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Mar 13, 2012 03:20 PM

Novice Needs help cooking for my 3 year old's birthday party

We're having about 40-50 adults & 20 kids over for lunch to celebrate my "baby's" 3rd birthday. 70 people sounds like a lot of people!! We haven't done a lot of parties & never cooked for our parties (always done take out). So, we wanted to make it ULTRA-SIMPLE. We're cooking on a budget too.
Not trying to impress anyone with gourmet skills I don't have! We don't have a lot of time to prepare- I also have a baby so we're running on little sleep as it is.

The menu will be a taco bar with beans, rice, appetizers & cake for dessert. Some of you will laugh at these questions, but I've gotta ask...

* If I cook 10-15 lbs of ground beef for the tacos, what size batches should i be cooking the meat in? (5 lbs at a time)?
* Where can I buy 10-15 lbs of inexpensive ground beef for tacos(already checked Costco but they sell lowfat ground beef & I want it to taste good)?
* I want to just cook rice in a rice cooker- what kind of rice goes with tacos? long grain? Short grain white rice? i heard i can just add cilantro to the rice- has anyone tried this?
* Where can i get large cans of refried beans- already checked Costco, Walmart, Safeway- I'm in No. Cal/East Bay.
* What are easy appetizers for a Mexican menu?

Thanks for any help!!

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  1. Your "baby" will only be three years old once ~~ Only 1 three year old birthday in a life time ~~ Please don't miss it!! ~~ Keep it simple!! The party is about the child....Cake and Ice cream is all you need.

    1. Hi Chele!

      I think you're on the right track to go with a Mexican buffet. Super easy and delicious. Don't be afraid of the Costco groundbeef, I use it all the time and it's great! If it seems dry or flavorless to you I would add taco seasoning and a bit of olive oil for moistness.

      Here's my recipe for Easy Spanish rice: Pre-cook the quantity of rice and set aside. In a large frying pan heat up 1/2 c. veg oil and add 2 diced onions, garlic and 1 red and 1 green sweet peppers. Add 2-3 chicken bouillon cubes (or any flavor you like)black pepper and 2 T mild chili powder to the oil and veggies. Mix the above flavored oil and veggies together with the rice and add a large amt. of chopped cilantro. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

      For an easy appetizer serve salsa and tortilla chips! Everyone loves them. Here is an easy recipe for salsa that is easy on your budget too:

      2 large cans of whole tomatoes

      2 small cans diced green chilles

      1-2 diced fresh jalapenos (remove seeds for mild, leave them in for spicy)

      1 medium onion diced

      1 bunch fresh cilantro

      juice of one lime

      4-5 chopped green onions (mix in later, do not blend)

      salt and pepper and sugar to taste

      1-2 cloves fresh garlic

      olive oil

      Combine the tomatoes, chopped onion, and cilantro in blender jar and process until smooth. Pour into a bowl and add the green chiles, jalapenos, green onions, lime juice, oil and salt and pepper. Add sugar 1 tsp at a time to taste, a little enhances all the other flavors. Serve with chips. Have fun at your party!

      1 Reply
      1. re: riversuzyq

        +1 on costco ground beef - tastes good to me too and they re-test for e-coli before they grind in house, so good for kids in my opinion.

        I've never done tacos for this large a crowd, so my advice is purely intuitive.

        I might look at doing the ground beef a little differently. You can add water and spices to the beef at the start of cooking, this helps break the beef down, so you'll have a finer texture to the beef but it will also add moisture and spices which will help when reheating and keeping warm.

        For the rice I would use a medium grain white rice which I think will hold together a little better in a taco. You can add cilantro and a little oil to the rice after it cooks to help it stay moist longer and give some flavor. I would do it in a rice cooker if you have one. If your rice cooker isn't very large, you could do a batch - take it out and place in a chaffing dish and cook another batch in the meantime.

        Enjoy! Have fun! Don't stress the details.

      2. Unfortunately, You will probably have to cook your hamburger 1 or 2 pounds at a time. If you have or can borrow a large rectangular electric skillet, you could probably cook 3 pounds at a time. If all you have is a 12 inch skillet, you may have to do it 1 pound at a time. On the bright side, you should be able to make it a day or two in advance and then heat it up either in the microwave or a pot.

        My grocery store sells 10 pound chubs. I would think Costco or Sam's Club would too. You could also just ask the butcher for 16 pounds in 2 pound packages, too. I have found ground chuck more flavorful than regular hamburger but it is up to you.

        It would be nice to serve the rice in a rice cooker. Hopefully one of these people can give you a rice cooker recipe for Spanish rice. Borrowing crock pots would hold the meat, beans and rice hot.

        You are brave. I would have gone for hot dogs or spaghetti.

        1. I was in a similar situation last year! We had a birthday party for my mom that we thought 20 people were coming to, and by the time my dad finished inviting people, we were at the 50+ mark! I like to cook but had never cooked for a group that large, so was nervous. The best advice that I can pass on is to focus on what you can make/prep ahead so that you can enjoy the party on the day of! We also ended up having lots of people volunteer to bring food, which we accepted and were happy to have on site.

          This website ( has some good Chipotle knockoff recipes, including one for cilantro rice that is easy, and some for some salsas that you could easily put together the day before.

          For sides/apps, you could do some layer dips, fresh salads with tomato/avocado/etc., salsas and chips -- all things that can be prepped ahead and would just require being set out the day of.

          I get beef at Costco and haven't had any issues, but my regular grocer sells pretty large packs too. For the refried beans (I know this sounds crazy) - have you looked on Amazon? They carry just about every brand out there. The other option would be to see if a local restaurant will let you order a big pan that could just be reheated?

          Good luck, and most importantly, enjoy the party :)

          1 Reply
          1. re: ForFoodsSake

            Wanted to second the rec for refried beans on Amazon. if you're not making from scratch or buying from a restaurant.

            I buy the "instant" beans (just add boiling water) and they're really good... MUCH better than canned (I find canned refried beans pretty nasty).

            Honestly, the instant beans are just as good as the middle of the road local Tex-Mex joints (and I'm near ground zero for Tex-Mex). Plus, they don't have that slimy texture like the canned ones.

            These are the ones you want:


          2. Are you sure that will be enough meat? Remember that ground beef will cook down considerably. As far as cooking it, I've done huge batches in the oven. YMMV. :) Just remember not to crowd it in the pan when you cook (whether oven or stovetop) or it will steam instead of brown. If you want more fat than Costco's beef has, you could mix it up with some chuck or straight-up beef fat from the local grocer.