Party Pananche, Effortless Dinner Party

Do you ever make weekend plans at the beginning of the week, and then life happens

Well, that’s sort of the way I seem to roll..


Here’s a meal you can put together in just a few minutes, for a dinner everyone will enjoy

easy dinner party menu

Start with an Italian style dip, marinara baked with a layer of ricotta and fontina and served with focaccia strips

cheesy marinara dip

Just about everybody loves pizza, so you can’t go wrong with this simple favorite


I bought ready made cheese focaccia bread and warmed it in the oven and cut it into dipping strips

Italian tomato and cheese dip

Once people start dipping, the layers blend together in a pinky red gooey goodness


Assemble the dip with layers of ricotta, marinara, fontina,


repeating until dish is full and ending with a layer Parmesan cheese on top

Marinara Ricotta dip

Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes and serve

kale salad

Yep, I used a bag salad…I know, don’t be appalled…this one is actually quite good.  It’s full of kale, frisé, cabbage, chicory, and has dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds and a poppy seed vinaigrette~7 super foods, right at your finger tips~

pantry potatoes

This dish of Pantry Potatoes is a version of the ever popular hash brown potato casserole, and you’ve probably made this or something similar~

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 9.23.52 AM

The potatoes are made with frozen shredded hash browns* and things that you typically might have in your pantry

*do NOT use the refrigerated hash browns, they don’t cook correctly


Ranch Dressing Mix, Cream of Mushroom, Chicken or Celery Soup,  sour cream, and cheddar cheese [if you buy cheese already grated, look for Off the Block style, it tastes most like freshly grated]

pantry potato casserole

Mix it all together, bake and serve~

hash brown casserole

Couldn’t be easier and always a hit

cornish hens, southern style

The star of the meal was the Southern Style Cornish Hens

cornish hens

HHjr, “King of the Grill” likes to put them on a rotisserie, but you can also easily bake them in the oven.  Put cleaned hens in a baking dish, season with salt and pepper and bake at 375 for 1-1 1/4 hours or until done, basting with sauce several times during cooking

cornish hens, southern style

What sets these apart is his special basting sauce made with Hoisin sauce, honey and soy sauce.  It would make an old boot taste good 🙂

Here are the simple recipes


Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings 8


  • 1 1/2 cups Marinara sauce
  • 1 cup part skim ricotta
  • 3 oz Fontina cheese grated
  • 1 oz shaved Parmesan
  • Italian seasoning


  • Spread a layer of ricotta in the bottom of a 1 quart, sprayed baking dish.
  • Top with a layer of marinara and fontina.
  • Season with Italian seasoning and repeat until your dish is full.
  • Top with Parmesan. Can be refrigerated at this point, covered for up to 24 hours. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Serve with focaccia strips, baguette slices or pizza crust for dipping. 8-10 servings
Keyword appetizer, easy dip, party dip, ricotta marinara dip

Pantry Potatoes

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 55 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 8


  • 1 bag 30 oz frozen shredded hash browns, thawed
  • 1 pkg Ranch Dip seasoning mix
  • 1 can Cream of Mushroom Celery or Chicken soup
  • 2 cups light sour cream
  • 1 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese


  • Spray a large baking dish with cooking oil spray.
  • Mix soup, sour cream and seasoning right in the dish.
  • Add potatoes and mix well.  Mix in some of the cheese and then top potatoes with the rest.
  • Can be refrigerated at this point for up to 24 hours or frozen.  Bake at 400 for 45-60 minutes.  Makes 8 servings


*do NOT use the refrigerated hash browns, they don’t cook correctly
Keyword cheesy potatoes, easy potatoes, hash browns, pantry potatoes, potato casserole

Cornish Hens, Southern Style

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Course Cook out, Main Course
Cuisine American, Asian


  • 1 cornish hen per person thawed
  • Hoisin sauce [find in the Asian section]
  • honey
  • soy sauce
  • salt and pepper


  • Remove any extra wrapped pieces from inside hen [sometimes the neck etc are wrapped and packed inside].  Rinse hens and pat dry.  Season.  Place in baking pan or prepare for grill.
  • Mix equal parts Hoisin sauce and honey and add a couple dashes of soy sauce.
  • Cook hens, basting occasionally with sauce during the last half of cooking time.  Watch carefully so it doesn’t burn.  Cooking time will depend on size of hen and cooking method.  Heat should be medium to medium high, 350-375.  Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness in the meaty area of the thigh
Keyword Asian hens, cornish hens, grilled chicken, hoisin sauce
hash brown casserole

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peppermint Ganache and Crème de Menthe Frosting can be made several days ahead of time and refrigerated until serving

Creme de Menthe cupcakes 1


Juicy Details

See the tablescape for this easy dinner party on Hopping to Easter here

bunnies, carrots and eggs

Marinara Ricotta Dip is similar to Red Carpet Cocktail here

red carpet cocktail

For another effortless dinner party menu see Simple Dinner Party here

pasta trees


I will be joining the fabulous parties and blogs on my side bar and

The Freshman Cook

AKA Design

Memories by the Mile

Cook Craft Love

21 Responses to “Party Pananche, Effortless Dinner Party”
  1. Vicki says:

    Love it all!! Thanks for the night and the recipes!

  2. Mary says:

    It all looks and sounds delicious Jenna, especially the marinara ricotta dip! I have an oldie-but-goodie recipe for hash brown casserole that’s similar with a cornflake topping. It’s always a hit for brunch or dinner 🙂

  3. Those Cornish hens look amazing! What a wonderful meal!

    Have a great day!

  4. Jacqueline says:

    Wow, that is quite the meal! I would love every bite. Those Cornish game hens are pretty impressive. I have never used our rotisserie and yours is the first I have seen on a blog! I wonder where the parts are! That’s the worst huh? When we don’t even know where everything went. This is quite the meal!

    • Thanks Jacqueline, my husband and son grill EVERYTHING, next they want to try stuffing a pork tenderloin inside a pineapple and putting it on the rotisserie or something crazy, so stay tuned, as the weather warms who knows what they’ll come up with 🙂

  5. I make an appetizer that’s exactly like yours except cream cheese in place of ricotta. It’s so easy to make and always a hit at parties. I’m definitely going to try your version with ricotta. It sounds delicious!

  6. Lynn says:

    Ok, I HAVE to go there… The chickens remind me of a few people at work, either they’re kissing up or their head is up… I’m just sayin’. Can you tell it’s been a long week??? Everything looks great and all kidding aside, I’d love to try the cornish hens:@)

  7. Debbie says:

    The Italian style dip sounds wonderful and the dish is so pretty too. I’m saving the meal menu since you must be super organized to pull off this menu in minutes. LOL It takes me a half hour to even decide what I want to eat. Thanks for stopping by for the Key West party. We’re thinking of going again, but it would be this summer and I’m not sure about the heat. Have you been in the summer?

    • oh Debbie, don’t go in the summer! it’s much too hot! Feb and March are the best months, Key West is soooo humid, and this is coming from an Alabama girl! Thanks so much, I do try to be super organized, it’s the only way I can get things done ~

      • Debbie says:

        OK great info! We will wait until next February to go back to Key West. We have always gone in February.

  8. celyn says:

    These are such great ideas thanks for sharing!


  9. chrisscheuer says:

    Wow, I want to come to a dinner party at your house, everything sounds wonderful and who would know that it’s so easy to put together!

  10. Miz Helen says:

    I would sure love to be a guest at this party, everything looks so good! Thanks so much for sharing your awesome post with Full Plate Thursday and have a fantastic weekend!
    Miz Helen

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