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65 Make-Ahead Graduation Party Food Ideas

Take the last-minute hassle out of your menu planning with these graduation party food ideas. We have easy recipes for salads, main dishes, desserts and more.

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Sloppy Joe Slider Bake Exps Gbbz21 258849 E10 27 3b 1

Sloppy Joe Slider Bake

Ground beef is turned up a notch in these party sliders that are sure to please your crowd. I love how easy they are! —Rashanda Cobbins, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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Lemon Blueberry Whoopie Pies Exps Thjj19 231973 E02 19 7b 7

Lemon Blueberry Whoopie Pies

These whoopie pies are soft, cakey cookies studded with tart, juicy blueberries and filled with tangy cream cheese frosting. I take them to family and school events and they are always the first thing gone! Be sure to continually scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula while making the batter and frosting. —Kathy Martino, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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Pineapple Cheese Ball Exps Hca21 29541 E05 11 9b

Pineapple Cheese Ball

Pineapple lends a fruity tang to this fun and tasty appetizer. Instead of one large cheese ball, you could make two smaller ones…one to serve before a meal and one to take to a party. —Anne Halfhill, Sunbury, Ohio
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Kabob Less Chicken And Vegetables Exps Tohescodr21 255157 B05 14 1b

Kabobless Chicken and Vegetables

As the primary caregiver for my grandma, I am trying to cook healthier for her. I am fascinated with Mediterranean cuisine. It is much easier to have chicken and vegetables off the kabob, which inspired this sheet-pan dinner. —Chelsea Madren, Fullerton, California
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Tandoori Masala Chicken Sandwiches Exps Rc21 259250 E04 20 9b

Tandoori Masala Chicken Sandwiches

This recipe combines spices from my Indian roots with a modern twist. If you want to add some extra heat to your sandwiches, add half a serrano pepper to the slaw. —Mary Lou Timpson, Centennial Park, Arizona
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Bacon Cream Cheese Pinwheels

It's hard to resist a crescent roll, bacon and cream cheese in one bite! Kids, friends, everyone will scarf these cream cheese pinwheels down. Now I bake a double batch whenever we have a get-together. —Krista Munson, Sharpsburg, Kentucky
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Apricot Ice Cream Soda

This ginger ale float recipe came from my husband’s aunt, who was born in the early 1900s. It’s a delightful drink for hot Texas summers. —Joan Hallford, North Richland Hills, Texas
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Sweet Hoosier Dog Sauce

In our area of Indiana, we love sweet coney sauce on our hot dogs! Our town still has an old drive-in that is famous for its sauce. —Jill Thomas, Washington, Indiana
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Italian Pasta Salad

This zesty Italian pasta salad recipe combines vegetables and pasta in a creamy dressing. Refreshing and filling, this change-of-pace salad is perfect as a side dish. It’s always popular at a potluck. —Tina Dierking, Skowhegan, Maine
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Chocolate Caramel Candy

This dazzling treat tastes like a homemade Snickers bar and has flavor beyond compare. When I entered it in a recipe contest at our harvest festival, it won five ribbons, including grand prize and the judges’ special award. —Jane Meek, Pahrump, Nevada
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Slow Cooked Barbecued Beef Sandwiches Exps Diydap21 45257 B03 09 1b 7

Slow-Cooked Barbecued Beef Sandwiches

Chuck roast makes delicious shredded beef sandwiches after simmering in a rich, homemade sauce all day. The meat is tender and juicy and takes minutes to prepare for a weeknight dinner or potluck. —Tatina Smith, San Angelo, Texas
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Pizza Beans Exps Tohedscodr21 84505 E04 27 5b

Pizza Beans

This dish is wonderful for parties or as a main dish. It can even be made the day before and reheated. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
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Sticky Honey Chicken Wings

Sticky Honey Chicken Wings

This honey chicken wings recipe was given to me by a special lady who was like a grandmother to me. —Marisa Raponi, Vaughan, Ontario
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Banana Crumb Pudding Exps Cpbz21 164749 E10 20 3b 1

Banana Crumb Pudding

Friends and family ask me to make my thick and creamy banana pudding for all occasions. They can’t get enough of the wonderful flavor of the fruit and the vanilla wafer crumbs. You can also top the classic Southern treat with meringue instead of whipped cream. —Yvonnia Butner, Pinnacle, North Carolina
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Avocado Salsa Exps Ftts21cb 7476 B08 20 5b 6

Avocado Salsa

I was planning a party and thought it might be fun to try a different kind of avocado salsa. This recipe was an absolute success. Scoop it up with chips, spoon it over chicken or steak, or eat it on its own! —Susan Vandermeer, Ogden, Utah
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Muffuletta Exps Hca20 202154 E11 14 8b 3

Muffuletta

Muffuletta, which originated in New Orleans, is named after the round, crusty Sicilian loaf of bread it’s traditionally served on. While I favor my own olive salad, there are several good versions available in most supermarkets. —Lou Sansevero, Ferron, Utah
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Barbecue Pork Cobb Salad

My lunchtime salad gets way more interesting topped with barbecue pork, cheddar cheese and creamy avocado. It’s as satisfying as it is scrumptious. —Shawn Carleton, San Diego, California
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Honey-Citrus Iced Tea

A frozen orange or lemon slice in the glass looks pretty and helps keep this refreshing punch nice and cold. Using honey instead of sugar adds a sweet touch. —Sheila Bradshaw, Columbus, Ohio
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Homemade Ice Cream Sandwiches Exps Ft21 6389 F 0505 1

Homemade Ice Cream Sandwiches

My mom, a former home economics teacher, sent me this recipe. We love it, and so does company I serve it to. —Kea Fisher, Bridger, Montana
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Sun Dried Tomato Lamb Burgers Exps Rc21 258758 E04 20 8b

Sun-Dried Tomato Lamb Burgers

These lamb burgers can be made the day before and refrigerated until you’re ready to grill. Serve with a cool drink and a tomato-cucumber salad for a refreshing yet hearty meal. —Sheila Sturrock, Coldwater, Ontario
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Easy Spanakopita Appetizers

I love having appetizers on hand in the freezer, especially when the holiday season is fast approaching. This easy spanakopita recipe is one of my all-time favorites. Everyone loves them, they’re easy to prep and they bake up in about 20 minutes. —Shannon Dobos, Calgary, Alberta
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Oven Fried Chicken Drumsticks Exps Ff20 167360 B02 25 2b 2

Oven-Fried Chicken Drumsticks

This fabulous recipe uses Greek yogurt to create an amazing marinade that makes the chicken incredibly moist. No one will guess that it has been lightened up and is not even fried! — Kim Wallace, Dennison, Ohio
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Chocolate Monster Cookies Exps Ft20 174 F 0107 1 2

Chocolate Monster Cookies

My four grandsons started attending “Grandma’s Cooking School” when they were as young as 4. These easy monster cookies are a favorite of the youngest, Brandon. He has fun making them and is always delighted with the results, as is the rest of the family. —Helen Hilbert, Liverpool, New York
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Mushroom And Olive Bruschetta Exps Tohdj20 237216 B08 02 3b 6

Mushroom and Olive Bruschetta

I tried this delicious bruschetta toast at a party and knew I had to make it myself. Since I couldn't find the person who brought the dish, I began trying to duplicate it on my own. The original was made on an English muffin, but party rye or baguette slices work as well. —Lynne German, Woodland Hills, California
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Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa Exps Thedscodr19 198500 E02 13 4b 3

Slow-Cooker Beef Barbacoa

I love this beef barbacoa because the meat is fall-apart tender and the sauce is smoky, slightly spicy and so flavorful. It’s an amazing alternative to ground beef tacos or even pulled pork carnitas. It’s also versatile. You can have a soft taco bar and let people make their own—or offer mouthwatering Mexican pizzas or rice bowls. —Holly Sander, Lake Mary, Florida
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Aunt Karen S Shrimp Salad Exps Tohca20 108007 E07 16 4b 9

Aunt Karen’s Shrimp Salad

When unexpected company calls during the holidays, this shrimp salad is the perfect fit. It’s quick to put together, too, leaving you more time to spend with your guests. — Karen Moore, Jacksonville, Florida
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Cookies Cream Truffle Balls Exps Thjj19 142245 E02 22 3b Rms 2

Cookies & Cream Truffle Balls

For easy truffles, I roll cookies and cream cheese into balls and dunk them in white chocolate. That’s merry and bright in one bite. —Carla Giorgio, New York, New York
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Barbecue Turkey Wings Exps Ft21 22790 F 0518 1

Barbecue Turkey Wings

This smoky turkey wings recipe includes a barbecue sauce with garlic, paprika, green onions and soy sauce. I wanted to recreate a recipe I had at a restaurant, so I came up with this zesty combination. Dare I say, it’ll be your favorite turkey wing recipe? —Francis Mitchell, Brooklyn, New York
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Antipasto Kabobs Exps Sdjj18 26676 C02 14 2b 1

Antipasto Kabobs

My husband and I met at a cooking class. We have loved creating menus and entertaining ever since. These make-ahead antipasto skewers are always a hit. —Denise Hazen, Cincinnati, Ohio
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Strawberry Pretzel Dessert Exps Cpbz19 4444 E11 02 3b 4

Strawberry Pretzel Dessert

Need to bring a dish to pass this weekend? This make-ahead strawberry pretzel salad will disappear quickly at any potluck. —Aldene Belch, Flint, Michigan
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Zucchini Pizza Casserole Exps Thn16 2912 D06 21 5b 3

Zucchini Pizza Casserole

My husband has a hearty appetite, our two kids never tire of pizza and I grow lots of zucchini, so this tasty tomato casserole is absolutely tops with us throughout the entire year. Once you've tried the recipe, you may even decide to grow more zucchini in your own garden next summer! —Lynn Bernstetter, White Bear Lake, Minnesota
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Peanut Butter Custard Blast Exps Bdsmz17 48993 D03 03 2b 3

Peanut Butter Custard Blast

"Ooey, gooey, great!" is how friends and family describe this chocolate-peanut butter dessert. I appreciate the make-ahead convenience. —Marilee Evenson, Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin
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Chicken Crescent Wreath

Here's an impressive-looking dish that's a snap to prepare. Even when my cooking time is limited, I can still serve this delicious crescent wreath. The red pepper and green broccoli add a festive touch. —Marlene Denissen, St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin
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Exps145382 Psg143429d03 04 10b Web 5

Loaded Potato Salad

Get a load of this: sour cream, bacon, shredded cheddar, green onions and more come together to give you all the richness of restaurant potato skins at your next picnic. —Monique Boulanger, Greenwood, Nova Scotia
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Caramel Pecan Ice Cream Dessert

My mother passed this old-time recipe on to me because she knew I'd want to make it. I love desserts—especially this one! —Mary Wright, Morriston, Ontario
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Iced Raspberry Tea

Frozen raspberries lend fruity flavor and lovely color to this pretty iced tea that's good throughout the year. The recipe calls for just a few common ingredients and offers make-ahead convenience. —Lois McGrady, Hillsville, Virginia
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Make Ahead Sausage Pinwheels Exps Sddj17 195761 D08 10 6b

Make-Ahead Sausage Pinwheels

Filled with sausage, sweet pepper and cream cheese, these roll-ups are excellent for unexpected visitors, a cocktail party or a halftime snack. Besides being easy to make, they can be done way ahead and kept in the freezer. All you have to do is pop them into a hot oven! —Cindy Nerat, Menominee, Michigan
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White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies Exps11164 Sd143204c12 06 2bc Rms 3

White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies

White baking chips and macadamia nuts are a fantastic duo in these buttery cookies. They are a nice change from the classic chocolate chip ones. —Cathy Lennon, Newport, Tennessee
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Exps16732 Mtc153706c03 05 3b 3

Broccoli Salad Supreme

People can't get enough of the sweet grapes and crunchy broccoli in this colorful salad. I appreciate its make-ahead convenience. —Terri Twyman, Bonanza, Oregon
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Cayenne Pretzels

These spicy pretzels were a huge hit at my daughter's graduation party. The longer they sit, the spicier they get! —Gayle Zebo, Warren, Pennsylvania
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Frozen Strawberry Dessert Exps Ft21 28350 F 0512 1

Frozen Strawberry Dessert

My grandpa gave me many of my grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s recipes, including this frozen strawberry dessert, along with many wonderful stories about them. —Kate Murphy, Union Bay, British Columbia
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Grilled Caesar Chicken Breasts Exps Ft21 48831 F 0324 1 9

Grilled Caesar Chicken Breasts

Marinated overnight in creamy Caesar dressing, this grilled Caesar chicken recipe is juicy, tender and full of flavor. It couldn’t be easier. —Marcia Wallenfeldt, Kent, Ohio
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Classic Crab Cakes

Our region is known for good seafood, and crab cakes are a traditional favorite. I learned to make them from a chef in a restaurant where they were a bestseller. The crabmeat's sweet and mild flavor is sparked by the blend of other ingredients. —Debbie Terenzini, Lusby, Maryland
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Exps20121 Ewd153732b03 27 3b

Frosty Peanut Butter Pie

With only a handful of ingredients, this peanut butter pie promises to deliver well-deserved compliments. Whenever I bring this creamy, make-ahead pie to get-togethers, I'm asked for the recipe. —Christi Gillentine, Tulsa, Oklahoma
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Crispy Baked Wontons Exps41513 Ufz133197c04 17 5bc Rms 5

Crispy Baked Wontons

These quick, versatile wontons are great for a savory snack or paired with a bowl of soothing soup on a cold day. I usually make a large batch, freeze half on a floured baking sheet, then store in an airtight container. —Brianna Shade, Beaverton, Oregon
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Slow Cooker Barbeque Pulled Pork Sandwiches Exps Tohesodr21 142407 E02 17 1b

Slow-Cooker Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Foolproof and wonderfully delicious describe my barbecue pork recipe. Just four ingredients and a slow cooker make a fabulous dish with little effort. —Sarah Johnson, Chicago, Illinois
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Mozzarella Sticks Exps Ft19 480 F 0814 1 10

Mozzarella Sticks

I’m particularly fond of these tasty mozzarella sticks because they’re baked, not fried. Cheese is one of my family’s favorite foods. Being of Italian descent, I cook often with ricotta and mozzarella cheeses. —Mary Merchant, Barre, Vermont
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Texas Style Beef Brisket Exps Mtbz20 39534 E02 28 9b 8

Texas-Style Beef Brisket

A friend had success with this recipe, so I tried it. When my husband told me how much he loved it, I knew I’d be making it often.—Vivian Warner, Elkhart, Kansas
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Double Chocolate Almond Cheesecake Exps Thca18 34496 D11 01 2b

Double Chocolate Almond Cheesecake

This cheesecake is easy to make—but it's definitely not easy to wait till the next day to eat it! The recipe is from a friend I used to work with. —Darlene Brenden, Salem, Oregon
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Exps25310 Scm153676c01 27 5b 1

Scalloped Taters

This creamy and comforting slow-cooked side tastes great with almost any main dish and is a snap to assemble with convenient frozen hash browns. It's a good way to make potatoes when your oven is busy with other dishes. —Lucinda Wolker, Somerset, Pennsylvania
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Turkey Focaccia Club

My family thinks this sandwich is pure heaven thanks to the cranberry-pecan mayo. It's so good that they ask me to make it all year long. —Judy Wilson, Sun City West, Arizona
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Overnight Fruit Salad

I first tasted this rich, old-fashioned fruit salad at my wedding reception many years ago. The ladies who did the cooking wouldn’t share the recipe at the time, but I eventually got it. I’ve made it for many meals, and our daughters copied the recipe when they married. —Eileen Duffeck, Lena, Wisconsin
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Barbecued Chicken Salad Sandwiches Exps Ft20 23027 F 0312 1

Barbecued Chicken Salad Sandwiches

An impromptu picnic inspired this BBQ chicken salad sandwich. An instant summertime favorite, these dressed-up sandwiches have become a mainstay at our house. —Linda Orme, Battleground, Washington
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Layered Brownie Dessert

A tasty brownie is the base for layers of cream cheese and chocolate pudding in this make-ahead dessert. —Muriel Ledeboer, Oostburg, Wisconsin
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Mini Grilled Cheese

If you're looking for a fantastic make-ahead snack, try these miniature grilled cheese sandwiches. They're nice to have in the freezer for lunch with soup or a salad. My family loves to nibble on them anytime. —Anita Curtis, Camarillo, California
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Strawberry Rhubarb Cheesecake Bars Exps Thjj19 232666 E02 19 3b 3

Strawberry Rhubarb Cheesecake Bars

These cheesecake bars layer a buttery pecan shortbread crust with a rich and creamy filling and sweet-tart strawberry rhubarb jam. For larger squares, cut into nine bars instead of 16. —Amanda Scarlati, Sandy, Utah
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Crispy Sriracha Spring Rolls Exps Thca17 196774 C11 01 1b 2

Crispy Sriracha Spring Rolls

While in the Bahamas, friends suggested a restaurant that served amazing chicken spring rolls. When I got home, I created my own version. Such a great appetizer to have waiting in the freezer! —Carla Mendres, Winnipeg, Manitoba
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Seasoned Turkey Sandwiches

This savory turkey tucked in homemade buns steals the show at any potluck or family reunion. It’s been a huge hit at football dinners, graduation parties and more. I like to add tomato and lettuce for crunch and color. —LaVonne Hegland, St. Michael, Minnesota
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Sonoran Sunset Watermelon Ice Exps Thjj17 165858 B02 07 3b 1

Sonoran Sunset Watermelon Ice

If you didn’t think watermelon and cilantro could go together in a dessert, this recipe will give you a pleasant surprise! Sprinkle pomegranate seeds and a sprig of cilantro on top for extra flair. —Jeanne Holt, Mendota Heights, Minnesota
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Chive Pinwheel Rolls Exps H13x9bz16 19475 D04 28 1b 2

Chive Pinwheel Rolls

These light, pleasant-tasting rolls complement almost any entree. With the chive filling swirled through the golden bread, they're attractive enough for special occasions. —Ann Niemela, Ely, Minnesota
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Orange Gelatin Pretzel Salad Exps Hca18 38000 D08 30 6b 5

Orange Gelatin Pretzel Salad

Salty pretzels pair nicely with the sweet fruit in this refreshing layered salad. It’s a family favorite that is a slam-dunk at potlucks. —Peggy Boyd, Northport, Alabama
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Strawberry Crunch Ice Cream Cake Exps Ft19 242521 F 0627 1 15

Strawberry Crunch Ice Cream Cake

While growing up, I loved treats from the ice cream truck that rolled through my neighborhood. This ice cream cake is inspired by one of those crunchy, strawberry novelties. —Lisa Kaminski, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin
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Mini Cheese Balls Exps Toham20 246258 E11 07 10b 12

Mini Cheese Balls

These mini cheese balls are the perfect quick appetizer for any party. Roll them in toasted sesame seeds, fresh rosemary and/or paprika to add even more flavor. —J. Spivey, Ennice, North Carolina
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Blueberry Cantaloupe Salad

The simple citrus and poppy seed dressing in this fruit medley really dresses up the refreshing mix of berries and melon. —R. Jean Rand, Edina, Minnesota
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Easy Microwave Mint Fudge

I make these creamy, smooth squares not only for Christmas, but also for Valentine's Day. This easy microwave fudge is just as good as any you'd buy in a confectionery. —Donna Roberts, Manhattan, Kansas
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