The Healthy Meal That Cleans Up After Itself

Hungry Girl's Sesame Salmon & Snap Peas
Courtesy of Hungry-Girl.com

Looking for easy recipes that practically clean up after themselves? Look no further than foil-pack recipes. Just wrap your food in a packet of aluminum foil, let it steam in the oven, and devour it. No cookware to clean, and it's so simple.

Tools

Heavy-Duty Aluminum Foil: Standard foil isn't sturdy enough for foil-pack cooking. You really need to get the heavy-duty stuff. Otherwise, you may find yourself cleaning teriyaki chicken off the floor, which sort of defeats the purpose of foil-pack cooking.

Baking Sheet: Don't worry, I promised you no cookware to clean, and I meant it. The sheet's just needed to rest your packet on while it cooks. As long as you tightly seal up your foil pack, the sheet will remain perfectly clean.

Oven (or Grill): OK, foil packs practically clean up after themselves, but they can't cook themselves. Most of my foil-pack recipes are designed specifically for the oven, but I’ve got easy conversion info if you’re cooking on the grill. 

Oven Thermometer: If you’re using an oven, it's a good idea to have a stand-alone oven thermometer handy. The built-in temperature gauges are frequently a little off, especially if you have an older oven. The extra oven thermometer will help ensure your food's fully cooked before you break open that foil pack. 

How to Cook Foil-Pack Recipes on the Grill

Ingredients

Lean Protein: My top picks are chicken breast (cut into 1-inch cubes or pounded to a 1/2-inch cutlet), shrimp (peeled and deveined), and tilapia (or other flaky white fish) fillets.

Other good options that aren't technically lean? Chicken sausage with 8g fat or less per 3-oz. serving (cut into 1-inch coins) and skinless salmon fillets (a 4-ounce portion is a good size). 

Vegetables and Fruit: Cut your produce into pieces similar in size (or thickness) to your protein. That way, everything will cook evenly.

Practically any vegetable will work well in a foil pack. Standout fruit picks? Pineapple chunks and chopped apple.

Sauces and guilt-free staples: There are so many low-calorie sauces and marinades that can add major flavor to your food, such as Teriyaki, BBQ, and garlic and herb. Look for options with about 25 calories per tablespoon, and drizzle a tablespoon or two over the contents of your foil pack. Other great additions? Reduced-fat cheeses, like light wedges by The Laughing Cow.

Grocery Shopping Guide to Healthier Eating

Foil Pack Tips

  • When you fold up your foil, make sure that you form a tightly sealed pack. Secure all four edges of the foil. You don’t want the steam to escape.
  • Speaking of steam, you want there to be enough room within the pack for the steaming action to happen. When you’re forming that pack, leave some space above the food.
  • Cut the pack to release steam before you open up the pack entirely. The steam is hot, and you don't want to burn yourself.

How-to

Lay a large piece of heavy-duty foil on a large baking sheet and spray with nonstick spray.

Add seasoned protein, veggies, etc., in an even layer in the center of the foil.

Place another large piece of foil evenly over the bottom piece. Fold together and seal all four edges of the two foil pieces, forming a well-sealed packet.

Bake until protein is fully cooked and veggies are soft.

Allow packet to cool for a few minutes, and then cut the pack to release steam.

Recipe Ideas

Sesame Salmon & Snap Peas: Mix 2 tbsp. low-fat sesame ginger dressing, 1/8 tsp. chopped garlic, and a dash of ground ginger. Marinate a 4-oz. salmon filet in the mixture for 15 minutes. Place in a foil pack along with 1 cup sugar snap peas. Cook for 15 minutes at 375 degrees. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. sesame seeds. (275 calories, 15g fat)

Southwest Chicken: Mix 4 oz. cubed raw skinless chicken breast, 1/3 cup canned tomato sauce, 1/4 cup canned seasoned black beans (lightly drained), 1/4 cup canned sweet corn (drained), 1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper, and 1 tsp. chipotle hot sauce. Transfer to a foil pack, and bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees. (245 calories, 2g fat) 

Chicken Sausage with Squash: Mix 3 cups cubed butternut squash with 1/4 tsp. dried ground sage, 1/4 tsp. black pepper, and 1/8 tsp. salt. Transfer to a foil pack and top with 6 oz. fully cooked chicken sausage with 8g fat or less per 3-oz. serving (sliced into coins), 1 cup chopped apple, and 1/2 cup chopped onion. Seal and bake for 45 minutes at 375 degrees. (1/2 of pack = 285 calories, 8g fat)


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