Ranch Winter Panzanella with Chicken

If tossing together a big, healthy salad for dinner sounds like a meal plan reserved only for hot summer days, think again!  I’ve created an amazing entrée salad that will have you crawling out of hibernation during the chillier months of the year – Ranch Winter Panzanella with Chicken. Inspired by the signature salad of Italy’s Tuscan region, my hearty, sweater-weather version includes chicken breast along with winter vegetables roasted to caramelized perfection in lieu of those traditional fresh tomatoes that can be so hard to find ripe this side of summer. I’ve thrown in baby Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, red onions and spinach, but you could substitute in whatever you fancy – root vegetables would work well.

Litehouse Panzanella Ingredients Litehouse Panzanella Ingredients

 

It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, the one make-it-or-break-it ingredient in a panzanella is the bread – this dish is often referred to as a “bread salad,” after all. Bread that is too soft will sop up all the dressing and vegetable juices, become unpleasantly soggy in the process. Rustic, artisan-type bread made into herbed croutons makes a better vehicle for the dressing and offers a nice crispy-chewy balance to the texture of the vegetables.  It’s quick and easy to make croutons at home with a bit of olive oil and Instantly Fresh Herbs from Litehouse Foods. Once you taste these flavorful croutons, you’ll never go back to store-bought!

Litehouse Panzanella Bowl Litehouse Panzanella Bowl

 

Also important for the full flavor experience of a panzanella is the vegetable roasting; don’t try and circumvent this step by steaming or microwaving your ingredients. Oven roasting is a simple way to create rich-tasting, earthy-sweet vegetables without adding an excess of unnecessary fat. Smaller vegetables can be roasted whole or sliced in half while larger produce can be quartered or cut into large chunks. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and herbs; bake on rimmed cooking sheet and, in about 30 minutes, you’ll be in crouton heaven. You may want to make a double batch for snack attacks; friends and family tend to gobble these up as soon as pulled from the oven.

Litehouse Panzanella Salad Litehouse Panzanella Salad

 

Tying together the flavors of this bountiful bread salad is Litehouse Food’s OPA Ranch Dressing. This amazing accompaniment adds a slightly tangy creaminess to salads without the normal high-fat content that is normally associated with ranch dressings. In fact, OPA Ranch Dressing boasts 60% fewer calories, coming in at only 60 calories per two-tablespoon serving. That’s because the sour cream has been swapped out with protein-packed Green yogurt. Hope you enjoy the Ranch Winter Panzanella with Chicken - Buon appetito!

Litehouse Panzanella Salad Plated Litehouse Panzanella Salad Plated

 

Ranch Winter Panzanella with Chicken

Serves 4 | Finish in 1 hour 10 minutes
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Savor the earthy-sweet flavors of the roasted winter vegetables found in this hearty cool-season salad. Pieces of succulent chicken, homemade crispy croutons and creamy OPA Greek yogurt ranch dressing transform a basic “bread” side salad into a well-rounded meal.

Ingredients

½ loaf (about 8 ounces) day-old French or Sourdough or Rustic bread (cut into 1” cubes)*,
4 Tbsp olive oil (divided),
4 Tbsp Litehouse Food Instantly Fresh Italian Herb Blend (divided),
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt (divided),
1 10-oz package frozen cubed butternut squash,
1 lb fresh baby Brussels sprouts (halved),
1 large red onion (peeled and cut into 1” chunks),
1 lb pre-cooked chicken breast (cut into large chunks),
1 cup packed fresh spinach leaves,
½ cup Litehouse Food OPA Ranch Dressing,

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 F.

2. Add bread cubes to large bowl. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the Italian Herb Blend and 1 teaspoon of the salt.

3. Toss together to coat bread. Spread out on rimmed baking sheet and bake uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Remove from oven to cool on paper towel. Keep oven heated.

4. In large bowl, add cubed squash (okay if still frozen), Brussels sprouts, and onion. Drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons Italian Herb Blend and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Dust off crumbs from crouton baking sheet and spread out vegetable mixture in single layer. Roast uncovered in 400 F degree oven for 30 minutes, stirring gently halfway for even cooking.

5. Remove vegetables from oven and let cool down for approximately 15 minutes. Add prepared bread croutons, cubed chicken and spinach to pan; toss together. Transfer to serving platter and drizzle with Litehouse Food OPA Ranch Greek Yogurt Dressing or serve on the side. Best served warm or at room temperature.

*tip: frozen French bread is very easy to cube


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