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Feeding the kids: Chicken cheddar bacon ranch macaroni and cheese

The chicken bacon cheddar ranch macaroni and cheese

The chicken bacon cheddar ranch macaroni and cheese recipe can be found in the "Eat What You Love -- Everyday," by Marlene Koch (Running Press; $26.50). Photo Credit: Steve Legato

In my ongoing quest to find tasty, kid-friendly food appropriate for the whole family, this week I chose a fun twist on traditional macaroni and cheese. I found the recipe in "Eat What You Love -- Everyday: 200 All-New, Great-Tasting Recipes Low in Sugar, Fat and Calories," by Marlene Koch (Running Press; $26.50).

Chicken Cheddar Bacon Ranch Mac' n Cheese
(Makes 4 servings)

Ingredients
- 1 3/4 cups dry penne pasta (like Dreamfields)
- 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into coins
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke
- 1 tablespoon real bacon bits
- 1/4 cup chopped scallions
For the cheese sauce:
- 3/4 cup low-fat evaporated milk
- 1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt with parsley
- 1 cup reduced-fat shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, divided

Directions

1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. When the pasta has 3 minutes of cook time remaining, add the carrots to the pasta water and continue cooking. Drain and rinse in cold water. Set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and saute for 8 minutes, or until they begin to caramelize and soften, stirring occasionally. Toss the chicken with dill and pepper; add to the skillet. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked and onions are well caramelized.

3. While the chicken is cooking, in a small saucepan over medium heat, make the cheese sauce: Combine the first five sauce ingredients (evaporated milk through garlic salt) in a small saucepan over medium heat and whisk until the mixture comes to a low boil and thickens. Turn off the heat, add 3/4 cup of cheese, and whisk until the sauce is smooth.

4. Add the onion powder and liquid smoke. Add the pasta to the chicken, toss to combine, add the cheese sauce and mix well.

5. Garnish with the last 1/4 cup cheese, bacon bits and scallions.

Reprinted with permission from "Eat What You Love Everyday" 2014 by Marlene Koch, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group.

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