Love good food… don’t want carbs…no time to cook? Enter the darling of the year, Sheet-pan dinners.
Can Sheet-pan dinners take the place of Fast Food?
In the 70’s the quick and easy dinner darling was Hamburger Helper (remember that?). In the 80s the crockpot was the way to go, as long as you added a spice packet of Lipton’s French Onion Soup. The 90’s were all about foods in pocket form, packaged salads and lunch kits, and things you could cook in the microwave or toaster (pizza bagels, pizza pockets, toaster strudels).
Somewhere around the 2000’s farmers’ markets really started to come into their own (in the US anyway), and the number of farmers markets offering fresh local produce has grown to the level of abundance. You can often find a good farmers market within 50 miles of your home these days.
The problem is our knowledge of how to cook with all this fresh produce is a bit rusty and the grandmothers are not always nearby anymore. Sheet-pan dinners might be the rescue dinner of the 2000’s. They are certainly gaining in popularity right now, and rightfully so.
What is the biggest complaint about Low Carb or Keto Lifestyles?
One of the biggest obstacles I have seen in coaching people on a range of different diets is the challenge of cooking whole foods at home. In particular cooking vegetables. It seems dieters these days fall into one of 3 camps:
- a stressed out professional who doesn’t have time;
- a busy parent (often a working parent) who needs to get something on the table without fuss;
- a non-cook who just isn’t familiar with cooking and is either intimidated to learn or has no interest
The thing everyone seems to have in common however, is we all like to eat. And we prefer eating something that tastes good! I have heard of some people that really don’t enjoy food or eating, but so far in my fairly lengthy life I have not met any of them.
Historically, sheet pans were a tool seen mostly in professional kitchens. You can get good ones in any kitchen store these days and they typically measure 18 x 13 inches with a lipped edge. You’ll often find them labeled as half sheet pans if you’re purchasing them from a restaurant supply store. If you have a pan at home that is a different size, don’t worry about it. As long as you have enough space to spread things out into a single layer, everything will be fine.
The idea around sheet-pan dinners is that they are easy and it allows you to be creative with whatever you have available. The idea is to get proteins and vegetables that cook up golden and crisp — not steamed and mushy? The best way to achieve this wonderful crispy ideal is a combination of high heat (usually around 425 F) and enough food to fill in the space in your pan. The only trick is to select proteins and veggies that will cook at approximately the same time. If you need help with deciding perfect combinations of proteins and vegetables this link to Food 52 is a great resource.
Tips and Tricks to Sheet-pan Cooking
- If you want crispy proteins, leave the skin on chicken thighs or choose meat that will render its own fat.
- Use a piece of parchment paper to line your sheet pan with for fast and easy clean-up
- Frozen vegetables can be tossed onto the sheet pan without having to wait for them to thaw.
- Eggs and beans are great additions to make it something like a hash.
- I like to add some lemon wedges to use to squeeze over the dish at the end. The fact that they are broiled lemon wedges makes them even more powerful of a taste treat.
Last week a neighbor brought us some lake fish (sun fish and croppies) and that went onto the sheet-pan with some chard, garlic, lemon wedges and fennel.
This week I went with chicken thighs, brussel sprouts, carrots, fennel, lemon and rosemary (see above photo).
It is really the simplest way to be a creative cook that I have seen in a long time. Not to mention I finally have a way to easily make all those vegetables from the farmers’ markets!
I will add the exact chicken recipe to this post next week. Otherwise check out the Food52 link and go wild!