Throw A Fabulous but Easy Dinner Party – With Recipes You Can Make Ahead

easy dinner party recipes
 
Want to throw a great dinner party without a ton of effort – and tired of your plain old grilled chicken recipes?  Read on!

Being a busy Mom, I don’t have a lot of time to prepare for a dinner party like I used to.  So, I designed a menu that I could make as I had time, and décor that was simple and easy but still stylish.  Let’s pretend just for one quick second that I’m back in my 20′s or early 30′s (sans child). If you did all your prep in advance, you would have all that time to just relax and have a drink with your guests before dinner.  Amazing. 
 
Menu: Gin & Tonic with a Twist, Charcuterie Plate, Red Wine (Zin), Stuffed Chicken Two Ways, Kale Saute, Bruschetta and Ice Creams with Mint.
 
Recipes:
Start out with a nice “G&T”, but this time with a twist.  Blackberry Meyer Lemon Gin and Tonic – I was totally inspired by this recipe I found on Spoon Fork Bacon, click here for the recipe.  My Gin of choice is Hendricks by the way. 
Snack on a nice charcuterie plate (charcuterie is just a fancy word for a spread of meats and other condiments).  I included: Salami, Pancetta, Goat Cheese, Sharp Cheddar, Garlic & Herb Soft Cheese, Water Crackers, Whole Grain Crackers, Stuffed Olives, Kalamata Olives, Pistachios, and Grapes.
Then on to the main course.  Stuffed Chicken Two Ways – I came up with this originally because I was tired of plain old grilled chicken breast.  I decided to stuff it with things I had leftover and loved it.  So here are two of my own creations.
 
Chicken Stuffed with Apples, Spinach, Pancetta and Cheese:
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 3/4 apple, peeled and diced fairly small
  • 2 cups of fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • 2 thin slices of pancetta
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  • 2 TBS parmesan cheese
  • bread crumbs (to sprinkle on the finished product)
  • poultry seasoning of choice (to sprinkle on the finished product)
Add olive oil, apples, pancetta and spinach to the pan and saute. 
When it’s almost done, add both cheeses until they melt.  Cool slightly before stuffing your chicken. (keep reading below for how to stuff and cook both chicken recipes)
 
Chicken Stuffed with Artichokes and Parmesan Cheese:
  • 7 oz jar of marinated artichoke hearts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • 1/4 cup greek yogurt
  • two dashes of garlic powder
  • bread crumbs (to sprinkle on the finished product)
  • poultry seasoning of choice (to sprinkle on the finished product)
Simply mix all of the ingredients in a bowl and stuff your chicken.
 
For both recipes, you will need to cut about a 1.5-inch hole into the side of the chicken breast, then work your knife around inside so it opens up.  The trick is to keep that initial hole semi-small while creating a large open space inside. 
 
Then stuff the chicken with your mixture.  Get it all in there, it’s ok if it’s a little over-flowing.  I also added a few bread crumbs and some poultry seasoning on top. 
 
Cook at 350 degrees for about 35-40 minutes (until the juices run clear).
 
I made two side dishes.  The first was a Kale and Swiss Chard Saute.  I found this recipe in a Cooking Light magazine and it’s been a total hit with everyone who has tried it, especially my husband.  He says his only complaint is that I didn’t make enough. 
 
First gather all of your ingredients (click here for the full recipe).  I actually needed a little more olive oil for cooking than the recipe calls for – I like to cook it down a little more.  Plus I doubled the recipe for my group of four.  The more you cook it down the less it seems you have.  

Here is what it looks like when it’s all done cooking:  

The second side dish was bruschetta.  Here’s what you need:
  • I bought fresh bread (three cheese) from our store and toasted four pieces
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, quartered or smaller depending on the side
  • 1/2 tsp garlic
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste
About four hours before guests arrived, I mixed all the ingredients and let it marinate in the fridge.  I made this one up as I went and it turned out pretty good. 
 
All of those pieces turned into this lovely meal:
 
And last but not least, grab some of your favorite ice creams to share at the end of the meal.  We have a local ice cream shop (Vic’s) down the street from our house and chose a strawberry sorbet and a strawberry cheesecake – add a little mint leaf on top for a bit of fanciness. 
 

My tips for a no-stress dinner party:

 
The Night Before (after Zoey goes to bed):
    • Clean the bathroom

 

  • Set out dishes, silverware, glasses, napkins, barware, appetizer plate and utensils, bud vases – really everything you will need the next day that will make your life easier
 The Morning Of:
  • Grab a quick bouquet of flowers at the Farmers Market or local store and make three small vases for the table (this only cost me $4 at the Farmers Market)
The Afternoon Of (while Zoey naps):
  • Make stuffing for the chicken, stuff, and put in the fridge until ready to bake
  • Prepare Kale sauté so all you have to do is throw it in the pan
  • Make bruschetta topping
An Hour Before:
  • Vacuum (actually hubby did this)
  • Make charcuterie plate
  • Cut bread for bruschetta and place in the toaster oven so it’s ready
  • Take out chicken so it comes closer to room temperature (about half hour before you cook it)
  • Get your cocktails ready to serve when they arrive
And you have earned yourself that G&T with a twist!

Oh, and where was Zoey (my one-year old) in the midst of all this dinner party madness?  She was right in the middle!  We entertained her-she was dancing to our Stevie Wonder Pandora station, we fed her with us and then flipped on a little ‘Bubble Guppies’ at the end so we could wrap up dinner.  I actually put her to bed while they cleaned up before dessert.

Thanks again Mr.and Mrs. Ainsley for a fun night!

And for another dinner party idea, how about this one for creating restaurant copycat recipes.

 Eat Drink Eat

 

 

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