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Low Carb or Keto Sheet Pan Dinners

Low Carb or Keto Sheet Pan Dinners

Love good food… don’t want carbs…no time to cook?  Enter the darling of busy, healthy people…. Sheet pan dinners.

low carb harissa chicken dinner made from a traybake or sheetpan approach
Low Carb Harissa Chicken dinner

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.

The best “pan” for Sheet pan dinners

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. This Large Sheet pan: is my favorite.

Sometimes called cookie sheets, these cooking trays are really helpful for one-pan dinners (called sheet pan dinners or traybake dinners) . You’ll often find them labeled as half sheet pans. 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 “How-To” Template:

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, crisp and roasted — not steamed and mushy.   The best way to achieve this wonderful crispy ideal is a combination of high heat (usually around 400-425 F) and enough food to fill in the space in your pan.   

Sheet-pan dinner with chicken & veggies
Sheet-pan dinner with chicken thighs & veggies

The main trick is to select proteins and veggies that will cook at approximately the same time. For chicken, this would be carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, asparagus, and garlic. Juicy tomatoes or more leafy vegetables might have to be held out of the roasting until the last 10 minutes.

Just don’t forget to spice it up! My favorite spices are smoked paprika or harissa. If you want to go spicier, try the jerk seasoning or the Peruvian Ultimate Hot (really hot!)

A good Mexican version of a sheet pan dinner might involve spreading adobo sauce over the chicken and vegetables before cooking. Yum!

Cooking Tutorial for Sheet pan dinners

If you prefer seeing it done rather than reading, check out this video which walks you through one recipe (with a few diet tips at the end).

Low Carb & Keto Harissa Chicken Traybake - Cooking Tutorial
Watch this video on YouTube.
Watch the Step by Step Video for More Details

Tips and Tricks to Sheet-pan Cooking

  1. If you want crispy proteins, leave the skin on chicken thighs or choose meat that will render its own fat.
  2. Use a piece of parchment paper to line your sheet pan with for fast and easy clean-up
  3. Frozen vegetables can be tossed onto the sheet pan without having to wait for them to thaw.
  4. Eggs and beans are great additions to make it something like a hash.
  5. 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!

Online Coaching Available:

I have followed the slow carb diet for 3 years and the keto diet for 2 years now, and I have put my “been there done that” knowledge to work helping people figure it out.  I am currently an online diet coach (info can be found here if you’re interested), and have just hit the 250 client mark.  Come and visit me and see if online coaching might be for you!

If not for diet, there are other coaches on the site that coach anything from writing a blog, to getting up early, to getting rid of that pesky procrastination.  Explore the site while you are there.  There are some wonderful coaches and the testimonials will tell you what you need to know.  Click here to get to my profile and then explore others from there.

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Gren Kanduth

Thursday 16th of January 2020

Due to health reasons, cannot eat spicy foods. What type spices or spice blends do you recommend for sheet pan dinners that will not be "hot"?

dorothy stainbrook

Thursday 16th of January 2020

Hi Gren, Great question! There are many spice blends that are not spicy and would work wonderfully on sheet pan dinners. It somewhat depends on what type of protein you are using, what your favorite tastes are, and whether you want to blend your own or purchase one.

My favorite non-spicy blends for chicken sheet pan dinners would be a combination of garlic, rosemary and thyme with a dijon mustard rub.

For white fish sheetpan dinners I love a combination of parsley, tarragon and chervil (with some fresh lemon)

For vegetable sheetpans a “herb de Provence” blend like lavender, fennel, basil and thyme works well (you can buy that in the grocery store also).

And if you prefer sweeter blends, they can work with sausage sheet pans. Something like pepper, cloves, nutmeg and ginger.

Hope that helps. Old Bay seasoning is a classic that my husband uses a lot.

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