Summer Potluck? Gotcha Covered


Summer is about to jump off the hook. We’re just a few days away from the numero uno, all-American, let’s-have-a-giant-food-fest-in-the-name-of-patriotism holiday. I’m joining in the new Whole30 that starts on July 1, so I’m shoring up my commitment to help me navigate our social calendar, which is currently bursting at the seams with get-togethers, travel, cookbook photography… and yay! guests on Fourth of July weekend.

I have a ginormous soft spot in my heart for the Fourth of July. My family always had a reunion at Happy Holiday Pavilion and Pool with all the Italian relatives, and I experienced many Significant Moments at those reunions: heart palpitations when my cousin brought the biggest heart throb at our high school to the picnic and he SAW ME IN MY BATHING SUIT, the thrills of setting off illegal fireworks with my dad that we’d bought at South of the Border in South Carolina, the realization that my uncles weren’t kidding when one of them suggested they have a “Who Has The Biggest Beer Belly” contest (they slouched in lawn chairs and took stock them with a tape measure)… ah, good times.

But we are different, friends. We don’t use the calendar as an excuse to mistreat ourselves with food, right? Right!

So here’s a list of the recipes from my archives that I believe you can take to a picnic or a potluck without tipping anyone off that they’re eating “paleo” or “healthy” or “clean.” They will just nosh and celebrate – and so can you, knowing that you’re taking care of yourself AND participating in a great American tradition of eating food while sweating and enduring/enjoying relatives. Cooking and eating quality food is among the most caring things you can do for yourself and others.

Main Dishes

I chose two recipes that can (and should) be made in advance, are easy to cook in large quantities, and will travel well. Plus, it’s hard to go wrong with a big pile of spicy meat.

BBQ Pulled Pork
My Favorite Chili



For salads, I recommend the ones that are the most colorful and will catch peoples’ eye on a potluck table loaded with snack foods.

Turkish Chopped Salad (now updated with a re-tested recipe; how do you like that new photo?)
Salty Sweet Broccoli Salad

Citrusy Carrot Radish Salad

Belly Dance Beet Salad

Veggie Dips

A giant platter of beautiful raw veggies — jicama, carrot, and celery sticks; snap peas; red and green pepper strips; cucumber coins; whole scallions, mushrooms, and radishes — can be paired with different dips so even committed chip eaters might consume something green or red or orange that came from the earth and not from a package.

Southwestern Cumin-Lime Dressing
Creamy Italian Dressing

Sunshine Sauce
Tahini Dressing

Baba Ghanoush




Nibbling is a big part of potlucks and picnics, so make sure you have dino-chow snacks on hand, too.

Spiced Nuts
Fancy Olives

Rice-free, soy-free sushi
Smoky Pear Bites


Just in case you find yourself on dessert duty, I recommend my new go-to treat: Sweet & Salty Fudge Bombs. (Unless you’re doing the Whole30. No fudge bombs for strict Whole30 compliance. Eat some Carmelized Coconut Chips instead.)

Potluck Season: Paleo Summer Salads

According to the Internet, May is National Salad Month. Who am I to disagree?! With that in mind — and with potluck season officially kicking off...

Read More
A Spicy-Sweet Paleo Dinner Party

Our rental house in Vermont has plenty of room to spread out, and frequently, our extra-large dining table is surrounded by Dave's classmates from the Center for...

Read More


  • Sarah says:

    I have personally made the Turkish chop salad, Smokey Pear Bites and Sweet & Salty Fudge Bombs. All BBQ guest approved items! So good!

  • Mel says:

    Thanks for the endorsement, Sarah! I really appreciate it.

  • Sara says:

    Turkish chopped salad is on my menu for this weekend (big family get-together merging SAD-eaters, vegetarians, my paleo-eating husband, and my Whole30 self!), along with kebabs (portabello instead of meat for the veg folks), a big ol’ fruit salad, crudites with chipotle dip (puree a zucchini with tahini, garlic, lemon, a chipotle pepper, cumin, and salt — DELISH!) and guac (of course).

    Plus, lots of catching fireflies and running through sprinklers (sprints!), and a family 5k. Lots of togetherness, no feeling like poo because we’ve poisoned ourselves with sub-par food!

    • Mel says:

      I just re-tested the Turkish Salad recipe last weekend, and the updated version now on my blog is even better than the former (classic?) recipe. Your weekend plans sound like so much fun — esp. the fireflies and sprinkler sprints!

      Happy, happy!

  • Lydia says:

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made that beet salad recently. Like…once a week, maybe? And when the weather is this hot, I totally cheat and used canned beets. Sue me, but oh my goodness, so easy and fast and doesn’t heat up the kitchen.

    • Mel says:

      That’s a great tip, Lydia! I never tried it with canned, but that’s genius. I’m going to update the recipe with that idea. Thanks so much!

  • Lydia says:

    You’re welcome! To be honest, canned aren’t quite as tasty, but it’s a fair trade when the temperatures are in the 90s.

  • jj says:

    Have been loving your baba ganoush recipe lately, your proportions are the closest I can find to my favorite restaurant mutabal. Also, regular ol’ guac is another good dip option.

    For desert, you can always throw some fruit on the BBQ. Underripe peaches & pears are awesome, as is big spears of pineapple.

    • Mel says:

      Thanks for the endorsement of my baba ghanoush! I’m re-testing that recipe for my cookbook, so I’ll be sure to let you know if I make any changes to it.

      LOVE the idea of grilled fruit. I’ve been reading a lot about adding a touch of salt — how about a grilled peach sprinkled with a wee bit of salt and a pinch of coriander?

  • I like fruit with salt and a little cayenne pepper or chaat masala (which I believe contains coriander). Still sweet, but a little heat at the finish.

  • I’m so glad that you’re doing the Whole 30, too!! Great encouragement knowing that others will be striving for cleaner eating at the same time. Good luck hosting your company! 🙂

    • Mel says:

      I’m looking forward to the July clean-up. I’ve been eating MOSTLY clean, but I love to be strict for a while and really get my head on straight.

  • Amber says:

    The mixed nuts recipe link seems to be cranky for some reason, I just wanted to let you know! =) All the other ones seem to be working fine.

  • Melissa M says:

    This is kind of random, but I wanted to say that the quality of food photographs y’all are including with your recipes is improving, and it really grabs your eyes and builds interest effectively. Kudos to you guys as you build your skills during the cookbook-building adventure!

    • Mel says:

      Thank you so much! We’ve been working hard on getting the right light, depth of field, and props so everything looks like you want to eat it.The photos for the cookbook are really gorgeous — I’m so proud of Dave’s photography skills, and I can’t wait for everyone to see them in the cookbook.