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A Kindergarten Graduation Party

graduate_art
Ericka McConnell

A family's scrapbook of memories is filled with milestones big and small -- from a baby's first smile, first tooth, and first steps to toddler birthday parties, holiday dinners, and that all-important first day of school. What could be more meaningful than marking a child's first educational rite of passage -- kindergarten graduation -- with a party for family and friends? With a little planning and Child's easy ideas, you can plan a celebration with food that carries out the theme and makes your child feel special.

A simple get-together is best, says Sara Wilford, director of the Early Childhood Center at Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, NY. "A family party is a very natural, supportive, age-appropriate way to mark a young child's special day," she says. No gifts necessary -- just low-key fun and good food for guests of all ages. That's what Connecticut parents Cyd and Steve Swerdlow wanted for their own little graduate, 6-year-old David Kalani Swerdlow. After exchanging year-end hugs and goodbyes with classmates and teachers, David and his 7-year-old sister, Sasha, greeted a small group in the Swerdlows' pretty backyard. An iron patio table was set in a shady spot, with balloon bouquets tied to each guest's chair. (Cyd placed paper fortunes inside some of the balloons for adults to find and read to the kids after the party.)

For David, described by his dad as "an active boy who loves sports, cars, and climbing of any kind," running around outside was a great way to work off that last-day-of-school energy. While waiting for lunch, he and his young guests enjoyed dancing to pop music and playing tag with colorful pinwheels. "David loves to make people laugh," said Cyd as she watched the kids begin an impromptu marching game behind her son, still dressed in cap and gown. "He doesn't mind the attention at a party like this, either," she added with a smile.

The all-American lunch menu was designed to reinforce the graduation theme and delight David and his friends: mozzarella and pretzel stick "paper and pencil" appetizers, diploma-like wrap sandwiches, ABC pasta salad, and punch with juice ice cubes in varied shapes. For dessert, the kids personalized frosted cookie "books" to accompany mortarboard-shaped cupcakes.

"I'm so glad we did this," said Cyd, as her son shared a graduation hug with his proud dad. "It's the kind of day we'll always remember."

Instructions:
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Ericka McConnell

Lay 12 slices part-skim mozzarella cheese on your work surface. Place pretzel sticks on or next to the cheese to resemble sheets of paper and pencils. Garnish with squirts of ketchup and mustard, if desired.

Nutritional Facts:

Each Appetizer: 83 calories, 8 g protein, 1 g carbohydrate, 5 g fat (4 g saturated), 0 g fiber, 15 mg cholesterol, 203 mg calcium, 0 mg iron, 211 mg sodium.

graduate_art_pg3
Ericka McConnell

Graduate from serving sandwiches; these delicious wraps come together in a snap.

Makes: 16 wraps
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 seconds

Ingredients:

  • 2 large carrots, cut into long shreds with a vegetable peeler
  • 16 8" flour tortillas
  • 4 slices low-sodium smoked turkey
  • 4 slices Swiss cheese
  • 2/3 cup shredded lettuce
  • 1 yellow pepper, thinly slice
  • 1 cup hummus
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped scallion
  • 1 cup fruit spread, any flavor
  • 2 thinly sliced bananas
  • 4 slices Muenster cheese
  • 4 slices low-sodium boiled ham
  • 1 cup shredded carrot

Instructions:

Step 1: In a medium pot, heat water until it's gently simmering. Submerge carrot and scallion strips for 30 seconds. Remove; rinse under cold water. Set aside to dry on paper towels.

Step 2: Lay tortillas on work surface. Make four kinds of wraps using the following combinations: turkey, Swiss cheese, lettuce, and pepper; hummus and scallion; fruit spread and bananas; and Muenster cheese, ham, and carrot. Wrap sandwiches in damp paper towels until ready to serve. Tie each wrap with a carrot or scallion strip to resemble a diploma.

Nutritional Facts:

Each Appetizer: 83 calories, 8 g protein, 1 g carbohydrate, 5 g fat (4 g saturated), 0 g fiber, 15 mg cholesterol, 203 mg calcium, 0 mg iron, 211 mg sodium.

Instructions:
graduate_art_pg5
Ericka McConnell

In an ice cube tray with numeral or other shapes, freeze red cranberry juice. Remove cubes, transfer to a freezer bag, and repeat with another tray. In a large punch bowl, combine 1 quart each of orange and pineapple juice. Add ice cubes. Makes 12 servings.

Nutritional Facts:

Each serving: 98 calories, 1 g protein, 24 g carbohydrate, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 1 g fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 20 mg calcium, 0 mg iron, 2 mg sodium.

graduate_art_pg4
Ericka McConnell

Why is it called ABC? Because it's that easy to make. Bonus: It tastes sensational.

Makes: 12 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. three-color fusilli
  • 1 lb. ring-shaped or alphabet pasta
  • 2 10-oz. boxes frozen peas and carrots
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup finely chopped parsley or cilantro
  • 2/3 cup low-fat vinaigrette
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions:

Step 1: In a large pot, cook pasta according to the package directions. Four minutes before pasta is done, add vegetables to the pot. Drain and rinse under cold water.

Step 2: Place pasta and vegetables in a large bowl; toss with remaining ingredients. Refrigerate for at least an hour to blend flavors.

Nutritional Facts:

Each serving: 351 calories, 14 g protein, 61 g carbohydrate, 5 g fat (2 g saturated), 5 g fiber, 7 mg cholesterol, 147 mg calcium, 4 mg iron, 347 mg sodium.

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Ericka McConnell

Be smart and buy undecorated cupcakes from a bakery or supermarket to save time.

Makes: 12 servings
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cooking Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 12 yellow or angel-food cupcakes
  • 1 lb. vanilla candy melts (available at craft or party stores)
  • Tubes of frosting, assorted colors
  • 24 2" pieces red licorice

Instructions:

Step 1: On the top of a double boiler, melt candy. Pour on a sheet of wax paper and smooth out. When candy has dried, cut into 2" squares.

Step 2: Decorate squares with dots, swirls, or other shapes using colored frosting. Secure squares on the top of each cupcake with frosting. Place a dot of frosting in the center of the square and attach 2 strips of licorice to form tassels. Allow to dry for at least 30 minutes.

Instructions:
graduate_art_pg7
Ericka McConnell

Coat a jelly roll pan with vegetable spray. Press one package of refrigerated sugar cookie dough into pan as evenly as possible. In a 350° oven, bake cookies until light golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. While cookies are slightly warm, cut into 12 rectangles. Cool completely before frosting tops with vanilla icing. Use tubes of decorating gel or icing to draw lines on cookies so they resemble pages of a book. Allow to dry 10 minutes. Use additional frosting to decorate books with the names of guests. Allow to dry 10 minutes.

Nutritional Facts:

Each book: 208 calories, 2 g protein, 30 g carbohydrate, 10 g fat (3 g saturated), 1 g fiber, 11 mg cholesterol, 31 mg calcium, 1 mg iron, 169 mg sodium.

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Copyright @ 2002. Reprinted with permission from the June/July 2002 issue of Child Magazine.