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The Party-Ready Pantry

CamilleStyles_pantry

Summer is the season for impromptu house guests, and I’ve discovered that it is possible to stay prepared for last-minute entertaining without last-minute dashes to the grocery store. (After all, don’t we all have better things to be doing this summer… ideally, laying by the pool?) I know, I know: it’s easy to let the pantry become a black hole of forgotten condiments and stale crackers. But now’s the perfect time to clean out what’s unnecessary and take stock of what you’ll need to keep on hand to be the hostess with the mostest. In order to clearly see the ingredients in my pantry (pictured above), I decant bulk items (rice, grains, pasta, cereal and nuts) into matching jars lined up on the shelves. Not only is this uniformity aesthetically pleasing, it also keeps foods airtight so they stay fresh longer. For packaged goods (chips, popcorn and other snack foods), I use mesh wire baskets to corral like items together while staying visible. I always keep the following pantry items on hand, so I’m prepared to throw together a last-minute dinner or host an impromptu cocktail party: 

  • Chicken stock for soups, sauces and infusing cooked grains with flavor.
  • Nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts, peanuts) for toasting up in a salad or setting out for a simple snack.
  • Water crackers to accompany a couple of great cheeses for an easy appetizer.
  • Pastas in assorted shapes and sizes.
  • Baking essentials like flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking soda and baking powder.
  • Kosher salt for cooking and sea salt for finishing the end of a dish.
  • Oils including extra-virgin olive oil, vegetable oil, peanut oil and truffle oil.
  • Popcorn is a perfect snack for impromptu guests; make it fancy by adding a sprinkle of dried herbs or spices!
  • Vinegars like white wine, red wine, balsamic and sherry are a must for mixing up simple vinaigrettes.
  • Bulk Snacks like wasabi peas, trail mix, chocolate-covered peanuts and pretzels are instant party foods.
  • Mixed Greek Olives make any spread feel a little more sophisticated.
  • A couple varieties of cheese - goat, feta, cheddar or brie – whatever you like! Check out a few of my favorite tips for putting together a great, simple cheese plate.
And finally, although I love making baked goods from scratch, I don’t always feel like spending hours in the kitchen when friends are visiting from out-of-town. I always keep a few high-quality brownie, cookie and muffin mixes on hand. The Barefoot Contessa line of mixes all taste totally homemade… trust me, your guests will never know the difference. Most importantly, summer is a time to relax and enjoy spending quality time with family and friends, so keep things simple! Don’t stress over whipping up the “perfect” meals or impressing your guests, and instead, focus on letting the fresh flavors of the season shine in simply prepared dishes. Now get outside and have some fun!
*image of my pantry by Paige Newton Photography
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