Today, I’m participating in a Lasagna Party with Laura’s Lean Beef and Red Gold Tomatoes. Lasagna on a cold, winter’s day…what’s not to like?
I used my own sauce recipe (similar to this with some extra herbs thrown in) using the 28 oz. Crushed Tomatoes from Red Gold because I know my family likes it. But don’t miss the recipes they’ve put together… six variations – one for every taste, including a Skinny Lasagna that is great for January meal plans, that look really delicious and easy.
Here are my tips for creating a lasagna to remember:
+ Use quality ingredients – before I received the samples last time, I usually purchased store brand canned tomato products. Now, I really like the product offerings by Red Gold. They always taste fresh, and their ingredient combos save time in the kitchen. It was a first for me to use Laura’s Lean Ground Beef, and I’ll definitely be purchasing it again. Quality is the perfect word to describe this ground beef, and the flavor stands out, even in a sauce.
+ Take your time – the second most important ingredient in any tomato-based recipe (after quality ingredients, that is) is time. There’s a reason it’s called Sunday Sauce. Because on Sunday you have time to let it simmer. Get a head start on your sauce for this lasagna, and you won’t be disappointed.
+ Try new flavors – I think we’re all pretty aware of what cheeses are good in lasagna (for me it’s ricotta, shredded mozzarella, and parmesan), but this time I went out on a limb and added a layer of Muenster cheese. It was delish and added an extra oomph to the flavor profile.
+ Don’t forget your veggies – I didn’t have a chance to add a layer of roasted veggies to my lasagna this time, but they really do taste amazing. You can take pretty much any veggie combo you have lying around (even a bagged mix from the freezer) roast it until it’s golden brown with olive oil, chop it up, and layer it in between your pasta, cheese, and sauce. This extra step really elevates the dish.
Disclosure and Give-away:
Family-run Red Gold is celebrating the comfort of lasagna this winter and encouraging folks to make their own homemade gourmet skinny lasagna. Before writing this post*, I received a gift pack kit of tomatoes, lasagna noodles, coupon for Laura’s ground meat, a Red Gold reusable tote, apron, coupons, and recipes… and you can win one, too.
Red Gold will be hosting a promotion starting January 13th. Twice a week, they will give away a Le Creuset lasagna pan, a Simple Gourmet Lasagna Kit, Red Gold spatula, Garfield toy, coupons, and an apron. Just go to https://www.facebook.com/RedGold/ to enter through February 3rd!
*All of these words are my own. Lasagna is delicious.
I reluctantly took all of the holiday decorations down this weekend. My usual rule is Epiphany, but I just couldn’t do it that early this year. I hate how blah and empty everything is when all of the festive decor is put away, and I REALLY get a lot from the extra light in the house. Something I’ve always done is trade the Santas for snowmen…the jingle bells for snowflakes…and the red and green for white, silver, and gold. I just can’t go cold turkey. To push it even further this year, I replaced my ornate living room tree with a few sparse snowflakes so I can enjoy the twinkle lights just a little bit longer. I’m not sure what the “rule” will be for finally putting away the last of the trimmings – maybe January 31st?
You may be completely over talking about the holidays and New Year, but I found a few links to share on the topic:
- I love the idea from Ezra Pound Cake to make notes for yourself about what worked and what didn’t for next Christmas as you’re packing everything away this year. It’s like finding $5 in your pocket that your past self left for you. Take it a step further and click forward in your calendar to make notes to yourself about optimal times to start shopping and decorating, take photos for your cards, update your mailing list in July so it’s ready when the time comes…when the holidays come next year, you’ll be way ahead of the game.
- Guided meditation is a great way to increase your presence and self awareness and reduce stress…and it always appears on my list of intentions at the New Year. Here are a couple of good sound tracks for background music, too, if you’d prefer to just go through your own head-to-toe scan – acoustic guitar and Tibetan healing sounds. These two are also great music for working.
- Shout out to all of the new mamas that are EVERYWHERE in all my feeds. The New Year brought so many new faces, and I love seeing all of the sweet pictures.
- And I’m sure since we’re all doing extra healthy eating and meal prep…here are a few hacks to help you out.
- Not sure if you noticed that I left out my goals/resolutions/intentions from this year’s family update, but I don’t need to make any because I’m still working on the same old ones. I’ve really taken up the “try new cheeses” one (I mentioned that in 2011, ya’ll. Dang.) lately since I’m still making up for lost time with all things dairy after 22 months without. I’ve been buying a soft cheese and fancy crackers during my weekly trip to the grocery store. It’s been really fun to experience new flavors and textures, and I’m not sure why I waited so long. I’m also reallllly wanting to make bread and tortillas soon (mentioned last year).
- And in otherworldly made from scratch dairy deliciousness…
- My BFF Marie has made it super easy (and affordable) to make your relationship even better this year (check it out even if you’re not actually “married”, but in a married-like-arrangement).
I found this bit of writing on an instagram caption really beautiful. It’s by Frank Prisinzano (I’m OBSESSED with his crispy egg technique – HT: smitten kitchen).:
“#Soffrito for grandmothers gravy at @sauce_nyc…You want a nice sauce you need to orchestrate layers of flavors deep within its fabric. This can happen in many ways, reductions, soffrito’s , steeping, and gastriques are just a few. Start by envisioning the flavors you want to juxtapose and then decide how to best extract them and in what order of intensity you wish them to pop. Now decide what your base should be, consider this your canvas and everything else your paint. Your “palette” should have 3 main flavors that you know work well together, and with whatever you are planning to put this sauce on. Make one of the flavors bold and another subtle, hide the last one altogether so it shows up and then suddenly vanishes. Play with tartness and bitterness to complicate sweetness, wield spice to confound and heat to tease. It’s complete when you can taste and rattle off every flavor as it reveals itself
#theDNAofasauce #deconstructed #embellished#learntolayerflavor #thenreaptherewards#foodchoreographer” [sic]
me in 1989
While I was planning for our annual holiday update blog post, I did a little reflection on 2014 on the blog. Upon a quick audit, I discovered I didn’t blog as often this year, but when I did blog, I packed more punch into each post. I accomplished some things I’m proud of in this space. I’m approaching my four year blogiversary (Est. 1/29/11), and that’s just crazy to me.
Here are some of the highlights from BettyBecca.com for 2014:
Attended my second Food Blog Forum and met some wonderful people. I struggle to find the words to adequately explain the experience in Asheville…it was otherworldly! The food community there rolled out the red carpet for us, and I’ll never forget the amazing experience in the mountains of North Carolina!
Updated the blog and got new business cards
I had so much fun with the Blogsgiving progressive dinner party. Check out my posts and all of the other talented bloggers involved.
#BlogsgivingDinner: Sassy Salmon Dip
#BlogsgivingDinner: Smoked Mushroom Steaks with Herbed Bread Crumbs (Vegan)
#BlogsgivingDinner: Freezer-Friendly Turkey and Rice Casserole (Leftovers!)
Began working with brands this year and discovered some great products. I hope to continue making connections in 2015.
A link round-up feature: Eat | Make | Do to share all of the lovely things I find across the blogosphere
Added a new Pinterest board for the blog and an addiction to Instagram
I’m in love with the bento concept, and I’ve been using it to pack E’s lunches this year. I hope to learn more and get some of the nifty bento products to try this year!
Some of my favorite posts of the year:
A great time spent with friends on a Nolensville Road food tour
Brunch Swap and how to host a country breakfast
Series on Sympathy Meals: Part I and Part II
Wishing you and yours a happy New Year!
P.S. I’m in the process of making this cake. Wish I could share a bite with you!
E and me with the Man in Red. It took him longer to warm up to Santa than the picture line allowed, but at least we got a shot this year.
Family, Friends, Loved Ones, and Strangers,
It’s time for our annual family update! First of all, let’s set the tone with some music:
I can’t believe 2014 is coming to a close. It was a quiet year compared to the last few – not with out a few minor bumps, but no major life happenings like a baby (2012), moving (2013), or tons of travel (2013). It’s been pretty quiet and chill, and I’m so very thankful for that, our health, family, and friends.
I’ve been with my company for three and a half years, and I work with some great people on some great products. I still enjoy doing project management work with our creatives and helping out with our prop sourcing for food photography. My team and I are getting it down to a science. My part to play is to source props (via shopping or our massive prop closet) to fulfill the vision of the creative director. I handle everything from dishes to floral to linens to painting/staining/building different surfaces to shoot our dishes on. We also have a recipe developer/food stylist, an editorial team, a designer, and a food photographer that make it all happen for an end result like this:
Image Credit: FarmFlavor.com (Find recipes there, too!)
Mr. J has a new job. He’s back home now to work remotely full time after traveling for his new gig to Maine and Idaho. He’s keepin’ on with all of his hobbies (smoking meats – including 3 birds for all of our Thanksgiving festivities, cards, refinishing furniture, coffee, guitar, disc golf, electronics – he built a clock!, and even found time to start a blog himself).
Mr. J highlight: His team won first place at the fall Hack Nashville this year!
Mr. E is growing at lightning speed and communicating like a grown man. We adore him so much. He loves books, trucks, tractors, trains, and animals. He’s moved up through a couple of classrooms this year, and all that he’s learning is astonishing. He did a great job with his baby signs, and now, he can say pretty much anything. He can count to 10, and he’s working on letter recognition. He even got a certificate in Spanish class! We celebrated his 2nd birthday with a small gathering of family and friends with a Llama Llama Red Pajama theme. Having a 2 year old is both trying and amazing all at the same time!
Mr. E highlight: Llama Llama Red Pajama – 2nd birthday party
Tucker is doing well. He’s holding down the fort and living the high life…even with a little bit of distinguished silver on his muzzle. He loves a good game of tug of war or catch. You can usually find him curled up taking a nap, chewing on a raw hide, or scratching to go outside
(In case you missed the news, we lost our Oscar in January after an autoimmune disease took him quickly. We miss him dearly.)
Mr. J’s parents moved nearby, and it has been so awesome! They stayed with us in between houses, and we had a great time. E loves having them close, and it’s super helpful when he is sick or we’re looking for a date night out.
My parents are doing well. My dad “retired” this year. He’s still got his hobbies like tree trimming and being a Boy Scout leader. I guess Mom will be teaching til the bitter end, but she’s so talented at it. My brother spent some time in Hawaii and Japan and was promoted to Lance Corporal. We’re so happy to have him home for Christmas since his last visit was at Easter.
We had a lot of fun activities and a few small adventures this year:
- I attended a great food and beverage event at the Omni in January.
- We went to Birmingham/Talladega in May. Mr. J and his dad went to the NASCAR race – Denny Hamlin won (who Mr. J roots for)! Nana, E, and I went shopping and had a great time.
- Mr. J and I took our first trip away from E to Asheville.
- We went to Discovery Park of America twice (once with family and once with friends) in Union City, TN. It’s so nice, and crazy that it’s so close to where I grew up. I highly recommend it!
- We went to the circus, two shows at the Ryman (Pentatonix, have I mentioned how much I love them?, and Lindsey Stirling), Reelfoot Lake, and Random Acts of Science at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville.
- We celebrated our 6th anniversary and my 29th birthday.
- I also mentioned last year that it would be my 10 year high school reunion. It ended up being a great event, and a nice time to catch up with old friends.
- I have also enjoyed attending a regular Vegan Supper Club and dining out and about with family and friends.
PTX at the Ryman
Burnout at Talladega
“If you’re happy and you know it.”
Discovery Park II
Discovery Park I
10 Year Reunion
Food Blogger Dinner at the Omni
On behalf of all of us at Chez Ary, I hope that everyone in your household is happy and well. Best of wishes for a wonderful holiday season!
Betty Becca, Mr. J, & E
The tradition lives on: Holiday update from 2013, 2012, and 2011.
Is your elastic holding up? I hope you’ve saved room for dessert and other goodies (hello, after-dinner drinks) today! Oh and leftovers…which might be as good as the first act.
Grandma’s Pecan Pie from The Wetherills Say I Do
Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting from My Cooking Spot
Gluten-Free Apple Berry Crumble from Twin Stripe
Paleo Pumpkin Pudding from Wit Wisdom Food
Cranberry Almond Coconut Bars from Love & Flour
Torched Marshmallow Pumpkin Pie with Olive & Sinclair Chocolate from The Local Forkful
Poached Pears with Salted Maple Caramel Syrup from Home at Six
Sweet Potato Pie from Think Fruitful
Nutella Pumpkin S’mores Tart from bethcakes
Gluten-Free Acorn Squash Spice Bars from I Cook. I Eat. It’s Life.
Drunken Pecan Pie Bars from The Speckled Palate
Butter Pecan Cupcakes from The Speckled Palate
Slow Cooker Cranberry Apple Cider from A Savory Feast
Cranberry Bourbon Granita from Feast + West
Cheesy Potato Croquettes from Hello Little Home
Leftover Stuffed Egg Rolls with Cranberry Dipping Sauce from Cake ‘n’ Knife
Freezer-Friendly Turkey and Rice Casserole from Betty Becca
Stuffed Crescents with Thanksgiving Leftovers from My Cooking Spot
I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a blast this week. I’m proud to share this experience with such talented people from far and wide (10 states across the U.S. + Canada!). Aren’t you glad you didn’t have to drive or fly all that way for all of this delicious food?
I made this casserole last year, and it was almost better than the real deal on Thanksgiving day. And the best part is that you can easily freeze it for later. It’s a delicious, hearty dish (and a little break from the flavors of Thanksgiving, if you’re burned out). I served this to my toddler, and he gobbled it up…so it’s even kid-friendly, too!
And since I mentioned the smoked theme, the turkey I’m using was smoked, but it’s not as big of a deal in a casserole format. There’s enough going on that the smoke flavor doesn’t really come through. I’m sure however you cooked your turkey (or chicken – if it’s another time of the year – or heck, rotisserie, anyone?), will work – and taste – just fine.
Freezer-Friendly Turkey and Rice Casserole
2 cups prepared grain of your choice (white or brown rice, quinoa, barley, etc.)
Around 1 cup leftover turkey (or chicken), shredded or chopped in bite-sized pieces
1 cup frozen veggies (peas, carrots and peas, spinach, vegetable medley, etc.)
Here’s where you create your own destiny. If you have leftover gravy (you’ll need about a cup), then throw it in with 1 tsp of Italian seasoning and some salt and pepper. This element binds the casserole together and makes it creamy and delish!
If you don’t have any leftover you can make this recipe for “cream of” soup sub, or for a for a dairy-free version (like I used in what’s pictured):
2 T olive oil
2 T all purpose flour
1 cup chicken stock
1 t Italian seasoning (or herb blend of your choice – I bet Ms. Dash would be good, too)
Scant 1/2 t salt (I always under-salt things I know my toddler will be eating. You may want to add a bit more)
Freshly ground pepper
Optional: Add 1/8-1/4 (or more – to taste) of mild curry powder for a completely different taste profile from Thanksgiving. Curry is so warming and comforting, and I love to add it to dishes like this (chicken noodle soup, chicken pot pie, etc.)
Add oil to small skillet on medium heat. When oil begins to warm, add flour and whisk often until it starts to bubble for a minute or two. Add stock in small increments, letting sauce thicken after each addition. Season with remaining ingredients.
To prepare the casserole:
Mix all ingredients together and pour into a small casserole dish. You can top with cheese or breadcrumbs or both, if desired. From here, you can bake at 350* for 20 minutes or until heated through and bubbling or freeze for later, if you’re absolutely sick of the tastes of Thanksgiving. Hopefully, this format will change up your leftovers enough to trick you into a few more meals, but if you can’t bear it, then it will hang out waiting for you – a tasty, warm, healthy — and easy — meal come December or January.
Notes: Amounts can be adjusted depending on how much Thanksgiving fare you have to repurpose. The version shown is dairy-free using the second option/recipe for sauce noted above. It’s got extra breadcrumb topping from the mushroom entree from yesterday – an herby, garlicky mixture with day-old bread run through the food processor (This option won’t freeze as well though. It’s best to freeze the casserole plain and add something on top later when you heat it up). When reheating, preheat the whole dish with the oven, and cooking time may take a little longer. If you’re not planning to go the freezer route, 1-2 chopped hard-boiled eggs are good in it, too. My mom puts eggs in her gravy so that’s what would be in there if I’d used leftovers. Eggs don’t freeze as well though so plan accordingly.
#BlogsgivingDinner continues today with entrees, salads and side dishes. I may have to have a few Thanksgiving dinners this year because all of these dishes sound AMAZING! Here’s the menu today:
Pomegranate & Goat Cheese Salad from Feast + West
Persimmon & Pear Salad from Wit Wisdom and Food
Roasted Butternut Squash & Gorgonzola Salad from Hello Little Home
The Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey from My Cooking Spot
Roasted Turducken from The Speckled Palate
Herb Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Orange-Cranberry Reduction from Home at Six
Beer Brined Turkey with Bacon Gravy from Cake ‘n’ Knife
Smoked Mushroom Steaks with Herbed Bread Crumbs (Vegan) from Betty Becca
Turkey, Apple & Sweet Potato Pot Pies from Love & Flour
Creamy Pumpkin Apple Pasta from My Cooking Spot
Mushroom Spinach Farro from Think Fruitful
Bacon and Cornbread Stuffing from Chez CateyLou
Sweet Potato Crunch from I Cook. I Eat. It’s Life.
Blue Cheese & Bacon Mashed Potatoes from A Savory Feast
Sausage Stuffing from the Wetherills Say I Do
Butternut Squash Grits from Homespun Seasonal Living
Thanksgiving Wine Pairings from Twin Stripe
(Psst…don’t forget to keep an eye out for the hashtag – #BlogsgivingDinner as you make your way around social media today.)
Every couple of months, I attend a vegan dinner party. It’s always a great time, and I never miss the meat on my plate. The dishes are always so fantastic – almost as good as the company. The first time I went, I took these Smoked Mushroom Steaks, and they were a big hit. Mr. J says this is not really something you’d go through the trouble to smoke on its own — it’s a good thing to throw in with whatever meat you’re smoking because it doesn’t take very long, but considering the reactions at the dinner party, I think it might be totally worth the effort. Depends on who you ask? All my veggies in the audience say, “‘ells yeah.”
I know. I know. Thanksgiving is about the turkey. But this is for your loved one(s) going meatless this holiday to have something totally hearty, crunchy, herby, garlicky, and full of flavor – on purpose, just for them, to enjoy, for this special day. Not just sides with sides on the side. Something delicious to hold its own as a main entree. Capisce?
If you don’t have a smoker, you can brown these babies up in a skillet (cast iron would do the trick in this role). Just don’t forget Julia’s tip to not overcrowd the pan (I only know this from watching Julie and Julia).
3 portobello mushroom caps, cleaned and cut in 1/2″ slices
Brush with olive oil and season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
Soak a mixture of apple and hickory wood chips (about 4 cups) in water for 1 hour and strain before using. Cook mushrooms in an upright smoker preheated to 225* for 30-45 minutes.
Herbed Bread Crumbs
Now to jazz this whole thing up for turkey day, I decided to add an herbed bread crumb topping that will have your tastebuds riding all the way to the top floor. I guess you can use the store-bought kind of bread crumbs, but that’s totally elevator music instead. Anyway, start with stale bread (you need about 1 cup for this recipe – guess and test), and pulverize it to bits in your food processor.
Bread – hanging out and getting stale
Next, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a skillet on medium heat. As it heats up, add 1 clove of minced garlic and 1 tsp of Italian seasoning (or herb mixture of your choice). Here’s where you’re going to be hanging out for a minute. It doesn’t take long, but you’ve gotta be there. You’re cooking, and you’re doing stuff. But stay put. Just for this part. Let the herbs and garlic hang out for a minute and do their thing. You don’t want the garlic to brown, but you want it to cook a little bit. Stir, stir, stir. Add your breadcrumbs (about 1 cup), and don’t panic. It’s going to look gloppy and gloopy. And totally wrong. Is there enough oil? Was my bread stale enough? This is never going to work (yes, it is). Stir, stir, stir. Keep everything moving. Then, you’ll notice things are changing. This is starting to look…and smell…appetizing. Keep stirring for a few more minutes until everything is toasty, and you’re done! Woo!
Place the mushroom steaks on a serving platter and top with the breadcrumb mixture. Make a sign that says, “If you’re not vegan, do not touch!” Just kidding.
Note: I don’t add salt and pepper to the breadcrumbs because the mushrooms are well seasoned before their trip to the smoker, and I didn’t want to overdo it. The photo shows the mushroom steaks served over a bed of quinoa and spinach. #SoYum