Easy. Portable. Crowd-pleaser. Potluck recipes for a large gathering need to hit on all marks, but especially the pleasing part. Everyone should have a dish that’s a real winner, one we stake our reputation on, with a recipe everyone begs for.

We all love to have a dish that’s a surefire hit, and I’m no exception. I’m known for my baking, and love to share my favorite dessert recipes. But I’ve got a few savory side dishes that are in my “most requested” file. Though I’m often asked to bring a home-baked dessert, I love to share some of my other offerings-thereby securing my reputation as an all-round great cook.

This Oriental Ramen Salad hits the mark on many levels:
* It’s crunchy with a creamy dressing.
* The creamy dressing is made with fat-free evaporated milk, providing rich, creamy flavor but no fat.
* The component parts can be made ahead, stored separately, and transported to the party, so the salad can be tossed together at the last minute.
* It can also be boosted to entrée status with the addition of pre-cooked chicken pieces or grilled shrimp.

Take some potluck pointers for Fourth of July gatherings or summer family reunions:

* Focus on food: If you’re coordinating, be as specific as possible when assigning dishes; what types of dishes you want and how many people you’ll serve.
* Monitor the menu: Select dishes with a variety of tastes and textures-go for opposites: crunchy/creamy, spicy/mild, soft/firm.
* Keep it cool: Use a decorative ice bucket for cold foods such as chilled side dishes. Fill with ice, and place a container of dish in the bucket.
* Fun, not fussy, service: Line a basket with a bandana or colorful kitchen towels for rolls or muffins; roll up fork and spoon in large napkins.
* Recycle, reuse: If you’re toting a dish, bring it in a reusable disposable container that the hostess can keep or throw away.

When it’s a potluck, a family reunion or other gathering, check out www.VeryBestBaking.com for crowd-pleasing ideas. Be prepared to print several copies of the recipes for sharing!

oriental ramen saladOriental Ramen Salad

(Makes 8 servings)

2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 package (3 ounces) dry oriental-flavor ramen noodle soup, noodles crumbled and
seasoning packet reserved
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2/3 cup (5 fluid-ounce can) NESTLÉ CARNATION Evaporated Fat Free Milk
2/3 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 packages (10 ounces each) romaine-radicchio salad greens
4 green onions, sliced diagonally

MELT butter in large skillet. Add crumbled ramen noodles and nuts; cook, stirring constantly, until noodles are golden. Remove from pan; cool.

PLACE evaporated milk, oil, ramen seasoning packet, vinegar and sugar in blender; cover. Blend until smooth.

COMBINE salad greens, noodle mixture, green onions and dressing in large bowl; toss to coat well. Serve immediately.

Nutrition Information per serving: 300 calories; 210 calories from fat; 25 g total fat; 4.5 g saturated fat; 10 mg cholesterol; 115 mg sodium; 18 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 8 g sugars; 4 g protein; 6% calcium