Unexpected guests may catch you off guard, but even so, that’s no reason to serve chips because you don’t have anything better on hand. When hunger pangs start, you need quick, nutritious solutions that will impress and sustain your guests. That may seem impossible to pull off without tons of prep work, but I promise that the five following tips will have you ready to face these stressful situations like a pro.
1. Stock up
It took me a while to figure it out, but I’ve learned there are some ingredients to keep on hand at all times. They keep for a long time and will help you impress guests in just a few minutes. Keep a variety in your fridge, freezer or pantry. They can be tossed together to create incredible flavour combinations.
I always keep these foods on hand so I can put together nibbles that will please even the toughest guests
- Three kinds of low-fat cheese: At a minimum, one hard cheese (such as Parmesan, cheddar, Gouda or Swiss), one soft cheese (such as brie, Camembert or blue), and one spreadable cheese (such as cream cheese, goat cheese or ricotta)
- Fancy mustards
- Hot sauce (such as Sriracha, Sambal Olek or Harissa)
- Frozen coloured vegetables (such as Arctic Gardens’ spinach and artichoke dip, mixed vegetables, corn, peas, edamame and protein blends)
- Frozen fruit; raspberries and mango are my favourites for savoury-sweet bites
- Black or green olives, regular or stuffed
- A variety of beans; chick peas and black beans are very versatile
- Oil; one good olive oil and toasted sesame oil, and you’re in business
- Multigrain, nut or grain crackers and bread
- Dried fruit (such as dates, cranberries and blueberries)
- Steel cut oats
- Mixed nuts or grains, seasoned or unseasoned (choose unsalted varieties where possible)
- Dried herbs (Italian mix or chili powder)
2. Making a simple, nutritious, delicious recipe
Based on the ingredients you keep at home, put together a bank of recipes you can customize based on your guests or the vegetables that are in season.
To create a dish that will satisfy your guests’ appetites and tickle their taste buds, it is important to choose ingredients that are high in protein and complex carbohydrates (starches, fibres, etc.). Here is a recipe for crunchy spinach and artichoke dip that showcases several of the ingredients I mentioned earlier. If you’re feeling pretty hungry, one option is to use crackers or corn chips to scoop up the dip. If you’re feeling more health-conscious, use vegetables like carrots, mushrooms and peppers.
The recipe comes in two versions; use the one that suits the time you have and your kitchen skills.
20 minutes: I love to cook and I’m handy in the kitchen
If you have a little more time, you can also spread the spinach dip on a baguette or pitas (topping it with something crunchy would be divine). In my opinion, the best way to eat this dish is with a spoon. It is really delicious.
5 minutes: The guests are ringing the doorbell
For those who only have a few minutes, you can leave off the oat topping and simply reheat the basic dip. If you don’t even have time to do that, simply reheat the frozen cubes of dip, and serve them as is. The dip already has all it takes to delight your taste buds.
3. Pre-seasoned options
As you can see, Arctic Gardens’ spinach and artichoke dip is the recipe’s main ingredient. It comes with the garlic, spices and lemon juice already in it. It is therefore ready to eat, which will make your life a lot easier. Using it in your recipes will yield a tasty result without calling for other aromatics.
4. Pre-portioned options
Choosing ingredients that are sold in the portions you need for your recipes will save you a lot of prep time. Because the frozen spinach dip is separated into small pellets, you can heat up only the amount you need and keep the rest in the freezer. This avoids waste and leaves the remaining spinach pellets in the freezer to use to top a quiche, garnish toast, or incorporate into your favourite tomato or cream sauce.
5. Expand your recipe repertory
Here are some of my favourite healthy vegetarian nibbles that can be made in 5 to 10 minutes:
- Stuffed hot baguette: Top a whole grain baguette with a blend of feta cheese and Arctic Gardens spinach dip. Grill the tops in the oven.
- “Mexican” cups: Fill whole-wheat tortilla chips with spinach dip, then cover with a salsa made of corn, black beans, tomatoes, fresh coriander and chopped jalapeno.
- Quebec-style won ton: Crunchy pockets stuffed with sweet potato puree, cheese curd, and spinach dip.
- The eruption: Melted Brie covered with spinach dip and served with artisanal nut bread.
- Egg rolls: Garnished with mixed cabbage and peanuts, then sautéed in the frying pan.
- Voluntary simplicity: Crackers layered with spinach dip, slices of smoked tofu, and fresh basil.
- Thick, multi-coloured mini pancakes: Add finely chopped vegetables to the dough before cooking, then cover with goat cheese.
Check here for the details on Cynthia Marcotte’s recipe for warm spinach artichoke dip.