Top-of-the-Class Graduation Party Ideas

Here are a few tips for throwing an A+ graduation party.
By: Emily Lee
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FNK_SweetAndSpicyChickenAndSteakTacoBar_H

FNK_SweetAndSpicyChickenAndSteakTacoBar_H

Chef Name: Food Network Kitchen Full Recipe Name: Sweet and Spicy Chicken and Steak Taco Bar Talent Recipe: FNK Recipe: Food Network Kitchen’s Sweet and Spicy Chicken and Steak Taco Bar, as seen on Foodnetwork.com Project: Foodnetwork.com, SUMMER/APPETIZERS/PASTA Show Name: Food Network / Cooking Channel: Food Network

Photo by: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Renee Comet, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Tedious prep work and outrageously long cook times get an F in our gradebook. But before you throw in the towel and dial the caterer, take a look at our tips for a relaxed and inexpensive DIY graduation party. Whether your scholar just completed college or kindergarten, our tasty menu of easy, make-ahead dishes will score top marks with any audience.

Make-Ahead Mains

Burgers and hot dogs have long dominated the late-spring and summer entertaining scene, but this season we're all in favor of make-your-own taco stations. Food Network Kitchen’s  Sweet-and-Spicy Chicken and Steak Taco Bar is ideal for a casual open house. As new guests arrive, warm more tortillas and replenish your bowls of Monterey Jack, lime wedges and corn salsa. Don’t grill all of the meat at once: The chipotle-marinated chicken and steak cooks up in just 10 minutes on the grill, so leave some of it marinating in the fridge for guests who arrive later.

Quick and Easy Dips
InaGarten_Guacamole_H

InaGarten_Guacamole_H

Chef Name: Ina Garten Full Recipe Name: Guacamole Talent Recipe: na Garten’s Guacamole, as seen on Food Network’s Barefoot Contessa FNK Recipe: Project: Foodnetwork.com, SUMMER/APPETIZERS/PASTA Show Name: Barefoot Contessa Food Network / Cooking Channel: Food Network

Photo by: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Renee Comet, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

You can't serve tacos without an ample supply of guacamole, and with its 5 stars and over 200 reviews, Ina Garten’s 15-minute recipe guarantees success. Stock up on avocados ahead of time and they’ll ripen to perfection in the time leading up to your party. If they’re still a bit too firm the day before, put them in a brown paper bag away from direct sunlight and they’ll be perfect in 24 hours.

Salsa: Alton Brown

Photo by: Tara Donne ©Tara Donne

Tara Donne, Tara Donne

It’s better to have leftovers than it is to run out of food, so consider making an additional dip, such as  salsa or hummus. It will do double duty as a flavorful coating for sliced pita and corn chips, and it will also be a tasty taco garnish.

Fast Finger Foods
GiadaDeLaurentiis_PeaPestoCrostini_H

GiadaDeLaurentiis_PeaPestoCrostini_H

Chef Name: Giada De Laurentiis Full Recipe Name: Pea Pesto Crostini Talent Recipe: Giada De Laurentiis’ Pea Pesto Crostini, as seen on Foodnetwork.com FNK Recipe: Project: Foodnetwork.com, SUMMER/APPETIZERS/PASTA Show Name: Food Network / Cooking Channel: Food Network

Photo by: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Renee Comet, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Giada De Laurentiis' quick  Pea Pesto Crostini is just the thing to fall back on when small bites are an afterthought. By all means, use fresh spring peas if you have them at your fingertips. Otherwise, defrosted peas work just as well.

Not sure your guests will go for the pesto? Try another one of our  crunch-time appetizers.

ChickenKabobs_152.tif

ChickenKabobs_152.tif

Photo by: Christopher Testani

Christopher Testani

Depending on the size of your crowd, you may want to offer a heartier appetizer so your main dish doesn’t disappear right after it reaches the table. These  Hoisin Chicken and Boy Choy Kebabs will stave off hunger while you put the finishing touches on your taco bar. We recommend skewering the bok choy and bell peppers separately to provide a meat-free option.

In-Season Sips

Photo by: Nicole Mlakar / NicoleMlakar.com ©Nicole Mlakar / nicolemlakar.com

Nicole Mlakar / NicoleMlakar.com, Nicole Mlakar / nicolemlakar.com

It’s always a good idea to stock your cooler with a variety of canned and bottled drinks, but take your spread to the next level by supplementing your store-bought beverages with a batch of Bobby Flay’s refreshing  Blueberry Lemonade. Just two cups of freshly squeezed lemon juice will lend all of the acidity you need to balance the sweetness of in-season blueberries. You can stretch the recipe a bit further by using it as the base for summer cocktails.

Big-Batch Sweets

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Matt Armendariz, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

A filling of creamy chocolate and plump cherries peeks out from underneath a perfectly golden lattice in this comforting  slab pie that yields 12 generous servings. You’ll save yourself a ton of time if you start with store-bought pie crusts and use a baking sheet instead of a pie plate.

Monogrammed Piped FNK Silo

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2012, Television Food Network, G.P.

Matt Armendariz, 2012, Television Food Network, G.P.

Cap off the celebration with a sweet shoutout to the new grads and their hard-earned successes. Food Network Kitchen's  Monogrammed Cupcakes are easy to personalize, so get creative with your pastry tip. You can top each cupcake with the grads’ initials, or arrange the cupcakes on a decorative platter spelling out “Congratulations Class of 2016.” To make things easier, whip up  Go-To Vanilla Cupcakes and Go-To Chocolate Cupcakes the night before the party; they’ll be completely cool and ready to ice the next morning.

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