Easy Roasted Chicken with Acorn Squash Salad and Wild Rice
At first glance this recipe might seem a bit overwhelming, but don’t be scared off because really we are just roasting chicken and squash in the oven, cooking some rice on the stove and tossing a salad. The oven takes care of most of the cooking, while we do the prep, but in just over an hour, from start to finish, you will have a complete family style dinner, ready to go on the table.
This roasted chicken is easy to make, so easy in fact, that you could make it almost any night of the week. The real trick here, for both taste and time, is to salt the chicken in advance. Not only does it result in moist tender flavourful chicken, but it means when you walk through the door and need to get dinner going, one of the steps is already done. I learned this amazing trick from The Family Cooks by Laurie David, one of my favourite cookbooks (it’s awesome!), and I have done it ever since.
So, if you can, salt the chicken the night before you plan to cook it, or in the morning if that works better for you (like when you fall asleep reading books to the kids, or on the couch watching Netflix). Just pat the chicken dry, lay it on a rack placed on a rimmed baking sheet, sprinkle it all over with salt and pop it in the fridge (uncovered) and forget about it until it’s time to make dinner.
And hey, if it’s one of those nights where you are picking up groceries, for dinner, on the way home (yeah we’ve all been there), well then just salt the chicken when you get home, as set out in the recipe instructions.
Whenever I have the oven on, I like to take full advantage of it, so roasting vegetables at the same time I’m roasting meat makes a lot of sense to me. Get that oven working for you!!! And while the oven is working away, there is time to toss the salad, whip up some dressing and set the table.
And while we’re on the topic of salad, having mixed greens, ready to go in the fridge, is a big time-saver for my family and has made a huge difference in the number of salads we eat. It also makes it really easy to get the kids involved in dinner prep. They can measure out the greens (by eye, by hand or by measuring cup) and decide what they want to add to the salad. They say mushrooms, add mushrooms. They say peppers, add peppers. They say cookies, ok well maybe present some choices depending on age, palette, etc., but add whatever your family likes or what you have on hand and toss away.
Now here’s the great part…you’ve got four recipes here. An Easy Roasted Chicken you can cook on weekdays or weekends, for family or for friends. Roasted Acorn Squash with the sweetness of maple, that is delicious on it’s own, but lots of fun topped with a simple mixed green salad. A go-to Maple Dijon Dressing, that is a staple in my fridge, and is just as perfect for topping salads, as it is for marinating fish and meat. Plus Wild Rice with Lemon and Parmesan that you can substitute whatever rice you have in the pantry for. Use them together one time, use them on their own other times.
The point is, this is your family dinner not mine, make it work for you. Maybe you have a butternut squash in the fridge, use the butternut squash. Maybe you have brown rice in the pantry, use brown rice. Maybe you don’t think your little one will touch roasted squash topped with greens, then switch it up. Mash some of the roasted squash and serve the tomatoes and cucumbers as a finger salad. Slice the chicken for the older kids, chop it up small and add it to the rice for the little ones. It’s yours. Make it what you want and enjoy it!
This dinner was made with lunch in mind. Reinventing leftovers from dinner is my go-to-way to make fast, fresh and flavorful homemade lunches with very little extra effort, saving time, money and food waste. It’s almost like getting a free lunch.
Check out these lunch ideas made with leftovers from this dinner recipe:
Chicken and Wild Rice Soup with Acorn Squash
Chicken Kale and Wild Rice Salad with Dried Cranberries and Toasted Walnuts
Apple & Chicken Salad with Toasted Pecans and Maple Dijon Dressing
- 4 chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on (between 2-3 lbs total)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 lemon, sliced into 1/4" thick slices
- 4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
- 1 Acorn squash
- Olive oil
- Maple syrup
- 4 cups mixed greens
- 1/4 cucumber, thinly sliced
- 12 grape tomatoes, cut in half
- 1/4 cup walnut halves, toasted (walnuts are delicious toasted but if you don't have time, no worries:)
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1 3/4 cups water
- 1 cup wild rice
- 1 lemon wedge
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 450°F, gather ingredients and tools, line one of the baking sheets with parchment paper.
- When oven reaches about 300°F, spread walnut halves on the unlined baking sheet and toast, in the oven while it preheats, for 5 minutes, shaking the pan halfway through, until the walnuts are slightly darkened and fragrant. Remove pan from oven, transfer walnuts to a cutting board to cool, allowing oven to continue to preheat. Chop walnuts.
- Pat chicken dry with paper towels and sprinkle each piece with 1/4 teaspoon salt (unless you salted it earlier). Let the chicken sit while the oven preheats and you start the rice and squash.
- In a medium saucepan, over high heat, bring water and rice to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, remove from heat and let stand, with lid on, for 10 minutes. Fluff with fork, squeeze with lemon wedge and top with parmesan cheese.
- Meanwhile while rice is cooking, trim ends off squash, cut in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds and cut each half lengthwise into 2 or 3 wedges, creating 4-6 wedges total. Transfer wedges to the parchment lined baking sheet, skin side down, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and drizzle each with 1/2 teaspoon of maple syrup. Roast in oven for 40-45 minutes or until fork tender, basting halfway through.
- Once squash is in the oven, pat chicken dry with paper towel, sprinkle with pepper and transfer to a baking sheet, skin side up. Arrange lemon slices and garlic around chicken and roast for 35-40 minutes, or until cooked through (meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part should read 160°F). Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. To serve either cut each chicken breast, right through the bone, into 4 equal portions, remove chicken from bone and slice/chop or shred chicken by pulling it off the bone.
- To prepare the salad, in the same measuring cup used to measure the water for the rice, whisk together the oil, vinegar, maple syrup and mustard. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss mixed greens, cucumber and tomatoes in a salad bowl. Top each wedge of squash with mixed green salad, roasted walnuts and a drizzle of maple dijon dressing, serve alongside the chicken and rice.
2 baking sheets
Cutting board and large sharp knife
Measuring spoons (1T, 1t, 1/2t, 1/4t)
Dry measuring cups (1c, 1/4c)
Liquid measuring cup (2c)
Medium saucepan with lid
Fork for rice
Spoon to scoop out squash
Salad bowl & servers
Things you can do ahead of time:
Salt chicken the night before or in the morning.
Prep veggies & wash greens the night before.
Grate parmesan cheese the night before.
Make dressing up to 3 days ahead and store in the refrigerator in a jar with a tight fitting lid.
Toast the walnuts up to 1 week before and store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.