Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Meal Planning + Sweet & Sour Pork

I have started venturing into meal planning. Basically, you plan your meals ahead of time before you go shopping, etc. This has actually helped me eat a lot healthier, try new recipes, and I have saved a lot of money while grocery shopping. There are entire blogs dedicated to this sort of thing. I wanted to share with you guys a couple of recipes I have tried so far that turned out to be quite delicious. Today's recipe will be the sweet and sour pork we tried a couple weeks ago. 

Sweet & Sour Pork
The best way I could describe this is it looks like the kind you seen on buffets. Tastes better though, in my opinion. I found this recipe in a fundraiser recipe book my mom gave to me. It is called "...And a Spoon Full of Love - Steele Elementary School 1985-1986" Due to the writing inside the front cover, it was obviously a gift. 

This is what I ended up with: 

Yum, right? 

If you'd like to try it, these are the necessary ingredients (I doubled the recipe - so basically these are the necessary ingredients per pound of pork)

1 lb. boneless lean pork, cut into small pieces
1 egg
2 Tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
2 1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/4 cup vinegar
Chinese noodles or cooked rice - we did noodles, but I think rice might be better
3 Tbsp. oil
2 green peppers 
1/2 cup pineapple chunks
2 1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup pineapple juice (we used the juice from the can of pineapple chunks)

I am rewording some of this from the book to make it less confusing
1. Beat together the egg, flour, salt and pepper. 
2. Coat the pork pieces in this mixture and brown in the oil.
3. Reduce heat, cover and cook the pork slowly for 20-30 minutes.
4. Cut up the peppers, then boil in water for 1 minute and drain them. 
5. Add the peppers and pineapple to the pork, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.
6. Stir together the cornstarch, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and pineapple juice. Cook this mixture until it becomes think and 'clear' (when clear it will very sticky and a dark brown color)
7. Poor this mixture onto the pork, stir and let simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.
8. Serve over rice or noodles.

This pork recipe smells amazing and is really delicious! I hope you enjoy it :) 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Decorating & Gardening

The past couple of days have been productive! I have hung up the curtains in the living room:

My mom made the ones on the end and we bought two ivory sheer panels to fill in the middle. I absolutely love them! They are fun and match the colors of the rug in the living room (and couches). We also put up sheer ivory panels on the back door and front door sidelight. We discovered that both areas are metal and used magnetic curtain rods. They are really easy to use, but when a puppy gets excited and tries to look out the front door by jumping up they become a problem. I've been having to re-hang the sidelight panel about twice a day since hanging it. At least it is easy to do.

I have also gotten some gardening done! I planted the side garden: 

The back row is full of Coleus plants -- a fun variety. They grow well in shade and this garden is almost entirely shade. I used six "Jade Green" Coleus plants, plus one each of: sunset coleus, Red Ruffles Coleus, Gay's Delight Coleus, and Stained Glass Coleus. I love variety! I also planted in front of them two rows of seeds. The middle row has Dahlia and Impatiens seeds and the front row has Marigold seeds. In the past I have had a lot of success growing flowers from seeds, but I have no idea how successful I'll be here. There are a ton of birds around here and they might eat all of my seeds. Since I put them in both the side and front gardens I'll have to wait a couple weeks to see if anything is growing properly. Otherwise I might have to buy a bunch of flowers. 

This is the front garden so far: 

I have mulch in the front but not the side yet. I underestimated the total amount of mulch I would need. I'll be picking some more up this evening to finish off the side garden. Then I'll be soaking everything one more time. In the front garden I have the flowers from before plus I added a couple caladium bulbs, Lantana plants (these attracted butterflies and hummingbirds back in Nebraska when we planted them) in red and yellow, red and pink geraniums, orange and pink gerbera daisies, and the following seeds based on height: moss roses (my favorite), poppies, lupines, bachelor buttons, sweet pea, african daisy, and foxglove. I know that seems like a ton of different things but I gave them each a little area. I'm hoping for some success and will thin them out if they are too successful or plant small flowers that are pre-grown if my success is limited. This morning I also sprayed the front garden with some Bug B Gone - hopefully it works. Unfortunately, it looks like a couple of my plants that I planted in February might not survive the bugs from this past month. 

I also got around to completely ripping out the mess of the little garden near my front patio. It looks much better now:

I also have mulched this one but forgot to take the picture afterwards. I have also purchased a second trellis. I am planning on growing some cherry tomatoes and baby bell peppers. I haven't done much vegetable gardening in the past so I'm starting small.

One question for anybody who has experience with this. We have some massively huge (and scary) hornets/wasps of a variety I have never seen before. I guess they are a southern species. They seem to build their nests from the orange clay that's in the soil here. They like to locate them around our windows. Is there a preferred method for getting rid of these nests and preventing more from forming? 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Dining Chairs and Curtains

Happy Friday!

I know it's been a while since I posted, but here I am! I have worked on a few projects lately, but nothing too exciting. I made some cute Easter cards, but I can't post them on here yet since I haven't sent them out :) I also have a letter ready to send out to all my friends/family updating them with our new address (finally). So they should be expecting to receive that in the mail early next week.

I have bought some new pots for growing herbs that I plan on customizing/painting soon, so I'll make sure to post photos of those when they are done. This weekend I'm also hoping to go to a garden center to buy more pretty flowers for my garden and get that going a bit more. My front garden has a TON coming up and I can't tell what I planted and what are weeds yet. Or what the last tenants planted....

There are a couple things I can share with you this week though. My mom made us some curtains for the living room and bedroom. I have the bedroom curtains hung up and they match a quilt she made for me (leftover fabrics). The curtains are also SUPER heavy since she put a blackout liner on the back. I asked her to do that since TJ will be on rotating shifts for his job soon, and I wanted him to be able to sleep during the day. These curtains block all sunlight, and are really pretty too! Here's a pic:

You can even see a little bit of the matching quilt in the bottom corner :)

I LOVE these curtains! I need to even them out a bit, but other than that I think they look great.

The living room curtains do not have a curtain rod yet, so you will have to wait a little bit on those. We also need to buy a couple sheer panels for our front and back doors still. It's all coming together slowly.

The other item to share is we finally have a full set of dining chairs. I lucked out on a trip to goodwill and found a set of four for $70 after the military discount. I then ran by World Market and found some chair cushions for them on clearance. I think they are pretty cute:

Here is a close-up of the cushion fabric:

We still don't have all of our picture frames up and I'm still on the hunt for a 'ladder' bookcase for the living room and a vanity for the bedroom. So far, though, I've had pretty good luck with my finds. I may have luck tomorrow since base housing is hosting a neighborhood garage sale!

Last weekend we attended one craft fair in the area, it was mostly just clothing and food. We bought a cookbook, some candy (of course), and a few mixes. I will hopefully be able to find a bigger craft fair like those back home soon.

On a side note, we were given a ridiculously high estimate for installing a fence and I was wondering what tips anybody could provide on installing a fence on your own? We are only going to be here 18-24 months and we don't want to pay an arm and a leg for a fence we have to uninstall when we leave. 

My next blog will hopefully include the Easter cards I have made, some work from my garden, and some painted flower pots! I will probably be also posting a blog VERY soon on the blogging "Liebster Award." I had almost forgotten to do so!