Houseguest Lessons from the Holidays Pizza Night-SliderPhoto

Houseguest Lessons from the Holidays Pizza Night-MainPhoto

Many people really enjoy doting on their houseguests and get special satisfaction catering to their every whim. Good for you! I, too, am always delighted to entertain and love to play “the host with the most.” I’m always ready for clever alternatives that allow me to spend my time with my guests rather than on hosting chores.

Being a great host does not require you to be the guests’ personal butler, valet, chambermaid, cook, or chauffeur. So it’s best that you put that idea aside and provide both short- and long-term visitors with the tools and the knowledge to survive without your constant attention.

Thus my concierge concept was born. Let’s begin by defining it. Just like a hotel concierge, the primary responsibilities are to coordinate, make people feel comfortable and offer an array of fabulous resources. The secret to success here is as much a state of mind (your attitude) as being prepared and organized.

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Truth be told, I love to schedule outings, but have always found it best to give my guests freedom during their visit by not necessarily escorting them to every place they desire to go. If they can drive, I’ll offer the use of my car; if they want to take a walk into town I’m more than happy to allow them their own time. I never insist that they do things or spend time with me. I open my home, my heart and my refrigerator—the rest should be an organic and pleasant experience.

Assigning jobs is always a good thing with a full house and your guests will appreciate that they can help. Setting the table is a fun task for the children while garbage duty is better suited for the teenagers. (And both these jobs will be in abundance.) Dad is great at minding the bar, while Mother is perfect cooking, baking and creating the menus or visa versa. Grandparents can take the responsibilities of bathing grandchildren and putting them to bed.

There is one essential and universal morning ritual that always, always comes up. Coffee! You know what I mean. Everyone wants to know the how, the when and the where about the morning beverage ritual that tames even the wildest of beasts.

Use a large tray capable of housing all the necessary accoutrements, for easy relocation during the day. Include a good medium roast coffee, filters, a variety of sweetening options, spoons, napkins and mugs. Having all the necessities on one tray allows you to quickly move the entire tray to free up counter space for any later-in-the-day food prep.

Feeding large groups come with its own set of smart tips. A big hit is Make Your Own Pizza Night.

  1. Use tortillas or flatbread instead of dough for the individual servings. Pre-cooked, they are easy to handle by your guests, and can also reduce the amount of carbs. Plus unused portions can be easily stored.
  2. Buy jars of good pasta sauce to use as pizza sauce rather than “pizza sauce”; often less sodium, and will add depth of flavor without overwhelming the other ingredients.
  3. Pre-cook any vegetable ingredients (peppers, mushrooms, onions, etc.) by quickly sautéing them before you put them in the ingredient buffet. This reduces the pizza’s cooking time by making sure no one’s veggies end up too crunchy.

The cook time and temperature that works best in my kitchen is 10 minutes at 350F, but of course you’ll keep an eye on them. And there you have it!