I made this cake a few weeks ago. It’s vegan and gluten free, and it’s freaking delicious! The cake is a mix from Pamela’s made with chia (in place of the eggs) – topped with coconut whip, maple toffee shards, and toasted coconut. I’m making a second version for a gathering tonight in Girl Scout Samoa-style with this “caramel,” toasted coconut, and shaved chocolate. (Photo by @adrianhitt // Look inspired by @andybowdy and @katherine_sabbath)
Here are a few of the tasty things I’ve run across lately and can’t wait to make:
Need some Asian-inspired carb loading? I’ve got you covered, just don’t forget to invite me over…
Japanese Garlic Noodles
Soy Sauce Noodles
Vegetable Lo Mein
I make simple sushi at home regularly (mainly veggie without raw fish – I need to level up for that one), and I knew when I saw this tofu with spicy mayo roll – I had to make it at once. I made it this week, and it was PHENOMENAL!
Make your own hot pockets…yes, please.
Seriously simple salad…I could eat this thing with every meal!
This post on hacking bakery cakes is genius…and don’t miss this one linked within it.
Feeding a child is so simple yet so complicated. I really get into these “what my toddler ate” posts. I’m curious…what’s your food philosophy, what struggles do you face, what does your kid like, how much thought and effort do you put into the whole thing, etc. etc. I’ll go first…
There’s a big continuum out there and a lot of judgement. I think we’re all just doing the best we can…I know that’s my motto for myself and my son – “make the best choice.” To me, that means choosing whole foods as much as possible and limiting added sugar and salt.
As E has gotten older (he’s 2+ now), his tastes have changed, obviously. My meal planning for him has changed dramatically since his first bite of solids (avocado at a little more than 6 months old – as seen above). He keeps me on my toes because he’s lactose intolerant, and I pack his lunch every day even though they serve two meals and a snack. I fall into habits of prepping one thing for the week, and he likes more variety than that.
So far, he’s been a great eater. I try to encourage a broad palate with spices, worldly flavors, and even new-to-mom/me foods (I bought a papaya for the first time the other day, and it was GROSSLY out of season and disgusting). That doesn’t mean he doesn’t ever eat processed food, too many “bready” things when I’d prefer more fruits and veggies, and pasta + marinara sauce like it’s going out of style (it’s the lactose intolerant kid’s mac and cheese #sorrynotsorry).
Like any other kid, his appetite varies wildly…sometimes eating 3 dinners and sometimes picking like a bird. He’s definitely a grazer by nature, but so am I. He inherited hangry or LBSCBDO from both sides, poor kid. Snacks are always close by.
A topic for another day is that I ALWAYS have a kitchen helper by my side, and I try in many ways to make him independent with food prep. For example, he has a couple of older cousins, and one day the oldest said, “Nana, you forgot to take the sticks off of the grapes.” And she replied, “If Everett can do it at 2 years old, you can do it at 5.” Ha!
Here’s a brief run down of some of our basics:
Breakfasts for school (made in bulk and frozen)
Whole grain berry waffles
Baked oatmeal (with frozen fruit or pumpkin)
Baked egg cups with veggies
Whole grain berry muffins
Breakfast burritos (eggs, black beans, salsa)
Cook egg in micro in ramekin + whole wheat English muffin (plus spinach)
Scrambled eggs and toast
Lunch + Fruit/Veg
Pasta + marinara + peas
He doesn’t love deli meat, but we’re experimenting with mixing it in.
Snack + Fruit
Fig bars (we need stock in this company – bonus: they seem pretty cool)
Hummus or PB roll-ups (on small tortillas)
Hummus with carrots
Soy nut butter on DF animal crackers/whole wheat bread or crackers
Trail mix of cereal, cookies, raisins, etc.
Treats (in moderation)
Annie’s Mixed Bunnies
Multi mini marshmallows
Blueberries (prefers over fresh)
Here are some posts that inspired this one:
This Is What School Lunches Look Like Around The World via Distractify
Rise and Shine: What kids around the world eat for breakfast via NYT
Family-Friendly Recipe: Veggie-Packed Macaroni & Cheese via Fearless Homemaker for childrenswishingwell.org (a website by Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt)
These posts from hand & the heart: What Ben Ate, What Ben Ate: Volume 2, Meal Ideas for Your Toddler
Ok you’re up…
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.
Food Blogger Dinner at the Omni
10 Year Reunion
Discovery Park I
Burnout at Talladega
“If you’re happy and you know it.”
Discovery Park II
PTX at the Ryman
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.