Monday, May 20, 2013

a week of smoothies

Every single day I drink at least one smoothie.  I love them.  They are so easy and refreshing and can easily be packed with fruit and veggies and other good for you stuff.

I get in smoothie ruts {hellooooo strawberry-banana} and wanted to mix it up a bit, so I created several new smoothie recipes....or combos.  These aren't so much "recipes" as they are various combinations.

My favorite smoothie components are some sort of "milk" {unsweetened vanilla almond and unsweetened coconut are the two I use}, fruit, spinach or kale, and maybe a splash of juice or protein powder or chia seeds or flax meal.

I have found that it's kind of hard to make a gross smoothie.  Some I don't love, but they are all pretty good.

My newest favorite is the watermelon-coconut.  It's even better if the watermelon is frozen - so refreshing on a warm day.

All of these smoothies are around 150 calories each will make two 8-ish ounce servings.  You can use frozen or fresh fruit {Trader Joe's has the best frozen fruit} and if your blender needs help, add a little water.

-1/2 of a mango {peeled, chopped}
-1 cup chopped cantaloupe
-2/3 cup unsweetened vanilla coconut milk
-1/4 cup orange juice
-1/2 a banana
-2 tablespoons chia seeds
-ice and water for blending {if needed}

Mixed Berry {serves 2}
-1/2 a banana
-1/2 cup mixed berries {I used the frozen "berry medley" from Trader Joe's}
-1 handful of kale or spinach
-3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
-ice and water for blending {if needed}

-1 orange {peeled and sliced}
-1/4 cup pineapple
-1/2 a banana
-a large handful of fresh spinach
-3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla coconut milk
-ice and water for blending {if needed}

Peach Pie
-2 peaches, diced
-1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
-1 scoop vanilla protein powder
-1 teaspoon cinnamon
-2 tablespoons chia seeds
-ice and water for blending {if needed}

-2 cups watermelon
-1/2 cup coconut water
-1 banana
-1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla coconut milk
-ice and water for blending {if needed}

Green Love
-1 kiwi {peeled and sliced}
-a large handful of fresh kale
-1 a banana
-a splash of orange juice {about 1/4 cup}
-1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla coconut milk
-ice and water for blending {if needed}

Strawberry Vanilla
-1 1/2 cups chopped strawberries
-1 scoop vanilla protein powder
-3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
-1/2 a banana
-ice and water for blending {if needed}

Smoothies for days!  Do you have any favorite smoothie combinations?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

fried egg + avocado salad

My latest salad topping obsession is a simple fried egg.  I am also currently obsessed with avocados.  Eggs plus avocados equals heaven so I made a little salad combining the two.

You can put any veggies you love on this salad.  I decided to go with a "southwestern" theme and topped romaine leaves with corn, yellow bell pepper, half an avocado, a fried egg, and a few spoonfuls of salsa.  I finished the whole thing off with a tiny drizzle of Newman's own light honey mustard dressing {my favorite}.  You can totally do without the dressing and just use the salsa as your dressing.

I have been eating some version of this salad all week - it is so nice simple, light, and perfect for warm weather days.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

5 tips for running a small business

Day 8 in the Blog Every Day in May challenge is a piece of advice for others.

I often get asked by friends and blog readers who either want to start a small business or who are in the beginning stages, for my advice.  

Every single time I am asked, I feel so flattered.  I mean, everything I know I learned on the internet!  Well, and experience. The internet knows a lot about everything but there is something invaluable about just doing it.

When I started my business I knew nothing.  NOTHING.  I made a lot of dumb mistakes but I learned from them and am constantly striving to be a better business owner.

If you are one of those who is dreaming up a business and call on me for advice - this is what I would tell you.....

1. Don't half ass it.  If you are going to make a go it it, go all out.  Let's say you love to make your own soap and you might want to sell that soap.   My advice is this - if you are going to only put in half of your efforts, then just keep that soap making as a hobby. 

It seems like everyone is trying to do any little thing to make money these days.  I know we all need to make a living and I don't knock anyone's hustle, but I hate to see talented individuals half-ass a business.  It makes the product {which is often fabulous} and the handmade market look "cheap."  If you have the idea and the time, then go all out.  

2. It is hard and often disappointing.  Starting and maintaing a business is a lot of work and you likely will not be an overnight success.  Yes, we all know that neighbor's sister's friend who made a million dollars the first year just from a little bitty idea but.....that's rare.  That is the exception.  That is not the rule.  

If you work hard and do good things, your business will grow.  It might grow fast or it might not.  My business has seen steady growth but it has not skyrocketed like I once dreamt it would.  Dreaming is so fun, but it won't get you anywhere.  

Keep dreaming but realize that in order to make those dreams come true you are going to have to work really freaking hard and there will be disappointments along the way.  I just suffered a pretty big disappointment this week and felt like a huge failure for about a day.  This will happen.  Give yourself a day to dwell, then get over it and do it better the next time.

3. Price accordingly.  Your creations, designs, and work are literally your blood, sweat, and tears {trust me, I have shed all three} so don't cheapen them by thinking lower is better.  I have talked about pricing here and here.  It is so, so, so important.

4. Stand out from the crowd.  It is really hard to create something that no one has ever seen before.  The way the world is nowadays it seems like everything has kind of been done.   But that doesn't mean you can't put your own spin on something.  Be creative and unique, don't copy ideas.  Copying might make you a quick buck {or several thousand} but it will not make a lasting business.

5. Never stop learning.   Just because I have been running {Acute Designs} for three years does not mean I know everything.  I might know a little bit more than the person starting today, but I still have so much to learn.  

There will always be someone "above" you that has been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt.  Learn from them. There are so many books and blogs with endless amounts of advice.  Take the advice to heart and keep getting better.

I know I said five.... but my last most important tip is to make friends with other designers and small business owners.  They can teach you things {#5} and be your sounding board when you need advice or just want to bitch!    

No matter what happens with your business - whether it gets really big or stays small, you will never get anywhere if you step on people to get ahead.

And finally, the best part about having friends in the biz is that you can collaborate.  You look out for one another and promote one another.  I have made several friends through blogs and social media.  At one point in life, if you would have told me I would have a friend that I met on the internet I would have responded "no and I also don't keep people in my basement...."

Well, the world has changed.  It is ok {and fun!} to connect with someone through a blog or Instagram and become real life friends.

Do you run a small business?  What is something you have learned along the way?

Monday, May 06, 2013

sunday dessert - chocolate chip cookie souffles

Just about every Sunday I make some sort of dessert.  I am going to try to share my Sunday desserts with you guys whenever they happen.  Some weeks I just don't make a dessert and some weeks I repeat recipes and some weeks I don't feel like taking pictures :).   Hopefully I will get around to at least two Sunday dessert posts every month.

You might not know this about me but I love sweets.  And by love I mean obsessed with them and have no self control.  One way I have found to control my sweet tooth is to have limited portions at my disposal.   I would love to make a big ol' chocolate cake but there are only two of us and my husband isn't a big fan of cake {I know!} so if I ended up making a cake, I would be eating it for days.

Through my plan to create desserts with limited portions, I have discovered a love of souffles.  They are easy, you can make just one or two at a time, and they seem a lot more indulgent than they actually are.

This chocolate chip cookie souffle I created is SO good.  I have made these several times this past month and yesterday, I finally perfected the recipe.  These souffles are perfect when you are craving a cookie but you don't want several dozen sitting in your kitchen, tempting you all week long....

chocolate chip cookie souffles {serves two}
-2 1/2 tablespoons flour {I use whole wheat, but all purpose works too}
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1/4 teaspoon baking powder
-1 tablespoon brown sugar
-1 egg, separated
-1 1/2 tablespoon milk
-a tiny bit of butter or butter spread {I like to use earth balance} and white sugar to coat the ramekins
-about 1 tablespoon chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare two ramekins by coating with a tiny bit of butter or butter spread {about 1/4 teaspoon per dish} and dusting with a tiny bit of white sugar.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and brown sugar.  
3. Mix the milk into the dry ingredients and separate the egg.  Add the yolk to the dry ingredients/milk and put the white in a different bowl.
4. Use an electric mixer to beat the egg white until soft peaks form.  This should take about 45 seconds to a minute.
5. Gently fold the egg whites into the rest of the ingredients.  Be sure to mix until all is combined but don't overmix to the point that the volume from the egg whites is lost.
6. Pour the batter into the two dishes and top each one with a few chocolate chips.
7. Bake for about 20 or 23 minutes...just until the top is golden and puffed up.

These souffles are amazing with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream....enjoy!

Thursday, May 02, 2013

roasted beet and goat cheese salad

When I was a kid, my parents used to eat pickled beets all the time.  Well, maybe it wasn't all the time but it seems like they were always appearing on our dinner table with my mom urging me to "try some!"

The look and smell of them made me sick.  I still have never tried a pickled beet, and believe me I have come a long way in my eating....  Maybe one day I will eat a pickled beet and love it.  For now I will stick with roasting them.

Roasted beets are pretty heavenly.  If you slice them super thin, they get crunchy like potato chips and make a great snack.  If you slice them a bit thicker {about 1/4"} they will be crisp on the outside but have a sweet, chewy center.  They.Are.So.Good.

Throw them on top of greens, top with a little goat cheese, some nuts {hazelnuts are my current salad fave}, and a little balsamic vinaigrette dressing.  It is an amazing little lunch or dinner.

In order to roast the beet - cut off the top, peel, and slice.  I put wax paper down on my cutting board so that it doesn't get stained red from the beet.

Toss the slices in olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast in a 400 degree over for about 45 minutes to an hour {depending on how thick the beet is cut}.

Top salad greens with the warm roasted beets, chopped hazelnuts, crumbled goat cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette dressing.


Wednesday, May 01, 2013

before & after - bar sideboard

I bought this big chunk piece of furniture at Goodwill three years ago.  It is a good quality piece and I assume some sort of vintage {although I don't know how old}.  I remember eyeing this piece at Goodwill and loving how unique it was, so I paid the $45 and took it home.  

The bar in its original state.

The piece was originally intended to be a bar.  If you lift the top, there is a faux marble shelf for mixing drinks and a mirror that says "Ollie's Saloon."  I left the mirror for the kitsch factor.   The doors {which I removed} have holders for glasses and bottles.   I have them in the garage and they can always be reinstalled but I could not handle stripping anymore paint

At the time I bought this bar, we were living in a much smaller house and I had no room for a bar sideboard in our dining or living room.  So, I decided to put it in my guest room/studio for storage.  I sanded off the original stain and painted it a very pale mint green.

This piece sat in the guest room/studio for months and was perfect.  When we moved to our current house, I knew I wanted to re-do it {again} and bring it back to its bar glory, but with a facelift.  

That was three years ago.  I work slow ;).  

The bar has sat in my kitchen holding wine, water, beer, and all sorts of other junk.  The minty green color was simply wrong for the kitchen and I was sick of it.  

In order to transform my bar, I decided to add small tapered legs {bought here} to give it a sleeker look.  I also stripped the paint, stained the wood a rich color, painted the interior, and removed the doors. 

I love the new legs.  I stained them the same color as the bar and painted the feet {which were silver} with copper craft paint.

Stripping paint is SO much work.  I had no idea.  I tried a homemade solution but all it did was create a big goopy mess. Then I attempted to just sand off the paint.  Yeah, no.  Don't ever do that.

Finally I went to Lowe's and found an all natural, low odor paint thinner that worked like a charm.  The paint peeled off in strips.  

Once I had the paint off the piece, I had to sand, which was crazy tedious.  The edges of this piece have all sorts of grooves so I had to use my larger sander, my dremel tool, and sand paper. I scraped away until all the little specks of paint were removed.  It was such a pain in the ass.

Lesson learned - never paint a piece of furniture again unless I want it to stay that way forever!

I was going to keep the doors in tact, but they have a lot of grooves and I lost patience with the sanding/stripping/scraping that was involved in this project.  So, I decided to make the bar door-less.

Since this piece was going to be open, I knew the inside needed some work.  I went with turquoise for the bottom, back, and shelf and gray for the sides.  If I get sick of the color, I can always refinish the doors and reattach them.  

This little project ended up taking me three weekends {partly due to the fact that I easily lost patience with the scraping and sanding} and cost about $30 {paint, stain, and the new tapered legs}. I already had lots of sand paper and painter's tape.

I love the end result.  It fits perfectly in our dining room and adds a little bit of unique style.  

Above the bar I hung three oversized photos I had printed at Staples.  All three were taken last Christmas when we were in Ireland.   The black and white photos only cost about $3 to print and the colored one was $20.

Interior blue paint - Martha Stewart sunken pool {a sample size was sufficient}
Interior gray paint - Martha Stewart winter's day {a sample size was sufficient}
Wood stain - Minwax English Chestnut {8 oz size was sufficient}

Designed by Jackie Ayr