By BARB FORD
kitchen creativity seems to be waning. You want to feed your family a good, hot meal. But the crock pot has been overused and they will despair if you hand them one more bowl of soup or stew, one more slow cooked meal. If the grocery store seems to have slim pickings and your energy for cooking is low, try another easy alternative to the slow cooker-the cookie sheet or sheet pan. If you plan ahead a bit, you can create a delicious, healthy family meal that will feed four to six hungry folks for less than twenty dollars and in less than an hour. The idea here is to use your oven and let it do the work. With a little ingenuity and a sheet of aluminum foil, you can have a fabulous meal without much in the way of work-or dishes to clean up! Here's how.
Plan a meal that will work well in the oven together. This might be a combination of root vegetables and a small meat roast. It could be oven fried chicken or pork chops paired with roasted cauliflower or Brussels sprouts. It might even be a thick fish fillet or steak paired with asparagus or squash.
The idea is to pick an entrée and vegetables that will cook in about the same amount of time and that you like together. I like the combination of a good, thick piece of fresh fish drizzled with olive oil and lemon, then baked alongside some sliced zucchini tossed with dill weed, salt and pepper. My mother used to love cooking thick pork chops nestled on a pan with thick slices of onions and potatoes tossed with oil and some Italian seasonings. Other friends I know like to cook a seasoned pork tenderloin on a sheet pan with whole button mushrooms tossed in garlic oil alongside it.
Last week, my grocery store had boneless, skinless chicken thighs on sale. They also had some lovely cauliflower. I tried out the sheet pan theory and turned out a wonderful weekday dinner! The chicken thighs turned out golden brown, meaty and crispy. The cauliflower took on a whole new character when roasted alongside the chicken.-it became nutty and brown with a rich flavor that was almost addictive! I added a nice salad and had dinner on the table in no time and for less than fifteen dollars. Here are the recipes.
Parmesan Baked Chicken Thighs
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
½ teaspoon hot sauce
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup breadcrumbs
½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon dried herbs de Provence
½ teaspoon each salt and pepper
Mix the buttermilk, Old Bay and hot sauce together in a large bowl. Put the chicken thighs into the buttermilk mixture. If you have time, let the chicken marinate in the buttermilk, chilled in the refrigerator for a few hours. If not, just make sure the chicken is thoroughly coated with the buttermilk. Preheat the oven to 400oF. Line a cookie sheet or sheet pan with foil and spray it with cooking spray. In a large zip lock plastic bag, mix the breadcrumbs, Herbs de Provence and salt and pepper. Remove the chicken a piece at a time from the buttermilk and toss each piece in the bag of breadcrumbs until it is well coated. Lay the pieces our on the prepared sheet pan. Bake them for 40 to 45 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the crust is browned. If you want to be sure it is crisp all the way around, flip the chicken halfway through the baking time.
Garlic Roasted Cauliflower
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 400oF. Line a sheet pan with foil or parchment paper. Mix the garlic and salt together and reserve. In a large plastic zip lock bag, toss the cauliflower in the oil. Place the cauliflower on the prepared sheet pan, then sprinkle the florets well with the garlic and salt combination. Roast in the oven for forty minutes, or until the edges of the cauliflower are starting to brown.