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August 18, 2022

6/24/2022 2:17:00 PM
It's grad party season!

A ton of seniors graduated recently from Chisago Lakes and North Branch high schools, and it’s now full swing into the parties that celebrate these grads.

First things first, congratulations to all the graduates. For those in athletics, it’s been a joy to cover you the last few years, and to those not in athletics, good luck in all that you choose to do!

Graduation parties are the highlight of a senior’s summer. It’s where some lifelong memories can be made. I still remember a few of the bigger grad parties that I went to that went late in the night. My friend Jason’s had a skateboarding half pipe at it with a live band and a LOT of people!

Parties with volleyball nets set up in the lake and the grill roaring bring back the nostalgia!

Food choice has gotten a bit simpler now as pretty much every fast food place caters, so options are endless, and it’s easy to just get it done by a company.  But, if you’re one of those brave ones that wants to make their own food for the grad party, here are a few of my favorite recipes to help get you through the day!

Most of them are make-ahead so you’re not lording over the kitchen all day and can just enjoy the time with family and your children’s friends.

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This first one takes sloppy joes, turns the flavor up a notch, and then makes a bunch!

1 pkg. (18 ounces) Hawaiian sweet rolls
12 slices cheddar cheese
1-1/2 lbs. lean ground beef (90% lean)
1/2 c. chopped onion
1 can (15-1/2 oz.) sloppy joe sauce
1 tbsp. packed brown sugar
1 tbsp. soy sauce
3/4 tsp. pepper

1/4 c. butter, melted
1 tbsp. packed brown sugar
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. sesame seeds
1 tsp. black sesame seeds
1 tsp. dried minced onion
Dill pickle slices, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Without breaking apart rolls, cut rolls in half horizontally; arrange bottom halves in a greased 13x9-in. baking pan. Top with half of cheese slices.

In a large skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat until beef is no longer pink and onion is tender, 6-8 minutes, break up beef into crumbles; drain. Stir in sloppy joe sauce, brown sugar, soy sauce and pepper. Cook and stir until combined, 1-2 minutes. Spoon beef mixture evenly over rolls; top with remaining cheese. Replace top halves of rolls.

For glaze, stir together butter, brown sugar, mustard, soy sauce and garlic powder. Brush over rolls; sprinkle with sesame seeds and minced onion. Bake, uncovered, until tops are golden and cheese is melted, 15-20 minutes. If desired, top with pickle slices.

You can cover and freeze unbaked sandwiches; prepare and freeze glaze. To use, partially thaw in refrigerator overnight. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Preheat oven to 350°. Pour glaze over buns and sprinkle with sesame seeds and minced onion. Bake sandwiches as directed, increasing time by 10-15 minutes.
This recipe makes a dozen hearty sandwiches.

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Grad parties are all about making memories, and the food can be a memorable part.  But you need something unique enough for people to remember, and I think a pineapple cheeseball does the trick!
2 pkgs. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1 can (8 oz.) unsweetened crushed pineapple, drained
1/4 c. finely chopped green pepper
2 tbsp. finely chopped onion
2 tsp. seasoned salt
1-1/2 c. finely chopped walnuts
Assorted crackers and fresh vegetables

In a small bowl, beat cream cheese, pineapple, green pepper, onion and seasoned salt until blended. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Shape into a ball (mixture will be soft); coat in walnuts. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve with crackers and vegetables if desired.

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I’m a sucker for Nilla Wafers, and this recipe has them in spades.

1 c. sugar
1/2 c. cornstarch
6 c. 2% milk
5 large egg yolks
1/4 c. butter, cubed
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 packages (11 ounces each) vanilla wafers
7 medium bananas, sliced

2 c. heavy whipping cream
6 tbsp. sugar

In a large heavy saucepan, mix sugar and cornstarch. Whisk in milk. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat to low; cook and stir 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat.

In a bowl, whisk a small amount of hot mixture into egg yolks; return all to pan, whisking constantly. Bring to a gentle boil; cook and stir 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in butter, vanilla and salt. Cool 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Reserve 1 banana and 1 cup whole wafers for topping. Crush 2 cups wafers and set aside. In a 13x9-in. baking dish, place a single layer of whole wafers, filling gaps with crushed wafers. Layer with a third of the bananas and pudding. Repeat layers twice. Press waxed paper onto surface of pudding. Refrigerate, covered, overnight.

In a bowl, beat heavy cream until it begins to thicken. Add sugar; beat until soft peaks form (do not over mix). Just before serving, remove paper and spread whipped cream over pudding; top with reserved banana and wafers.

TFD: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
- Steve Jobs

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