We moved into a new neighborhood which means a lot of impromptu happy hours as we meet new friends. And I mean, the empty nest lifestyle is all about having fun and being flexible, am I right? I happen to live near the beach so making quick trips to the grocery store is a nightmare. I hit beach traffic, the store can be crowded with Millennials buying their White Claw and Doritos. So I try to plan ahead and keep my fridge and pantry stocked with a few items that let me throw together quick happy hour appetizers.
The truth is, I’m not the best at planning ahead. I used to be, but I believe I’ve had too many tabs open in my brain for too long now so my attention to detail and my consummate hostess skills have gone out the window. Yes, I’m often that friend that shows up at a party empty-handed (note to self: get better at this!).
Here’s what I keep stocked for quick happy hour appetizers:
1. Jarred or fresh olives – I’d add cornichon and any pickled veggies to this list. They’re great to put in a delicate little glass dish an added to a charcuterie tray.
2. Dried sausage – These cured meats will keep forever in your refrigerator. I buy the ones that are unsliced as I feel they retain their taste much longer.
3. Crackers – Duh. But not just any crackers. I keep an array of delicate crackers you’d use to impress people with, although I have been known to throw a few Ritz or saltines on a plate. These are my favorite at the moment.
4. Dried fruit – These products have come a long way. Fresh fruit doesn’t keep long in the Florida heat (even in the fridge) so I buy the dried fruits now. Everything from dried mango (with chili pepper – yum) to apples to banana chips. Even at happy hour, you feel like you’re eating healthy. Ish.
5. Nuts – Always the simplest ingredient to put in a pretty bowl and offer your guests. But go for the more exotic flavors.
6. Phyllo dough – If you want to show your last-minute guests that you’re a real Martha Stewart in the kitchen, wrap some cooked asparagus in phyllo dough from the freezer and baked them til the crust gets crispy. You can also cut the dough into tiny circles and press them into a mini muffin pan and make a pastry cup to hold other bite size ingredients.
7. Cream puffs – This is my all-time best kept secret. I keep these mini cream puffs in my freezer for those late night guests (sometimes happy hour does that). To make them look really pretty and special, I put them in a glass bowl and dribble blueberries over them and put dollops of spray whipped cream on them. The presentation always looks like more work than it is but best of all, they’re light and yummy.