Discover Potlucks

Potlucks are great. Where else do you get a chance to try all sorts of different foods and only have to be the author of one?

Over the years, we’ve had some pretty memorable potlucks at work. A recent one featured several kinds of soup, and it sure was a big hit.

Hosting your own potluck is one of the online features that the long-running PBS series, Point of View, is promoting for the premiere of "Food, Inc." (, the Academy Award-nominated documentary, at 8 p.m. April 21, in celebration of Earth Day. (See show on Prairie Public Television.)

The film answers questions such as how much do we know about the food we buy at our local supermarkets and serve to our families? "Food, Inc." reveals surprising — and shocking — truths about what we eat, how it’s produced, who we have become as a nation and where we may go from here.

Beyond the national broadcast, the POV Web site will offer viewers many opportunities to learn and participate, including a Potluck Party Guide, which features an online invitation, checklists, discussion topics, links, resources and recipes (

By joining the Potluck Campaign, you may be selected for a free POV gift basket (visit the POV Web site from April 22 to May 3 to enter the giveaway. Gifts include autographed copies of "Fast Food Nation" and "The Omnivore’s Dilemma," "Food, Inc." DVDs, autographed "Food, Inc." movie posters and more. (For more information about other activities you can participate in, go to the POV Web site.)

Here are a few sample recipes for a potluck party. More can be found at

I Am Not a Chef’s Pasta With Spicy Sausage and Spinach
1½ pounds spicy Italian sausage, casing removed
2 ounces olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced fine
6 ounces white wine
10 ounces fresh spinach, washed, and stems removed
6 ounces half and half
1 ounce unsalted butter
4 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound pasta
Boil a large pot of salted water for the pasta.
Heat the oil in a large saute pan on medium-high heat. Cut the sausage into ¼- to ½-inch pieces and then saute until the sausage is cooked through and lightly browned. Remove the sausage from the pan, leaving the fat and the oil (now would be a good time to put the pasta in the boiling water). Turn the heat down and add the garlic. Cook for a few minutes and then add the wine. Deglaze the pan on high heat, making sure to scrape all of the little bits of sausage and garlic into the liquid. When it has reduced a bit, add the spinach and cover until the spinach has wilted completely.
Turn the heat down to medium and add the half and half and the butter. Swirl the sauce around until it thickens a bit more and the butter is completely incorporated. Put the sausage back into the pan, and when it is reheated, dump it over the pasta. Toss the pasta into the sauce as you sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the whole thing, and serve hot.

Last Night’s Dinner’s Savory Bread Pudding
(Jennifer Hess,
3 farm eggs
3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 to 3 tablespoons good, sharp Dijon mustard
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper, if desired
4 to 5 cups of cubed bread
2 to 3 cups fresh seasonal vegetables (such as diced asparagus, scallions or what’s fresh and in season).
1 to 2 cups flavorful artisan cheese, shredded or crumbled (the amount will vary according to your taste and how mild or strongly flavored the cheese is)
Butter for the baking dish or muffin tins
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, then stir in the milk, cream, mustard, salt and pepper if using, until the mixture is well-combined. Add the bread cubes and press down so that they are completely submerged in the egg mixture (clean hands are best for this, so you can really put some muscle behind it). Let this sit for a few minutes, then toss and press again so that all of the cubes are thoroughly soaked. Add the vegetables a little at a time, stirring through so they are fairly evenly distributed.
Butter your baking dish or muffin tins. Spoon the bread mixture in until it comes about halfway up the sides, then sprinkle a layer of cheese on top. Repeat with the remaining bread and cheese, then cover tightly with foil. (If you are preparing this ahead of time, you can stop at this point and store it in the fridge until you are ready to bake it.)
Bake covered for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake an additional 10 minutes or so, until the top is golden and bubbly. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Spicy Lentils With Turkey Sausage
½ medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 leeks, trimmed and chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 cup brown lentils
3½ to 4 cups reduced-sodium vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
½ teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
1 pound smoked turkey sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces
Spray a Dutch oven with nonstick spray coating. Heat pan over medium high heat. Add chopped vegetables and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are tender, about 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in lentils, 3½ cups stock and seasonings. Cover and heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low and cook 45 to 50 minutes or until lentils are just tender. (Note: If mixture becomes too thick, stir in remaining ½ cup stock.) Stir in sausage. Cover and cook 10 minutes or until lentils are tender. Remove bay leaf before serving.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 270 calories, 23 percent of calories from fat, 7 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 56 milligrams cholesterol, 26 grams carbohydrates, 30 grams protein, 386 milligrams sodium, 11 grams dietary fiber.