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party tools
how to stock your kitchen for better hosting

by Yee-Fan Sun
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When the boy and I moved from Tucson to do a two-year stint in Scotland, I grudgingly packed up almost all of my beloved kitchen goods, throwing it into storage while we went off on our adventure. I arrived in the UK with just the bare basics for my cooking survival -- two pots, a frying pan, a mixing bowl, some good knives and spatulas. (And, oh yeah, a waffle iron with voltage converter. A life without waffles? Perish the thought.) My kitchen supplies thus pared down, I was amazed to discover how it actually was possible to throw together a perfectly delicious meal for me and the boy, with just these few tools. But when we started having friends over for get-togethers? That’s when I realized that while living minimally had its good points, I sure did miss some of my precious stuff.

Sure, it’s entirely possible to get by in the kitchen with no more than a few pots and pans, some basic cooking utensils, a few dishes and cutlery. And if all you aspire to is the occasional nourishment of your own belly, so be it. But for those of us nursing dreams of turning our nests into party central, a few choice accoutrements will make feeding guests much much easier, and more fun as well. Whether you’re trying to figure out what to buy for your first pad, loading up your wedding registry or looking to buy a good gift for a pal who loves to play host, check out this guide to our favorite party-friendly cooking tools and serve ware…

make it
Your kitchen should already be stocked with some basic tools and appliances for procuring a tasty homemade meal. But if you’re planning on hosting folks on a semi-regular basis, these additional culinary helpers will come in mighty handy as well...

Mini muffin tin: I am a complete and total sucker for miniaturized versions of normal foods. Call me crazy, but there’s something about making food baby-sized that automatically ups the sophistication factor.
Regular ol’ muffins and cupcakes and tarts? Perfectly tasty, of course, but make them teeny-tiny and suddenly, they just seem that much more festive. Which is why mini muffin tins are a must in my kitchen, despite the fact that there’s really nothing you can make in a mini muffin tin that couldn’t be made just as well in a regular muffin pan. Mini muffin tins just produce foods that are the perfect bite-size portion for parties. No need to scour for special mini recipes either; you can use any old muffin or cupcake recipe you like, keeping an eye on things as they bake, as the only difference will be a reduced cooking time. Mini muffin tins are also handy for making mini pie and tart crusts (again, use your regular recipe and bake until set) and mini cheesecakes. You can also use the tins to make all sorts of cute bases for savory hors-d’oeuvres, like wonton wrapper cups, tortilla cups, bread cups and more.

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