Even if I’m not clocking a M-F 9-5 these days, I’m taking my role as a stay-at-girlfriend very seriously. Garrett and I joke that I’m the “House Manager,” and I have to admit I’m pretty darn good at it. From being a full-time chicken mom to a vegetable gardener to a chef extraordinaire, I’m finding that domesticity looks alarmingly awesome on me.

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Look at all the baby veggies! That I grew!

So I thought you might like to see what kinds of meals I’ve been preparing in my vast spare time.

A few notes:

  • Don’t be impressed by all the meat smoking I’ve been doing. We own a Traeger grill that is about as set-it-and-forget-it as it gets, outside of perhaps the Crock-Pot, so with all the time in the world to make each meal taste that much better, it’s not a burden to spend all day preparing dinner.
  • I am an avid meal planner and always know what we are eating several days in advance. This is mostly because I am very picky about how much food is in my fridge (I prefer a sparely stocked fridge with lots of negative space) but also because I hate to waste food. So I purchase ingredients strategically to ensure they all serve a purpose. Meal planning ensures that all of our food is accounted for and also keeps the bill down at the grocery. No items outside of my list are allowed!
  • I get the vast majority of my inspiration from Pinterest. Follow me to see what I’m craving and cooking! I follow through with quite a few of my pins.
  • That being said, I always read 3-4 recipes for any given dish I’m preparing. You better believe I’m going to educate myself on all the variations of a given dish to ensure I’m capturing the range of flavors, textures, preparations and approaches to make it absolutely as tasty as possible.
  • Garrett is the easiest person to cook for and has really encouraged my culinary development. Neither of us have any food allergies or aversions, and we are both incredibly adventurous eaters, so it is very motivating to cook and be creative for someone equally as enthusiastic about dining as I am.

Without further ado, here are a few ridiculously tasty creations to come out of my kitchen recently.

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This was my take on a Vietnamese bun bowl, which is a filling but light dish that is surprisingly easy to prepare at home. Layered in the bowl is fresh chopped romaine, pork that was marinated for several hours in a fish/soy sauce combo with garlic, sugar, chili oil, pepper and rice wine vinegar, vermicelli rice noodles, homemade quick pickled carrots and daikon, sliced cucumbers, scallions, mint, chopped peanuts and limes. Garrett whipped up a traditional nước chấm sauce to drizzle over the dish for some extra zing, and it was so tangy and tasty. Such a healthy but hearty meal!

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I hosted a little dinner party for some of my Heinrich gals last week and treated them to my take on the burrito bowl.

This mess of food consisted of layers of fresh chopped romaine (I’m really into fresh chopped romaine right now), my mother’s black beans (1 onion, 2 cans black beans, 1 can tomatoes + green chiles, olive oil, s+p and the secret ingredient: cloves), smoked chicken (2 halves that I brined for 3+ hours before rinsing, patting dry and adding a dry rub, then throwing on the smoker for 2 hours at 225ºF), raw corn kernels from a fresh ear, yogurt cheese shreds, fresh guac and an adobo cream sauce (1 chopped adobo chile mixed with créme fraîche) to top it all off.

The leftovers from this meal were even better than the first go ’round.

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Pretty much the only recipes I don’t cross-reference to find extra ways to boost flavor are those from the Smitten Kitchen. Deb is reliably talented and her food never fails to deliver. These Spring Chicken Salad Toasts were no exception (unfortunately my photos do not do the recipe justice – click the link to see how pretty it is!).

Anyway, the toasts were quite easy but surprisingly flavorful. As my contribution to a lunch I hosted for a few of my gal pals who are also unemployed (it’s the Year of the Fire Monkey, I tell you), I was glad they ended up being a big hit. Good thing, because Garrett and I ate the leftovers for days! The recipe was simply chopped rotisserie chicken (my secret ingredient for SO MANY THINGS) tossed with red wine vinegar, olive oil, s+p and then thinly sliced radishes, celery, cucumber, scallions and dill, all on hearty toast with a horseradish créme fraîche spooned generously over everything. They were seriously so good!

Ahem, and this is what my friends contributed, by the way. Such a fun Friday! Cheese and beer and good company are pretty much the best. There are a few perks to being unemployed, I suppose…

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And lastly, my pièce de résistance.

At the end of March, I smoked a corned beef and was so proud of myself.

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Unfortunately, some of the tastiest things are also some of the ugliest. My open-faced pastrami sandwich was both of those things.

The pastrami was a labor of love. I started with a corned beef that had to be soaked in fresh water for 36 hours to leach out all of the salt, which would concentrate and become overly salty on the smoker. Then, I rubbed the meat with a mustard-heavy dry rub and dried the beef for another 12 hours before it headed to the smoker to morph into dinner over the course of 6 hours. I spritzed it with apple cider every hour or so, then finished the meat in foil with a bit more apple cider (this is called a steam finish). It was perfect sliced thing and stacked on rye bread with spicy yellow mustard, melted swiss and a mound of saurkraut heated through with fennel seeds. On the side, I served these potato pancakes with sour cream and apple sauce to round out the good Jewish meal. 🙂

Garrett proclaimed it the best dinner I have ever made and gosh, it really was good.

What’s the best meal you have made recently?

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