Friday, January 30, 2015

Strawberry Balsamic Quinoa CousCous Salad

During the week lunches.  Ugh.  Is there anything harder to make exciting than a workday, brought-from-home lunch?  I struggle with making lunches from home appealing enough to keep me from going the take-out route, or worse off, hitting up the vending machine.  Sandwiches are not a favorite meal of mine to begin with, and the idea of bringing one every day makes my eyes roll with boredom. 

So, I've been trying to add colorful, pretty, healthy(!) salads into my routine.  They're quick to assemble, easily adaptable to whatever you have in on-hand & ready to eat, no need to wait in line for the breakroom microwave!  

One of my favorites lately, has been this bright quinoa & couscous salad with strawberries.  It's delicious & so filling.  Perfect for a weekday.  And the berries add a little something special.  Berries are quickly becoming my go-to for adding some pop to a dish.  They bring a ton of extra flavor, the deep colors add some interest to the plate & it seems there is always a berry fresh & on-sale in my local grocery store.  

I came up with this one thinking about a seasonal salad I used to eat often during my college days, when I waited tables on the side at TGIFridays.  After many shifts, I would order one of my favorite items on their menu, a salad full of strawberries, parmesan, & a pecan crusted (I'm sure fried) chicken breast with a rich balsamic vinaigrette.  It was incredibly tasty, but I'm sure bursting with lots of extra calories.

All of the same elements of my college favorite are here, but in a much more figure-friendly way.  Because I definitely do not still have the metabolism of my 20 year old self.  Sigh.

Strawberry Balsamic Quinoa CousCous Salad

2 cups cooked & cooled couscous
2 cups cooked & cooled quinoa
1 cup rotisserie chicken
1 pint of strawberries, hulled & diced
1/2 English cucumber, diced
1/2 bell pepper
3 scallions, sliced
1 -2 cups arugula
1 large bunch basil, torn
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
1/2 cup pecan pieces

2 T. Balsamic Vinegar
1 t. dijon mustard
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 -2 roasted garlic cloves, minced (optional, but tasty)
salt & pepper to taste

Begin by cooking couscous & quinoa according to package directions. (I prefer to use chicken stock instead of water to add more flavor to the dish, but it's completely optional).  Fluff grains & put in a large bowl in the fridge to cool.
Meanwhile, shred chicken, and dice strawberries, cucumber, bell pepper & scallions.  Tear or chop arugula & basil & shred cheese.  Chop pecans if necessary.  

Next, make dressing by placing all ingredients in a small mason jar, placing lid on tightly & shaking vigorously.  Remove grains from the fridge & coat them with the dressing, using a fork to mix.  Add in all other ingredients & quickly toss together to incorporate.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Art Inspired

Can anything make a home feel more unique or personal that a hand-picked piece of art?  A painting you love can turn a (literally) blank slate into an extension of yourself.  Want a place to feel inspiring, or calming, or even bouncing off the walls energetic? Picking the right canvas can make all the difference., a vast auction site, offers thousands of paintings up for sale daily. It's a wonderful place to broaden your design horizons and gain some inspiration.  

I've recently been playing around with what I'd like to do in my crafting/writing/office space.  It's hard to nail down what I want...I just can't pick...every time I see something I like, my mind completely changes on how I want the room to be. So, naturally, I daydream.  I browsed around the other day, wanting to spark some direction, & happened upon this pretty, vintage-feeling, little bit country, fun, vibrant piece.  I really think it's stunning & it just makes me smile, & imagine that I'm in a field of wildflowers.  With no allergies, just enjoying myself. :)

And what to do when you find a beauty like this?  Plan an entire room around it!  It tickles my fancy to play around with ideas, mixing & matching styles to come up with something that I love.  I really looove these inspirations.  Triple 'O' cause that's how much I dig them! 

I've spent the last several days pawning & pining for all of these lovelies.  They're absolutely inspiring me to get going with my craft room/office.  I adore the mix of romantic artwork, whimsical touches, natural wood & chippy paint.  I am a fan of chippy paint.  And those Pottery Barn lights...ooh, I want them right. now. In every room in the house.  I'm also thinking that gorgeous rolling cart & statement shelving would be so perfect for all of my supplies, books & more.  The personalized Paper Source notebook & adorable elephant add a playful element that I want to have in each space I create.  Everything's so fun!   

Follow Home Made Austin's board Art Inspired on Pinterest.

These pieces are all on my 'want' list & I have promptly created a pinterest board just for them...check it out above.  I'll also be adding bits of inspiration whenever I find them, so look often.   And don't forget to follow my other boards while you're there.  I spend entirely too much time pinning, so there are always new ideas popping up on my boards!

Reclaimed Pine Desk, West Elm

Calhoun Multi - Pendant Lighting, Pottery Barn

Dhurrie Chair, Anthropologie

Gold & Grey Supreme Rug, Target

Yvette Rolling Cart, World Market

Beckett Shelving, Crate & Barrel

Personalized Journals, Paper Source

Woodland Park Elephant Bank, Kate Spade

Thursday, January 15, 2015

2015 Food Resolutions

Food is a big part of my life.  I'm kind of obcessed.  I often enjoy writing, making, eating & talking about food more than almost anything else.  It's so fun & rewarding to try new places, whip up old family favorites, share new recipes & compare notes with others.  In the spirit of always staying inspired, I've come up with a few Food Resolutions for 2015.  

1. Make Veggies & Fruits a Staple, not an Afterthought.  Eat more Organic. 

When planning what we'll be eating & cooking for the coming week, I often think about produce dead last.  I carefully decide the proteins we'll be grilling, which pasta to serve & what soup to simmer, but more times than I can count, I end up scrambling over my list a second time to add veggies to dinner or completely forget about putting fruit on my grocery list & spend far too long in the produce section pondering what fruit we might eat.  That needs to change.  Vegetables can be a wonderful addition to any meal & I need to put more focus on them.  Fruit too.  For a long time now, eating a banana in the morning is about as far as we've gone, but I plan on adding in nature's candy to all of our meals, not just in the morning. 

And while we're on the subject of produce, I'll be ever-striving to buy mostly organic fruits & veggies.  Right now, I'm pretty good about picking out organic lettuce & berries, but want to make an effort to fill my cart up with more organic goods than not.  There are several resources about buying organic, but the easiest & most reliable I've found is the Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen List from Environmental Working Group.  I won't worry much about picking up organic if it's on the 'clean fifteen' but if it's on the 'dirty dozen' list, I'll go above & beyond to get the organic version.

2. Crack open a Book.

I have a beautiful & bountiful collection of cookbooks in my kitchen that I don't look at often.  With the age of Pinterest, iPads & blogs, it's easy to never even think about pulling a book off the shelf when it's time to make dinner.  I've been known to use Pinterest as my own personal google for double-checking a method, cooking time or oven temperature for my go-to meals. 

While I deeply love & will continue to use blogs & Pinterest for inspiration & ideas, I want to make a big effort to rediscover my cookbooks.  In my opinion, cookbooks make for really fun nighttime reading.  There's nothing scary, stressful about reading recipes, there are gorgeous pictures to fawn over & it makes for a really peaceful way to wind down for bed.  Also, if I start making more cookbook recipes & feed him the tasty results, I can totally justify new cookbook purchases to Andrew. : )

3. Explore Austin.

Fortunately for us, we live in Austin, land of the delicious restaurant.  There are also gobs & gobs of new restaurants.  I seriously think you could eat at a new place every day & never run out of options.  We try new joints every once in a while, but this year, I really want to step it up!  There is still a long list of newbies I wanted to try in 2014 but never got around to, which makes me & my taste buds a little sad.  No 2015 restaurant regret y'all.

4. Mix up those lunches.

Lunch is always hard for me.  I'm either starving or completely not when the clock hits noon.  Working across the street from a Starbucks has also made it very easy to have a latte & dark chocolate covered graham crackers my midday meal.  That's not good.  On better days I bring leftovers or a sandwich, but it can get very b-o-r-i-n-g.  This year I want to get more creative, healthy & tasty with my lunches.

5. Spice It Up!

Are you fearless in the kitchen?  I am definitely not.  Cooking new types of food, including using spices, veggies & proteins I'm not super-familiar with scares me.  I'm afraid that I'll totally screw things up.  But that's silly.  Worst case, it's terrible & we order pizza.  Best case, it's awesome & I get to share it with y'all.   I want to play around with trying some of our restaurant favorites at home, getting gutsy with making more exotic food & maybe even giving it a go with tofu.  YOLO, right?

What are you wanting to tackle food-wise this year?

Monday, January 12, 2015

2015 Home Resolutions

It's a new year & that means it's time to set some shiny, new goals for our ever on-going updates, DIYs, etc. for our home. As you may know, we are still pretty fresh to the homeowning game.  We bought our home in May of 2013 & while there was nothing major wrong, (thankfully!) we have lots of small updates & changes we'd like to make.

Check out what our house looked like on move-in day, by reading our home-tour post here.

Our home the first day we got the keys!

I'll be honest, in 2014, we didn't tackle nearly as many home projects as we had hoped, but we still managed to get fresh paint on the walls, fix a few outdated fixtures & settle in a little bit more.  Not to say that there aren't a few 'straggler' boxes left to be unpacked.   

But we're not beating ourselves's a never-ending process, right?  So, in 2015 we're making a of attainable to-dos that will have things looking more like us & less like we just moved in!

1.  Create a fun & cozy bedroom.

Bedding similar to ours (
After months of going back & forth on what color our bedding should be (isn't that always the hardest decision?!?) we finally decided on some sunny yellow bedding, with a small flower/vine design in white.  It's cheerful & contrasts nicely to our grey walls & doesn't totally clash with our light blue bathroom.  What we got is no longer being sold, but the similar to-ours bedding in the picture above can be found here.

Now that we finally picked out some colors (yellow with grey, turquoise & red accents) it's time to get going on some decoration.  I'm hoping to create something really fun & unique to hang over the bed, I want to get some curtains up & I'd love to do some sort of photo display above our big dresser. 

2. Build a grown-up bed. (Or the appearance of one!)

Headboard Tutorial from C.R.A.F.T.

Speaking of our bedroom, we need to grow it up a little bit.  We got a brand new queen mattress, boxspring & frame when we bought our house, but we have yet to put a headboard up.  Nothing like sporting 'college chic', right?  At least we've got a frame & it's not a mattress on the ground, haha!  No, but really, I think a headboard would really go a long way in making our bedroom look a little more sophisticated.  But, the catch is I don't want to pay a fortune for said headboard.  They can get pricey real quick & I'm pretty sure I want something that's covered in fabric, so that if I decide to change my style, it can easily be re-vamped.  This upholstered headboard tutorial from C.R.A.F.T. is pretty, & above all, looks totally do-able.  My furniture skills are still weak y'all.

3. Replace the flooring in the Master Bath.

Charcoal Porcelain Tile from Home Depot

Upon putting an offer in our home, we were told that 'brand new flooring' had just been put in to the Master Bathroom.  About two days after moving in, the 'new' (very questionably new) vinyl floor started peeling.  Ugh.  It's been an eye-sore since the early days of our home ownership & over the last few months has gotten much, much worse.

So, bring on the tile!  I just love the way a tiled floor looks & the wear & tear factor is definitely in our favor if we choose sturdy tile.  I'm loving this charcoal porcelain tile from Home Depot.  It looks modern, but is still neutral enough to go with anything.

4. Hang a Gallery Wall.

Gallery Wall How-To from Love Grows Wild

From day one I've been wanting to create a gallery wall for the wall space along our stairs to the second floor.  Right now the wall is completely bare....& boring.  Hopefully I can achieve that fun combo of personal photos, unique artwork & a little bit of color.  I'm planning on drawing some inspiration from this gallery wall from Love Grows Wild.  And $20?!? Can't beat that!

5. Beautify our outdoor living space.

My Pinterest Board on Outdoor Ideas

Potential is in most of our outdoor space, but it needs some work to really shine.  Big, shady, beautiful fill our backyard, but that means that the leaves & branches can get out of control quickly.  We want to work on getting everything trimmed & cleaned up, but we also want to a few pretty extras like some new fun seating, a few potted plants & maybe get the waterfall/fountain up & running.  When we bought the home it wasn't working & we're not really sure what the issue is.  Hopefully something small!  For some of the ideas I'm milling over, check out my outdoor Pinterest board here.

What's on your list on home to-dos in 2015?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Top Posts of 2014

It's a new year!  I don't know about you, but I love the possibilities that come each January.  Want to lose some weight, learn a new skill or break a bad habit? You can do it!

January is also a great time to reflect on the previous year and rejoice in your happy moments and accomplishments.  2014 was a great year for me & I loved getting to share my crafting & food experiences with you here on HomeMadeAustin.

Here's a look back at the Top 10 Posts from last year.  And here's to a wonderful 2015 full of more fun DIY projects & delicious meals for you to enjoy!

1. Frighteningly Fun Halloween Wreath

2. Chalkboard Sign on A Clipboard: A Cute & Quick Teacher Gift

3. It's Cold!  Warm Up with S'mores Cookies

4. Making South Austin Tastier: Independence Fine Foods

5. Dressed to Impress Chicken Thighs *Recipe Included* My May Learning Kelsey Nixon's Kitchen Confidence

6. Slow Cooker Recipe: Green Chili Pulled Pork Loin Tacos with 505 Southwestern Sauces

8. 20 Minutes to Pasta Night: Spending March with Trailer Food Diaries Cookbook, Austin Edition, Vol. 3

9. A Ghoulishly Glitter Halloween with Dollar Tree

10. Package Pals (What I Sent)