Party Boards for Every Day

Have you seen those beautiful party boards that people post pictures of online? They usually have tasty cheeses, meats, crackers and fruit. Mine are not typically fancy, but I absolutely love these as an appetizer or party dish. I have not had the opportunity to throw holiday parties this year and I was really missing these foods. So, I decided to make a party board for a meal at home.

If you think about it, this is a fun and easy way to make a meal. Party boards usually involve multiple food groups and require little to no cooking. In the chart below, I shared some of my favorite things to include on party boards. How fun would it be to make a meal this week picking one item from each category?

Pepper jack
String cheese
Cream cheese  
Apple slices
Dried fruit
Pea pods
Veggie dip  

The picture above is a party board I made for dinner recently. It was delicious and allowed me to pretend that I was at a festive holiday party. If you try this out, snap a picture and share it with us on social media.


Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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Host a Super Bowl party for 12 for $20

Last week I challenged myself to come up with a Super Bowl party menu for 12 people that would cost $20 or less (not counting alcohol). I wanted a menu that I could serve to my friends, and one that didn’t take my whole Sunday to prepare.

And … I did it! My sister says I cheated because I already had basic staples on hand—vanilla, cocoa, sugar etc.—for the brownie frosting. She is correct that if I had to buy these ingredients, I would have gone over my $20 goal; however, I counted just the amount I used of each ingredient.

Here’s the quick, fun and EASY menu I settled on: popcorn with toppings, chili and crackers, carrot and celery sticks, and brownies w/frosting

Popcorn with toppings
Make popcorn the ‘old-fashioned’ way! One 32-ounce bag of popcorn will make about 6 gallons of popped corn. When popping corn, use a 1 to 4 ratio of oil to popcorn in a large heavy pan with a lid and a handle. Examples of 1 to 4 ratios are 2 tablespoons of cooking oil for 8 tablespoons or 1/2 cup popcorn, 1.3 tablespoons oil to 1/3 cup popcorn.

To find out how much popcorn your pan holds, pour dry popcorn into the pan to make a single layer of popcorn, then pour the popcorn back into a measuring cup.
Put the oil in the pan, put in 2-3 kernels and when they sizzle and spin around, add the rest of the popcorn and the lid. Cook, shaking constantly until the popping stops. Remove immediately.
When you cook the corn on top of the stove with oil, salt and other seasonings will stick to the popped corn without additional margarine or butter. Lay out seasoned salt, Parmesan cheese, oregano, curry, garlic salt, etc. and let your guests experiment.


1 1/2 pounds ground beef 2 (16-ounce) cans chili beans, drained
3 stalks celery, diced 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained
2 large onions, diced 1 tablespoon ground cumin, optional
2 cloves garlic, minced 2 tablespoons chili powder
1 (29-ounce) can tomato sauce 1 dash Worcestershire sauce
1 (28-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups water

Brown ground beef, celery, onions and garlic together. Rinse and put in crock pot with rest of ingredients. Cook on low 8 hours. Stir occasionally.

Carrot and celery sticks

  • 2 pounds whole carrots
  • 1 bunch celery

Clean. Cut into strips.

Yum! Prepare brownies according to package directions, and frost with this quick chocolate frosting recipe:

  • 1/4 cup margarine
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt margarine over a low heat. Gradually beat in cocoa, sugar, milk and vanilla, mix well. Spread on brownies.

There it is …  how to throw a party for 12 people for $20! Tell us how you would change the menu for your party, or share your ideas for entertaining on a budget.

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