Let me entertain you…
I love having people over. To watch a movie, play a board game or just hang out, I really enjoy company. And second to having people over, I enjoy feeding them! Now that the holidays have officially started, the best way to combat host nerves is to be prepared. DUH. Of course, there’s no stress if you play it cool as a cucumber (BTW I love cucumber martinis and strive to drink more of them this holiday season, I don’t care that it’s a flavor best suited to summer, but I digress) and the best way is to stock like you are a week away from an event and just replenish as needed. The way I see it, it’s about a 6-week run of potential guests or invites to parties or potlucks. Let’s get our pantries ready for whatever the holiday season throws at us, whether it’s an office party, a tree trimming event or heartbroken friends needing a shoulder to cry on, you will be ready to go!
Space– First and foremost, if you are going to have on hand items that you normally don’t purchase, where to keep them from prying eyes and hungry mouths is important. I have a gluten free child that I must be strict with crackers and cookies so I have a separate pantry off from the kitchen. This also happens to be my laundry room that leads to the side of the house so it’s under lock and key. That works for my household but storing away from your regular pantry might be one idea to keep order and preparedness.
Glassware and serving dishes– If you are a regular wine drinker, then you are probably already prepared with the glasses for your favorite merlot. If you are not, there are white wine and red wine glasses- different from each other to showcase the wine. If you prefer mixed drinks, highballs or Tom Collins glasses will do. The cool thing is if you want to take it up a notch, you can get some plain, non-descript barware from restaurant supply stores that are priced to walk out the door with you. You can decide what you want to have from standard short rock glasses for neat drinks, margarita goblets or martini glasses. Which leads me to the next item, serving dishes. Nothing drives home to me how much I have missing from my move like struggling to locate dishes for chips, relish plates and dip dishes as well. I cannot use up every unused salad bowl because ever since we downsized on our last move, I only have four. Well, I have a box of new dishes in the car parked outside that isn’t being driven but something prevents me from getting up to go get it out. Like other stuff that is more interesting to do. If you want to take it up a notch, have two to three bowls for chips and popcorn and as least 2 dishes for dips.
Crockpot Heaven-Nothing brings the house down like a gooey, cheesy hot dip. What better way to have it ready than a crockpot where you can also prepare lil smokies in bbq sauce, spinach artichoke dip or buffalo chicken dip. I will share all these awesomely hip spreading dishes with you in the next week. Crazy easy to pour in the ingredients, give a quick stir with a spoon, cover and walk away. As a football family, our week from Thursday to Monday night during the season consists of “what’s for dinner and what do we have to snack on” on repeat. Which is why I always have at least 4 bricks of cream cheese, 2 logs of Velveeta, jars of bbq sauce and 4 bags of tortilla and potato chips on hand. Every week. Without fail.
But Yadi, that’s a lot to ask of me to have on hand. What if I never use it?
The answer is simple. Start off small, and replenish as the week closes out. The best example of this is with wine. I personally am not a wine drinker as I feel that it’s an acquired taste. I have not acquired it and I am doing just fine with my vodka based drinks, thank you very much. But if you do partake of the grape, when you go to your favorite liquor store (we all have one of those, don’t we?) buy two of whatever you normally get. I honestly don’t know how many bottles of wine people go through in a week but from what it looks like on social media, cases seem to be the norm in a week. One to try and one to have on hand or to give as a gift if you are invited to a gathering. The one you’ve already had that week will serve to provide you direct knowledge as to how good that wine is. If it’s particularly good, drink it and buy 4 bottles next time.
As for snacks, if you want to start super small, just keep a box or two of microwave popcorn and some instant hot chocolate in the pantry. Don’t be shy when your guests text to ask what they can bring. Whatever they want to drink other than what you have on hand and for mixers, it never hurts to have an extra bag of ice.
I’m listing some pantry items that you might want to have in addition to what you already might have. Again- this is just a suggestion to give you a starting point:
- Chips- potato, tortilla, vegetable, pita
- Crackers- town house, Ritz, cheese crackers, saltines, graham (for smores)
- Bread-Rye, Pumpernickel, Sour Dough deli loafs (small slices for appetizers)
- Christmas Tins of butter cookies and popcorn
- Microwave Popcorn
- Olives- Black and Green- martini olives will be in the drink section below
- Artichoke Hearts
- Canned Cranberry Sauce
- Orange Marmalade and Lemon Curd
- Jars of pickles- dill, sweet gherkins, bread and butter
- Jars of pickled peppers, jalapenos, giardiniera
- Jars of salsa
- Cream Cheese
- Sour Cream
- Ranch Dressing
- Dry Onion Soup mix
- Baby Carrots, Celery
- Summer Sausage, lil smokies
- Smoked Salmon, imitation crab meat- or the real deal if you are so inclined
- Deli Meats-turkey, ham, pastrami, salami, prosciutto
- Mustard- yellow, spicy brown
- BBQ Sauce
- Sweet Relish
- Nuts-mixed, peanuts in their shell, pistachios
- Cheese- Soft baby bell, Havarti, muenster, sharp cheddar, pepper jack, swiss, provolone
- Mixers for drinks- tonic water, soda
- Juice-orange, cranberry, tomato, lemon, lime
- Vodka- two kinds- high end for straight drinks and low end for mixed- if you like the flavored ones just be aware you’re limiting what you can do with them
- Rum-dark and white
- Gin-go as high end as you can depending on whether it’s a special occasion (like New Year’s) or how soon it can be consumed
- Tequila- same as Vodka- a high end for straight shots and a low end for mixed drinks
- Vermouth- dry and a sweet- you’ll need both for martinis
- Olives- stuffed- best to stick to pimento unless you like cheese in your drinks
- Pearl Onions- or not, again your choice
- Maraschino Cherries
- Eggnog-but only if you like it or you know that you will have guests that week- no use throwing out a drink no one else in the house likes
- Apple cider
- Hot chocolate-instant is fine
- Assorted teas
Quite a few items might already be in your kitchen and some not but this list isn’t the definitive be all end all of entertaining staples. Anything you make should be easy to put together, not taking more than 10 to 15 minutes because who wants to stay the entire time in the kitchen obsessing over piping filling onto deviled eggs? Not me. You want to be done and out enjoying the festivities. Your friends have come to see you- not to see how well you can make a cheese plate. Get out there and enjoy what’s left of 2016.
Cheers! And again, YMMV!