Home-cooked meals.

Increasingly conscious of my decreasing budget (and lack of a terribly successful dating life where meals are, well, paid for) I've been cooking at home more in the past week.This is a big deal. I'm a master baker — my chocolate-chip cookies will kick your ass — but my culinary skills otherwise have always left a little (read: big) something to be desired. Earlier in the week, I tried my hand at the pasta dish on the cover of this month's Real Simple. Sauteed red peppers and spinach with bocconcini (fresh mozzarella balls). And failed miserably. Oily, overly salty and downright gloppy where the cheese was concerned. So much for a simple one-pot meal. Next was an old standby, my great-grandmother's "Beef-a-Roni." I've been referring to it as ghetto goulash; it's essentially Hamburger Helper made from scratch. (With American cheese on top!) Hard to screw up and incredibly comforting…but not terribly inspiring. Well. Tonight. I had a bottle of hoisin sauce burning a hole in my cabinet, so I used it as a base for this sauce with plans to pair it with sauteed shrimp, sugar snap peas and brown rice. I scorched the garlic and red pepper flakes when the pan overheated, but I was delighted with how the sauce came out. I showered while the rice was cooking and returned to the kitchen when it was time to get the rest ready. The result?

Saturday night dinner Probably the best meal I've ever made. Just…perfect. As much as I love dining out, I think I could get used to staying in, too!

This post brought to you by the Hitching Post's Cargasacchi pinot noir. Which I totally geeked out over when I was in California in March — but didn't crack open until tonight.