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The Blonde Cucina: Graduation season is upon us

by on May 18, 2016 1:18 PM

We are in the middle of graduation season, and next up is high school ceremonies. Have you sat down with your soon-to-be graduate and asked what type of food or party he or she wants?

As we all know, moms are superheros and takes care of all this stuff with smiles on their faces. Moms want to be shining stars and pull off these graduation parties without a hitch.

So, moms — and dads — I’m here to help you. I’m going to give you some recipes and offer some help. Save those tears for the cap-and-gown ceremony, not the macaroni-salad making.

To begin, do you have your trusty list ready? Here are a few things that always make my party to-do list:

Who is invited to the party? Is this for family, friends or both?

Where will you be having the party? Are you having it at home, in the backyard or renting a pavilion?

What is the date and time of the party? On the weekend, afternoon or evening?

Are you going to need help the day of the party? How are you going to cook, decorate and get yourself ready?

Do you want or need decorations? Are you going all out. or is simple better?

What is your menu? Where is the food being laid out? Do you need to stick to things that can withstand the outdoors and heat?

There is nothing wrong with picking up some pre-made items from the grocery store or restaurant or caterer to help you out. Trust me, everyone does it, and it really helps you out in the end. Also, if the place is willing to deliver it, take advantage of that, too. You may think making those little sandwiches and fruit and veggie platters are not that hard, but when you need to pick up the cake and the balloons, press everyone's clothes and go to the ceremony, you don’t have time.

To figure out the amount of food needed for the party, a simple rule of thumb is about 1.5 to 2 pounds of food per person. Each person might have up to two sandwiches, around four or five appetizers, three to four drink portions and one to two dessert portions. Also, figure two or three plates per person, one or two cups and four napkins.

Have soda and water in giant tub or coolers filled with ice. Go to the store and get your chips and pretzels and, yes, buy that vegetable tray, or any other tray that is going to make your life easier.

Don’t forget to order the cake or decide on a dessert. Make sure you do this early, though; the schedules for bakeries and cake ladies are filling up fast.

Check out these recipes, which will help you look like a star and will fit in flawlessly next to those supplemental items you purchased. Great job, Mom!


Start to finish: 90 minutes

Servings: 10
1 pound maple-flavored bacon

1 large sweet onion, such as Vidalia, finely chopped

4 14-ounce cans pork and beans

1/4 cup dark molasses

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Fry the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan, leaving the drippings and drain on paper towels. Crumble and set aside.

Add the onion to the pan with the bacon grease and fry until soft. Stir in the crumbled bacon and the remainder of ingredients. Mix well until combined.

Pour the beans into a 3-quart casserole and bake, uncovered, for about 40 minutes.

Top of Form


Start to finish: 65 minutes

Servings: 20

8-ounce package whipped cream cheese

1 1/2 cups sour cream

1 1/2 cups Havarti cheese, shredded

1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard

1/2 to 3/4 cup grated Romano cheese

10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

14-ounce can artichoke hearts, chopped

Items for dipping (chips, pitas, veggies, etc.)

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, sour cream, Havarti, mustard and Romano cheese with an electric mixer until combined.

Fold in spinach and artichoke hearts. Once combined, place ingredients into a casserole dish. Spread evenly.

Bake, uncovered, in a 350 F oven for 40 minutes or until heated. Serve with dipping items.


Start to finish: 15 minutes

Servings: 20

2 fresh baked baguettes

whole-grain mustard

8 ounces sharp cheddar slices

Several pieces thinly sliced green apples

1 pound deli-sliced turkey

Slice baguettes in half. Spread with mustard, or serve mustard on the side.

Place cheese slices on the bottom of the bread. Layer turkey and sliced apples.

Put baguettes back together and slice into 2-inch section.


Ciara Semack is the owner of The Blonde Bistro in Bellefonte. She is the mother of one and a lifelong resident of Centre County. Her column appears every other week in the Gazette. Questions, suggestions and comments can be directed to [email protected]
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