Grandma in town? Unexpected guests? No problem! With a little planning and the right ingredients, holiday entertaining is a snap.
Stock up on these fridge, freezer and pantry staples a couple of weeks before the holiday rush, and you’ll be ready — no matter who’s on your doorstep:
•Whole nuts: walnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews or pistachios.
• Olives: whole and sliced, lack ripe, green, Kalamata and stuffed varieties in cans and jars.
• Cheese: feta, mozzarella, cheddar, and aged provolone (tightly wrapped or vacuum-pack cheeses can last in the fridge for several weeks).
• Tortilla chips.
• Salsa in a jar: mild or medium to please most palates.
• Whole pita or pita crisps: pita bread can be frozen.
• Hummus: choose a sealed refrigerated package.
• Carrots, celery and bell peppers: whole veggies keep longer than pre-cut, and these three are easy to find in the produce aisle.
• Frozen cheese pizza: choose your favorite brand.
• Olive oil: a kitchen essential.
These 10 basic ingredients are the building blocks for five delicious, party-worthy spreads that can be prepped in 15 minutes or less! Here’s how:
• Fast cheese and olive tray — Cube cheddar cheese, aged provolone, and mozzarella. On a platter, make rows of alternating colors with cubed white cheese next to a row of green Pearls Specialties Garlic Stuffed Queen olives, then a row of darker cheese and a row of deep purple Kalamata olives. Present with toothpicks and napkins.
• Pizza-tizers — A simple cheese pizza is a canvas for appetizer art! Add fresh, thinly sliced bell pepper, shredded mozzarella cheese, and a generous topping of sliced black ripe olives. Bake, then cut into mini-slices or small squares and serve on wooden cutting boards. Drizzle with olive oil.
• Mediterranean medley — Place store-bought hummus into a colorful dipping bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and top with sliced Pearls Kalamata olives. On a large platter, surround the bowl with equal amounts of pita triangles, carrot and celery sticks, plus bell pepper strips. Serve with a bowl of Kalamata olives and cubed feta cheese.
• Cheese-and-olive kebabs — Alternate cubes of mozzarella or provolone cheese and any variety of olives on small bamboo skewers and serve on a tray, alongside pita triangles and hummus. Expert tip: Cut pita bread in triangles, brush with olive oil, warm in oven 350F for 5-6 minutes.
• Olive nachos — Fill a cast iron pan with tortilla chips, generously grate cheddar cheese over the top, and slide under the broiler until the cheese bubbles. Spoon salsa on top, sprinkle with sliced Pearls California black ripe olives, and serve on a heat-resistant board.
The key to holiday entertaining is being prepared so you can spend more time with guests and less time in the kitchen!