Even if the only things you’re comfortable making are reservations, there will come a time when people come over to your house for drinks and snacks. Maybe it’s Thursday night cocktails, maybe it’s the meeting place before the concert, maybe it’s the after-hours spot, maybe it’s the first course of your neighborhood’s traveling dinner.

Regardless of the reason, it’s going to be A Thing That Happens, so you may as well be prepared. Because I LOVE cooking, I’ve found having a few things in my pantry and fridge/freezer makes dinnertime or hosting an impromptu get-together incredibly simple. However, even if you don’t love cooking, with a few easy recipes, you’ll look like a hosting pro with your Eating with Erica-approved, approachably glamorous hor d’oeuvres.

Caramelized Onions

If you haven’t read one of my recipes before, you may be unaware of my love for this golden-brown amazingness. With very little active cooking time, you can have an amazing onion jam that is perfect for topping crostini and flatbreads, and serves as a base for weeknight pan sauces. (Protip: You can also do a large amount in the slow cooker with three tablespoons of butter, on low heat for 8-10 hours. Just be sure to use a liner.)

Balsamic Syrup

This stuff is liquid gold, y’all, and it couldn’t be easier to make. Heat one cup of balsamic vinegar and one tablespoon of sugar over low heat until it is reduced by half and the consistency of maple syrup. That’s it! It’s great over steak, caprese salads, or even strawberries and vanilla ice cream. Keeps in the fridge for pretty much ever.

Cheese

It may be so basic millennial to wax poetic on cheeses, but classics are classics for a reason. It’s not a scientific formula, but if you always have at least one hard, one soft, one shredded, and a bonus smoked cheese, you can throw together a variety of appetizers pretty quickly. My fridge almost always has Parmigiano Reggiano, goat cheese, fresh mozzarella, shredded cheddar, and either smoked gouda or cheddar.

Freezer Staples

Keep prepared puff pastry and frozen slices of store-bought baguette in your freezer, and your life will be changed. Puff pastry thaws quickly, can be used to make everything from fancy looking flatbread to pigs in a blanket. Your baguette slices be toasted directly on your oven racks, and topped with all manner of goodness (like warm caramelized onions and the goat cheese and balsamic syrup you now have in your fridge).

Pantry Staples

There’s no shame in serving store-bought food to your guests. If you have a favorite jam or hummus or jarred sauce that consistently tastes good, serve it with pride. You can also keep nuts and dried fruit on hand, and you have all the things on hand you need to make a great, impromptu cheese platter.

I won’t say hosting people isn’t stressful; as a high-functioning introvert and a Virgo, I care a lot about having people in my house. But as a pep talk from the perspective of being a guest, I could not tell you what I’ve eaten at friends’ houses during parties or happy hours. I remember creating new memories with the best people I know, and I remember feeling loved that they took time to feed me and invite me into their lives.  Happy hosting and bon appetit! 

By: Rachel Boyd 

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