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How to Throw the Best Dinner Party on Your Block With Just 3 Hours’ Notice

How to Throw the Best Dinner Party on Your Block With Just 3 Hours’ Notice

A minute-by-minute guide to hosting a successful dinner party in less than 3 hours

It’s 4:45 p.m. Your phone buzzes, and a message flashes up on your screen: “So looking forward to seeing you later, is it 8 p.m.? Anything I can bring?” You’re hosting a dinner party in three hours, and you’ve completely forgotten about it. Don’t stress, but do rush. This can be done, but you’ll need this step-by-step guide to show you how.

How to Throw the Best Dinner Party on Your Block With Just 3 Hours’ Notice

It’s 4:45 p.m. This can be done, but you’ll need this step-by-step guide to show you how.

5 p.m.: Make a List

Get out of the office, and get on the subway. Don’t panic and stare blankly into space all the way home; start making your list. Write down all the ingredients you need and detail everything you need to do in the next three hours. This will ensure you don’t forget anything, and will give you a good sense of what your priorities are.

5.25pm: Delegate

Once your list is made, and you know exactly what you need, send a message to your guests asking them to bring what you don’t have time to buy. Whether it’s some olives or salted nuts for them to have when they arrive, flowers for you to decorate the table with, or a bottle of wine to go with dinner, ask them for it, and breathe a sigh of relief as you cross those items off your list.

5:30 p.m.: Food Shopping

Sadly, today is not the day to shop at the butcher, baker, greengrocer, wine store, and deli. Run off the subway into your best local supermarket. Stick firmly to your list, but if there’s anything the store sells that serves as a shortcut for you, buy it. Pre-washed greens are your new best friend in this last-minute dinner party situation, as is a bottled, ready-mixed salad dressing.

5:50 p.m.: Drinks Shopping

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Even if you’ve delegated wine to go with dinner to your friends, you’re going to need something on hand for as soon as your guests walk through the door. Don’t try and mix up your favorite fancy cocktail; stick to something simple. White wine, sparkling wine, or gin and tonics are easy, popular options.

6 p.m.: Chill the Drinks

As soon as you’re home, put the drinks in the refrigerator. You don’t want to start off your party with warm white wine. If your refrigerator isn’t particularly cold, stick them in the freezer for a little while, and then transfer them to the refrigerator once they’ve been sufficiently chilled. Just remember not to leave them in the freezer for too long — a glass of frozen wine isn’t the best way to welcome your friends.

6:05 p.m.: Set the Atmosphere

Get yourself in the mood for hosting a dinner party, and the dinner party will easily follow. Put on an upbeat, but calming playlist, turn the bright lights down, light some candles, and set the table. As soon as your home is ready to host, you will be too.

6:15 p.m.: Put Out the Appetizers

Set the appetizers out now. If not, you’ll get distracted in the kitchen, forget about them, and will end up serving really cold olives, and nuts out of the plastic bag they came in. Lay them all out beautifully on the table, with drinks glasses nearby. A welcoming spread of food waiting for your friends will get the evening off to a wonderful start, and will, if necessary, buy you a few extra minutes of kitchen time.

6:30 p.m.: Prepare the Entrée

This is the only dish you’re really going to cook yourself this evening, so you can take a bit of time over it. Lay out all your ingredients, and make sure you follow your recipe carefully. If you’re making this Arugula-Basil-Ricotta Pesto Pasta, now is the time to whip up the pesto in the blender, and measure out the pasta so it’s ready to go. If you’ve gone for the baked ziti, get the dish to the stage where it’s ready to be thrown in the oven when you know it’s 20 minutes until dinnertime.

7 p.m.: Prepare the Sides

Empty your pre-washed greens into a beautiful salad bowl, sprinkle on any extra seeds or vegetables that you fancy, and pour the store-bought dressing into a small bowl to be served on the side. A few simple additions to a leafy salad elevate it to a higher level, and by serving the dressing in its own bowl, your guests will be convinced that you made it yourself.

7:40 p.m.: Prepare Dessert

You have 20 minutes to spare, so you may as well get ahead, and start preparing dessert. Our favorite last-minute desserts are a simple store-bought ice cream with berries, or this indulgent dish of iced berries with limoncello-white-chocolate cream. Whichever you’ve decided to serve, both allow for ahead-of-time preparation. Wash and chop the berries for the ice cream and toss them in a bowl with a sprinkling of sugar, or make the white chocolate sauce for the iced berries, which can simply be reheated five minutes before you’re ready to serve.

7:55 p.m.: Finish the Entrée

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The entrée doesn’t require any more active, concentrated cooking effort from you, but it does need a little bit of time in the oven or on the stove. The baked ziti needs 20 minutes in the warm oven, so you can put that in now and serve it hot and bubbling when it’s done, and for the pasta pesto you just need to cook the pasta. Do this now, so all you have to do when your guests are there is carry it to the table.

8 p.m.: Party Time

Pour yourself a drink, remove your apron, and turn the music up a little. When your guests walk through the door, they’ll smell dinner cooking, be handed a cold drink, and will immediately relax and smile while nibbling on some olives and salty Parmigiano-Reggiano. You’re cool, calm, and collected, and in 20 minutes time, a fabulous dinner will be served. No one needs to know that this was all achieved in just three hours.


9 quick and easy recipes to throw together for last-minute guests

Surprise! Your in-laws just dropped by for an unexpected visit. Your first instinct is probably to run to the fridge and look for some food to put out, but the bag of baby carrots and the stale cookies in your pantry just won’t cut it. But have no fear — you don’t have to let your mother-in-law silently judge you for 30 minutes while you wait for the pizza delivery. With just a little bit of forethought, it’s easy to impress unexpected guests with a simple last-minute appetizer or meal.

The first step in having something to throw together is planning ahead. That may seem easier said than done with the madness of the holiday rush, but it really only takes five minutes to assess what you have, make a list of essentials and then grab them the next time you're at the grocery store. Here are some simple tips to make sure you’re well prepared for spontaneous festivities:

  • Take an inventory: Spend a few minutes looking through your pantry, fridge and freezer, to get a sense of what you're working with to whip up a last-minute dish. While doing so, break out your phone — or pen and paper, if you’re old school — and write down the ingredients you have on hand that could work. (If you’re not sure what works as a good base for a dish, check out the expert recommendations below before taking inventory.)
  • Stock up the pantry: If your inventory is looking a bit bare, add some items to your shopping list. Think about different courses, like appetizers, mains, drinks and desserts. Items like canned beans, jarred olives, artichokes and peppers, crackers, Chex mix, dry pasta, jarred sauce, seltzer and even baking mixes are lifesavers. Pro tip: order non-perishable items online from big box stores to save yourself a trip to the store. Shipping is usually free!
  • Buy some frozen essentials: Having a well-stocked pantry will probably suffice, but it never hurts to keep some goodies in the freezer as well. If you’re cooking dinner one night and find yourself with some leftover chopped veggies, freeze them! Other helpful freezer staples are edamame, frozen brown rice or frozen appetizer bites.

Now that you’re well prepared, it’s time to pull from your storage and create a killer dish in a flash. We tapped some registered dietitians for their go-to bites when last-minute guests stop by.

Hummus

Break out your food processor and impress you guests with a homemade hummus on the fly. “Hummus requires ingredients I almost always have, but it's also easily customizable,” says Chef Julie Andrews, MS, RDN, CD. “I use canned chickpeas or another bean, olive oil, garlic, tahini (you can skip if you don't have any), lemon, salt and pepper and serve it with crackers, pita or veggies,” she adds. If you don’t have these items in your pantry, now is the time to add them to your list.

Pasta Bolognese

A pasta dinner is only minutes away, if you’ve got the right ingredients. “A super quick crowd-pleasing meal only requires ground turkey, a jar of marinara sauce and a box of pasta,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, author of “The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club” and founder of NutritionStarringYOU.com. Just brown the meat in a skillet, cook the pasta and then combine the two in a bowl with jarred sauce. “It feeds about six people in under 20 minutes,” says Harris-Pincus.

No-Bake Chocolate Almond Bites

If you’ve got a food processor, chocolate chips, dates and nuts, you’ve got a quick no-bake dessert. If you’re out of almonds, try walnuts or pecans. Don’t have chocolate chips? Use white chocolate or a candy bar you’ve got stashed in the drawer. This recipe is completely customizable based on the ingredients you have on hand.

White Bean Romesco Dip

Romesco dip sounds and tastes more elegant than it actually is. “It's basically almonds (or any nuts you have on hand), roasted red peppers, olive oil, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper all zipped up in a food processor or blender,” says chef and Registered Dietitian Abbie Gellman, MS, RD. “For added plant-based protein to fill up your guests, include some white beans in the mix,” says Gellman.

Frittata

Guests show up at the most unexpected times. For breakfast or brunch guests, a simple frittata will hit the spot. Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN, New York-based culinary nutrition expert and author of 52-Week Meal Planner, suggests utilizing a fridge staple to whip up a baked egg dish. You can sub in any frozen veggies you may have to make this simple crowd-pleaser. Serve with salad greens, toasted bread slices and a pot of coffee (and pour yourself an extra cup).

Holiday Snack Mix

Making a holiday snack mix is as easy as raiding the pantry. “Grab a few crunchy things, one sweet thing and one salty thing,” says Sara Haas, RDN, LDN, culinary dietitian and author of Taco! Taco! Taco! and co-author Fertility Foods. “Toss it all together and serve in a festive bowl or dish — no cooking required,” Haas adds.

Freezer Flatbread

“I always keep some sort of flatbread in the freezer so I can pull it out and make a go-to pizza that everyone will enjoy,” says Elizabeth Shaw MS RDN CLT CPT, nutrition expert and owner of ShawSimpleSwaps.com. She suggests adding any sauce you find in the cupboard. “If you don’t have pizza sauce, you can use BBQ sauce or another condiment and top it with cheese, veggies or basically anything you can find in the fridge or pantry,” says Shaw.

Cheese Platter

“I always have at least one block of cheese in my fridge (I stock up when it’s on sale),” says Jenna Braddock, MSH, CSSD, RD Dietitian and food blogger at MakeHealthyEasy.com. “From there, I add whatever crackers or bread I have around, lay out any fresh fruit from my fridge, and finish it off with a dried fruit or nuts.” The best part of this is that you can customize the type of cheese, fruit and nuts to suit your taste (or based on what you’re able to scrounge up). And might we add this is the perfect time to break out that fancy serving dish your in-laws bought you that's been collecting dust in the cabinet?

Fruity Spritzer

While you're at it, kick your drink game up a notch, too. Wine is always a winner, but why not think outside of the bottle this year with a fruity spritzer? Just combine 3 ounces of your favorite wine with 1 ounce of seltzer and 1 ounce of 100% fruit juice, and garnish with fresh fruit slices, if you have them. Your guests will be impressed and feel special — like you were planning for their arrival all along.


9 quick and easy recipes to throw together for last-minute guests

Surprise! Your in-laws just dropped by for an unexpected visit. Your first instinct is probably to run to the fridge and look for some food to put out, but the bag of baby carrots and the stale cookies in your pantry just won’t cut it. But have no fear — you don’t have to let your mother-in-law silently judge you for 30 minutes while you wait for the pizza delivery. With just a little bit of forethought, it’s easy to impress unexpected guests with a simple last-minute appetizer or meal.

The first step in having something to throw together is planning ahead. That may seem easier said than done with the madness of the holiday rush, but it really only takes five minutes to assess what you have, make a list of essentials and then grab them the next time you're at the grocery store. Here are some simple tips to make sure you’re well prepared for spontaneous festivities:

  • Take an inventory: Spend a few minutes looking through your pantry, fridge and freezer, to get a sense of what you're working with to whip up a last-minute dish. While doing so, break out your phone — or pen and paper, if you’re old school — and write down the ingredients you have on hand that could work. (If you’re not sure what works as a good base for a dish, check out the expert recommendations below before taking inventory.)
  • Stock up the pantry: If your inventory is looking a bit bare, add some items to your shopping list. Think about different courses, like appetizers, mains, drinks and desserts. Items like canned beans, jarred olives, artichokes and peppers, crackers, Chex mix, dry pasta, jarred sauce, seltzer and even baking mixes are lifesavers. Pro tip: order non-perishable items online from big box stores to save yourself a trip to the store. Shipping is usually free!
  • Buy some frozen essentials: Having a well-stocked pantry will probably suffice, but it never hurts to keep some goodies in the freezer as well. If you’re cooking dinner one night and find yourself with some leftover chopped veggies, freeze them! Other helpful freezer staples are edamame, frozen brown rice or frozen appetizer bites.

Now that you’re well prepared, it’s time to pull from your storage and create a killer dish in a flash. We tapped some registered dietitians for their go-to bites when last-minute guests stop by.

Hummus

Break out your food processor and impress you guests with a homemade hummus on the fly. “Hummus requires ingredients I almost always have, but it's also easily customizable,” says Chef Julie Andrews, MS, RDN, CD. “I use canned chickpeas or another bean, olive oil, garlic, tahini (you can skip if you don't have any), lemon, salt and pepper and serve it with crackers, pita or veggies,” she adds. If you don’t have these items in your pantry, now is the time to add them to your list.

Pasta Bolognese

A pasta dinner is only minutes away, if you’ve got the right ingredients. “A super quick crowd-pleasing meal only requires ground turkey, a jar of marinara sauce and a box of pasta,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, author of “The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club” and founder of NutritionStarringYOU.com. Just brown the meat in a skillet, cook the pasta and then combine the two in a bowl with jarred sauce. “It feeds about six people in under 20 minutes,” says Harris-Pincus.

No-Bake Chocolate Almond Bites

If you’ve got a food processor, chocolate chips, dates and nuts, you’ve got a quick no-bake dessert. If you’re out of almonds, try walnuts or pecans. Don’t have chocolate chips? Use white chocolate or a candy bar you’ve got stashed in the drawer. This recipe is completely customizable based on the ingredients you have on hand.

White Bean Romesco Dip

Romesco dip sounds and tastes more elegant than it actually is. “It's basically almonds (or any nuts you have on hand), roasted red peppers, olive oil, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper all zipped up in a food processor or blender,” says chef and Registered Dietitian Abbie Gellman, MS, RD. “For added plant-based protein to fill up your guests, include some white beans in the mix,” says Gellman.

Frittata

Guests show up at the most unexpected times. For breakfast or brunch guests, a simple frittata will hit the spot. Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN, New York-based culinary nutrition expert and author of 52-Week Meal Planner, suggests utilizing a fridge staple to whip up a baked egg dish. You can sub in any frozen veggies you may have to make this simple crowd-pleaser. Serve with salad greens, toasted bread slices and a pot of coffee (and pour yourself an extra cup).

Holiday Snack Mix

Making a holiday snack mix is as easy as raiding the pantry. “Grab a few crunchy things, one sweet thing and one salty thing,” says Sara Haas, RDN, LDN, culinary dietitian and author of Taco! Taco! Taco! and co-author Fertility Foods. “Toss it all together and serve in a festive bowl or dish — no cooking required,” Haas adds.

Freezer Flatbread

“I always keep some sort of flatbread in the freezer so I can pull it out and make a go-to pizza that everyone will enjoy,” says Elizabeth Shaw MS RDN CLT CPT, nutrition expert and owner of ShawSimpleSwaps.com. She suggests adding any sauce you find in the cupboard. “If you don’t have pizza sauce, you can use BBQ sauce or another condiment and top it with cheese, veggies or basically anything you can find in the fridge or pantry,” says Shaw.

Cheese Platter

“I always have at least one block of cheese in my fridge (I stock up when it’s on sale),” says Jenna Braddock, MSH, CSSD, RD Dietitian and food blogger at MakeHealthyEasy.com. “From there, I add whatever crackers or bread I have around, lay out any fresh fruit from my fridge, and finish it off with a dried fruit or nuts.” The best part of this is that you can customize the type of cheese, fruit and nuts to suit your taste (or based on what you’re able to scrounge up). And might we add this is the perfect time to break out that fancy serving dish your in-laws bought you that's been collecting dust in the cabinet?

Fruity Spritzer

While you're at it, kick your drink game up a notch, too. Wine is always a winner, but why not think outside of the bottle this year with a fruity spritzer? Just combine 3 ounces of your favorite wine with 1 ounce of seltzer and 1 ounce of 100% fruit juice, and garnish with fresh fruit slices, if you have them. Your guests will be impressed and feel special — like you were planning for their arrival all along.


9 quick and easy recipes to throw together for last-minute guests

Surprise! Your in-laws just dropped by for an unexpected visit. Your first instinct is probably to run to the fridge and look for some food to put out, but the bag of baby carrots and the stale cookies in your pantry just won’t cut it. But have no fear — you don’t have to let your mother-in-law silently judge you for 30 minutes while you wait for the pizza delivery. With just a little bit of forethought, it’s easy to impress unexpected guests with a simple last-minute appetizer or meal.

The first step in having something to throw together is planning ahead. That may seem easier said than done with the madness of the holiday rush, but it really only takes five minutes to assess what you have, make a list of essentials and then grab them the next time you're at the grocery store. Here are some simple tips to make sure you’re well prepared for spontaneous festivities:

  • Take an inventory: Spend a few minutes looking through your pantry, fridge and freezer, to get a sense of what you're working with to whip up a last-minute dish. While doing so, break out your phone — or pen and paper, if you’re old school — and write down the ingredients you have on hand that could work. (If you’re not sure what works as a good base for a dish, check out the expert recommendations below before taking inventory.)
  • Stock up the pantry: If your inventory is looking a bit bare, add some items to your shopping list. Think about different courses, like appetizers, mains, drinks and desserts. Items like canned beans, jarred olives, artichokes and peppers, crackers, Chex mix, dry pasta, jarred sauce, seltzer and even baking mixes are lifesavers. Pro tip: order non-perishable items online from big box stores to save yourself a trip to the store. Shipping is usually free!
  • Buy some frozen essentials: Having a well-stocked pantry will probably suffice, but it never hurts to keep some goodies in the freezer as well. If you’re cooking dinner one night and find yourself with some leftover chopped veggies, freeze them! Other helpful freezer staples are edamame, frozen brown rice or frozen appetizer bites.

Now that you’re well prepared, it’s time to pull from your storage and create a killer dish in a flash. We tapped some registered dietitians for their go-to bites when last-minute guests stop by.

Hummus

Break out your food processor and impress you guests with a homemade hummus on the fly. “Hummus requires ingredients I almost always have, but it's also easily customizable,” says Chef Julie Andrews, MS, RDN, CD. “I use canned chickpeas or another bean, olive oil, garlic, tahini (you can skip if you don't have any), lemon, salt and pepper and serve it with crackers, pita or veggies,” she adds. If you don’t have these items in your pantry, now is the time to add them to your list.

Pasta Bolognese

A pasta dinner is only minutes away, if you’ve got the right ingredients. “A super quick crowd-pleasing meal only requires ground turkey, a jar of marinara sauce and a box of pasta,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, author of “The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club” and founder of NutritionStarringYOU.com. Just brown the meat in a skillet, cook the pasta and then combine the two in a bowl with jarred sauce. “It feeds about six people in under 20 minutes,” says Harris-Pincus.

No-Bake Chocolate Almond Bites

If you’ve got a food processor, chocolate chips, dates and nuts, you’ve got a quick no-bake dessert. If you’re out of almonds, try walnuts or pecans. Don’t have chocolate chips? Use white chocolate or a candy bar you’ve got stashed in the drawer. This recipe is completely customizable based on the ingredients you have on hand.

White Bean Romesco Dip

Romesco dip sounds and tastes more elegant than it actually is. “It's basically almonds (or any nuts you have on hand), roasted red peppers, olive oil, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper all zipped up in a food processor or blender,” says chef and Registered Dietitian Abbie Gellman, MS, RD. “For added plant-based protein to fill up your guests, include some white beans in the mix,” says Gellman.

Frittata

Guests show up at the most unexpected times. For breakfast or brunch guests, a simple frittata will hit the spot. Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN, New York-based culinary nutrition expert and author of 52-Week Meal Planner, suggests utilizing a fridge staple to whip up a baked egg dish. You can sub in any frozen veggies you may have to make this simple crowd-pleaser. Serve with salad greens, toasted bread slices and a pot of coffee (and pour yourself an extra cup).

Holiday Snack Mix

Making a holiday snack mix is as easy as raiding the pantry. “Grab a few crunchy things, one sweet thing and one salty thing,” says Sara Haas, RDN, LDN, culinary dietitian and author of Taco! Taco! Taco! and co-author Fertility Foods. “Toss it all together and serve in a festive bowl or dish — no cooking required,” Haas adds.

Freezer Flatbread

“I always keep some sort of flatbread in the freezer so I can pull it out and make a go-to pizza that everyone will enjoy,” says Elizabeth Shaw MS RDN CLT CPT, nutrition expert and owner of ShawSimpleSwaps.com. She suggests adding any sauce you find in the cupboard. “If you don’t have pizza sauce, you can use BBQ sauce or another condiment and top it with cheese, veggies or basically anything you can find in the fridge or pantry,” says Shaw.

Cheese Platter

“I always have at least one block of cheese in my fridge (I stock up when it’s on sale),” says Jenna Braddock, MSH, CSSD, RD Dietitian and food blogger at MakeHealthyEasy.com. “From there, I add whatever crackers or bread I have around, lay out any fresh fruit from my fridge, and finish it off with a dried fruit or nuts.” The best part of this is that you can customize the type of cheese, fruit and nuts to suit your taste (or based on what you’re able to scrounge up). And might we add this is the perfect time to break out that fancy serving dish your in-laws bought you that's been collecting dust in the cabinet?

Fruity Spritzer

While you're at it, kick your drink game up a notch, too. Wine is always a winner, but why not think outside of the bottle this year with a fruity spritzer? Just combine 3 ounces of your favorite wine with 1 ounce of seltzer and 1 ounce of 100% fruit juice, and garnish with fresh fruit slices, if you have them. Your guests will be impressed and feel special — like you were planning for their arrival all along.


9 quick and easy recipes to throw together for last-minute guests

Surprise! Your in-laws just dropped by for an unexpected visit. Your first instinct is probably to run to the fridge and look for some food to put out, but the bag of baby carrots and the stale cookies in your pantry just won’t cut it. But have no fear — you don’t have to let your mother-in-law silently judge you for 30 minutes while you wait for the pizza delivery. With just a little bit of forethought, it’s easy to impress unexpected guests with a simple last-minute appetizer or meal.

The first step in having something to throw together is planning ahead. That may seem easier said than done with the madness of the holiday rush, but it really only takes five minutes to assess what you have, make a list of essentials and then grab them the next time you're at the grocery store. Here are some simple tips to make sure you’re well prepared for spontaneous festivities:

  • Take an inventory: Spend a few minutes looking through your pantry, fridge and freezer, to get a sense of what you're working with to whip up a last-minute dish. While doing so, break out your phone — or pen and paper, if you’re old school — and write down the ingredients you have on hand that could work. (If you’re not sure what works as a good base for a dish, check out the expert recommendations below before taking inventory.)
  • Stock up the pantry: If your inventory is looking a bit bare, add some items to your shopping list. Think about different courses, like appetizers, mains, drinks and desserts. Items like canned beans, jarred olives, artichokes and peppers, crackers, Chex mix, dry pasta, jarred sauce, seltzer and even baking mixes are lifesavers. Pro tip: order non-perishable items online from big box stores to save yourself a trip to the store. Shipping is usually free!
  • Buy some frozen essentials: Having a well-stocked pantry will probably suffice, but it never hurts to keep some goodies in the freezer as well. If you’re cooking dinner one night and find yourself with some leftover chopped veggies, freeze them! Other helpful freezer staples are edamame, frozen brown rice or frozen appetizer bites.

Now that you’re well prepared, it’s time to pull from your storage and create a killer dish in a flash. We tapped some registered dietitians for their go-to bites when last-minute guests stop by.

Hummus

Break out your food processor and impress you guests with a homemade hummus on the fly. “Hummus requires ingredients I almost always have, but it's also easily customizable,” says Chef Julie Andrews, MS, RDN, CD. “I use canned chickpeas or another bean, olive oil, garlic, tahini (you can skip if you don't have any), lemon, salt and pepper and serve it with crackers, pita or veggies,” she adds. If you don’t have these items in your pantry, now is the time to add them to your list.

Pasta Bolognese

A pasta dinner is only minutes away, if you’ve got the right ingredients. “A super quick crowd-pleasing meal only requires ground turkey, a jar of marinara sauce and a box of pasta,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, author of “The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club” and founder of NutritionStarringYOU.com. Just brown the meat in a skillet, cook the pasta and then combine the two in a bowl with jarred sauce. “It feeds about six people in under 20 minutes,” says Harris-Pincus.

No-Bake Chocolate Almond Bites

If you’ve got a food processor, chocolate chips, dates and nuts, you’ve got a quick no-bake dessert. If you’re out of almonds, try walnuts or pecans. Don’t have chocolate chips? Use white chocolate or a candy bar you’ve got stashed in the drawer. This recipe is completely customizable based on the ingredients you have on hand.

White Bean Romesco Dip

Romesco dip sounds and tastes more elegant than it actually is. “It's basically almonds (or any nuts you have on hand), roasted red peppers, olive oil, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper all zipped up in a food processor or blender,” says chef and Registered Dietitian Abbie Gellman, MS, RD. “For added plant-based protein to fill up your guests, include some white beans in the mix,” says Gellman.

Frittata

Guests show up at the most unexpected times. For breakfast or brunch guests, a simple frittata will hit the spot. Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN, New York-based culinary nutrition expert and author of 52-Week Meal Planner, suggests utilizing a fridge staple to whip up a baked egg dish. You can sub in any frozen veggies you may have to make this simple crowd-pleaser. Serve with salad greens, toasted bread slices and a pot of coffee (and pour yourself an extra cup).

Holiday Snack Mix

Making a holiday snack mix is as easy as raiding the pantry. “Grab a few crunchy things, one sweet thing and one salty thing,” says Sara Haas, RDN, LDN, culinary dietitian and author of Taco! Taco! Taco! and co-author Fertility Foods. “Toss it all together and serve in a festive bowl or dish — no cooking required,” Haas adds.

Freezer Flatbread

“I always keep some sort of flatbread in the freezer so I can pull it out and make a go-to pizza that everyone will enjoy,” says Elizabeth Shaw MS RDN CLT CPT, nutrition expert and owner of ShawSimpleSwaps.com. She suggests adding any sauce you find in the cupboard. “If you don’t have pizza sauce, you can use BBQ sauce or another condiment and top it with cheese, veggies or basically anything you can find in the fridge or pantry,” says Shaw.

Cheese Platter

“I always have at least one block of cheese in my fridge (I stock up when it’s on sale),” says Jenna Braddock, MSH, CSSD, RD Dietitian and food blogger at MakeHealthyEasy.com. “From there, I add whatever crackers or bread I have around, lay out any fresh fruit from my fridge, and finish it off with a dried fruit or nuts.” The best part of this is that you can customize the type of cheese, fruit and nuts to suit your taste (or based on what you’re able to scrounge up). And might we add this is the perfect time to break out that fancy serving dish your in-laws bought you that's been collecting dust in the cabinet?

Fruity Spritzer

While you're at it, kick your drink game up a notch, too. Wine is always a winner, but why not think outside of the bottle this year with a fruity spritzer? Just combine 3 ounces of your favorite wine with 1 ounce of seltzer and 1 ounce of 100% fruit juice, and garnish with fresh fruit slices, if you have them. Your guests will be impressed and feel special — like you were planning for their arrival all along.


9 quick and easy recipes to throw together for last-minute guests

Surprise! Your in-laws just dropped by for an unexpected visit. Your first instinct is probably to run to the fridge and look for some food to put out, but the bag of baby carrots and the stale cookies in your pantry just won’t cut it. But have no fear — you don’t have to let your mother-in-law silently judge you for 30 minutes while you wait for the pizza delivery. With just a little bit of forethought, it’s easy to impress unexpected guests with a simple last-minute appetizer or meal.

The first step in having something to throw together is planning ahead. That may seem easier said than done with the madness of the holiday rush, but it really only takes five minutes to assess what you have, make a list of essentials and then grab them the next time you're at the grocery store. Here are some simple tips to make sure you’re well prepared for spontaneous festivities:

  • Take an inventory: Spend a few minutes looking through your pantry, fridge and freezer, to get a sense of what you're working with to whip up a last-minute dish. While doing so, break out your phone — or pen and paper, if you’re old school — and write down the ingredients you have on hand that could work. (If you’re not sure what works as a good base for a dish, check out the expert recommendations below before taking inventory.)
  • Stock up the pantry: If your inventory is looking a bit bare, add some items to your shopping list. Think about different courses, like appetizers, mains, drinks and desserts. Items like canned beans, jarred olives, artichokes and peppers, crackers, Chex mix, dry pasta, jarred sauce, seltzer and even baking mixes are lifesavers. Pro tip: order non-perishable items online from big box stores to save yourself a trip to the store. Shipping is usually free!
  • Buy some frozen essentials: Having a well-stocked pantry will probably suffice, but it never hurts to keep some goodies in the freezer as well. If you’re cooking dinner one night and find yourself with some leftover chopped veggies, freeze them! Other helpful freezer staples are edamame, frozen brown rice or frozen appetizer bites.

Now that you’re well prepared, it’s time to pull from your storage and create a killer dish in a flash. We tapped some registered dietitians for their go-to bites when last-minute guests stop by.

Hummus

Break out your food processor and impress you guests with a homemade hummus on the fly. “Hummus requires ingredients I almost always have, but it's also easily customizable,” says Chef Julie Andrews, MS, RDN, CD. “I use canned chickpeas or another bean, olive oil, garlic, tahini (you can skip if you don't have any), lemon, salt and pepper and serve it with crackers, pita or veggies,” she adds. If you don’t have these items in your pantry, now is the time to add them to your list.

Pasta Bolognese

A pasta dinner is only minutes away, if you’ve got the right ingredients. “A super quick crowd-pleasing meal only requires ground turkey, a jar of marinara sauce and a box of pasta,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, author of “The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club” and founder of NutritionStarringYOU.com. Just brown the meat in a skillet, cook the pasta and then combine the two in a bowl with jarred sauce. “It feeds about six people in under 20 minutes,” says Harris-Pincus.

No-Bake Chocolate Almond Bites

If you’ve got a food processor, chocolate chips, dates and nuts, you’ve got a quick no-bake dessert. If you’re out of almonds, try walnuts or pecans. Don’t have chocolate chips? Use white chocolate or a candy bar you’ve got stashed in the drawer. This recipe is completely customizable based on the ingredients you have on hand.

White Bean Romesco Dip

Romesco dip sounds and tastes more elegant than it actually is. “It's basically almonds (or any nuts you have on hand), roasted red peppers, olive oil, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper all zipped up in a food processor or blender,” says chef and Registered Dietitian Abbie Gellman, MS, RD. “For added plant-based protein to fill up your guests, include some white beans in the mix,” says Gellman.

Frittata

Guests show up at the most unexpected times. For breakfast or brunch guests, a simple frittata will hit the spot. Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN, New York-based culinary nutrition expert and author of 52-Week Meal Planner, suggests utilizing a fridge staple to whip up a baked egg dish. You can sub in any frozen veggies you may have to make this simple crowd-pleaser. Serve with salad greens, toasted bread slices and a pot of coffee (and pour yourself an extra cup).

Holiday Snack Mix

Making a holiday snack mix is as easy as raiding the pantry. “Grab a few crunchy things, one sweet thing and one salty thing,” says Sara Haas, RDN, LDN, culinary dietitian and author of Taco! Taco! Taco! and co-author Fertility Foods. “Toss it all together and serve in a festive bowl or dish — no cooking required,” Haas adds.

Freezer Flatbread

“I always keep some sort of flatbread in the freezer so I can pull it out and make a go-to pizza that everyone will enjoy,” says Elizabeth Shaw MS RDN CLT CPT, nutrition expert and owner of ShawSimpleSwaps.com. She suggests adding any sauce you find in the cupboard. “If you don’t have pizza sauce, you can use BBQ sauce or another condiment and top it with cheese, veggies or basically anything you can find in the fridge or pantry,” says Shaw.

Cheese Platter

“I always have at least one block of cheese in my fridge (I stock up when it’s on sale),” says Jenna Braddock, MSH, CSSD, RD Dietitian and food blogger at MakeHealthyEasy.com. “From there, I add whatever crackers or bread I have around, lay out any fresh fruit from my fridge, and finish it off with a dried fruit or nuts.” The best part of this is that you can customize the type of cheese, fruit and nuts to suit your taste (or based on what you’re able to scrounge up). And might we add this is the perfect time to break out that fancy serving dish your in-laws bought you that's been collecting dust in the cabinet?

Fruity Spritzer

While you're at it, kick your drink game up a notch, too. Wine is always a winner, but why not think outside of the bottle this year with a fruity spritzer? Just combine 3 ounces of your favorite wine with 1 ounce of seltzer and 1 ounce of 100% fruit juice, and garnish with fresh fruit slices, if you have them. Your guests will be impressed and feel special — like you were planning for their arrival all along.


9 quick and easy recipes to throw together for last-minute guests

Surprise! Your in-laws just dropped by for an unexpected visit. Your first instinct is probably to run to the fridge and look for some food to put out, but the bag of baby carrots and the stale cookies in your pantry just won’t cut it. But have no fear — you don’t have to let your mother-in-law silently judge you for 30 minutes while you wait for the pizza delivery. With just a little bit of forethought, it’s easy to impress unexpected guests with a simple last-minute appetizer or meal.

The first step in having something to throw together is planning ahead. That may seem easier said than done with the madness of the holiday rush, but it really only takes five minutes to assess what you have, make a list of essentials and then grab them the next time you're at the grocery store. Here are some simple tips to make sure you’re well prepared for spontaneous festivities:

  • Take an inventory: Spend a few minutes looking through your pantry, fridge and freezer, to get a sense of what you're working with to whip up a last-minute dish. While doing so, break out your phone — or pen and paper, if you’re old school — and write down the ingredients you have on hand that could work. (If you’re not sure what works as a good base for a dish, check out the expert recommendations below before taking inventory.)
  • Stock up the pantry: If your inventory is looking a bit bare, add some items to your shopping list. Think about different courses, like appetizers, mains, drinks and desserts. Items like canned beans, jarred olives, artichokes and peppers, crackers, Chex mix, dry pasta, jarred sauce, seltzer and even baking mixes are lifesavers. Pro tip: order non-perishable items online from big box stores to save yourself a trip to the store. Shipping is usually free!
  • Buy some frozen essentials: Having a well-stocked pantry will probably suffice, but it never hurts to keep some goodies in the freezer as well. If you’re cooking dinner one night and find yourself with some leftover chopped veggies, freeze them! Other helpful freezer staples are edamame, frozen brown rice or frozen appetizer bites.

Now that you’re well prepared, it’s time to pull from your storage and create a killer dish in a flash. We tapped some registered dietitians for their go-to bites when last-minute guests stop by.

Hummus

Break out your food processor and impress you guests with a homemade hummus on the fly. “Hummus requires ingredients I almost always have, but it's also easily customizable,” says Chef Julie Andrews, MS, RDN, CD. “I use canned chickpeas or another bean, olive oil, garlic, tahini (you can skip if you don't have any), lemon, salt and pepper and serve it with crackers, pita or veggies,” she adds. If you don’t have these items in your pantry, now is the time to add them to your list.

Pasta Bolognese

A pasta dinner is only minutes away, if you’ve got the right ingredients. “A super quick crowd-pleasing meal only requires ground turkey, a jar of marinara sauce and a box of pasta,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, author of “The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club” and founder of NutritionStarringYOU.com. Just brown the meat in a skillet, cook the pasta and then combine the two in a bowl with jarred sauce. “It feeds about six people in under 20 minutes,” says Harris-Pincus.

No-Bake Chocolate Almond Bites

If you’ve got a food processor, chocolate chips, dates and nuts, you’ve got a quick no-bake dessert. If you’re out of almonds, try walnuts or pecans. Don’t have chocolate chips? Use white chocolate or a candy bar you’ve got stashed in the drawer. This recipe is completely customizable based on the ingredients you have on hand.

White Bean Romesco Dip

Romesco dip sounds and tastes more elegant than it actually is. “It's basically almonds (or any nuts you have on hand), roasted red peppers, olive oil, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper all zipped up in a food processor or blender,” says chef and Registered Dietitian Abbie Gellman, MS, RD. “For added plant-based protein to fill up your guests, include some white beans in the mix,” says Gellman.

Frittata

Guests show up at the most unexpected times. For breakfast or brunch guests, a simple frittata will hit the spot. Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN, New York-based culinary nutrition expert and author of 52-Week Meal Planner, suggests utilizing a fridge staple to whip up a baked egg dish. You can sub in any frozen veggies you may have to make this simple crowd-pleaser. Serve with salad greens, toasted bread slices and a pot of coffee (and pour yourself an extra cup).

Holiday Snack Mix

Making a holiday snack mix is as easy as raiding the pantry. “Grab a few crunchy things, one sweet thing and one salty thing,” says Sara Haas, RDN, LDN, culinary dietitian and author of Taco! Taco! Taco! and co-author Fertility Foods. “Toss it all together and serve in a festive bowl or dish — no cooking required,” Haas adds.

Freezer Flatbread

“I always keep some sort of flatbread in the freezer so I can pull it out and make a go-to pizza that everyone will enjoy,” says Elizabeth Shaw MS RDN CLT CPT, nutrition expert and owner of ShawSimpleSwaps.com. She suggests adding any sauce you find in the cupboard. “If you don’t have pizza sauce, you can use BBQ sauce or another condiment and top it with cheese, veggies or basically anything you can find in the fridge or pantry,” says Shaw.

Cheese Platter

“I always have at least one block of cheese in my fridge (I stock up when it’s on sale),” says Jenna Braddock, MSH, CSSD, RD Dietitian and food blogger at MakeHealthyEasy.com. “From there, I add whatever crackers or bread I have around, lay out any fresh fruit from my fridge, and finish it off with a dried fruit or nuts.” The best part of this is that you can customize the type of cheese, fruit and nuts to suit your taste (or based on what you’re able to scrounge up). And might we add this is the perfect time to break out that fancy serving dish your in-laws bought you that's been collecting dust in the cabinet?

Fruity Spritzer

While you're at it, kick your drink game up a notch, too. Wine is always a winner, but why not think outside of the bottle this year with a fruity spritzer? Just combine 3 ounces of your favorite wine with 1 ounce of seltzer and 1 ounce of 100% fruit juice, and garnish with fresh fruit slices, if you have them. Your guests will be impressed and feel special — like you were planning for their arrival all along.


9 quick and easy recipes to throw together for last-minute guests

Surprise! Your in-laws just dropped by for an unexpected visit. Your first instinct is probably to run to the fridge and look for some food to put out, but the bag of baby carrots and the stale cookies in your pantry just won’t cut it. But have no fear — you don’t have to let your mother-in-law silently judge you for 30 minutes while you wait for the pizza delivery. With just a little bit of forethought, it’s easy to impress unexpected guests with a simple last-minute appetizer or meal.

The first step in having something to throw together is planning ahead. That may seem easier said than done with the madness of the holiday rush, but it really only takes five minutes to assess what you have, make a list of essentials and then grab them the next time you're at the grocery store. Here are some simple tips to make sure you’re well prepared for spontaneous festivities:

  • Take an inventory: Spend a few minutes looking through your pantry, fridge and freezer, to get a sense of what you're working with to whip up a last-minute dish. While doing so, break out your phone — or pen and paper, if you’re old school — and write down the ingredients you have on hand that could work. (If you’re not sure what works as a good base for a dish, check out the expert recommendations below before taking inventory.)
  • Stock up the pantry: If your inventory is looking a bit bare, add some items to your shopping list. Think about different courses, like appetizers, mains, drinks and desserts. Items like canned beans, jarred olives, artichokes and peppers, crackers, Chex mix, dry pasta, jarred sauce, seltzer and even baking mixes are lifesavers. Pro tip: order non-perishable items online from big box stores to save yourself a trip to the store. Shipping is usually free!
  • Buy some frozen essentials: Having a well-stocked pantry will probably suffice, but it never hurts to keep some goodies in the freezer as well. If you’re cooking dinner one night and find yourself with some leftover chopped veggies, freeze them! Other helpful freezer staples are edamame, frozen brown rice or frozen appetizer bites.

Now that you’re well prepared, it’s time to pull from your storage and create a killer dish in a flash. We tapped some registered dietitians for their go-to bites when last-minute guests stop by.

Hummus

Break out your food processor and impress you guests with a homemade hummus on the fly. “Hummus requires ingredients I almost always have, but it's also easily customizable,” says Chef Julie Andrews, MS, RDN, CD. “I use canned chickpeas or another bean, olive oil, garlic, tahini (you can skip if you don't have any), lemon, salt and pepper and serve it with crackers, pita or veggies,” she adds. If you don’t have these items in your pantry, now is the time to add them to your list.

Pasta Bolognese

A pasta dinner is only minutes away, if you’ve got the right ingredients. “A super quick crowd-pleasing meal only requires ground turkey, a jar of marinara sauce and a box of pasta,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, author of “The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club” and founder of NutritionStarringYOU.com. Just brown the meat in a skillet, cook the pasta and then combine the two in a bowl with jarred sauce. “It feeds about six people in under 20 minutes,” says Harris-Pincus.

No-Bake Chocolate Almond Bites

If you’ve got a food processor, chocolate chips, dates and nuts, you’ve got a quick no-bake dessert. If you’re out of almonds, try walnuts or pecans. Don’t have chocolate chips? Use white chocolate or a candy bar you’ve got stashed in the drawer. This recipe is completely customizable based on the ingredients you have on hand.

White Bean Romesco Dip

Romesco dip sounds and tastes more elegant than it actually is. “It's basically almonds (or any nuts you have on hand), roasted red peppers, olive oil, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper all zipped up in a food processor or blender,” says chef and Registered Dietitian Abbie Gellman, MS, RD. “For added plant-based protein to fill up your guests, include some white beans in the mix,” says Gellman.

Frittata

Guests show up at the most unexpected times. For breakfast or brunch guests, a simple frittata will hit the spot. Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN, New York-based culinary nutrition expert and author of 52-Week Meal Planner, suggests utilizing a fridge staple to whip up a baked egg dish. You can sub in any frozen veggies you may have to make this simple crowd-pleaser. Serve with salad greens, toasted bread slices and a pot of coffee (and pour yourself an extra cup).

Holiday Snack Mix

Making a holiday snack mix is as easy as raiding the pantry. “Grab a few crunchy things, one sweet thing and one salty thing,” says Sara Haas, RDN, LDN, culinary dietitian and author of Taco! Taco! Taco! and co-author Fertility Foods. “Toss it all together and serve in a festive bowl or dish — no cooking required,” Haas adds.

Freezer Flatbread

“I always keep some sort of flatbread in the freezer so I can pull it out and make a go-to pizza that everyone will enjoy,” says Elizabeth Shaw MS RDN CLT CPT, nutrition expert and owner of ShawSimpleSwaps.com. She suggests adding any sauce you find in the cupboard. “If you don’t have pizza sauce, you can use BBQ sauce or another condiment and top it with cheese, veggies or basically anything you can find in the fridge or pantry,” says Shaw.

Cheese Platter

“I always have at least one block of cheese in my fridge (I stock up when it’s on sale),” says Jenna Braddock, MSH, CSSD, RD Dietitian and food blogger at MakeHealthyEasy.com. “From there, I add whatever crackers or bread I have around, lay out any fresh fruit from my fridge, and finish it off with a dried fruit or nuts.” The best part of this is that you can customize the type of cheese, fruit and nuts to suit your taste (or based on what you’re able to scrounge up). And might we add this is the perfect time to break out that fancy serving dish your in-laws bought you that's been collecting dust in the cabinet?

Fruity Spritzer

While you're at it, kick your drink game up a notch, too. Wine is always a winner, but why not think outside of the bottle this year with a fruity spritzer? Just combine 3 ounces of your favorite wine with 1 ounce of seltzer and 1 ounce of 100% fruit juice, and garnish with fresh fruit slices, if you have them. Your guests will be impressed and feel special — like you were planning for their arrival all along.


9 quick and easy recipes to throw together for last-minute guests

Surprise! Your in-laws just dropped by for an unexpected visit. Your first instinct is probably to run to the fridge and look for some food to put out, but the bag of baby carrots and the stale cookies in your pantry just won’t cut it. But have no fear — you don’t have to let your mother-in-law silently judge you for 30 minutes while you wait for the pizza delivery. With just a little bit of forethought, it’s easy to impress unexpected guests with a simple last-minute appetizer or meal.

The first step in having something to throw together is planning ahead. That may seem easier said than done with the madness of the holiday rush, but it really only takes five minutes to assess what you have, make a list of essentials and then grab them the next time you're at the grocery store. Here are some simple tips to make sure you’re well prepared for spontaneous festivities:

  • Take an inventory: Spend a few minutes looking through your pantry, fridge and freezer, to get a sense of what you're working with to whip up a last-minute dish. While doing so, break out your phone — or pen and paper, if you’re old school — and write down the ingredients you have on hand that could work. (If you’re not sure what works as a good base for a dish, check out the expert recommendations below before taking inventory.)
  • Stock up the pantry: If your inventory is looking a bit bare, add some items to your shopping list. Think about different courses, like appetizers, mains, drinks and desserts. Items like canned beans, jarred olives, artichokes and peppers, crackers, Chex mix, dry pasta, jarred sauce, seltzer and even baking mixes are lifesavers. Pro tip: order non-perishable items online from big box stores to save yourself a trip to the store. Shipping is usually free!
  • Buy some frozen essentials: Having a well-stocked pantry will probably suffice, but it never hurts to keep some goodies in the freezer as well. If you’re cooking dinner one night and find yourself with some leftover chopped veggies, freeze them! Other helpful freezer staples are edamame, frozen brown rice or frozen appetizer bites.

Now that you’re well prepared, it’s time to pull from your storage and create a killer dish in a flash. We tapped some registered dietitians for their go-to bites when last-minute guests stop by.

Hummus

Break out your food processor and impress you guests with a homemade hummus on the fly. “Hummus requires ingredients I almost always have, but it's also easily customizable,” says Chef Julie Andrews, MS, RDN, CD. “I use canned chickpeas or another bean, olive oil, garlic, tahini (you can skip if you don't have any), lemon, salt and pepper and serve it with crackers, pita or veggies,” she adds. If you don’t have these items in your pantry, now is the time to add them to your list.

Pasta Bolognese

A pasta dinner is only minutes away, if you’ve got the right ingredients. “A super quick crowd-pleasing meal only requires ground turkey, a jar of marinara sauce and a box of pasta,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, author of “The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club” and founder of NutritionStarringYOU.com. Just brown the meat in a skillet, cook the pasta and then combine the two in a bowl with jarred sauce. “It feeds about six people in under 20 minutes,” says Harris-Pincus.

No-Bake Chocolate Almond Bites

If you’ve got a food processor, chocolate chips, dates and nuts, you’ve got a quick no-bake dessert. If you’re out of almonds, try walnuts or pecans. Don’t have chocolate chips? Use white chocolate or a candy bar you’ve got stashed in the drawer. This recipe is completely customizable based on the ingredients you have on hand.

White Bean Romesco Dip

Romesco dip sounds and tastes more elegant than it actually is. “It's basically almonds (or any nuts you have on hand), roasted red peppers, olive oil, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper all zipped up in a food processor or blender,” says chef and Registered Dietitian Abbie Gellman, MS, RD. “For added plant-based protein to fill up your guests, include some white beans in the mix,” says Gellman.

Frittata

Guests show up at the most unexpected times. For breakfast or brunch guests, a simple frittata will hit the spot. Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN, New York-based culinary nutrition expert and author of 52-Week Meal Planner, suggests utilizing a fridge staple to whip up a baked egg dish. You can sub in any frozen veggies you may have to make this simple crowd-pleaser. Serve with salad greens, toasted bread slices and a pot of coffee (and pour yourself an extra cup).

Holiday Snack Mix

Making a holiday snack mix is as easy as raiding the pantry. “Grab a few crunchy things, one sweet thing and one salty thing,” says Sara Haas, RDN, LDN, culinary dietitian and author of Taco! Taco! Taco! and co-author Fertility Foods. “Toss it all together and serve in a festive bowl or dish — no cooking required,” Haas adds.

Freezer Flatbread

“I always keep some sort of flatbread in the freezer so I can pull it out and make a go-to pizza that everyone will enjoy,” says Elizabeth Shaw MS RDN CLT CPT, nutrition expert and owner of ShawSimpleSwaps.com. She suggests adding any sauce you find in the cupboard. “If you don’t have pizza sauce, you can use BBQ sauce or another condiment and top it with cheese, veggies or basically anything you can find in the fridge or pantry,” says Shaw.

Cheese Platter

“I always have at least one block of cheese in my fridge (I stock up when it’s on sale),” says Jenna Braddock, MSH, CSSD, RD Dietitian and food blogger at MakeHealthyEasy.com. “From there, I add whatever crackers or bread I have around, lay out any fresh fruit from my fridge, and finish it off with a dried fruit or nuts.” The best part of this is that you can customize the type of cheese, fruit and nuts to suit your taste (or based on what you’re able to scrounge up). And might we add this is the perfect time to break out that fancy serving dish your in-laws bought you that's been collecting dust in the cabinet?

Fruity Spritzer

While you're at it, kick your drink game up a notch, too. Wine is always a winner, but why not think outside of the bottle this year with a fruity spritzer? Just combine 3 ounces of your favorite wine with 1 ounce of seltzer and 1 ounce of 100% fruit juice, and garnish with fresh fruit slices, if you have them. Your guests will be impressed and feel special — like you were planning for their arrival all along.


9 quick and easy recipes to throw together for last-minute guests

Surprise! Your in-laws just dropped by for an unexpected visit. Your first instinct is probably to run to the fridge and look for some food to put out, but the bag of baby carrots and the stale cookies in your pantry just won’t cut it. But have no fear — you don’t have to let your mother-in-law silently judge you for 30 minutes while you wait for the pizza delivery. With just a little bit of forethought, it’s easy to impress unexpected guests with a simple last-minute appetizer or meal.

The first step in having something to throw together is planning ahead. That may seem easier said than done with the madness of the holiday rush, but it really only takes five minutes to assess what you have, make a list of essentials and then grab them the next time you're at the grocery store. Here are some simple tips to make sure you’re well prepared for spontaneous festivities:

  • Take an inventory: Spend a few minutes looking through your pantry, fridge and freezer, to get a sense of what you're working with to whip up a last-minute dish. While doing so, break out your phone — or pen and paper, if you’re old school — and write down the ingredients you have on hand that could work. (If you’re not sure what works as a good base for a dish, check out the expert recommendations below before taking inventory.)
  • Stock up the pantry: If your inventory is looking a bit bare, add some items to your shopping list. Think about different courses, like appetizers, mains, drinks and desserts. Items like canned beans, jarred olives, artichokes and peppers, crackers, Chex mix, dry pasta, jarred sauce, seltzer and even baking mixes are lifesavers. Pro tip: order non-perishable items online from big box stores to save yourself a trip to the store. Shipping is usually free!
  • Buy some frozen essentials: Having a well-stocked pantry will probably suffice, but it never hurts to keep some goodies in the freezer as well. If you’re cooking dinner one night and find yourself with some leftover chopped veggies, freeze them! Other helpful freezer staples are edamame, frozen brown rice or frozen appetizer bites.

Now that you’re well prepared, it’s time to pull from your storage and create a killer dish in a flash. We tapped some registered dietitians for their go-to bites when last-minute guests stop by.

Hummus

Break out your food processor and impress you guests with a homemade hummus on the fly. “Hummus requires ingredients I almost always have, but it's also easily customizable,” says Chef Julie Andrews, MS, RDN, CD. “I use canned chickpeas or another bean, olive oil, garlic, tahini (you can skip if you don't have any), lemon, salt and pepper and serve it with crackers, pita or veggies,” she adds. If you don’t have these items in your pantry, now is the time to add them to your list.

Pasta Bolognese

A pasta dinner is only minutes away, if you’ve got the right ingredients. “A super quick crowd-pleasing meal only requires ground turkey, a jar of marinara sauce and a box of pasta,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, author of “The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club” and founder of NutritionStarringYOU.com. Just brown the meat in a skillet, cook the pasta and then combine the two in a bowl with jarred sauce. “It feeds about six people in under 20 minutes,” says Harris-Pincus.

No-Bake Chocolate Almond Bites

If you’ve got a food processor, chocolate chips, dates and nuts, you’ve got a quick no-bake dessert. If you’re out of almonds, try walnuts or pecans. Don’t have chocolate chips? Use white chocolate or a candy bar you’ve got stashed in the drawer. This recipe is completely customizable based on the ingredients you have on hand.

White Bean Romesco Dip

Romesco dip sounds and tastes more elegant than it actually is. “It's basically almonds (or any nuts you have on hand), roasted red peppers, olive oil, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper all zipped up in a food processor or blender,” says chef and Registered Dietitian Abbie Gellman, MS, RD. “For added plant-based protein to fill up your guests, include some white beans in the mix,” says Gellman.

Frittata

Guests show up at the most unexpected times. For breakfast or brunch guests, a simple frittata will hit the spot. Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN, New York-based culinary nutrition expert and author of 52-Week Meal Planner, suggests utilizing a fridge staple to whip up a baked egg dish. You can sub in any frozen veggies you may have to make this simple crowd-pleaser. Serve with salad greens, toasted bread slices and a pot of coffee (and pour yourself an extra cup).

Holiday Snack Mix

Making a holiday snack mix is as easy as raiding the pantry. “Grab a few crunchy things, one sweet thing and one salty thing,” says Sara Haas, RDN, LDN, culinary dietitian and author of Taco! Taco! Taco! and co-author Fertility Foods. “Toss it all together and serve in a festive bowl or dish — no cooking required,” Haas adds.

Freezer Flatbread

“I always keep some sort of flatbread in the freezer so I can pull it out and make a go-to pizza that everyone will enjoy,” says Elizabeth Shaw MS RDN CLT CPT, nutrition expert and owner of ShawSimpleSwaps.com. She suggests adding any sauce you find in the cupboard. “If you don’t have pizza sauce, you can use BBQ sauce or another condiment and top it with cheese, veggies or basically anything you can find in the fridge or pantry,” says Shaw.

Cheese Platter

“I always have at least one block of cheese in my fridge (I stock up when it’s on sale),” says Jenna Braddock, MSH, CSSD, RD Dietitian and food blogger at MakeHealthyEasy.com. “From there, I add whatever crackers or bread I have around, lay out any fresh fruit from my fridge, and finish it off with a dried fruit or nuts.” The best part of this is that you can customize the type of cheese, fruit and nuts to suit your taste (or based on what you’re able to scrounge up). And might we add this is the perfect time to break out that fancy serving dish your in-laws bought you that's been collecting dust in the cabinet?

Fruity Spritzer

While you're at it, kick your drink game up a notch, too. Wine is always a winner, but why not think outside of the bottle this year with a fruity spritzer? Just combine 3 ounces of your favorite wine with 1 ounce of seltzer and 1 ounce of 100% fruit juice, and garnish with fresh fruit slices, if you have them. Your guests will be impressed and feel special — like you were planning for their arrival all along.


9 quick and easy recipes to throw together for last-minute guests

Surprise! Your in-laws just dropped by for an unexpected visit. Your first instinct is probably to run to the fridge and look for some food to put out, but the bag of baby carrots and the stale cookies in your pantry just won’t cut it. But have no fear — you don’t have to let your mother-in-law silently judge you for 30 minutes while you wait for the pizza delivery. With just a little bit of forethought, it’s easy to impress unexpected guests with a simple last-minute appetizer or meal.

The first step in having something to throw together is planning ahead. That may seem easier said than done with the madness of the holiday rush, but it really only takes five minutes to assess what you have, make a list of essentials and then grab them the next time you're at the grocery store. Here are some simple tips to make sure you’re well prepared for spontaneous festivities:

  • Take an inventory: Spend a few minutes looking through your pantry, fridge and freezer, to get a sense of what you're working with to whip up a last-minute dish. While doing so, break out your phone — or pen and paper, if you’re old school — and write down the ingredients you have on hand that could work. (If you’re not sure what works as a good base for a dish, check out the expert recommendations below before taking inventory.)
  • Stock up the pantry: If your inventory is looking a bit bare, add some items to your shopping list. Think about different courses, like appetizers, mains, drinks and desserts. Items like canned beans, jarred olives, artichokes and peppers, crackers, Chex mix, dry pasta, jarred sauce, seltzer and even baking mixes are lifesavers. Pro tip: order non-perishable items online from big box stores to save yourself a trip to the store. Shipping is usually free!
  • Buy some frozen essentials: Having a well-stocked pantry will probably suffice, but it never hurts to keep some goodies in the freezer as well. If you’re cooking dinner one night and find yourself with some leftover chopped veggies, freeze them! Other helpful freezer staples are edamame, frozen brown rice or frozen appetizer bites.

Now that you’re well prepared, it’s time to pull from your storage and create a killer dish in a flash. We tapped some registered dietitians for their go-to bites when last-minute guests stop by.

Hummus

Break out your food processor and impress you guests with a homemade hummus on the fly. “Hummus requires ingredients I almost always have, but it's also easily customizable,” says Chef Julie Andrews, MS, RDN, CD. “I use canned chickpeas or another bean, olive oil, garlic, tahini (you can skip if you don't have any), lemon, salt and pepper and serve it with crackers, pita or veggies,” she adds. If you don’t have these items in your pantry, now is the time to add them to your list.

Pasta Bolognese

A pasta dinner is only minutes away, if you’ve got the right ingredients. “A super quick crowd-pleasing meal only requires ground turkey, a jar of marinara sauce and a box of pasta,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, author of “The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club” and founder of NutritionStarringYOU.com. Just brown the meat in a skillet, cook the pasta and then combine the two in a bowl with jarred sauce. “It feeds about six people in under 20 minutes,” says Harris-Pincus.

No-Bake Chocolate Almond Bites

If you’ve got a food processor, chocolate chips, dates and nuts, you’ve got a quick no-bake dessert. If you’re out of almonds, try walnuts or pecans. Don’t have chocolate chips? Use white chocolate or a candy bar you’ve got stashed in the drawer. This recipe is completely customizable based on the ingredients you have on hand.

White Bean Romesco Dip

Romesco dip sounds and tastes more elegant than it actually is. “It's basically almonds (or any nuts you have on hand), roasted red peppers, olive oil, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper all zipped up in a food processor or blender,” says chef and Registered Dietitian Abbie Gellman, MS, RD. “For added plant-based protein to fill up your guests, include some white beans in the mix,” says Gellman.

Frittata

Guests show up at the most unexpected times. For breakfast or brunch guests, a simple frittata will hit the spot. Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN, New York-based culinary nutrition expert and author of 52-Week Meal Planner, suggests utilizing a fridge staple to whip up a baked egg dish. You can sub in any frozen veggies you may have to make this simple crowd-pleaser. Serve with salad greens, toasted bread slices and a pot of coffee (and pour yourself an extra cup).

Holiday Snack Mix

Making a holiday snack mix is as easy as raiding the pantry. “Grab a few crunchy things, one sweet thing and one salty thing,” says Sara Haas, RDN, LDN, culinary dietitian and author of Taco! Taco! Taco! and co-author Fertility Foods. “Toss it all together and serve in a festive bowl or dish — no cooking required,” Haas adds.

Freezer Flatbread

“I always keep some sort of flatbread in the freezer so I can pull it out and make a go-to pizza that everyone will enjoy,” says Elizabeth Shaw MS RDN CLT CPT, nutrition expert and owner of ShawSimpleSwaps.com. She suggests adding any sauce you find in the cupboard. “If you don’t have pizza sauce, you can use BBQ sauce or another condiment and top it with cheese, veggies or basically anything you can find in the fridge or pantry,” says Shaw.

Cheese Platter

“I always have at least one block of cheese in my fridge (I stock up when it’s on sale),” says Jenna Braddock, MSH, CSSD, RD Dietitian and food blogger at MakeHealthyEasy.com. “From there, I add whatever crackers or bread I have around, lay out any fresh fruit from my fridge, and finish it off with a dried fruit or nuts.” The best part of this is that you can customize the type of cheese, fruit and nuts to suit your taste (or based on what you’re able to scrounge up). And might we add this is the perfect time to break out that fancy serving dish your in-laws bought you that's been collecting dust in the cabinet?

Fruity Spritzer

While you're at it, kick your drink game up a notch, too. Wine is always a winner, but why not think outside of the bottle this year with a fruity spritzer? Just combine 3 ounces of your favorite wine with 1 ounce of seltzer and 1 ounce of 100% fruit juice, and garnish with fresh fruit slices, if you have them. Your guests will be impressed and feel special — like you were planning for their arrival all along.