Chicken & Broccoli Mac-n-Cheese

Who doesn’t LOVE mac-n-cheese.

The only thing about me that doesn’t love mac-n-cheese is my assets… ya feel me?

I have to say my FAVORITE mac-n-cheese of ALL-TIME is on Capitol Grille’s a la carte side menu and it is thee Lobster Mac-N-Cheese. If you’ve never had it, TRUST ME… it is WORTH the $18. It is delectable and divine and everything in between. The crunchy topping, the juicy lobster, the velvety rich cheese sauce… ok, drool alert!

However…

We already talked about my assets… they don’t need to get any bigger. Unfortunately for my mouth, but fortunately for my wallet, this treat is a very occasional item.

Ever just really crave a mac-n-cheese dish at home, and really have good intentions to TRY to keep it healthiER? But you’re just not sure how to make it happen so you grab the powder-package-laced Kraft or processed cheese delight Velvetta box?

Come on y’all… if you can find 15 minutes, I SWEAR, there is ANOTHER way! If you can find 15 minutes to prepare and 30 minutes to bake, we can take this to the NEXT level!

HealthiER cheese sauce

1 T REAL butter
2 T corn starch
1 cup low fat milk
1 cup 2% milk sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 t. garlic powder
1/4 t salt
pinch – 1/4 t black pepper, to taste
pinch nutmeg, optional
dash hot sauce or pinch cayenne, optional
Essential tools: whisk, small sauce pan

Over medium heat, melt butter in sauce pan. Add corn starch and whisk until smooth. Add milk and whisk until totally combined. Allow this to thicken for 2-3 minutes, whisking regularly. Add cheese and seasonings, which until cheese is completely combined. Turn heat down to Low and stir regularly until ready to add to the “mac”

Putting it all together

Cheese sauce
1 lb pasta, noodle of choice, cooked until BEFORE al dente (follow package instructions, but shed off 1 minutes of cooking time. It is so important  NOT to over cook the noodles – for the noodle, I like something FUN like mini rotini (spirals) or mini farfalle (bowties), but use whatever you like!
**Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water
2 cups chicken, cooked and shredded – I use my leftover Roasted split chicken breasts!
2 cups broccoli, steamed – you can use a steam in the microwave bag OR throw it in with your pasta when it is cooking!

After draining pasta, combine all ingredients in the pot you cooked your pasta in, adding pasta water to thin the sauce as needed – I usually use at least 1/4 cup if not the full 1/2 cup. Let combine and cook together 2-3 minutes.

OK- so here is the DEAL!

You can serve just like that in a bowl… and it would be so good!

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OR…

…you can take this to the NEXT level! By the way, we ate it like the above the first night, and I used the leftovers to do the next level below (Mom/wifey tricks!) #MomNinja

Next Level instructions – inspired by my FAVE, as mentioned, Capitol Grilles crispy topped lobster mac-n-cheese!:

Add mac mixture to sprayed (good ole Pam) baking dish. Top with 1/4 cup crushed cheese crackers plus 2-3 T shredded cheese – don’t have cheese crackers? No worries, try breadcrumbs with a couple T of shredded cheese! Spray lightly with pam. Cover with foil. Bake in preheated 350 F oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil, cook addition 8-10 minutes until topping is golden and crisp.

Serve immediately for immediate enjoyment. #cravingfixer #healthiER

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And, if you are anything like ME, you will cover this baby in crushed red and freshly cracked black pepper. Note: I may have a crushed red pepper addiction. #somelikeithot

serving chick broc mac cheese bake_crushed red

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