Cooking your dinner in a parchment paper or foil bag is a simple, fast, and convenient method. Using this method you can create the ultimate fast food without the fat and calories. You can create an entire meal in one package and also keep your proteins tender because of the steam created inside the sealed pockets. Here are some basic techniques and tips to help you become a package master.

First of all make sure that your squares of parchment or foil are large enough to contain the amount of food you have prepared. I prefer using foil because it’s inexpensive and easier to seal into an airtight package. First spray the foil with non-stick spry oil. Place your ingredients directly in the center of the foil, fold the edges up to create a square, fold them together and seal with a crimp. Make sure they’re sealed tightly so steam doesn’t escape. Remember that the veggies will cook down so make sure you add enough for a full serving.

Layering your ingredients makes for a nice presentation when you open up the packet. For example, place thin slices of potato, a serving of halibut, chopped tomatoes and fresh herbs, and drizzle with EV olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, a squeeze of lemon, and salt and pepper. Bake at 425 degrees for twenty five minutes. While it cooks the seasonings will penetrate throughout the dish to flavor and create a light sauce.

You should make sure that your vegetables, potatoes, etc., are sliced uniformly and in small enough pieces so that they will finish cooking at the same time as the protein. Seafood generally cooks fairly quickly, especially shrimp and scallops. For a delicious Cajun shrimp dish mix together in a bowl 4-5 cloves of minced garlic, one cup of diced sweet onion, one diced red bell pepper, three or four sliced scallions, one green and one yellow zucchini cut into small cubes, a pound of shelled shrimp, two diced and fully cooked spicy lean turkey sausages, Cajun seasoning, a dash of hot sauce, the juice of a lemon and a tablespoon of EV olive oil. Seal into individual packets, and cook at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.

You can create a quick stir-fry that cooks while you relax with a glass of wine after a long, stressful day. Have the kids help cut the veggies or buy the pre-chopped ones if they’re too young to use knives. Shred Napa cabbage as a base for your meal. Slice your favorite veggies into thin strips, such as carrots, onions, zucchini, peppers, etc. Add some chopped broccoli, snow peas, shelled edamame or even cubes of eggplant. Mix these together in a bowl and layer on top of cabbage. Next top your veggies with cubes or slices of skinless, boneless chicken breasts. In a small bowl whisk together some soy sauce, seasoned rice wine vinegar and/or Mirin, a dash of hot sauce, a tablespoon or two of peanut butter, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar or honey, the juice and zest of a lime, minced garlic and fresh (or dried) ginger, and some 5-spice powder if you have it. Drizzle a few tablespoons over each package, seal, and cook at 425 degrees for 25 minutes.

Once you have the basic technique down you will be able to create your own package inventions with ease. They can make life easier, especially in the summer when the last thing you want to do is stand over a hot stove for an hour. Let the oven and the package do the cooking for you while you spend quality time with your family, or just yourself. Your family and friends will be amazed with what you can pull out of the bag for dinner-or lunch!

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