On Sunday, we hosted the Little Fox’s taco party based on the book, Dragons Love Tacos. Though my son’s birthday was two weeks prior, we’d all come down with acute bronchitis just days beforehand and had to postpone. This meant having to freeze what taco ingredients we could after a large shopping trip, and making use of the rest throughout the following week (I came up with a lot of meals to incorporate avocados, limes, bell peppers, and jalapeños, because they weren’t going to freeze well).
Having thrown a lot of parties and finding myself worn out every time no matter how big or small, I’ve learned to keep it simple. By focusing on a single theme or idea, and only choosing to expend energy and resources toward a few parts to the idea, we were able to make a decent, enjoyable party without killing ourselves in the process.
Keeping it simple is especially important when you’re on a budget, or cleaning your house is going to be a big part of the preparations, which is generally true for us, when not hosting the party at another venue.
As I’ve posted before, Dragons Love Tacos is one of my son’s favorite books. He still asks us to read it to him a couple of times a week. When we discussed his birthday, he said he wanted two things: tacos and lots of cupcakes. That’s exactly what he got.
Our priority was the food. We knew in our house, entertainment would be low-key. My son has tons of toys all over the house, we pulled out the bottles of bubbles and put them near the back door, and we left out dress up clothes, too. The game room/office is already set up for teens and adults to play games, and that’s where they headed. Decorations we let be as simple as possible: balloons at the mailbox to show where we lived, a matched set of balloons inside, some colorful napkins, and a few dragons around the place with the book standing upright and slightly open. I read the story to the toddlers before we ate.
We had a few snags along the way: I’d forgotten chafing dishes require a water pan and had only purchased half pans, but I’d run across the street to the grocery store and bought roasting pans the same size. They worked just as well, since they’re all essentially the same thing (aluminum, recyclable). Something worse happened outside our control, though: half an hour into the party, the power went out around our block.
Yep. On a sunny Beltane morning, with no major wind activity, the power just went away. It shut down the oven, shut off the music, and left the whole main floor in shadows. The good news: almost all the food was done cooking. The bad news: not all the tortillas were done warming in the oven, so the hard shells were brittle, and the soft shells split down the middle.
Despite this big set back, we managed to have a lot of fun. There was talking, laughing, bubbles, kicking balls, playing card games, dancing, hugging, and lots and lots of eating.
Our menu consisted of almost entirely homemade foods: carnitas (from the crockpot), seasoned ground turkey, roasted sweet potatoes, sauteed bell peppers, black beans, brown rice, two and a half batches of guacamole, chopped cabbage, roasted jalapeños, chopped cilantro, street taco style corn tortillas, blue corn crunchy tortilla shells, yellow tomatillo salsa (from Trader Joe’s), hatch green chili salsa (from Trader Joe’s), two kinds of corn chips, vegan and gluten-free cupcakes* (using a recipe from the Flying Apron Cookbook), and cream puffs (from the freezer section at Costco). We also had a pitcher of water, a pitcher of watermelon and mint water, and when the power came back on two hours later, we had virgin piña coladas. Note, I was running behind and opted not to make a crema, nor did we include cheese, for the sake of both budget and consideration for the blends of flavors.
Though we had a few setbacks, everyone seemed to have a good time, there was much laughter and a chance for people to catch up, and the mix of people turned out to be perfect. Three toddlers was just the right level of chaos we adults and teens could manage it well enough.
But by gods, I went through TEN AVOCADOS. Since the guacamole stole the show, here’s the recipe:
MAMA RAVEN’S GUACAMOLE
4 ripe avocados
1/3 c. small tomatoes (e.g. grape, cherry, et al), quartered
1/8 c. chopped cilantro
sea salt (approx. 1 teaspoon)
garlic granules (approx 1/2 teaspoon)
Cut and peel the avocados, and place the fruit in a large bowl. Mash lightly with a fork, and squeeze the juice of two limes over the avocados. Mix in quartered cherry or grape tomatoes, chopped cilantro, a dash of sea salt and garlic granules to taste until the the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated, but the avocados retain their chunkiness.
PIÑA COLADA SMOOTHIES
3 c. unsweetened pineapple juice
1/2 lb. frozen pineapple spears
1 can coconut cream
1 c. coconut water
pinch of sea salt
Add all ingredients from liquid to solid into a blender and blend until smooth. Serve immediately in cute glasses.
*Flying Apron’s recipe for chocolate cake is intended to make one cake or twenty-five regular sized cupcakes. My daughter used mini cupcake pans, and made SIXTY-FIVE. She didn’t get to frost them, though, because the power went out.