While canapes, finger sandwiches, and fancy hors d’oeuvres are all well and good, I don’t always have the time — or desire — to fuss over snacks to serve my guests. But this doesn’t mean I’m just going to dump a bag of pretzels into a bowl either. I’ve learned how to upgrade pantry basics like nuts, pretzels, and popcorn into gourmet snacks that are easy, fun, and delicious (maybe even better than those canapes!).
The secret is a well-stocked pantry (and I bet you have most of these items on-hand already), which lets you mix and match ingredients to create sweet, savory, and spicy snacks for snow days, watching the game, or a last-minute hostess gift.
So let’s talk about that pantry: I buy nuts in bulk and keep them in the freezer (to keep the oils from going rancid in warmer temperatures). And I always have a bag of pretzels in the cupboard and unpopped popcorn in a cool, dry place (this affects their ability to pop).
Here’s my master list of additional snack ingredients:
- butter or olive oil
- brown sugar
- white sugar
- salt and pepper
- your favorite dried herbs and spices (cayenne, cinnamon, rosemary, basil, thyme, and garlic powder are my go-to’s)
- chocolate chips (for melting or drizzling and mixing in)
- dried fruits (raisins, cranberries, or apricots)
- Parmesan cheese
Let’s start with this recipe. It’s one of my family’s favorites and super-easy. (Feel free to swap in your favorite nut, or add in chocolate chips or dried fruit once the mixture has cooled.)
Spicy-Sweet Pretzels and Almonds
adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes: 4 cups
- 2 cups thin pretzels
- 2 cups natural (skin on), unsalted almonds
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon water
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- Preheat oven to 300 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place pretzels and almonds in a large bowl.
- In a small saucepan combine remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Pour over pretzels and almonds; toss gently to combine.
- Spread mixture evenly onto your prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from oven and let cool completely. To save for later, store in an airtight container at room temperature.
And don’t forget presentation! I love to serve even the simplest snacks in fun and unique ways, using items I already have in the kitchen. Here are some of my favorites:
Place cupcake liners in a tin (either new or vintage) and fill the liners with snacks.
Make paper cones using parchment, butcher paper, or any paper you have around. Put them in a bucket next to your snack bowl and let guests serve themselves.
I save old jam and jelly jars — they are adorable and the perfect size and shape for snacking!
I use paper lunch bags for so many things. Simply fold down the top to make a “collar” and fill with your snacks!