Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Weekend Hostess...A Guide To Survival

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This post has been adapted from one originally published on my blog My Kitchen By The Lake on May 26, 2011.  
So here we are, finally, the first long weekend of the Summer season and the beginning of my summer job as head chef/housekeeper at the lake house. You think I'm kidding?  All of a sudden all your long lost friends and relatives remember there's a house on a lake, with full maid service, and a great chef.  All for free!  Just call and make a reservation...everyone is always welcomed...including dogs!

Whilst I love to entertain and have people over, my life now turns upside down and my weekends are my workdays.  The towels and bed sheets are the worst part, so this year I put my foot down and regulars get to make their own beds and leave the sheets in the laundry room when they leave.  Only first timers and "special" guests get the full treatment. It's called "tough love"!

The bathrooms are stocked with all kinds of goodies, including sun tan lotions and shampoo, but each guest gets ONE beach towel which they must guard with their life. The food is something else.  For this it pays to be organized and from years of entertaining at various places, I have developed a method that is easy for me.  Light breakfasts, light lunches, and great dinners.


We are not big breakfast people.  Once in awhile, we will have brunch on Sundays, particularly in Fall and Winter; but when you come to a lake, the main idea is to go boating or swimming and who wants to do that on a full stomach?

Breakfasts here consist of fresh fruit, orange juice, (great) coffee and English muffins or toast.  Homemade strawberry or peach preserves are a staple of the breakfast table, with cereal and granola also on hand. I usually leave a bowl of cut up cantaloupe and  blueberries or strawberries in the fridge the night before and when guests wake up they serve themselves.   Sometimes I make a coffee cake in advance, freeze it and serve it for breakfast or tea.


Lunch is a make your own sandwich event if we are swimming around the dock;  but if we are going on the boat, everyone helps put a picnic together.  Have fresh tomatoes, olives, lettuce, bean sprouts, mayo, different mustards, you get the idea. Make it special by having artisanal breads and interesting cheeses and chutneys.  It is sometimes less expensive to roast a chicken or turkey breast during the week, have it for dinner, and slice the leftovers for sandwiches or salads.  Chicken salad sandwiches are a good alternative and are easy to make.

An antipasto tray of salamis, cheese, olives, and baguette also make a nice alternative for lunch.

Meatloaf sliders anyone? Another make ahead idea that everyone loves.Serve the meatloaf slices cold with mustard, mayonnaise and horseradish.  Sweet pickles or cornichons are a must and the cucumbers in sour cream go well.  Don't forget some cool potato chips!

Make a pound cake during the week and serve it for lunch or a mid afternoon snack.


Dinner is the highlight of the day and here I usually go all out.   Ribs, Shish Kebabs, chops, casseroles, and pies are at the top of the list.  I make it easy on myself by grilling the meat and making a vegetable or potato casserole.  If fresh corn or tomatoes are available at the farmers market, they go to the top of my list.  For dessert I make crumbles or cobblers with whatever fruit is in season or serve home made ice cream with fresh fruit. Other times I cheat and buy a pie at the nearest Fresh Market and add homemade whipped cream to make it special.

If you have guests arriving Friday night, don't plan to cook on the grill that night.  Instead make something that can be easily warmed up for those who arrive late.  My individual Mac And Cheese recipe from Harry's Bar in Venice is an old standby and a favorite of friends and family including little children.

One of the reasons everyone loves to come here is the food so I try not to disappoint by having special things that I can make ahead and freeze.  Like I mentioned before, a coffee cake goes a long way and brownies or butterscotch bars can be made ahead and served with ice cream for dessert or wrapped for a picnic.  I also prepare Beer Cheese, Pimento Cheese Spread or a  Goat Cheese Log the day before to accompany cocktails.  Chorizos and special sausages that can be thrown on the grill and served with a special mustard are always on demand!

While menus are simple,  try to buy the best ingredients you can find to make the meals special. Don't try to have three complicated menus a day.   Keep it simple, make some things ahead, like appetizers and desserts, and let everyone help you.  It's a long summer, and this is just the beginning!

If you like dogs, you might like:

Memorial Day With The Family...The Little Westie That Could

And here she is a year later....

All photos except the last one are from my Pinterest Board Summer Weekends where credits can be found


  1. I like you approach to entertaining house guests. I worry about how to get it all done before they get there, then fuss and fuss and do way tooo much while they are there. I need to relax and get a Westie:) Seriously, have a great time at the lake.

    1. Plan ahead and keep it simple. Then ACT relaxed and have fun. That is my secret.

  2. Oh, you are the perfect hostess and I can see why your guests come and visit over and over again. You have made them welcome with the abundance of foods you offer and your thoughtful menu planning and generous hospitality. Entertaining guests takes a lot of forethought and effort (I don't buy into "effortless entertaining" - no such thing!). I hope your guests appreciate everything you do for them and that they too play their part of being perfect guests.

    1. That is the key...the perfect guests. To me those are the ones who entertain themselves. You can only do so much and the rest is up to them and the gods of entertaining!

  3. Wonderful suggestions for having guests. I particularly liked the Mac and Cheese recipe, a little different twist and have made a copy and will make it this weekend, I want to try it out on the grands this weekend. Sounds like one I will make over and over again. Your suggestions were great and the only way to enjoy your guests. Have a wonderful Memorial Weekend and I just love your lake front pics.


    1. My daughter in law makes it for them and they love it though I am sure the recipe has been "simplified" many times over!

      Happy Memorial Day weekend.

  4. Hello, It is difficult to make hard and fast rules about entertaining, because ideally the host and guest are responsive to each other. Today it seems that many people don't want constant attention focused on themselves, and since everything you make is so special and well thought out, I'm sure that none of your guests feel neglected.

    1. I provide the room and board but they get to make their own fun. I've learned that from going to places were there were so many activities planned it was like going to work! We also have the outlets here so the wives can always shop. On big weekends like these the sales are incredible but so are the crowds. Nice to see you.


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