Making Healthy Quick and Easy: Sheet Pan Suppers

I’ve been making a lot more “sheet pan suppers” lately, as these are quick and easy and involve the three necessary nutrients to fill out the plate: carbohydrate, protein and non-starchy vegetable. These are easy to prep the day before on the sheet. Then when you get home, take the sheet out of the fridge while the oven is preheating and have a meal worthy for all taste buds in about 30 minutes.

Here are some of my best sheet pan supper tips:

  • Use the largest cookie sheet/pan you have, preferably from heavy-gauge aluminum or steel. I find these help foods to brown better.
  • I’m all about easy and quick cleanup, so make sure to line the pan you choose with foil and spray with a nonstick cooking spray.
  • Pick your protein. If you are going to use a protein that is larger than the rest of your food, I like to cook it for about 5-10 minutes before putting the rest of the ingredients on the pan.
  • Place the rest of the ingredients in a single layer, cut about the same size so they will roast properly.
  • Season the ingredients according to the recipe or your discretion.
  • Make sure protein is cooked to the proper temperature.
  • For leftovers, use the foil from the pan to wrap the food up in, and then reheat in oven later.

This pan roasted chicken and vegetable meal is one of my favorites. Like I said, I usually put everything on the pan the night before and leave it in the fridge until the oven is preheated the next day. Try it for yourself!

If you are interested in starting with just roasted vegetables, print off our handy Roasting Vegetables 101 sheet  a guide.

Pan Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Meal
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Ingredients
  1. 6 medium red potatoes, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  2. 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  3. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  4. 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  5. 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  6. 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, divided
  7. 3/4 teaspoon pepper, divided
  8. 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  9. 6 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed
  10. 6 cups fresh baby spinach
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425o F.
  2. Combine potatoes, onion, oil, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon rosemary and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl. Toss the mixture to coat evenly.
  3. Line a baking pan or cookie sheet with foil and coat with nonstick cooking spray.
  4. Pour the potato and onion mixture onto the coated baking pan and arrange the chicken on top.
  5. Mix the paprika, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon rosemary and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and sprinkle it over the chicken.
  6. Bake about 35-40 minutes, or until the inside of the chicken is 170-175oF and the vegetables are just tender.
  7. Remove chicken to a serving platter and keep warm.
  8. Top the vegetables with the spinach and put back into the oven to roast until the vegetables are tender and the spinach is wilted, about 8-10 minutes longer.
  9. Stir the vegetables to combine and serve them with the chicken.
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Instant Pot®: Yay or nay?

Last Black Friday, I jumped on the bandwagon and bought an Instant Pot®. Yes, I had to find out for myself what the craze was all about, so I actually bought in. And Instant Pot® is a programmable pressure cooker that is supposed to speed up cooking considerably. This week, I want to share what I’ve done with my Instant Pot® and how I’ve made it work for my family.

What’s the best part about an Instant Pot®?

First and foremost, what I absolutely love to make in my Instant Pot® is hard-boiled eggs. You may be asking, aren’t eggs bad for you? Despite their occasional negative portrayal, eggs are a fantastic protein source, as long as you aren’t going overboard with the number you eat.

I typically hard-boil about eight to 12 eggs a week for our family of five. The Instant Pot® makes it super-duper easy to do so. Here are the instructions:

Megan’s Hard-boiled Eggs

  1. Put one cup of water and however many eggs you want into the pot.
  2. Program five minutes of pressure, followed by five minutes natural release, followed by 5 minutes cold water bath.

I don’t shell them right away, but put them in a bowl in the fridge to stay fresher for longer. We shell them as we eat them.  

What else can you use the Instant Pot® for?

I also have made a whole chicken with my Instant Pot®, although this is not something new to me. I usually buy whole chickens when they are on sale and freeze them. Typically, I’ll thaw the chicken and put it in the crockpot with all the seasonings I want—by the evening, we’ve got chicken. I’ll shred the leftover chicken and freeze into patches so we can use it for subsequent meals, such as chicken spaghetti, chicken tacos, white chicken chili and BBQ chicken.

How does the Instant Pot come into play? One time, I forgot to thaw the chicken the night before. I placed the whole frozen chicken in the Instant Pot® with the seasonings and a little water. In no time, the chicken was cooked. This is a definite plus of having the Instant Pot® around.

What are some of the lesser-known features of the Instant Pot®?

My last favorite I’m going to talk about today is burrito bowls. When making this recipe, I use more than just the pressure cook feature. You can make the whole burrito bowl meal in the Instant Pot® and not dirty another dish, thanks to the fabulous sauté feature.

Megan’s Burrito Bowl for the Instant Pot®

  1. Put oil, peppers, onion and garlic into the pot.
  2. Use the saute feature to cook, and then add beans, salsa, chicken, rice and low-sodium chicken stock.
  3. Close the lid and pressure cook for 10 minutes.
  4. Quick release and ladle out. Add some fresh cilantro, cheese and a dollop of plain Greek yogurt and serve.

This is always a fun, full meal for my family, and it leaves behind great leftovers.

Instant Pot®: Yay or nay?

There are some great features for the Instant Pot® outside of pressure cooking. It has a learning curve, and it’s a little difficult to use and get used to. Sometimes when recipes say “10 minutes,” it’s actually longer because it takes time for the pressure to build. And, I will be honest, it takes up a lot of space if you don’t have much in your kitchen. All that being said, the Instant Pot® can be right for a lot of people and would be a good addition in your kitchen. Happy Instant Potting!!

Instant Pot image from https://instantpot.com/

 

Recap #1: Try a “Non-Resolution”

It’s Throwback Thursday and the first anniversary of making a “non-resolution.” You may or may not be anxious to hear how my January went, but I’m going to share anyway. So here’s a little recap about my non-resolution.

STEP 1: COME UP WITH THE DEFINING WORD OR PHRASE FOR YOUR YEAR.

I encouraged you to come up with a 2018 goal for yourself—in a word or phrase—and break it into a 12-month SMART goal(s).

MY 2018 word is PEACE. I chose this word as there has been a lot of disorder and mayhem in my life affecting my health.

STEP 2: TRANSLATE YOUR WORD OR PHRASE INTO ACTION.

My January action was to meal plan. My specific meal plan action:

1st week goal: plan three dinners, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday

2nd week goal: plan four dinners, Monday through Thursday.

3rd week goal: plan five dinners, Monday through Friday.

4th week goal: plan again for five days.

STEP 3: EVALUATE YOUR GOAL EACH MONTH.

Once the week or month is over, look back at your goal and see how well it did or did not work. Did you achieve this goal?

My mantra is PROGRESS NOT PERFECTION. My January did not go as planned. I had set a S = Specific, M = Measurable, A = Achievable, R = Realistic and T = Time-specific goal. Thus, I can look back and see how it went.

1st week of January – my grandfather was in the hospital and passed away, I was hardly home, so no meal planning happened as we didn’t know where we would be when.

2nd week of January – I planned two meals, as once again I was hardly home, helping to take care of my grandmother.

3rd week of January – I planned three meals.

4th week of January – I planned four meals.

STEP 4: START AT A TIME THAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU.

So when should you start? Any time that’s right for you. Make sure you have a fresh mind and are more rejuvenated than you may be on the first of the month.

As you can see, I had planned to start the first of January, however life happened and I was not able to begin when planned. But the key is, I didn’t let the month slide by. I picked up when I could with my meal planning. While working on the meal planning I found a tool to better help me.

It is the “Knock Knock What to Eat” pad that I found on Amazon for about seven dollars. Is this something you have to use if you plan to meal plan? Absolutely not. But, this is the tool I found to help me with my goal. You can also use our free printable!

NOW WHAT?

I’m going to continue my meal planning and then focus on my SMART goal for February: REST!!!

For the month of February, my goal is to set a bedtime. The specific goal is to be in bed by 10:30 p.m. four nights out of each week, Sunday through Thursday. This is technically 5 days. So, if one of these days doesn’t make the 10:30 p.m. cut, then I have another day to work with. By setting a bedtime for myself, this should allow for a minimum of seven-ish hours of sleep for myself.

Although my goal didn’t go quite as planned for January, I made it work. And I know you can too if you let your goals slide a little bit. How did your SMART goals go for January?

Jump-start your Metabolism for the New Year

In our impatient society we live in, we want our coffee ready in minutes, our photos developed in less than an hour and grocery shopping to be as easy as the click of a button. So naturally, we all want a quick and simple fix for our metabolism too. The reality is that our metabolisms have been beaten to a pulp over the years from meal skipping, over-eating and poor food choices. Fear not. Your metabolism is not doomed; however, it will take some time and a little (okay a lot) of TLC to get it back to a beautiful fire it once was (or at least should be).

Before I continue, I want to remind you of a few small things.

  • You will make MISTAKES.
  • You will get OFF TRACK.
  • You will MISS THE MARK several times.

And, all that is perfectly OKAY. You are human. You will make mistakes but make sure you take the opportunity to learn from them. Take your focus off avoiding failure (perfection) and turn it towards chasing improvement.

Let us focus on one simple task. By accomplishing this behavior, over time, you will regenerate your metabolism, have more energy and feel better each and every day you achieve it.

Start every day by striking a match. No, not physically rather metaphorically speaking for your metabolism. To do this, you must eat breakfast every day and increase the protein content in it. The average American consumes most of their protein in the latter half of the day. Protein is pivotal to improving satiety, increasing energy levels and controlling hormones. These benefits can be further maximized if protein ingestion begins with the first feeding of the day.

Strive to get at least 15-20 grams of protein with breakfast. This can be easily accomplished by choosing high-protein foods such as eggs, cottage cheese, lean breakfast meats, cheese, Greek yogurt and beans. Protein supplements such as bars, shakes and powders can help create a high-protein smoothie, power-packed oatmeal or can serve as a quick grab-and-go menu item.

It’s okay if you eat the same breakfast every day. It helps build routine and conditions the mind and body to crave real food upon waking. The more consistent you are, the easier it is to incorporate a variety of protein sources and stick to your routine when you are traveling, stressed or just generally off-schedule.

Remember, consistency always trumps rigidity. Let this be the year you kick start yourself towards health!

This New Year, Try a “Non-resolution”

It’s January, so that means maybe you are thinking about a new year with a clean slate. And to help make this clean slate, a New Year’s resolution. Just like I love to celebrate “Christmas in July” (all baking included!), I love to make New Year’s “non-resolutions.” Think about it: How many times have you set a resolution, only for it to last a week or two—a month at best? Plus, most resolutions don’t have anything to do with you, your willpower (I don’t believe in willpower) or capabilities. Instead, resolutions seem to focus on an unrealistic action, such as “I am going to lose 50 pounds this year.”

This New Year, make a “non-resolution.” Think about it: How many times have you set a resolution, only for it to last a week or two—a month at best?

Step 1: Come up with the defining word or phrase for your year.

I encourage you to come up with a 2018 goal for yourself—in a word or phrase—and break it into a 12-month SMART goal(s). This word or phrase should be geared to some form of your health and well-being. I find when you focus on one area, other areas seem to fall into line.

What does SMART stand for?

S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Achievable 
R = Realistic
T = Time specific

Why break your word or saying into 12 months? Well, it customarily takes 21 days to make a behavior change, so you start small and build on these month-long habit formations. Then your 2018 goal should be much more realistic and achievable.

Step 2: Translate your word or phrase into action.

Based upon your word or phrase, write down as many healthy actions you can think of to help reach this goal. Keep in mind things you can actually DO and not the end results. The SMART acronym can then help you to break these DOs down to make more realistic and achievable outcomes. Don’t be afraid to break your monthly DO into weekly DOs. For example, a goal for the month could be to eat more vegetables. The monthly SMART goal would be to eat a minimum of 30 servings of vegetables. And broken down even more, a week goal could be: “I will eat a non-starchy vegetable every day at dinner.”

Step 3: Evaluate your goal each month.

Once the week or month is over, look back at your goal and see how well it did or did not work. Did you achieve this goal? And since you set a weekly or monthly SMART goal then you can see how well or well not the specific goal worked for you. Here’s the key, if you struggled at achieving or didn’t achieve your first month’s goal, that’s ok. Troubleshoot with it and either work on it again the next month or put off for another month later in the year.

Step 4: Start at a time that’s right for you.

So when should you start? You want to make sure you have a fresh mind and are more rejuvenated than you may be on January 1st. So if you don’t sit down to work on these until the middle of January, so be it. But make sure you have plenty of tools in your toolbox to help you complete this new thought process.

What does a “non-resolution” really look like?

Here’s my personal goal for 2018, along with a few of my monthly SMART goals with the tools I have in my toolbox to accomplish it.

My word for 2018 is PEACE.

It feels like I have had disorder and mayhem in my life for about the last 6 months. I have found this is starting to affect aspects of my health, so I want to focus on trying to be more peaceful this year. This may not be what you expected, but I’m trying to show you how this can be outside-of-the box thinking on becoming healthier.

Some of the areas I am focusing on to have more PEACE are:

  • Meal planning
  • Reducing stress
  • Rest
  • Exercise

I’m kicking the New Year off with my first SMART goal to be about MEAL PLANNING. The first week of January, I will plan three dinners for the days of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (the days I work). These, of course, will be planned around the plate method (one starch, one protein, unlimited non-starchy vegetables). The second week goal is to plan four dinners, Monday through Thursday. The third week goal is to plan five dinners, Monday through Friday. Finally, the last week goal is to plan again for 5 weeks. There’s flexibility in this: If I find moving from three to four meals a week is too much, then I’ll go back to the three meals a week and establish this goal. There is flexibility with the goals, but the ultimate achievement is to set specific and realistic parts of your goal.

For February, my SMART goal will be about REST. Believe it or not, I’m setting a bedtime goal. There have been too many nights where I’ve stayed up until midnight or later because I’m doing dishes, doing laundry or cleaning after the kids are bed. So for the month of February, my goal is to go to bed at 10:30 p.m. four nights out of each week. This would allow for a minimum of seven-ish hours of sleep for myself, as my alarm goes off at 6 a.m.

Hopefully this gives you some ideas to help you get more focused on the simplicity of achieving a healthier you in 2018. What about you? Share your non-resolutions below—I’d love to hear what your personal word or saying is for 2018!

Something to Chew Recap: Best of 2017

We had a great year discussing healthy habits, trying new recipes and making commitments to live well. As the year comes to a close, we wanted to take a moment and recap the “greatest hits” of Something to Chew in 2017.

#5 M&M’s are Football Fields

We took our readers on a journey from one end of the football field to the other, demonstrating just how far you’d have to walk to burn off a single M&M. Making a conscious connection between calories in versus calories out can help you make decisions when eating or drinking certain foods.

#4 Your Diet and Your Job: A Perfect Marriage or Recipe for Disaster?

Problem: Sometimes the influence of those around you affects your ability to stick to your diet. We offered three solutions to common work situations where you may be tempted to break your healthy eating commitment.

#3 6 Steps to Bathing Suit Confidence

The bottom line is to not let your worries of living up to magazine-cover standards overpower the fun you could be having with your friends and family. If you’re eating right and treating your body well, you’re already in great shape!

#2 5 Hidden Sources of Sugar

You already know that cutting back on sugar is a big part of starting to eat healthier. We pointed out five hidden sources of sugar you may not realize you are keeping in your diet. Examining food labels is important for making sure you are not eating too much sugar.

#1 Don’t Stress about PCOS: 5 Habits for Better Weight Management

Our readers have spoken: This was the top post for 2017! We agree; these tips are applicable to those with polycystic ovary syndrome and those just trying to manage their weight in general. Wedding good eating habits with exercise is the recipe for success when it comes to weight loss and management.

Thank you for “chewing” on these tips and tricks in 2017! Look for more health and wellness advice in 2018 as we bring on the new year!