9 years ago

How to stock your pantry for the holidays

Does the idea of holiday entertaining fill you with anxiety? You’re certainly not alone, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

“Entertaining doesn’t have to be stressful,” says hostess extraordinaire Tracey Tonsberg, author of Princess in the Pantry: A Guide to Cooking, Entertaining, and Party Planning. “Every time you host a party or a holiday it gets easier, but the only way to master it is to keep trying.”

Armed with perseverance and a well-stocked pantry (see the shopping list below) you’ll find you can even breeze through those last-minute gatherings. Be inspired by helpful holiday entertaining tips and cater to your guests in style. 

Drop-in guests won’t expect that you have a full cocktail menu on hand. Offer wine or beer and then really impress them by having the makings for one festive cocktail, whether it’s a special martini, a margarita or a party punch. (While your guests enjoy a drink you’ll get a few more minutes to wrap things up in the kitchen!)

Dip It
Got sour cream and mayonnaise in the refrigerator? Then you’ve got all you need to whip up a tasty dip for chips and veggies. Use equal parts sour cream and mayo, then mix in chopped parsley, minced onion, seasoned salt, dill, and garlic powder. Chopped frozen spinach, jarred artichoke hearts, and roasted red peppers are also great for dips. Another trick? Keep a jar of good-quality olive tapenade (chopped olive spread) on hand and some frozen French bread for last minute crostini.

Ethnic Delights
Frozen guacamole can be a great addition to the old “chips-and-salsa standby.” It defrosts on the countertop fairly quickly, or you can use the defrost setting on your microwave. Chop and add tomatoes and cilantro and finish with a squeeze of lime juice. Serve with pita or tortilla chips. Another winner in the appetizer category, Tonsberg says, is the Mediterranean platter – olives, hummus, pita or crusty bread, roasted red peppers and other marinated vegetables, cubes of feta cheese, and more – which can be quickly arranged on a platter. The deli is a great source for these items.

Say Cheese
Slice cheese and serve with a touch of fruit jam on warm slices of French bread or crackers for a great appetizer; set out bunches of grapes and a bowl of nuts to complete the table. (Marcona almonds are nice to keep on hand during the holidays; they’re native to Spain and are flatter and smoother than regular almonds.)

Grab the Gifts
Look under the tree – have you already received chocolates, specialty cookies, or meat-and-cheese gift sets? Pull out a couple of your prettiest platters and a cheese board, and you’ve got an instant selection of sweet and savory. 

For even more easy appetizer ideas and drink pairings, check out our Cheers! series.

Shopping list for a well-stocked holiday pantry:

In the pantry:

  • Mini pastry shells – a pretty base for mini quiches and other hors d’oeuvres or for dessert tarts filled with jarred lemon curd.
  • Gourmet crackers and artisan breads
  • Pepper jelly
  • Canned tomatoes and chopped tomatoes with green chiles
  • Jarred vegetables – roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, and imported olives
  • Chocolates – a mix of your favorites to place in candy dishes

In the freezer:

  • Chopped spinach – for mini quiche, spinach dip, and more
  • Pre-made frozen appetizers – easy to pull out and bake in a pinch; some only need thawing.

In the fridge:

  • Sour cream, butter, mayonnaise, fresh herbs (thyme, cilantro, parlsey), lemons and limes
  • Imported cheeses – Brie, Provolone, aged Cheddar, Havarti, Parmesan, herbed spreadable cheeses

If you have more questions about holiday meal planning, our FoodE Experts are happy to help! They’re available Monday – Saturday from 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Just give them a call at 952-548-1400.