the Potluck
Mr. Time for Good Food navigates the table.
1. Try to survey the scene before you start dipping – that way you won’t fill your plate too soon and miss out on the good stuff at the end of the table.
2. Go for small portions of lots of different things and plot a return for seconds of your favorites. Plate space is precious.
3. As with any buffet, don’t fill up on bread!
4. Definitely hit the dessert table before you are finished with your meal to get first dibs on the best stuff!
5. And while we are on the topic of desserts, go for the imperfect-looking cookies, misshaped cakes, and puddings and pies in real dishes. You know they are homemade!

Casserole Perfection
To help you prepare for the potlucks in your life, I would like to offer my first giveaway! I was recently sent a copy of The Casserole Queens Cookbook, a cookbook compiled by two Austin, Texas casserole mavens Crystal Cook and Sandy Pollock. They launched a company that helps busy people eat at home by delivered home-cooked casseroles right to their door. The cookbook features classic and creative new takes on casseroles that are sure to be a hit at any potluck.

I especially like how the authors infuse a touch of humor and 1950s kitsch in their writing and the look of the cookbook. Yet it is packed with practical information like how to stock your pantry, helpful kitchen tools, shortcuts and tips on freezing. They also provide recipes in the back of the book for homemade Cream of Mushroom and Cream of Chicken Soup so you can cut the canned stuff (if you so desire) that is at the heart of so many casserole recipes. A while back, I tested their sweet potato casserole recipe and it was delicious (please forgive the lack of photo - the lighting was terrible). I think it would be great along with your turkey at Thanksgiving!

Sweet Potato Casserole
From The Casserole Queens Cookbook

8 large sweet potatoes
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup pecans, toasted
½ cup all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons of unsalted butter (plus more for greasing casserole dish)
¾ cup heavy cream
½ cup pure maple syrup
1 large egg, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash the sweet potatoes, dry well and put on a baking sheet. Bake for about 1 hour or until soft. Remove the potatoes from the oven and reduce temperature to 375 degrees. Put the brown sugar, pecans, flour and butter in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until crumbly. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.

In a separate bowl, mix cream, maple syrup, egg, vanilla and salt. Peel the baked sweet potatoes and add the flesh to the bowl. Beat the mixture on medium-high speed until smooth. Pour the sweet potato mixture into a well-greased 9 x 13-inch casserole and smooth the top with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle the pecan topping evenly over the dish. 

Bake for 40 minutes or until heated through and the top has browned. Serves 6-8. 

Note: I did not use a food processor when I made this – just mixed the crumb mixture together by hand. Granted, it was not as crumbly as I would have liked, but it works if you don’t have a processor or don’t feel like getting it out!  

The Giveaway
And now for the giveaway, I will choose one winner randomly on Monday, October 24, 2011. To enter:

1.  Leave a comment telling me your favorite potluck dish or casserole. Is there any particular dish you’d like to see me cover?

Bonus Points:
2. “Like” Time for Good Food on Facebook. (Or, let me know that you have already “liked” me.)
3.  Follow @timeforgoodfood on Twitter. (Or, let me know that you already follow me and your Twitter handle)

Please leave a separate comment indicating that you have done these things. Please be sure to leave your email address (if you are commenting without using a profile), so I can get in touch with you. Open to U.S. residents only.

Thanks and best of luck!


  1. Now I love a good sweet potato casserole: We do ours in a dutch oven and the aroma real wood burning outdoors just adds to the atmosphere of down home country cooking:

  2. Homemade Mac and Cheese! I have to bring it to every potluck, birthday and holidady dinner.

  3. Looks like a great spread. Yum! I have to many favorites to list. Great post.

  4. My favorite potluck casserole is chicken spaghetti..or maybe deviled eggs.

  5. Potlucks are a great place to pick up new recipes for your own collection too.

  6. My Tin Can Vegetable Soup gets the most requests when we are planning covered dish dinners and there is never any left to bring back home. Chicken Pie is another that gets enough raves to make me blush but my very own personal all-time favorite is my Aunt Effie Mae's Creole Green Beans! Warm with just enough bite to the tomato gravy, enough bacon to make everyone happy, and a heap of back home memories make it a perfect dish for me. I love covered dish (as we call 'em) dinners!

  7. Syrup and Biscuits sent me, just liked you, and I'll be back many times, loving your posts!

  8. Oh and my favorite potluck dish is usually the sweet potatoes casserole, I'm the only one in the house who likes it so I have to get it when I can!

  9. My favorite potluck dish to make is a BLT pasta salad. My favorite to eat those is the pumpkin cream cheese rolls.

  10. I like you on Facebook (Cheryl HeartnSoulmom)

  11. I follow you on Twitter @HeartnSoulmom

  12. I just stumbled across your fb page and "liked" it. My favorite potluck dish would be corn salad and my favorite potluck dessert would be lemon pound cake. YUM!

  13. My favorite potluck dish would be corn salad and my favorite potluck dessert would be lemon pound cake. Yum!!

  14. Thank you all for sharing your favorites! Also, welcome to all the new friends on Facebook and Twitter. I can't wait to share this cookbook with one of you casserole lovers out there. Stay tuned! :)

  15. I like to make a dish of creamed spinach for potlucks. I find many times there are too few vegetable dishes at potlucks and too many pastas. Course those pasta dishes are all very yummy!

  16. Following @timeforgoodfood on Twitter as @teslaca

  17. Hi, my favorite potluck dish is Hashbrown/cheese casserole. But seriously, what isn't good with cheese! :-) Just "liked" you on FB. Super excited to find your blog and to your giveaway. AM

  18. My favorite potluck dish is green bean casserole! My family does the canned cream of mushroom soup incarnation at every holiday, but I've been thinking I need to invtent a weeknight version.
    Sybil D