Graduation Party News


Article published Sunday, April 15, 2007

Variety, simplicity are keys to graduation party menu

When it comes to the menu for a graduation party, choose the graduate's favorite foods.


It can range from deli trays with salads to a cook-out in the backyard. It can be as simple as graduation cake and punch or a pizza party.

At a recent graduation party I attended, the menu included fried chicken (from a local supermarket deli), mostaccioli with meat sauce, baked beans, a couple of salads, and the graduation cake. Every time the chicken ran low, one of the parents' friends returned to the supermarket to refill the chafing dish.

If your graduate loves pizza, consider a pizza menu. Serve several gourmet varieties in addition to the classic cheese and pepperoni, advises

As warm weather approaches, the parties are held outdoors under a tent or in the backyard so picnic foods are always in favor. A menu of grilled foods - hamburgers and hot dogs or grilled chicken - is popular.

Cook-outs are popular. "We will do the cooking or drop off the grills," says Todd VanderPol of Premier Catering. You can order the salads and side dishes, too.

Another popular item is fajitas. Have the steak or chicken catered or get a friend to man your grill. Then set out side dishes of tortillas, diced tomato, shredded lettuce, grated cheese, jalapenos, diced onions, avocado slices, sour cream, picante sauce, and sliced black olives.


Deli trays are always popular. You can make your own or order it from a caterer or local supermarket.


If making your own, Sara Lee advises:


For 10 guests, buy 1 to 2 pounds sliced meat, 1 pound cheese, 16 rolls or 1 to 2 loaves bread, 20 plates and 20 forks plus 50 napkins;


For 20 guests, buy 2 to 3 pounds sliced meat, 1.5 pounds cheese, 32 rolls or 2 to 3 loaves bread, 40 plates, 40 forks, and 100 napkins.


Salads are refreshing. "Potato salad is always popular," says Mr. VanderPol, who notes that the number of salads you have determines the amount of each that you need to make or order.


A fresh fruit salad served in a hollowed-out watermelon or a tray of sliced melon, fresh strawberries, chunks of fresh pineapple, and grapes are colorful and quench your thirst.


No matter what you select, food should not stand out more than two hours.


Wash hands and surfaces often to keep food safe.


Keep raw foods and cooked foods separate. Don't cross-contaminate.


Cook and serve food at the proper temperature.


Keep cold food cold and hot food hot. For cold food, place the tray or bowl on a bed of ice in another container. For hot food use a chafing dish, a slow-cooker, or a hot plate.


Waring Pro has introduced a buffet server with three stainless steel chafing dishes, each holding 20 4-ounce servings. It sells for $360.


When grilling, you can also use the heating units on the grill to keep food at the proper temperature.


A punch bowl is always great to serve cool beverages without relying on cans of pop.


Also, popular is the chocolate fountain, which is being sold at major stores. Dip fresh fruit and/or pound cake or angel food cake squares into the chocolate as a dessert.


Often there are other parties going on the same day, which means the graduate wants to party-hop, as do many of guests.


Teenagers don't eat as much as you think they will. However if a party lasts longer than three or four hours, the food has to be resupplied.


When hiring a caterer, interview several caterers and place orders early to get on their calendars. advises asking questions, including:


What are their specialties?


What serving equipment do they supply?


Do they rent tables, chairs, linens, dishes?


Do they provide or rent any extras?


How do they bill?


Is delivery a separate charge?


Some people save money by picking up their order rather than having it delivered.


If you are preparing all the food yourself, choose from the many easy recipes available. One of my favorites is graduation punch, which people love for all occasions. Savory Bean & Pasta Salad relies on canned or jarred bean salads. You can also use antipasto salads Or wonderful light and refreshing pastas. These recipes will pass the test.



Graduation Punch

3 46-ounce cans of Hawaiian Punch

1 cup pineapple juice

1 cup grapefruit juice

1 quart club soda

Ice cubes


Combine juices. At last minute, add club soda and ice. Serve in punch cups or 5 to 8-ounce paper cups.


Yield: 30 servings



Savory Bean & Pasta Salad

2 15-ounce cans three-bean salad

6 cups cooked medium shell or corkscrew pasta (2 cups dry)

1 1/2 cups of 1/2-inch cubes provolone cheese (about 7 ounces)

2 tablespoons fresh oregano or 2 teaspoons dried
2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper


In a large bowl, stir together ingredients. Cover and chill until serving time. Adjust seasoning if desired.


Yield: 15 servings


Kathie Smith is The Blade's food editor.

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