Thursday, April 1, 2010

Bacon, Ranch, and Chicken Mac and Cheese

Ummmm...bacon and ranch in mac and cheese? Catches your eye doesn't it? It did mine when I was flipping through a Cooking Light magazine at my mom's recently. I stopped subscribing to it because I don't like the new layout. I was sad to stop taking it as I've gotten it since 2003 or 2004, but I just didn't dig it. Plus my mom gets it, so I might as well read hers and then go to the website and email myself the recipes I liked from it. I'm quite the money saver, can't you tell?

Anyway, I'm pretty much a sucker for mac and cheese to begin with, then when I saw bacon in the title it was a done deal that my family would be having this for dinner at some point. When the boy asked what we were having for dinner the night I made this, and I told him "mac and cheese" he responded with, "Oh boy! My favorite!!" What can I say, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Bacon, Ranch, and Chicken Mac and Cheese

8 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni
1 slice applewood-smoked bacon
8 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups fat-free milk
1/3 cup condensed 45% reduced-sodium 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded six-cheese Italian blend (such as Sargento)
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded colby-Jack cheese

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain.
2. Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving drippings in pan. Finely chop bacon; set aside. Increase heat to medium-high. Add chicken to drippings in pan; sauté 6 minutes or until done.
3. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat; sprinkle flour evenly into pan. Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk. Combine milk and soup, stirring with a whisk; gradually add milk mixture to saucepan, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil; cook 2 minutes or until thick. Remove from heat; let stand 4 minutes or until sauce cools to 155°. Add Italian cheese blend, onion powder, garlic powder, dill, and salt, stirring until cheese melts. Stir in pasta and chicken.
4. Preheat broiler.
5. Spoon mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle evenly with reserved bacon and colby-Jack cheese. Broil 3 minutes or until cheese melts.

Nutritional Information
Fat:17g (sat 9.2g,mono 4.7g,poly 1.4g)


My family loves bacon. Generations of my family have loved bacon, as have generations of my husband's family (or at least his parents do, so I'm assuming it goes back longer than that), so when I read this only called for one piece I figured that just wouldn't do. Kind of like I always add more cheese than what is called for. I figured a second slice wouldn't hurt anything, so I cooked up two. As soon as my guys smelled bacon cooking all three of them were in the kitchen. I damn near had to smack their hands. Just kidding--about the hand smacking, they did all come in asking for bacon, but I told them it was for dinner. I also didn't use the canned cream of whatever soup because I've vowed to stop buying it because it's really nasty stuff. Or at least the ingredients in it are nasty. I try to stick to a rule of "if I can't pronounce it, I shouldn't eat it" when it comes to buying food. In the Make it Fast, Cook it Slow cookbook, Stephanie O'Dea has a recipe for cream of whatever soup you can make yourself and substitute for the canned stuff that's really easy to put together. You can find the recipe on her blog here.

Because I had to make my own cream of whatever soup and needed to make a separate roux for the mac and cheese, this took a little longer than I thought it would, but it all worked out in the end. I didn't have colby jack cheese to use, so I used some shredded cheddar instead.

This was yummy!!! I ended up adding in a little too much dill (I go a little crazy with fresh dill because I heart it so), but it wasn't too overpowering. Just stick with what's listed in the recipe!! If I recall correctly (and I'm pretty sure I do in looking over what else we've eaten recently), the husband had thirds and kept going back for little bites until he had finished off the pan. So, we liked it. The boy and baby liked it, too. This is definitely something I'll make again, I'll just have to plan my time out a little better.

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