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Take It to Go

Check out these potluck pointers for the holiday season.

If you're heading to someone else's house for a holiday meal, you'll likely bring along food. Here are strategies to ensure the food arrives at the host's home looking good and tasting terrific.

1. Read the recipe thoroughly to identify the best way to prepare a dish to go. For example, if a dish needs to broil during the last five minutes to melt a cheese topping, save that step to do at the host's house. If it's a new recipe, it's also a good idea to practice preparing the dish before the party.

2. Dishes that can be served at room temperature are ideal candidates. That way, your dish doesn't take up oven or refrigerator space at the host's home.

3. Soups and stews are crowd-pleasers, and you can tote them in a slow-cooker-just plug it in when you arrive. There's an advantage for the host, too: no need to warm your dish in the microwave or on the stove.

4. If a dish requires an oven, refrigerator, or freezer, let the host know ahead of time. You may want to drop off the dish earlier in the day so the host doesn't have to juggle to make space for it during the party.

5. Use disposable bake-and-serve containers with lids for casseroles and sheet cakes. Tote a frosted layer cake in an inexpensive cake saver that you can leave behind. Or choose a recipe that's easy to take along, such as the Smoked Salmon Knishes, which you can pop into a zip-top plastic bag. The host doesn't have to worry about cleaning and returning dishes to you.

6. Make a gift of a serving dish and utensils. For example, bring the Cauliflower and Green Onion Mash or Honey-Glazed Carrots in a pretty (but inexpensive) bowl with a serving spoon, and leave the bowl and spoon as a gift for the host.

7. For dishes with several elements, package the different components separately. For example, pack salad greens and croutons in separate plastic bags, and store the dressing in a jar; toss everything together when you're ready to serve.