Thursday, January 19, 2012

Healthier Chicken, Bacon, Mac and Cheese

I really tried to justify this as a healthy food. At least a few hours of my life was spent on trying to justify it. At the end of the day I can't tell you it is the healthiest food there is on the planet. HOWEVER, it is a healthier version of a comfort food so many of us love, and totally follows the Hypo and Swank rules. This recipe makes about 8 servings, and it's very rich and incredibly cheesey and...well just see for yourself:

Healthier Chicken, Bacon, Mac and Cheese
4 slices turkey bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups Eating Right Whole Wheat Penne Rigate
1 carton fat free cottage cheese
1 leftover chicken boob, sliced and diced
3 ounces shredded low fat cheddar
3 ounces shredded low fat Monterrey jack blend
3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
1 tsp Italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup fat free half and half
1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs with Italian seasoning

Cook penne according to directions on box.
Meanwhile start cooking turkey bacon in olive oil until crispy. Do not drain it when it is done, simply remove the pan from the heat.
Using your magic bullet or food processor, blend the cottage cheese until it turns creamy.  In a large bowl combine blended cottage cheese with remaining cheeses and half and half. Add chopped chicken and all but a few pieces of the bacon. Mix together well then add the cooked pasta. Stir to combine. If the mixture seems too dry, add more half and half, a tablespoon at a time. When it is nice and creamy add it to a baking dish.
In the skillet that contains the few remaining pieces of bacon and the olive oil, add the bread crumbs. You want the bread crumbs to soak up the oil and flavor or the bacon. Use this mixture to top the mac and cheese. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 325 or until the top is golden and the inside is gooey.
Serve with some nice steamed veggies.

So why is this recipe on THIS blog? Because it is a healthier version of one of my favorite things.According to a serving of classic baked macaroni and cheese with 3 cheeses and whole milk contains 34.5g of fat. Read more about that here.

Here's the breakdown of my version:
It makes about 8 cup size servings
  Calories                        352.7
  Total Fat                            8.8 g
    Saturated Fat                   2.5 g
    Polyunsaturated Fat         1.4 g
    Monounsaturated Fat      6.6 g
  Cholesterol                      37.1 mg
  Sodium                          582.3 mg
  Potassium                      102.5 mg
  Total Carbohydrate          45.2 g
          Dietary Fiber             3.6 g
          Sugars                       5.0 g
  Protein                            25.2 g

So looking at this, well it isn't very low-cal. But it is also a very filling portion that is packed with whole grains and a LOT of protein. A hypo portion of this would be cut in half and you're looking at 1.5 carbs,  2 protein and 3/4 of a fat exchange. The fascinating thing to me about the nutrition in this recipe is the fat. At first glance 8.8 grams of fat seems like waaaay too many to be on this blog site. However, of that 8.8 grams only 2.5 of it is from Saturated Fat. That isn't bad considering us on the Swank diet stick to 20-40 grams unsaturated fats and 15 grams or less a day of saturated fat. The classic baked mac and cheese is a big Swank no no.

I'm not sure if we've gone over this before or not, but here's a reminder about the differences between good fats and bad fats from the Mayo clinic. Click here to read the full article.

There are two main types of potentially harmful dietary fat:

  • Saturated fat. This is a type of fat that comes mainly from animal sources of food. Saturated fat raises total blood cholesterol levels and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, which can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. Saturated fat may also increase your risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Trans fat. This is a type of fat that occurs naturally in some foods, especially foods from animals. But most trans fats are made during food processing through partial hydrogenation of unsaturated fats. These trans fats are called industrial or synthetic trans fats. Research studies show that synthetic trans fat can increase unhealthy LDL cholesterol and lower healthy high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. This can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Most fats that have a high percentage of saturated fat or trans fat are solid at room temperature. Because of this, they're typically referred to as solid fats. They include beef fat, pork fat, shortening, stick margarine and butter.
The two main types of potentially helpful dietary fat:

  • Monounsaturated fat. This is a type of fat found in a variety of foods and oils. Studies show that eating foods rich in monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) improves blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease your risk of heart disease. Research also shows that MUFAs may benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control, which can be especially helpful if you have type 2 diabetes.
  • Polyunsaturated fat. This is a type of fat found mostly in plant-based foods and oils. Evidence shows that eating foods rich in polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) improves blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease your risk of heart disease. PUFAs may also help decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes. One type of polyunsaturated fat, omega-3 fatty acids, may be especially beneficial to your heart. Omega-3s, found in some types of fatty fish, appear to decrease the risk of coronary artery disease. They may also protect against irregular heartbeats and help lower blood pressure levels.
So, again this isn't the healthiest thing on my blog, but it is one of the most delicious makeovers I've ever done. I'm also calling it a success because of the HUGE reduction in fat. From 34.5 down to 8.8....yeah...I did good. ;)

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