Cold weather may have us confined to our homes, but a little sleet, wind, or single digital temperatures isn’t going to rain—err—snow on our parade. In fact, being indoors is an excuse to throw an impromptu dinner party and gather everyone on your floor or block for good eats, good drinks, and, most importantly, good memories.
But if you feel the urge to host a late winter or early spring soirée, you don’t want to scramble (unless it’s eggs, which would be delicious for a breakfast theme gathering) at the last minute to find the appropriate ingredients to whip up something special.
Enter: Whole Foods Market, the popular heath-minded grocery chain your town likely has at least one of. Sure, the store doesn’t have a reputation of being budget-friendly, but it does boast an affordable and high-quality 365 line that has practically everything you need for a last-minute feast. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite staple ingredients to have on stand-by, so that you can impress your guests now (and any time of year). These products may seem basic at first glance, but consider them the essential foundations to creating many, many culinary possibilities.
Disclaimer: Keep in mind that prices for Whole Foods’ groceries will vary depending on where you live!
1. Organic Low Sodium Vegetable Broth
It’s the base of stews, chilis, and soups, all of which can easily be prepared in large quantities. Opt for vegetable broth over chicken so that it is guaranteed to accommodate the vegetarians, vegans, and pescatarians in your group who shouldn’t be limited to the crudités platter.
Use it to make: Cream of Broccoli Soup With Sizzled Turmeric Croutons
2. Whole Peeled Tomatoes
Pour these bad boys into a saucepan and mash them into a pulp with your favorite aromatics like garlic, onion, oregano, and basil. Then let that pot simmer for an hour (or three) to allow the flavors to meld, and you’ve got yourself a gourmet sauce that will taste like nonna made it herself—a far departure from jarred varieties that would be (let’s be honest) embarrassing to serve your friends.
Use it to make: Baked Ziti
3. Organic Penne Regate
You’re going to need pasta to pair with that homemade sauce and penne is, undoubtedly, one of the most versatile. Beyond swimming in that fresh pomodoro, it makes an excellent base for macaroni and cheese, as well as any pasta salad.
Use it to make: Vegan Penne Vodka
4. Panko Bread Crumbs
There are so many finger foods and main dish proteins that taste better with a crust. And no crust is more crunchy and playful on the tongue than panko. Dredge practically anything from coconut shrimp to chicken wings in flour, egg, and panko for crispy, golden brown goodness every time.
Use it to make: Matcha & Tahini Carrots With Garlicky Breadcrumbs
5. Organic Freekeh Grains
Get your freekeh on. If you’re new to the high-fiber grain, it cooks in 10 minutes and lends itself as a nutty starch for dishes like tabbouleh, soup, and even salad bowls. Enjoy it hot, cold, or at room temperature with a handful of herbs, lemon juice, and freshly cracked pepper.
Use it to make: Stuffed Zucchini With Freekeh Pilaf & Currants
6. Organic Roasted Verde Salsa
Not only does salsa make for a refreshingly delicious dip, but, in a pinch, it can also be used to top practically any protein. Use it to brighten up heavily battered dishes or simply scoop some onto seasoned ground chicken to kick off an epic taco night.
Use it to make: Sweet Potato Nachos
7. Vanilla Ice Cream
It’s as basic as basic gets, but a solid vanilla ice cream is often all you need for a satisfying dessert with universal appeal. When guests are looking to cap the night with something sweet, bust out the carton and surround it with bowls of every topping you can find—sauces, jams, fruit, nuts, coconut, candy, you name it. Everyone loves to customize, and when it comes to sundaes, the possibilities really are endless.
Serve it with: Mini Blueberry Crumb Pies
8. Deluxe Mixed Nuts
You’re going to want to set something out to hold people over until dinner is served. Nuts are perfect because the high fat content also makes them filling—which means your ultra-hungry guests will have those pesky stomach pangs staved off before they become completely nutty themselves.
Use it to make: Sweet and Spicy Pretzel and Nut Mix
9. Organic Unrefined Virgin Coconut Oil
No butter? No problem. Coconut oil makes a wonderful substitution for many of your favorite baked goods. And it’s shelf-stable, meaning you can keep the jar in a cool, dry place for months before needing to replace it.
Use it to make: Frozen Vegan Coconut Chocolate Almond Bars
10. Organic Cocoa Powder, Unsweetened
It’s likely that you already have plenty of flour and sugar (which can easily be bought in bulk at stores like Costco), but many at-home cooks find themselves saying “uh-oh” when they realize they’ve run out of chocolate chips or bars to toss into cakes and cookies. Cocoa powder is a great alternative to satisfy that hankering for something sweet and chocolatey. While it won’t melt like solid chocolate, it can provide the rich, fudgy texture that we crave oh-so-much.
Use it to make: Hostess Cupcakes
11. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
No matter what you toss on the skillet, it could likely use some olive oil. And Whole Foods delivers on a high-quality iteration that you’ll go through again and again. Invest in an olive oil dispenser and keep an additional bottle on standby. That way you’ll never run out of the ingredient that is essentially liquid gold.
Use it to make: Orange-Cardamom Olive Oil Cake
12. Frozen Small Bites Quiche Trio
If inspiration isn’t coming to you and time really is of the essence, opt for a frozen app like these mini quiches that you can easily pop in the air fryer and cook in no time. Filled with one of three savory combinations (three cheese, mushroom, or spinach florentine), the bite-sized delights will absolutely be a crowd pleaser…and no one has to know they came from a box. #fakeittilyoumakeit
Serve it with: Via Carota’s Insalata Verde
What ingredients do you always keep stocked in your pantry? Share in the comments!