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Year-round favorite potluck recipes

Potluck recipes aren't just for the holidays or summer get-togethers.

What makes a good potluck dish?
I think it has to be a dish that appeals to a wide range of people, it's easy to make and it travels well. That's why salads and casseroles are popular. Bake the casseroles as close to the gathering as possible or find out if you can warm it up where you are going. They may already have a full oven or microwave and it might not be an option, so check.

The salads can be put in covered containers and either served in those, or take a pretty dish to transfer it to at the potluck. If the weather is warm, take it in a cooler packed with ice or if you won't be eating right away and aren't sure there will be room in the refrigerator.

Below are some of my favorites. The kielbasa dish was served at our wedding more than 14 years ago! It's a favorite that always runs out when I make it.

Seven Layer Salad
Ingredients:
1 medium head romaine or iceberg lettuce, shredded
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup coarsely chopped green pepper
1 cup green onion-green and some white section, thinly sliced
1 10-ounce package frozen peas, thawed with cold water
4 hard-cooked eggs, sliced
1 cup mayonnaise (I use light)
1/2 cup sour cream or low fat yogurt
1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
1-3/4 cups cheddar cheese, grated
8 strips bacon, cooked, drained and crumbled

Directions:
Place lettuce in bottom of large bowl or 13x9x2 pan. In layers, add celery, peppers, onion, peas and eggs. Mix together mayonnaise, sour cream and sugar. Spread on top. Top with cheese and bacon. Refrigerate overnight.

Ranch Tuna Macaroni Salad
Ingredients:
2 cans (6 ounces) tuna
4 (12 ounce) cups macaroni, dry
2 cups bottled Ranch dressing (I made my own)
1/2 cup diced red onions
1 cup diced celery
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 hard boiled eggs, chopped roughly

Directions:
Cook the macaroni according to directions on package. Add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. This is good chilled and it doesn't need long. Make it in the morning and it will be ready for lunch.

Creamy Cheese Potatoes
Ingredients:
2 lb. bag frozen hash browns
1 1/2 sticks butter or margarine
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
1/2 lb. American or Velveeta cheese, shredded or cubed small
1 onion, minced very fine
1 pint half and half, brought just to a boil

Directions:
Mix all well and pour into 13x9 baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees F for one hour. You can also add a cup of diced ham to this, or a dash of cayenne pepper for zip.

Potluck Pasta Salad
Ingredients:
1 pkg (12 oz) corkscrew pasta
1 can (20 oz) pineapple chunks in juice
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, pressed
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cups cauliflower flowerets, broken up small
1 red bell pepper, seeded, chunked
1 cup whole almonds, toasted
1 cup cubed grilled chicken breast or leftover turkey breast

Directions:
Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain pineapple; reserve 3 tablespoons juice for dressing. For dressing, combine reserved juice, oil, vinegar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, salt and pepper in jar; shake well. Combine noodles and cauliflower in large bowl. Pour dressing over salad; toss to coat. Cover and marinate in refrigerator overnight. Add the red pepper, almonds and turkey or chicken; toss to coat. Optional: peas or red onion is good added in too.

Slowed Cooked Spicy Kielbasa
Ingredients:
1 cup brown sugar
6 tbsp. spicy mustard
1 small sweet onion, finely chopped
2 pounds smoked kielbasa

Directions:
Chop the onion and saut� in a small amount of olive or vegetable oil until browned. Combine the sugar and mustard and place in the crockpot. Cut the kielbasa into one inch thick slices and add to the crockpot. Stir to coat.Cover and cook on low heat 2-1/2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Makes 6 servings.

Variations: Use a spicy barbecue sauce in your favorite brand instead of the sugar mixture. This is not a "set in stone" recipe! You can use smoked cocktail sausages as well, and more or less sauce, depending on what you prefer!

Beefy Baked Beans
Ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds ground chuck
1 cup Heinz chili sauce
2 large cans pork and beans or baked beans
1 large sweet onion
1/2-1 cup brown sugar

Directions:
Brown ground beef and drain well. Dice onions and cook in a little oil until they are soft. Add all the ingredients together into a casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour. You can easily add these to a crockpot in the morning and serve for supper.

Options: This EASILY doubles or triples. For spicy beans add a few shakes of hot pepper sauce. I also like to add a spoon or two of molasses instead of the brown sugar and hearty mustard for a variation.

Easy Mexican Cornbread
Ingredients:
3 boxes Jiffy Cornbread Mix, or 3 bags Martha White
1 13 1/2 ounce can creamed corn
3 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups taco flavored shredded cheese (or Mexican Blend)
Optional: 1 minced jalapeno and 2 tsp.. chili powder

Directions:
Mix all the ingredients together with a wooden spoon until just moistened. Spread in a 9x13 pan that has been coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Test by inserting a toothpick or tapping on the top to see if it's firm. Do not overcook or it will dry out. I prefer using a metal baking pan-if you use a glass pan it may take 10 to 15 minutes longer. Watch it carefully.

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