By Tam McClure
Fall is a great time of year for your family’s favorite comfort foods. Unfortunately, it’s also the time of year when we are busier than ever. School is in session coupled with all sorts of after school events, fall festivals, fairs and getting a jump on holiday shopping. It seems everyone is searching for ways to save a little time.
Sheet pan dinners are a nutritious, time-saving option for those busy fall days. These easy meals cook together on one large sheet pan, leaving you time to take care of other things. The bulk of the work can be done the night before or even the weekend before. Just wash and chop up your fresh veggies and pop them in zipper bags to use later. Line your sheet pan in foil and you save yourself dish duty too!
Bratwurst or chicken are perfect for sheet pan dinners. We won’t call them recipes since this method of cooking lets you choose your ingredients and spices based on what you have on hand, your family’s individual tastes or your mood. Here are two suggestions.
For a chicken dinner, chop up your favorite vegetables like broccoli, peppers, mushrooms, onions, asparagus, cauliflower or even Brussels sprouts and toss on a foil lined sheet pan with boneless chicken breasts or tenders. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over it all with about two teaspoons of some of your favorite spices. Some suggestions are chili or taco seasoning, or keep it simple with just salt and pepper or a lemon pepper blend. Other options are Greek, Italian or Cajun seasoning blends. Bake for 20-30 minutes at 350 F degrees, until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are done. If using asparagus, you might want to add them about halfway into the cooking time, to prevent overcooking.
For a fresh (not smoked) bratwurst or Italian sausage dinner, just raise the temp to 425 degrees and include tougher vegetables like halved red or fingerling potatoes. Add sliced onions and peppers and roast it all with a about a tablespoon or two of olive oil drizzled over the vegetables with a bit of salt and pepper. Cover tightly with foil and roast for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and turn the oven on broil for about three to five minutes to brown the brats and veggies and cook off some of the natural moisture. Serve the brats and veggies directly off the sheet pan or toast some buns and serve as sandwiches with the potatoes on the side. These free-form dinners allow you to be creative in the kitchen, feed your family a nutritious dinner and reduce the amount of clean up. A win-win for every busy cook.