bacon

kale cobb salad

So this is kind of a weird and personal post and it feels strange to be writing this, but lately I’ve been feeling kind of…

Off.

kale cobb salad with balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

My energy levels have been in the toilet and I’ve just felt run down and kind of crumby most of the time. Even blogging, which has always felt like an escape from the stresses and monotony of my life, has begun to feel like a chore.

kale cobb salad with balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

After months of denial, I’ve finally had to admit to myself that my weight is probably a major factor in how cruddy I’ve been feeling lately.

I’ve always been a little on the thick side, and haven’t been “beach ready” since I was probably 7 years old. Over the past few years though, I’ve packed on a little extra padding and recently it’s felt…

Uncomfortable.

kale cobb salad with balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

When Russell and I first met we were both much slimmer than we are now, though again, far from svelte. When we first started dating I used every trick in the book to woo him, and as you can probably imagine, most of the tricks in my book are food related. Once we moved in with each other and realized we were together for good, we just got comfortable and didn’t really notice as we gained a pound here and another there.

Shortly after we married I started this blog. Especially in the beginning, a lot of the dishes I was making were old family recipes that are near and dear to my heart, but also tend to be pretty heavy. These are dishes that are fine for special occasions, but I was making (and consuming) them much more often than I probably should have been.

As much as I love to cook, my true love has always been baking, so in addition to the heavy family recipes I also started baking even more than I used to. For whatever reason, I also really enjoy photographing the sweets and treats more than the savory dishes, so that was just one more contributing factor in the sudden explosion of cakes and pies and cookies pumping out of my oven. And then, of course, there are the bundts…

kale cobb salad with balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

I mean, not everything I post here is rich, heavy, and unhealthy. I actually think I have done a decent job of coming up with some pretty fun and creative (and delicious) healthy recipes every once in a while, but those recipes tend to be few and far between. That’s also not to say that I’m only eating the food that I post here on the (web) pages of Brooklyn Homemaker. Day to day, I think Russell and I do a pretty good job of trying to eat healthy “whole” foods and plenty of vegetables, but the less exciting recipes in my repertoire (or his) don’t ever show up here.

We really just need to focus on portion control, moderation, and keeping active. I don’t think it’s realistic to think I’ll ever look like an Olympic swimmer or track and field star, but I’m no spring chicken and I definitely need to start considering my health if I want to stick around for a good long time.

For the past week (I know, a whole week, woopty-freaking-doo) I’ve been eating healthy, avoiding carbs where I can, and trying to break myself of the habit of looking for something sweet after dinner every night. Fighting the sugar addiction has been especially hard for me but I’ve been strong so far. I’ve also been walking home from work every day (about a two and a half miles) and I’m in the process of looking for a gym that doesn’t cost a million dollars and isn’t totally disgusting.

kale cobb salad with balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

Aaaaanyway…

I’m not writing all this to say that I’m going to stop blogging, or to say that I’m suddenly turning Brooklyn Homemaker into a health food and fitness blog, espousing the health benefits of an all-bean-sprout diet. I’m just writing this to let you know that I’m going to try, just try, to focus a bit more on healthy dishes and a bit less on baking and sweets and the heavy hearty food I was brought up eating.

Honestly, I’m probably writing this more for myself than for you. I think I might be writing this as a way to hold myself accountable for my health. If I write it here, for all the world to see and read, I have to stick with it or I’ll look like a real dummy. A real overweight dummy.

Please don’t be too harsh if I end up failing…
Pretty please?

I’m not really sure how I’m going to go about all this going forward either. I’d really like to tell myself (and you) that I’m going to post super flavorful & creative healthy dishes all the time, and the baked goods and heavy dishes will be the ones to show up only every once in a while. Realistically though, I know I just love to bake, so maybe my “cheat day” recipes will end up showing up here just as often as my “don’t be such a fatty” recipes. I really don’t want to call this a “diet” (ugh). I just want to do what I can to teach myself how to cook, and eat, and blog, a little differently; in a way that will make me feel better and that I can stick to for years to come.
I guess only time will tell. Wish me luck!

kale cobb salad with balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

Okay, so let’s finally talk about this salad. I know that a cobb salad is not really the healthiest salad in the world. I promise that I know that adding bacon and blue cheese and eggs to a salad makes it less healthy than if I were to just munch on a bowl of lettuce with lemon juice.

BUT!!!
I’ve made some changes to the classic cobb recipe to try to healthy it up a little bit.

First of all, kale is like the king of all health foods right? It’s packed with vitamins and minerals and fiber and good stuff, and packs a lot more healthy punch than romaine does for sure.
Second, even though I kept the bacon and blue cheese (because it wouldn’t be a cobb without them) I did reduce the proportions of the bad ingredients vs the good ingredients. If you wanted to, you could leave them out, but I do think that they’re worth keeping around for flavor and contrast and to make the salad feel like a truly satisfying meal.
Third, while I did keep the crumbled blue cheese, I opted for an easy homemade balsamic vinaigrette rather than blue cheese dressing to gussy up my fancy pants dark green kale leaves.
Aaand, fourth and finally, I added some sunflower seeds for texture and crunch, and because I love sunflower seeds in a salad okay?

While this version of a cobb is healthier than one you might find in a restaurant, it doesn’t taste at all like “health food” and that’s definitely what I was going for! Here’s to our health!

kale cobb salad with balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

Kale Cobb Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
Salt & Pepper to taste

Salad:
1 skinless boneless chicken breast
2 to 3 strips thick cut bacon
1/2 avocado, cut into bite sized cubes
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
1/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola or other blue cheese
2 boiled eggs, roughly chopped
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
3 to 4 cups chopped kale leaves

Combine all dressing ingredients in a small bowl or a small jar with a watertight lid. Whisk or shake dressing together until well combined and emulsified. Refrigerate until salad is ready to toss.

Season chicken breast with salt and pepper and sear or grill until cooked through. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing thin or cubing.
Cook bacon over medium to medium high heat until fat is rendered and bacon is brown and crisp. Immediately remove to a paper towel to absorb some of the fat. Once cool, crumble bacon.

Assemble all salad ingredients, including the chicken and bacon, in a large bowl. Pour dressing over the top of salad and toss together using large tongs or salad servers.

chicken BLT caesar salad

There’s just something about a Caesar salad.

chicken BLT Caesar salad | Brooklyn Homemaker

I don’t know what is, but every once in a while, I just need one. At this point, Caesars are so ubiquitous as to be kind of boring and cliche, but every so often you just have to have one. I can’t even really explain their appeal. They’re not the most interesting salad in the world, containing little more than lettuce, croutons, and dressing; and if they’re bad they’re usually baaaaadddd. It’s not hard to get them right though. When you get the dressing right, and the lettuce is super crisp and fresh, and the croutons are homemade, a Caesar salad is just so damned satisfying

chicken BLT Caesar salad | Brooklyn Homemaker

I think their simplicity might be what makes them so enticing, but it can also be their downfall. A salad made with sad flabby wilted lettuce, with sweet gloppy bottled dressing, and oily mouth-slicing craggy croutons has nothing to redeem it, and can put someone off Caesar salads for life. When they’re done well though, with crisp fresh lettuce, good croutons, creamy cheesy garlicy dressing. Yes. Just yes.

chicken BLT Caesar salad | Brooklyn Homemaker

Anyway, most people, when they’re trying to take this salad from light meal or side to filling and satisfying sustenance, tend to add sliced chicken breast. I am one of those people. Whether I’m out to lunch or trying to come up with a quick dinner, a good Caesar with chicken is always a welcome option.

chicken BLT Caesar salad | Brooklyn Homemaker

This time around though, I thought it might be fun to jazz things up a little. Russell and I tend to eat this salad once a month or more, so I was looking for a quick addition or change that would have a big impact. It’s easy to get tired of eating the same old thing, so it’s great to find simple and easy ways to add a little interest to something you make well and often. In this “BLT” interpretation, the addition of crispy bacon adds a nice saltiness and richness to make it feel like a truly substantial meal, and the sun-dried tomatoes add a nice concentrated sweet summery-ness that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to find in a Caesar. To dress my Caesars up a little, I also like to use a vegetable peeler to add some shaved parmesan.

chicken BLT Caesar salad | Brooklyn Homemaker

You can definitely use bottled dressing at home to make things a little easier on yourself, but to be honest, I have yet to find a bottled dressing out there that I like. I’ve tried though. Lord how I’ve tried. It definitely is nice to just reach for the bottle (of dressing, not booze, though that’s nice too) when you get home from a long day and you just want to throw something together. My problem with the bulk of bottled Caesar dressings though, is that they’re usually way too sweet. I think that lemon juice adds plenty of sweetness to Caesar dressing, and even think that too much lemon can go too sweet, so the fact that most bottled dressings have added sugar or corn syrup is bewildering to me. The nice thing about this dressing recipe is that it doesn’t take too long to pull together, and that it makes more than you need and keeps well in the refrigerator.

I totally acknowledge that this is definitely not a traditional, old school homemade caesar with raw eggs and whole anchovies, and I’m sure some people out there in the world will be furious with me for trying to “pass off” this recipe as a Caesar. Thing is, using mayonnaise and anchovy paste instead makes things waaaaay quicker and easier, and gives the dressing staying power, without compromising on flavor.

chicken BLT Caesar salad | Brooklyn Homemaker

This dressing has a nice creamy texture, but the addition of olive oil thins it out so that it’s not too gloppy or heavy. The cheese is nice and salty and forward, and the garlic gives a nice fresh bite. The amount of lemon juice here adds a nice fresh bright sweetness and acidity without going too sweet or blatantly citrusy. The anchovy paste adds a great depth and brininess without having to bust out the food processor to puree whole anchovies yourself. Anchovy paste, by the way, can usually be found in the same aisle in the grocery store as canned tuna fish. All in all, it’s pretty damned good, and if you have some in the fridge you can throw together a caesar salad in a snap, and dress it up however you like.

chicken BLT Caesar salad | Brooklyn Homemaker

Chicken BLT Caesar Salad

dressing adapted from Once Upon a Chef

Caesar Dressing:
3 or 4 garlic cloves, minced or crushed
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, from one lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Salad:
2 small (1 large) head crisp romaine lettuce
1 small to medium loaf of italian bread
2 tablespoons of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
3 to 4 strips of thick cut bacon
2 skinless boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped and loosely packed
1/4 cup parmesan shavings (or grated parmesan)

Dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together the garlic, anchovy paste, lemon juice, olive oil, Dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Add the mayonnaise, Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt and pepper and whisk until well combined. Taste and adjust to your liking. Refrigerate until ready for use.
This will make more dressing than you’ll need for one night of salads, but it stores well, refrigerated, for a few weeks.

Croutons: Preheat oven to 350. Cut the crust off the loaf of bread using a sharp bread knife. It’s okay if some is still on, but you want to get a good bit of it off. Then cut the bread into 1-inch cubes, trying not to smoosh the bread too much. You want about 3 or 4 cups of loosely packed bread cubes. Toss in olive oil, salt and pepper, and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake until crispy and just beginning to brown, about 10 or 15 minutes, checking them often. Set aside.

Salad: Slice your head of romaine into bite-sized stirps, and wash and dry using a salad spinner or kitchen towels. Set aside. In a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, brown and crisp bacon to your liking, and drain on paper towels. Crumble once cool. Sear chicken breasts in same skillet over high heat. Sear on both sides for about 5 or 6 minutes per side, or until cooked through. You can use bacon grease to cook the chicken, or you can drain it off, wipe out the pan, and add an additional tablespoon of olive oil.
Let chicken breasts rest for 5 minutes before slicing into thin strips with a sharp knife.

Assemble the salad; you can either toss the lettuce, croutons, bacon, chicken, and tomatoes all together in a big bowl, OR you can just combine the lettuce and croutons together and arrange the other ingredients on top of the plated salad after dressing. Either way, toss the salad with about 1/3 cup of dressing with salad tongs or two large spoons. If you like a creamier, more dressed salad, you can add more dressing, 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup at a time, but this dressing is very flavorful so I’d suggest tasting the dressed salad before deciding.

maple bacon bundt cake with bacon pecan streusel swirl #bundtbakers

Do you like bacon? Of course you do.

maple bacon bundt cake with bacon pecan streusel swirl | Brooklyn Homemaker

Sorry. I guess that was a dumb question. The real question is, can you get down with the sweet and salty bacon trend? If you spend any time in Brooklyn, or probably any other urban area, I’m sure you’ve come across at least one (if not many) of these sugary bacon treats. Candied bacon, bacon cupcakes, bacon brownies, chocolate covered bacon, bacon lollipops, even bacon infused cocktails! If you can dream it up, it’s probably out there somewhere.

maple bacon bundt cake with bacon pecan streusel swirl | Brooklyn Homemaker

Up until recently, I’ve managed to resist the urge to jump on the bacon bandwagon. That all changed though last week, when I stumbled upon a group of food bloggers who share a fondness for an intense love of mine.

No, not bacon… Bundt Cakes! It’s no secret that I’m obsessed.

maple bacon bundt cake with bacon pecan streusel swirl | Brooklyn Homemaker

This bundt loving bunch call themselves, appropriately enough, the #BundtBakers, and as soon as I read about them I knew I needed to be involved.

maple bacon bundt cake with bacon pecan streusel swirl | Brooklyn Homemaker

The basic premise is this: A theme is picked in advance for each month, all the bloggers who’d like to participate bake a bundt fitting that theme, and one devoted blogger hosts the event (meaning they help compile all the information and the links to all the posts). I was very excited about getting in on the action, but didn’t think I’d have the time until next month. That was, until I saw that May’s theme was “Breakfast” and instantly decided to drop everything and get planning!

maple bacon bundt cake with bacon pecan streusel swirl | Brooklyn Homemaker

Some of the themes can be pretty wild (I mean… breakfast!?!), so these events are not just limited to sweet cakes. Anything goes, as long as it’s baked in a bundt pan. This months group came up with some pretty amazing ideas, and any one of them is sure to be a hit at your next brunch. Some made breads, others did baked egg dishes, but many kept it sweet and made a cake. I had a plan hatching and I was definitely going sweet.

maple bacon bundt cake with bacon pecan streusel swirl | Brooklyn Homemaker

Thus was born the maple bacon bundt cake. This was a bit of an experiment, but boy did it work out! I was a little afraid that I might have used too much bacon (like that’s actually a thing), but once I tasted it I knew it was perfect. I brought it in to work to share for a bacon loving co-worker’s birthday, and everyone absolutely went crazy for it! I think I had everyone a little freaked out at first because I kept referring to it as the “experimental bacon cake”, but after one bite everyone was hooked and assuring me I’d definitely done something right.

maple bacon bundt cake with bacon pecan streusel swirl | Brooklyn Homemaker

I started with a really moist buttermilk bundt recipe for the base of the cake, but substituted some bacon fat for some of the butter, and grade B maple syrup for some of the sugar. I definitely wanted pieces of bacon mixed into the cake too, rather than just crumbled on top, but I was afraid that just mixing bacon into the batter would make the bacon flabby and unappetizing. I decided to experiment with a sort of streusel to distribute between layers of batter right before baking, and it worked out really well. I crumbled some of the bacon up with a nut grinder along with some pecans for extra crunch, and added some brown sugar and spice to make it feel like a true streusel. After the cake cooled I topped the whole thing off with an amazing maple & cream cheese drizzle and even more bacon.

maple bacon bundt cake with bacon pecan streusel swirl | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’m not gonna lie. This cake is anything but traditional, and it’s definitely not for everyone. Seriously though, it’s freakin’ AMAZING! It’s kinda weird. But good weird. Like REALLY good weird. If you love bacon, especially if you love bacon in a sweet and salty platform, you gotta try this.

It’s got the perfect amount of warm sweet maple-y goodness from the syrup and just a tiny hit of spice from the cinnamon. The bacon fat adds a really faint hint smokiness to the cake, and the bacon pecan streusel gives it a wonderful texture and interest. The glaze is delicious, sweet and tangy, and the crumbled bacon on top not only gives every bite a salty touch of baconiness (that’s a word now, FYI), but also announces BACON! to anyone looking at this delicious (not to mention gorgeous) cake.

maple bacon bundt cake with bacon pecan streusel swirl | Brooklyn Homemaker

Before we get to the recipe, I really want to give a big big thank you to Kelly of Passion Kneaded, for hosting this month.  I also want to urge you to please make sure you scroll down below the recipe to check out all the amazing and beautiful breakfast themed bundts everyone came up with. Every single entry looks totally delicious and you should really take some time to explore the links. You’re probably going to need an excuse to host a brunch now, amiright?

I’m so lucky to have found this group of bundt loving kindred spirits!

maple bacon bundt cake with bacon pecan streusel swirl | Brooklyn Homemaker

Maple Bacon Bundt Cake with Bacon Pecan Streusel Swirl


8 oz thick cut bacon (to be used throughout recipe)

Cake:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting pan
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup cooled bacon fat
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup grade B maple syrup
3 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup buttermilk

Streusel:
2/3 cooked bacon
1/2 cup pecans
2 teaspoons flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Glaze:
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon buttermilk
1/3 crumbled cooked bacon

Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter and flour a 10-cup Bundt pan.*see note.
Remove the bacon from the package but do not separate the slices. With a sharp knife, cut thin strips across the slices, then break up while cooking. Cook in a heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until well browned and crispy. Remove bacon to drain on a paper towel, and reserve bacon fat and let cool. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk or sift flour, 1 tsp cinnamon, baking powder and salt together and set aside.
Finely chop pecans and 2/3 of your cooked bacon and combine with brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 2 teaspoons flour. Mix well and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter, bacon fat and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. If you don’t have enough bacon fat, you can use more butter. You want 1 cup of fat total. Then, with the mixer on low speed, add vanilla and maple syrup and mix until combined. Then add your eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each addition. Add 1/3 flour mixture to batter, beating until just combined, followed by half the buttermilk, another 1/3 of the flour mixture, the remaining buttermilk and remaining flour. Scrape down from time to time and don’t mix any more than you need to.
Spread 1/3 cake batter in the pan and spread the top smooth. Add 1/2 streusel mix evenly over batter. Top another 1/3 cake batter, smooth again and repeat until all streusel and batter are in the pan. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, rotating the cake once after 30 (to make sure it browns evenly). The cake is done as soon as a tester comes out clean of batter. Set cake pan on a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes, and invert cake onto rack to cool the rest of the way.

When the cake is completely cool, prepare the glaze. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine cream cheese, butter, sugar, maple syrup and buttermilk. Beat vigorously until completely smooth with no visibly specks of cream cheese left in the glaze. If glaze is too thick, add more buttermilk, 1 teaspoon at a time.
Place cooling rack and cake into a clean jelly roll pan or baking sheet to catch any glaze that drips off the sides. Pour or pipe glaze over cake, letting it trickle and drip down the sides. I used a squeeze bottle to help distribute glaze evenly. Sprinkle remaining bacon over the cake making sure it sticks in the glaze.
Cake can be stored, covered, at room temperature for 3 to 4 days.

*To prevent sticking, make sure every little nook and cranny is well-coated with butter, and then dust the inside with flour. If you’re really nervous, refrigerating your pan while you prepare the cake will help firm the butter for extra insurance.

BundtBakers

This month, the Bundt Bakers are baking up breakfast. We have 15 beautiful Bundts (both sweet and savory) that would be perfect for your breakfast or brunch table.

#BundtBakers is a group of Bundt loving bakers who get together once a month to bake Bundts with a common ingredient or theme. We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. You can see all our of lovely Bundts by following our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated after each event on the BundtBaker home page here.

If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send an email with your blog URL to foodlustpeoplelove@gmail.comIf you are just a lover of Bundt baking, you can find all of our recipe links by clicking our badge above or on our group Pinterest board.

fully loaded stovetop mac & cheese

This Easter Sunday was a beautiful warm sunny day here in New York so Russell and I spent the bulk of our day enjoying the outdoors.

fully loaded stovetop mac & cheese | Brooklyn Homemaker

We woke up bright and early (thanks to our little dog Betty) and decided to go for breakfast a few subway stops away and to take a quiet leisurely walk home. When we got back we took the pups out to the dog park for a while, and then came home and spent most of the rest of the day in our back yarden (combination yard/ garden, just indulge me).  Once the sun started to go down and the air turned a little chilly, we decided it was time to come up with a plan for dinner.

fully loaded stovetop mac & cheese | Brooklyn Homemaker

Since it was a holiday I thought we deserved something a bit rich and indulgent even though we weren’t celebrating with family or friends. Considering that most of the day was behind us, I also wanted it to be something that I could have on the table and in our bellies in just about an hour or so. I thought a nice hearty pasta dish would be the ideal thing to round out the day, but since I wanted it to be indulgent and creamy, I knew cheese would be the prefect addition. The more I thought about it, the more I knew I should let the cheese take center stage, while still loading it up with all the other hearty tasty things I wanted to add.

fully loaded stovetop mac & cheese | Brooklyn Homemaker

I often like to make a quick “healthy-ish” pasta dinner with chicken and broccoli and whatever else sounds good, but after the addition of some bacon and loads of cheese, this dish seemed to stray out of that category. Since it doesn’t have a crunchy crumbly baked topping, it also doesn’t quite feel like a traditional homemade mac & cheese. It seems to fall somewhere in between the two, but since it does have a rich and creamy béchamel cheese sauce, I think that “fully loaded” stovetop mac & cheese is the perfect name for it.  Whatever you want to call it, it is definitely less than healthy, and completely delicious.

fully loaded stovetop mac & cheese | Brooklyn Homemaker

Crisping the bacon on its own allows you to render the fat to later make the béchamel. Cubing the uncooked chicken helps it cook faster while remaining flavorful and tender. Roasting the broccoli in the oven instead of, say, boiling it with the pasta, keeps it from tasting waterlogged and soggy and helps it absorb as much of the creamy sauce as possible. Slicing open and roasting the grape tomatoes concentrates their flavor and sweetness and gives them an almost sun-dried quality. Of course, if you wanted to save some time and avoid turning on the oven, you could boil the broccoli with the pasta or steam it while the pasta cooked, and you could use chopped sun-dried tomatoes in place of the roasted fresh ones. Either way, if you work smartly and efficiently you can finish this dish in just about an hour. It does require a bit of work but none of the steps are overly complicated or time-consuming, so I think it would be an excellent weeknight meal.

fully loaded stovetop mac & cheese | Brooklyn Homemaker

I wasn’t sure that the chicken or the tomatoes would marry well with the sharp cheddar cheese, but my concerns were totally for nothing. This meal is totally delicious and really hearty and filing, and was the perfect way to finish of our lazy Easter Sunday. The creamy sharp cheese gives it an almost tangy quality that combines really well with the sweetness of the tomatoes and the umami saltiness of the bacon. If you cook the pasta to be al dente this dish has a really nice variety of textures as well as flavors. The chicken is tender but with some substance, the pasta has just a bit of bite, the roasted broccoli has a little bit of crunch, the bacon adds some welcome crispiness, and the perfect creaminess of the cheese sauce rounds the whole meal out.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there are some leftovers that seem to be calling my name.

fully loaded stovetop mac & cheese | Brooklyn Homemaker

Fully Loaded Stovetop Mac & Cheese

1 pint washed grape tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
1 large bunch broccoli, chopped into bite size florets
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
4 oz bacon
1 lb skinless boneless chicken breasts
1 small onion, diced
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
8 oz white cheddar cheese, grated
1 lb (16 oz) shell pasta (or another shape if you want)

Preheat oven to 400 and bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. On a parchment lined sheet pan, arrange halved tomatoes cut side up, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss broccoli with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and arrange on another parchment lined sheet. Roast both for 20 to 25 minutes, until cooked and brown but not burnt or dried out.

While the vegetables roast, slice your bacon against the grain into small thin strips and cook in a heavy skillet over medium high heat until browned and crispy, probably about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel lined plate. Drain most of the grease off into a glass measuring cup, leaving about a tablespoon to cook your chicken. Cut the chicken into bite sized cubes, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove and transfer to paper towel lined plate with bacon.

Cook pasta until al dente according to package directions. Drain and return to pasta pot along with cooked tomatoes, broccoli, chicken and bacon. If desired, reserve about a tablespoon or two of bacon to garnish.

Meanwhile, measure out 2 tablespoons of bacon fat and return to the pan, discarding anything left (or save for later use). If you don’t have enough, make up the difference with butter. Add onion and cook until just beginning to brown. Add the flour, whisk until well combined, and cook over medium heat for 2 or 3 minutes. Slowly add milk, a little at a time, whisking out any lumps. Cook until thick and bubbly, probably 5 to 8 minutes or so, whisking regularly to prevent lumps. Once the sauce is thick, turn the heat off and add the cheese. Stir in until fully melted and well combined. Pour sauce over pasta and stir stir stir until everything is well combined. Plate and garnish with a little crumbled bacon if desired.