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11.12.2012

Chicken, Cheese, and Noodle Bake

Sunday night dinners have to be special.


It should be a law for no other reason than Mondays are hard, the "Sunday night blues" is a real condition, and if our football team has to lose AGAIN I'd at least prefer that they do it while I'm eating a bowl of something cheesy, melty, and gooey.

That usually makes anyone feel better, right?  Yeah, no.  Not the husband.

I knew we were in for the kind of night that food can't cure when he violently pulled off his jersey, threw it where the cat naps, and exclaimed "I'm done with this!"  That jersey's going to come with a fur lining if he doesn't get back on the wagon soon.

This Sunday dinner is super special.  It's basically a big ol' dish of macaroni and cheese with ground chicken and veggies.  And here's the kicker! (Football pun totally not but totally intended.)  It's completely healthy when you use the "right" ingredients, so says me.  I used organic and lean ground chicken, but you can certainly use a lean ground sirloin.  I threw in onion, carrot, and spinach, but any veggies work!  And finally, I used fat-free milk and fat-free shredded cheese, but whatever's in your fridge will do just fine.


I'm not saying Monday will be easy, and I'm certainly not saying your fantasy football team won't suck this week, but at least you got dinner in the sack.  See what I did there?


Chicken, Cheese, and Noodle Bake
Adapted from MyRecipes.com's America's Favorite Food
Serves 6-8

Ingredients:
8 oz elbow macaroni (I found whole wheat!)
1 c onion, chopped
1 c carrot, grated
2 tsp garlic, minced
1 lb ground chicken
2 large handfuls baby spinach
1 c low-sodium tomato sauce
Salt/pepper
3/4 c fat-free milk
1 tbs flour
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/2 c fat-free or reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Preparation:
Preheat the oven to 350 deg F.
Cook the pasta according to the package directions, omitting salt and fat.  Drain, and set aside.
Heat a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, and coat with cooking spray.  Add the onion and carrot, and cook for 4 minutes or until soft.  Add the garlic, and cook an additional minute.
Add the ground chicken, and cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble.
Add the spinach, tomato sauce, salt and pepper, and cook for a few minutes, stirring to wilt the spinach.
Add the pasta to the chicken mixture, and stir to combine. Stir the mixture into an 11 x 7-in baking dish coated with cooking spray.
Place the milk, flour, and nutmeg in a small saucepan, and stir with a whick until blended.  Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, or until thickened, stirring constantly.  Add in 1 cup of the cheese, stirring until smooth.
Pour the cheese mixture over the pasta mixture, and stir.  Top evenly with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned.


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