Monday, January 10, 2022

Weekly Round Up: This Taco Walks into a Bar

A weekly round up: eats, workouts, watches, and reads.  In this week's edition, we celebrated a Very Special Birthday with a taco bar and ice cream cake.

A Tale of A Taco Bar

Our go-to for birthday parties is to order pizza or a sandwich tray.  I'm a huge fan of home cooking, but let's face it, I can barely manage to feed four people let alone the 10-20+ that we have for family birthdays.  We'd gotten pizza for a recent NY party, so I was leaning toward a sandwich tray when I remembered that time a few years ago when my SIL did a taco bar birthday party for one of the cousins.  I remembered a crock pot full of ground beef, taco shells, and toppings.  The more I thought about it (1) it sounded dead easy and (2) I was craving tacos.  And (3) the taco party from a few years ago was for the cousin who is on a gluten free diet.  I've always shied away from making GF meals for our family parties because I feared that I would get just one ingredient wrong and end up getting the kid sick and/or make something dry and tasteless.  As I was putting together the shopping list, I kept seeing GF labels everywhere.  I ran the ingredient list by my SIL and we determined that the only thing that I needed to do was to get corn taco shells (which I was planning to do anyway) and use GF taco seasoning.

When I make tacos for my own family, I usually cook two pounds of ground beef which gets us a good amount of leftovers.  I used this online taco calculator to work the quantity for 15 people:

  • Four pounds of ground beef, 1 packet of GF taco seasoning, and two cups of GF mild salsa (GF salsa = the normal brand that I would have gotten anyway)
  • We keep an industrial size Costco bag of shredded Mexican cheese blend in our house at all times, so nothing extra was required there
  • I got 30 small flour tortillas and 12 hard corn tortillas
  • one head of iceberg lettuce
  • two tomatoes
  • one bunch green onions
  • 3 avocados for guac
  • one container of "fresh" grocery store mild salsa
  • one bag of tortilla chips

And of course we had our standard ice cream cake that we always make for the boys' birthdays (not GF).

How it went down:

Thursday: go shopping for avocados and ice cream cake ingredients.  The only avocados the store had were rock hard so there was a little bit of prayer involved that they would ripen in time I will get them on Wednesday for a Saturday party.

Friday: start working on the cake in bits and pieces during the day.  At night I moved the ground beef from the freezer to the fridge to start thawing (backup plan if I had forgotten would have been to defrost it in the microwave or cook the beef in the Instant Pot).

Saturday morning: grocery shopping trip for everything else, finish up cake.

Saturday 2:00: fire up the crock pot with beef, salsa, and taco seasoning (I used this recipe as a guide).  I'm not sure how big my crock pot is but it turned out to be exactly big enough to hold the ingredients with no room to spare.  I wasn't sure how it would work to cook the beef in the crockpot without browning it first, but since the internet said it would be fine, I figured it was worth the ease of effort and sure enough it was.

Saturday 3:00: go out for a run.  My husband texts me that the SIL with the gluten free cousin is sick so our guest list is down by four.  I've lost nothing by having a GF meal, and in the event of excessive leftovers I can freeze the taco meat.

Saturday 3:50: back home.  Shower, chill out, dress, blow dry hair.

Saturday 4:30: chop lettuce, green onions, and tomatoes.  Get party stuff out (paper plates, plastic cutlery, cups).

Saturday 5:00: taco meat looks done, drain off the excess liquid & return to crock pot on low for the duration of the party.  Put stuff on table, leaving sour cream, fresh salsa, and cheese in the fridge until the end.

Saturday 5:15: Avocados appear to possibly be ripe and it turns out that they are.  Whew!  Make guac, put out on table covered with saran wrap just in case guests are late.

Saturday 5:30: Official party start time.

Saturday 6:00: all guests are finally here and we start eating.  Guac is just fine.  Everyone eats a ton of food and is happy==>party success!  After about an hour I put everything away except the chips and salsa.  Only the crock pot needs washing and everything else goes in the dishwasher, so it's the easiest party cleanup that we've ever had.

Consumption stats for 11 people (six adults, five teenagers): about half of the taco meat, veggies, taco shells, sour cream, and cheese.  75% of the tortilla chips, 90% of the fresh salsa, and 100% of the guac were eaten.  60% ice cream cake consumption.

Anyhoo, this has been a very long winded way of saying that the taco bar was shockingly easy to pull off and I recommend it.  Everyone had a good time and we have about two nights of leftovers which is about exactly how much leftover tacos that we want.  The only thing that I might do differently next time is use the Instant Pot instead of the crock pot to have a tighter control on the cooking time but as it was everything worked out.

Another New Recipe Shout Out

In non party news, I made Damn Delicious's One Pot Garlic Parmesan Pasta for dinner one night this week and we all loved it.  I made it as a side for my carnivore husband, but next time I will make it as a main course.  Thumbs up!


Nothing too exciting this week.  I got back into the swing of running before work after my Christmas running at noon streak.  It was hella cold this weekend so I delayed my Saturday run until the afternoon so that I could catch the warmest part of the was still pretty miserable outside and I ended up wishing that I'd just stuck to the treadmill.


From the treadmill: some AFI Top 100 rewatches!  I didn't plan this, but somehow I've ended up with the AFI Kids Trillogy: To Kill A Mockingbird last week, and then this week I watched E.T. and started The Sixth Sense.

I hadn't seen E.T. since sometime in the 80s. My review over three 36 minute (3 mile) workouts which somehow added up to the total runtime of the movie:

Workouts 1 and 2: All of The '80s Product Placement, a little slow going for the treadmill
Workout 3: OMG this is the most exciting movie ever and perfect for the treadmill

The Sixth Sense will take me about two more treadmill runs to finish.  I saw it in the theater when it came out and remember like it was yesterday how shocking the Big Twist was.  23 years later (!) I remember almost nothing else about the movie but it's fun to watch for all of the clues leading up the Big Twist (if my hazy memory serves, I believe I paused it at the end of my last workout right before "I see dead people").

On the couch: hubs and I saw Mars Attacks, a good ol' silly movie.


Still going strong on The Disaster Artist


  1. I was terrified of E.T. as a child and I still find him creepy as an adult. Creatures in children's movies these days are so cute (even WALL-E was ADORABLE) and children of the 80s got E.T.? It's just plain unfair.

    I haven't seen The Sixth Sense since the movie came out, either. Interesting to hear that it stands up over time.

    1. I started thinking about 80s toys and the first image that my brain pulled up was a Cabbage Patch doll. I wanted one so badly but never got it and now I'm OK with that. I guess the 80s were a pretty ugly time for toys. AND we had to walk to school uphill both ways so we had it tough!

  2. I absolutely have to remember this next time we have a family thing at our house. Tacos are so easy and everyone can build them as they like!
    Thanks for the taco calculator link. They have some great additional tips on that site.
    Whose birthday was it?
    Well done on the treadmill runs, Birchie!

    1. Ah, I didn't call out that it was a stepson birthday party. I absolutely recommend the taco party. I made everything as easy as I could, but if you have some extra time and energy you could make other fillings in addition to ground beef.

  3. I almost laughed out loud at the taco calculator! I can see where a taco bar would be a great party feast because (like Catrina said) everyone can do their own thing. Now, did you have a margarita bar as well (even though it was a party for the stepson)? ;-) I'm pretty sure I have not seen The Sixth Sense...I get creeped out with those kinds of movies, but maybe if I watch it during daylight hours (???)

    1. Hee hee before last week I did not know that taco calculators existed or that I needed one. Thank you Google!

      I would rate Sixth Sense as suspenseful rather than scary. It just gave me one little twinge. It's worth checking out if you have two hours of free time and want something interesting with a twist, and also totally OK to skip.

    2. And yes ma'am absolutely positively there were margaritas for the adults! From a bottle instead of a bar;-)

  4. This was so fun to read. I love tacos so much, but I have never once thought to make them in the crockpot! Genius! Also, your movie watching makes me want to rewatch the Sixth Sense.

    1. I wouldn't have tried it either except that cooking 4 pounds of beef on the stove top would have taken FOR EVER and left me with a mess to clean up just as everyone was showing up.

      Sixth Sense holds up! I thought that it was great when I saw it back in 1999, but it had slipped off my radar.

  5. I've done a similar bar with chicken fajitas in the crockpot which was a huge hit, too. Like you, I loved how easy the clean up was after the party!