Sheet pan dinners: Do dinner, not dishes

I hope the holidays brought many joy filled moments, lots of sweet memories and not too many extra pounds of fun to carry around. For most of us it’s definitely time to cut back on the rich holiday foods and get back to making some healthier choices.

I know it’s January, it’s cold outside and we’re still craving comfort foods, but it’s the perfect time to fire up the oven and try some healthy “sheet pan cooking” in the warmth and comfort of your own kitchen.

Last fall, in the October issue of Lakefront Lifestyles, I shared a Mediterranean sheet pan salmon recipe and had a number of readers try it out and give it a thumbs up. So for those of you who missed that article or have not heard of this type of cooking, let me bring you up to speed.

Sheet pan cooking allows you to cook your main course and side dishes all on one baking sheet pan. If you want something beautiful and tasty without messing up the whole kitchen or dirtying multiple pans, you’ve got to try this type of cooking.

Before you get started there are a few tips you need to know about sheet pan cooking.

You will need a commercial-grade baking sheet pan. Most recipes call for a 13” x 18” half sheet pan. You’ll want a heavy duty uncoated aluminized steel or natural aluminum one. This is important for even roasting, browning and durability, and a heavier sheet pan will not warp when baking at high temperatures.

You want to pair chicken, meat or fish with veggies that have similar cook times. It’s important to open the oven door and add or take away foods as they become tender. If you are roasting potatoes or other root vegetables that take a longer time to cook, roast those veggies until they’re almost done before adding your protein. Sometimes I even parboil them before I add them to the sheet pan. If you do start everything together, just pull the pieces that are finished cooking out first and keep roasting everything else until it’s tender.

How you place your food on the sheet pan matters. If you’re roasting veggies that need to be tossed midway through roasting next to a piece of fish that should not be tossed or turned, you’ll want to keep them on separate sides of the pan. I have also been known to use two different half sheet pans, separating some of the veggies from the protein.

Invest in a cooling rack that fits inside your sheet pan for those times when you want to layer your foods.

Garnish with fresh herbs just before serving to add color and flavor.

Sheet Pan Fajitas

Who doesn’t love fajitas? And the best part is they make great leftovers for lunch the next day.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • In a small bowl mix together 1⁄2 teaspoon of chili powder, cumin, paprika, coriander, salt and pepper. This will be your fajita seasoning.
  • 2-3 chicken breasts depending on the size (cut into 1” strips)
  • 3 bell peppers – red, yellow and/or green (remove seeds and cut into 1” strips)
  • 1 large or 2 medium white or yellow onions cut into 1” wedges
  • 3 whole garlic cloves, peel and leave whole
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh cilantro (chopped) Olive oil
  • Fresh lime juice and extra slices for garnish
  • Fresh flour tortillas


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Place the chicken and veggies on a heavy duty rimmed baking sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
  3. Sprinkle with your homemade fajita seasoning and toss.
  4. Drizzle with olive oil and toss well.
  5. It’s important that everything is flat on the sheet pan, preferably not touching, overlapping or overcrowded on the pan. Use a second pan if you have too much.
  6. Bake until chicken is cooked through, tossing once halfway through.
  7. Remove from the oven, squeeze fresh lime juice over mixture.
  8. Sprinkle freshly chopped cilantro over top.
  9. Serve in warmed tortillas.

One Pan Chicken, Kale and Protein Gratin One

This dish tastes as good as it looks and is great on a cold winter’s day.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 2 lb. russet potatoes, thinly sliced, unpeeled
  • 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 C. chopped baby kale, cleaned and veins removed
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1⁄2 C. heavy cream
  • 1 C. low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 lb. shredded chicken (I like to use the meat from a rotisserie chicken)
  • 2 C. shredded cheddar
  • 1⁄2 C. panko bread crumbs
  • 1⁄2 C. freshly grated parmesan, plus more for garnish
  • 1⁄4 C. chopped parsley
  • Optional: dash of red pepper flakes


  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash and dry potatoes, then attach a slicing blade to a food processor and set thickness to 1/8”, or use a mandolin. (Thickness of potato can affect cooking time.) Trim ends of potato and slice, without removing peel, then set aside in a large mixing bowl.
  • In a large skillet over medium heat add 1 tablespoon olive oil and cook garlic, onion and kale for about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then sprinkle flour all over and whisk with butter until flour is absorbed. Add cream and chicken stock; bring to a boil and simmer for 1 minute, then mix in chicken and cheddar. Add mixture to potatoes and combine carefully without breaking the potato slices.
  • In a small mixing bowl toss together bread crumbs and parmesan with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Spread the chicken and potato mixture evenly on a large rimmed sheet pan or two half sheet pans. Top with bread crumb mixture and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes (check that potatoes are dire) and finish under the broiler until golden brown, about 1 minute.
  • Garnish with parmesan and parsley, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a dash of red pepper flakes. Serve immediately.

Sheet Pan Garlic Herb Butter Chicken & Potatoes

Sheet Pan Garlic Herb Butter Chicken is a complete sheet pan chicken dinner with roasted potatoes and green beans. Great taste and half the fat of a regular butter sauce for chicken; no one will know the difference!

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 1/3 C. chicken broth or stock
  • 1⁄4 C. melted butter
  • 4 cloves peeled garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1⁄2 tsp. coarse kosher salt
  • Freshly cracked pepper (to taste)
  • 4 (5 oz. chicken breasts) boneless, skinless
  • 1 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” pieces
  • 1 lb. green beans (or asparagus)


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Lightly grease a baking tray/sheet with cooking oil spray or a light coating of oil. Set aside.
  3. Combine together the butter, broth (or stock), garlic, parsley, thyme and rosemary together in a bowl.
  4. Place chicken breasts on the baking sheet and arrange the potatoes all around the chicken.
  5. Toss 1⁄2 cup of sauce through the chicken and potatoes, and season well with salt and pepper.
  6. Lightly spray all over with olive oil spray or cooking oil spray.
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes, or when potatoes just start to become golden.
  8. Carefully remove baking tray from the oven and flip each chicken breast.
  9. Move the potatoes to one side and place the green beans around the chicken on the other side of the baking sheet. Pour the remaining garlic herb butter sauce over the beans, toss well and return to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through (no longer pink in the middle) and potatoes are tender.
  10. Broil (or grill) for 2-3 minutes until chicken is golden and potatoes crisp.
  11. Sprinkle with fresh chopped herbs (optional), and serve immediately with pan juices.

Happy New Year! Stay warm, get to the boat show this month, and don’t forget to look at your calendar if you’re dreaming of a trip to Italy. I have three fabulous trips to three amazing regions in Italy this fall with Viva Italy Tours, LLC. You can go to my website for details and sign up information. “Life is short, don’t put off until tomorrow what can do today!” See you next month with a Romantic Saint Valentine’s Wine Pairing Dinner.

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