Saturday, May 24, 2008

Quick, Easy, and When-You-Have-More-Time Menu Ideas for Your Graduate!

June is the time to celebrate your graduates be they first time grads or going for their umpteenth degree! You know, it really doesn't matter how old your grad is, the important thing is the celebration of their success.

You really can be more creative than the standard sheet cake with a photo image of your grad. I have some ideas for you - quick, easy, and when-you-have-more-time. The trick is to have fun and keep it simple, the focus is on the graduate!


  • Hot dogs, hamburgers and other BBQ favorites are always highlights of graduation parties. A condiment bar will be great so the grad and guests can mix and match their favorites. Chips and purchased slaw make easy accompaniments.

  • Make-your-own bars are quick to set up and everyone can make their very own creation plus this keeps your guests busy. Some suggestions are make-your-own grilled pizzas using Boboli or other pre-made crust, fajitas cooked on the grill, or nachos and tacos. Tortillas with guacamole or Pico De Gallo salsa makes a nice side for the Mexican themed party.

  • If you do not have a lot of time to spare, pre-prepared dishes from local grocery stores are a great way to serve tasty food without spending a lot of time.

  • Have plenty of water and varieties of drinks like lemonades, ginger ale, fizzy soft drinks, mocktails, etc. If your graduate is old enough to drink please be a responsible host and watch out for the safety of all who consume alcoholic beverages at the party.

  • Don't forget the smores (everyone really loves them!) Just have bowls of marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate bars ready along with the skewers or roasting sticks. Depending on the age of the graduate, you may need special supervision here.

  • Ice cream sundae bars are also a hit for all graduates! Set out vanilla ice cream with all manner of toppings plus whipped cream and school-colored sprinkles for added school spirit.


Cap off your graduate's school year with a treat that fits the occasion- a chocolate mortarboard with a fruit-leather tassel. You may want to make enough to share with a few classmates.

Miniature peanut butter cups
Frosting or peanut butter
Chocolate-covered graham crackers
Fruit leather

1. Place a miniature peanut butter cup, bottom up, on a plate. Top with a small dollop of frosting or peanut butter, then press on a chocolate-covered graham cracker.
2. For a tassel, tightly roll up a small square of fruit leather. Cut fringe on one end and attach the other end to the center of the graham cracker with another dab of frosting or peanut butter.


  • Pizza is about as easy as it gets (especially if you have it delivered right to your door!). To add jazz to the party, order specialty or gourmet pizzas the grad and guests will like.

  • You can order submarine sandwiches from submarine sandwich shops or grocery stores. These sandwiches can come as long as you have guests to eat them. Just be sure to pick them up in a vehicle that can accommodate the sandwich length.

  • Iced tea, lemonade, spritzers, and water will round out your party. Grocery stores will have specialty drinks that are sure to please your grad.

  • Place nuts, chex-mix, pretzels, or chips around the party area so the grad and guests will mingle. Pair veggies with two or three varieties of dip such as ranch, jalapeno, cheddar, spinach, and artichoke in fancy themed serving dishes. This type of food goes a long way and rarely is there any left!

  • Ice cream cakes are easy to make. You just soften the ice cream, pat it into any mold to fit your theme, and refreeze. You can even color the softened ice cream to match school colors using food coloring. Viola! Dessert is served.

  • For another easy dessert, tie licorice strings around cannoli for a diploma your grad can eat!


Cupcakes are always fun and this one is especially fun for all graduates!

1 box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® cake mix (any non-swirl flavor)
Water, vegetable oil and eggs called for on cake mix box
1 box (4.5 oz) Betty Crocker® Fruit by the Foot® chewy fruit snack rolls (any flavor) or shoestring licorice
1 container Betty Crocker® Rich & Creamy vanilla frosting
Food color
60 square shortbread cookies, from two 10-oz packages
60 candy-coated chocolate or fruit-flavored candies

1. Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pans). Place miniature paper baking cups in 24 mini muffin cups, 1 3/4x1 inch. Make cake batter as directed on box. Fill cups 2/3 full of batter (about 1 rounded tablespoon each). Refrigerate remaining batter.
2. Bake 14 to 16 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean; cool. Repeat with remaining batter. (Leave paper baking cups on cupcakes so mortarboards are quicker and easier to make and more portable to serve.)
3. To make tassels: Cut sixty 2 1/2-inch lengths from fruit snack rolls. Cut each into several strips up to 1/2 inch from 1 end. Roll uncut end between fingertips to make tassels. Or cut several pieces of shoestring licorice into 2 1/2-inch lengths.
4. Tint frosting with food color to match paper baking cups. Frost bottoms of cookies. Place 1 candy on center of each. For each mortarboard, place small dollop of frosting on bottom of cupcake; top with cookie. Press uncut end of fruit snack or 3 or 4 pieces of licorice into frosted cookie next to candy. Store loosely covered.

When You Have More Time:

  • A brunch makes a nice celebration especially since the graduates will be visiting other parties throughout the day or weekend. A party with a different flair will be welcome. Using breakfast for new beginning's as the theme serve an egg casserole, a fruit bowl, and sweet rolls. You could also consider waffles with assorted toppings like blueberries, strawberries and even chocolate chips. For a really great waffle bar include the whipped cream. Mimosas fit the occasion for older graduates. Don't forget the deviled eggs - they put a smile on everyone's face!

  • A Hawaiian luau can be great fun and a great way to wind down after the formality of graduation. This is especially nice for an evening party but works well during the day, too. Try pulled pork with pineapple salsa, fruited rice, and coconut ice cream served in coconut bowls.

  • An easy graduation buffet is the perfect way for the parents to enjoy the celebration along with the guests. Preparing the food a couple of days ahead helps reduce a last-minute rush and confusion. Teen favorites include a taco bar or built-to-order nachos, mini pizzas or burgers and hot dogs. A finger food buffet includes chicken wings, meatballs, salads, veggies and dip, and an assortment of fresh fruits with dip. A dessert buffet with mini-sized dessert favorites is a wonderful way to end the day of graduation party hopping for the graduates.

  • If your grad is old enough to drink, bring out some good wine or champagne to help everyone get into the celebratory spirit. Since your graduate is about to embark on a whole new world of maturity and responsibility, classic sophisticated food will work quite well. Try a Caesar salad, roast beef with cracked pepper crust, and roasted walnuts with Stilton cheese for the guests to snack on.


With another school year drawing to a close, you'll want to make sure your young graduate gets his just desserts -- such as a jelly roll diploma wrapped in a fruit leather bow.

2 eggs plus
1 egg white
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 tbsp. butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
Decorator's gel
Fruit leather

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a 15- x 10-inch jelly roll pan with waxed paper and grease the paper well.>
2. In a bowl, beat the eggs and egg white with an electric mixer on high speed for 5 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of the vanilla extract, then gradually beat in the sugar at low speed. Stir in the dry ingredients until well mixed.
3. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 12 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
4. Invert the hot cake onto a clean towel sprinkled with confectioners' sugar; remove the waxed paper. Trim the cake edges with a sharp knife (adults only) and roll up the hot cake and towel from a narrow end. Let it cool on a wire rack.
5. Unroll the cooled cake, remove the towel, and spread on jelly, leaving a 2-inch strip at one end plain. Reroll the jelly-covered portion of the cake.
6. In a bowl, beat together the cream cheese, butter, confectioners' sugar, and the last 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract and use to frost the cake.
7. Use decorator's gel to pipe "roll lines" on the cake ends and the class year or your child's name onto the unrolled portion. Finally, add a fruit leather bow.

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