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Monday, June 17, 2013

Chicken, Bacon, and Ranch Macaroni and Cheese

Today has been exhausting!  Bailey's last tooth is finally coming in.  She has been refusing to drink her milk (and I won't give her any juice until she drinks at least 3/4 of her milk) and she has completely missed nap time three days in a row.  We ended up getting home from the store too late for her to nap today.  She has been whiny, needy, and clingy.  I really need a break.  Thankfully Mom has the summer off work so maybe she will keep Bailey some day this week so I can go get my hair done and maybe take myself a little nap.

On a better note, I got all of the shopping done for the rest of the month today, and dinner was awesome!

Aaron has a thing about macaroni and cheese.  Apparently when he was a kid if you didn't make macaroni and cheese he wouldn't eat.  He lived on it growing up.  His mom says she cooked all kinds of foods for him, but he always chose to just eat macaroni and cheese.  Even now I keep having to make macaroni and cheese even if I have another starch (or two) on the plate.  The saddest part is that he usually eats all starch and protein and completely skips the vegetables.

As much as he loves macaroni and cheese, he gets even pickier about it.  You can't serve just any macaroni and cheese with dinner.  It has to be either Kraft macaroni and cheese (not the kids stuff with the powdered cheese, he likes the one with the cheese in the pouch) or Velveeta shells and cheese.  He won't eat the store brand or even my homemade macaroni and cheese, even if I make it with Velveeta cheese.  I hate making it every night, but if I don't he kind of mopes about the rest of the night.

So about a year ago I decided to try a baked macaroni and cheese, but I didn't have a recipe so I made one up.  It was a total disaster.  There was way more cheese sauce than macaroni, the sauce wouldn't thicken like I wanted it to, and the cheese on top wouldn't brown.  It tasted fine, but it was not what I had hoped for.  When I joined Pinterest one of the first recipes I tried was one that originally came from Cooking Light.  I would not consider my version of it "light" but it is certainly tasty.

The first time I made it Aaron said he hated it.  I disagreed so I made it again, the second time for his parents, and he changed his mind.  Tonight he said if I had served it with some bread it would be perfect.  Meanwhile I was wishing I had planned for a salad tonight because I was missing my veggies.

Try this delicious macaroni and cheese with some peas and carrots in it or some broccoli.  Its a great way to incorporate some veggies into what would otherwise be a veggie-less meal.  Besides, who can turn down broccoli in cheese sauce?

Chicken, Bacon, and Ranch Macaroni and Cheese

8 oz dry elbow macaroni
3 slices bacon
1 8 oz chicken breast, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup cream of chicken soup
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dill
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided

Cook the macaroni according to the package directions.  Once the pasta is tender drain and set aside.

In a skillet cook the bacon over medium heat until it is crispy.  I like to chop the bacon before I cook it so it cooks more evenly.  Once the bacon is cooked through carefully transfer the bacon to a plate lined with a paper towel, leaving the drippings in the pan.

Cook the chicken in the bacon drippings over medium heat until it is no longer pink.  Once the chicken is cooked through remove the pan from the heat and set it aside.

In a medium sauce pan melt the butter over medium-high heat and add the flour.  Cook for about a minute, stirring constantly.  Add the milk, cream of chicken soup, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and dill.  Continue cooking over medium-high, stirring frequently, until the sauce starts to bubble and thicken.

Remove the sauce from the heat and add 1-1 1/2 cups of the cheese.  Stir until the mixture becomes smooth.  Add the cooked macaroni and stir to combine.  Preheat the broiler on high.

Pour the macaroni and sauce mixture into an 8x8 baking dish, sprayed with vegetable oil spray.

Layer the chicken over the macaroni.

Sprinkle the bacon over the chicken.

Top with the remaining shredded cheese.

Put the whole thing in the oven under the broiler and cook about 3-4 minutes, just until the cheese on top is melted and bubbly.

Serve warm.  A side salad or some bread would be delicious with this.

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