Simple holiday hosting hacks

(Family Features) Entertaining during the holidays offers an opportunity to slow down from the hustle and bustle of the season and make lasting memories. The key is getting ahead of hosting duties so you can be present with family and friends.

Make this season’s holiday hosting effortless and enjoyable with these tips:

Stick with a simple menu: Creating an elaborate menu with complex dishes that take hours to prepare is unnecessary. Instead, build your menu around easy crowd-pleasers. Save the experimenting with new recipes and ingredients for another time when you’re less likely to feel the pressure. Consider your guests’ likes and dislikes and be conscious of potential dietary restrictions.

Serve beverages with festive flair: A beverage station is a fun and unexpected way to infuse extra holiday cheer into your event. Offer cozy options like hot chocolate, coffee, and various seasonal mix-ins and flavors. Convenient and tasty options to have on-hand for the holidays are Starbucks creamers, featuring flavors inspired by cafe beverages like Caramel Macchiato, White Chocolate Mocha and Cinnamon Dolce Latte, all which are now available in limited-time red holiday packaging online and at your local grocery store.

Give your guests some festive drink inspiration to start with, such as this delicious holiday-themed recipe for Iced Gingerbread Caramel Coffee that is sure to become a favorite. For added fun, provide an array of toppings such as marshmallows, peppermint sticks, and chocolate candies wrapped in colorful holiday wrappers.

Plan for entertainment: When a well-acquainted group gathers, the party has a way of taking on a life of its own. In case of a slow start, or if you’re entertaining different groups of friends who don’t know each other well, it’s a good idea to prepare some options to get guests mingling and engaged. A holiday music playlist creates a festive atmosphere, and planning a few interactive games ahead of time can help break the ice.

Pace your preparations: Make a conscious effort to spread your party prep over the days and weeks leading up to your event. Saving all the cooking and cleaning until the day of the party only leaves hosts exhausted before guests even arrive. Instead, list everything you need to accomplish around the house and tackle a few chores each night. Do your shopping a few days ahead so ingredients are fresh, but you aren’t left scrambling. Prepare any dishes that can be refrigerated or frozen ahead of time.

Anticipate guests’ needs: The secret to great hosting isn’t really a secret at all; it’s simply making sure your guests feel welcome and comfortable. Providing a secure spot for coats and handbags, offering a drink when they arrive, and ensuring they can find essentials like the restroom may seem obvious, but they’re easily overlooked basics. If you worry you’ll be too busy in the kitchen finishing the meal, recruit a friend or family member to act in your place.

Iced Gingerbread Caramel Coffee

Prep time: 3 minutes.

Drink:

  • 1 cup ice
  • 4 tablespoons Starbucks Gingerbread Naturally Flavored Ground Coffee for double strength
  • 6 ounces water
  • 1 ounce Starbucks Caramel Macchiato Flavored Creamer

Toppings:

  • Whipped cream
  • Homemade or store-bought caramel sauce
  • Nutmeg

Place ice in a 16-ounce glass. Brew gingerbread coffee with water and pour it into a glass. Add caramel creamer. Stir. Top with whipped cream, a drizzle of caramel sauce, and a pinch of nutmeg.

Troy Petenbrink

Troy, also known as The Gay Traveler, is a well known travel and food writer. His has been a regular contributor to a variety of outlets including National Geographic, Travel Channel, DCRefined, CBS Local, and Metro Weekly. He also appears on local Washington news outlets as a travel expert.

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