What We Spent and What We Ate: Birthday Boy!

Our neighbors had a fiesta for their granddaughter’s birthday last Saturday.  The boys bounced in the bouncy castle and yelled a lot.  It’s always fine until the piñatas come out—yes, plural.  Each kid gets to whack at the piñata (usually strung near windows or breakables) with a big wooden paddle.  Inevitably one or two kids get hit in the eye and quietly disappear into the darkness to nurse their wounds.  Eventually the piñata song is sung faster so kids are not only whacking hard, but as fast as they can.  When the thing breaks  everyone scrambles to the floor to scoop up candy—young men stand in for the smallest children.  It’s a ruthless Lord of the Flies ordeal with lots of pushing and squealing.  I looked over after it was all done and my middle son was squatting on the sidelines, candy filled piñata cone clutched to his little chest, fists filled with candy and a sucker sticking out of his mouth.  I couldn’t tell if he was panting or growling.

When I told my oldest he had to leave some of the candy (it was the weekend after Halloween for Christ’s sakes), he looked at me like I was crazy.  “I earned this mom.”  I couldn’t argue.

Then we ate giant pieces of  cake and went home.  The next day, we did it all again.

My in-laws came over for dinner and cake to celebrate Walter’s third birthday.  This year, I didn’t make the cake.  Walter saw a one at La Purisima a few weeks ago and his face just lit up.  It had Dora the Explorer, her cousin Diego, Boots the monkey and Baby Jaguar.  Plus, it had every color in the world not found in nature.

We all cracked up when I brought out the cake, but I have to admit, I felt a little guilty giving my kids such a large dose of food coloring in a single sitting.  They survived, but there might be long-term damage (or maybe my grandchildren will turn out funny).

I didn’t get Walter a piñata this year, but he thought the previous night’s party was in his honor, so he was fine with it.

What We Ate:

Saturday: Pat didn’t get home until after the party, so I made him enchiladas with fresh tortillas (I had eaten three of Martha’s pork carnitas tacos, so I only had two enchiladas).


Sunday: chips and pomegranate guacamolebirthday tamales, beans, rice, radishes

I often buy tamales from my Martha–especially for special events.  They’re some of the best I’ve ever had.  If you don’t have a neighbor who makes tamales, buy them at Carolina’s.

My sister-in-law, Trish, brought Spanish rice–it’s my kids’ favorite.  She shared the recipe, which she got from a friend’s (“real Mexican”) grandmother, Carmen Jimenez of Indiana.  She made me promise to give credit.  Gladly–it’s amazing.  The notes are Trish’s.  I would use the lard.

1 c. rice

3 c. chicken broth (i use vegetable broth)

4 oz. tomato sauce

1 tsp. minced onion (ew. i use a couple of cloves of garlic and onion powder instead)

1/2 tsp. garlic salt (i just use salt, b/c of the fresh garlic)

1 tbsp. lard (i use olive oil and probably a little more)

brown rice in lard, add all other ingredients, simmer until all liquid is gone. (i use a dutch oven or large saucepan)
i usually double or triple this. have also used brown rice and it’s delish.


Monday: curry with long beans, carrots and shirataki noodles (here’s some more ideas for shirataki noodles just because).

My favorite spot at the farmers’ market is Maya’s Farm–everything always looks pretty.  The long beans caught my eye right away.  They’re to die for–you could just steam them, but they work well in a Thai curry.


Tuesday: smoked fish chowder with purslane and home-made oyster crackers

Pat got this recipe from Diana Trimble, a Facebook friend who lives in Brighton.  Here’s her post:

Tonight I made smoked haddock and celery chowder with sweet corn, topped with fresh rocket (arugula). People in America can substitute smoked whitefish, available from a Jewish deli, or smoked trout. Poach it in milk with peppercorns and bay leaves while low-temp sautéing onions, celery and garlic in butter. Then do a white wine reduction on that, add a bit o flour to make a roux. Take the fish out of the milk (put it on a plate) and start adding the milk into the onion celery mix. Depending on how big your pan is, you may want to transfer the milky onion celery mixture into the milk-fish pan about half way through this blending process. Put little potatoes cut into bite size chunks in there and let it cook for oh til they’re soft. When that fish is cool, flake it off the skin. When the potatoes are cooked, chuck the flaked fish back in the soup. Add the sweet corn and just warm it all through, then after poured into bowls, scatter a handful of leaves across the top. * If you find it bland then add Encona scotch bonnet sauce.

Pat used smoked whitefish, a gallon of Organic Valley grass milk, and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc ($6.99). He generally followed the above directions.  We added a rue towards the end, but it would probably have been better just to let the potatoes cook longer.  The soup separated a little–it makes me wonder if it accidentally came to a boil.  It didn’t do much damage, though.  It was one of the best chowders I’ve had in my life.

Lute helped pick the purslane leaves and buds off–they were the perfect touch sprinkled on our chowder.  The boys loved it.

Another perfect touch was the homemade oyster crackers.  This is one of the rare occasions when I use white flour.

Here’s a super-easy smoked whitefish chowder recipe to try if you’re short on time.


Wednesday: leftover chowder


Thursday: roast chicken and arugula salad with tomatoes

The chicken wasn’t done in time to feed the boys, so I boiled some Einkorn pasta, mixed in some canned mackerel (I just rinsed the skin off and pulled out the bones, making sure they didn’t see because it was totally disgusting) and jarred tomato sauce.  They loved it and it’s a good way to sneak some fish into their diet.

I always roast two chickens–it’s the same amount of work and then I can make a lot of broth, chicken soup, and chicken salad.


Friday:  chicken and gravy, cauliflower and braised greens

I like making gravy the next day so I don’t have to mess with the fat.  I was glad I did this time–when I took the drippings out of the fridge, the fat was such a clean,perfect, bright yellow I had to save it.  I’ll use it as shmaltz to fry leftover potatoes for breakfast.

I got some wonderful greens at Mayas, too.  Plus I brought home some flowers for the party.


What We Spent:

Just under $220.  Not bad for throwing a party.

The pasture raised chickens were a splurge.  They’re called Josh’s Foraging Fowls–from Wilcox, Arizona.  They were 5.99 a pound (I got ten pounds) at Double Check Ranch (at the downtown farmers’ market).  Worth it, I think.  The chicken was so fresh and beautiful.  The necks were still on, so they’re great for broth, too.  I’ll be going back to Double Check soon to try their beef–and I promised Isaac I’d get him hot dogs.

The tamales were $35.  The smoked fish from Scott’s Generations was $9.00.  I spent $45 at Maya’s and another $15 on fruit at other vendors.  My mother-in-law got me $15 of fruit (the little seckel pears I love!) and veggies at the Wednesday Town and Country market.  The rest I spent at Sprouts and Safeway.



4 Comments on “What We Spent and What We Ate: Birthday Boy!”

  1. df says:

    So many great meal ideas in here – that chowder is stunning, and the passing reference to a Thai curry got me going! What is pomegrate guacamole? I love what I assume is traditional guacamole and had no idea you could do a pomegrate version. Gotta love that blue tongue – happy birthday to Walter!

  2. Thanks! Just make regular guacamole and add pomegranate seed. You’ll be a true believer–trust me. : )

  3. Pinatas are my least favorite part of birthday parties. My daughter is usually too shy to do any whacking, but is always on the sidelines waiting for the prize. We just got a bagful this weekend, just after making the Halloween candy disappear. Love the cake by the way. My daughter is always eyeing those cakes in the cases. The guacamole sounds interesting, but haven’t seen avocados at our farmers market the last few weeks.

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