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Monday, March 18, 2019

Birthday Dinner for My Daughters

The birthday dinner this year was a little more tricky to pull together than previous years, as there was very little wiggle room for "special" ingredients. However, my daughters and I brainstormed what we could do with what we have and still make the meal a special one. Now, you need to understand, "special" to my daughters does not mean steak, lobster, roast or anything that you might normally think of for a special, home-cooked meal. "Special" to my daughters meant burgers and fries for this birthday. So, for their birthday dinner, that's exactly what we did.

I had ground beef in the freezer, the ingredients to make buns, plus ketchup, mustard, canned tomatoes, garden watercress, a tiny amount of onion, plain yogurt, garlic powder, a packet of au jus mix, and cabbage (for a slaw-style salad). I did splurge and bought one 2-lb bag of seasoned French fries, for a little over $2 at Walmart.

I baked a batch of burger buns on Saturday, so the basic burger was covered. Because this was a special burger meal and because our selection of on-hand ingredients didn't match what one would think of as usual burger toppings, we put together some different toppings, which we billed as "gourmet." Here are the toppings from our "gourmet" burger toppings bar:
  • au jus for dipping French dip-style (surprised me, this was very popular with all)
  • tzatziki, without the cucumber, using strained yogurt, olive oil, mint (didn't have dill), lemon juice, garlic powder, salt (also very popular)
  • salsa made from canned tomatoes with jalapenos, to which I added fresh onion, garlic powder, chili powder, salt, chipotle powder, pa inch of sugar, and vinegar, cooking it down for about 20 minutes
  • watercress
  • rosemary mustard, made last summer
  • plus the usual ketchup and yellow mustard
Our birthday dinner menu was as follows:
  • burgers with our "gourmet" toppings bar
  • seasoned fries from a package
  • cole slaw, made with a vinaigrette mixed with yogurt
  • cookies and cream birthday cake
  • 1 bottle of sparkling cider to toast the birthday gals
  • 1 bottle of homemade lemonade
  • 1 bottle of water

We served the lemonade and water in empty sparkling cider bottles, as we did for one daughter's graduation reception last June. I have saved the quirky-shaped or nicely-colored cider bottles that we've received over the years. They make nice bottles for water on the dinner table or for taking lemonade on a picnic.

The entire meal used an extra $4.12 out of our grocery budget for the Oreo-style cookies and the seasoned fries. That's considerably less than what we had originally planned for their birthday before we knew about the upcoming income reduction. 


  1. Maybe your new business could be planning birthday celebrations on a budget because you really do have a talent for making things very nice in an inexpensive way. The only part of the business plan you'd have to work on would be finding budget minded people who would want to spend the money for your services. But I bet they're out there.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      thank you. Hmmm, maybe there would be a way to figure out a business like that. Interesting idea!

  2. As soon as I read about your birthday dinner options, I was thinking about all that ground beef you bought on sale and that hamburgers would be great. Did you grill them outdoors?

    1. Hi Kris,
      the burgers did seem like a logical choice. We pan-fried them, as we have a charcoal grill and no charcoal, yet. They were still delicious, though.

  3. That was a lovely birthday celebration! Like Live and Learn said, I'm sure there are people out there who would pay for something like this but I think it would be those who are NOT budget minded who would pay for this.

    We're not nearly on as tight of a budget as you are Lili, but I still insist we live like we are because I think it is the responsible thing to do. We had pork country style ribs on Sunday as a roast with hash brown potato casserole, rice pilaf and corn and beans. Last night we had BBQ pulled pork sandwiches on homemade buns. Along with that was all the leftovers plus a label-less can I had in the pantry. Turned out they were pinto beans. So I called our meal a pork sandwich with a burrito bowl. Kind of stretching it a bit but there was only a tiny bit of rice and beans leftover. I call that a success.


    1. Hi Alice,
      Thank you!
      We've made the same choices as you, when our income has been greater, to continue to live without waste in spending does just seem responsible (as the stewards of what has been given to us). Yum, your meals sound delicious!

  4. Even if I could afford steak every night, a burger sounds better to me! The au jus sounds AMAZING, absolutely inspired. I'll be stealing that idea in the future. The tzatziki sounds lovely as well. I love fresh Mediterranean flavors!

    1. Hi Allie,
      the au jus worked out really well with the homemade buns. Homemade bread tends to be a bit dense, so the dipping liquid was welcomed. I love Mediterranean flavors as well, especially Greek cuisine. Just thinking about Greek food makes me hungry!


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