How to find your signature dish

This is embarrassing to admit, so please tell me I’m not the only one who does this – I excitedly accept an invitation to a party or potluck a few weeks away, make a note of the upcoming event on my calendar, and then file it away for later. The week of the potluck arrives and I have no dish planned, but I don’t fret because there are still a few days to think of something. The day of the potluck arrives and I spend the entire day void of good ideas and wishing I had planned my dish in advance.

If you can relate to my method (or lack thereof) I have a suggestion for both of us. Choose a signature dish. Once you have chosen a signature dish, you will be less likely to find yourself paying for a bag of chips and a tub of salsa 30 minutes before a party (at least grab one of the refrigerated options!).

Suggestions for choosing a signature dish:

1. Start with ingredients you are likely to have on hand at any given time.

2. Pick fresh ingredients with year round availability.

3. Look for a dish that will be great if made a day in advance or just a few minutes prior to serving.

4. Imagine your dish fitting easily with a variety of entrées (grilled meat, fish, casseroles, etc).

5. Consider appealing to a wide range of dietary needs and preferences.

6. Most importantly, make your signature dish something that you enjoy, that fits your health goals, and could satisfy your hunger if the other food options do not meet the first two criteria.

A few weeks ago I found myself hours from a potluck dinner with no solid plan for what to make. Adding to my stress was the guest list — all the other diners were food blog writers. Ack! I knew the meal would be casual but I wanted to bring something I was proud to share with the talented group.

This salad came together less than an hour before I scrambled out the door. When I showed up to dinner with my bowl of Creamy Broccoli Salad I was very happy with my contribution. It fit right in with the hostess’s main dish and complemented the other appetizers and side dishes. It fits the criteria quite nicely and I may have found my signature dish.

Here are some of the other goodies we enjoyed:

Creamy Broccoli Salad

Make this versatile salad a day in advance to let the flavors mix and mingle overnight or throw it together right before the meal begins. The dressing makes just enough to coat the salad with a flavorful creaminess but stops short of becoming heavy or gloppy. Make sure to add the orange zest to the dressing it gives this salad a playful twist.

Prep time: 10 minutes, Cooking time: n/a; Yields 10 servings

  • 6 – 8 cups broccoli florets, chopped into small pieces
  • 3-5 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup raisins, lightly packed
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, kernels only toasted without salt
  • 1 batch (approximately 2/3 cup) Creamy Honey Mustard Dressing (see below)

Approximate nutrition per serving: 79 calories, 2 g fat, 13 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 3.6 g protein, PP = 2

Creamy Honey Mustard Dressing

This creamy dressing has a lightness you won’t find in a bottle. It is quick to prepare and can be used to top a salad or in place of the usual condiments on a burger, wrap, or sandwich. Makes a great chicken salad!

Prep time: 5 minutes, Cooking time: n/a; Yields 6 servings approximately 2.5 tablespoon each

  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) non-fat Greek Yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon grainy mustard
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest

Approximate nutrition per serving: 26 calories, 0 g fat, 4 g carbohydrates, 0 g fiber, 2 g protein, PP = 1

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