Saturday, October 26, 2013
Livng the Pantry Lifestyle: The Hospitality Pantry
I have written off and on about the Hospitality Pantry for years but it is time to take it out of storage, dust it off, and ponder it again. For it is one of the greatest stress busters I know of, especially during this time of year.
The idea originally was presented long ago in an Emilie Barnes' book. Although I am certain women throughout the centuries have had something similar. Basically it involves thinking through what you would want to have on hand for showing hospitality (I refuse to entertain, it reminds me of having to perform).
Some of the items you want to have in the Hospitality Pantry will already be in your kitchen. For instance, coffee and tea if you partake of those on an everyday basis. But it is also nice to have special coffees and teas for sharing with friends (although one often finds only Maxwell House in my home).
I almost always have whole milk on hand and usually cream for coffee and tea. But you can keep a box of shelf stable artificial creamers (the kind you see in a little bowl on restaurant tables) in your pantry. We don't use them for everyday cream but they have a place in the Hospitality Pantry. They come plain and flavored and they are much nicer to serve than powdered creamer should you not have the real thing available.
I once attended a party where there was a large carafe of decaf coffee (for it was evening) and the hostess made it special by offering numerous flavored creams such as those available mainly just prior to and through the Holiday season. It made something as simple as coffee quite festive. While these creamers need refrigeration, they have a very long shelf life in the refrigerator (a Don't Ask, Don't Tell fake food).
If you are a very good friend or a fortunate family member, I will share one of my favorite Green Mountain Apple Cider K-cups... which I tend to hoard like silver or gold because they are expensive. I love my little red Keurig, a Christmas gift from the New England Contingent (that being my daughter and her family if you are a new reader) a few years ago. It is not economical to serve a crowd with K-cups but it perfect for a friend or two stopping by unexpectedly.
Otherwise I keep a couple tins of tea (a good black tea and a green tea) and off and on a package of "good coffee". I always have Splenda on hand but if you do not use sugar substitutes yourself, you really must have a small box of them on hand. Statistically you will have a diabetic or two in your home over the Holidays. I know people who just prefer a sugar substitute, too.
While I realize the lemonade mixes, instant iced tea mixes (the unflavored being simply tea), and such are not always as good as making it from scratch, it is still a very good thing to have on hand when someone just "drops by". Even in the winter. Someone left a comment on a previous pantry post that they kept Real Lemon juice in their pantry and made lemonade from it, too.
I like to have store bought cookies such as Pepperidge Farm or a different brand of really good cookie. But if you have freezer space, home baked cookies, scones, and quick breads freeze well and would be more cost efficient. Cakes and cupcakes freeze well if wrapped properly, too. You can even frost them while they are frozen and they defrost quickly.
There are so many savory items easily available this time of year for your Pantry. For instance, one of the larger grocery stores now has a display in the middle of the aisles for their summer sausage rolls (sticks?). If one has a few bars of cheese in the refrigerator and fancy crackers in the Pantry... instant finger food. Think of the possibilities as you peruse the food gift aisles the next couple of months, they are often shelf stable.
Years ago Stephanie served pepperoni slices with cheese on crackers. I had never thought of such a thing and it became a favorite snack for Christopher and me, served on a whole grain Triscuit. (Hubby does not like pepperoni, which if you have read this blog more than five minutes would not surprise you.) Pepperoni also comes in shelf stable packaging.
The Internet and cookbooks have wonderful ideas for easy finger foods. Tea time articles are full of them. Many of the fillings and toppings have cream cheese as a base, which has a long shelf life in the refrigerator. It doesn't take much freezer space to slip a loaf of Pepperidge Farm party bread (if you can find it these days) into a Ziploc bag and defrost it as a base for open face sandwiches.
Don't forget items like mango salsa in a jar or jalapeno jelly (the former is on my shelf... the latter not but I have friends who love it). Once again, some of these items you find on the specialty food aisle of a store are rather expensive for everyday use but perfect to add something extra when showing Hospitality.
So what if you want to provide a meal? Well, if you have the freezer space you can freeze a lasagna or a casserole. Our friends must eat gluten free so if they are coming for dinner and bringing their son (who lives with them), I will plan ahead and make something gluten free. But I have also been known to keep a Stouffer's lasagna in the freezer and it is good.
Right now I have chicken stock in the pantry, I prefer low sodium organic with these products but it is not always economically feasible. Sometimes Kroger puts them on sale. I recently put together a really good soup at the last minute for our supper with a carton of the chicken stock and some diced root veggies. At the last minute before serving I placed some chopped swiss chard I'd sauteed in butter and a little bit of the stock on the soup. Delicious (even if a certain husband looked at it with suspicion at first... what is this green stuff?).
I have a package of Barilla Three Cheese Tortellini on the pantry shelves at the moment. It is shelf stable so it does not have to be refrigerated or frozen and it actually won a Cooks Illustrated taste test against those which do require refrigeration. A jar of really good pasta sauce poured over it after it is cooked and... wallah! I also found mixing a can of pizza sauce with a can of chopped tomatoes make for a really good pasta sauce.
Another easy-to-store dish for an informal get together is Velveeta (which is shelf stable and one of my "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" fake foods) and Salsa. I like to brown a little sausage or ground beef, drain it and add the Velveeta and Salsa to that but you do not have to use meat at all. I keep it warm in the Crock Pot before and while serving it. Be certain to keep corn chips made for dipping - or - keep soft corn taco shells which you cut into wedges and either bake or (not healthy but better) fry. They are easy to store and inexpensive.
Obviously this post is just to give you a basic idea and there are so many, many options for a Hospitality Pantry. A lot depends on how deep you want to make it and to whom you want to show Hospitality. Should it be more like a tea time then your readiness would go into that direction. Inviting a family over after church... perhaps more savory than sweet. Do you have small children over very often? Then keep packages of animal crackers or goldfish crackers (preferably a brand without artificial coloring, I speak from experience as a mother of an ADHD boy).
One suggestion I do offer and I think it was Vee who experienced the reason recently. For items like Pepperidge Farm cookies and anything a family member can grab for a snack... it is a good idea to have part of your pantry in a place not easily accessible. Perhaps even from yourself if a package of potato chips is to be part of your pantry, or chocolate, or the proverbial cookies. They all have a way of calling my name in a siren call around 9:00 at night.
At one time, when I had people over more often, I kept many such items in a large green Rubbermaid container on my Pantry Shelf. It was next to two similar containers which each held boxes of pasta and bags of beans. So no one thought to look in it for cookies. There are such places in many kitchens... such as the shelf over the refrigerator (I don't have anything stored there it is so hard to reach).
Thinking of the Hospitality Pantry can be a lot of fun and one can extend it to finding pretty paper napkins, paper plates, and items to make serving fun. The sky is truly the limit as long as you bring your imagination.
If you have anything in your pantry that would be wonderful to include in a Hospitality Pantry, do share it with us in Comments!
Artwork: Apple Pie Harvest by Janet Kruskamp