Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Entertain Anytime: The Basics of a Well-Stocked Pantry

Unexpected guests can drop in at anytime, but that doesn't have to catch you unprepared. The key to successful entertaining on the fly is a properly stocked pantry. Below is the Host-It Notes list of items every hostess should keep on hand. Rather than store them all, select a few that suit your tastes and keep them in supply.

  • A good quality mild cracker
  • Pickled veggies—for serving as antipasto or garnishing a Bloody Mary
  • Jarred roasted red peppers or sun-dried tomatoes—items like these plus a little fresh garlic dress up a jarred pasta sauce, or can be used atop crackers in hors d'oeuvres
  • Pistachios or smoked nuts
  • Stuffed olives—keep a few jarred or canned varieties on hand, preferably good quality ones with a twist such as stuffed with garlic, jalapeno, or even salmon or lemon
  • Balsamic vinegar and a flavored dipping oil like garlic, basil, or lemon
  • An unusual pasta and a jar of sauce—add fresh garlic and herbs to brighten the flavors
  • Basil and fresh tomato
  • Cheese—best bets include bocconcini (small, semi-soft, white mild cheeses perfect for melting on baguette toasts or skewering with tomatoes and herbs), feta, and parmesan
  • Dry salami or pepperoni
  • Hummus and pita or chips
  • A can of quality italian tuna in oil for sauces or topping salads and crackers
  • Keep a stash of pine nuts in the freezer—sprinkle on your goat cheese and hummus, toast them to top salads, or blend with herbs for an impromptu pesto
  • Champagne or prosecco—serve alone in the evening or mix with juice and garnish with a strawberry for mimosas at brunch


Serve signature snacks: Simplify your spread with having a few unique nibbles you frequently serve. A friend of mine always has wasabi peas on hand which she serves up in a few cocktail glasses on the table.
Master a dish with good bang for your buck: Stock up on non-perishable ingredients for one go-to dish, whether it's risotto, pasta, minestrone, a chicken dish, or a chili. You'll always have a classic to fall back on confidently.
Keep packaged appetizers in your freezer. My guilty pleasure is mini-quiche.
Bake and freeze your favorite cookie. Pull them out when a guest arrives and serve for dessert—just be sure the portion-size is small enough they'll thaw before dinner is over.
If you have enough notice in advance, pick up a fresh thin baguette. You can dip soft bites of bread into oil and vinegar, or simply slice, toast in the oven and rub with fresh garlic or top with many of the ingredients above.

Use these suggestions to help start building your guest-friendly pantry. I'd love to hear what I missed. What are the must-have items you keep on hand for entertaining?


  1. This is great! I had some unexpected guests just the other night and wish I had been better prepared. It did turn out ok. My husband had 4 of his friends over. Luckily I had a bag of pistachios in the cupboard, and some Flip Sides pretzel crackers. They downed it all with some beer from the corder store.

    ps- nice cutting board ;)

  2. These are great ideas and tips! It's the perfect excuse for grocery shopping (I love shopping for everything) and you have the cutest blog name!! :)



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