Tastebud Tuesday | Shawarma Lamb with Couscous Salad

Making a new meal for my family a few times a month has been working out nicely! It just takes a little planning and time to prepare ahead of time. Manfriend and I are both so busy in the evenings that pre-planning and scheduling has helped a ton.

This was my first time preparing and eating lamb. If you’ve ever tried goat meat, the taste is very similar.

(I grew up with a Mexican mother, so I had goat birria in Mexico – delicious!)

I got this recipe from my November 2011 issue of Sunset Magazine. It’s quick and easy, but the flavors are great! I went a little heavy on the cayenne pepper – if you want an extra kick (and a tissue while you eat) I recommend doing the same.

Shawarma Lamb with Couscous Salad 1024x1024 Tastebud Tuesday | Shawarma Lamb with Couscous Salad

Shawarma Lamb with Couscous Salad


  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup couscous (I used gluten-free brown rice couscous)
  • 1 medium carrot, shredded
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • Zest and juice of 2 lemons, divided
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1.5 lbs. top round lamb steak, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin (I’m not the biggest fan of cumin, so I used half.)
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne (I doubled this)
  • 1 tsp. .each kosher salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt

How to Prepare the Lamb

  1. Bring broth to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add couscous, cover tightly, remove from heat and sit 5 minutes. Uncover, fluff, and add carrot, parsley, 2 tbsp. oil, and zest and juice of 1 lemon.
  2. Cook onion in remaining oil in a large frying pan over high heat until edges are charred, 10-12 minutes. Add garlic, lamb, cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper; cook, stirring, until lamb is cooked through and browned, about 10 minutes.
  3. Divide couscous among 4 plates and top with lamb mixture. Mix yogurt with lemon and serve!







Jumping on the Social Media Bandwagon

“I want a Facebook page.”

This phrase always amazes me for two reasons:

  1. “You don’t already have one? Where have you been?”
  2. This statement is rarely supported by research or data.

Very rarely does my professional life as a content and social media strategist bleed into my personal life. Very few of my personal friends and family blog or Tweet. I never talk about my personal blog at home, and try to contain my love for Tweeting with close friends who “don’t get social media” to avoid the snickering, snide comments or questions. (I actually don’t mind the questions. At that point, it becomes an opportunity to share my passion.)

Social Media Bandwagon Jumping on the Social Media Bandwagon
Recently, a close friend asked me over dinner, “Don’t you think [so-and-so] should have a Facebook page for their business?”
Yes and no. It depends on quite a few factors.

Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right move for you or your business. There’s more out there than just Facebook! You can create a blog, Tweet, engage on LinkedIn, post videos to YouTube or connect on Google+. Each platform speaks to a different audience and can be used to achieve different goals within your social strategy.

Strategy.  That is the key word often missing in most questions about creating a social media account.

Before you take the leap into social media, you need to ask yourself the following:

  • WHY do I want to be on Facebook/blog/Twitter/etc.? Are your clients currently engaging on those sites? If not, find out where they are spending their time and invest your energy there.
  • What added VALUE will I bring to my social site that I’m not already providing on my website and/or newsletter? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! If your present communication is working and your customers are satisfied, focus on making your website or newsletter the best resource ever.
  • Do you have a TEAM who will back you up and help with social media? Social media is an investment. Setting up the accounts is free, but maintaining them, engaging with followers and staying on top of industry news takes time – lots of time. Without a savvy staff in place who can handle the extra work load and know how to effectively communicate, it’s time to reconsider. At that point, you’ll need to ask yourself if you’re willing to hire a team to help, or if you’ll wait until you’re properly staffed.

Whether or not you decide social media fits into your overall business strategy, you must recognize that whether or not you’re there – posting, engaging and most importantly listening – your fans, potential fans and haters are talking about you – RIGHT NOW. It’s up to you to decide if you’re willing to (a) do the research and (b) jump on the social media bandwagon and become a part of that conversation.

Creative Way to Reuse Egg Cartons

Don’t toss your egg carton! Save it for your next arts and crafts project! I save ours for the Child’s paints. As she gets older and we create more complex projects, I’ll use the cartons to separate buttons, stickers and other knick-knacks.

photo 2 300x300 Creative Way to Reuse Egg Cartons

When you’re finished, cut off the portion you used and save the rest for the next crafting experiment!

photo 3 300x266 Creative Way to Reuse Egg Cartons

Small Talk is Exhausting! Five Tips for Networking Events

Networking 300x200 Small Talk is Exhausting! Five Tips for Networking Events

GDC Europe | 2010 Networking Event

Small talk is exhausting. Mentally and physically. I used to call myself a “people person”, which would suggest that I absolutely love talking to people all.day.long. I’ve since retracted that statement from my vocabulary. I can turn it on when needed at work, and just as easily turn it off if I’m craving genuine conversation or quality quiet time. The more I learn to weed out unnecessary energy in life, the more I’m able to focus on areas and people that truly matter.

No offense.

The company I work for Noble Studios recently moved into a beautiful space in downtown Reno, and we’re showing it off tomorrow with a fantastic Open House.  If you haven’t RSVP’d - you should. More than 120 people already have!  We’re all working double-time this week to stay on top of client projects as we deck out the new digs with awesome art, videos, beer and our very own sushi chef!

I digress.

With hundreds of people expected to attend, I’m sure the walking and talking will be over the top, and the thought alone makes me exhausted. So, I am preparing  for the  big night.

Having spoken at and attended several networking events in the last few months, below are a few networking tips I’ve picked up along the way.

  1. Prepare an ice breaker. Don’t kill yourself trying to come up with something clever, keep it simple. “Hi, I’m Vanessa. I’m a strategist here. What do you do?”
  2. Be a good listener. You never know who you’ll meet. It could be your next client, referral or community resource. Ask follow up questions. This can prevent awkward lulls in the conversation.
  3. Don’t offer your business card without solicitation. The worst networking move I experienced last month went something like this – “Hey. Here’s my card, let me take yours. Give me a call.” He certainly left a lasting impression, but I couldn’t tell you what he looked like or what he does for a living. Seek authentic connections. If it feels like a good fit – professionally or personally – ask if they have a business card to stay in touch. Only hand yours over if they ask for it.
  4. Be relevant. We’ve all been there. You get past the “How are you? – Good. How are YOU? -Good.” exchange and there’s not much more to say. Brush up on current events or industry trends before the event. If the person isn’t particularly chatty, ask them if they caught last night’s game or if they heard the latest statistic in X industry in hopes of striking a conversation. If that fails, wish them a good night and walk away.
  5. Easy on the booze. A few cups of courage are tempting at any potentially awkward experience, but DON’T DO IT. Limit your alcohol intake to one glass. You don’t want to say too much or be remembered as that person at the mixer. Unless you’re willing to sacrifice your professionalism for a good laugh, stick to polar bears. [Iced water.]