If you always have these 10 entertaining essentials on hand you can throw together a gorgeous cheeseboard or appetizer snack tray to impress last minute or surprise guests!
Need some help entertaining those last minute guests? Do you have people that just pop by and after a few minutes you offer them a snack? Does that snack consist of stale goldfish crackers and a half a bottle of flat soda? Been there before! So I started compiling a list of what I need to have on hand for these guest emergencies. I have found that if I have these 10 items in my pantry or fridge, I can whip something together in a pinch. Something that doesn’t look like I scraped it off the floor of my car. These entertaining essentials are also great because they have long shelf lives. So even if you are in a guest drought they will keep until the next ones show up.
Being that I am such a snacker at heart, I always have crackers on hand. Triscuits are my go-to but I know that there are people out there that are some die-hard Wheat Thin fans out there. Much like the highly-contested soda war between Coke and Pepsi, this cracker debate can get heated. I don’t fall into that trap. I have Triscuits and then I always have Saltines. I used my Saltines to make my Comeback Crackers which I make all the time and they last for a week! Pita chips or just plain butter crackers are a good base too. I have used Stacy’s Pita Chips for my Everything Bagel Dip!
Once again, I feel I have to remind you that my youngest is a cheese fanatic. He is currently obsessed with Colby Jack but has been known to change his mind in a nanosecond, despise it and only want cheddar. Cheese is a universally loved food and keeps for a while.
That is my favorite thing about it. I can buy a block and it will keep for a few weeks if tightly wrapped and stored properly. I have a vacuum sealer so I tend to buy large blocks, break it into smaller chunks, and then just keep one out. Most cheeses you can freeze too! You don’t need much for a tray and don’t fret if you only have one kind ready. People will enjoy a slice by itself or on one of your debatable cracker choices. Check out my Holiday Cheese Board Tutorial or my Summer Tapas Cheese Board for some inspiration!
Dip is a great entertaining essential to have on hand. We prefer hummus at our house because we don’t tolerate dips with sour cream or yogurt very well and I just love all the savory flavors of hummus out there. I buy hummus when it goes on sale or make a batch at the beginning of the week. This way I can flavor it how I like.
Plain is always better if you are not sure if people will like certain flavors or are allergic to a certain ingredient. I love garlic but I know a sweet lady that is allergic to it. Not good if that is the only one you have. Or a super spicy Sriracha one might not go well with those that can’t handle the heat. Here is a great recipe for homemade hummus if you are looking to make your own. I added some hummus to my Meze Platter along with some other entertaining essentials listed in this post and it was a hit!
Fresh or dried fruit
Fresh fruit is great to have on hand. I tend to gravitate toward grapes for my fruit of choice, green and very firm, but there is also a debate between green and red grapes. Why is food so hotly contested?!?! Fresh fruit is so hard to keep on hand and you might get stuck with overripe fruit when someone stops by so make sure to have some dried fruit on hand too. Dried cranberries and apricots are great to have and you can find them in just about any store. Dried pineapple tends to be too sweet so I like to get things that are more tart in nature. Dried fruit is also a great compliment to rich cheese.
Another great thing to snack on. My parents always had dry roasted peanuts on hand but I tend to want things like almonds, cashews, and pistachios. Pistachios are tricky because you have to shell them and then you need to have something that will hold the shells. Then it gets messy. You can buy the shelled pistachios (nut meat) but they are $$$$$. Same with macadamia nuts. Great flavor but big money so I save those for baking. Sunflower seeds you have to shell or they are too small to pick up and spooning nuts just seems weird to me. Try to stick with plain or salted, not the fancy cinnamon and sugar crusted ones or chocolate covered ones. If you want to shake up your nut game check out my Zesty Chili Lime Cashews, or my Lemon Thyme Almonds. These are definitely entertaining essentials!
Another great thing to have on hand, and they last forever too. Try to buy ones that are already marinated, or make my recipe for Marinated olives. Just be sure they don’t have pits. No one wants to spit out an olive pit and have it sitting on their plate or napkin. And certainly not on the tray. Stuffed ones are good and you might already have them for your cocktails but the fillings tend to be strong like blue cheese, jalapeno, or garlic. Again, those flavors are tricky for everyone.
Cured meats keep for a long time in the fridge. I am always making cheese trays for lunches on the weekend and during the weeks too if I am busy making recipes and doing photo shoots. A few slices of salami, salty prosciutto, or pepperoni are a great way to add some bulk to your snack tray and they don’t have to be pricey. This is also a food that you can freeze for later too!
Not many things are better than a cracker, salami, and a smear of spicy mustard. If you look in my fridge right now I have no less than 9 types of mustard. Stone ground, honey lavender, dijon, garlic, champagne, etc. These make great toppings for cheese and crackers too. Tapenade and bruschetta spreads can be purchased already made in the store. No need to make a mess, just use a few slices of bread if you have it or stick with the crackers.
I always have a stash of plates, napkins, and cups in my house. They are usually the leftovers and remnants of parties and catering gigs that I have done, but I don’t dare throw them away for they have great uses. My leftover plastic spoons get used the in the kid’s lunchboxes because I have a hard enough time keeping up with my regular flatware.
Paper and plastic plates are perfect for the kids snacking and if they eat outside. Also great for sending home leftovers. Cocktail napkins are always in stock too because I get them as gifts all the time. Silly, tacky quotes and sayings on them make them even funnier. I usually save these for my more “adult only” get-togethers because of the nature of my collection. Whatever your need keep a stack on hand.
An Open Door
Nothing brings more drop-in guests like an open door. If you are always ready to host some friends with a smile on your face and a glass of wine in hand then make sure they know your door is open. Tell people how much you like having people stop by. Let them know all the great snacks you have on hand and people will love dropping by your house for a quick visit, or a chat, or even an impromptu dice game.they will show up. What a great way to spend an hour or so after work or on the weekends! If you always have these entertaining essentials you will be the consummate host.
Any combination of these 10 entertaining essentials will make you seem like a perfect host even if you aren’t.
Caution: These can bring you more drop-in guests so be prepared!!
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