Verdict: win!

Roasting a chicken is surprisingly easy, especially when I've got Kenji's amazing instructions by my side. Now, when the recipe says "season generously with salt and pepper," you should not hesitate from seasoning GENEROUSLY. I'm a firm believer that with a diet free of processed foods (the real culprit behind all the sodium us Americans consume), that you can season food as much as your heart desires without the bad health effects. Kenji's recipe also comes with a jus, but I preferred my roast chicken sans jus. So easy, and so affordable ($4 for the whole chicken!).

Oh, and can't forget the vegetables. As a side, I quickly sauteed yellow and zucchini squash with parsley.

Verdict: win

I love scones. Buttery, tender-to-the-crumb scones. My usual go to recipe is this chocolate chip scone recipe from Annie's Eats, but the strawberries I had prompted me to try a new scone recipe. I found this "Dreamy Cream Scones" recipe from America's Test Kitchen on Smitten Kitchen's site that looked so irresistible. I was hoping that adding strawberries would turn these into strawberries and cream scones, but the cream flavor isn't very pronounced. Nevertheless, these scones are incredibly tender and delicious. (Can you tell I tried to make my scones heart-shaped? Let's just say that the one in the photo was the best one out of the bunch).

If you use strawberries, however, be aware that the scones should be eaten as soon as possible. The fresh strawberries can turn the scones soggy within a few hours. Freezing the scones before baking for future use is always an option, which is what I did with half my batch. Subbing dried fruit or chocolate chips is an option as well.

Verdict: Win

My photo's horrendous (it screams AMATEUR and how much I want a macro lens...), but don't let that fool you into thinking that this dish was anything but great. I grew up eating pork often, but we never ate pork chops. For the longest time I thought that pork chops would be difficult to cook since I'm not familiar with them at all; however, looks like all you need is a meat thermometer to make it fool proof. I loved that I could finish an open bottle of wine and break out my cast iron skillet. The dish comes together so quickly, the onions and mushrooms are a perfect complement to the juicy pork, and it doesn't hurt that the sauce is lickably-fantastic.

Verdict:Win

I call this dish "Leftover Pho." I had leftover pork bones, so I made a broth with the bones and vegetables that needed to be used before they went bad. I had an excess amount of pho noodles from last week's pad thai, so I threw those in (I guess that makes this pho?) along with some stir-fried pork. Lastly, I had plenty of salad greens that I just tossed in until the greens wilted. With a dollop of sriracha this bowl of soup was so homey, and so satisfying...call me a soup-as-a-main-dish convert (Mom would be so proud). Below is my rough recipe, but if I've learned anything this past year of cooking, it's that sometimes recipes don't have to have set rules.

Verdict: win

I love those kinds of recipes that you stumble on and just happen to already have most of the ingredients on hand. And it's about time that I whipped something up in the kitchen. It also doesn't hurt that it's a recipe by Marc Bittman, and it was featured on Serious Eats...love!

To be honest, I had my doubts about this dish when I was making the sauce. Something about odor of fish sauce and tamarind makes my stomach churn; however, minimal sauce is used and the flavor turns out to be quite balanced. I did add a tablespoon of peanut butter (since I didn't have peanut oil) and a splash of soy sauce at the end. DY would've liked more eggs too. Most importantly, do not be tempted to skip the lime! Lime juice makes this dish complete.

The most time consuming part is slicing the Napa and peeling the shrimp, but after that the pad thai comes together so quickly. Perfect for a birthday dinner in!