(ARA) - More entertaining takes place during the holidays than all the rest of the year put together. Relatives come to visit, friends and neighbors drop by unexpectedly -- this time of year you have to be prepared for a party on short notice. But with all the other things going on during the season, it's hard to find the time to cook something nice for your guests. How can you put together a gourmet menu at the last minute? "You don't have to be a gourmet chef to cook like one," says Jill Blashack, president and CEO of Tastefully Simple, an easy-to-prepare gourmet foods company. "I don't have time to cook, and many other people are in the same position." The following are some tips from the experts at Tastefully Simple on how to be prepared at short notice for any kind of gathering this season: * Archive good recipes.
From time to time you run across a recipe that would be great for entertaining: a quick and easy soup, an interesting hors d'oeuvre, a good mulled cider mixture. Keep an active file of the ones you want to try so they are ready for you when you need them. This way you won't have to scramble when you need to find something to make at the last minute. * Keep important staples on hand at all times.
There are certain items that your pantry shouldn't be without during the holidays: a variety of crackers, chips and mixed nuts; cream cheese for a cheese ball; sour cream for an easy dip; some fresh spices such as ginger, cinnamon and cloves for mulling and condiments such as mayonnaise, mustard, preserves and chutney. It's also a good idea to have a selection of beer, wine and soft drinks available. * Stock some items that can be ready to serve quickly.
Even if you don't like to cook, you'll be able to whip together a menu that will impress your friends and relatives with the help of a few Tastefully Simple products. Each one is either ready to serve, or can be prepared by adding just one or two additional ingredients. Ensure your gathering will be a success with these simple, savory dips: Tastefully Simple Spinach & Herb Mix, Garlic Garlic and Bacon Bacon Mixes 1 1/2 cups sour cream 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise 3 large red or green bell peppers Tastefully Simple Bountiful Beer Bread Mix 12 ounce beer (or any carbonated beverage) 3 tablespoons butter, melted Prepare all three dip mixes with sour cream and mayonnaise as directed on packaging; chill in separate bowls for 2 hours. Prepare Bountiful Beer Bread Mix with beer and butter as directed on package; cools and cube. Carefully slice tops off bell peppers, seed, core; reserve lids. Fill each pepper with one of the prepared dips.
Place filled peppers next to lids on lettuce-leaf-lined plate; serve alongside basket of Bountiful Beer Bread cubes for dipping. Makes 3 cups dip.
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