Chicken Bacon Ranch Mac & Cheese

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Can someone please tell me why Saturday morning television is so terrible?

I live out in the middle of nowhere, and this means that it is very difficult for me to get any quality television services.   To me, spending a ton of money on 800 channels through a satellite service is just a waste if I’m only going to watch five of those channels. And while I love watching some of my favorite shows through streaming services, our satellite internet service is less than ideal and that can sometimes make it hard to watch something entertaining when the signal keeps going in and out.  Because of this, I’m limited to the 1-2 channels I can successfully pull from an antenna.

To me, it’s just another reminder that I should be doing something other than watching television. I should be up and doing something productive and being an active member of society. But on a Saturday morning, after a long week of working, there’s nothing I’d rather do than curl up on the couch with my dog and waste a few brain cells watching a funny show.

Turns out, when I was a kid, Saturday morning TV shows were the best. As an adult, not so much.

This really is fine because like I said, I should be doing something way more important than vegging out on the couch. Today, my Saturday plans consist of taking my dog for a walk, and letting my ducks and chickens out of their coop to bask in a little sunshine.  My husband’s away on business, but he will be home tonight, so I also need to spend a little time contemplating a good dinner for him to come home to.

Last week, we ordered a pizza for dinner from one of our favorite pubs.  We couldn’t decide which kind of pizza we wanted to go for until we heard about “the special”  – chicken bacon ranch pizza. Even though I’m not a fan of bacon, I thought that sounded like a really interesting twist on a traditional pie.  My husband absolutely went nuts over it!

Tonight, I’m going to surprise him with a macaroni and cheese version.  Obviously, it’s pretty straightforward: macaroni and cheese, plus chicken, bacon and ranch dressing.  But I’m actually kind of liking this version even better than the pizza because I replaced the mozzarella with a flavorful sharp cheddar.  I can’t wait for my husband to come home and try it!

 

 

Chicken Bacon Ranch Mac & Cheese

 

1 lb. macaroni noodles

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 white onion, diced

4 breaded chicken strips

4-6 strips of thick-cut bacon

3 tbsp butter

3 tbsp flour

2 cups milk

1 8oz. brick sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1 cup ranch dressing

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven 350F.

 

Boil pasta in generously-salted water until the pasta is al dente.  Drain and set aside.

Heat oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Cook onions for 5-6 minutes.  Set aside.

Cook chicken strips according to package instructions.  Cut into small 1/2 inch chunks.  Set aside.

Fry bacon in a sauté pan over medium heat for 5-6 minutes.  Flip bacon and cook an additional 2-3 minutes, or until bacon is thoroughly cooked and crispy.  Cool on a paper towel to absorb bacon fat, then cut into small pieces.  Set aside.

Melt butter in a large pan on medium heat.  Add flour and stir to create a roux.  Add in milk and stir until it becomes slightly thicker and smooth  Add cheddar and nutmeg and stir until melted and smooth.

Fold macaroni into the cheese mixture and stir to mix completely.  Add the onion, chicken, bacon and ranch dressing.  Stir to combine.  Season to taste.  Pour mixture into a greased 8×8 pan.

Bake  for 35-40 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and browned on the top.

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