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March 5, 2017

8 Tips For Surviving A Nurse Potluck

By Nurse.org Staff Writer     

We’ve all known one or two.  The detail-oriented potluck organizer that hands you your cooking orders and uses the full weight of her peer-pressuring and guilt-tripping powers to get you to submit to her will.

For all of the resentment you may feel at not being able to cook what you want and eat what you crave, you’re kind of grateful that you don’t actually have to do any thinking.

Well, if this harsh yet beneficent figure doesn’t exist in your unit, you may be forced to come up with your own plans.  So what’s a nurse to do? Cook some random dish you saw in a Tasty video, cross your fingers, and hope you don’t have to lug home a barely-touched platter feeling dejected and disappointed?

This doesn’t have to be you.  Here are eight tips to help you plan your next potluck dish.


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1. Fill in the gaps

Some potlucks are a sea of cheesy casseroles, fried chicken, chips,and cookies while others are a field of salads, veggie trays, and gluten-free tofu dishes. You know your colleagues best, so if you’ve noticed a dearth of a certain food category that you would actually like to eat, do your best to fill that gap. You’re probably not the only one missing it. And if you’re on a special diet, this is your chance to make sure there’s actually something there you can eat.

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2. Semi-homemade isn’t bad

In fact, it’s actually pretty great. Time savers like pre-chopped vegetables, refrigerated doughs, and pre-made sauces can lessen the cooking burden while upping your taste game.  If you do it well enough, no one will even know you didn’t start from scratch. Which brings us to our next tip.

3. It’s all in the presentation

It’s amazing how a little garnish can transform an otherwise boring dish or how a lovely, white platter can make your meat and cheese seem special.  Make sure you have punches of contrasting colors.  No one knows how good your beef bourguignon tastes because no one wants to try the big pile of brown who-knows-what. A punch of green from a sprig of rosemary could change all that.

In fact, a sprinkle of fresh herbs or some simple spices can brighten any dish.  Depending on the flavor profiles, you might want to try basil, scallions, parsley, fresh cracked pepper, himalayan sea salt, or sesame seeds just before serving.

4. Don’t forget about the leftovers

Food waste is a huge problem in our country. Being prepared with some resealable bags or plastic containers can be a small part of alleviating this issue. Instead of tossing your uneaten, but perfectly good eats, save them for lunch the next day, take them home, or pack them up for any homeless people in your neighborhood.  If it was left uneaten because frankly, it sucked, bring it home for your dog.

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5. Try not to kill your coworkers - food safety should be respected

It’s a bit ridiculous to see how often healthcare workers bring food that could potentially kill someone.  So ‘kill’ may be going overboard, but food-borne illness is a real consequence no one wants to be responsible for. As a general rule, if your food is likely to stay out in a break room all day, avoid dishes with mayo or raw egg-based dressings.  No matter how well you pack oysters, ceviche, or sushi in ice, hours of hanging out in the open air could cause some serious issues.  Instead, look for recipes that can survive a few hours at room temperature like barbecued pork, fried chicken, charcuterie, smoked salmon, pickled vegetables, etc.

For hot dishes, slow cookers are your friend because they keep the temperature of your dish out of the danger zone.  Some great ideas are hot dips, chili, pulled pork, or meatballs.

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6. Bake whenever possible

Baking a couple dozen crabcakes is a lot easier than pan-frying each one.  Braising on a stovetop requires attention and periodic stirring. If you’re set on making a crispy dish, or one that takes hours on the stovetop, look for a baked version instead.  It will save time and maybe even some calories.

7. Keep it simple

Some of the best potluck dishes area as simple as a bowl of perfectly ripe strawberries or a loaf of crusty, italian bread dipped in some fruity olive oil. You’d be amazed at how good food tastes when it’s not drowning in sauce or overdone.

And don’t let the overachieving, master-chef-wannabe make you feel bad for not spending hours over the stove. Remember, it’s supposed to be fun, not a popularity contest.

8. When all else fails, fake it

Sometimes it’s just better to leave it to the professionals. If you can’t muster the energy or will to do anything in the kitchen, order a double-batch of your favorite takeout dish, put it on a platter and call it good.  If you use some of the garnishing tips in Rule #3, you might even get away with calling it your own.

Ready to get cooking?  Make sure you check out 7 Easy Potluck Recipes Every Nurse Should Know

Next Up: 7 Easy Potluck Recipes Every Nurse Should Know

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