The Ultimate Lazy Cooking
a.k.a. Quick Dinners For When You Don't Feel Like Cooking
Sometimes I'm stuck in a dinner rut. Uninspired, bored with my options, a combination of all of these, or straight up don't feel like making the effort to cook. On those nights, if I don't turn to my favorite takeout, a sheet pan dinner is my easy solution. Sometimes so easy, it feels like I'm cheating by calling it a home-cooked meal since you're really just assembling ingredients. But it still counts as cooking dinner!
Sheet pan dinners are a great option for using any random fruits and veggies in your fridge and clearing out your freezer. They are easy prep and easy cleanup too. You can also easily adapt meals you like into a sheet pan dinner, as well as accommodating different tastes and diets all in one meal and with the most important part: minimal effort. How great is that? Once you've got the method down, you can play around.
It's a simple method, really. Here's how I do it:
- Coat your protein and vegetables of choice with Mojo Garlic Sauce.
- Evenly space in sections by ingredient on a baking sheet in one layer.
- Bake at 400 degrees until done.
That's really it, but I've learned some tips and tricks to making this all come together even better.
- Drying your proteins- you can cook from frozen or fridge cold, but allow for more time and wetness on you baking sheet. So you might need to cook for a few minutes to get everything dry. And when you're baking or roasting, you want the food dry so it can properly roast instead of steaming from all the moisture.
- Don't overcrowd your baking sheet- you won't get even cooking and will probably get more moisture (aka steaming) in the oven which means you won't get that beautiful color on your food.
- If you're looking to cut down on cooking time, you'll need to do a few things: cut down proteins and vegetables into smaller, more evenly sized pieces. If you buy pre-cut veggies and a boneless protein, this will be even quicker.
- Add any other dried herbs or spices when you add your mojo garlic sauce. Fresh herbs are delicate do don't hold up well to high temperature cooking, so use them as garnish to add a fresh flavor after cooking.
- If you have a convection or air-fryer setting on your oven or toaster oven, use it. You'll cut down on cooking time. If you use a rack to elevate your protein or veggies for convection cooking, you'll get a more even cook since the heat can disburse all around the ingredients.
- Using parchment paper, aluminum foil, or a silicon mat will make it even easier to clean up after cooking.
- For delicate foods like fish, make a pouch from parchment paper or aluminum foil for it to steam and seal in juices. It's harder to try and put back in moisture, so keep it sealed until cooked. You can always open it and get a nice color on it for a few minutes at the end.
- You can make several meals or even three courses on one sheet! Use foil like a divider and section off the baking sheet if you don't want ingredients and flavors to mix. You can totally plan an appetizer, entree, and dessert all at once!
- You can serve on plates straight from the sheet pan, or put the sheet pan as the centerpiece of the table. This saves on time doing dishes!
Here are some of my favorite sheet pan dinners:
- Shrimp "No" Boil- all the flavors of a shrimp boil, but even easier to make.
- Sheet Pan Fajita- make it a trio with shrimp, and strips of chicken and steak!
- Kielbasa with Cabbage, onions, and pierogis. Roasted cabbage changes the game!
- Italian sausages with squash & fruit- totally interchangeable for seasonal eating: Fall with apples & hard squashes, Summer with peaches and summer squash. The salty sweet combo is incredible.
- Any cut of chicken with vegetables- also great for meal prepping!
- Tomatoes and veggies (and a sturdy cheese if you like)- this is essentially like letting your oven make a pasta sauce for you. Once done and saucy, toss with pasta, if you'd like to take an extra step to make pasta or have leftover pasta.
- Baked cod with potatoes, onions, olives, capers or tomatoes, eggplants, and zucchini.
- Steaks- if you have a rack to elevate it, place your veggies underneath so that the juices season your veggies too!
You can even adapt sheet pan baking for breakfast & brunch. It's very crowd friendly since everything will cook at the same time. This avoids the hardest part of serving breakfast foods since they usually are done at all different times so food gets cold. Think of adding muffin tins or silicone molds to the baking tray with your potatoes and sausage or bacon!
Have you tried any sheet pan dinners you love? Let us know if you try any of our ideas and how they come out!