Graduation Party Family Style

I am thrilled that we have a fantastic guest post courtesy of my Aunts. Mary’s sisters, Diane and Sue, were kind enough to share their take on Ali’s graduation party which they help make happen! Thank you both for all your help and for sharing with Zest!! Keep an eye out for the recipes in a post to come.


We always enjoy cooking together as a family. So, as the out-of-town aunties, (Mary’s sisters), we were so happy come to town and join Mary and Kelly in the planning, shopping, cooking and entertaining for Ali’s graduation celebration in December. And since we got the chance to pitch in, we have the honor of being the guests on ZESTblog to recap this fun party.

Friday was planning and prep day, and Saturday we got to cook all day together! We had so much fun laughing, sharing ideas and trying out new recipes, but mostly being together in the kitchen.

As hostess and chief chef for the party, Mary’s vision for the dinner was a “no fork buffet” to make it fun, interactive and to cut down on utensils. So with this in mind, the menu we came up with for the Saturday night party was all “no fork” dishes:

By the time we got started with the prep on Friday, Mary already had lots of grocery lists and to do lists written up!

We had fun posting a small, hand-written sign in front of each food item, since we had a couple of meat choices and to designate the different and delicious sauces.  Mary’s favorite sign was the “Elvis – Style Slaw for Sliders” because the guests actually followed the instructions and put the coleslaw on their sandwich. (no forks!)

So the menu was set, the each course created and the food stations decided. Every pretty platter in the house was set out with the dishes accented by sauces and signage. Mary seemed pleased at how everything came out.


We were so impressed that there were so many homemade dishes. Most of the sauces and breads were homemade, using either one of Mary’s or Kelly’s tried and true recipes, like the Green Goddess dressing, and some were created that day with last minute ingenuity, like the sauces for the smoked meats. (Also note, the signature drink, in Ali’s school colors.) But all were amazing and delicious:

Challah Bread/ Homemade Rolls

BBQ Sauce

Lemon Aioli

Cranberry Chipotle Sauce

Green Goddess Dressing

Parmesan Croutons

Cupcake Frosting

(Recipes To Come!)


Steve’s Smokin’ Smoked Meats

The entrée was home smoked pork shoulder and beef roast, which we turned into sliders. The meat was prepared by Steve, a very generous family friend and great cook on his home smoker, and Mary asked him to do the honor of opening the buffet. (This is a tradition that our Mom, Del, used to do – pick someone special to “open the buffet”). The meats were served with a variety of homemade rolls and Mary’s beautiful Challah bread, with the various homemade sauces. We added BBQ sauce to half of the pork to make BBQ pulled pork, and we sliced the other half of the pork along with the smoked beef roast for sliders. So tender and tasty, a variety of sliders!

Goat Cheese and Pear Appetizer:

Kelly found this recipe for Goat Cheese and Pear appetizer on Pinterest. Just slice the pears (we dipped in some lemon water to reduce browning), then spread goat cheese, and sprinkle with chopped pistachios and dried cranberries. J

Relishes in Jars

Mary found this idea for the relishes on Pinterest, again! Just find some different jars or vases and fill with vegetables. It creates a great color blocked look.

Caesar Salad Spears with Green Goddess Dressing.

The idea for this salad dish was that guests could pick up the individual spears which were already dressed with Green Goddess and Croutons. (no forks!)


Elvis Style Cole Slaw

Remember this one? All we did was leave out the basil in the aioli and voila it becomes Elvis Style!

Cupcake Mania

We made homemade Sprinkles Chocolate Frosting and had fun decorating regular size and mini cupcakes with Christmas theme sprinkles on top. Specialty theme was Hostess Cupcake swirls on a plain chocolate cupcake, which Ali had requested.

Diane and







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