Chicken Sheet Pan with Vegetables & Balsamic Glaze (Paleo, AIP, Whole30) and Boosting Immunity
I hope this blog post looks incredibly dated in a short period of time.
In the face of COVID-19 making itself known in the US and around the world, I wanted to share my tips for staying healthy during cold/flu season.
It likely won’t surprise you that I put my focus on nutrient density. But what does that mean?
In our collective conversations about food and health, so much attention is paid to macronutrients (carbs, fat, protein) and calories, but not nearly enough is paid to micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).
We forget that vitamins and minerals each have a specific role in our bodies and are essential for optimal health, including preventing and fighting disease.
If the best offense is a good defense, then replacing nutrient-poor and inflammatory foods (made with highly refined ingredients like flour, sugar, and/or industrial fats e.g. chips, crackers, packaged meals, sweets, candy, soda, take-out, etc.) with whole, real foods is the path to supporting your immune system.
What does that look like?
For me, instead of meal planning around a nutrient-poor starch, I meal plan around protein and vegetables. So instead of thinking, tonight I’ll have pasta, I instead say, tonight I’ll make spaghetti sauce with grass-fed ground beef. I’ll sip kombucha instead of wine while I cook. Of course I’ll put on dance music and shake it while I’m cooking. I’ll serve the sauce with zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash or roasted cauliflower. I’ll saute mushrooms in garlic and olive oil to have on the side. I’ll serve it all with a big salad. I’ll have a few squares of dark chocolate or fresh berries for dessert.
There is everything to love about a dinner like that: it’s loaded with vegetables and high-quality protein; it’s high in fiber and probiotics (a healthy gut is imperative for an effective immune system); it’s loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, healthy fat, protein, and low-glycemic load carbohydrates.
It’s also FUN.
Can we talk about how important fun is?
There is nothing fun about the threat of serious illness.
However, our bodies love to have fun and it shows in our health. Whatever you can do to shift your perspective to finding more fun – seeing problems as opportunities to grow, sneaking music and movement in all sorts of goofy places, using meditation to lower stress all day long, hanging out with the people you adore, and loving the healthy food you eat – will not only make your life better but will also boost your immune system.
If you’re stocking up on pantry staples to have on hand in case grocery shopping is ill-advised at some point, make sure to make and bank a few homemade condiments as well. They’re incredibly nutrient-dense and can make simple staples taste amazing.
I have many condiment recipes here on Fresh Tart and more than 20 of them – with quick meal suggestions based on staples – in Kickass Condiments: 20+ Little Recipes That Change Everything.
I also suggest making a big batch of good broth. My chicken broth recipe is here, or you can sign up for the free Healing Green Broth 30-Day Challenge and receive 4 broth recipes and many, many ways to buzz it up with greens, herbs, lemon, healthy fat, and collagen for a big – and yummy – nutrient-boost each day.
I go through all the rest of my personal immune-boosting tips and tricks in this video. You can watch it here on YouTube.
If you need more help and ideas, send me a note. I’m offering free 15-minute chats to see if one-on-one coaching might be a good fit. I’d be thrilled to brainstorm nutrient density with you.
OK, now for this nutrient-dense recipe!
It’s from The 30-Minute Paleo Cookbook, officially released on Tuesday, March 17.
I’m a HUGE fan of sheet-pan dinners. What’s easier than tossing everything on the same pan and roasting it all together? This is ready in 30 minutes AND is also a great batch cook recipe. The leftovers are fantastic – stretch them by gently rewarming and serving over salad greens.
Chicken Sheet Pan with Vegetables & Balsamic Glaze
Sheet pan dinners are a flavorful way to get dinner on the table fast. The basic formula is protein + vegetables + seasoning + a delicious glaze or sauce. I’ve given you a basic idea here, but promise me that after you get the hang of this recipe, you’ll start improvising with what you have on hand and with flavors that you’re craving.
For the glaze:
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup (skip for Whole30)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (skip for AIP)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
For the chicken & vegetables:
1 pound new potatoes, quartered
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (skip for AIP)
1 pound zucchini, sliced 1/2-inch thick
1/2 red onion, sliced 1/2-inch thick
12 kalamata olives, pitted and torn in half
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
Freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat oven and prepare pan. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Make the glaze. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to combine.
- Make the chicken & vegetables. Add vegetables, chicken, and 1 teaspoon of sea salt to the bowl and using a spatula, stir to combine so that the glaze coats all of the vegetables and chicken. Pour the chicken & vegetables out onto the baking sheet and arrange the vegetables in a very even layer. Arrange the chicken thighs skin-side-up on top of the vegetables. Sprinkle a bit of extra salt on the chicken thighs.
- Roast and serve the chicken & vegetables. Place pan in oven and roast for 15 minutes. Turn the vegetables (leave the chicken thighs skin-side-up) and place back in the oven for 5-10 more minutes or until vegetables and chicken are nicely browned. To serve, divide chicken & vegetables among 4 plates. Top with freshly ground black pepper.
In place of the zucchini, feel free to sub in 1-inch broccoli or cauliflower florets or halved brussels sprouts.
Per Serving (1/4 of the chicken + vegetables): Calories: 691; Fat: 44 g; Protein: 38 g; Total carbs: 36 g; Fiber: 5 g; Sodium: 924 mg; Iron: 4 mg