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A 60th Birthday, Mariachi’s & a Simple Spinach Artichoke Dip With Heat!

Our Mothers’ Day weekend was so unbelievably incredible. Moreso because my mom turns 60 tomorrow.  She and I love to entertain and host all kinds of shindigs, no matter how big or small, so something had to be planned. Papi, my siblings and I  planned a huge surprise shabang for her. She knew we were up to something, but never expected we’d go the route we did.

It all started on Saturday afternoon with cooking for the “little” and intimate get together she so casually put together with some of her closest friends — 8 max. I made a few appetizers which worked extremely well with the idea she was only expecting a handful. On the other hand, we had invited 30 or so, but we played down the cooking and amount of food so as to not give the bigness of the party away. We were then off to dinner which was a very loud and borderline embarrassing (well, not really) evening at Olive Garden. Yes, you read right. Olive Garden. For some inexplicable reason, mi madre loves that place and insisted we convene there. She shot down the idea of me teaming up with another chef friend of mine here in D.C. to cook for her.

When mami speaks twice, the argument stops and we all oblige. Especially in a situation where we were celebrating her 60th and Mothers’ Day at the same time.

Well, dinner was fantastic because all 17 of us made it crazy fun. I stood up on my chair, in my 6″ heels and showed my candy cane knickers off (only to make the point that I had no qualms about wearing flamboyant balloon pants), mami stood up and hollered “yeah!” when we finished singing “Happy Birthday, ” and one of my brother’s showed up in a silver shaggy wig, which was passed around the table to much hysteria.

Getting mami to cooperate is the hardest thing, ever. Being a overly confident and solid Latin woman, she demands all the respect in the world and makes it very clear without saying a word. In this case, it only meant surprising her was a hell of a challenge. She can be nosy, intrusive, inquisitive and overall “all up in the biz.” We had to stall her a bit leaving the restaurant in order to give time for her guests to arrive at the pending house party.

Papi figured it out and got her there a few minutes after the rest of us arrived. Perfect.

The party began and the patio looked whimsical and glowy and we enjoyed breezy touches from the weeping willow. 60 red and silver balloons (mom’s fave color), raspberry lemon chiffon cake with white chocolate shavings from an amazing German bakery we used to order from ions ago,  50 friends — far from the 8 she invited — we circled around ready to sing “Happy Birthday,” when the Mariachi band started prancing in.

Playing to the tune “Las Mañanitas,” the band shell-shocked my mother, whose reaction was priceless.

(I left that reaction shot out b/c she was ballin’ out of control and would be utterly livid if I shared, so here’s  a soon after shot of her and papi!)

60 minutes of all out Latin-style partying, dancing to Mexican tunes (imagine a cuban family and  mostly cuban guests trying to dance that style–a far cry from rumba, salsa and chachacha), 5 pitchers of sangria,  yummy but simple apps and a serious gifting basket, and we were on!

All the excitement and boisterous laughter simmered down 3 hours later and la fiesta ended with mami crying like a tender 20 year-old.

Sunday morning was even lovelier. Sis, respective girlfriends and I prepared a full spread al fresco brunch for mami to enjoy in her romantic backyard. Of all the food prepared by the girls, I think the red bean salad was the hit. Nothing new around these places and not even my recipe as you can see here. Fresh fruit salad, especially when it has mangos, can’t ever go wrong. Fluffy eggs are a must. The herbed potato dish with Manchego cheese was super filling and tasty, but the spinach artichoke dip made a surprise cameo. I used to make this simple dip for every party when I lived here permanently. It was my go-to appetizer. Extremely easy and perfect for paring with everything else you may offer at any of your parties.

This version was passed on to me by a long lost acquaintance some 10 years ago. I’ve modified it over time and love it more with every new batch. The heat is the high note. I’m not into spicy food, but the hot sauce sings to me and creates a lovely balance between all the other ingredients. This time I used canned artichokes mami had just picked up at a gourmet shop. I wasn’t crazy about the Italian herbed variety at first but it turned out just fine. In fact, it gave it a fancier spin. The result was creamy, somewhat crunchy, a bit rustic and wonderfully delicious. For an everyday type of appetizer, it was kinda pretty.

I used Stacy’s pita chips (love those) or wheat crackers because tortilla chips are so played out, right!

Mothers’ Day in this cuban house was classic. Fantastic in every way, actually. It was all very laid back with perfect weather on the flowery deck, more birthday cake, plenty of espresso, comical stories of leaving Cuba by my 86 year-old grandmother, new shoe purchase showcase , round two of food a few hours later and a very happy mother!

That’s how we do it up in this casa!

How was your Mother’s Day?

Eat well, love unapologetically, pray with true intention, and take care of yourself.

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  • 5 bags fresh spinach (or 1 frozen bag), cleaned and pat dried
  • 1 bar softened cream cheese
  • 1 artichoke, choked and roughly chopped (or 1- 6 oz jar of marinated hearts)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. hot sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste


On medium heat, add spinach, artichoke and cream cheese to medium sauce pan. Using wooden spoon, fold in ingredients and combine well.  Add garlic, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until flavors have infused and artichoke is cooked thoroughly. Serve warm.

43 thoughts on “A 60th Birthday, Mariachi’s & a Simple Spinach Artichoke Dip With Heat!

  1. OK – your mami and papi are the cutest ever! Sounds like you guys had an amazing time cuz dang – ya’ll know how to throw a party. What a wonderful celebration. My mami sings Las Mañanitas to me and my sisters on all of our birthdays. No matter where we are in the world we can always count on it. It’s a tradition that I hope to pass on to my babies when I have them.

    Well done Bren 🙂 My mami turns 60 next year so I have taken copious notes from this post.

  2. I couldn’t have described it any better!! Yes, it was great, and then some. The most important thing, mami was really happy to celebrate with friends and family. Only one missing was George -and his significant other- who would have added spunk to the occasion and made the celebration perfect. Gracias again 🙂

  3. Eliana: si mi’ja, they are so wonderful. I love everything about them. I hope to have a marriage like them one day. They are so in love and support everything they do. Papi indulges her every desire and she placates his every malacrianca! 😉 Yay for your mami turning 60 next year. Def. let me know if you have any ideas! Would be glad to help. I’ll have to tell you what we did for their 40th wedding anni. I actually should blog about it.

    Rosa: Thanks, it’s actually today so I’ll be making a lovely dinner!

    David: Thanks for helping with everything and spoiling mami every minute of it. Can’t wait to see the vid! Hot stuff. And yes, G being here would have been the icing on the cake.

  4. I’m not happy about missing that party. I already know you guys had a great time and that cake looks good. Save me a piece!

  5. Happy Birthday, mami! Reading this, I felt like I was there. One day, I hope I can make your parents a cake to celebrate their special love. So, so sweet. 🙂

    Love this dip….will remember this next time I pop over. (hint hint)


  7. You are truly blessed to have such a beautiful family! I know your mom cherished every minute of her celebration. This is my all time fav fav of dips! OMG I’m not a spicy person either….have enough fire in me, I guess! But I’m sure that hot sauce provides nice kick. Yum!!

  8. Dullah: I’m not happy that you missed it either! Too much fun!

    Chris: aww, ur too sweet, chica. They’d love to have your cakes, any day. And so would I!

    Carmen: verdad que todo que super bonito!?! como nos divertimos.

    Joi: thanks so much. I really am blessed.

  9. How sweet! Your mami looks and sounds like an awesome woman – I miss my own mom so much and so for Mother’s Day I live vicariously through other people’s fun. (I did NOT mean for that to sound pathetic!) And btw – that was paprika dusting the plate in my asparagus malfatti : )

  10. en realidad me siento muy feliz por todo lo que paso en mi b-day. los mariachis, mis amistades y sobre todo mis hijos aqui conmigo fue una bendicion para mi. primero por que dios me permitio llegar a los 60 con mucho amor para dar y mi esposo e hijos me organizaron una bella fiesta gracias a todos por lo bello que pase mi dia!! life is good!

  11. Fabulously cute surprise party! No one can hate on a surprise party…even if the guest list is 6x their original idea. 🙂 You guys are a cute, tight knit family. Now pass the artichoke dip please!

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