Top 10 Quick Dinners

As my dinner diary
approaches its 20th birthday (February 22, people, what are you getting me?) I’ve noticed that flipping back through the years to see what was for dinner has become more of an archaeological exercise than a practical one. I love that on Page One, Week One we cooked “Fresh Pasta with Amatriciana Sauce,” a recipe from a cookbook written by Julee Rosso, one-half of uber-80s Silver Palate team; and that once the babies came along, there were countless dinners marked “from the FREEZER.” It stands to reason that our tastes have evolved as much as our lives have. The go-to quick weeknight meals back then were a lot of ground-meat-based, hand-me-down ideas from our moms (chili, sloppy Joe’s, turkey bolognese) and though they’ll never go out of style, they definitely don’t get the love they used to. What is getting the love these days on the quick weeknight front? More vegetarian, or as they say, “vegetable-forward” dinners, and, still, lots and lots of chicken. My current Top 10…

Salad Pizza (pictured) I know all you stalwarts have my old-school oregano-y one in mind, but I’m delighted to break a little news here. The one shown above is my 2.0 salad pizza, developed for the February issue of Bon Appétit. Unlike the classic, there’s no red sauce, just Bibb lettuce tossed with pickled onions and gorgonzola, and a little prosciutto draped on top. It couldn’t be quicker or better.

Tortilla Soup It’s insane how much we make this. There is the version where you start with a rotisserie chicken and use storebought tortilla chips, and there is the version where you don’t. Obviously the one without the shortcuts is going to taste a little better, but both are fast and satisfying.

Baked Mustard-Panko Chicken This one is not only on my MVP circuit. I saw last week that it was also one of the most popular recipes on Bon Appétit. It is my new default dinner, the place my brain goes as soon as I spy a pack of chicken thighs, and something about the mustardy tang of it reminds me of a dish my mom used to make when I was little.

Crispy Ginger Tofu with Green Vegetables  OK, full disclosure. This is only on the dinner rotation known as “when-the-kids-are-out dinners” (neither like tofu, some things never change), but it’s amazing how often that is these days.

Sushi Bowls (Salmon or Poke)  They take a little planning on the shopping front, but if you have all you need, you get a pretty damn high return on investment on the speediness and deliciousness front.

Chopped Rotisserie Chicken Salad with Green Things I owe this habit to my discovery of Nate Appleman’s instagram feed. I never make it the same way twice because it always depends on what straggler vegetables I have lying around. I do, however, pretty reliably drizzle in the Asian vinaigrette. It’s good.

A Simple Pan-Fried Chicken or Fish
 paired with Chili-Glazed Broccoli or Fattoush or a Caesar Salad. When you have a really good salad or vegetable, you don’t need to get fancy with the protein.

Black Bean Burritos
Those of you who have been around long enough recognize this as a DALS classic (look at the date on that post!) but after not making them for a while, I’ve recently rediscovered them as the perfect short-order kind of dinner for a kid if she has to eat before her babysitting job or after a late practice. The quick-pickled onions are easy enough to make, but it’s awesome if you have a stash made ahead of time.

From the Archives:
Page 1 of Dinner Diary, Volume 1. Chicken Pot Pie is still in the regular rotation, as are scallops. Inspired to start your own dinner diary? This’ll do.

See you in 2038!

Related: Top 10 Quick Weeknight Dinners circa 2011.

Salad pizza photo credit: Bobbi Lin for Bon Appetit.

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Tina M Bebbington

I love that you reliably provide alternatives for those of us who can’t use processed food (for us, it’s food allergies. Nothing made ‘in store’, nothing from the deli counter or salad bar, nothing from a buffet-type operation. I have to chop our own veggies, too). Thank you! I have learned to plan ahead, cook a fake rotisserie style chicken in my crock pot, sometimes overnight, and then strip the meat to use in all the rotisserie chicken using recipes.


That chicken tortilla soup is on heavy rotation over here! I add a decent dose of chili powder and chipotle in adobo if I have it on hand, along with corn (would love hominy but can’t find it here in London) to bulk it up a bit. It is so incredibly easy, delicious, and healthy. The crispy tortilla strips are a must! Thanks for the recipes, as always 🙂


Happy anniversary, Jenny! Thanks for taking us all along on the delicious ride. We have gained so much from your generous storytelling and sharing over the years. Here’s to many more happy, healthy years of the dinner diary!


Thank you for vegetarian, or, as they say, “vegetable forward” dinners. I appreciated the pizza salad more than that. Very tasty and useful.


Inspired by you, I actually have been keeping a dinner diary for over two years. Though unlike the original premise of using it to plan ahead, I use it re record all the meals we eat, along with notes. So if I’m stumped for dinner, I’ll quickly flip through last year’s list during the same season to see what was a favorite. It’s oddly satisfying to scroll through all the pates and see what we have been eating!