Go-to meals for the busy season ahead

Go-to meals for the busy season ahead

(BPT) – Fall is a busy time of year. Families are embracing new back-to-school and work routines whether in person or online, and events and activities are popping up on the calendar. Having go-to meal and snack solutions that don’t require a lot of prep time is a smart strategy to navigate new schedules and still nourish body and soul.

Sheet pan dinners are the rage because they are very simple to make. Often all that’s needed is one bowl, one pan and a hot oven. Chicken Sheet Pan Dinner with Grapes, Carrots and Parsnips calls for roasting cumin- and turmeric-spiced chicken thighs with a medley of root vegetables and fresh California grapes in a sheet pan. The roasted grapes add a flavor and texture contrast to complement the warmly spiced veggies and meat. Roasting is hands-off, giving the family chef 30 minutes or so to catch up on other at-home activities.

Grapes show off their versatility in an easy make-ahead Caramelized Grape Upside-Down Cake. This cake makes a tasty and satisfying dessert yet is not cloyingly sweet. Leftovers can even be enjoyed for breakfast as a coffee cake.

Heart-healthy grapes are also a refreshing and portable anytime fall snack. Make grapes from California the go-to game day snack to enjoy on the field, in the stands or on the couch.

Chicken Sheet Pan Dinner with Grapes, Carrots and Parsnips

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 30-35 minutes

Yield: Makes 4 servings


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 1/4 teaspoons turmeric

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 large garlic cloves, minced

4 chicken thighs on the bone, skin removed and visible fat trimmed

2 medium onions, sliced 1/3-inch thick

3 carrots, peeled and cut in 2 and 1/2-inch sticks

2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut in 2 and 1/2-inch sticks

Freshly ground pepper

1 1/4 cups red California grapes


Heat the oven to 400 F with rack in the center. Line a shallow baking sheet (10×15 or 11×17) with parchment paper or foil (shiny side down). If using foil, spray with vegetable oil cooking spray to prevent vegetables from sticking.

In a large bowl, stir to combine the oil, cumin, turmeric, salt and garlic. Add the chicken, turning to coat, and then transfer smooth side up to the baking sheet. Add the vegetables to the bowl and toss in the remaining spiced oil, then distribute them around the chicken pieces on the baking sheet. Season with freshly ground pepper.

Roast the chicken and vegetables for 25 minutes. Sprinkle the grapes over the vegetables and roast about 5 minutes more, until the juices run clear when the chicken is pierced with the tip of a small sharp knife. (Note: for softer roasted grapes, add them to the pan earlier.)

Nutritional analysis per serving: 410 Calories; Protein 31 g; Carbohydrate 34 g; Fat 17 g (37% Calories from Fat); Saturated Fat 3.5 g (8% Calories from Saturated Fat); Cholesterol 155 mg; Sodium 470 mg; Fiber 6 g.

Caramelized Grape Upside-Down Cake

Prep time: 15 minutes plus cooling

Bake time: 35 minutes

Yield: Makes 10 servings


1 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

11/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup nonfat milk

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter

1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar

11/2 pounds black California seedless grapes (about 4 cups), halved

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Lightly sweetened whipped cream for serving, if desired


Preheat oven to 350 and place a rack in the lower third of the oven. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center; set aside.

In a 9 1/2-inch cast-iron skillet melt the butter over medium heat. Pour 6 tablespoons of the melted butter into a heatproof cup (to reserve for the batter). Add the brown sugar to the remaining butter in the skillet and cook until melted, about 1 minute. Stir in the grapes and remove from the heat.

In small bowl, beat the milk, eggs and vanilla together, and then stir with a whisk into the dry mixture, just until smooth. Pour in the reserved melted butter and the olive oil; stir until blended. Carefully pour the batter over the warm grape mixture in the skillet, smoothing the top. Bake until cake is firm and springy in the center, about 35 minutes.

Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Invert a cake platter on top of the skillet and then carefully flip and remove the skillet. Let it cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 330 Calories; Protein 4 g; Carbohydrate 50 g; Fat 13 g (35% Calories from Fat); Saturated Fat 6 g (13% Calories from Saturated Fat); Cholesterol 60 mg; Sodium 160 mg; Fiber 1 g.

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