Gather friends and family for a Meatless Monday potluck this Fourth of July

Get tips for hosting the perfect party and try this tomato pesto pasta salad recipe to kick it off!
By Cherry DumaualPublished on 07/02/2018 at 9:00 AM EDT

Many people unfamiliar with plant-based dishes tend to shy away from the unfamiliar, instead choosing old standards that may not necessarily be healthy. How do you encourage your friends and family to welcome these dishes full of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains into their diets? Organize a Meatless Monday potluck dinner party in your community!

Meatless Monday is an easy, weekly reminder to replace cholesterol and the saturated fat on our plates with nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. The movement, founded in 2003 by Sid Lerner in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, is easy to follow–one day a week, cut out meat. 

With a Meatless Monday-themed potluck, you can help spread the word about the movement and how going meatless one day a week is good for personal health and the health of our planet. What’s more—attendees will likely discover a few new favorite recipes in the process.

Suggest that guests bring meat-free dishes that feature a local vegetable or fruit in season. Challenge them to make over their meat-based favorite into a delicious plant-based offering. Here are a few tips to have a successful potluck:

Get organized: Pick a date, time and location. Make a Facebook event or send an email invitation to your participants and ask everyone to sign up for a main dish, salad, side dish, dessert or beverage so you’ll have a nice mix of offerings. Encourage some attendees to choose dishes that can be served cold to minimize the need for everyone to use a microwave. 

Pick a location: You can host the event at your office, a community center or at home.

Keep in mind that prepared dishes shouldn’t be without refrigeration for more than four hours: Check your fridge, or if hosting elsewhere, check with whomever is responsible for clearing out the office or community center fridge regularly to make sure there will be enough space on the day of your event. If possible, post a sign stating that the fridge will be cleared on Friday afternoon to make room for Monday’s meal.

Have some large microwave-safe glass or ceramic dishes available: Attendees may want to transport their dishes in plastic or aluminum, but for those who do bring dishes that must be heated, glass and ceramic are considered safest for microwave use.

Remember that peanuts and tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat and soy are the most common food allergens: Have Post-its or tent cards available for attendees to use to label their dishes and list potential allergens. Encourage each contributor to include their name on the label so that those who enjoy the dish can ask for the recipe!

Looking for inspiration on just what to cook? Try the following pasta salad recipe from chef and food blogger Kristina Johnson at FormerChef.com. It is delicious served cold and features fresh summer produce.

Tomato Pesto Pasta Salad

1 pound whole wheat macaroni
3 ears fresh corn
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
3 stalks celery, diced
2 shallots, minced
4 oz. basil pesto
1/3 cup lowfat mayonnaise
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
6 ounces fresh mozzarella, diced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the macaroni according to package directions. Drain, rinse and toss with a little olive oil to keep the pasta from sticking. Place in a refrigerator to cool while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Place another large pot of water over high heat. Add the corn to the water and cook for about 5 minutes. While the corn is cooking, prepare a medium bowl of ice water. When the corn has cooked for 5 minutes, submerge it into the ice water to immediately stop the cooking process. Cut the corn off the cob and set aside.

Place the chilled macaroni, cooked corn, tomatoes, celery and shallots together in a large bowl. Fold in the pesto, mayonnaise and red wine vinegar. Stir to ensure all ingredients are evenly distributed. Fold in the diced mozzarella, season with salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!

For more tips on bringing Meatless Monday to your local school, restaurant, workplace and more, visit the Meatless Monday website to get started. Visit the recipe section for even more ideas on meatless dishes to prepare each week.

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