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Potlucks make for easy dinner with colleagues

March 20, 2012

Once every month or so, if we’re lucky and our schedules will allow for it, some of my fellow English lecturers and I will gather for a potluck dinner and a game night.
Our favorite contest is called “The Settlers of Catan,” a German-originated board game of strategy that can best be described as “Monopoly” meets “Risk.” The last time we got together, we played a couple of rounds of “Catan” and then, after our brains were tired, we played a mindless yet extraordinarily fun game entitled “Bang,” a Spaghetti Western card game with a clear objective — don’t get shot first.
Regardless of what games we play, however, we always strategize dinner. As young teachers, we know we can save a lot of money and have a great meal if we make a solid plan for contributions.
Lately, we’ve had lasagna and its accoutrements, and chili with a selection of desserts — all of which have been delicious.
I also use parties such as these, at which a few people will be around, as an excuse to try out a new, sugary dish. I am much too guilt-ridden to just make a pie or cake on my own because with no one around to police me besides my cat and his judgmental stares, I may eat the whole thing.
But with friends around, I can divvy up the sinfulness and not feel so bad about eating a dessert that calls for two sticks of butter and, I kid you not, a whole box of confectioner’s sugar.
As if the multiple sticks of butter did not speak for themselves, this is a Paula Deen recipe that attracted me primarily because of its ease.
Typically, I avoid anything related to Paula Deen because her concoctions are so unhealthy they terrify me. But given its simplicity and a slight lack of time on my part, this turned out to be a delicious and easy crowd pleaser.
Unfortunately, I lost that night’s round of “Catan,” but I definitely won dessert.

Gooey Butter Cake

1 18 1/4-ounce pkg. yellow cake mix
1 egg
8 T. butter, melted

1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
8 T. butter, melted
1 16 oz. box powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the cake mix, egg and butter and mix well with an electric mixer. Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 13 X 9 inch baking pan.
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla and butter and beat together. Next, add the powdered sugar and mix well.
Spread over cake batter and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Make sure not to over bake as the center should be a little gooey.

Kate Salter is a lecturer at Mississippi State University. Email her at

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