Your New Best Friend – The Versatile Baking Sheet!
Let’s face it: I’m cheap, you’re cheap, we’re all cheap. As college students we’re working with limited (read: Mom and Dad’s) cash, so it’s important to look for ways you can stretch your dollar. When it comes to cooking this means buying pantry ingredients and kitchen equipment that can be used in a ton of different ways. The more versatile an item, the more you’ll be able to use it in your cooking, and the more value you can squeeze out of it in the long run.
One piece of equipment I turn to again and again is the baking sheet, which is essentially a cookie sheet but with sides so liquids won’t run off the pan and make a mess while things are gettin’ all hot and crispy in the oven. Here’s a picture (just to make sure we’re all on the same page):
Baking sheets are great because they’re huge, easy to work with, and most of them are nonstick, so they’re a cinch to clean. One thing I make all the time using my baking sheet is roast broccoli. It’s really simple: preheat your oven to 400°, toss fresh or frozen (unthawed) broccoli in some olive oil, salt, and freshly ground pepper, and put it in the oven for about 30 minutes. The result is crispy, juicy, slightly caramelized broccoli that is unlike anything you’ve tasted before. Roasting vegetables is an easy, versatile technique that can be used on pretty much anything from asparagus to zucchini (A to Z – see what I did there?).
If you’re strapped for time you might also want to consider making a sheet-pan dinner. By pre-cooking things that have longer bake times (like chicken and potatoes) and then sliding in the rest of the ingredients (like peppers, onions, and leafy vegetables), your entire meal will be hot and ready at the same time. And, bonus: you only used one pan to cook it all, which means easy clean-up! For some simple sheet-pan dinner ideas, click the link below:
As fun as all that sounds, the real party starts when you flip your baking sheet over. Whoa! He said what now?! Yeah, betcha didn’t know that an inverted baking sheet is great for making homemade pizza. All you have to do is turn the baking sheet over, stretch the dough into whatever shape you want (square, rectangle, heart – it doesn’t really matter, although if you’re in the habit of making heart-shaped pizzas then I think I’d like to be invited to dinners at your place a bit more often) and place it on the bottom (now top) of your baking sheet. Hit the dough with some marinara and whichever toppings you prefer, and it’s time for pizza! Make sure your oven is wicked hot – we’re talking as high as the dial will go, usually somewhere around 500° – before you put the pizza in. And it only needs about 10 minutes to cook, depending on whether you like your dough chewy or more on the crispy side.
Here’s a quick recipe for Buffalo Chicken Pizza, which is what I’m cooking for dinner tonight (be jealous):
A quick note on pizza making: you can ask for balls of dough at the Market District prepared foods counter. It’s super cheap (like $3 bucks for 2 dough balls) and makes a great, airy crust. Other Giant Eagles also carry tubes of pizza dough in the refrigerated section (not as good in my opinion, but it’ll work in a pinch).
So, there you go! Plenty of ideas for you to experiment with in the kitchen. And if you don’t already own a baking sheet you can pick one up from Amazon for about $20 (Cuisinart is a good choice, if you ask me). It’ll last you for years and years.
Now get cooking!