One of my favorite commencement speeches comes from comedian and actor Amy Poehler. In 2011 she told the graduating class at Harvard University, “No one is here today because they did it on their own. Okay, maybe Josh, but he’s just a straight-up weirdo. You’re all here today because someone gave you strength. Helped you.” I love the message that no one can achieve big things alone.
As you usher your graduates into a new chapter of their lives, remember your carpool crew that got your kid to school on time, the babysitters that built Legos and pillow forts and kept them safe until you got home, and the grandparents that gave endless hugs and cookies. No graduate could have done it without the people that supported them along the way. So let’s celebrate them all!
Simply Recipes is here to help you host an A+ party for your smart cookie and loved ones. Whether you’re inviting the whole neighborhood for a backyard bash or keeping it small with your nearest and dearest, we rounded up our best entertaining tips, favorite make-ahead, crowd-pleasing recipes, and ideas for how to support your newly independent graduate. (What about one of these kitchen essentials recommended by college students? Also, we hear Trader Joe’s is very popular with budget and space-conscious college students.)
From all of us at Simply Recipes, a huge congratulations to the graduating class of 2023!
— Myo Quinn, Senior Editor
When the Simply Recipes team asked, “Do we know anyone brilliant that could share A+ hosting tips with us?” The answer was easy: writer Meghan Splawn. She’s been throwing gatherings big and small for nearly two decades. Here are her top three tips for creating a celebration your graduate will always remember.
Read the story: The 3 Brilliant Hosting Rules for Making Any Celebration Unforgettable
Diane Morrisey is a masterful cook with nearly one million followers on Instagram. She’s a mom of six and has been feeding crowds for many years, including hosting 30 graduation parties. Yes, she’s a pro! Diane shared six smart tricks for making a lot of sandwiches easily, quickly, and with little stress.
Read the story: The Best Tricks for Making Sandwiches for a Crowd, According to a Mom of Six
No need to spend money on custom graduation cookies. Here’s a very smart idea from pastry chef and writer Stephanie Loo: take a trip to Costco for a box of buttery madeleines and decorate them at home with just two ingredients. You can even flaunt your school colors on the treats.
Read the story: This 3-Ingredient Costco Dessert Upgrade Is Affordable, Gorgeous, and Party-Ready
According to writer Grace Elkus, “A pitcher cocktail or a bowl of self-serve punch is infinitely easier than pouring individual drinks—and the perfect way to wow your guests.” (We suggest a batch of the best lemonade for underaged guests.) Her current favorite is a summery rosé spritzer with the most gorgeous berry ice ring.
Read the story: The 3-Ingredient Trader Joe’s Cocktail I’m Making For Every Summer Party
Here’s an idea that takes the cake. Instead of serving savory foods, create a dessert table with all of your graduate’s favorite treats from their childhood through today. That sounds so fun to us! We asked writer and professional party-thrower Natasha Feldman for tips.
Read the story: I’m a Party Expert and This Is How I Set Up a Next-Level Dessert Bar
Party Dip Recipes To Feed a Whole Crowd
Empty a giant bag of potato chips, pita chips, tortilla chips, and whatever-else chips into bowls next to any of these delicious dips for your guests. Because dips are the ultimate party food. You can easily double, triple, or even quadruple the recipes to feed the size of your crowd.
- Easy Spinach Dip
- 7 Layer Bean Dip
- Queso Dip
- Homemade Veggie Dip
- Homemade French Onion Dip
- Hot Reuben Dip
- Whipped Goat Cheese Dip
- Whipped Feta with Figs, Pistachio, and Honey
Sandwiches for Four, or 40
These sandwich recipes satisfy the masses, from hungry teenagers to proud grandparents. You can assemble most of these sandwiches ahead of time, and wrap them up in the fridge for when the crowd shows up. For wetter fillings, like the pulled pork and chickpea salad, set them out on the table with the bread on the side for your guests to build their own.
- Italian Sub Sandwiches
- Easy Pork Báhn Mì
- Classic Muffuletta
- Cubano (Cuban Sandwich)
- Ultimate Club Sandwich
- Reuben Sandwich
- Chickpea Salad Sandwich
- Pulled Pork Sandwiches
Sweet Treats for Your Smart Cookie
Make these tried-and-true cookies and bars for your guests. We guaranteed you won’t have leftovers. Do you sense an extra hectic week ahead of the party? Take a page from pastry chef Stephanie Loo’s book of tricks: make, shape, and freeze the cookie dough ahead of time.
- Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake
- Peanut Butter Pretzel Magic Bars
- Brown Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies
- Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies
- Oatmeal Banana Cookies
- Best Sugar Cookies
Big-Batch Cool Drinks
Making individual drinks for each person at a party isn’t every host’s idea of fun—not for us either. Here are some of our favorite batchable non-alcoholic drinks. Hold the ice until ready to serve, and keep the batched drinks in the fridge until the guests show up.
- Perfect Lemonade
- Agua de Jamaica
- Cucumber Lime Mint Agua Fresca
- Limeade With Mint
- Arnold Palmer
- Non-Alcoholic Sangria With Pomegranate and Citrus
- Raspberry Lime Rickey