April 13, 2010

Cooking Light's Bacon, Ranch, and Chicken Mac & Cheese

I know it is probably weird to be excited about food/cooking all the time, but I am. I derive a lot of pleasure from both the consumption and preparation of food, so it is hard to fathom not liking to eat or cook for my family. I could never be one of those people who are totally indifferent about eating and/or be someone who forgets to eat sometimes. I don't think there has been any time in my life where I just simply forgot to eat. Although, I would be a lot thinner if I was one of those people, that is for sure!

Anyway, tonight's dinner seems really yummy, and I can't wait to try it...as usual. This is a Cooking Light recipe that my friend, Claire recently made for her family. They all really liked it...but what is not to like about pasta, bacon, and cheese. I am going to serve this healthy version of mac and cheese with some salad. Thanks again, Claire for the great idea.

Cooking Light's Bacon, Ranch, and Chicken Mac and Cheese
From: March 2010 issue, by SaBrina Bone

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:
Yield: 4 servings (serving size: about 2 cups)
Fat:17g (sat 9.2g,mono 4.7g,poly 1.4g)

Jen's Notes:
For the Mac and Cheese dish, the recipe info indicates that a single serving size is 2 cups. Is it me, or does that seem like a really large portion???? Since we have artichokes on the side, I think I might actually dish out 1 cup portion sizes and see how it goes. Also, I don't have fresh dill so I need to use dried. I want this dish to have lots of ranch flavor, so I think I might incorporate some dry ranch dressing seasoning as some of the reviews indicate. I will let you know how it turns out, and how much ranch dressing I add to the mix later in my review.

The Result:
This was sooooo good! It totally felt decadent and did not seem like a "light" recipe. The dill and ranch dressing packet worked out well (I used 1/2 packet of ranch dressing mix) and will be changes that I incorporate again. I think next time I am going to try and make my own cream of mushroom soup, just for fun. Other than that, this was a dish we all loved and it will be something we have again.

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