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Q & A

The post entitled, “help me, help you,” received not only many thoughtful and inquisitive comments, which I was blatantly soliciting, but also several personal emails.


There was a common theme that ran through them.

“What are your ‘must have’ items for a well-stocked Holiday/Entertaining pantry?”

“I need helpful Entertaining Tips.”

“Do you have tips for last-minute holiday entertaining?”

“I love your Thanksgiving Timeline, it has helped me year after year to stay on track. I know you host many parties, how about a Party Timeline?”

OK, you asked for it, you got it. Since Christmas is exactly one month from today (do not panic!) … I shall take on each of those topics/questions, over the next several days.

Today we shall tackle ….


The Well-Stocked “Entertaining” Pantry, Refrigerator & Freezer


My #1 must-have is Frozen Pizza Dough. Obviously you can make mini-pizzas or foccacia, but an even easier option is to roll out, cut into thin strips, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with Italian seasoning and grated Parmesan then bake. You now have warm delicious homemade bread sticks.

Next time you buy a Baguette, by an extra one. Slice, place on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and toast in the oven. Cool and then throw into a freezer zip-lock bag. They are perfect for last-minute appetizers; crostini, bruschetta, added to a cheese plate, or topped with a savory purchased spread.

Puff Pastry. My freezer is never without this most versatile workhorse. It is like magic. To make sweet or savory tarts, all you have to do is roll it out, spread something on it, bake, and then slice. Puff Pastry is an appetizer base miracle worker that can be topped with virtually anything — any cooked chopped protein, cheese, vegetables, tapenade, or pesto – you name it.

Frozen Berries. At the ready for refreshing blended drinks or quick dessert with that puff pastry.

Nuts of all types. Storing nuts in the freezer is better than storing them in your pantry. The freezer prevents the natural nut oils from becoming rancid. They thaw in minutes. Healthy and convenient.

Shredded Cheese. When you have bits and pieces of cheddar, mozzarella, or jack cheese left; shred it and freeze. Now you’ll have it at the ready when you want to throw together that quick crostini or bruschetta with your frozen baguette slices.

Frozen Juice Cubes. Make juice cubes from leftover cranberry, orange, or apple juice, and lemonade for that matter; then drop a couple into champagne for an always festive and instant cocktail.

Selection of Frozen Hors d’oeuvres (you know I get mine at Trader Joe’s)



Cheeses – There is always the wonderful option of a beautiful cheese plate, plus spreadable cheeses like fresh goat or soft blue can become the base for fabulous crostini. Spread on baguette slices and top with whatever you’ve got for leftovers; sliced chicken breast, shredded short ribs, or pulled pork. Cream cheese topped with pepper jelly makes for an instant and popular appetizer.

Vegetables  – Don’t limit yourself to carrots and celery. Vegetables A-Z … from asparagus to zucchini make for perfect crudités. Tomatoes, the most versatile vegetable (or is a fruit?) of all! Do not store in the refrigerator until ripe, though.

Mayonnaise – Whisk minced garlic and a squeeze of lemon into mayonnaise for a quick “cheater” aioli. Or go the spicy route and blend in pureed chipotle peppers or Sriracha sauce. Makes a great dip for crudités.

Sausage and Salami – They have long expiration dates and are there when you need them. They can be sliced and browned in a skillet – then put out with mustard – for tasty dipping.

Citrus – There is nothing else that adds freshness and tang to a dish or cocktail like lemons, oranges, limes, and grapefruit.

vintage pantry


Beans – cannellini, chickpeas, pinto, and black beans. Make a bean hummus or rinse and drain those chickpeas, coat with seasoned flour, fry in canola oil until crispy and golden – a fast and easy appetizer in a pinch.

Roasted Red Peppers – a must have for a lovely antipasto platter or toss with minced garlic, sherry vinegar, and capers for an instant bruschetta.

Olives – Choose a global assortment; from Italian to Greek to French. Make your own “signature” recipe of mixed olives by heating olives in their brine, with a bay leaf, a cinnamon stick, a pinch of sugar and a pinch of salt. Cool to room temperature, return to jar and serve when an “out of the jar” appetizer is needed.

Dried Fruits – Apricots, Figs, Raisins, Cranberries, and others – perfect with cheese and nuts for a quick no-cook appetizer platter.

Jams, Jellies and Preserves – For a quick savory/sweet appetizer, top your favorite cracker with a bit of jam and a creamy blue cheese.

Jars of – salsa, mustard(s), honey, chutney.

Bottles of – high quality olive oil and vinegars (sherry, balsamic, and champagne)

Variety of Chips –  tortilla, potato, pita, etc.

Store-bought Crackers, Cookies, and Treats – packaged sweets are the perfect thing to pull out when you don’t have time (or just don’t like) to bake and need a small quick sweet treat.

For my Well-Stocked Pantry (not just for entertaining, but year round) – click HERE and then scroll down and click on “Pantry.

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1 Marissa { 11.25.13 at 8:41 AM }

Soooo what if your kitchen is as small as mine… which are the top three pantry items 🙂

2 Linda Hopkins { 11.25.13 at 9:51 AM }

Girl, I don’t know if last minute entertaining is much of an option in your tiny kitchen space. Luckily you have a market, only a couple blocks down (and then back up!) the street. But… if I have to give you three, they are three that I know you already have; olive oil, olives, beans. That’s just the pantry. Fridge; cheese (a given for you!), a veggie or two, and mayo (even though I know you don’t like it, guests do!) Freezer; nuts, the baguette slices, and a Trader Joe appetizer or two. xoxo

3 Tram Mai { 11.25.13 at 3:11 PM }

I love this list so much I’m printing it!! SO HELPFUL!! Thank you!!

4 Karen Mock { 11.25.13 at 9:32 PM }

It’s amazing you know all this and even more amazing you have it all down and organized-so helpful and inspiring! Thanks – because I wanna be you when I grow up 😉

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