Deb’s Sheet Pan Chicken Tikka

When I was in middle school and early high school, I was a prolific writer.

Every day, I drafted a journal entry filled with schedules, thoughts, prayers, every food I ate, every grade I got, and several poems. My words were meticulous. I drew. I used gel pens. I even went back and edited my own journal entires later on. When I couldn’t decide what I thought about religion, I made charts of the facets of a religious life and a non-religious life, then highlighted the qualities I wanted to have in my own life. Clearly I ended up in the right career path.

What’s amazing to me, though, is how creative I was then. My poems are deep, well written, and intriguing. Sometimes they are sad.  Sometimes they are angsty. But they always evoke a power that I didn’t know I had at the time. Here’s one I wrote during my freshman year of high school, when I was 14:


I wonder
Who will I meet?
What will I do?
Where will I go?
When will it happen?
Why will I do it?
But no
I wont know
Until, full of wonder and surprise,
It tackles me full force
And pulls me under
Further and further
And finally releases me
So I can come up for air
Then yes
I will know
What I wondered.

I stopped writing poetry when I hit late high school.

We had to choose: sports or arts. I choose sports and spent every afternoon from 9th to 12th grade cheerleading at basketball and football games. I stopped singing and playing the trumpet. I stopped nurturing my creative side. But I wish I hadn’t! I remember taking poetry in college for a semester, to complete my creative writing credit, and putting in very little work. My professor pulled me aside. “You’re good at this,” she said. “Try harder.” I told her that poetry didn’t align with a career path, so I had to focus my efforts on other things.

When did we decide that adults should stop playing?

When did it become unprofessional to spend time and energy nurturing the silliest parts of ourselves? My resolution for next month is to write creatively like this again, to try my hand at poetry and vignettes and fiction. To play. To dance. To find that silly, goofy, creative side of me that’s still in there, somewhere.

Deb’s Sheet Pan Chicken Tikka

Or “A recipe that lets you play with your food.” This delicious concoction is all Smitten Kitchen. Serves 4.


  • 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 fresh green chili (I used a jalapeno), seeded and minced
  • 1/2 cup whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 2 pounds chicken thighs or chicken breasts


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
  • OPTIONAL: 1 small or half a very large head cauliflower, cut into 3/4-inch-wide florets (I don’t use this, but Deb does)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin


  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 T red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 4 Lemon or lime wedges
  • 6 dollops of yogurt
  • A few tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro, parsley, mint or green onions

Combine the ginger, garlic, jalapeno, yogurt, salt, spices and sugar in a bowl. Stir. Add the chicken and let marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes, or up to a day.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Cover a big sheet pan with aluminum foil. Add potatoes and mix them with olive oil and cumin and salt. Remove chicken from marinade and add it to the pan, nestling the pieces between the potatoes. Cook for 20 minutes, then toss the potatoes to make sure they’re cooking evenly and cook for another 10-20 minutes (30-40 minutes of total oven time).

While the chicken and potatoes cook, I pickle onions by thin slicing them and adding them to a bowl with vinegar. Let those sit for at least 15 minutes.

When the chicken is done, leave it on the pan. Top it with the pickled onions, blobs of yogurt, some lime juice, and an assortment of herbs. We like to eat this right off the pan with a side of naan to mop up all the delicious, turmeric-y pan juices. Enjoy!


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