Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Input requested: Graduation party food

I'm helping plan a family member's graduation party next month, have been considering the menu, and would love some help. We want to keep things as inexpensive as possible, yet still have a variety of pretty, tasty foods. Here are the parameters:

*We're planning for an open house with about 75 people.

*We're not serving a meal, but it's early enough in the evening that the food should have some substance (not cake and punch).

*In an effort to make things simpler, we're planning to stick with finger foods.

We have time on our side, as there's still a month to plan and watch the sales. We're hoping to make mini-cheesecakes for dessert, provided that we can find a decent deal on cream cheese. And we've talked about veggies with dip and cheeseball with crackers, but nothing is really set in stone.

So, what ideas do you have? What has been a success for you? Any amazing, inexpensive recipes to share?


Helen said...

While fruit isn't all that cheap, I buy a huge bag at GFS markets (Like a Sams'/Costco but open to the public). Frozen fruit, peaches, grapes, strawberries, melon, etc. Very good. $7 for 5 pounds, I think it is? Says it is about 16 servings. It filled my largest mixing bowl which is definitely large!!

Mom2fur said...

I don't have a specific recipe, but you could try looking up some freeze-ahead or make-ahead appetizers on line. I do this for my Christmas Eve party every year and it really helps. Meatballs, either Swedish or Italian, would be an easy make-ahead dish.
Another possibility is wraps. You could do a variety of sandwiches with red, green and white tortillas, then cut them in half (or even thirds) for serving. Then you'd just have to have some condiments on the side. That, a fruit salad like Helen suggests, and a green salad would be great.
Oh, and here's a fun beverage you can make to match the school's colors: ice cream sodas! You'd need to get some inexpensive clear plastic soda glasses at your party supply place. You also need whipped cream (like Reddi Whip), whatever flavors of sno-cone syrup you like (this is where you could match the colors) and some seltzer. For each serving, you squirt in a generous dollop of whipped cream and a squirt or two of the syrup. Fill the rest of the glass with the seltzer and stir--it tastes really good (chocolate syrup is killer) and it's pretty, too. Something fun for the kiddies, but I like these sodas, too!

Anonymous said...

i say wow them with ambience and you can get away with less food or at least simpler foods that look great! Its all about presentation. If you know of anyone who has a chocolate fountain, people love that and you can serve so many things with it, like vanilla wafers, marshmallows, some fruit, grapes on a toothpick, people love it.

mom_of2boys said...

We had a graduation open house last year. Here's what we served and it wasn't really that expensive. I picked up most of the items when they were on sale.

-potato chips
-chips and salsa
-triangle sandwiches - ham salad, chicken salad, tuna salad, and egg salad
-lunch meat try with a variety of breads on another tray
-meatballs in spaghetti sauce
-hot dog bites (pig in a blanket cut into fours)

I can't think of what else we had...

Ours was like a picnic style since we had everyone outside swimming.

Anonymous said...

Pinwheels! Take a slice of chipped beef, spread cream cheese on it, and wrap it around a pickle(sweet or dill). It might sound weird, but the flavors together are sooo good. And this can serve a lot of people. After you wrap the pickles, cut them into bite sized pieces and poke a tooth pick in them.

Anonymous said...

One more idea. Spread Ritz crackers with strawberry cream cheese. The combination of sweet and salty is yummy, and they look pretty too...(not to mention you're using only 2 ingredients!)

Anonymous said...

Veggie pizza: Crust can be homemade. Usually use any veggies that are on sale and put through my chopper so veggies are small. Will serve lots of people and can be cut small. Tortilla pinwheels, meat balls from the Sams club or make your own with g beef on sale over the next month and just freeze. Have a dessert bar and start making many different kinds of bars, brownies etc. Freeze now and cut into small squares and just keep refilling. Love the fruit idea. Chips with home made dips. If I think of other things will let you know.

Anonymous said...

Do you have a Kroger, the soft Philly cream cheese is part of the 10 item deal going on right now.

MaryAnn said...

One of the yummiest finger food/appetizer items I've ever eaten was sweet and sour meatballs - they were served at my 20th high school reunion, and they lasted about half an hour! VERY easy to make in the slow cooker, and they are truly irresistible. There are lots of versions online - look for one that calls for grape jelly and cranberries.

Anonymous said...

For my daughter's First birthday party, I did only bite sized snacks (Tapas). Everything went over well. The most popular were Baked mac & cheese bites (do a baked mac & cheese recipe from online and put them in muffin tins instead of a large container.) I also did stuffed mushroom caps stuffed with cream cheese mixed with herbs (I added cute faces with olive pieces and pimento strips). These are baked until lightly browned. I also did dips and veggies and other items.

Anonymous said...

Mexican Fiesta...use coupons and sales and stock up ASAP. We did Jose Ole Taquitos, grounded beef seasoned with taco seasoning, seasoned, shredded chicken breasts (Bags of BIGIF), lots of chopped veggies and most expensive cost..tomatoes, onions, lettuce, colored peppers, got lots of shredded cheese on sale 99 cents a bag, bought shells of all sizes and types on sale, salsa of all types and styles. Put plastic marguerita glasses on tables filled with hersey kisses, along with bowls of chips and salsa. Used lots of crockpots-beef, chicken, nacho cheese, spanish rice. Kept Taquitos warm in Nesco Roaster. Used a second nesco filled with ice and used 3-divider for some of the veggies. If need more info-feel free to email me, I don't have a blog. schafer5@cmsinter.net

Anonymous said...

I provided food for a wedding a couple of years ago and made Petite Quiches, a recipe I found on kraftfoods.com, just type Petite Quiche in the recipe search. The recipe is for a classic bacon and Swiss, but you can use about any cheese and add in. My fav is cheddar with green chilies (drain before adding.) You can make these ahead and freeze, just pop in the oven to heat. You can also make a large quiche using frozen pie crust--super easy.

Beets said...

At my graduation party my mom covered our table w/towels and a table cloth, then put a kiddie pool on top and then sand buckets w/the shovels, filled it with ice and then put the salads and food in teh sand buckets. it was cute and inexpensive. actually a few other people used the pool and buckets for their parties too. also if you make a bunch a food ahead of time store it in garbage bags. makes for a lot more room in the fridge.

a general outline of a menu:
fruit (1/4 cup per person)
veggies (1/2 - 1/3 of what you have in fruit)
oil-based salad (1/4 (appetizer) - 1/2 (meal) cup per person)
mayo based salad

fruit: cut it up yourself, prepared fruit is SOOO over priced. stick w/watermelon (besure to drain and keep it seperate from the other fruit so it doesn't waterlog it) cantelope, strawberries and pineapple.

veggies: i would either skip veggies or make a small veggie tray. celery, carrots and cauliflower maybe broccoli. fruit gets eaten first, veggies are always last to be eaten.

you can make great finger sandwiches which would feed a lot of people, look nice w/moderate cost. cut a large foccica in 1/2 spread w/garlic butter layer spinach/mozz cheese/salami/ham for an italian, or ham/cheddar turkey/swiss then pick the sandwich making about 5 rows of 6 picks (you;ll need long toothpicks). then cut your sandwich and you have about 30 little finger sandwiches that don't fall apart because they've got a toothpick through each one.

an easy inexpensive oil-based salad:
lg bottle of kraft zesty dressing
box of penne noodles
grape or cherry tomatoes sliced in 1/2
green peppr and/or red pepper cut in strips
black olives (optional)
pepper and salt to season
shedded parm
green onions

another thing my mom always makes for lg amounts of people is a bbq beef and/or pork. take a roast throw it in the crockpot until it falls apart, shred the beef and mix in bbq (your fave or make it yourself) grab some buns and call it a day.
good luck!

Carolyn F said...

One of my favorite party foods is a spicy sausage dip. You need one pound of bulk sausage (your choice of "heat"), one block of cream cheese, one can of rotel (your choice of "heat"), and then one bag of tortilla chips to serve it with. I normally make a triple batch when my husbands friends come over. Smart shopping at Walmart and I can do this with generics for $4 per batch.