By now, you are surely aware that I’m a person who likes data and information. I collect it almost without thought, whether it’s the number of tomatoes we harvest in a summer or the amount we spent on Chipotle in 2014 (thank you, budget record keeping for the last decade). Another prime example: as I was making our weekly menu on Saturday, I realized that I had inadvertently collected a record of our weekly menus for all of 2021. (I clear out the backlog in our recipe binder periodically, but hadn’t done so in a while, I guess!) Being the curious person I am, I immediately started tallying to figure out our most popular meals from the last year, just for fun. Want to see? :)
1. Chickpea, Kale, and Sausage Pasta | No surprises here! This is the favorite meal of pretty much everyone in our house (June chose it for her birthday dinner!). Turns out we made it 18 times in the last year, or about once every three weeks.
2. Spaghetti | This is a bit of a catch-all, as we rotate between spaghetti, bucatini, and linguine for our noodle of the day. For the sauce, I’ll usually brown ground beef and a diced onion then add in lots of Rao’s marinara and serve with garlic bread and a green salad (with Olive Garden dressing – did you know they sell it in grocery stores??). (16 times)
3. Chicken Tikka Masala | This has been a favorite for years – I can practically make it in my sleep! Making the masala paste is the most time-intensive part, but one batch yields enough for 4-6 meals (I measure out the amount needed per recipe and toss the bags in the freezer). We add frozen peas and serve with jasmati rice and naan. (13 times)
4. Grilled Chicken Shawarma | This is more of a warm-weather recipe, which makes it an impressive number four (11 times!). The marinade makes the most tender chicken. We serve it with the garlic yogurt sauce (in the recipe), rice pilaf, cut cucumbers and cherry tomatoes, mini naan, and hummus.
5. Pulled Pork Sandwiches | Super simple: put 3-5 pounds of boneless pork shoulder roast in the Instant Pot. Add a chopped onion and two cans of Coke, then pressure cook for 3 hours. Shred the pork in a stand mixer, pour out the onions and liquid, add the pork back to the cooker, then stir in your barbecue sauce of choice (we use a mixture of Sweet Baby Ray’s and a local Eastern NC vinegar sauce). Serve on Martin’s potato rolls with coleslaw and your sides of choice (highly recommend a catering tray of Chick-fil-a mac and cheese). This will make leftovers, which we like to put on pizza, make into tacos with guacamole, or freeze for an easy dinner later. (9 times)
6. Homemade Pizza | We use the dough from Publix and rotate between cheese, poblano and bell pepper, and buffalo chicken versions. (8 times)
We had a three-way tie for seventh place…
7. Hot Dog Cookout | This becomes an almost-weekly staple in the summer months: hot dogs and buns; cucumber, tomato, and balsamic vinaigrette salad; corn on the cob; and Bush’s baked beans. Ideally followed by s’mores or peach and blackberry cobbler. Perfection. (7 times)
7. Orzo Italiano | This is the only meal on the list that one member of our family doesn’t care for; if that wasn’t the case, I’d probably make it even more often! This is a go-to when we bring a meal to a friend. (7 times)
7. Chicken Pot Pie | My Dad and I share a deep love for chicken pot pie, a love I seem to be successfully passing on to my children. I use Pillsbury pie dough for a shortcut, and it’s easy enough to double the filling to freeze half for later. We serve with Honeycrisp apples! (7 times)
10. Beach Street Pasta | Thanks to the soy sauce in the marinade, this very-easy pasta has such a unique flavor! I add halved cherry tomatoes for more veggies and am considering adding spinach, too. (6 times)
Honorable mentions to…
Pizza Soup | We only found this recipe in the second half of the year, which again makes it an impressive member of this list! Another easy Instant Pot recipe that everyone loves – we add a salad and cheesy garlic bread to make it a meal. Also delicious as leftovers. (5 times)
Grilled Quesadillas | Have you ever made quesadillas on the grill? YUM! They get so melty and crispy – definitely my favorite way of making them. Our typical filling is a can of drained-and-rinsed pinto beans, sauteed green bell pepper and onion, and cheese. We serve with guacamole, tortilla chips, and boxed Mexican rice if I’m feeling fancy. (5 times)
And there you have it — our top 10+ meals from the last year! I share them not because they’re the most impressive recipes, but in the hopes that 1) they might give you some ideas for your own tables (they are our favorites, after all!) and 2) they might encourage you in what you already know: that dinners don’t have to be fancy to be delicious or beloved.
I’d love to hear what you think the most-made dinner in your home was last year! I’d particularly love to hear if you have a go-to, EASY vegetarian favorite: I would love for my top-ten list to include more vegetarian plates in 2022!