5 Back-to-School Brain Boosting Sheet Pan Dinners

It’s back-to-school time, which means you’re probably trying to get into a solid school night routine. With homework and earlier bedtimes back on the agenda, dinner has to be quick and easy. This means making meals that require less prep and clean up. Sheet pan meals can help you get crave-worthy dinners on the table in a hurry.

Plus, we know that good nutrition provides an advantage for better memory, learning and development, especially for little ones. You can maximize the benefits of time spent around the table with foods that build brainpower.

In celebration of Family Meals Month, I have created five delicious sheet pan meals to help get dinner on the table so you can focus on what’s important – connecting with the ones you love.

To get started, make sure you have a baking sheet like an 18 x 13-inch rimmed sheet pan. For even easier cleanup, line the pan with a sheet of parchment paper. Once you arrange the ingredients on the pan, simply toss it in the oven, set the timer and dinner will be ready all at once.

Check out these ideas for meals that are easy to throw together, even on busy weeknights:

Za’atar-Spiced Shrimp, Broccolini, and Delicata Squash

Za’atar is a citrusy-herbal Middle Eastern spice blend that will elevate this simple shrimp dinner. You can find za’atar at most grocery stores.

To prepare the delicata squash, after washing it, cut off both ends for a flat surface. Then, slice it lengthwise down the center. Next, scoop out the seeds using a spoon. Finally, slice it into thin pieces. They will look like half-moon shapes. Place a large bunch of trimmed broccolini and the sliced squash on your sheet pan and mist with a thin layer of spray cooking oil. Toss about a pound of peeled and de-veined raw shrimp with the juice of a lemon and about 2 tablespoons of za’atar. Add shrimp to the pan and sprinkle everything lightly with salt and pepper. Bake in a 425⁰ oven for 15-18 minutes or until the squash is tender and the shrimp are pink.

Orange-Sesame Tofu, Snap Peas and Carrots

You’ll love this vegan recipe because it’s super easy and satisfying. You’ll need a block of firm tofu, 2 cups of sugar snap peas and a bunch of carrots, peeled and chopped. Make a quick marinade using the juice of 1 orange, ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce or tamari, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, ½ teaspoon ginger powder or a small chuck of fresh ginger, minced, and ½ teaspoon garlic powder. If you like it spicy, add ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes. Combine the tofu and veggies with the sauce and pour onto the sheet pan in one layer. Bake at 400⁰ for about 30 minutes. For a dose of brain-boosting healthy fats, garnish with chopped pistachios and sesame seeds.

Garlic Salmon, Cherry Tomato, Zucchini, Fennel and Chickpeas

This Mediterranean-inspired salmon is a sure crowd-pleaser. Use a 4- to 6-ounce portion of salmon per person, making sure to season with salt and pepper. Place salmon pieces on one side of your pan. Meanwhile, chop zucchini and fennel into ½–inch pieces and slice cherry tomatoes in half lengthwise. Prepare a sauce combining the juice of a lemon, about ¼ cup of olive oil, 1 tablespoon water, 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard, a hearty sprinkling of Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste. Toss prepared veggies and chickpeas in your sauce and pour over the pan, allowing some of the sauce to drizzle over the salmon. Cook in the oven at 400⁰ for 20 minutes or until salmon is done and vegetables are soft.

Pesto Turkey Meatballs, Sweet Peppers, Onion and Red Potatoes

Forget the breadcrumbs, to make these meatballs simply combine a pound of lean ground turkey with ¼ cup of store bought pesto and a pinch of salt. Form 1-inch meatballs and place them on one side of the sheet pan. Slice two red bell peppers into thick strips, removing the inner seeds and membranes. Slice onion into strips, tossing away the outer skin. Cut red potatoes in half and combine with peppers and onions and 1½ tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper. Place peppers, onions and potatoes on the other side of the sheet pan and around the meatballs. Bake in a 375⁰ oven for about 30 minutes. Use tongs to turn over at the halfway point.

Turmeric Chicken, Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potato

Turmeric contains an active compound called curcumin that has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Season 2½ pounds of chicken thighs and drumsticks with 1½ teaspoon turmeric, ½ teaspoon paprika, ¼ teaspoon ground thyme, ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper, a pinch of salt, and the juice from a lemon. Place chicken on a sheet pan. Peel 2 large sweet potatoes and cut them into 1–inch chunks. Slice Brussels sprouts in half. Toss sweet potato and Brussels sprouts with 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon cumin, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, salt, pepper and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. If your sheet pan with chicken is overly full, spread veggies onto a second pan. Bake everything at 400⁰ for about 40 minutes, being sure to turn chicken and veggies half way through the cooking time. When it is done, the thickest part of the chicken should reach 165⁰ on a meat thermometer.

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