Party Panache, Simple Dinner Party and Pasta Lollipop Trees

Several people have asked me to demonstrate how to put together a dinner party~

If you have a plan, everything is doable, and a dinner party becomes just another dinner

I try to keep it SIMPLE, add some SPARK, and SPREAD out tasks over a few days

This way I’m not overwhelmed, and entertaining is a pleasure…

birthday table 7

I am sure you have your own way of doing things and I don’t want to bore you… if so, just skip to the end for some great party recipes you might want to try…I am just sharing a formula that works for me…


Choose a theme or color scheme,  it provides a starting point for your decor

Think about what you already have or want to use and “shop” your house to see what you can find to go with it

I pulled things from all seasons and occasions for this table

A centerpiece tree [decorated in any theme], Easter ribbon grass and pink burlap, an orange polka dot table topper from summer parties, Christmas packages, sweet treat decorations and Painted Chargers~ this all came together for an over the top birthday celebration

birthday chandy

DD’s recent birthday dinner party was just family, but we make a big deal about birthdays around here~

birthday table

This crazy collage of things works together because the same colors and elements are repeated throughout

birthday table 7

Anything whimsical and girly was the theme~ there are a lot of boys around here 🙂

birthday centerpiece

Guests always end up in the kitchen, so have some party touches in there

birthday party 5

The kitchen island was overflowing with presents and birthday fun


Including appetizers and the dinner buffet set up

pasta lollipops

I like to let guest serve themselves, easy on the host, and they get what they like~

party buffet

The dining table is the star of the show, so set it early in the week if you can

Birthday table

If you can’t leave it set up, do a practice tablescape and plan it out,  so you can quickly set it on party day

birthday party 2

Buy your flowers from places that have a rapid turnover to insure you get the freshest.  Costco and Whole Foods are my go to spots~

Then you can do your flowers a few days ahead of time and they will be at their peak on the day of your party

birthday party table 3

Choose dishes you have made before and that will suit your guests~

Teriyaki Tenderloin is a party favorite at our house, use beef or pork tenderloin, and guests always rave

The potatoes are simple to prep and cook and popular with all ages

The salad can be tossed with all kinds of goodies

I chose a do ahead appetizer that is easily prepared and served up fun and  fancy

I bought dessert, DD’s favorite Baby Bites,  mini cakes from a local pastry shop, Pastry Art


Naming the dishes to match your theme and posting the menu adds to the festivities

I used a clipboard here, but a frame or an easel works great too

birthday buffet 2

Everyone loves to know what’s on the menu

pasta trees

Make a schedule, print it out, and stick to it~  this is the real key to keeping your cool

Week ahead:

Clean and de-clutter house

Print menu or cards for buffet table  [I designed mine in Picmonkey]

3-4 days ahead:

Grocery shop

2-3 days ahead:

Marinate meat, make salad dressing

1-2 days ahead:

Arrange flowers, set table, add decor

1 day ahead:

Cook pasta and toss with pesto, reserving some plain if desired.  Keep refrigerated.  Prepare serving stand

Pick up dessert from bakery

Day of:


Wash lettuce and gather other ingredients

do some touch up cleaning, run dishwasher and empty it

Prep potatoes and refrigerate, or start slow cooker

Cut salami and peppers for Pasta Lollipops

2 hours before:

add berries and fruit etc. to finish salad, but don’t dress until right before serving

add finishing touches to buffet and table,  set up beverage station and Pasta Pops

Grill meat ahead if desired.  This meat can be served at room temperature if you want to go ahead and cook it before your guests arrive

Cocktail hour:

Serve Pasta Pops and assorted beverages of choice

Put potatoes in oven 45 minutes before dinner time and grill meat

Dinner time:

Toss salad, slice meat

Place salad, meat and potatoes on buffet for guests to help themselves

Dessert can go on display too so guests know to save room

birthday buffet

Dinner Party Formula=

easy menu SIMPLE +theme/color scheme SPARK+  weekly do ahead plan SPREAD= Success!

Click on the green recipe titles below for the recipes

Teriyaki Tenderloin

Celebration Salad aka Holiday Salad

29 Forever Fries aka Italian Fries  or substitute Slow Cooker Cheddar Scalloped Potatoes


Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American


  • skewers


  • refrigerated fresh tortellini pasta
  • pesto sauce such as Buitoni low fat basil pesto
  • red pepper
  • thin salami slices


  • Cook pasta according to package directions and drain. Toss with pesto to taste, reserving some plain if desired. Refrigerate up to 24 hours. Cut pepper into bite size pieces. Cut salami into squares. Skewer one tortellini with a piece of salami and pepper, and then another tortellini. Arrange skewers into a garden, inserting ends into florist foam or a styrofoam block.


put plain tortellini on some of the skewers for children
Keyword appetizer, easy appetizer, pasta, pasta skewers, tortellini

I used a florist foam block inside a galvanized pan for the Pasta Lollipop Tree Display, and used ribbon shreds from my Easter stash~ parsley works great for covering base too

Pasta Lollipop

Pasta Lollipop Trees! 

lollipop trees

For another themed dinner party, using this formula, see  Walk on the Wild Side here

wild side fi

The Simple was the menu, Grilled Chicken, Alabama Sassy Chicken, which marinates overnight

Green Bean Casserole with Peppers and Cheese, which can be made ahead

No Hassle Hassleback Potatoes preps in minutes on party day

Salad Martini, Chopped Salad  make 1 day ahead

The Spark was the table, the menu names and the Safari Martini

Walk on the Wild Side Menu in a frame

menu web

For other Birthday party posts and tables see Happy Birthday Surprise here

surprise party!

and Birthday Party here

birthday tablescape 2

For a tutorial on the Birthday Cake Banner/table runner click here

birthday banner 1

To see more on the Birthday Tree click here, a table top tree can be decorated for any occasion

birthday tree

See this tree decorated for a football party, Football Tree here

football tree and wreath

Faux packages are great for decorating, see Fancy Fake Packages here

burlap ribbon fake packages

It seems like dinner parties are a dying art…but I think they are great fun, and whether it’s family, friends or business,  this S formula will insure success and you, the host or hostess, will NOT be stressed!

Now, don’t you want to throw a party?


I will be sharing with the fabulous parties and blogs on my side bar and:

The Scoop

Between Naps on the Porch

Posed Perfection

The Style Sisters

Savvy Southern Style

12 Responses to “Party Panache, Simple Dinner Party and Pasta Lollipop Trees”
  1. Lynn says:

    I love the pasta lollipops Jenna, and you know I’m a big fan of the decorated trees! Bet everyone had a blast:@)

  2. You really do it up! We love the little bites of cake from Party Art! The whole menu is making my mouth water.

  3. lulu says:

    Good tips. I love to entertain and do it often, however, I’ve learned that keeping it simple is the only way I continue to enjoy it.

  4. Mary says:

    Amen to 29 Forever 🙂 I love your pasta lollies Jenna! Party time is such fun at your house, you are a master!

  5. What fun ideas, especially the pasta lollipops! You’re not going to believe this (or maybe you will!), but again we are one of the same mind. I just recently bought that same polka-dotted ribbon for a kids Christmas tablescape I’m doing for an upcoming fundraiser!!! AND I’m using scads of the pastel ribbon, except mine is all curled up like pig tails. AND I bought 2 pastel Christmas trees for the table. (I’m not as creative in the craft department as you are, so I had to buy rather than making mine!) I bought a couple of huge pastel cupcakes but ended up returning them due to lack of table space. I am totally convinced that you and I were separated at birth!!!

  6. Bev says:

    Beautiful…love all the bright, cheery colors.

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  1. […] skewers, aka Pasta Lollipops, with tortellini, pesto, salami and red pepper or tomato can be served on a plate or stuck into […]

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