Fun and Functional Open Kitchen Entertaining

3 years ago

We do a lot of last-minute entertaining at our house.  While I am always one to go overboard when it comes to birthday parties and other celebrations, over the years I've figured out how to entertain guests on a much smaller scale.

My kitchen is right in the middle of my house, and it's open to EVERYTHING.  This is good, because my intention was to make the kitchen the heart of our home, and it really is.  On the flip side, however - it's open to EVERYTHING.  Messy kitchen = messy house.

Besides the obvious requirement to clean as we go to keep things in check, we also have to think ahead when it comes to entertaining.   We can't cook big, elaborate meals with a lot of last-minute preparation, because our kitchen would remain a mess, and we'd be missing valuable time with our guests, cleaning and primping instead of visiting. Even my big birthday celebrations take some forethought, and I try to prepare as much as I can in advance.

Last-minute or unexpected guests are a bit different though, because you're faced with two challenges:  having what you need on hand and being pressed for time.

This weekend we had a couple of friends drop by for a quick visit on their way out of town.  With just a couple of hours before they arrived, we were able to put together sandwiches for six people, complete with chips, antipasto and drinks on ice.

We try to keep a selection of beverages on hand, and keep a selection in our spare refrigerator so they're cold.  When we run low, we simply restock - and this way, we always have a little something for everyone.  An extra bag of ice in our freezer and access to a couple of beverage tubs makes a quick and easy presentation.

One of my favorite last-minute meals is this extra large Italian sandwich on ciabatta bread.  It's made with ingredients we almost always have on hand, it goes together in just minutes, and it serves six to eight people, easily.  A handful of potato chips and some extras from the antipasto tray, and you've got a nice little snack for your guests.

Ciabatta bread freezes nicely, so you can toss one in your freezer and defrost it when you need it.  You can really put whatever you like (or have on hand) on your sandwich.  This particular sandwich is a couple of varieties of salami, provolone cheese, mustard, spicy mayo and some spring greens.   Easy.

Giant Italian Sandwich

  • 1 large loaf Ciabatta bread
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1/4 cup mustard
  • 6-8 slices provolone cheese
  • 12-16 slices Italian salami
  • 8-10 pepperoncini slices
  • 1-2 handfuls spring mix/lettuce

Slice bread in half, lengthwise.

In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise and hot sauce. Spread on bottom of bread.

Top mayonnaise mixture with half of the mustard.

Place one layer of salami, then top with one layer of cheese, and one more layer of salami.

Add a thick layer of pepperoncini slices, and top with spring mix.

Spread remaining mustard on top slice of bread, and place the bread on top of the sandwich.

Refrigerate until your guests arrive, then slice into 6-8 portions for serving.


The great thing about this spread is that it cleans up as quickly as it goes together.   Since you're serving finger foods and the drinks are all in bottles, dishes are kept to a minimum.  Of course, I always have desserts on hand (I DO  have a food blog!) and this week my guests were offered giant coffee cake muffins.  Really though, desserts are no different - a bit of forethought and you can pull something out of your freezer, either homemade or store-bought.

Don't stress about last-minute guests!  Before you head out to the grocery store next time, just add a couple of items to your list, and you'll be prepared.

Now, you'll just have to keep your kitchen clean.

This post is part of BlogHer's Kitchen Entertaining editorial series, made possible by KitchenAid.

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