The Best Broccoli Chicken Mac&Cheese

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This is literally the best Mac&Cheese recipe I’ve ever made. Discovered on one of my fave food blogs, Gimme Some Oven, this recipe will make you want to toss out all those nasty boxes of cheese powder and never look back.  It isn’t exactly “healthy,” but the ingredients are real and it’s not loaded with butter like so many are. Plus it includes the protein and veggie, which makes my mom life easier.

After posting the mouth watering picture above to my instagram, I got a lot of DM’s asking for the link so I decided just to share on here. This way, I can also include the changes I made. I rarely ever make a recipe exactly as it says — more often than not I make my own tweaks.

Feel free to check out the original recipe, or use mine below. Hope you enjoy!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 12 oz dry macaroni (I used gluten free because my nursing baby has a wheat allergy)
  • 6 cups of broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets (the original recipe had less broccoli)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil (or butter if you’d like)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups reduced fat milk
  • 5 cups grated cheddar cheese (I recommend sharp cheddar)
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • garlic salt (some for the sauce, some for the chicken, to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely-ground black pepper, or more to taste (I add a crap ton to mine)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • 3 cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts (*see instructions below for how to cook chicken breasts)
  • 1/2 cup extra shredded Parmesan
  • 1/2 cup GF Panko breadcrumbs

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Cut up your chicken breasts into bite size pieces and saute on a skillet with olive oil and garlic salt to taste. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the chicken pieces are white and relatively firm. (If you’re unsure if it’s done, check the temperature with a thermometer — it needs to be 165 degrees fahrenheit or higher).

Boil water in a large stockpot and cook al dente, according to the box’s instructions. About 2-3 minutes before the pasta is done, add the broccoli florets and let them cook alongside the pasta for the remainder of the cooking time.  Drain and set aside. (the idea to add the broccoli to the pasta water and cook them in tandem was from Gimme Some Oven and is genious).

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add garlic and saute until fragrant.  Whisk in the flour until combined and cook for an additional 1 minute.  Slowly whisk in chicken stock until the mixture is smooth (mine was a little lumpy but it didn’t seem to affect the final product).  Slowly whisk in the milk and continue cooking until the mixture comes to a simmer.  Immediately remove from heat and stir in the cheese, garlic salt and pepper until the cheese sauce is smooth.

Once the pasta and broccoli are cooked, pour into a large bowl and pour the cheese sauce over it and mix well. Then pour the pasta into a greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish, and sprinkle with extra Parmesan cheese and Panko breadcrumbs.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until the top becomes slightly golden.  Serve immediately.

A message for the non-moms

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As much as I hate admitting it, I’m often consumed with thoughts about how friggin’ hard motherhood is. If you accompany me on one of my rare kid free nights out, I’m likely telling you about how I haven’t felt rested in three years and how much I miss going out to dinner or leaving town with my husband at a moment’s notice and how I’m so sick of wiping asses and can we please have a sick free home for just one stinkin’ month? Or maybe if I could please just go to the bathroom without an audience…

The truth is, I’m in the thick of one of the most challenging stages of life and if I’m not careful, my sheer state of exhaustion will make it difficult for me to do anything other than mourn my life before kids when I’m out with you. But I want to tell you that I do actually have a lot of wonderful moments (like the one in the picture above) I just don’t share them with you as often as I share how much I need a bottle of wine to myself because my kids are turning me into a major cray cray. When I’m with you, I remember how it felt to be rested and free to do whatever I feel like doing (within reason).

When I’m talking to you about my life, I feel this weird sense of responsibility to share how insanely challenging it can be – like I don’t want you to feel duped once you pop a kid out and become entrenched in motherhood. I share how parenthood can push you to the brink of insanity, but what I neglect to share is that through all the insanity and frustration is the most perfect little face staring back at you. I grew these tiny humans in my body and they are the perfect blend of me and the love of my life. Does it get better than that? My heart is bursting with a sort of unconditional love you’ve never felt before. And to be clear, this love is there regardless of DNA; this crazy love comes with raising a child.

Every single time I look at my boys; whether it’s watching them laugh, cry, fall, accomplish something they’re proud of, learn something new, taste chocolate ice cream for the first time, throw up all over me or my car, have an assplosion diaper, tell me they love me, throw a massive tantrum, cry for seemingly no reason, give me hugs and kisses, fall blissfully asleep as soon as I take them in my arms (this list could go on forever, but you get the idea) – literally every single moment I have with these boys, whether beautiful or ugly, my heart is consumed with unconditional love and doting eyes and it feels amazing. There is just no other love in this world than the love parents have for their children. This love is like a drug and if it were taken away from me, I’d have serious withdrawals and a massive hole in my heart.

So, no matter how much I bitch about needing a break or how many times I tell you I’m jealous of your freedom, know that if I had the choice to go back and have my babies again, I’d do it over and over and over without hesitation. This crazy love I have for my babies has made me a better person; I’m wiser, more patient and have a bigger capacity to love. Yes, parenting little humans is really hard sometimes, but the rewards FAR outweigh the struggles.

Sincerely,

A mom of two boys under 3