Start 2018 off strong and channel all of that new year’s motivation into something great with our top 10 meals of 2017, as rated by our cooking community!
Looking back on 2017, one of my favorite parts of the year has been our team meetings where we go over feedback and ratings for our meal plan recipes. I love this part of my job so much that even during maternity leave, I continued to participate and call in just to hear what our members had to say about our meals.
Feedback matters so much to us, and we always like to discuss what worked and what didn’t work so we can improve and make each year of meals better than the last.
From the ratings and reviews, this year’s meals were our best yet. We tried a new creative process this year, but I think the main reason is that Jess S., our meal planner, has grown to become a total genius at understanding what meals work best for our members.
In the spirit of the new year – and to kickstart 2018 being the year of NO EXCUSES in the kitchen – we put together a list of our top 10 meals of 2017. Included with the meals below are the average ratings which are out of 4 stars. (Our rating system ranks from 1 being “Boo, didn’t like it” to 4 being “So delicious! Can’t wait to make it again”!)
For those of you that tried and loved these meals, we hope that this will be a great motivation to revisit them and start the year off strong in the kitchen! And for those that haven’t checked them out, it’ll be a great place to start expanding your repertoire and checking out some tried-and-true hits, verified by thousands of other home cooks just like you.
1. Beef and Barley Soup | Average Rating 3.61
This warm, comforting soup was our top-rated meal of 2017, proving that simple ingredients can produce super flavorful results. This recipe consists of ingredients you can find year-round, so you can make this dish anytime you crave warmth and comfort.
Many of our meal plan members simplified the recipe even more by making it in an Instant Pot for a quick weeknight dinner. (Some of our members are huge Instant Pot fans; they created a Facebook Group dedicated to converting our meal plan recipes to be Instant Pot-friendly! You can join here.)
“Super easy, doubled the recipe to have leftovers. Delicious, filling, husband raved about it. Will definitely make again.”
– Katharine M.
“My husband couldn’t get over how good this meal was! He kept telling me it was the best Cook Smarts recipe we’ve made and to star it as a favorite. It made us feel like we were eating a deconstructed salmon avocado sushi roll – which we love! Thanks for the yummy recipe, can’t wait to make again.”
– Lauren L.
“A super quick meal packed with amazing flavor. There was not a drop left. The kids initially ‘eww’-ed at the strawberry / dressing combo . . . but then were amazed by how the flavors came together.”
– Meghan U.
3. Maple-Dijon Panko Salmon | Average Rating 3.59
If we had to pick a signature dish for Cook Smarts, we would pick this one. It is everything that defines Cook Smarts – easy to make, uses ingredients you have in your pantry, healthy and flavorful, and comforting but unique enough to make dinnertime memorable. The crunchy topping, which is a blend of sweet and savory flavors, is a huge hit with our cooking community, and we’re thrilled this dish made it to our top 10!
“We love the Maple-Dijon Panko Salmon. So easy to put together, and so tasty. Another successful meal for my baby. Finished the whole plate with a big smile, again!”
– Eileen T.
4. Sausage and Shrimp Gumbo & Creamy Chard and Mushroom Stroganoff | Average Rating 3.58
Here we have another tie for 4th place! With Creole roots, the Shrimp & Sausage Gumbo is a hearty, flavorful stew that combines shrimp, andouille sausage, and a delicious medley of vegetables.
For a vegetarian-friendly option, the rich and creamy Chard & Mushroom Stroganoff, served over egg noodles, makes for a perfect cool-weather meal filled with heartiness despite being meatless.
“Really warm, filling dish for the colder nights. I was shocked at how good okra could be . . . I’m always thankful when only one pot is really involved.“
– Jennifer B.
“This meal is literally one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. The layers of flavor – savory mushrooms, the wine, the kick of the red pepper flakes, the bright lemon finish – are exactly what a meal should deliver, and did it ever. I followed the recipe to a tee and it was heaven!”
– Leanna H.
5. Curried Turkey Pot Pie & Slow Cooker Carnitas Tacos | Average Rating 3.57
In 5th place, you’ll find our Curried Turkey Pot Pie and Slow Cooker Carnitas Tacos. The Curried Pot Pie is no ordinary pot pie. We get creative with this dish by mixing ground turkey, coconut milk, and fragrant spices under a crisp pastry shell for a winning combination.
Want to take your meal south of the border? Our Slow Cooker Carnitas Tacos – served on tortillas with avocado, onion, and salsa – make for a quintessential Mexican meal that is totally addictive.
“This was really good, and the whole family went pretty bonkers for it.”
– William H.
“The meat was very flavorful and crisping the meat is a must. I loved the pumpkin seeds in the salad. Overall great combo!”
– Christy P.
6. Cajun Tilapia with Blistered Cherry Tomatoes & Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken & Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Tomato Pesto | Average Rating 3.51
You’ll feel like a total pro preparing these three meals! Searing cherry tomatoes until they blacken and burst concentrates their flavor, making them the perfect topping for Cajun-spiced tilapia.
And everyone loves a dressed-up chicken breast, whether it’s wrapped in prosciutto or stuffed with homemade sun-dried tomato pesto. The best part? These crowd-pleasers are way easier to make than they look.
“This was so good! We absolutely loved this dish and already added it to our list of recipes to make for friends and family.”
– Lyndsey B.
“The prosciutto wrapped chicken and lemon-butter broccoli is so delicious, and SO easy! My kids gobbled it up (broccoli first!) and negotiated over who got the last bites of chicken. I love that I could easily whip this up from stuff I always have in the fridge if I just buy a package of prosciutto. Definitely will become a staple and a favorite!”
– Martine K.
“Probably one of the fanciest meals I’ve ever made! It was excellent!”
– Allison G.
This list is a just the starting point for some sure-fire hits to kick off the new year. In the spirit of continual improvement, we’ve got hundreds of new favorites coming this year. You can see a couple of our new meal plans of the year here and here.
If you’re not a member of our meal plan service yet, there’s no excuse to not join today. (Remember – this is the year of NO EXCUSES in the kitchen! 😉 )
A subscription to our meal plan service starts at $6 / month, and you can have access to all of the recipes above. You can cancel anytime and an entire month will pay for itself in just one meal cooked . . . because we all know how much takeout can cost!
As always, we’re here to help you live your best life in the kitchen and provide delicious memories for you and your family. If you sign up for our newsletter below, we’ll send you great cooking tips and resources that will help you raise your kitchen IQ and cook with confidence.