This week I'm planning the ultimate high school graduation party. Most high schools host a grad night after the ceremony where students get to celebrate together one last time. To ensure that they won't miss the festivities at either the grad night or their family's gathering, throw the personal party in the days following the graduation. The majority of graduates will have some sort of get together, and guests may be party-hopping, so take that into consideration when selecting a menu. Instead of offering a formal, sit-down dinner, opt for heavy appetizers or a casual, make-ahead buffet. This menu consists of comforting, simple, kid-friendly party food.

You can't go wrong with classics like seven-layer dip with tortilla chips and ranch dip with crudites. Pressed mozzarella and tomato sandwiches get more flavorful over time, and beef sliders with cheese and spicy mayonnaise are hearty enough to satiate the football players. For these crowd-pleasing recipes, read more.

Seven-Layer Bean Dip

Seven-Layer Bean Dip

Seven-Layer Bean Dip

Ingredients

1 can (16 oz) refried beans
1 package (1 oz) taco seasoning mix
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1 can (4.5 oz) chopped green chiles
1 cup chunky salsa
2 cups shredded lettuce
2 cups shredded Cheddar or Mexican cheese blend
1 can (2.25 oz) sliced ripe olives, drained
1 medium tomato, diced (3/4 cup)
Tortilla chips, if desired

Directions

  1. In medium bowl, mix refried beans and taco seasoning mix. Spread mixture on large platter.
  2. In another medium bowl, mix cream cheese and chiles. Carefully spread over bean mixture.
  3. Top with salsa, lettuce, cheese, olives and tomato. Refrigerate until serving time. Serve with tortilla chips.

Serves 16.

Ranch Dip with Vegetables

Ranch Dip with Vegetables

Ranch Dip with Vegetables

Ingredients

3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 carrots, cut into sticks
6 celery ribs, cut into sticks
1 seedless cucumber (usually plastic-wrapped), cut into sticks
1 small jicama, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into sticks
1 1/2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes (9 ounces)
thick cut, crinkle potato chips (optional for serving)

Directions

  1. Stir together sour cream, mayonnaise, parsley, chives, garlic, salt, and pepper in a bowl until combined well. Chill dip, covered, until slightly thickened, at least 1 hour (for flavors to develop).
  2. Serve dip with vegetables and potato chips.

Serves 12.

Sliders with Chipotle Mayonnaise

Sliders with Chipotle Mayonnaise

Sliders with Chipotle Mayonnaise

Ingredients

Chipotle Mayonnaise:
1 cup mayonnaise
2 chipotles in adobo sauce
1 tablespoon adobo sauce
1/2 lime, juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sliders:
1 to 1 1/2 pounds ground chuck, 80/20
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cheese slices, your choice
Mini burger buns
Pickles, Red onion slices, tomatoes, lettuce, optional for topping

Directions

  1. Make the Chipotle Mayonnaise: Add all the ingredients to a food processor and puree. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
  2. Make the Sliders: Preheat grill over medium-high heat.
  3. Form the meat into 2 to 3-ounce portions, packed tightly. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Place the sliders on the grill. Wait until they are nice and crusty on the first side, about 4 to 5 minutes and then flip and cook another 4 minutes. When the sliders are about done, top with desired cheese and close the grill, allowing the cheese to melt.
  5. Place the slider on mini burger buns and top with chipotle mayonnaise and any other desired toppings.

Serves 6-8.

Pressed Mozzarella and Tomato Sandwich

Pressed Mozzarella and Tomato Sandwich

Pressed Mozzarella and Tomato Sandwich

Ingredients

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained, reserving 1 tablespoon oil
1/2 loaf ciabatta bread (about 5 ounces), split horizontally and hollowed out
Romaine lettuce leaves
6 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Coarse salt and ground pepper

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together mustard and oil until thick; spread on bread.
  2. Layer bottom half of bread with some of the lettuce, then cheese, tomatoes, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Top with remaining lettuce and bread.
  3. Wrap sandwich tightly in plastic; place on a baking sheet. Top with another sheet, and weight down with canned goods or a heavy skillet.
  4. Refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to overnight to meld flavors. Cut in half, and serve.

Serves 2.