Try 'gray rocking' Why they matter How to treat scars Pick the perfect melon

Going to a potluck? Keep it simple with these flavorful salad and dessert recipes

Felicia Campbell, Robin Miller

Whether you're hosting or attending a potluck or party, there can never be too many salads or desserts on offer. These recipes from cookbook author and nutritionist Robin Miller are easy to make and tried-and-true crowd pleasers perfect for your next casual gathering.

And the best part — at least this time of year — they can all be made in the comfort of your air-conditioned kitchen.

Read on for step-by-step guides to making the ultimate Caesar salad, the perfect pasta salad and a go-to potato salad. Plus, we’ve got you covered with Better-than-P.F. Chang's chicken lettuce wraps and a 3-ingredient vanilla ice cream recipe that doesn’t call for an ice cream maker.

The ultimate Caesar salad

Restaurant-quality Caesar salad is easy to make at home.

This classic salad is simple and since there aren’t many ingredients in Caesar salad, it's all the more important that you use high quality inputs since each one needs to bring a lot to the dish. The results are definitely more than the sum of the parts.

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients

For the croutons:

  • 3 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ½ French baguette, halved lengthwise and cut or torn into bite-size pieces
  • 2 tablespoons good-quality, grated Parmesan cheese

For the dressing:

  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice, about 1 ½ small lemons or 1 large lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup good-quality olive oil, if you’re using an electric blender, avoid extra-virgin
  • ⅓ cup grated good-quality Parmesan cheese

For the salad:

  • 3 heads romaine lettuce, outer leaves removed (and reserved for another use) and inner leaves rinsed, patted dry, and chopped or torn into bite-size pieces
  • ⅓ - ½ cup shredded good-quality Parmesan cheese

Preparation:

  1. Start by making your croutons. Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil and chopped garlic cloves, then press the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to creating garlic-infused olive oil.
  3. Place the bread cubes in a large bowl, add the infused oil and Parmesan cheese and toss to coat. Transfer the croutons to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden and crisp. Set aside.
  4. To make the dressing in a food processor or blender, combine the lemon juice, garlic, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, ½ teaspoon salt and ⅛ teaspoon black pepper. Process until blended and smooth. With the food processor or blender running, gradually and slowly add the olive oil. Process until thick and creamy, then add the Parmesan cheese and pulse on and off until just blended. Season to taste with more salt and black pepper.
  5. To assemble the salad, place the lettuce in a large bowl, add about ¼ cup of the dressing and cup Parmesan cheese and toss to coat. Add more dressing and Parmesan cheese, if desired. Top the salad with the croutons and serve with extra dressing on the side.
  6. Refrigerate leftover dressing for up to four days.

Game day foods: This easy pulled pork recipe can be made ahead of your tailgate

Better-than-P.F. Chang's chicken lettuce wraps

These homemade chicken lettuce wraps are even better than P.F. Chang's.

Makes: 4 servings as a main dish, 6 as an appetizer

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, regular or seasoned
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter, creamy or chunky
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons sweet chile sauce
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil, or oil of choice
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • ½ cup diced carrots
  • ⅓ cup minced white onion or spring onion
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 8-ounce can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • For serving
  • Lettuce leaves, such as bibb, Boston, iceberg, or little gem, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1/4 cup dry roasted peanuts, chopped

Preparation:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, peanut butter, honey, chile sauce, garlic powder and ginger. If your peanut butter is firm and not blending, microwave the mixture for 30 seconds and whisk until the mixture is smooth and well blended. Set aside.
  2. Heat the peanut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until no longer pink, breaking up the meat as it cooks. Add the carrots, onion, bell pepper and water chestnuts and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the vegetables soften.
  3. Add the sauce to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens and reduces. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.  
  4. Serve with lettuce leaves and chopped peanuts. Enjoy by spooning the chicken mixture into the lettuce leaves and topping with the peanuts.

Chicken recipes: Spice up your boring chicken routine with chipotle honey crispers

Perfect pasta salad

Robin Miller shares her recipe for the ultimate pasta salad.

This salad is great for entertaining as it's easy to double or triple to serve a crowd and it's prep-ahead friendly. You can make pasta salad up to two days in advance (it's better the second day). Simply store the salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Makes: 12 cups

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces spiral pasta, regular, gluten-free or tricolor (see note above)
  • 2 cups seeded and chopped bell peppers, any color, or about 10 chopped sweet mini peppers
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, either mozzarella pearls or a block of fresh mozzarella, cubed
  • 6 ounces hard salami, such as Genoa, Felino, or Sopressata, cut into bite-size pieces; you can also use pepperoni or ham
  • 10 ounces (about 1 cup) grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • ½ cup sliced black olives
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped red onion
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, preferably freshly grated
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil (if you are using dried, add ½ teaspoon to the dressing)
  • For the Italian dressing:
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic, or ½ teaspoon minced dried garlic
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil (if not using fresh)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Crushed red pepper flakes for serving, optional

Preparation:

  1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions in salted water. Drain, reserving ½ cup of the pasta cooking water.
  2. Transfer the pasta to a large rimmed baking sheet to cool for 15 minutes.
  3. To make the dressing, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, honey, garlic, oregano and basil (if using dried). Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
  4. Transfer the cooled pasta to a large bowl and add the bell peppers, mozzarella, salami, tomatoes, black olives, red onion, parmesan, parsley and basil (if using fresh).
  5. Add ¼ cup of the reserved pasta cooking water to the dressing and whisk to combine. Add the dressing to the pasta mixture and toss to coat. If desired, add more pasta cooking water to the salad. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
  6. Serve at once or refrigerate until ready to serve (up to 2 days).

Recipe:How to make Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond's super popular chicken spaghetti

The ultimate potato salad

The ultimate potato salad is flecked with celery and bacon.

Meet your new, go-to potato salad recipe. Feel free to make adjustments to seasonings and mix-ins to suit your taste.

Makes: 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds New/Baby potatoes, Red Bliss, or Fingerling potatoes, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • ⅓ cup mayonnaise, regular or light
  • ⅓ cup sour cream, regular or light
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ pound bacon, about 6 to 8 strips, cooked until chewy-crisp and chopped
  • ½ cup chopped green onions
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 4-ounce jar pimentos, drained and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Paprika, for serving

Preparation:

  1. Place the potatoes in a large pot and pour over enough cold water to cover by about two inches. Set the pan over high heat and bring to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and reduce the heat to medium-high. Gently boil until the potatoes are just fork-tender, checking for doneness after 5 minutes of cooking.
  2. Drain and transfer the potatoes to a large bowl. Add apple cider vinegar and toss to coat. Transfer the potatoes to a large baking sheet and spread out in a single layer. Let cool for 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, Dijon mustard, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.
  4. When the potatoes have cooled completely, add them to the mayonnaise mixture and stir gently to coat. Fold in the bacon, green onions, celery, pimentos and parsley. Season to taste with additional salt and black pepper.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of one hour, and up to 24 hours, before serving. Finish with a sprinkle of paprika, if you like.

How long to boil corn on the cob? Your guide to perfectly-cooked corn.

No-churn 3-ingredient vanilla ice cream

Make your own ice cream, no churning needed.

Homemade ice cream? Now that's a flex. Just make sure your heavy cream and sweetened condensed milk are chilled before using. This ensures you'll get the most volume in your whipped cream. To be extra certain your cream whips up perfectly, you can also chill your mixing bowl and whisk. 

Makes: About 2½ pints, more with mix-ins

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups heavy cream, chilled
  • 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk, chilled
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • Optional: Mix-ins

Preparation:

  1. Place cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on high speed until stiff peaks form. With the mixer on medium speed, gradually add the sweetened condensed milk. Add the vanilla extract and mix until just blended. Do not add additional ingredients at this point.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a large zip-top freezer bag, squeeze out the air, and seal. Put the bag in the freezer, lying flat and freeze until firm, about three hours.
  3. Remove the ice cream from the freezer and break it into chunks. Working in batches to prevent overfilling, transfer the chunks to the bowl of your food processor or high-powered blender and pulse until smooth.
  4. If adding mix-ins, fold them in by hand or add them to the food processor or blender and pulse until you reach your desired consistency.
  5. Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and freeze until ready to serve.

More sweets: Galette sounds fancy, but it's easier to make than pie. Try this simple recipe

Check out these recipes to up your kitchen game: 

Featured Weekly Ad