TRAVERSE CITY — Green Goddess Chicken with Pappadeaux Peppers. Mango Coconut Granola. Teriyaki Steak Tips with Sesame Broccoli.
They’re worlds apart in texture and taste, but all the recipes have one thing in common: they’re cooked on a single sheet pan.
One-pan cooking is a growing alternative to one-pot meals, said Ruthy Kirwan, author of “The Healthy Sheet Pan Cookbook: Satisfying One-Pan Meals for Busy Cooks.”
“It’s a very accessible style of cooking … It makes the entire meal in one pan without cheese or heavy sauces,” said the Traverse City native and Great Lakes Culinary Institute graduate. Best of all, Kirwan added, sheet pan cooking is quick and easy and makes cleanup a breeze — especially if you first line the pan with foil.
“Something about a sheet pan feels a little easier,” she said. “In a Crock-Pot or instant pot, it takes a lot longer. If you’re getting home at 6 p.m. you don’t have a lot of time to fiddle around.
“Most sheet pan recipes cook in under 40 minutes and some some in my book take 20 or 30. You can have the kids start homework or watch TV a bit while you’re preparing dinner.”
Kirwan, 35, first discovered a sheet pan recipe on Pinterest a few years ago after becoming a second-time mom in her adopted New York City.
“I needed something, with my husband working at night and my daughter having colic, to help put food on the table quickly,” she said.
Soon she was using her freelance background in recipe testing and development for cookbook publishers like Penguin and Random House to create sheet pan recipes of her own.
From there it was a natural progression to undertake a sheet pan cookbook aimed at new, newlywed and busy cooks — including working parents of school-age kids.
“Where I live in Queens, the neighborhood I live in has a really vibrant parent community,” Kirwan said. “On the playground and on play dates I was hearing the same thing: It’s hard getting dinner on the table when you have kids hanging off you and you’re just getting home from work.”
Kirwan said when she started the cookbook in spring 2018 there were only three or four sheet pan books on Amazon. Now there are 12.
“It’s really picking up in popularity,” she said.
Brilliant Books is taking advantage of a hometown visit by Kirwan — her parents live on Silver Lake — to book her for a tasting, Q&A and book signing. The event takes place at 6 p.m. today, following a book signing from 2-4 p.m. at Horizon Books.
“Her cookbook was on our radar,” said Caitlin Marsh, director of digital marketing and events for the bookstore, noting a local TV news interview with Kirwan in December. “There’s a Netflix series with the author of ‘Salt Fat Acid Heat,’ which is a really popular book, and they do a lot of sheet pan cooking. So the technique was on our radar, too.”
Great Lakes Culinary instructor Bob Rodriguez “constantly” cooks on sheet pans, especially to roast root vegetables. But he also turns out complete sheet pan meals.
“I take all those vegetables, toss them with olive oil and a little seasoning, and put them on the pan with chicken,” he said. “I take it out 45 minutes later and the vegetables are nice and caramelized and perfect and the chicken is cooked all the way through.”
Kirwan said the book’s 50 dinner and 10 breakfast recipes focus on “accessible health,” not “excessively healthy” dishes using mostly olive oil and kosher salt for seasoning. One of her favorites is a sort of chicken paella.
“You start with dry rice and top it with uncooked chicken breasts and fresh vegetables — onions, peppers and garlic — and pour liquid over it,” she said. “It all bakes in the oven together.”
All cooks need is an 8 1/2x13-inch sheet pan with a lip of at least one inch, she said.
“It needs to be a good, sturdy sheet pan. If the pan would legitimately hurt somebody if you used it, it’s a good and sturdy pan.”
The cookbook is an extension of Kirwan’s website and blog, “Percolate Kitchen,” which maintain a loyal following of busy people eager for simple and quick recipes, how-to’s and guides, meal planning and recipes, and organization tips and ideas.
“Nine times out of 10 (it focuses on) the weekend cooking — what makes your 5-9 in the kitchen easier, whether it’s meal planning, meal prep, freezer meals or sheet pan cooking,” she said.
She also teaches sheet plan classes for her neighborhood and for kids and adults at a private school.
Now she plans to launch an online course called Uncomplicated Kitchen. Its goal: to help students find systems and routines for easing that weekend kitchen stress.
Kirwan began cooking at an early age and often made the family dinners. She graduated from St. Francis in 2001 before enrolling in a two-year program at Great Lakes Culinary Institute.
Later she lived and cooked professionally in Dublin — where she met her husband, now a Manhattan bar owner — and Baltimore.
“I like to joke that it was because my mom was a terrible cook,” Kirwan said. “But she loves to eat.”
Teriyaki Steak Tips with Sesame Broccoli
1/4 c. plus one T. honey
1/4 soy sauce or gluten-free tamari
2 T. unseasoned rice vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 t. grated, peeled fresh ginger
1/2 c. cold water
1 T. cornstarch
2 large heads broccoli, stemmed and chopped into bite-sized florets
2 T. olive oil
1/2 t. kosher salt
2 lbs. steak tips
1 T. white sesame seeds
In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk the honey, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic and ginger. Add the water and cornstarch. Whisk until combined. Bring the sauce to a simmer, stirring often. While the teriyaki sauce cooks, spread the broccoli on one half of a sheet pan. Drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with the salt, and gently toss to coat.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Take a 2-foot length of aluminum foil and fashion it into a bowl, placing it on the other end of the sheet pan. Place the steak tips in the foil bowl and pour the teriyaki sauce on top. Using a spoon, gently toss the steak tips, coating them in the sauce.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the steak tips are cooked and little to no pink remains when they are cut open. Transfer the steak tips and sauce to the sheet pan, discarding the foil bowl, and toss everything to combine. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds just before serving.