I hate potluck. Especially with kids. (Polka-Dot Pasta Salad recipe)

Tonight is the “Summer Camp Campfire Potluck” at my kids’ day camp, and we’re supposed to bring a salad or appetizer kind of thing.  This makes me crazy, because my kids won’t eat anything, and any food source that seems salad-y, veggie-y, or Other Side Dish Of Any Kind-y is not going to be eaten at least by them.   If it were an ordinary potluck I could easily come up with something–but pot-luck that kids and grownups will both be happy with, that’s a challenge.

If anyone has any ideas for future events, please please post them in the comments!

In the meantime, I’ve decided to try something I will cleverly call “Picky-Eaters’ Polka-Dot Pasta” (I like the alliteration.) This is experimental, so we’ll have to see where it goes.

Picky-Eaters’ Polka-Dot Pasta Recipe (large version):

  • Prepare 5 cups worth (or so) of some small round grain or pasta. (I’m using Israeli Couscous, which is like little quarter-inch pasta balls. Orzo would work too, or any tiny pasta like stars or something, or a mixture, or honestly if my kids were less picky I’d try it wit pearled barley, which is yummy and much healthier.) For extra flavor, saute dry grains in a little butter and garlic before adding water, and/or use broth instead of water.
  • While it’s cooking, chop up maybe 1 cup carrots into coins or little cubes about the same size as your pasta. Also a red bell pepper, if you think it’ll fly with the kids.
  • When pasta is done, drain if necessary, rinse immediately with cold water.
  • In a bowl, combine: cooked pasta, carrot and pepper pieces, 1  cup baby peas (thawed but not cooked, unless you really want to), and any other veggies you think your target audience might not turn up their noses at. (Corn might fly, too…or yellow squash or red pepper for added color? Again, it’s all about the target audience. Edamame might be a nice choice too…)
  • Toss with 1-2 tbs olive oil or other oil, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp basil or other target-audience-appropriate herb (or 4 tbs-ish if you have fresh), salt to taste. Alternatively–you could throw maybe a quarter cup prepared basil pesto into it.  (In which case I’d probably leave out the corn, because that just seems sort of odd.)
  • Other possibilities: cubed ham or salami, if you wanted to introduce meat, though I don’t see any real reason to. Grated parmesan might be really yummy, or cubed cheese, if you had no problem with dairy.
  • Chill, or don’t chill, and serve. It’s pretty good!

One note: don’t put in the prepared pesto only to realize that the prepared pesto has walnuts as one of the ingredients and you go to a nut-free school. Otherwise you’ll be eating the stuff for days.

And, after all the prep work, with the un-bringable pasta salad sitting there on the counter, we managed a very quick and easy alternative: we got a French baguette and cut it into slices, and made a simple dip of grated parmesan, garlic powder, oregano, a little salt, and olive oil.  We brought that and it absolutely disappeared in seconds flat. Way more than the pasta salad would have. So go figure.

But the pasta is good stuff anyway. 🙂 I recommend it. If you want a taste, come over this week.  We have lots.

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Posted on June 24, 2010, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I ALWAYS bring good old macaroni and cheese and some watermelon. That way I know there’s something my kids will eat. The macaroni (not the fancy kind) always goes fast and it’s not just the kids eating it.
    Let everyone else bring something show-offy and impressive. They’ll secretly envy your practicality and be eternally grateful that their kids will have something to eat, too.

  2. I think in this kind of case I would go the fruit salad route – watermelon, strawberries, blueberries, etc. Most kids, even picky ones, will eat fruit. Adults love it too usually and if not, the leftovers can go into a smoothie or be eaten as is at home.

  3. Michelle–I’m with you; fruit is my default. But this time they SPECIFIED one group of parents to bring fruit, so I was like, “Curses! Foiled again!” and needed something else.

    Maria, you’re right on the money–the fastest disappearer last night, even faster than the baguette, was the pan of mac and cheese. I’ll remember that for the future!

  4. Michelle read my mind. Thats what I was going to suggest.
    A sort of after-the-pesto-addition-thought: If you grow your own basil, blender up a bunch of it with olive oil (and maybe garlic?) and freeze this in ice cube trays. when frozen transfer into a ziploc freezer bag. Voila! nut-free pesto (sort of)

  5. You could add some kind of bean to this to pump it up, my kid is pretty picky but he’ll eat garbanzo beans or black beans.

    My go-to for school potlucks is plain cheese tortellini tossed with EVOO and S&P. The kids storm the bowl. Sometimes I bring a salad for the adults and let others worry about the kids. 🙂

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