asian stir-fry with swiss chard & green onion

Just a short time ago, I had no idea how to cook greens. The only greens I ate were in the form of salad. For me, salads get old quick even with different toppings so learning how to cook them was awesome.

Al and I went to Lauren’s house this past weekend where she made a VERY tasty kale stir-fry. She didn’t even use a recipe! I bow down to people like that.

I asked her lots of questions that night so that I’d be able to attempt my own soon. Today was that day and I have to say it turned out quite well!

Of course I winged it and added in some extra items as always. I skipped the carrots in the picture above but I did include swiss chard, green onions, garlic, peas, and ginger.

We now have a box from Walnut Hill Farms so each week we head to the Lakeside Farmer’s Market and they fill ‘er up with whatever vegetables or fruit they have. Needless to say we have A TON of vegetables to use which is why I tried to put so much into the stir-fry. I don’t want anything to go bad! It’s one of my new year’s resolutions after all.

The prep took a while since I had so much to chop. I cut up all the green onions I had and froze a good amount. I figure I can toss them into more stir-fry dishes down the road.

I got my big wok off our cool peg board to fit everything.

Then started a swiss chard assembly line. Lauren mentioned that I should cook the stems before the leaves since they take longer. Great tip!

I’ve had some candied ginger in my pantry for a long time now so I chopped it up and added it into the mix.

Per Lauren’s instructions, in vegetable oil I cooked the stems and green onions first then added the garlic, ginger, and finally the swiss chard. Lastly, I added rice vinegar and soy sauce to braise it all for a while.

I was concerned in the beginning that not everything would fit in the pot but as you can see, it cooked down a lot!

This dish was great – lots of healthy vegetables and flavor. It’s definitely not as tasty as Laruen’s version but I figure with time I’ll get out the kinks! I think it still needs a little heat but the ginger did add a nice little spice to the soy sauce flavoring. It was like sushi in a bowl. πŸ™‚

I hope to add this into our weekly dinner rotation. Now I just need all the extra asian sauces to top it off! YUM.

What’s your favorite greens dish?

fireplace numero dos

I wanted to get a good amount of projects done over this long weekend and we sure did. We worked on the mailbox, vegetable garden, decor and lighting but what I didn’t do was paint the big wall o’ brick in the den. Instead I avoided it and moved onto our other fireplace in the living room.

I’ve got to tell a little back story of the fireplace and built-ins because I think the previous owner would be excited. The shelving you see in the photo below are antique display cases from a beauty salon (early 1900s) and the mantel is also antique although I don’t know where it’s from. The lady’s husband told me she just found those pieces and built out the entire fireplace herself! Maybe she had help but from the looks of her elaborate greenhouse, I’d like to believe she did it alone. Super impressive.

I do appreciate the backstory but I thought the look needed an upgrade. A little paint perhaps?

I decided to paint the surrounding wall of the fireplace as well as the back of the shelving to give the fireplace and all my glassware a little boost.

I had a can of gray/blue paint so I went for it… at three o’clock this afternoon. I had a strong desire to get just oooone last project in!

The sun was setting so it’s tough to see the gray behind the shelves but with a little help from my sister I got this baby done in just a few hours.

I love the contrast of the crisp white and gray. I already feel like the gray has always been there. It just fits so well!

Do you see that big rock on the fireplace? I found it on a trip to a rock quarry in NJ when I was in middle school. I flew with it on the plane back home to FL. BTW it’s SUPER heavy. Ha. I may or may not still have a rock collection somewhere in this house.

Back to the main topic. You can see a similar gray in the carpet. Matchy but not too matchy.

My things would get lost in our house before when there wasn’t any personality but now they shine – one of my paintings, a bell from my grandma’s collection, sand dollars fossils from Lily Lake (FL), and a tiny brown elephant I got from the grab bag one Christmas in NJ.

It’s starting to feel more like home. Well, specifically it looks like the home of a single person! I need to get Al’s tchotchkes out of hiding. πŸ™‚

Did you tackle any projects this weekend? Or did you soak up some sun instead? It was a beautiful weekend!

my veggie garden

Not to be confused with my greenhouse garden.

Speaking of my greenhouse, I’ve been having a little trouble with it. There are two issues: 1. That there is too much shade and therefore not enough sunlight and 2. I might have watered the veggies too frequently.

The overwatering has resulted in yellowing bottom leaves and gnats galore. I’ve somewhat fixed the problem by being really stingy with watering. If I feel any moisture in the first two inches of soil then I leave the plants alone. Since doing this, I’ve gone up to 5 days without watering! I have to remember that the plants are in a greenhouse in pots so they don’t need much. So far so good now that I’ve changed my ways.

As for the sun problem, I did a couple things. First, I cut back a couple of pine tree branches to let in a little bit more light.

I also bought a GlowPanel 45 LED Grow Light that covers 5 square feet. Even though it was pricey, I figure it’s a lot cheaper and ‘greener’ than buying vegetables that I have traveled across the country to my plate! It also only uses 28 watts of power but produces 250 watts of sunny light. Super cool. I wish I could tell you that it works great but I got it out of the packaging yesterday and it wouldn’t turn on! Hopefully, once I get a new one, I’ll be posting about giant tomatoes and peppers.

The last and final thing I did to try and combat the shade was to move some of the plants to a spot outside that gets more light. To the right of our side entrance we had a huge mess of weeds and plants so I thought it’d be a good location.

The week before I started my solo work, my sister and I uprooted all the weeds and transplanted the plants in the foreground of the photo (that need mulch!) from the area in the back. Because this was already done, I was able to start tilling the soil right away using a hoe.

Can I just say that I feel quite silly using these gardening/farming terms? Especially when one reminds me of my love for Ludacris.Β  Does that explain a lot? I hope not, ha. Please keep reading!

Anyways, tilling is tiring!! I had to stop ever couple minutes to take a breather and rest my weary arms.

After I was fiiiinally finished, I mixed in my new top soil with the existing soil per the instructions on the bag. I then dug out little trenches to help water filter out. I don’t even know if I was supposed to do that part but it’s what I always see online.

I laid out my 2 feet long bamboo sticks to space out where I wanted to plant my veggies – every 3 feet for tomatoes and squash and every 2 feet for the peppers.

Then I carefully dug the plants out of their pots and planted them next to their poles.

And tied them to the poles using twist ties. I know they aren’t very tall but I figured a little support this early wouldn’t hurt.

I’m still a bit worried about the amount of sun these plants will be getting too. I know they should be getting at least 8 which they aren’t BUT I’ve got nothing to lose!

I wish there was someone that could come over and just tell me what to do with everything but hey, it’s an experiment! This gardening stuff is fun and if I get a couple tomatoes at the end of the July it’ll be icing on the cake pasta sauce on the spaghetti!

Are you taking any risks in your yard? Any new plants?

chocolate chia bites

Dates (the food) are interesting. Interesting in a way that when I left two in a zip lock bag on the kitchen counter my husband got super annoyed because he thought I had left Olivia’s fecal sample where we prep food. TMI? Well they are pretty funny looking. They taste great though! Especially as a pre-run snack with peanut butter. Yum.

Anyways, I’ve had a Sam’s size tub of them in my fridge for a while so I thought I’d use some up. And this week Al and I are steering clear of anything unhealthy and really packing in the fruits and vegetables so I thought I’d make us a healthy yet tasty dessert!

I headed over to Ashley’s blog and typed in ‘dates’. Alright, Chocolate Chia Bites it is! I was missing a couple ingredients but you know that never stops me!

Before I began, I had to create the required makeshift chihuahua bed for Belle. That lady will step all over my feet the whole time I’m in the kitchen! ‘Tis pretty cute but I think she’d rather lay down and watch me cook (hence the bed) because as soon as I make one… plop, she’s down and settled.

Yes, I use a ramekin for her dog bowl. HA.

First, I pitted the dates and chopped them up a couple times to prep them for the food processor.

I processed them into a big ball by themselves before adding the other ingredients.

Like Ashley says, once the other ingredients are added, it really does look like dirt!

I had two substitutions in the mix. I didn’t have any almond extract so I used cinnamon which is what Ashley suggested. The other thing I did was use whole wheat flour instead of chia flour. It appears that whole wheat is a lot drier than chia because I couldn’t get the bites to shape into balls, they were just too crumbly. I got the soaking food processor out of the sink and added five more dates to the mix. It was the perfect consistency after that. So if you happen to use a flour other than chia, I would watch the sticky factor!

After all that, I added in the chia seeds and shredded coconut then shaped them into little balls using my hands.

That’s it!

They’re like little gooey brownie bites. I’m keeping them in the fridge to make sure they stay nice and chewy and have already tucked them in the back so we don’t scarf them in one sitting. Better than eating a tray of ‘real’ brownies though right??

What’s your favorite dessert? I might just have 5.

and just like that

Every Saturday, BARK volunteers bring a selection of dogs from the farm to various pet stores around Richmond. Foster families can also bring their dogs whenever they want, even if a dog hasn’t been requested to be seen by a potential family. A week after Heidi joined our pack, I decided to take her to Petsmart for the whole three hours (12-3 pm).

For some reason it’s tough to find homes for hounds and at BARK there are A LOT so the odds weren’t in our favor but with a great, big stroke of luck, she met an interested family!

They told me that they’d bring their other dog to meet her the following Saturday.

All week I waited on Kelley, the Adoption Coordinator at BARK, to send me an email telling me that she had been requested for the visit. By Thursday I hadn’t heard anything so I emailed her. She told me that the family hadn’t given her all the information she needed and that she couldn’t get a hold of them.

My heart sank. They seemed like such a great family for Heidi!

So this past weekend at 1:30 pm, I had a strong gut feeling that we should be back at Petsmart and not shopping. I made my husband turn the truck around so I could rush home and then drive over.

Heidi and I got there at 2:00. Bob, the owner of the rescue, told me that the family had been by earlier. I had missed them!! Crap.

About 30 minutes later one of the daughters showed up with the rest of the paperwork they needed to adopt Heidi. I didn’t know this at the time but when they came the first time, Kelley had told them what she needed so they ran right home to get it. Thank goodness they still needed that paperwork or they wouldn’t have come back!

The daughter called the rest of the family so that they could bring their other dog to meet Heidi. If all went well, we’d be in the clear.

After another 30 minutes, the family arrived. Both of the dogs have pretty passive personalities so neither of them were very interested in the other. We didn’t see any negativity though, so it was a match!

The mom (from the phone) told us that she wanted a ‘trial run’ with Heidi just to make sure she was the right choice. I was informed that the only way they could do that was if they adopted her first. Bob said that if she didn’t work out, they could bring her back and get a full refund.

I wasn’t sure how they’d take the news. I gave the dad his option. There was a long pause but then he said, ‘Welp, I guess we’re adopting a dog today!’

YESSS. I would’ve totally done a happy dance but there were too many people around.

Obviously there’s still a chance that she doesn’t fit in at their home but I can’t imagine that happening. I feel like the family will work with any issues that might come up. Heidi’s too cute to give back. πŸ™‚

As they wrapped up the paperwork, I realized she was leaving me… today. I hadn’t prepared for that part. Sure she’d only been at my house for two weeks but ever since January whenΒ we first met, I wanted to help find her a home. Now that day had come. It was time to say good-bye.

I had one of the daughters take a photo of the two of us at that moment.

Course Heidi had no idea what was going on but I have to admit I was a little upset!

I took off her BARK collar so the family could put on her new one. I handed the collar to Kelley but she handed it back to me and said, ‘Do you want to keep it? You should keep it.’ I took it back and then walked the family to their car.

And just like that she was gone.

I have her collar to remember her by and a new facebook friend. They said they’ll post pictures of progress and playtime. I can’t wait to see them!

The other dogs at our house seem to be doing fine without Heidi. Without a hyper puppy to play with, Roary is sleeping a lot more but I don’t think she minds. She now has time to heal her playtime wounds and spend more time with her buddy Olivia.

It was a fun adventure. I learned a lot about love and potential. I hope to do it again sometime! It’d be great to have little collection of collars. πŸ™‚

the den paneling

We spend most of our time in one room of the house, the den. This is mainly because it’s where the couch is and the other rooms aren’t completely furnished yet.

He’s what the room, in all its brown glory, looked like before we bought the house and moved in.

I thought we should update it first since it’s used so much! I fixed up the fireplace a tad already which you can see here, but there’s still a lot to do.

You can see from the photo above that there’s a good amount of sun that comes into the room but because of the dark paneling and brick fireplace, the room was sooooo dark all the time. And with it’s very yellow, very 70’s ceiling light, I couldn’t spend even an hour in there without getting lazy sleepy. I knew we’d have to paint all the walls and lighten it up.

We started with the paneling.

Wait, actually we started with finding a rug to base the whole room off of. A couple months ago we bought a couple of used, floor model rugs from a furniture store which are working out great in the house (we steam cleaned them) but this time we went for a new one.

Supposedly it’s an indoor/outdoor rug so we can easily wash it outside if the dogs track in mud. BIG plus.

It has a large floral patten with lots of shades of green and pink. I wanted a light color to help make the room bright but knew that a light pink wouldn’t work – it’s reminds me of the 90’s and my husband wouldn’t have it, so I went with a very light green.

To start, we wiped down the walls and trim, then applied one coat of Olympic brand low-VOC primer.

Then we finished off the walls with two coats of the green paint and the trim with three coats of Olympic white low-VOC. The brown trim was harder to cover than the walls so we (my husband) even had to use a no-bleed paint for the windowsills which equals four coats!

Now that’s it’s finally done, we are super happy with the results! I can’t wait to tackle the rest of the fireplace. We plan to cover it up in white paint to lighten up the room even more.

The only thing we have hanging is this clock! I hope to put up some art to bring out more colors in the rug and make the whole room more cohesive.

Here’s a look at the brick and door against the pretty, green paneling. Just imagine that it’s a crisp white!

Without a garage or basement we decided to hang our bikes up down in the den. I guess I do have a bit more ‘art’ hanging!

Here’s a better view of the wall color, rug, and dog bed to match… of course.

We’ve got a long way to go but I’m glad we’ve made some progress! It’ll be interesting to see how the whole room evolves.
I want it to feel warm and inviting. So far so good.

What spring project are you in the midst of right now? I’ve got too many to count!

i promised

Before we added Olivia and Belle to our family, I fell in love with a beagle named Heidi. If you haven’t read my earlier posts, my husband and I volunteer over at BARK once in a while. We help clean out the runs and walk the dogs. The daily ritual is to clean the runs and then take whatever dog you want on a nice, long walk through the trails.

The first time we did this, I chose Heidi. She was so little and too cute. She pulled like crazy, sniffing everything in her path.

After a couple of weekends, I told her I’d get her out of there. Like with Olivia, I had a gut feeling that I was supposed to help. I had to.

With the addition of Olivia and then Belle, the promise looked kinda dicey. Adding Heidi to the family would bring us to a total of FOUR DOGS!! That’s completely insane but I promised her freedom so I couldn’t bail on her!

This past weekend I fulfilled my promise. We picked her up and she’s been tiring us out every since.

Let me make this clear. We’re not adopting her, we’re fostering her (same with Belle but it’s hard to find someone who wants a 14 year old, deaf, chihuahua πŸ™‚ ). Knowing that we’re trying to find homes for two of them makes having four dogs a little more tolerable but honestly it hasn’t been bad at all. I can say that Heidi is better than my other dogs on the leash! She’s a little over a year old and therefore still puppy-like but she just needs a little discipline and some time. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve said ‘Off!’ in the past week while teaching her that she’s not allowed on the couch! Haha.

So here’s a little info about her in case her future family is reading this!

The girls play all day long. After less than a week they are already getting along quite well.

The chihuahua is another story… but she’s crotchety and doesn’t like other dogs all up in her business. πŸ™‚

Like Olivia, she loves a good belly rub and will sit there calmly for a good while if you keep it up.

When her tails in the air, you can bet she’s on a scent trail. She loves to sniff around and explore every inch of the backyard.

I was told she’s an ‘escape artist’ but we haven’t had any issues with her trying to get out at all. We just make sure she knows that she can’t bolt when we open doors.

Believe it or not, she DOES rest once in a while. We walk her 2 or 3 times a day and soon we hope to start running with her. She needs her exercise for sure!

The bottom line is that it’s totally worth dealing with all that energy because she is the sweetest thing EVER. She just wants play and be loved on!

With her great looks, personality, and the training we’re putting her through, I hope to find her a great forever home very soon.

If you’re interested in Heidi or know of someone who might be (and you’re in the Richmond area), just shoot me an email! hippeitch {at} gmail {dot} com.