Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Viva La Fiesta!

Ah Fiesta time. That 5-day period where tourists descend on Santa Barbara. To enjoy the scenery, watch the traditional dancing, eat the amazing food, and get drunk off their asses.

I’m not really into fiesta. I’d like to be. It’s not like I’m AGAINST festivals. I like festivals! But, they can be expensive money sinks and the food is not that healthy. If the only festival in the area was fiesta, I would go and happily enjoy it. But. We’ve got the French Festival, the Greek Festival, the Lemon Festival, the Avocado festival, I Madonnari. Plus the Santa Barbara fair and expo, Earth Day. All with some sort of rides and carnival foods and opportunity to buy stuff.

I enjoy the lemon festival’s $5 (last-year’s) t-shirts. I also enjoy a lemon beer, or lemon ice cream. All of the festivals sell some pretty good lemonade. I got great vegan food at Earth Day. But it’s not cheap. My spouse and child enjoyed Fiesta on Friday. They bought a fried doughy treat and spent $30 on an all-day ride pass. Which can be worth it, as the rides are $2 to $5 each. My son is still too short for many of the rides. In the past, I have loved watching the dancing at the Mission or the Courthouse (free), sitting on a blanket and eating our snacks.

This year, I just wasn’t feeling it. I’ve been trying to lose some weight, and deep-fried Mexican food is not the way to get there. There are several options during fiesta –a few locations, various booths run by different school and community groups. The best food, my local friends tell me, is at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. Which isn’t really part of the official fiesta festivities, it just happens to be well-timed to align with fiesta. I’ve been there before, and the food is indeed good. I met friends for lunch there Saturday. The lunch was late (1:45 pm) because of their son’s late nap. As I’d done my triathlon training in the morning (including getting my ass whomped by two 5 foot waves while trying to exit the ocean – yeah, that was effing scary), I was pretty much ravenous at noon. So, while I could have found healthy options, such as chicken soft tacos (tortillas, chicken, onion, cilantro, hot sauce), I had to pass. I’d already eaten lunch. I did enjoy a soda and a chat with my friends though.

Most of the fiesta food is fried and salty. There’s always room in a diet for a little bit of that. But I try to avoid it.  Especially since Saturday is only 2 days before my weigh in.  And we know what happens when I eat salty food.  Anyway:  Taquitos (fried). Tostadas (fried tortillas). Hard tacos (fried). Sopes with lots of heavy meats, sour cream, and cheese. Churros (fried and covered in sugar).  Ah…luckily for me I wasn’t hungry. I bought the soda, a churro to take home for the family, and a few fiesta eggs (might have to learn to make those myself).
Sunday, however, I decided to re-create a healthified tostada. I think the tostadas at the church were $3 or $4 each. Here are mine:

Tostadas: To make two

Fat free refried beans: pinto beans, garlic, onion, pureed in the food processor until desired consistency. Dried pintos are $0.79 a pound, and you get about 6 cups cooked per pound. Half a cup of cooked beans would be about 7 cents.  I microwaved some onion and garlic to go in there, but I needed to add more salt or spice.
Cooked chicken: I cooked a whole chicken or two from the farmer’s market. A whole chicken is $12. I get about 4 cups of cooked chicken for this. Half a cup of cooked chicken is then $1.50
Pico de gallo: tomatoes, onions, cilantro: $0.30 per half cup. Or less.
Avocado: $1 each, 1/3 of an avo for two tostadas.  There's no magic in the amount.  There are 3 of us in the family.
Lettuce: $0.10 a cup
Salsa: My favorite is $0.37 for 2 Tbsp. You don’t really need it with the pico.
Tortillas: Two small are $0.17. The key here is to spray with cooking spray and bake until crispy, so they are not fried. A little chili powder and cumin can spice them up.
Sour cream: 2 Tbsp of light comes out to $0.11
Cheese: I avoided this for me, but for the family, ½ ounce of cheddar is 6 cents.  But I didn't feel like shredding it, so we skipped it.

Total for two tostadas: $3.01, or half the price of buying them at Fiesta. Maybe less even. And certainly healthier. And at fiesta, you wouldn’t get the avocado.  Mine were not very authentic, I'm sure.  The beans could have been better - I did not fry them up in oil, which really deepens the flavor.  I was feeling lazy.  But I was happy with the result.

Fiesta eggs: These are eggs with a hole cut on the bottom. Egg removed, cleaned, dried, and painted. Then they are filled with confetti, and closed up with some tissue paper. You break one on someone’s head while saying “Viva La Fiesta!”, and they get confetti in their hair and on their clothes.  I guess you have to be there. You can buy them for 3 or 4 for $1.

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