When you are on a strict gluten-free diet, calling up for take-out really isn’t an option. So with the fast paced lives we all seem to live these days, how do you get good, clean, nourishing food on the table and still get the kids back out the door to their activities?

How would you like to be able to have dinner on the table fast and with very little cleanup? It is possible, and no it’s not the crock pot. Sheet pan dinners are simple, satisfying, can be customized to your family’s tastes, and in a lot of cases, can be ready in 30 minutes or less.

Here are some tips to help you get started creating your own sheet pan dinners:

Make cleanup a breeze 

To make cleanup easy, line your sheet pan with either parchment paper or Silpat Silicone Baking Sheets.  A lot of recipes recommend aluminum foil as an option also, I personally do not recommend that, because I don’t want the aluminum from the aluminum foil leaching into my food. I just think that we have enough aluminum finding its way into our diets and bodies from things that we can’t control, so I like to keep it out of the things I can control, like my cooking.

Choose your veggies wisely 

When you’re choosing vegetables for your sheet pan recipes, pick veggies that have similar cooking times so that you don’t end up with some cooked perfectly and others either overcooked or undercooked.  Pick similar vegetable families. For examples, winter squash, think butternut, acorn, or pumpkin, summer squash, think zucchini, or yellow squash, root vegetables, think potatoes, beets, carrots or turnips, or some of my favorite roasted vegetables are cruciferous ones. Think broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussel’s sprouts. The flavors of similar vegetable families will meld and marry deliciously. If you’re like me and want to add onions or other faster cooking vegetables, to the mix, just add them a little later. So that they end up done at the same time.

Knife Cuts 

When you are cutting up your vegetables, make sure to cut everything about the same size or as close to it as you can. That will ensure that your vegetables are all done at the same time. The same goes for whatever protein you use in your sheet pan recipe. Choose pieces of chicken, pork, or fish that are relatively close to the same shape and size.

Use one sheet pan

When you roast the vegetables and the meat on the same pan, the essences intermingle and the resulting in deeper, richer flavors. I like to start with my veggies on the bottom and my protein on top of them, but sometimes I just put the protein in the middle and layer the veggies all around it.

Don’t forget the seasonings

For a richer, more complex flavor combination, season your protein and your veggies separately. Some of my go to seasonings are sea salt, black pepper, granulated onion, granulated garlic, marjoram, basil or oregano. I have a chart that hangs in my kitchen that gives suggestions of what herbs and spices go with what veggies and proteins.

Add a flavor infusion

If you have the time, marinades and spice rubs will add an extra layer of flavor to your proteins. As little as 10 minutes can add a boost of flavor. Don’t have, or don’t want to take, that extra time to marinate? You can always marinate most proteins overnight in the fridge.

Make mine crispy

If you are using a protein like sausage, or chicken, or fish with skin on it and would like the skin crispy, just place the protein under the broiler for the last couple of minutes of cooking.

Make it crunchy

When you take your dinner out of the oven, you can add some crunch to it by adding nuts, or seeds. Some of the crunchy additions I like to make are sunflower seeds, walnuts or pecans, or pumpkin seeds. They not only add texture but also flavor.

Make it saucy

You can add a sauce to your sheet pan meal to up the flavor meter. Sauces like chimichurri, tzatziki, or salsa are easy enough to make while your dinner is roasting in the oven.

As the realtor always says…location, location, location!

For roasting your sheet pan meal, you will want to position your oven rack in the very center of the oven. If you are going to broil your meal for the last several minutes, you will want that rack positioned in the upper third of the oven.

Temperature and Time 

Most of the time sheet pan meals are cooked between 400 and 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooking times vary from between 15 and 45 minutes. Depending on the type of protein and vegetables you choose. Later this week, I will be adding some sheet pan recipes here. But if you would like to have a closer access to me and my delicious gluten-free recipes, join me over in my Facebook Group, Natural Essential Healthies.