I find that at the end of each season (ugh yes, it’s the end of summer, SIGH), I get into a bit of a dinnertime rut. I lean on a handful of go-to recipes each season – in the summer, lots of grilling – and they can feel a bit tired after several weeks in the rotation. As I sat down to do my weekly plan this week I was itching for some inspiration and dug into my cookbook collection in our kitchen. As I flipped through a few of my go-to cookbooks, I thought I’d start a list of the favorites I use for dinner ideas again and again. This list has several dinner-idea classics, a few that I use in specific situations (like when I’m looking to eat healthier) and a few that are totally new to me that I’ve been using for recent inspiration. I hope they spark some dinnertime creativity in you too!
Barefoot Contessa Foolproof, by Ina Garten | My all-time favorite meal time muse is none other than the Barefoot Contessa herself: Ina Garten. My collection of Ina Garten books are the ones that are the most well-loved – full of olive oil splatters and flour dustings and little pencil marks. In addition to my favorite — Barefoot Contessa Foolproof — I also always flip open Make It Ahead: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook and Cooking for Jeffery for dinner ideas.
Half Baked Harvest, by Tieghan Gerard | I got this book for Christmas last year and was delighted to see the pages were as drool-worthy as Tieghan’s Instagram page and blog. I sort of hate the term “food porn” but that’s exactly what these recipes and images are. If you’re looking to get inspired about dinner, not just ready to make to dinner, then this is the book for you!
Feeding a Family, by Sarah Waldman | This book is beautifully organized by seasons and has lots of little notes for how to adapt recipes to include babies and toddlers in the meal. It’s full of recipes that are healthy without being “health food” and genuinely want to make me eat my veggies. The recipes are built for busy families so they’re quick and simple and full of creative ideas that get me excited to get cooking dinner.
Smitten Kitchen, by Deb Perelman | This book isn’t just for dinner inspiration, it’s got a little bit of everything in it – snacks, brunch, and main course. It’s one of those books on my shelf that has a dozen sticky notes peeking out of the top where I’ve marked recipes – and that’s how you know it’s good!
Masala and Meatballs, by Asha Shivakumar | When I get into a dinner rut, it’s usually because I’m falling back on my staple recipes. My sister gave me this book and what I love about it is that it pushes me out of my comfort zone and challenges me to experiment with other flavor profiles. I love Indian food but found cooking it at home intimidating until I read this cookbook. It has so many delicious recipes, one of my favorites is an Indian-style naan pizza with flavorful chicken shredded on top!
SkinnyTaste, by Gina Homolcka | If there is one website I turn to for dinner inspiration when I’m looking to get back on track with healthy cooking, SkinnyTaste is always where I start. I have no clue how she can come up with that many ideas, but it’s basically an encyclopedia of dinner ideas. The SkinnyTaste book is a great place to turn to for inspiration, as well as One and Done for one-pan/pot meals and Fast and Slow with meals under 30 minutes or that can be prepped in a slow cooker.
Dinner: Changing the Game, by Melissa Clark | This is a new-to-me cookbook that I picked up at my local library. The photography is beautiful and I loved the variety in the recipes for fresh dinner ideas. It especially had great inspiration for new ways to cook veggies – both as entrees and side dishes.
Dinner: A Love Story, by Jenny Rosenstrach | This book was recently recommended to me by a friend who said it read like a novel packed with recipes and dinner ideas and I knew I had to check it out! My favorite part was reading the author’s own reviews of her recipes that she noted in her decades long dinner journal – did her research! The recipes are unfussy, simple, but fresh and flavorful – which is just what I’m looking for on a busy weeknight.
Food52 A New Way to Dinner, by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs | This book is also new to me, another one I tested as a library book first! If you’re someone who likes to get organized and meal plan, this is the book for you. The chapters are organized with meal plans and grocery lists and show you how to prep food for the week ahead to save time, and use up ingredients and leftovers. It’s the whole game plan and recipe inspiration in one. I also recommend checking out one of the other books in the Food52 series — Mighty Salads – for tons of fresh salad ideas that you can make for lunch or dinner!
PS: There is one more cookbook with all of my own personal favorite recipes in it and it’s coming out in just a few weeks! Don’t forget to pre-order my first entertaining cookbook — New England Invite: Fresh Feasts to Savor the Seasons — so you can get cooking when it launches on October 1st!