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Cooking for the (Office) Crowd

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With the holidays often come office potlucks. If you wish to do more than a quick run to the supermarket for soda, chicken wings or pre-made holiday desserts, you may want to try your hand at some sure-fire holiday classics. Below are three easy, fool-proof recipes that will win you a lot of "WOWS!" without making you do too much work.

Potluck Recipe #1: Chicken Merlot with Mushrooms
Potluck Recipe #2: Orange Praline Yams
Potluck Recipe #3: Baked Ham Stuffed Mushrooms

Potluck Recipe #1: Chicken Merlot with Mushrooms

Serving: 8-12
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 240 minutes
Total Time: 260 minutes

This simple yet hearty entrée is perfect for the holidays. You can assemble the dish before going to bed the night before, cook it overnight, and transport and -replug the cooker in plenty of time before your office potluck begins. The beauty of this recipe is that your food will be hot and ready - no need to join the long line for the microwave!

5 lbs. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs
3 cups Sliced Fresh Mushrooms
1 Large Onion, Peeled And Chopped
4 Garlic Cloves, Peeled And Minced
1 ½ cups Low-Sodium Chicken Broth Or Stock
2 6-Oz. Cans Of Tomato Paste
½ cup Merlot, Or Any Dry Red Wine, Or Additional Chicken Broth
4 Tablespoons Quick-Cooking Tapioca
4 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Basil, Or 1 ½ Teaspoons Dried Basil
4 teaspoons Granulated Sugar
½ Teaspoon Salt
½ Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
4 Tablespoons Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

Use a 3 1/2, 4, or 5 quart Slow Cooker

Rinse the chicken, pat dry, and set aside.

Place the mushrooms, onion, and garlic in the insert of the slow cooker. Place the chicken pieces on top of the vegetables.

Combine the broth, tomato paste, wine, tapioca, dried basil, sugar, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Pour the mixture over the chicken and vegetables.

Cover and cook on LOW for 7 to 8 hours, or on HIGH for 3 ½ to 4 hours. If you are using fresh basil, stir it in after the chicken is cooked, shortly before serving. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. This entrée goes well with pasta, rice, or French or corn bread.

Potluck Recipe #2: Orange Praline Yams

Serving: 8-12
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 90 minutes

Bring the warmth of the home cooking to your office, and herald the holidays with the aroma of cinnamon, buttery yams and caramelized pecans. The recipe may be doubled or tripled, but do not make in a deeper dish or the ratio between potatoes and topping will be off. A single recipe makes 8 to 12 servings, depending on the amount of other foods being served.

Sweet Potato Filling
Two 2-lb 8oz Cans Of Yams, Drained, OR 4 lb. Cooked and Peeled Fresh Yams
2/3 cup Orange Juice
1 Tablespoons Grated Orange Rind
5 Tablespoons Brandy or Rum
2 teaspoons Salt
1 teaspoons Ground Ginger
4 Tablespoons Butter, Melted
1/3 cup Light Or Golden Brown Sugar, Packed
3 Egg Yolks
Freshly Ground Pepper To Taste

Beat yams till smooth. Add rest of ingredients and beat till smooth. Place filling in a greased 12" shallow quiche dish and smooth top.

Praline Topping:

2/3 Cup Light Or Golden Brown Sugar
1 Stick Butter, Melted
1 cup Chopped Pecans
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon

Blend all ingredients together and spread evenly over top of filling. Bake 350°F for 45-50 minutes until golden brown and bubbly. Serve hot or warm. To reheat, microwave quiche dish for at least three minutes, or longer if it had been refrigerated.

Potluck Recipe #3: Baked Ham Stuffed Mushrooms

Serving: 10 - 12
Prep Time: 60 minutes
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes
Total Time: 80 minutes

This potluck favorite is sure to be a hit - and probably one of the first dishes to vanish from the serving table! While stuffed mushrooms are welcome potluck additions year-round, it's a wonderful after-Thanksgiving potluck item because it transforms leftover ham and wine into something divine! Use smaller mushrooms for canapés and larger ones if you intend to serve the dish as an entrée. The recipe below should give you enough stuffing for 24 mushrooms that are around 1½ to 2 inches in diameter.

24 pieces Fresh Mushrooms
1/4 cup Green Onions, chopped
1/2 cup Fully Cooked Ham, Finely Chopped
1 Tablespoons Butter
2 tsp All-Purpose Flour
2 Tablespoons Parmesan Cheese, Grated
1/4 teaspoons Dried Savory, Crushed
1/4 Cup Fine Dry Bread Crumbs
1/8 teaspoon Pepper
2 Tablespoons Dry White Wine
2 Tablespoons Water

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Wash and drain the mushrooms, and then separate caps from stems. Put caps aside. Dice stems and sautee in butter. Stir in flour, savory and pepper. Pour in wine and water, and cook entire mixture over medium heat until thickened and bubbly (about 3 minutes). Stir in the ham and the Parmesan.

Set mushroom caps on lightly greased cookie sheets, fill each cap with ham mixture and top with bread crumbs. Bake stuffed mushrooms until tender (about 15-20 minutes). Serve warm (mushrooms may be reheated in the microwave for 2-3 minutes).

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