Jalapeño Pepper Jack Turkey Burgers with Chunky Guac and Butternut Squash Fries

Welcome, summer.

 

It’s been a long hiatus, but as spring approaches we’re back to the blog with a new look and lots of yummy recipes on the way.

 

Michaela and I spent a lot of last weekend at the pool and were craving a classic summery burger and fries. We don’ have a great grill in our apartment complex and wanted to try to whip up something a little healthier – so we settled on turkey, and decided to try butternut squash fries for the first time. We had Jacob and Marc over for dinner and had nothing leftover – this was delicious to say the least.

We started with a large butternut squash.

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You have to peel it – we tried with a potato peeler, but the skin was too thick so I ended up using a knife.

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Cut it in half and scoop out the seeds.

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Cut each half  into more manageable chunks.

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Cut it up into french fry sized pieces, place on baking tray lined with parchment paper, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle on salt, bake at 425 for about 40 minutes (but keep an eye on them, and if you feel like it, flip them over after 20 minutes).

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While those were baking, we got started on the turkey burgers and the guacamole. I LOVE GUACAMOLE.

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I like my guacamole with a LOT of onion, tomato, and cilantro, so I basically used all of the ingredients pictured above plus two more avocados. We devoured all of it, but if you have a more normal sized appetite this will be a lot of food.

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I mash my avocados, but I try to leave some chunks in there so I take a fork to it but carefully leave some chunks.

You have to gut your tomatoes when you add this many, so that you don’t end up with salsa by accident. I used Roma tomatoes this time but you can use any kind. Just make sure you add a lot.

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I always use the Vidalia Chop Wizard to help me get these chunks to bite-sized in a short amount of time. Might be cheating, but usually by this point I just want my guacamole NOW so I’m trying to go faster. I love it. I’d highly recommend having one of these contraptions for your kitchen.

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I added about 2/3 of that onion, and the outside (NOT the seeds  yet) of two jalapeños.

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Then I took the seeds from one jalapeño and added them. If you add too many, this gets spicy fast. You don’t have to add any if you don’t want to. I usually add about half the available seeds.

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Next, cilantro. I love cilantro, so I added almost the entire bunch, and didn’t cut it up very much. If you like smaller pieces, you can definitely cut up the leaves, or add less.

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Yum. Mix and add salt to taste, and voila.

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Meanwhile, the turkey burgers were happening, recipe invented by Michaela.

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2 Pounds ground turkey, jalapeño, onion, garlic, salt and pepper to taste. We cooked these on the stove. You can’t make them too big or else they won’t cook evenly – go small, and eat multiple.

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Add a little bit of olive oil, turn on the fan, and let them go.

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Flip them.

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When they’re no longer pink in the middle, add pepperjack cheese and garnish with cilantro.

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Yum. At this point the fries were done. We didn’t flip them, so they were crispy on one side and soft on the other. I like that, but if you want them crispy all around you can flip them after 20 minutes and/or bake them a little longer. We also added a little extra salt when they came out.

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Serve with margaritas or light beer?

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Enjoy. Also, we got a new little puppy named Ellie. Stay tuned for more pictures of this little munchkin.

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Halley Chavey halley@eventsbythebackyard.com

Halley Chavey
halley@eventsbythebackyard.com

Restaurant Review: The Blue Goose Cantina

Fall is here. It’s time for pumpkin, apples, cinnamon, crockpots, chili, hot chocolate, Christmas shopping, and all of those awesome things that usher in the holidays and winter cheer. I love this season. It’s beautiful.

But if you’re like me, you maybe can’t let go of the grilling season so fast. While I love fall, I have to have a little bit of summer here and there and Tex-Mex has always been one of my favorite meals – and it brings me right back to summer. Margaritas, tacos, and fajitas might not be the most festive November meal, but if you have to have it, you have to have it.

This is dedication

This is dedication

This caliber of perseverance and dedication may not be your style, though.

If that’s the case, I would highly recommend a trip (or catering service) by The Blue Goose Cantina. In fact, if you live in the area, I’d highly recommend the Highland Village location as you can look out the window and see this while you eat and get the best of both winter and summer:

On one of the warmer fall nights, you might even be able to sit outside

On one of the warmer fall nights, you might even be able to sit outside

The Blue Goose Cantina is a DFW-based Tex-Mex restaurant with 6 locations in the area (well, 5 – one soon to open in McKinney). Their menu is big and full of all kinds of good traditional dishes that are large, smoking hot, spicy, flavorful, and accompanied by great margaritas. It’s not too expensive – especially since a lot of the dishes are big enough to share. Also the salsa is fantastic.

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I’ve been to Blue Goose a few times, and if you go you are welcome to pick whatever you want to eat off the menu, but I’ll walk you through and tell you what I got because it’s really good and maybe you want some guidance. I hear the tamales are really good. You could also try those.

1. Goose Eggs.

Goose eggs.

Goose eggs.

Goose eggs are called goose eggs because this is The Blue Goose Cantina [maybe you figured that out- it took me a while. A little slow over here). They are actually jalapenos stuffed with chicken, cheeses, spices, and durango sauce for dipping. I would recommend one order of these for every two people in your party.

2. Fajitas.

This is how much food you will get.

This is how much food you will get.

I love their fajitas because of the high quality meat and vegetables which are smoking when they get to the table – plus great guacamole and pico de gallo on the side. Lots of it. I would recommend the combo of both chicken and beef because then you get to taste both.

3. Margarita, frozen.

I also really like these jars because your hand doesn't get cold while you're drinking

I also really like these jars because your hand doesn’t get cold while you’re drinking

Their margaritas are excellent. I don’t think I need to say anything else about them.

At that point I’m usually too full for the dessert but if anyone has tried them please let me know because maybe one day I’ll manage that.

What’s most appealing to me right now is that on their website’s catering page they offer to grill on site. This is not a joke. Click here if you don’t believe me. They will grill for you at your house.

I think what this means is that if you are looking for a unique November or December holiday party, this could be your event. Nobody else is making margaritas in November, but who will turn this invite down? Nobody.

Also, remember, before you have a Christmas party, you could be doing this:

not that fun

not that fun

Or sleeping, while Blue Goose takes care of the grilling for you:

very fun

very fun

Take your pick.

Halley Chavey halley@eventsbythebackyard.com

Halley Chavey
halley@eventsbythebackyard.com

Sweet Success Awards Gala: A Planner’s Perspective

For the last six months, we’ve been working on planning a Gala fundraiser for Play Like a Girl! There will be plenty more pictures coming, but I wanted to take a quick breather and announce that this event was by far the biggest we’ve ever done – complete with full plated dinner, 13-piece band, awards presentation, live and silent auction, VIP reception, valet parking, the whole shebang. It was hard work. But we’re a little bit proud of how it turned out. We were privileged to work with vendors like the Emerald City Band, the Hilton Anatole, and Gold Crown Valet.

Here’s a preview of some of the pictures of the event:

Stemmons Ballroom at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas - beginning to set up the tables

Stemmons Ballroom at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas – beginning to set up the tables

Outside the ballroom, the silent auction items were set up on S-shaped tables

Outside the ballroom, the silent auction items were set up on S-shaped tables

Registration table, all set and ready to go!

Registration table, all set and ready to go!

The theme was a Venetian masquerade, so there were beautiful masks on sale at the auction as well

The theme was a Venetian masquerade, so there were beautiful masks on sale at the auction as well

Closer look at the silent auction

Closer look at the live auction preview on display

Some of our volunteers waiting to assist guests a few minutes before the doors opened.

Some of our volunteers waiting to assist guests a few minutes before the doors opened.

Mystery bags! These cost $35 each, but held a value of $50 or above in each bag.

Mystery bags! These cost $35 each, but held a value of $50 or above in each bag.

And for those of you who would like to know what it’s like to plan such an event, we each wanted to share one (of millions) of things we learned during the process and some tips for those looking to plan a similar event in the future.

Michaela says she learned, in a different way than before, “the importance of taking ownership of everything that you do and holding yourself to a standard of excellence.”

Lauren learned that in life, “you will experience difficulties in everything you do, but your perseverance and determination to succeed will ultimately teach you more about yourself than you will ever expect. We learned so much about who we are as individuals, but also who we are as a company because of this event.”

Halley learned that at times when we’re frustrated or things aren’t going the way we planned, it helps to take a deep breath and think about how far we’ve come, and talk through problems with a third-party who isn’t involved in the event. Usually, after stopping to talk through the  problem from the beginning, it seems a lot more manageable and a lot less frustrating.

We learned so much through planning this event, though, and when it came to the big night on November 1 we were finally ready. The event was beautiful and we received lots of compliments from the guests – which is exactly what we wanted to hear.  A smooth and natural feeling event encourages lots of giving at a fundraiser like this.

If you’re looking to plan a similar event or begin a similar project, here are a few tips we wanted to share:

  • Develop a timeline, and stick with it. Make sure you’re constantly updating what tasks have been completed/have not been completed, assign clearly what tasks go to who, and communicate clearly on upcoming deadlines. Otherwise, you’ll end up missing something or farther behind than you want to be.
  • Be patient with yourself and the people you’re working with. You will make mistakes, inevitably, but the final product is a test of how you handle your mistakes and the mistakes of others. Communicate clearly, think outside the box when you’re problem solving, and don’t let anything slide by your attention.
  • Recruit excellent volunteers. We were so blessed to receive help from the Alpha Delta Gamma fraternity, for example, who graciously helped us all day – from unpacking silent auction items to welcoming guests to helping match guests to their purchases to loading up our cars at the end of the night. Their help made a huge difference.

Thanks for reading, and if you have questions on the process shoot us an email and we’d be happy to offer more on what we learned. Keep an eye out for more photos coming soon!

Halley Chavey halley@eventsbythebackyard.com

Halley Chavey
halley@eventsbythebackyard.com

It’s Almost Halloween…

The holiday season, in my mind, kicks off with Halloween.  And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Halloween is in 2 days. Which is cause for celebration, not only because it’s the beginning of a season of festivities and family get-togethers, but also because it’s a day devoted to dressing up in crazy costumes and eating a ton of candy. (yes, no matter how old you are, I believe that your Halloween should involve indulging in a heaping mound of candy. Guilt free.)

I’m sure some people have been preparing their Halloween costume, decor, and party plans since July, but if you happen to be one of those people who can’t believe the Day of Tricks and Treats is upon us again so soon, don’t fret. There are plenty of ideas out there for pulling together a Halloween costume, or anything Halloweeny (totally a word), on the superfly and supercheap.

Who doesn’t love photo booth pictures? Or taking selfies for the purpose of making this super easy costume? I think no one, probably.

inanimate objects are always a good costume impetus, but the choices for culturally relevant inanimate costumes expand infinitely when you start taking into account different internet phenomena. Like Pinterest:

Or social media. Being a “social media” is a great idea, and can be pulled off on a time and budget crunch, but it’s even better if you’re looking for a quick and easy group costume idea.  This is a feminine version, but I could definitely see some guys doing the same sort of thing wearing jeans and t-shirts:

Let’s not neglect the kiddos. Seeing as, if you have little ones, they will most likely be trick-or-treating on Halloween, they will need a costume to do it in.  This costume is extremely cost-effective:

and perfectly fitting for a day devoted to candy.

As cute as the pinata is, this is probably my favorite kids costume to date:

Sure, “Up” came out a few years ago, but this costume is just so adorable I don’t think anyone will mind.

But let’s face it, kids usually have pretty clear ideas about what they want to be. It’s the grown-ups that have to search for something clever and entertaining to wear to the neighborhood/office/family Halloween party.

A couple helpful tips for finding a great Halloween costume idea.

Pop Culture references are always a win:

baby Blue Ivy

Brawny Man

Personally, I always enjoy a good pun Halloween costume:

and if there ever was a match made in clever Halloween costume heaven, it’s the marriage of Pop Culture reference and pun Halloween costume. Ladies and Gentlemen:

50 Shades of Gray

The best part about this costume is paint swatches are 100% free. Which, it’s been established, is the best price that I know.

And for the technically savvy among us, I give you, the Halloween Costume of the Future:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JcIfVxWnmI

When you are getting into the Halloween spirit, don’t forget about your house! Grab some black construction paper to make murder weapon silhouettes for the windows

milk jugs, a sharpie, and those Christmas lights you’ve been dying to break out a few weeks early are all you need to light your lawn or porch:

grab some toilet paper and add construction paper eyes to mummify your front door:

But once you’re done, don’t throw out the empty toilet paper rolls: cut out eyes into the little cylinders, fill with glow sticks, cover the sides and then hide them in the bushes.

Once its dark, these little tubes will add some glowing eyes, peering out from behind the leaves:

Party food becomes a whole new level of awesome when you make it with a Halloween twist. Click the images for the recipes to these frightfully fun (and yummy) Halloween treats!

Pumpkin Bisque

Mummy Pizzas

Ice Cream Sandwich Monsters

And for the adults to have their own trick-or-treat-type fun:

Brain Hemorrhage Cocktail

Pumpkin Spice Sangria

Milky Way Martini

Bloody Brain Shooter

Those are just a few ideas, but really, we live in the era of Pinterest, Google, and Buzzfeed. The creativity at our fingertips is really amazing. And the options are limitless. So don’t worry if you are feeling the stress of the impending holiday: time and budget constraints often result in the most creative and clever solutions. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all.

Leave a comment with the best/most creative Halloween idea you’ve seen lately!

Happy Halloween,

Honora

Honora

An Apple Orchard a Day…

I’ve gotta be honest, there are a lot of things that I don’t particularly like about Michigan weather- mainly, the winters. But if there’s one season Michigan does right, it’s fall. The abundance of deciduous trees are changing colors all different shades of beautiful, the sunny, warm days and crisp, cozy nights,  bonfires, hayrides, and every food item possible infused, somehow, with pumpkin goodness.  Not to brag, but autumn here, most of the time, looks straight out of a storybook.

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and nothing says fall festivities like an apple orchard/cider mill.

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It always seems to be on the list of “to-dos” before Turkey Day.  And given the Midwest’s agricultural heritage, there are plenty of orchards and mills to choose from. My family and I went to the Alber Cider Mill, a small, family-run operation southwest of Ann Arbor. It’s pretty far out into the country (we’re talking dirt roads here, people) but that just adds to the authenticity of the experience, I think. and the drive out to get to the mill ain’t so bad either.

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Following the scenic ride in, the family and myself began exploring.

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The Alber Cider Mill is the definition of a family business: there is a residential house, a few barns and the cider mill, and rows of apple trees, all owned and, largely, operated by a local family.

obviously one of the biggest wins of the day was meeting this little guy:

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pretty much the first thing we encountered was this piglet. And about ten times after we left his (?) barn, we got asked if we had seen the baby pig.  I mean, do you blame people for being excited?

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Clearly, homeboy is a celebrity.

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Right by the house there was a big apple and a measuring tape I’m really not sure why. To see how you measure up compared to a giant creepy apple? Unclear, but the kiddos loved it so I guess it doesn’t matter.

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Just look at those eyes! Ca-razy…

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no Cider mill would be complete without a place to buy delicious treats- the Alber Cider Mill store was an adorably decorated little shop with areas to purchase apples, non-perishables like fresh preserves and local made candles, and of course, fresh donuts and cider. Which we definitely indulged in, never fear.

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There are two types of orchard/cider mill apparently: the type where you are allowed to pick the apples, and the type where you are not.
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Personally, I was okay with the fact that I wouldn’t be picking the apples myself. We actually have a couple McIntosh trees, a Golden Delicious tree, and even a pear tree right by my house, so all of the kids in my family have already had their seasonal dose of grabbing snacks straight off the branch. But if filling those little white bags with apples yourself is something that is important in your orchard experience, make sure you go to one that is U-Pick.

Also, I noticed the black apple sign as well, and completely forgot to inquire about their wedding hosting protocol. Alas. But I would imagine a wedding ceremony, reception, or both at a cider mill would be so cool. I love the idea of a fall wedding (early fall, so it’s still nice and warm). Particularly in Michigan, the backdrop of a thousand shades of orange, red, and gold, would set off any girl’s bridal whites nicely. And any wedding reception that can incorporate donuts into the menu is a reception that has my full support.

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I alslso loved how the store was decorated with antiques and knick-knacks and beautiful shelves everywhere. It added a lot to the atmosphere of an old-time farm/general store. Which is what fall is all about, right?

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as any good farm should, the Alber Cider Mill even had their token barn cat wandering the property. This little munchkin, although you can’t see from the picture, has no tail. Just a nub. Apparently he’s been that way for as long as anyone can remember, so no one is sure whether he was born without one or whether he lost it somehow.  It’s hard out here for a pimp barn cat.

After our donut feast (accompanied by Nameless Nubby-Tailed Cat), Mama and Little Sister explored some of the barns.

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By the orchards they had a hay maze, but it was rather small. Perhaps this was meant only for the wee kiddos? Despite its meager proportions, everyone walking along the hay bails seemed to be having a grand time. So no judgment I guess.

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and then it was hayride time. Even though it was not a U-Pick, it was definitely a U-Tour. For a small fee, we were escorted around the property while sitting on some hay.

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it was all so very autumnal and definitely we had perfect weather which doesn’t hurt.

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but honestly, I was just thinking about getting back for donuts, round 2.

And that’s just a little taste of how we’ve been getting into the spirit of the season here in the Mitten. If ever planning a visit to the Great Lake State, definitely consider coming at this time of year (mid-September to mid-October). It’s pretty darn magical.

Until next time,

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-Honora

Eat, Drink, and be Married!

This past weekend, Halley, Lauren, and Michaela had the privilege of coordinating a wedding for one of the nicest couples on the face of the planet. Megan and Steven tied the knot at her aunt and uncle’s beautiful property outside of Dallas. It was a fun and casual wedding with lots of personal touches, delicious barbecue, and a room filled with love and laughter. Here are a few of our favorite pictures from this great event (sorry for the blurry iPhone pictures!):

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Congratulations, Megan and Steven! Thanks for letting The Backyard be a part of your special day!