Posted by: Kennedy | December 22, 2011

T’is the season… for potlucks

Tonight I am going to a dear friend’s house for a Christmas potluck. It will be my third in the past 10 days, and I couldn’t be happier.

What’s not to love about potlucks? You show up with one dish, but you get to sample all kinds of awesome stuff. You’re also dining with the people who made everything, making it easy for you to track down the recipes for your favourites.

(I’m usually that annoying friend who makes you e-mail me the recipe for your dish the next morning).

But as great as they are, potlucks can add unwanted stress at this very busy time of year…

First you have to decide what to make. Then, you may have to rethink that decision because you’ve chosen the same dish as two other guests – or perhaps you’ve forgotten about the gluten-free or meat-free rule to accommodate your friends with dietary restrictions. And of course, once you’ve selected your dish, you have to find the time to pick up the ingredients and prepare it.

It can be quite the process. That’s why it’s helpful to have a few go-to recipes that are ideal for any potluck – healthy, tasty, quick and easy, with minimal ingredients and no common allergens (or easily adaptable to accommodate an intolerance).

Here are some of my favourites – all of which have received rave reviews. And that’s not bragging, because I’ve “adopted” most of these from friends, colleagues, or bloggers.

Finger Food: Caprese Salad on a Stick (gluten free, nut-free, vegetarian)

I got this idea from Joanna, who made this a few times as an hors d’oeurve before a Dinner Club or a post-race brunch. It’s the perfect snack when you’ve got a lot more food coming because it’s so small and light.

Ingredients: Grape tomatoes, fresh basil, fresh mozzarella, olive oil & balsamic vinegar

Directions: Ahead of time, spear tomatoes, basil leaves, and mozzarella balls on toothpicks. At the potluck, place sticks on a platter, drizzle oil and vinegar over top and serve.

Salad: Quinoa Tabouli  (gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free, vegan)

First sampled at my IHN cooking class, this is a healthy, satisfying meal packed with protein, fresh veggies and herbs. Best of all, it contains no wheat, nuts, or animal products, which makes it a great option when you want to make something amazing for your vegan friends!


4 Tbsp olive oil

Juice of half a lemon

1 clove garlic, minced or crushed

½ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp ground coriander

Pinch sea salt

Place dressing ingredients in a small jar, cover and shake until well blended.


1 cup cooked quinoa

1 cup chickpeas, drained and rinsed

½ cucumber, peeled and diced

1 medium tomato, diced

½ cup fresh parsley, chopped

¼ cup fresh mint, chopped (optional)

Mix ingredients in a bowl and pour dressing on top. Chill before serving.

Hot Appetizer/Entrée: Vegetable Black Bean Dip (gluten-free, nut-free, vegetarian)

A crowd favourite, this is my tried-and-true potluck dish. Another recipe handed down from Joanna, I’ve made this at least 20 times for potlucks, family events or just random weekends when I craved it. Last time, I added butternut squash to the mix to kick up the healthy factor (and use up the squash before I headed home for the holidays). This is also the dish I’m bringing to my friend’s house tonight!


1 green or red bell pepper, chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, diced

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes (optional)

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 jar salsa

2 cups cheese, shredded

Tortilla chips or bread of choice (for dipping)


Preheat oven to 375F. Peel and chop butternut squash into 1-inch cubes. Place in roasting pan lined with parchment paper. Add 1-2 Tbsp olive oil. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until tender.

While squash is baking, chop peppers and onion and sauté over medium-low heat until soft. Set aside to cool.

In a 9×13 inch baking dish, combine vegetable mixture, butternut squash, 1 can black beans (rinsed and drained), 1 jar salsa and 1 ½ cups shredded cheese. Mix well. Then sprinkle another ½ cup cheese over top and bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes.

Dessert #1: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies (nut-free, vegetarian, can be adapted to be gluten-free) 

It’s hard to escape the treats at this time of year – and you shouldn’t have to! Instead, try sneaking whole foods – fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, etc. – into sugary desserts. Adding pumpkin to chocolate chip cookies won’t magically turn them into a healthy snack, but it will help lower their impact on your blood sugar, increase their fiber content and even help you get a mild antioxidant benefit. If you’re feeling really crazy, you can boost the AOs even further by using dark chocolate chips!



2 cups flour (half white, half whole wheat OR gluten-free)

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

3/4 tsp cinnamon

a generous pinch of each: ground ginger, ground cloves, nutmeg

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions: Preheat oven to 350F. Grease cookie sheets. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and spices. Set aside. Cream the butter and sugar together with a hand mixer. Add egg and thoroughly combine. Then add pumpkin and vanilla and mix well. Slowly mix in flour mixture until fully combined. Fold in chocolate chips.

Using a teaspoon, scoop out small balls of cookie dough onto your greased cookie sheets. Bake 12-14 minutes or until the edges begin to brown slightly. Makes about 36 cookies.

Dessert #2: Raw Truffles (no bake, gluten-free, vegan)

Another recipe from IHN cooking class, this dessert is one of the most nutritious, delicious and guiltless ones I’ve come across. Five ingredients, one of which is water. The sweetness comes from dates and the source of fat is walnuts. No sugar, no butter. No baking even. It’s just simple and healthy. And when you tell your fellow potluckers what they’re made of, they won’t believe you.


10 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped

1.5 cups walnuts

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Dash sea salt

2 tsp water

Cinnamon (for garnish)

Directions: Process walnuts and sea salt in a food processor with an S-blade until finely ground. Add dates and cocoa powder and process until mixture starts to stick together. Add water and process until just combined.

Using a teaspoon, shape mixture into balls and roll in cinnamon. Chill for 1-2 hours. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Happy Potlucking! 



  1. […] the holidays, I kind of went crazy for the pumpkin. I made pumpkin pecan cinnamon rolls. Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. Pumpkin spice smoothies. I’m the first to admit, it got a little […]

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