Katie Lee Biegel is a television food personality, cookbook author and mom to 2-year-old Iris. She recently adapted her novel for the Hallmark Channel's new movie, Groundswell, and keeps busy developing recipes for WW (Weight Watchers) while participating in the program. Among her go-to ways to cook dinner on the busiest of days? Sheet pan dinners.
Biegel calls sheet pan dinners "cheat sheets" because they're easy to prepare and can be made so healthy that it feels like you're cheating the system.
"For the first time in almost 20 years, I'm in the thick of back-to-school as well, since Iris is starting nursery school," Biegel tells Yahoo Life. "So I'm like a lot of other moms who have a child in school and are wondering what to make for dinner."
The sheet pan dinner is your weeknight savior
Putting everything on a sheet pan and popping it in the oven sounds like a breeze. It is.
Biegel likes to prep her proteins and vegetables ahead of time so all she has to do is cover the pan — she likes one with a lip going all the way around, called a "jelly roll" pan — with parchment paper for easy cleanup, toss the vegetables and protein with olive oil and seasonings and slide it into a preheated oven.
"That's our go-to for a fridge clean-out dinner, too," she says. "We take whatever produce is in the drawers, combine it with some tofu and roast it." Biegel also says she loves a pork chop sheet pan meal with carrots and cauliflower. Her Mediterranean Shrimp "Cheat Sheet," developed for WW, is also a favorite.
The beauty of the sheet pan meal is how little equipment you actually need. Biegel lines her pans with parchment paper, but aluminum foil works just as well. Choosing a pan with a lip all the way around it helps catch any juices from the vegetables or protein that might result from the cooking process, stopping it from pooling at the bottom of your oven.
A little science, a little intuition
You do have to use a little knowledge of ingredients for your sheet pan dinner to turn out as delicious as possible. Specifically, have an idea of how quickly each ingredient will cook so they all come out at their peak at the same time.
"If you're doing pork chops and asparagus, the pork chop is going to take 20 to 25 minutes in the oven, whereas the asparagus is going to take only 10 minutes," Biegel explains. She says if you start both in the oven at the same time, by the time the pork chop is cooked, the asparagus will be overdone.
"Make sure your ingredients are ones that cook in a similar timeframe, or plan to add the quicker-cooking items later," she says. For example, Biegel cooks chicken legs with a heartier vegetable, like Brussels sprouts, because they take the same amount of time to cook in the oven.
"I want to ... be a strong mom for my daughter"
Biegel's love of sheet pan meals gave way to a partnership with WW after she started the program three months after giving birth to Iris.
"I felt like I just couldn't reconnect to my body," she says. "I was always a healthy eater and always worked out, but after having a baby it was like I just couldn't figure it out on my own and I needed some guidance and accountability." Biegel downloaded the WW app, educated herself about mindful eating and worked through the plan's program for nursing mothers.
Biegel's experience with self-care as a new mom is relatable. "It's kind of non-existent," she says. "Sometimes I felt like brushing my teeth was self care." Now, she says taking care of her body with fresh healthy foods is helping her regain balance.
"When I was pregnant, all I did was connect with food," she tells Yahoo Life. "I just wanted Velveeta-and-mayonnaise grilled cheese sandwiches all the time."
"I'm still figuring out my body and know it's never going to be the same as it was pre-pregnancy, but I care so much more about being healthy because I want to live forever to be with my daughter and enjoy my time with her," she adds.
Biegel says she believes taking care of your body, no matter how you do it, is one of the best ways you can care for your children. "As a mom, you're just so tired and run down," she says. "Just to be able to give yourself the energy that comes with good food and some exercise makes such a difference in your days."
Ready to give "cheat sheets" a spin? Biegel shares the shrimp sheet pan dinner she created in partnership with WW.
Mediterranean Shrimp "Cheat Sheet"
Courtesy of WW and Katie Lee Biegel
White wine, 3 tablespoons, dry variety
Extra virgin olive oil, 3 tablespoons, divided
Garlic clove, 4 clove(s), minced, divided
Canned artichoke hearts without oil, 12 ounces, drained
Uncooked haricot vert, 8 ounces, trimmed and cut in half
Grape tomatoes, 2 cups
Uncooked red onion, 1 medium, cut into chunks
Pitted Kalamata olives 10 olives, coarsely chopped
Capers, 2 tablespoons, drained and coarsely chopped
Kosher salt, ¾ teaspoon, divided
Black pepper, ⅜ teaspoon, freshly ground, divided
Dried oregano, ½ teaspoon
Crushed red pepper flakes, ¼ teaspoon
Lemon, 1 medium, zested and juiced
Uncooked shrimp, 1 pound, large, peeled, deveined
Crumbled feta cheese, 4 ounces
Preheat oven to 450 F.
To prepare vegetables, in a large bowl, whisk wine, 2 tbsp oil and 3 minced garlic cloves. Add artichokes, haricot vert, tomatoes, onion, olives and capers, and toss to coat. Season vegetable mixture with ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper. Transfer to a large baking sheet and spread vegetables into an even layer. Roast until tomatoes begin to release their juices, 10 to 12 minutes.
While vegetables roast, in the same bowl, combine remaining 1 tbsp oil, remaining minced garlic clove, oregano, crushed red pepper and lemon zest and juice. Add shrimp and toss to coat. Season with remaining ¼ tsp salt and a pinch pepper.
Remove baking sheet from oven and add shrimp. Stir and spread shrimp and vegetables into an even layer. Roast until shrimp are pink and opaque, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with cheese.
Serving size: about 1 ½ cups vegetables, ¼ pound shrimp, and 1 ounce cheese
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