It is very funny to be back here, again. This time last year, the world was drifting through the first wave of the COVID pandemic. While people flocked to their kitchens to develop their skills and repertoire of recipes, I think, and I’ll speak for many when I say this: in our kitchens we found comfort and solace in both the familiar dishes that were well-loved in the “before times” as well as the prospect of learning new recipes that might carry us through. As the lockdowns relaxed, people carried on and, while it still seemed the same, everything had changed. Fast forward through a year and Nova Scotia has entered its third wave, and I’m trying to find more recipes to feed my family. Ones that we can enjoy together, ones that might carry us through.
It was with great excitement that I opened a parcel from Appetite by Random House to find a copy of Ricardo’s Sheet Pan Everything. A Canadian culinary treasure, Ricardo (Larrivée) has been offering delicious food to families for almost two decades through print media, television, and radio. His company offers everything from cookbooks (in both French and English) and a French-language magazine, kitchenware/kitchen accessories, as well as pantry ingredients. I enjoy recipes from Ricardo and his team of recipe developers because they understand the balance between the time and effort it takes to make delicious food and the time spent around the dinner table enjoying a meal with family and friends. Reading through the introduction to Sheet Pan Everything, his aim is clear: “But the best part about cooking with a sheet pan? It combines what we love to celebrate in the kitchen: simplicity and togetherness. When you place the pan in the centre of the table, everyone instantly relaxes, gathers around, and talks about their day. And it’s also a serious timesaver, as it takes only a few minutes to toss together the ingredients for a full and balanced meal —— giving you more time to enjoy with your loved ones.” (7) And, in talking to my friends and family, what I’ve learned is that home cooks want to spend less, not more time in the kitchen, and our time around the family dinner table has become more important than ever. Not to mention, I am, like many home cooks, looking for different recipes to try because I’m starting to get sick of the “old standbys.”
It is safe to say that since I started cooking from Sheet Pan Everything, I have made hundreds of the Vegetarian Lentil “Meatballs” because they are extremely delicious. It doesn’t hurt that you can batch cook them and freeze the extras which can be reheated for future meals. These are multipurpose “meatballs” because they’re tasty in anything — I served them with spaghetti and marinara sauce, in wraps, and I’ve enjoyed them solo when they’re warm off the baking tray. I also appreciate that you don’t need to cook any of the ingredients to make the balls. This is a recipe where a food processor is key — I use mine to grate the zucchini, then I change the attachment so that I can purée the lentils, green onions, and zucchini together. After stirring in cheese, breadcrumbs, eggs, ground chia seeds, and seasoning, the “meatball” dough is ready to be rolled, then baked. Now that I’ve made batches upon batches, I have taken the opportunity to make them in all sorts of ways — I’ve used ground flax in place of the chia, I’ve changed up the ingredients by adding nuts and seeds when puréeing, trying different herbs/seasonings, and even omitting the cheese (this was by accident, but they still turned out deliciously). They bake up with a nicely textured crust and tender middle, which they retain when used straight from the freezer. Speaking of which, when I reheat them, I’ve used the oven whereas when my husband made supper he used the microwave. It is safe to say that this is a beloved recipe in my household that will probably get passed down through the generations (as an aside, they’ll probably be referred to as “Granny’s meatballs” eventually — I hope Ricardo doesn’t mind!)
The “meatball” recipe was the first one I made from the book and it got me on a roll. From there I’ve tried almost a dozen recipes and have found this to be such a useful cookbook, full of recipes that my family loves! What I appreciate the most is how the recipes are designed to be efficient and streamlined. It’s not that dishes like pancakes, French Toast or pizza are that challenging but when you don’t have to stand at the stove to flip anything, you can rise your pizza dough stretched out on the sheet pan you’ll bake it on, that’s such a help to the home cook. It’s never occurred to me that I could mix my pizza dough then put it directly on to a prepared baking sheet so that it could rise. This means no extra flouring to roll it out, which translates in having extra time to do other things. In no way do these time-saving techniques mean that corners are cut taste-wise. I’m happy to report that the pizza was delicious with its pillowy crust — I think this technique has revolutionized the way I’ll make pizza (as a side convo, I really like Ricardo pizza dough — there’s a recipe on his site that I recommended to home cooks last year when I wrote this post).
Sheet Pan Everything is organized into 7 chapters: Sheet Pan 101, Get Ready for the Week, Snacks, Weekdays, Brunch, Entertaining, and Sweets — full of a variety of recipes suitable for different dietary needs/preferences. As I mentioned earlier, one of the qualities that this book works towards is offering simplicity to the home cook. I found this to be true of the recipes as well as the way in which the book was written and designed. Each recipe is presented with ingredients and instructions but without an introduction or preamble. And, instead of an exhaustive index at the back of the book, an Index by Sections as well as an Index by Recipe Type are given. Photographs of every recipe, which is helpful to see what the finished dish will look like. Most importantly, the ingredients for each recipe are easy to source — I didn’t have to venture further than my local farmer’s market and grocery store to find what I needed. In many cases, ingredients can be switched or substituted depending on preference and/or availability. When I made the Barley w/ Root Vegetables and Grilled Halloumi, I just roasted the vegetables I had on hand and, I realized we were out of mayonnaise when I went to make the dressing, so I used Greek yogurt as a substitute.
In the pages of Sheet Pan Everything from Ricardo, I have found lots of delicious recipes that my family loves and, I’ve learned different ways to streamline my time in the kitchen. Sometimes it can feel like the monotony of cooking meals every day is nothing but a drudgerous task but, with cookbooks like this which offer simple recipes, I feel a bit more encouraged at mealtime (I felt so encouraged, in fact, that I ordered a copy of Sheet Pan Everything for my mom because I wanted to pass on some of these recipes and feelings to her).
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Appetite by Random House for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.