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4th of July Celebration

Slam-Dunk Decorations

Score a slam-dunk party with your basketball fan friends. Host a munching party either at the beginning of March when there are lots of games or toward the end when tension is the greatest. Provide lots of scrumptious sports snacks from this menu, and you're bound to score big with your friends!


Make It Special!


Email invitations if all the invitees are on-line, and include a score sheet for guessing the winning basketball teams. Everybody picks winners of the games and returns them to you to be in the hunt for a prize you'll award. Post the tournament results on a wall where party-goers can view them as the games progress.

Pregame Party Time

Invite guests to arrive an hour before game time to have some pregame fun.

Play the "Who am I?" mixer game. Pin names or photos of tournament players on guests' backs as they arrive at the party. Guests have to guess who they are by asking other guests questions such as, "Do I play for the X team?" Answers can be only a yes or no. (Newspaper clippings and old game programs are good sources for the pinups.)

Hold some friendly competitions. Purchase foam basketballs and a toy hoop and net on a stand from a toy store or sports store. As host, you may want to dress as referee, including a whistle around your neck for when you make those important calls! Award prizes such as chocolate candy balls wrapped to look like basketballs, a basketball bloopers video, team pennants or a package of NBA sports cards.

Have a free-throw contest with a specified distance. Enforce a time limit. Sport a game of "pig" or "horse" (basketball fans will know the rules on these games and a few others, too!). Challenge guests to spin a foam basketball on one finger. Limit them to three tries. Organize two teams to compete to see which can pass a ball for the longest time without dropping it.Be a star sports announcer! Play sports videos with the mute on, and ask guests to call the plays using toy microphones from a party or toy store. Make a video of the announcing. Guests pick the winning up-and-coming announcer!

Slam-Dunk Decorations

Sport team colors. Display team pennants, or make them out of colorful poster board. Hang from the ceiling, or attach to walls.

Make a winning scoreboard from foam core or poster board, and place in a prominent place.

Create a grand entry (used for introducing the basketball team) with team-colored streamers over a framework for guests to break through.

Make or buy team-colored pom-poms using crepe paper from a paper or party store.

Encourage alumni to sport former player or cheerleader uniforms, or ask all guests to come dressed as a team player, coach, ref or cheerleader.

Create a dream team! Take photos of guests with an instant or digital camera, and tape photos on decorated poster board ready for the "dream team" placement.

Remember the bathroom! Use team-colored linens. Place a radio or small TV in the bathroom so no one misses a shot!

Fast-Forward Food Fun

Deck the table in team colors. Pom-poms make a great table centerpiece. Offer team-colored sports hand towels wrapped around silverware and tied with a toy "ref" whistle. The towel will be extra-absorbent for foods that dribble such as the ribs. Team-colored plasticware and plastic drinking cups can help make cleanup easy.

Serve "Hoop It Up" Herbed Cashew Snack Mix in a large bowl wrapped in a new, clean basketball net.

Serve the ribs right from the slow cooker they're cooked in; they'll hold for up to 2 hours. To make the ribs easier to eat, cut them between each rib rather than into 4-inch pieces. Offer an assortment of mild to spicy side sauces for dipping, which you can find at your supermarket.

Keep "Nothing But Net" Cheesy Reuben Appetizer warm in a small slow cooker or fondue pot.

Offer veggie dippers in team colors. Here are a few examples to get you started:

Green and Yellow: broccoli, zucchini, yellow summer squash, yellow tomatoes, yellow bell peppers Purple and White: eggplant, purple bell peppers, jicama, white radishes Red and White: red tomatoes, red bell peppers, jicamaDecorate tops of cupcake with black decorating gel or licorice laces to resemble basketballs, and insert miniature team pennants on toothpicks. (You can make mini-pennants by attaching colored paper to toothpicks.) Or cover frosting with candy-coated chocolate candies in team colors.

Decorate the top of your cooler with construction paper to look like a basketball court, and fill with bottled and canned beverages.


Preparation Guide

Up to 3 Months Before

Make "Team Favorite" Make-Ahead Italian Meatballs and freeze according to directions.

Up to 2 Months Before

Bake "Buzzer Beater" Brownie Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting, but do not frost; store tightly covered in freezer.

Up to 1 Week Before

Make "Hoop It Up" Herbed Cashew Snack Mix, and store in an airtight container.

The Day Before

Make "Courtside" Creamy Pesto Dip, and prepare veggies. Store tightly wrapped separately in refrigerator.

Prepare "Nothing But Net" Cheesy Reuben Appetizer up to the point of baking. Cover and refrigerate.

Frost and decorate the brownie cupcakes.

About 10 Hours Before Guests Arrive

Make "Slam Dunk" Slow Cooker Barbecued Ribs.

About 1 Hour Before Guests Arrive

Finish Make-Ahead Italian Meatballs.

Finish "Slam Dunk" Slow Cooker Barbecued Ribs.

About 30 Minutes Before Guests Arrive

Bake Cheesy Reuben Appetizer.

Just Before Guests Arrive

Set out food in suggested containers.


Slam-Dunk Decorations Menu

"Hoop It Up" Herbed Cashew Snack Mix

"Slam Dunk" Slow Cooker Barbecued Ribs

"Nothing But Net" Cheesy Reuben Appetizer

"Team Favorite" Make-Ahead Italian Meatballs <

"Courtside" Creamy Pesto Dip

"Buzzer Beater" Brownie Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Root (for your favorite team) beer and Assorted beverages




Brownie cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Enjoy the classic combo of peanut butter and chocolate with these quick-fix brownie cupcakes!

1 package Betty Crocker® Original Supreme brownie mix (with chocolate syrup pouch)

1/3 cup water

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs or 3 eggs

Peanut Butter Frosting, if desired (See Below)

Betty Crocker® Decor Selects candy sprinkles, nonpareils or colored sugars, if desired

1. Heat oven to 350ºF. Place paper baking cup in each of 12 regular-size muffin cups, or grease bottoms only of muffin cups.

2. Stir brownie mix, chocolate syrup, water, oil and 2 eggs for fudgelike brownies (or 3 eggs for cakelike brownies) in medium bowl, using spoon, until well blended. Fill cups about 3/4 full (each about 1/4 cup).

3. Bake 28 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean or almost clean. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pan. Cool completely. Frost with Peanut Butter Frosting. Sprinkle with candy sprinkles. Store tightly covered.

Peanut Butter Frosting

1 cup (about 1/2 tub) Betty Crocker® Rich & Creamy vanilla ready-to-spread frosting

1/3 cup peanut butter

2 to 3 teaspoons milk

1. Stir together all ingredients, using spoon, until smooth and spreadable.

High Altitude (3500-6500 ft) Follow High Altitude directions on package for cakelike brownies. Use paper baking cups. Bake about 28 minutes.


Cheesy Reuben Appetizer

If you’re a Reuben sandwich fan, you’ll love these easy-to-make appetizers.

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1 1/2 cups shredded Swiss cheese (6 ounces)

1/2 cup Thousand Island dressing

4 ounces deli sliced corned beef, chopped

1/2 cup well-drained sauerkraut

Pretzel crackers, if desired

Cocktail rye bread slices, if desired

Chopped fresh chives, if desired

Sliced radishes, if desired

1. Heat oven to 400°F.

2. Mix cream cheese, 1 cup of the Swiss cheese, the dressing and corned beef. Spread in pie plate, 9x1 1/4 inches, or quiche dish, 9x1 1/2 inches. Top with sauerkraut and remaining 1/2 cup Swiss cheese. (Cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours if desired.)

3. Bake about 15 minutes or until bubbly around edge. Serve hot with pretzel crackers or cocktail bread. Garnish with chives and radishes.


Creamy Pesto Dip

This easy-to-make, do-ahead dip is ready for a party!

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing

1/3 cup pesto

2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Cut-up raw vegetables, if desired

1. Stir together all ingredients except raw vegetbles.

2. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours but no longer than 48 hours. Serve with raw vegetables.


Herbed Cashew Snack Mix

Next time you need to nibble, whip up a batch of this crunchy cereal treat!

2 cups Corn Chex® cereal2 cups bite-size shredded wheat cereal

2 cups pretzel sticks

1 cup cashews

1/4 cup butter or margarine

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon leaves


1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon leaves

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon red pepper sauce

1. Heat oven to 325ºF.

2. Mix cereals, pretzel sticks and cashews in ungreased rectangular pan, 13x9x2 inches. Melt butter in 1-quart saucepan over medium heat; remove from heat. Stir in remaining ingredients. Pour over cereal mixture, tossing until thoroughly coated.

3. Bake uncovered about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until hot. Serve warm or cool.


Make-Ahead Italian Meatballs

Keep these easy-to-make meatballs on hand for last-minute dinner creations. Tossed with pasta or baked into a casserole, the possibilities are endless!

1 pound lean ground beef

1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)

1/3 cup Progresso® dry bread crumbs (any flavor)

1/4 cup milk

1 egg

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 cup chili sauce

1/2 cup cold water

1 jar (12 ounces) tomato pasta sauce (any variety)

1 teaspoon yellow mustard

1. Heat oven to 400ºF.

2. Mix ground beef, onion, bread crumbs, milk, egg, salt and pepper. Shape mixture into thirty 1-inch balls. Place in ungreased rectangular pan, 13x9x2 inches.

3. Bake uncovered about 15 minutes or until no longer pink in center and juice is clear. (To serve immediately, continue as directed in step 5--except decrease simmer time to 15 minutes.) 4. Place meatballs on ungreased cookie sheet. Freeze uncovered about 20 minutes or until firm. Place partially frozen meatballs in heavy plastic bag or freezer container. Seal, label and freeze no longer than 3 months.

5. About 25 minutes before serving, mix chili sauce, water, pasta sauce and mustard in 2-quart saucepan. Add meatballs. Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally; reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 20 minutes or until meatballs are hot.


Slow Cooker Barbecued Ribs

These ribs are a great main dish for when friends come over to watch the game.

3 1/2 pounds pork loin back ribs

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon pepper

3 tablespoons liquid smoke

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1 medium onion, sliced

1/2 cup cola

1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce

1. Spray inside of 4- to 5-quart slow cooker with cooking spray.

2. Remove inner skin from ribs. Mix brown sugar, pepper, liquid smoke, garlic and salt; rub mixture into ribs. Cut ribs into 4-inch pieces. Layers ribs and onion in slow cooker. Pour cola over ribs.

3. Cover and cook on low heat setting 8 to 9 hours or until tender. Remove ribs from slow cooker. Drain and discard liquid.

4. Pour barbecue sauce into shallow bowl. Dip ribs into sauce. Place ribs in slow cooker. Pour any remaining sauce over ribs. Cover and cook on low heat setting 1 hour.