Last time, we covered a ridiculously easy way to make delicious low carb meals using ground meat, vegetables, and just one pan. I’ve got something similar for you today, except instead of the stovetop, this strategy calls for the oven:
Salt & pepper.
Cooking literally does not get simpler or easier than this. This is truly for the people out there who claim they “don’t know what to cook.” After today, you no longer have that excuse.
This strategy is extremely versatile, although I will say I don’t think it would work for steak. It’s great for pork and poultry, and works equally well for boneless and bone-in cuts. It can work for larger cuts of meat, such as a pork loin or a beef roast, but I’m going to focus on relatively quick cooking, so we’ll stick with smaller cuts. This is an insanely easy way to cook chicken or turkey breasts, thighs, or drumsticks, large sausages (“grillers,” as opposed to the small and thin breakfast links), fish filets (or on the bone), and boneless or bone-in pork chops. It’s great because bone-in pieces tend to cost less than boneless, plus they’re far more flavorful and nutritious. There’s good stuff in those bones that leaches out during cooking! (More on that in a bit.)
How does it work?
Preheat your own to 350°F (180°C) while you get your ingredients ready. All you need to do is put everything in a baking dish. Any kind works – glass, ceramic, metal. (Just make sure it has a lip or edge, so the juices don’t go running off. In other words, don’t use a cookie sheet for this, but a sheet pan or half-sheet pan with a good lip on it would be fine. I usually use a rectangular Pyrex glass dish or a half sheet pan. If you use a metal sheet pan, line it with foil and your cleanup will be virtually nonexistent. Foil ---> trash – done.)
Put the meat in the pan/dish and then get to the vegetables. I like to cut them up and toss them with olive oil and salt & pepper. (You can even do this in the baking dish, so you don’t even have a separate bowl to wash.) You can also use some of the other seasonings we covered last time if you want to impart a particular flavor.
The beauty of this is that it works for almost everything. We’ve covered the multiple meat possibilities, so how about vegetables? Good candidates for this kind of cooking include onions, zucchini, yellow squash, fennel (a.k.a. anise), bell peppers, radishes (like I've said in the past, yes, you can cook radishes!), asparagus, green beans, carrots, and celery. If you’re on the slightly higher side of low-carb, beets and butternut squash would probably work here too, except they might need to cook a little longer than the other vegetables, depending on how large you cut the pieces. You can cut things like summer squash into small pieces, or leave them in long strips. Whatever you prefer. (Pics in a bit.)
This is nearly unfathomably easy cooking. It’s almost all hands-off time.
Depending on the thickness of the meat and how well you want it done, you can let things cook for anywhere from 25 to 40 minutes. I prefer my meat not cooked completely to kingdom come, so I stick to the shorter cooking time. But the good thing about this is, when you think it might be done, you can cut into the meat and see if it’s to your liking. If not, let it go a few more minutes. Bone-in pork chops remain very moist and juicy when not overcooked, and even boneless, skinless chicken breasts don’t turn into bone-dry hockey pucks when cooked this way.
If the food seems a little bland to you, add whatever sauces and condiments you like at the table: mustard, pesto, vinaigrette, tomato sauce, olive tapenade, salsa, blue cheese or ranch dressing…the possibilities are endless.
I’m telling you, folks: meat, veg, olive oil, salt & pepper. Put in pan. Put in oven. Take out of oven. Eat delicious food. This is not rocket science. I love me some low carb cookbooks, but the truth is, you don’t need ‘em. If you want to make something a little out of the ordinary, or impress some guests, yes, you might want to make something a bit jazzier than usual. But for everyday, fast and easy cooking? You can’t beat this one pan in the oven deal.
Like I said earlier: don’t know what to cook? You do now.
Here are some examples, all prior to cooking:
Boneless, skinless chicken breast with red onion, zucchini, and yellow squash.
(Can you tell from the previous posts that I use a ton of these in summer
when they’re hard to resist at the farmers’ market?)
Salmon with onion, zucchini, and radish.
(Note the liberal salt & pepper.)
Bone-in pork chops buried underneath red onion, zucchini,
yellow squash, and garlic scapes.
Thick pork sausages with red onion and zucchini.
See what I mean about cutting the vegetables differently?
You can cut them into cubes, wedges, or leave them in spears, like this.
More sausages with summer squash and lots of salt & pepper.
Sausages, eggplant wedges, zucchini, and onion.
Seriously: this is not difficult.
If this kind of cooking is confusing or intimidating to you, then I'm sorry, but I cannot help you. We are living on two separate planes of existence that do not intersect.
Meat, veg, pan, bake, done. Does it get any more straightforward than that? (Except for calling out for pizza or Chinese.)
Remember what I said about cooking meat on the bone? Any chef can tell you it’s more flavorful, and the Paleo/ancestral health crowd will tell you the bones impart extra nutrients. Not just the bones, themselves; it’s because the bone-in cuts also tend to have additional good stuff in them that the boneless cuts lack: gnarly cartilage and connective tissue-type stuff, which, even though it looks like fat (because it’s usually translucent and doesn’t have the same texture as muscle meat), is actually protein, and very important protein, at that. The connective “stuff” has a different amino acid profile than muscle meat, and these bits are especially good for our own connective bits made from collagen and keratin: joints, skin, hair, nails, and blood vessels. (This is why everyone is so obsessed with bone broth these days, although personally, between you and me, I kinda can't stand it. Not on its own, anyway. These people who start their day with a steaming hot cup of broth? And smile, and are ready to take on the world? Um, no, I'll stick to my coffee, tyvm. The thought of starting my day with broth makes me a gag a little, frankly. There. I said it. Go ahead and excommunicate me from NutritionLand™.) So don’t discard the liquid that accumulates in your baking dish when you cook like this. First of all, it contains some of the minerals that may have leached out of the vegetables, and you definitely want those, and second, some of this connective stuff will liquefy and leach out, too, and you for sure want that as well. I’m tellin’ ya, it’s like a little science experiment: this stuff is liquid when it’s still warm from the oven, but if you put it in the fridge and come back in a few hours, it will have jelled (at least partly). This will prove to you that it’s not fat, but rather, very valuable proteinaceous “stuff” that you don’t want to pour down the drain or into the trash. (I described something similar when I made a discovery about the connective tissue goodness in bacon and also the surprising amount of it in ground meat [at the very end of this post.])
Disclaimer: Amy Berger, MS, CNS, NTP, is not a physician and Tuit Nutrition, LLC, is not a medical practice. The information contained on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any medical condition and is not to be used as a substitute for the care and guidance of a physician. Links in this post and all others may direct you to amazon.com, where I will receive a small amount of the purchase price of any items you buy through my affiliate links.