Vegan Stuffed Pepper Soup

Sometimes you have to think outside the box, or in this case, outside the pepper.

There are some foods from my childhood that are difficult to convert to a vegan recipe. My mom’s stuffed peppers are a perfect example. Consistency and taste of my past attempts never quite measured up to the peppers that my Italian mother would pull out of the oven. I went vegan in 2005, so it has been a long time since I ate them, but I can tell you with complete confidence that I finally have a plant-based recipe that measures up.

The key was to think outside the pepper. I’ve tried rice, quinoa, vegan beef crumbles and a combination of each IN the peppers, but never OUTSIDE the peppers. I stumbled across this stuffed pepper soup recipe from Cooking Classy that was definitely not vegan, but had good enough bones (bad choice of words) to be the foundation of my new recipe.

I was not hopeful that a soup would be nearly as satisfied as those huge meatballs in a shell of yesteryear, but I was wrong. This is life-changing good. It is also super easy and cheap to make. I’m eating it for breakfast as I type.

INGREDIENTS

2 tbsp olive oil

1 cup yellow onion (chopped)

1 cup red pepper (chopped)

1 cup green pepper (chopped)

2 garlic cloves (minced)

2 cans (14.5 oz) petite diced tomatoes

1 can (14.5 oz) tomato sauce

1 can (14.5 oz) vegetable broth

2 cups frozen vegan beef crumbles

2 ½ tsp dry parsley (or 2 ½ tbsp fresh parsley)

½ tsp dry basil

¼ tsp oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

Dash or two of red pepper if you like a spicy sauce

1 cup uncooked rice (white or brown – I used instant brown rice)

Add chopped onion and peppers to heated olive oil in a pot (I used an enameled caste iron pot). Sauté for 3 minutes, then add garlic. Cook for another minute.

Add tomatoes, sauce, broth, frozen vegan beef crumbles, and herbs. Adjust to medium-low heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Cook your rice accordingly to the instructions on the package and set aside.

Start to get excited.

Check timer.

Start pacing.

Check timer.

Give the dogs a treat.

Ding!

Add the rice and serve.

COOKING TIPS

  • You can add more or less rice depending on how thick you want the soup to be or are just a carb-whore like me.
  • I prefer Gardein beef crumbles. I don’t think Beyond Meat has the right taste for this for this recipe, but to each their own.
  • You’ll be tempted to cook the crumbles first, but don’t. Add them frozen to avoid them getting too soft after cooking for 30 minutes.
  • There was enough to give me five servings, so you normal people should get at least 7 servings.

The Problem with Wishing

Have you ever been wish slapped?

When I worked in nonprofit, people would say, “I wish I had a job helping people.”

When I worked for a marketing agency, people would say, “I wish I worked in a cool office.”

When I started working from home, people would say, “I wish I could do that!” (pre-pandemic days)

Now that I have my own business, people say, “I wish I could be my own boss.”

That’s wish slapping. It stings a bit, because it makes it sound like you got lucky. For me, it felt like people assumed I won some sort of job lottery – not that I worked my a$$ off, often working two jobs, to gain the experience I needed. While I appreciate those comments meant as small talk or kudos, I knew the hearts of those who spoke those words with real truth. Many, many people do not like their current career situation. They wear those wish statements like a straitjacket. So, I decided that I want to turn those wish slaps into something less painful for all.

My friend (and frequent mentor) Pete Smith, told me the best way to hold yourself accountable is to broadcast your goal. With so many folks dealing with unexpected career tests and trials lately, I feel it is the perfect time to announce that I’m writing a book. Correction: I’m finishing a book by November 26, 2020. Insert sweaty pits. It is a self-help book titled, “Wishes are for Wussies: Finding Success without Luck, Chance or Circumstance.” I want to help people who are unhappy, stuck or lost in their career journey to write that next chapter of their story, so that they find fulfillment and success on their terms.

It will be a collection tips and interviews with badasses who ditched the wish for a new reality (specifically those working for themselves). Thanks to a writing contest I won, I already have an outline with a stamp of approval from a book editor. I just have to get to writing! You can help – I’m looking to hear more stories of those who struggled with something in the life (addiction, money, home life, career, grief, etc…) and managed to pull themselves out of a state of wanting into a state of doing. Reach out if you or someone you know would be willing to share their journey. Thanks for joining me on the journey!

Why Introverts Should Ditch the Label

I’ve been using the introvert label for years. I wore it like a sticker. Hello, my name is Introvert. You may see me smiling and cracking bad jokes, but I’m dying a bit on the inside. And not from the cheesy jokes. I struggle to keep up with a regular social pace. It certainly makes for a boring social life, but it has really impacted me at work. Here are a few examples:

Why are you against working in an open-office environment?

– I’m an introvert. Being forced to hold my facial expressions and posture in a socially-acceptable manner for 8+ hours is too exhausting.

Why do you have to freak out over this tough work meeting?

– I’m an introvert. I have a hard time speaking my truth or handling confrontation.

Why don’t you like to join team activities or after-work events?

– I’m an introvert. Socializing is a total drain on my emotional battery.

Do you see a trend? A problem is presented and an excuse is given. The excuse of being an “introvert” comes across as a negative characteristic. It also comes across as though you expect the people involved with the “problem” to accept this horrible thing about you.

Just in case you think I’m full of it, a quick Google dictionary search states an introvert is a person predominantly concerned with their own thoughts and feelings rather than with external things. Ouch. Makes introverts sound like depressed narcissists.

It is no wonder I got in a habit of making excuses for myself or asking for validation to make amends for my “deficiencies.” I would often mutter phrases like, “Sorry if this sounds dramatic.” Or even, “Do you think I have a right to feel this way?”

The risk of using labels as lifelines.

When those I’m-an-introvert-and-here’s-what-you-need-to-know articles starting exploding on the internet, I grasped onto it like a lifeline. I thought maybe I would be able to work from home more if I showed my Introvert Badge. I thought people would be forced to have sympathy and understanding for me after a difficult work meeting. It took me years to realize it, but it did the opposite. It presented my decisions and reactions as destructive and damaging. The worst part — I actually believed I was shoddy and incompetent.

I’m ditching the introvert label.

After many frustrating conversations with my husband and an eye-opening chat with a dear friend, I had a brain switch flip. My internal conversation was completely rewritten when I really realized the source of my anxiety or unwillingness to go with the crowd. Take a look…

Why can’t you enjoy working in an open-office environment?

– I’m a workhorse. I care a lot about the work I do and the thought I put into it. I find open-work spaces to be distracting, which impacts my work. That is not ok with me.

Why do you have to freak out over this tough meeting?

– How I present myself is very important to me. I want to be helpful and supportive. However, tough calls can sometimes trigger negative feelings for all involved. You may have to explain deficiencies or reveal mistakes. I cringe at the thought of making others feel bad, even when done in the most professional manner. I care even more if the conversation reveals I had a misstep and let people down. That goes against my work ethic. I don’t “freak out.” I care. I care A LOT.

Why don’t you like to join team activities or after-work events?

– I keep work my work. I hope I enjoy it most of the time, but I will always enjoy my family more. I’ve been working since I was 15 years old. I deserve to spend my time doing what makes me happy, so I am…damn it. I will contribute to the team in other ways.

While it may look like my tendencies are all about my “own thoughts and feelings (eff you, Google dictionary),” it is more about owning and respecting who you are and what makes you a badass. The more and more I tried conform and act as expected, the more the results suffered. Instead of instantly agreeing to something that goes against my work style, I now try to offer an alternative…

Are you free at 3pm for a meeting to chat about the team meeting tomorrow?

– That’s a great offer. I think you should host the meeting if it is helpful to the rest of the team, but I won’t be joining. I’m going to be planning my talking points and solutions for the meeting, but I’ll keep Slack up if you want to ping me questions during your meeting.

Why can’t you just have a full-time job? / Why can’t you just work with one client for years?

– I love the challenge of tackling new things and I’m damn good at it. Like The Wolf in Pulp Fiction, I like playing the role of the cleaner. I’m awesome at discovering opportunities and showing a team how to make it work…then getting out. It works for me and I’m not compromising. Harvey Keitel wouldn’t sit behind a laptop for 8 hours doing the same job for 8 years!

So, while I recognize and love my fellow introverts, let’s ditch the label. Let’s just own what makes us confident, successful and happy. I dare you to replace, “But I’m an introvert” with “I own who I am and I know what works for me.” Ok, it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but are ya with me?

4 Content Tips from Oprah’s Golden Globes Speech

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

The celebrated Oprah Winfrey accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement during the 75th Golden Globes Awards. It is no surprise that she brought the crowd to their feet. The loud applause filling the theater and tears from those watching at home illustrates the power of her words.  As social media managers and content creators, the craftsmanship of her speech should inspire all of our copywriting in 2018.

Forget Simon Says, let’s play Oprah Says! Here are five content creation tips you can borrow from the master herself.

1. Make a strong opening.

Oprah says…

“In 1964, I was a little girl sitting on the linoleum floor of my mother’s house in Milwaukee watching Anne Bancroft present the Oscar for best actor at the 36th Academy Awards.”

Why it works…

The opening line of her acceptance speech immediately pulls you in. It creates a timeframe, a setting, and a feeling in one sentence. Scroll through Facebook right now and see how many brands are actually succeeding at this. I challenge you to write one-sentence stories and test them on your brand’s social media channels.

2. Don’t make it all about you.

Oprah says…

“In 1982, Sidney received the Cecil B. DeMille award right here at the Golden Globes and it is not lost on me that at this moment, there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given this same award.”

Why it works…

A common miss I see is brand’s making it all about them. By telling a story of her idol, Sidney Poitier, and the full circle moment she may be having with other little girls somewhere in the world is an emotional human connection. The fact that she is the first black woman to receive this award took somewhat of a second seat to the potent story she was telling (which is hard to do!). How can your brand subtlety show their achievements without making it all about them?

3. Be respectful and brave in the face of controversy.

Oprah says…

“I want to say that I value the press more than ever before as we try to navigate these complicated times, which brings me to this: what I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.”

Why it works…

No matter where you are on the political scale, the press has been under a lot of criticisms and scrutiny. You’ll notice, she doesn’t weigh in on the matter, she simply acknowledges it and uses it to make a powerfully positive statement. Sometimes going dark on social media is the smart move when controversial issues are trending, but next time see if there is an opportunity to inspire or inform your audience instead.

4. Say something familiar in an unfamiliar way.

Oprah says…

“Their time is up. And I just hope — I just hope that Recy Taylor died knowing that her truth, like the truth of so many other women who were tormented in those years, and even now tormented, goes marching on. It was somewhere in Rosa Parks’ heart almost 11 years later, when she made the decision to stay seated on that bus in Montgomery, and it’s here with every woman who chooses to say, “Me too.” And every man — every man who chooses to listen.”

Why it works…

Oprah knew the Time’s Up movement would be the center of every red carpet interview and acceptance speech. Her award is given late in the show, so she couldn’t very well say the same thing that everyone had been saying all night. That just isn’t her style. And it should be what brands do either. How many times do you practically see the same tweet from 15 different companies on Taco Day or National Best Friend Day? They all start to sound the same. Instead, Winfrey took the opportunity to tell a story about Recy Taylor, then tied it into our past history and history in the making.

If you missed the speech, I encourage you watch it online. It truly was a message we should all listen to, and for more reasons than to be inspired by her speech writing.

Part Two: Interviewing Social Media Contractors

Missed Part 1? No worries, go here.

I immediately noticed the difference between interviewing for full-time and contractor jobs when I started Little Engine Social Media. For a full-time job, you usually have to promise your first unborn child. For a freelance job, you basically have to have a solid referral and the courtesy to show up wearing pants. (I tried it without pants once, it doesn’t work as well.)

Not that I don’t love the easy street of being hired as a contractor, but asking a few questions up front will make things easier and happier for both parties in the long haul. Here’s your go-to list:

1. What work makes you excited?

Contractors get the luxury of picking and choosing their clients. For me, I will never work for a company that harms animals, so I appreciate this questions from the start.

2. Have you had experience with XYZ industry?

Although not a deal breaker, it can be reassuring to know your potential contractor has experience with your client’s industry.

3. Are you comfortable with the following responsibilities?

One thing that is painfully clear as a contractor is that all agencies speak a different language. Don’t assume your terminology translates. Community management to one contractor may mean something completely different to another.

4. How many hours are you available per week and do those hours vary per day?

Contractors survive on having multiple clients. Signing an agreement with a contractor does not mean they are always as available as a full-time employee. Discuss what a typical response time is for email, calls, and texts to establish expectations from the start. The good news for you: great contractors are badass multitaskers and are able to reply promptly to your needs. (You can’t see me, but I’m pointing to myself.)

5. Do you charge by project or hourly rate?

Money can be an uncomfortable topic, but it is a necessary one. There’s nothing worse than both parties gearing up to collaborate on a project to only find out that the contractor’s rate doesn’t aligned with the budget.

I hope you enjoyed this two-part series on hiring a social media contractor. Have more questions? Leave a comment or reach out on Twitter or Instagram.

 

Part One: Why Marketing Agencies are Hiring Contractors

Agencies hiring contractors is a smart move. Think about it – agencies tend to take on a lot of short-term contracts, so why hire a full-time employee with full benefits to do a job that may not be around in a couple months. Or even worse, dump another FTE on your already exhausted community manager or social media strategist. Enter your friendly neighbor freelancer.

Here are 3 reasons you should consider a contractor for your next client proposal:

1. Experience without investment

I’m trying really hard not to compare myself to a lady of the night here. What I’m trying to say is, “Why put a ring on it when you can get the love for an hourly rate?” No, that isn’t right. How about, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk without a 401K?” Ok, these phrases may not be in Urban Dictionary yet, but I think you catch my drift. A contractor comes with the experience you need without the long-term commitment. No training or no dental paperwork. We are like the Ghostbusters – great in a scary pinch.

2. Expand your network

Contractors and freelancers know a lot of people in the industry. They have to in order to survive. Need a graphic designer at a great rate? They know someone. Need a photographer in a pinch? They have the perfect person.

3. Reliable as your childhood blanket

Your memorable childhood stuffed animal, blanket, or pillow (in my case) may be out of mind in storage, but you know where it is when you need something that feels familiar and comforting. Contractors are like your beloved one-eyed teddy bear. (Better than the lady of the night analogy, right?)

Stay tuned for part two of this series to know what questions to ask your potential contractor.

Holidays on Social Media: Celebrate or Skip?

Reading tip for this one, click the hyperlinks to see effective holiday examples.

Billboards with Christmas ads in November. Magazine print ads for Independence Day sales. Radio spots from florists for Mother’s Day. Holidays and marketing have been BFFs for decades, but social media (being the rebel child that it is) flipped marketing on its head when it comes to holidays.

From National Pizza Day to National Best Friend’s Day (Jane & Lily 4-ever), there is a designated day for almost every thing and every interest. Does that mean that your business should to participate in every trending celebration day?

nothanks

A brand interjecting themselves in a conversation, especially a trending one, that isn’t a clear and relevant fit is one painfully obvious way of looking desperate for friends on social media. Making the effort to create copy and images for a holiday is time consuming, so the ROI should be worth the time invested. Let’s do a pop quiz to illustrate the point, shall we? Number 2 pencils not required.

Question #1:

Should a fitness club participate in National Ice Cream Day?

Answer:

Nah. Is there an opportunity to talk about burning calories after indulging in ice cream or rewarding yourself with ice cream after a tough workout? Sure, but it isn’t worth the real estate. Instead of fighting for space among businesses that have a clearer connection, use that day to share a fitness tip or showcase one of your members. That will have far more meaning with your followers.

Question #2:

Should a pet food company join in on Taco Day?

Answer:

Ah, if it includes a wiener dog in a taco costume, then 100% yes. If not, hard pass.

Question #3:

Should a small, local retailer plan social media content for Small Business Saturday or Cyber Monday?

Answer:

A tricky one! The answer depends on whether your marketing goal for the season is foot traffic or online sales. Pick a goal and pick a day. Don’t do both – it would be like wearing your Halloween, Christmas and New Year’s Eve outfit all at once. It’s too confusing.

Question #4:

Should a non-profit organization chime in on Martini, Pina Colada or National Beer Day?

Answer:

No, no, and no. Social media content for non-profits should always show donors what their donations are funding, and it should never be alcohol.

Question #5:

Let’s turn the tables here. Should an alcoholic company participate in National Nachos Day (November 6th)?

Answer:

Oh, yes! Actually, we should move International Beer Day (August 4th) to November, so they can be celebrated annually on the same day.

Questions to ask yourself before joining any trending holiday…

  1. What does my audience want to see?
  2. Is this genuine to my brand’s voice?
  3. Would this content fit into one of my content buckets?
  4. How can creating content for this holiday support my larger marketing goals?
  5. Can I provide sound rationale for spending time and effort of this holiday post should a CEO, board member, etc… ask?

Feeling a little unsure of your answers or ready for next steps? Let’s talk!

Mother’s Day Mishaps: Social Media Etiquette to Make Mom Proud

Mother’s Day is one of those holidays that brands should be extra thoughtful and considerate in their social media content marketing. They should not allow themselves to be blinded by dollar signs when they find out that U.S. consumers spent a crazy $21.4B last Mother’s Day. I wonder how many runny eggs, cheap chocolates, and carnations that is.

Every year, people love to highlight the most powerful, creative, funny, and touching Mom’s Day ads. Check out these lists from HubSpot, Verily, and Campaign. All of these examples are different. Some are tearjerkers, while others are corny and hilarious, but there is one thing that they all have in common. Did you catch it?

Not one ad pushed their agenda. No hard sales. No capitalizing on the hundreds of hours mom busted her ass at work to put food on the table, countless dishes she washed or tears she wiped away. Let’s talk about how you walk the line between appropriately promoting your business and pissing off moms everywhere.

1. All moms are created equal.

This is the starting point for any Mother’s Day campaign. Mom does not mean stay-at-home wife and mother of three. Being a mother can look a million different ways and social media managers need to take this into consideration. From expecting moms to dog moms and moms who lost to moms who adopted, do not alienate or offend any of these amazing people.

2. It is the thought that matters.

I think I picked weeds for my mom as a kid for Mother’s Day and I’m sure she put them in a vase and gushed over them. I even recall trying to make a dollhouse for my stepmom one year and never finished it for her, but she never held that against me. Looking back, she was probably happy that I didn’t finish it!

Either way, the thought was genuine and easily recognized as such. If your business wants to push some money-making deal, your audience will see the thought behind your BOGO or 20% off offer. Don’t try to make a buck off of mom. It should be a day of honoring and giving back to mom. Seventh Generation had a great example of this a couple years ago. Be respectful and the sales will follow organically.

3. Show your human side.

Regardless of the size of your business, what you sell or your marketing budget, be true to the human nature of the day. It isn’t appropriate to push a self-serving agenda. Your brand should treat moms how you want other brands to treat your momma.

Still unsure of your campaign? Scroll to the bottom of this list for epic Mother’s Day marketing fails. I mean, whoa, don’t do that. Even a little. Ever.

Need help with your Mother’s Day social media campaign? Email me at kristina@ littleenginesocialmedia. I’d love to make sure that you don’t muck it up!

 

Social Media Content for Nonprofits: April Tips & Topics

Sharpen your pencils, do-gooders! It’s time to write your social media content calendar for April. Like the pollen outside, time to let the ideas fly!

Social Media Tip of the Month

Video doesn’t have to be a huge, stressful production, but they can be incredibly engaging and rewarding. Here are some videos ideas you can do with your phone (just don’t forget to shoot it holding your phone sideways) in under 60 seconds:

  • Mini staff interviews
  • Behind the scenes look at a project or initiative
  • Office tour
  • Treatment/Efforts in progress
  • Mimi interviews with the people you support

April Social Media Content Ideas

April 2: Children’s Book Day

The theme of last month’s Social Media Marketing World 2017 in San Diego was a refocus on being helpful to your community. Children’s Book Day is an excellent opportunity to provide resources to your followers by sharing book recommendations. You can do this with a blog post, quick video or even individual posts throughout the day. For example, the nonprofit I work for, MiracleFeet, will use Facebook Stories and Instagram Stories to show pics of our favorite clubfoot books for parents to read to their children.

April 5: Day of Hope

Started by Child Help, this campaign is to remember that every year millions of children around the world are victims of abuse and neglect. Remind your followers how they can get involved with your organization to help children in your community or beyond.

April 7: World Health Day

An event hosted annually by the World Health Organization and this year’s theme is depression. If your nonprofit is involved with mental health, today is an excellent way to join the conversation on social media to bring awareness of your efforts and how others can help.

April 10: Sibling Day

Always a trending hashtag on Twitter and a prime opportunity for sibling story telling. You could have one sibling interview the other or share a story of how helping one sibling helped the family as a whole. Endless possibilities!

April 11: Pet Day

Time to give some love to those service dogs! Oh, don’t forget to share any pics of the office dog (if you’re lucky enough to have one!).

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My buddies – Kevin and his service dog.

April 15: Microvolunteering Day

Besides being a crazy long word to type, your content on this day must showcase all the quick and easy ways your followers can make a difference without a huge time or monetary investment.

April 16: Easter Sunday

Don’t be that guy – you know, the brand that uses a religious holiday for self-serving purposes. Just saying.

April 17: Haiku Poetry Day

Who doesn’t love a haiku? Refreshing and fun way to share your organization’s message.

MiracleFeet Tweet
Similar example from World Poetry Day.

April 20: Volunteer Recognition Day

You should recognize your volunteers often and with sincerity and April 20th is no exception. Use social media to give your volunteers shout-outs. Just make sure they are ok with you using their photo and/or name.

April 22: Earth Day

Always a trending day! You could host an environmental campaign in your community and share live updates throughout the day on social media.

April 29: World Wish Day

In honor of the anniversary that inspired the founding of Make-A-Wish in 1980 this is a day of granting wishes for sick children and thanking those who made wishes possible. If Make-A-Wish has helped any of the families you support, today is a great way to thank them and stories of their share their wishes.

What Your Favorite Social Media Platform Really Says About You

One of my favorite interview questions was from Ignite Social Media. They asked me what was my favorite social media platform and why. It was a great question, because it tells a lot about a person. If I had said Myspace, I wouldn’t have gotten the Community Management gig. Three years ago, my answer was Twitter. I liked to stay on top of NHL news and talk shit with fellow hockey fans. Huh, not sure what my answer would be today.

Here’s what your favorite channel may say about you…

TWITTER

You like to talk. Like you really, really like to talk. Twitter is the one social media platform that allows you post like a mad (wo)man and get away with it, thanks to the short lifespan of tweets. You probably also love your sports updates, pop culture news, and brand updates.

FACEBOOK

You’re a people person. You like keeping up with family and friends while sharing your own life updates with the occasional rant. Change makes you itchy and Facebook is your old reliable pal.

INSTAGRAM

If Insta is your favorite social hangout, then you are probably a visual, creative person. You like to be thoughtful and intentional with the content you produce. You dig being inspired by like-minded people.

LINKEDIN

Ah, the platform of professionals. You’re classic with a touch of old school. You like staying on top of industry news and scoping out that next lead or networking opportunity. Heck, you may not even use the other social media platforms. LinkedIn is enough for you.

SNAPCHAT

You’re a spontaneous, confident busy bee. You share personal experiences with a carefree attitude. You may also be a little cray (in the most loving way) and appreciate that your pics will never come back to haunt you…maybe.

PINTEREST

Organization is the name of your game. You just love your boards and boards of pins (most of which you will never try). Your desk, closet, and kitchen are all pinspired. You’re a fun, go-getter with a passion for trying new things.

Did I get you right? What is your favorite social media platform?