Weeknight Cooking

A Bold, Warming Sheet-Pan Dinner to Pull You Out of Wintry Blahs

Paprika-roasted carrots with chorizo, chickpeas, and dates will instantly lift your spirits.

January 23, 2019
Photo by Ty Mecham

We all need ace-in-the-hole dinners for cold, dreary winter days—the kind that instantly lift our spirits. Even when I have a solid meal plan in place, walking into a cold, dark kitchen at the end of a long day often tests my resolve to cook, especially when I’d rather jump straight into comfy clothes and spend time with my family. Sure, I have fallbacks like mac-and-cheese and fried egg sandwiches, but my real sanity-savers are meals so full of big, bold flavors, they immediately transport me to a warmer, sunnier place.

As I wrote about here, I’m resolving to cook smarter, not harder, in the year ahead. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll always relish a good cooking project, but during the week, I’m trying to find ways to simplify and spend a little less time in the kitchen without sacrificing flavor, creativity, or wholesome meals around the table.

This sun-kissed Honey and Smoked Paprika Roasted Carrots with Chorizo, Chickpeas, and Dates has all these traits in spades. It’s a combination of flavors and textures that never fails to excite: Sweet and smoky crispy-edged carrots. Spicy, garlicky chorizo. Toasty chickpeas. Sweet, chewy dates. Charred lemon. Bright, fresh herbs. Cooling, creamy yogurt.

It's one of my favorite sheet-pan dinners from the last year because it’s a cinch to execute, relies on ingredients that I almost always have on hand, and tastes like it took triple the time and effort to pull off.

This recipe is a particularly great example of how a few shortcuts on ingredients and technique pay huge dividends. Here, I've gathered the tips and tricks that make this sheet pan dinner come together quickly and nimbly:

  • Change up your vegetable prep: Carrots can take upwards of 40 minutes to get tender in the oven when left whole (or even halved or quartered). By cutting them thinly along the bias (a mandoline makes especially easy work of this task), they cook evenly and quickly—in about a quarter of the time.
  • Flavor simply and boldly: I’ve roasted carrots six ways to Sunday, but I’ve yet to find a simpler, more electric way to boost their flavor than tossing them in honey, smoked paprika, and olive oil prior to roasting. Even better, the sweet-smoky-sticky glaze ends up flavoring the rest of the ingredients as they roast.
  • Add spicy, fatty oomph: I love smoked Spanish-style chorizo for its ease and bold flavor. Most varieties are fully cooked (which is what you want for this recipe), meaning there’s no worry about raw meat or cooking to temperature. When sliced into thin coins and roasted, the chorizo quickly crisps and renders its spicy fat. Olympia Provisions smoked chorizo is my go-to.
  • Lean on pantry powerhouse ingredients: I always keep Medjool dates and canned chickpeas on hand because they add so much flavor, interest, and heft to wintry dishes with so little effort. And guess what happens when they’re warm, toasty, and slicked in chorizo fat? Yep, you guessed it...pure magic.
  • Brighten up: One of my very favorite tricks for building flavor is roasting a lemon, cut-side down, alongside my other ingredients, and then squeezing the juice over the dish before serving. Charred lemon juice is even tarter, tangier, and more concentrated in flavor than fresh. To brighten the dish even more, throw in a handful of fresh parsley or cilantro, but don’t bother with picking off the leaves. The tender stems add lovely flavor, color, and texture.
  • Cool it down: A big swoosh of yogurt, either regular or Greek-style, seasoned with sea salt and a little charred lemon juice, is a simple way to unite all of the flavors on the plate. Plus, if your chorizo is a little too spicy for some palates (sometimes the case with my own kids!), the yogurt balances the heat nicely.

The whole meal comes together in under 30 minutes, most of which is hands-off, and clean-up is minimal. No matter how my day has gone (or the weather outside), it’s a dinner that makes me feel happy and accomplished—the perfect balance of effort to reward.

What's your best kitchen shortcut? Share all your tips in the comments section below!
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  • Rhonda35
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Written by: EmilyC

I'm a home cook. I love salads. Two things you'll always find in my refrigerator are lemons and butter, and in my pantry good quality chocolate and the makings for chocolate chip cookies.


Rhonda35 January 28, 2019
I look forward to trying this - sounds delicious. I might serve it atop a bed of arugula.
EmilyC January 28, 2019
Fantastic idea, Rhonda! I sometimes add enough parsley to make my portion salad-like; peppery arugula would be even better, I think. Hope you enjoy this!