It’s holiday season and I found myself in a challenging situation: my spiritual community was doing a Day of the Dead ritual that included creating an altar to honor our ancestors, offering foods they loved in their honor, followed by a potluck dinner. My ancestors were all Jewish, and the first food that came to my mind was Matzoh Brie – translation: a wheat cracker and scrambled egg pancake made with butter and topped with cinnamon and sugar. I don’t eat sugar or wheat but it was my grandmother’s favorite so I prepared it for her, and for others to share. I thought there would be something I could eat that would not undo all my hard work around eating healthy.
Unfortunately, like most potlucks, there was a distinct shortage of fresh veggies. One small bowl of shredded iceberg lettuce and one small plate of spinach for all those people to share meant I was out of luck. The one protein option that would have worked was a pot of Pinto beans but again, one small crock pot for 20 people to share. It wouldn’t be fair to take a 4 oz. serving of them. I decided to go out to dinner after the event instead of eating poorly, to make sure all my needs were met. I was able to enjoy the ritual with a cup of tea.
It got me thinking: how could I take care of my health needs at future potlucks? What dishes could I contribute, when most potlucks are heavy on desserts and inexpensive carbohydrates? What follows is a list of really healthy choices. Whether your friends are on a weight-loss plan, or they have health issues like diabetes or heart disease, or they are committed to their self-healing through a healthy diet, these options will be appreciated by all.
Salad – Buy a large box of mixed salad greens or chop up romaine and red leaf lettuces. Chop in some celery, cucumbers, onions, radishes and provide a bottle of healthy homemade vinaigrette, using quality olive oil, lemon or lime juice and spices. Don’t dress the salad in advance – it will wilt. Provide a jar on the side.
Steamed or Roasted Vegetables – Use olive oil cooking spray to prevent sticking. I like roasting root vegetables: beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, onions; and I like steaming: broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini. Notice I don’t use any nightshades, since they cause inflammation (potato, eggplant, tomato, peppers). Dress with fresh lemon juice and sprinkle with dried dill for a country-fresh flavor that will suit all diets.
Goat Cheese (or dip) & Veggie Platter – Crunchy raw veggies like carrots, celery, cucumber, jicama are delicious when you smear a dollop of fresh organic goat cheese on them, or make a creamy homemade ranch dip with goat-yogurt (kefir). Add some lemon juice, dill, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder. If you want it spicy, chop in some pickled jalapeno peppers.
Tofu Scramble – This dish is a staple for vegetarians – and for good reason. Sauté onions, garlic, diced carrots and celery with a little olive oil. Once everything is carmelized/wilted, add in pre-boiled sweet potato chunks as well as cubes of firm tofu. For an Asian flair, add tamari/soy, and/or sesame oil and sesame seeds. For something spicy, add your favorite curry powder.
Deviled Eggs – In a pinch, when all else fails, deviled eggs are a pretty good source of protein at a potluck party. I suggest hard boiling organic eggs, sized extra-large or jumbo. Bring 3-4 dozen so there’s enough for everyone. Boil them, cool them, peel them and slice them in half, lengthwise. Scoop out all the yolks into a bowl, mix them with Veganaisse, or organic olive oil-based mayo, or your favorite healthy salad dressing. Then add spices like paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder… you name it. Scoop the creamy yolk mixture back into the egg-white cups, sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper, and serve.
Now you can look forward to potlucks. They won’t ruin all your hard work. Bon Appétit!