Thank you Sargento® for sponsoring this post!
I love macaroni and cheese! Who doesn’t? Probably not many. I bet a hearty comforting bowl of macaroni baked in a cheese ooey gooey sauce and topped with a buttery breadcrumb crust could tempt even the biggest low carb no carb fan! If not then you are a bigger person than me because a good old fashion mac n cheese is one of my weaknesses.
Good thing homemade macaroni and cheese has come a long way. If my only option was to make it the way my mama makes it then oh boy I would be in trouble. Now I don’t think mac n cheese could ever be in the same category as a lettuce wrap but depending on the ingredients you certainly can give it a healthier makeover.
That is exactly what I decided to do with this new mac n cheese with kale and bacon recipe. You might wonder how I thought to use kale and bacon in macaroni and cheese. Well I am working with Sargento® to help spread the word about their super fun Chopped at Home contest. If you cook at home using Sargento and enter the Chopped at Home contest you could win $10,000.
Sargento asked me to create a second “Chopped” inspired recipe using kale, bacon, oyster crackers, and their new Sargento® Chef Blends 4 State Cheddar. The first recipe I did for them was my Baked Chicken Parmesan with Creamy Red Pepper Sauce and it was a hit! I got great feedback from everyone, including many of you.
I was super excited to try out the new Sargento® Chef Blends 4 State Cheddar. I love sharp cheeses. They are my absolute favorite! When I opened the bag and gave the cheese a test I knew right away this mix of cheddar cheeses would go perfectly in a macaroni and cheese. I was right! So delicious!
Let me walk you through the recipe.
These were the ingredients I used. Like I said I had to use the Sargento® Chef Blends 4 State Cheddar, bacon, oyster crackers, and kale. Those were the main ingredients.
The first thing I did was cook the macaroni and place it into a 9 x 13 casserole dish sprayed with cooking spray. I never fully cook macaroni when using it in mac n cheese. I find that 5 minutes is the perfect amount of time. The macaroni will still be hard but don’t worry it will bake beautifully. To give this recipe a nutritional boost I used whole grain noodles over white. This adds protein and fiber.
Then I sautéed the kale. It’s kind of funny because I eat kale almost everyday but never in a savory meal. Mostly, I just throw a handful of kale into my green smoothies. However, I must admit kale taste absolutely scrumptious in macaroni and cheese, especially with bacon. Oh mama! I had no idea. It just goes to show that when you get a little creative in the kitchen you discover new foods you might like.
The kale cooks down like spinach does. I just heated up a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan and cooked the kale until it was slightly wilted. Originally, I thought about throwing it in with the cheese sauce raw but I am glad I sautéed it first. I think this made it easier to handle.
After the kale was done I added it to the casserole dish on top of the noodles.
Then I sprinkled the bacon crumbles on top. I cooked the bacon ahead of time in my oven. However you decide to cook it make sure it is crispy enough that it crumbles.
Next I made the cheese sauce. To keep it on the light side I used chicken stock and milk. I seasoned it with granulated garlic, onion powder, salt, and pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. I absolutely love nutmeg in cheese dishes and read that it pairs well with kale too. I thought it was delicious but if your are weary of the nutmeg then leave it out.
I stirred in 2 packages of Sargento® Chef Blends 4 State Cheddar once the liquid was heated up and bubbly. After the cheese was melted I poured it over the ingredients in the casserole dish and stirred it up until it was all combined.
Last, I made the cracker crumb topping. I can’t tell you the last time I ate oyster crackers but as soon as I gave one a taste I was brought right back to 10 years old. I feel like I vaguely remember eating whole bags of oyster crackers when I was younger.
To make the topping all I did was place the crackers into a large plastic bag and used my hands to crush them.
Then I mixed the cracker crumbs with 2 tablespoons of melted butter, sprinkled over the top, and baked for 50 minutes.
As this recipe baked my entire house was filled with the smells of delicious comfort. I could smell the bacon, kale, and the amazing cheesiness.
This macaroni and cheese with kale and bacon did not disappoint! It was hearty, rustic, comforting, and so delicious. The flavors of the kale, bacon, and cheese together are just wonderful. It definitely inspired me to use kale in more savory dishes and also find new recipes to include Sargento Chef Blends 4 State Cheddar. The oyster cracker crumb topping is everything you would imagine it to be. So good! You can find lots of recipe inspiration on the Sargento Pinterest page.
I hope you give this recipe a try. It makes about 12 (large 1-cup) servings and is 396 calories and 10 weight watchers points.
- 1 (16-ounce) bag of whole grain elbow noodles
- 6 ounces kale, about 5 - 6 cups
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 10 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups 1% milk
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- pinch of nutmeg
- 2 (7.5-ounce) packages Sargento Chef Blends 4 State Cheddar Cheese
- 2 cups oyster crackers, crushed
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- cooking spray
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cook noodles in boiling water for 5 minutes. The noodles will still be on the hard side. Place the noodles in a 9 x 13 casserole dish sprayed with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Heat the olive oil on medium high in a large frying pan. Add the kale and cook until just wilted.
- Place the kale and bacon crumbles over top of the noodles.
- In a medium saucepan add the chicken stock and milk. Whisk in the flour until it is completely dissolved. Heat over medium-heat until the milk and chicken stock is bubbly, whisking occasionally.
- Whisk in the granulated garlic, onion powder, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
- Slowly stir in the 2 packages of Sargento Chef Blends 4 State Cheddar Cheese until it is melted.
- Pour cheese sauce over the kale, bacon, and noodles. Stir until all of the ingredients are evenly coated with the cheese sauce.
- Mix together the crushed oyster crackers and butter. Sprinkle the crumbs over the top of the macaroni and cheese.
- Bake for 50 minutes or until bubbly and the cracker crumbs are browned.
- Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Serve.
This recipe can be completely made ahead of time and store in the refrigerator. warm it up in the microwave when ready to eat. You might need to add a little milk for added creaminess.
You can also freeze into portions. Heat in microwave when ready to eat. 2-3 minutes on high and again add a little milk if needed for creaminess.
Available in 30 versatile varieties, unique blends and distinct cuts, Sargento Shredded Cheese is always cut from blocks of 100% real, natural cheese. For more inspiration, check out the Sargento Pinterest page Pinterest.com/sargentocheese/ or visit Sargento.com for more information. The Chopped at Home Challenge gives viewers a chance to create their best recipe using the selected basket ingredients, including Sargento Shredded Cheese, for a chance to win $10,000!
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Sargento. The opinions and text are all mine.
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