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Posted by on Dec 28, 2014 in Around Chez Ary | 0 comments

A Blog Year in Review

 

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!

Becca

P.S. I’m in the process of making this cake. Wish I could share a bite with you!

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Posted by on Dec 24, 2014 in Around Chez Ary | 0 comments

Happy Holidays from Chez Ary!

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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).

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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!

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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.)

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Tucker Weenie

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.

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!

Love,

Betty Becca, Mr. J, & E

The tradition lives on: Holiday update from 2013, 2012, and 2011.  

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Posted by on Nov 14, 2014 in Come Together | 1 comment

#BlogsgivingDinner: Freezer-Friendly Turkey and Rice Casserole (Leftovers!)

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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.

Dessert

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

After-Dinner Drinks

Slow Cooker Cranberry Apple Cider from A Savory Feast

Cranberry Bourbon Granita from Feast + West

Leftovers

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? 

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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.

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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.

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Posted by on Nov 10, 2014 in Come Together | 10 comments

#BlogsgivingDinner: Sassy Salmon Dip

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I’m so happy to be participating in the #BlogsgivingDinner Progressive Dinner Party this week! I met the sweet organizers at Food Blog Forum Asheville, where this whole thing came to life. These gals have done an amazing job organizing this event, and I know all of my comrades are going to come up with some tasty dishes to turn your Thanksgiving on its head! Read on to see all of today’s recipes and stay tuned all week! There are 20 awesome blogs sharing 52 recipes. I hope you’ll find some new bloggers to love on and some new dishes to try as well!

Susannah from feastandwest.com, me, and Meghan from cakenknife.com

The idea is based on the old-fashioned progressive dinner party, in which you’d eat each course at a different guest’s home. Each blogger is bringing one or more dishes to the party on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of this week, so be sure to stop by each one and get some inspiration for your own Thanksgiving meal.

Today’s courses include cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and soup. We’ll be posting to social media with the hashtag #blogsgivingdinner, if you want to follow along there, too.

Cocktails

Carolina Apple Sidecar from Think Fruitful

Bourbon Cranberry Lemonade Fizz from bethcakes

Krupnikas Ginger from I Cook. I Eat. It’s Life.

Appetizers

Cured Meat Platter from Wit Wisdom and Food

Baked Camembert with Cranberry Walnut Crust from Cake ‘n’ Knife

Ginger Cran Apple Chutney from Love & Flour

Brandied Grapes with Cheese from Glamour Girl Gourmet

Shrimp Sweet Potato Mousseline from Home at Six

Cranberry Goat Cheese and Butternut Squash Crostini from The Wetherills Say I Do

Maple Pecan Baked Brie from My Cooking Spot

Sassy Salmon Dip from Betty Becca

Baked Brie with Cranberry Chutney from The Speckled Palate

Butternut Squash Crostini from Chez CateyLou

Gluten Free Holiday Cheese Board from Twin Stripe

Soups

Butternut Squash Soup with Cornbread Croutons from Club Narwhal

Creamy Wild Rice Soup from Hello Little Home

Pumpkin Soup with Bacon Roasted Chickpeas from Feast + West

You’ll notice a theme in all of my recipes for this event…the smoker, and that’s because my husband does a *bomb* job (hello, 1990s) with everything he puts in it. We worked together to bring you three tasty delights, but you don’t have to have a smoker to make these incredibly tasty dishes. I’ll give you tips on how to make all my dishes without if you don’t have smoking equipment (or for hints on how to get the smoked flavor in a variety of ways you can just go here). I promise it’s all worth it for the flavor you get in the end though if you go the smoking route!

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If you need more smoker info…this is our bible. See, it’s well-loved.

I don’t even know where to start with today’s recipe. It. is. BEYOND. SO good! I was almost going to skip this round, when Mr. J said, “Are you crazy!?!? You have a delicious appetizer at your finger tips.” And he was sooo right. Your Thanksgiving guests deserve this appetizer to get the eating party started. Put on your stretchy pants, and let’s get to it! Here’s the shortie version of how we prepare the salmon (toddler shark not included):

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Buy a quarter salmon fillet or half of a flank for the amount shown above. You can have a nice salmon dinner with veggies and quinoa, and then use the leftovers to make the dip. Set salmon out of the refrigerator 20ish minutes before cooking for it to come up to room temp. Brush with olive oil and season as desired. We use kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, and a spice blend meant for salmon.

Soak apple wood chips (about 4 cups) in a bowl with water for 1 hour before smoking and strain the water before using. In an upright smoker preheated to around 225*, smoke salmon for 45-60 minutes until the salmon temps internally at 145* (or flesh is opaque and flakes easily with a fork – FDA).

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Sassy Salmon Dip

Adapted from thetasteplace.com

2 cups cooked salmon*

1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese (softened or not – I blitz mine with a blade in the food processor)

1 T lemon juice (I’ve used both bottled and fresh)

1 T finely chopped onion (or grated if you don’t have a food processor)

1 clove garlic, minced (or rough chopped for food processor)

1 T horseradish sauce (Mine is Publix brand. This is like mayo mixed with horseradish. Straight up horseradish is fine too, but you’ll need a smaller amount. The source recipe says 1 t.)

1/2 t salt

A few shakes of hot sauce (to taste). I use Frank’s and about 5 shakes.

1/t T dried dill or 1 T of fresh

1 heaping T of dried parsley or 3 T of fresh

Freshly ground black pepper

In the bowl of a food processor** fitted with a blade attachment, mix all ingredients except for salmon, until well combined. Transfer to a serving or storage bowl (one with an air-tight lid), and incorporate the salmon gently by mixing by hand with a spoon. As you stir, the salmon will break into smaller pieces, leaving you with a good texture in the end. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour – or up to overnight – before serving for flavors to combine. Serve with crackers or cucumbers…just try not to eat it with a spoon.

 

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Notes: I have made this dip dairy free with the Tofutti brand cream cheese replacement, and it was dandy good.

This post contains NO affiliate links or sponsorships. Just sharing what we love.

*Of course, I recommend smoked, but I guess you could get your cooked salmon any old way. Like in a skilled, grilled, leftover from a restaurant, etc. But just keep in mind that the better your salmon tastes going in, the better your dip will taste in the end (GIGO). The source recommends day-old smoked salmon, to give the flavors a chance to set, so keep that in mind as you prepare for this recipe. Another beautiful thing…make it ahead to have one less thing to do on feast day.

**If you don’t have a food processor, make sure your ingredients are in good shape going in. The cream cheese will need to be soft, and the garlic and onion will need to be minced/shredded. Put everything in a bowl and stir, stir, stir, stir, stir, stir, stir (the old fashioned way), until everything is combined. Then, add the salmon. Rest. Drink some water. Enjoy your dip. The end.

 

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Posted by on Sep 9, 2014 in Featured, Uncategorized | 0 comments

How to Host a Country Breakfast

How to Host a Small Country Breakfast

On Saturday, I hosted a delicious country breakfast for one of my favorite mama-friends and our families. Our sons are 1 day shy of exactly 1 year apart, and they’re both approaching birthdays very soon. The husbands were along as well to talk about world events, smoked/grilled meats, and various and sundry sporting events.

 

The boys playing at our last brunch in June

The boys playing at our last brunch in June, where my son is taking a toy away from a baby

Back in June, we had brunch at their house, and I had big shoes to fill. As I was trying to decide what to make, I decided to stick with what I know – good, ole country breakfast. The deciding factor was the delicious products I received from Southern City Flavors a week or so ago. I knew these local tastes would complement my menu beautifully. Here are my notes from the night before the breakfast that served as my cooking guide (basically the entertaining recipe for 2 mamas + 2 papas + 2 toddles) – with links to the recipes I used. My friends were arriving at 8:30 so I started prepping at 8-ish.

Pre-heat oven to 475* for biscuits.

Stone Ground Grits from Southern City Flavors – cooked in chicken stock

I cooked 2 cups of washed grits with 4 cups of stock and 2 cups of water. I started the grits first since they have a 20 minute cooking time. Here’s the tutorial I used to find out the process behind “washed” grits the label mentions. (Note: I had a LOT of grits left over so half of this amount would have been plenty. But that just means I’ll be cooking up grit bowls for my breakfasts this week. They have been amazing!)

I made the grits and eggs without any seasoning because both toddles are lactose intolerant, and I like to keep things salt free for them, too. But I had a toppings bar of herbs, spices, butter, various cheeses (including shredded Colby jack and cheddar and blue cheese crumbles), and salsa. The adults trashed up our servings for sure, as you can tell by my photo above.

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Biscuits – For two of us, I usually make a half batch, but since I had 4 adults this time, I made a full batch. The oven was beeping that it had reached temp just as I was about to pop these babies in the oven. It is really not hard to make fresh biscuits, and the canned kind can’t compare (#alliteration :P).

Local biscuit toppings including Fig Jam and Sweet Potato Butter (how good does that sound!?!)

Biscuits and local toppings

Biscuits and local toppings

Sausage gravy – a double batch of this recipe was just right. Check out my sausage trick below –

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It’s an age old problem: 1 lb of sausage is too much to use at once for a single person or small family, and it’s impossible to cut up frozen sausage. So here’s my trick for freezing sausage for use in smaller portions. I take a 1 lb package and cut it in quarters, wrap with plastic wrap, and freeze. Then, I can use as much or as little as I need. To thaw, I will either move it to the fridge ahead of time or defrost in a glass bowl in the microwave. I used 2 frozen bits (about half a pound) from the freezer for the sausage gravy.

Eggs – 10, scrambled at the last minute.

I think it’s ok to start the eggs after the guests have arrived. It only takes a couple of minutes, and they will be fresh, hot, and delicious!

Fruit – My friend brought pineapple and cantaloupe

Tomato Juice

Tomato Juice

 

I have several quarts of ta-may-tuh juice from my mom so we had to make up a Bloody Mary or two.

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Southern City Flavors was generous enough to send over samples of their delicious products for me to check out, and my review is 100% my own. Input Bettybecca at checkout to save 25% through 11/30/2014. Their story of cooking with family and friends really resonated with me, and I hope you will check them out today!

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