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Old 05-12-2005, 10:57 PM   #1
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Please help with serving ideas for party

Hi. I haven't been on here for a while due to health and other things going on. Anyway, my son is graduating from high school. I will be having a small casual get together (about 20 people) and making all the food myself. I rarely entertain so I'm trying to find attractive/efficient ideas. Does anyone know any eye catching ways to present the food?

For small foods such as meatballs, cheese chunks, fruit, etc., I'm debating whether to stick fancy toothpicks in all of them. Too time consuming? If I did, how would I keep the meatballs warm? On the plus side, I think that way less is likely to be wasted. Sometimes people's eyes are bigger than their stomachs and they take big spoonfuls of stuff and leave it on their plate. What do you think?

Besides the above foods, I'm probably going to have roll-ups, nachos & dip, vegetables & dip, bakery, and a few other side dishes/salads. Does that sound like enough or do a need a big "main" food like pizza or chicken? I'm trying to keep the cost down, but I don't want to look cheap.

I already bought a case of bottled water. I'm not sure whether to just buy 2-liter bottles of pop or if I should make punch (in addition to having pop). If the punch doesn't get drank, it can't be saved like the pop....but is it expected to have punch at a party?

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.

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Old 05-13-2005, 09:13 AM   #2
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If it were me I would do the punch. It would be a little more special. My favorite punch is equal parts pineapple juice to white grape juice. Then top it off with sprite before serving. It is a very cost effective punch and taste really good. Not too sweet.

When doing presentation remember to keep color and height in mind. I'm sure it will look great. Maybe to keep people from eating so much at first you could put half of it out while keeping the rest warm on the stove. Then you can refill it if needed. That way you don't have to worry about the toothpicks.
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Old 05-13-2005, 09:30 AM   #3
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Consider making chicken drummies - no toothpick necessary. Regarding the toothpicks, I just strategically place a few small plates with toothpicks on the table and let the people do their own impaling.
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Old 05-13-2005, 09:57 AM   #4
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To keep the warm food warm, consider using warming trays. Lots of people still have one or two lieing around. If the meatballs are in a tomato (or other kind of) sauce, you could keep them in a crock pot. For smaller amounts, you could use a crock pot as a steam table - put hot water in the pot and a dish with the meatballs on top in place of the lid.If you want to slow down the guests with eyes bigger than thier stomachs, don't cut up the cheese. Put out a big piece and a cheese knife.
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Old 05-13-2005, 10:50 AM   #5
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Put your dips in 'veggie' bowls - hollow out a cabbage, or top off a bell pepper (cut a thin slice off the bottom to make it stand up better). Also for the veggie tray, try putting the 'sticks' of things, like carrots, celery, in different size glasses, and arrange them around the platter with the 'flatter' veggies like broccoli, etc. Try some different veggies - lightly steamed green beans or asparagus are great, and look so different!


I'm with Otter on chicken drummies rather than meatballs - not everyone is eating beef these days , so that would keep everyone happy. You could do a couple of different flavors - like teriyaki and BBQ.

Instead of punch, why not some big pitchers of iced tea? Look around for the big party dispensers that seem to be everywhere - they hold 3-5 gallons.

If you're serving everything on a big table, make it interesting by adding some height, so the food isn't all 'flat'. Under the tablecloth, place sturdy boxes or cartons big enough to hold your platters, then drape the tablecloth over the boxes, and arrange your food platters on top.

For garnishes, cheap and easy is kale for lining platters like for the wraps and chicken if you go with that. Sprigs of parsley always look pretty, as do the little grape tomatoes.

For a fruit dish, cut a pineapple in half lengthwise, then cut out the fruit, so you have a boat. You can put some of your other fruit in the boat, like a cornucopia, just spilling out. Or - cut the pineapple like you normally would, save the top and use it as garnish for the plate - trim off any icky looking leaves.

Hope I gave you some ideas! You might want to go to the library and look in the cooking section for catering/garnishing books - there's a lot out there that may give you some ideas.
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Old 05-13-2005, 11:44 AM   #6
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I forgot, on the punch we made a beautiful ice ring out of bright red grapes. Only don't actually use ice. Freeze the punch. That way when it melts down it won't turn wattery.

If you do tea, put it into a clear pitcher and put beautiful mint leaves in it.
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Old 05-13-2005, 01:49 PM   #7
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lol - I'm the opposite - I'd rather do meatballs than drummies - meatballs requires 1 toothpick, drummies require one hand and 4 napkins! lol

I would definately just place the toothpicks beside the meatballs.

Punch would be more special IMHO. Just don't mix it all up - mix in the carbonated beverage right when serving. There is also a recipe for Party Iced Tea in the beverage section - I'm pretty sure anyway - it's good and not too sweet and cheap.
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Old 05-13-2005, 05:19 PM   #8
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Thanks for all the great ideas! You guys were my last resort. I looked all over the library and could only find books about cooking, baking, and games. Nothing about presentation or serving tips.

For items like the dips, salads and fruit, I'm sure it will be warm to hot...in a church hall, no A/C...should I put those items in bowls of ice? Or would that detract from the presentation? Or you think I should just put out small portions at a time and keep the rest in the fridge to put out later? On the other hand, knowing my mom, if I do that she won't want to eat, she'll think I don't have enough food.

Any other tips? Thanks, everyone!
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Old 05-13-2005, 05:58 PM   #9
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If it's warm I would think the ice would melt pretty quickly so I wouldn't do that. I would do what you suggested and pull a little out depending on how long it is going to be sitting in the heat. Just tell your mom the plan so she know's there is more food in the kitchen.
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Old 05-13-2005, 06:35 PM   #10
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For desert you can always serve up a scoop of vanilla cream that you put into a habanero pepper
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Old 05-13-2005, 06:37 PM   #11
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VG since it is his high school graduation, as him what he wants, letting him know adults will be present as well, I did this with my daughter when she graduated from high school. She chose either hamburgers (we had a large BBQ) or spaghetti. The latter seemed the best idea as some were vegetarians and we could serve meatballs separately and we had 18 people. The menu was spaghetti, salad with choice of dressing, garlic bread, cake and icecream. The spaghetti could be prepared ahead of time and easily warmed when we returned from the ceremony. (BTW we used penne and shells as they are easier to eat than the traditional long and skinny stuff.) The salad I tossed without the dressing and covered in the fridge, and garlic bread was toasted while the spaghetti sauce warmed up. It was served buffet style and everyone had a wonderful time.

Good luck with the meal and congrats.
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Old 05-13-2005, 06:54 PM   #12
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I forgot to say Good to see you Vegas Girl!!!!!!!!

Did you say "last resort"???? You know better than that! Just put out small quantities - once you have your menu planned let us know and we'll help with presentation.

There are several threads going now about graduation parties and food ideas. I think one may be in the Off Topic Chat forum.
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Old 05-13-2005, 06:59 PM   #13
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Thank you.

I love Italian myself, but I know several in the group either aren't crazy about spaghetti sauce or it makes them sick, so I won't make that the main course.

I was wondering now about the cake, if the frosting would start melting after a couple hours? Also, since people will be coming and going over a few hours, is it OK to make the early people wait awhile before cutting the cake so that people coming later can see it? I could have other bakery too in case they can't wait for dessert.

Has anyone tried sticking chunks of fruit with toothpicks and sticking them in a pineapple? (I've never bought a fresh pineapple, don't know how hard they are to work with) Or do you think that's not a good idea because the fruit might drip or not stay fresh?

Thanks again.
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Old 05-13-2005, 07:51 PM   #14
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Keep it simple or you will drive yourself crazy and that's not a good thing.


Leave out several appies.......cheese and grape platter, meatballs, spinach dip [served in hollowed out bread] easy stuff. A tray of ziti, garlic bread, salad. The lifts and levels idea is a good one [tablescaping] Do as much as you can ahead of time, so you can enjoy your guests. Make sure you have enough trashcans and liners for them........most of all HAVE FUN, and congrats to your son!
http://discusscooking.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2586

http://discusscooking.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2477
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Old 05-13-2005, 08:12 PM   #15
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Pineapple isn't hard to work with at all. Just get the thing and split it in half including the leaves. either stick the fruit in with the toothpicks (it's very easy) or you can hollow it out some and chop up what you hollowed out and add to the other fruit. Then just put the fruit into it as if it were a bowl.

When buying a pinapple you want it to have a nice yellow color and you want it to smell good.
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Old 05-13-2005, 08:53 PM   #16
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You can also just keep the pineapple whole and stick strawberries in it and it makes a beautiful presentation.

Why not do a bunch of cupcakes? Put a little graduation cap in black icing (or the school color) on top? The icing will be fine for a couple hours - even longer.
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Old 05-14-2005, 02:51 PM   #17
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Thank you, Kitchenelf. Instead of "last resort", I meant to say I knew I could count on you guys. I'm having outpatient surgery later this month, but I'm more nervous about this party than the surgery! I guess I'll have a few more people than I thought. I invited a few co-workers and they said they're bringing they're families along...how could I say no? Today I just bought some Snack Pack pudding to put out for the kids.
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