Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Cheesy Macaroni With Chicken and Spinach

Do you have picky eaters in your family, especially children who are suspect of any food that has the color green to it?  Will they eat salad, or raw vegetables of any kind?  We were fortunate.  Our children were all adventurous eaters who loved crudite, salad, most every vegetable.  One of them didn't like green peas, and one of them didn't like lima beans.  Other than that, they would eat about anything.

Our grandsons on the other hand, do NOT fall into that category.  We have two who are pretty good eaters, two who are middle of the road, one who is only 18 months old and finding his way in the food world with a few texture issues and one who is suspect of any and everything that isn't "white".  Do you know what I mean?  He likes chicken, pasta, cheese, eggs, he will eat shrimp oddly enough, fish, turkey, rice - do you see the pattern here?  He just turned 10 and he has been like this since he was a little bitty fella.

I have seen him gag and retch at things his mother would make him taste and it was downright comical at times.  When he was about 4 his mother made him taste canteloupe during dinner.  I truly wish I had a video of his facial contortions, his gagging, shivering, and complaining.  Yes, he would literally shiver every time he got the canteloupe close to his mouth.  After probably 20 minutes, he finally licked it and I thought his dinner was going to end up on the table.  You know that "pre sound" that comes with regurgitation?  Yep, that's the one.  It still makes me laugh to think about it.  To our daughter's credit, she makes him try.  The pronouncement is usually, thanks, but I'll pass.

Their pediatrician said these are what they call "the white" kids who are suspect of colored foods and they think it is an evolutionary thing from the hunter/gatherer times when men did not always know which foods were edible.   Makes sense, but it does not make feeding such children easy.

All that was to say H will eat this dish AFTER he picks the spinach out.  He loved it otherwise and so did the other boys.  It is cheesy, and filled with chicken and pasta.   Perfect.  I added the spinach for some color and extra nutrition.  H is the only one who picked the spinach out, so you might luck out and get your family to eat it with the spinach.  You never know.

I made this dish using one of the herbed chickens I wrote about in my blog on August 19.  You can find the recipe there.  Or, you could use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery or cook the chicken breasts like in the recipe.  It is a great way to use leftover chicken.  The original recipe came from AllRecipes.com.  Here is what you need:

3 TBSP butter
salt and pepper
1/2 pound pasta (penne, fusilli, or bow tie, cooked al dente)
2 - 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts or leftover chicken from a rotisserie or roasted chicken
1/4 cup + 1 TBSP flour
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups milk
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella (I used one ball of fresh mozzarella from Aldi's)
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 cups fresh baby spinach

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray.

Cook pasta in boiling water just until al dente, drain and put aside.

If you are cooking chicken breasts, season the chicken with some salt and pepper and put some olive oil in a medium skillet.  Cook the chicken until it is no longer pink.  Remove and let sit for about 5 minutes.  Slice thin.  Put aside.

In a medium pot, melt the butter and add the flour and garlic.  Cook about 1 minute to cook out the raw flour taste.  This makes your roux for the sauce.  Gradually add the milk, whisking continuously until thick.  Stir in the cheese and whisk until melted and sauce is smooth.  Remove from heat and add the pasta.  Pour into the prepared baking dish and add the chicken.  Add the fresh spinach and stir to incorporate the chicken and spinach.

Bake uncovered for 25 - 30 minutes until golden and bubbling.  Remove from oven and serve.

This is soooooooooo good.  The sauce is amazing with the mozzarella and parmesan.  One of the best mac and cheese type recipes I have found.  Yum.  Yum.  Yum.  The only thing I might add next time are some crushed red pepper flakes for just a little zing.   Feel free to leave the spinach out if you have eaters who are suspect of green things in their food.  Or, add some broccoli if they would prefer that, or green peas.   Spinach was just my addition and we loved it.  Next time, I might try another vegetable.

Serve this with a nice green salad and you have a complete meal.  Oh, maybe some crusty bread too.  Oh yeah.

This recipe is super easy to prepare, especially if you have some chicken on hand that is already cooked.  It reheats beautifully.  We had leftovers the next day and it was just as good as the first day.
Give this recipe a try.  I think it will be quite a hit.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

Dude, macaroni and cheese if the food of the gods!  Haley James Scott