Weeknight Cooking

A New Cookbook Filled With Speedy Weeknight Dinner Inspiration

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January 19, 2018

On a busy day, it can be hard to find the energy to cook. That's why we've partnered with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and its new cookbook, Whole30 Fast & Easy by Melissa Hartwig. It's full of wholesome recipes that come together quickly and easily, making weekday cooking a cinch.

Instead of trying to hold myself to unrealistic New Year’s resolutions, this year I’ve decided to make practical, no-pressure adjustments to my everyday life instead. Things like trying to get more sleep by putting my phone away earlier so I don’t scroll Twitter right before bed, or more glaringly: chipping away at my weeknight takeout habit by making more of my own meals.

Roasted salmon with tomatoes and fennel comes together in 35 minutes and uses just one pan. Photo by Gazalle Badiozamani, courtesy Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Historically, my biggest obstacle to cooking after long days at work has been finding light, easy recipes I can make relatively quickly and still actually enjoy. But in the first few weeks of 2018, I’ve been able to stop my search in a surprising place: Whole30 Fast & Easy by Melissa Hartwig, a cookbook designed for the 30-day dietary regimen known as the Whole30. Since I’m not planning on diving into a diet anytime soon, I’m using the book instead to carve out some go-to weeknight meals I can return to all year long—not just for 30 days.

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The book covers over 150 recipes in eight chapters, each devoted to a different category, from salads to soups and stews. Throughout each one, the emphasis is on convenience. The ingredients are generally familiar and easy to find; many dishes require just one pan; and the majority of recipes included (aside from those made in a slow cooker) come together in 30 minutes or less.

The cookbook is full inspiring dishes, including the pork, apple, and fennel radicchio cups and slow cooker shakshuka with artichoke dishes shown here. Photo by Ghazalle Badiozamani, courtesy Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

My two favorite chapters cover skillet meals and sheet pan dinners, respectively, which I was automatically drawn to because they only require dirtying one pan. There’s nothing totally out of the box in the skillet section, which means there’s a good chance you can use this chapter to loosely follow along with whatever you have in your fridge. The dishes are comforting, but among the fastest in the book—I whipped up a pan-seared steak with chimichurri and Brussels slaw in 20 minutes, start to finish.

In the sheet pan section, the suggested combinations are fantastic. Think things like rosemary-garlic chicken with bacon-wrapped cabbage, mustard-rubbed pork tenderloin with rosemary carrots, or roasted salmon with tomatoes and fennel (pictured at top). These are the kind of meals that would be ideal for when you’re hosting the in-laws or a group of friends—they’re super-easy to make (and clean up!), but look wildly impressive and taste just as good.

But there are bright ideas throughout, not just in those two chapters. One of the biggest hits in my kitchen so far has been Hartwig’s recipe for BBQ-pulled-chicken lettuce wraps, which I’ve made three times in the last two weeks. They’re delicious, make good leftovers for lunch or another dinner, and use a few smart substitutions to make the dish lighter (chicken instead of the usual pork, and crispy romaine leaves instead of a potato bun).

The fact that everything in the book is Whole30 compliant truly becomes an afterthought when you start to dig through the pages. As someone who has tried the regimen in the past and found it difficult to maintain without a great deal of preparation and creativity, it’s safe to say I would’ve gotten a lot further than day nine had I consulted this book. For anyone interested in trying the Whole30 out, it would be a great resource. As for the rest of us? It’s all about making dinner faster, lighter, and easier than ever.

Do you have any favorite recipes or resources for fast, simple, weeknight dinners? Share them in the comments!

Whether you're preparing to follow the Whole30 regimen or simply working more wholesome foods into your lifestyle, get inspired by our partner Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's new cookbook, Whole30 Fast & Easy by Melissa Hartwig. The book features 150 recipes for quick, easy, light weekday meals—all of which are Whole30 compliant.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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