Applebee’s Copycat 4 Cheese Mac & Cheese with Honey Pepper Chicken

Applebee’s is one of the usual chain restaurants Husband and I go when looking for a night out.  Their 4 Cheese Mac & Cheese with Honey Pepper Chicken is one of my usuals there.

So I started with this recipe but the lack of flour in the cheese sauce confused me so I switched and used this one for the cheesy part.  Below is the mix of the two…although I also changed something major, discussed in the notes below.

Ingredients

1 lb chicken

3/4 cup honey

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup pineapple juice

Juice from 1 lemon

1 Tbsp vinegar

1 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp cayanne pepper

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1 box (16 oz) spiral pasta – used cavatappi

1/2 stick butter (8 Tbsp)

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 Anaheim pepper (optional, I didn’t end up using)

2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

3/4 cup shredded Mozzarella

1/2 cup shredded Romano

1/2 cup shredded Asiago

5-6 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled

Directions

Add all the ingredients for the honey pepper sauce (everything below chicken and above cavatappi) into a saucepan. Bring to a boil.  Reduce to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until thickened.  Set aside to cool.

Cut chicken tenders to bite sized pieces.  Place in a sauce pan to cook through.  Once cooked through, add the honey pepper sauce and toss to coat.

Cook pasta to al dente.  Drizzle with a bit of olive oil after straining.

Add butter to a saucepan; melt over Medium/Low heat.  Add garlic to pan and saute for 2 minutes until softened.  Add in flour and whisk to combine.  Pour in heavy cream while whisking.  Heat for about 5 minutes or until thickened, stirring often.  Add in cheese and stir to melt.

Add cooked pasta to  cheese sauce, mix well.

Add pasta to serving bowl, top with chicken.  Sprinkle bacon on top of it all with optional drizzle of the leftover honey pepper sauce.

Notes

I forgot the bacon.  I don’t know how I did that.  I’m so upset.

This would’ve been first thing’s first (but then I freakin realized about the bacon) – Applebee’s and both copycat recipes use fried chicken tenders.  I opted to save calories where I could; I know there’s only so much I can do with a 4 cheese meal but figured it couldn’t hurt. Husband was funny though – he commented that the chicken wasn’t as good as in the original – that’ll happen when you’re comparing deep fried with absolutely anything else.

And I cut the chicken to bite size pieces rather than kept as whole tenders because every time I order it, I try cutting the chicken on a bed of pasta and it’s easier said than done.

I started writing down the ingredients for the first linked recipe before deciding to switch to the other, which is how it became this mix and match thing.  Next time I’d probably just try the second one in it’s entirety.

The honey pepper sauce was a little soy heavy; the second recipe has less soy sauce in it so that might help next time.

The sauce also boiled over and made a hot sticky mess so something to be careful about next time.

I prepped the honey pepper sauce in advance and boiled the pasta at the same time; both finished at about the same time.  When I cooked dinner, I cut the chicken and started that and then began the cheese sauce immediately after and it worked out pretty well time well time wise.

Applebee’s serves this meal with a side of a breadstick.  We opted for green beans instead.  I really wanted a veggie somewhere.

This ended up being 4 servings for the chicken and about 6-8 for the pasta.

So as a copycat recipe, it’s pretty comparable. Applebee’s version is better but I didn’t for a second think it wouldn’t be (especially after the chicken decision).  Overall it was pretty good though and would be worth making again.

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Bacon Jalapeno Fry Sauce

Found through Pinterest and at this link.

 

Ingredients

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons bacon, minced

2 tablespoons jalapenos, minced

 

Directions

Mix.

Serve.

Enjoy.

 

Notes

I accidentally bought a Serrano pepper rather than a jalapeno. So was a bit spicier than I probably would’ve picked but husband liked it so that worked.

Ate both on the burger and with the side french fries.

Yummy.

Bacon Wrapped BBQ Meatballs

Originally found over here.

Ingredients

Meatballs

Thick cut bacon

BBQ Sauce

Directions

Preheat oven to 350.

Gather meatballs in whatever way works for you. The link talks about making them, I’ll be real honest, I used frozen.

Cut each slice of bacon in half and wrap around each meatball.  Since I not only used frozen meatballs but mini ones at that, it was only about a quarter slice bacon per meatball.  Place onto a foil covered pan with the seam side down.  Bake for 20 minutes.

Drain bacon fat and brush with BBQ Sauce (I used Sweet Baby Rays but whatever floats your boat).  Put in oven for another 10 minutes.

Drain pan again if needed and brush on more BBQ.  Bake for another 5 minutes.

Drain fat one last time if needed and serve.

Notes

The original recipe talked about making your own meatballs and rolling some cheese into the center of the meatball.  I didn’t think it was worth it when there were frozen meatballs sitting in my freezer.  I did think some cheese would be excellent.

The original poster I think just served the meatballs on their own with a side.  For dinner last night we had them on hoagie rolls (with a side salad for some veggies) and I thought it was really good that way.  Today at work I brought the leftovers for lunch though and it was pretty good on it’s own too.

Dinner yesterday was with Fiance and Future-SIL.  She liked dinner, he was less than thrilled.  He liked the meatballs and sauce but wasn’t wild about the texture of the bacon, “I don’t usually like things that are bacon wrapped”.  I’m thinking there must be something wrong with him.   I definitely loved the meatballs with the BBQ sauce (it came out all gooey and glorious) and would consider making again without the bacon – although I personally thought the bacon was a good touch.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta

I made this again last night using rotini instead of penne (no real difference – pasta is pasta to me) and Hormel “Real Bacon Pieces” instead of cooking the bacon. I was real impressed with the Hormel find. I was expecting just little bacon bits kinda of things but this contained larger chunks of bacony goodness.

I attempted to use more flour to counterbalance the sauce not thickening – I had this problem before likely because I use skim milk. It ended up making the sauce a bit grainy. I’d rather have the thinner sauce than how it came out yesterday so prolly not worth continue to mess around with.

Pretty much as good as I remembered though.

Noms Away

With Halloween almost upon us, Boyfriend and I decided to host a party on Saturday night.  As this party would be including alcohol, we figured a heavier dinner, full of yummy carbohydrates, was probably necessary.

Enter the recipe below.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta

The link for this can be found here and the ingredients and directions are copied below:

Ingredients:

8 ounces penne pasta
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp dry ranch dressing seasoning mix
2 cups milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/3 cup cooked, chopped bacon
2 cups cooked chopped chicken 

Directions:

In a large pot, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

In same pot melt butter. Add flour and stir. Cook flour for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in milk. Continue cooking until sauce thickens. Stir in ranch dressing mix and cheese. Stir until cheese melts. Add chicken, bacon and pasta. Stir…

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Fresh Take Cheddar Jack and Bacon Chicken and Potatoes

So I’ve talked before about the Kraft Fresh Take cheese/breadcrumb mixes.

The other day, we picked up the Fresh Take Cheddar Jack and Bacon.  I prepared it as directed on the package for about 1 lb of chicken – add some water to each breast, coat with the cheesy breadcrumb mix, bake for about a half hour.  The thing is – a package of Fresh Take is intended for 2 lbs of chicken but 2 lbs for 2 people is more food than we need.  So I’ve been trying to find ways to continue to use the remainder of the mix.  Previously, I’ve added the remaining crumbs to baked pasta.  This time I tried adding it to some mashed potatoes.  Alongside the chicken, I heated up frozen broccoli and Betty Crocker’s instant Loaded mashed potatoes.  I added the additional crumbs to the potatoes.

Hazzah! The potatoes tasted wonderful! Loaded mashed potatoes with more bacon and cheese? Win!

Chicken Bacon Ranch Casserole

A couple of weeks ago, I shared with you this post about Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta.  While I thought it was a win, Boyfriend enjoyed it but was under the impression it was more of a casserole than just pasta and sauce.  As a result, I took to twitter and found this recipe to try.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Casserole

The link Pinterest connected to can be found here.

Ingredients

1 lb. bacon, fried and crumbled (The blog I found it from used bacon bits)
2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken 
2 tablespoons of ranch seasoning
1 lb. bow tie pasta
2 jars of Alfredo sauce
1/3 cup of evaporated milk or regular milk
4 cups shredded Italian cheese blend

Directions

Cut chicken into cubes. Mix in ranch mix, evaporated milk and half a jar of alfredo sauce. 
Cook pasta al dente. Drain and return to pan. 
Pour half of a jar of Alfredo sauce into bottom of 9×13 baking dish. Spread evenly. 
Begin layering casserole starting with half of noodles, then half the chicken mix, half of the second jar of Alfredo sauce, half the bacon, and half the cheese. 
Repeat layers with remaining ingredients.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. 

Notes

This was a fairly last minute idea.  I had most of the ingredients on hand but not quite the same amounts as what was called for.  I used a bit less than 1.5 lbs of chicken, 6 slices of bacon, 1 jar of Alfredo (I actually had 2 I could’ve used but didn’t, mainly because it looked like 1 jar was plenty and when it was all said and done – 1 jar tasted like plenty), and 2 cups of cheese (I had 1 cup of cheddar from my previous Chicken Bacon Ranch adventure and used 1 cup of mozzarella).
Even with the lesser amount of ingredients, 30 minutes wasn’t a long enough bake time.  The chicken was not cooked all the way through when I took it out.
All things considered, it tasted pretty good.  Boyfriend liked this better than the first chicken bacon ranch pasta.  I think I disagree. I’m not sure if it was the Classico Alfredo I used or what but something in the creamy sauce wasn’t working for me personally. It’s not that I didn’t like it, I just didn’t like it as much.
It worked out to feeding both of us Sunday night – two larger portions for him, 2 smaller for me.  Also gave a lunch portion for me and a slightly larger lunch portion for him.
I think next time, I’m going to try to take the previous pasta recipe and add more cheese and bake it like a casserole to kinda give the best of both.  We’ll see how that works out.
Here, have a picture:
I forgot to take a picture Sunday night but it was as tasty as leftovers Monday.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta

With Halloween almost upon us, Boyfriend and I decided to host a party on Saturday night.  As this party would be including alcohol, we figured a heavier dinner, full of yummy carbohydrates, was probably necessary.

Enter the recipe below.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta

The link for this can be found here and the ingredients and directions are copied below:

Ingredients:

8 ounces penne pasta
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp dry ranch dressing seasoning mix
2 cups milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/3 cup cooked, chopped bacon
2 cups cooked chopped chicken 

Directions:

In a large pot, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

In same pot melt butter. Add flour and stir. Cook flour for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in milk. Continue cooking until sauce thickens. Stir in ranch dressing mix and cheese. Stir until cheese melts. Add chicken, bacon and pasta. Stir to coat.

Notes:

8 oz of Penne pasta was about 1/2 of a regular box.
2 tbsp of the ranch dressing seasoning mix was 1 envelope of the hidden valley ranch mix – it’s no where on the box how much mix is in each envelope and I felt rather silly opening the envelope into a bowl to then measure it out so hopefully this will save someone that step.
1/3 cup bacon is 6 slices according to a Google search – timing for this dinner couldn’t have worked out better for me – I’d already planned a larger breakfast for Saturday of pancakes, eggs and bacon.  I just fried up the extra slices and tossed them in the refrigerator until later.
2 cups cooked chicken is about 1 lbs again according to a Google search – the original blog talks about how she used a rotisserie chicken.  I boiled up a whole package of boneless skinless chicken (a bit more than a lb (more like 1.3) because I’ve never seen a package of chicken in the food store that was 1 lb even or close to it) and chopped it and the bacon up while the pasta was boiling.
This recipe came with an important reminder: read the comments before starting the recipe or tutorial.  I recently had a similar problem when I started to crochet a hat from a youtube video tutorial (more on that if I ever actually finish the stinking hat) and I thought I learned that lesson.  Clearly not though.
One of the steps above talks about cooking until the sauce thickens.  I’m not the biggest cook and most of the things I make are really simple meals.  As such, I’ve never had to thicken milk before.  After quite a while my milk was still real soupy.  Another Google search told me it should only take a few minutes for milk to thicken so I moved on – thinking maybe I was overestimating how thick a sauce like this should guess.
Later on, I read through the comments on the original recipe to see if anyone else had any improvements or suggestions.  Several people noted that when they used Skim milk (which I had used), the sauce wouldn’t thicken and offered suggestions – one person put part skim, part half and half; another added more flour – either way, I wish I had seen this before dinner and I would’ve tried something like that.
Oh well.  Hopefully the reminder sticks this time.
And even with the soupier sauce – both Boyfriend and I enjoyed the pasta a whole lot.  The recipe says it serves 4 – for us it served 2 large helpings for him, 2 smaller helpings for me, and a decent enough portion to bring to work for lunch. I think this is definitely a recipe to repeat.