This recipe came to me in a ketogenic fever-dream. I haven't always been the biggest fan of ranch dressing, but have always loved dry ranch wings from any wing restaurant that makes them. So, I was wanting a dry ranch moment without dealing with the mess of making wings, and knew I had bacon and cheddar cheese and I thought - let's just combine 'em all. I will say - this isn't too ranch-heavy, so if you don't love ranch (or your husband doesn't, a la Ryan), then this won't be overwhelming, it will just add a little herby garlicky flavor.
What you'll need: chicken tenderloin pieces, dry ranch seasoning (either the packet or the big bottle that I recently discovered existed), bacon, and sliced cheddar cheese. Definitely experiment with a different flavor of cheese if cheddar isn't your style. I will say, don't use shredded cheese; it just makes a mess.
Lay the bacon on a foil-lined sheet tray and place in a cold oven. Start the preheat for 375, cook until pliable but not fully cooked. In my oven it takes 13 minutes to reach 375 degrees, and I cooked the bacon an additional 9 minutes. I used thick-cut bacon, so if you're using a thinner cut, cook for less time. Let cool until warm but not too hot to handle.
I typically make 9 chicken fingers when I make this recipe. 2 for me for dinner, 3 for Ryan for dinner, and 4 leftover for both of our lunches. You may see that I have 10 slices of bacon on this sheet tray and think, "...But Savannah, you just said you were making 9 chicken fingers? Why are there 10 slices of bacon?" Because I didn't want to deal with putting it back in the package neatly, and sometimes you just need a snack.
Sprinkle some ranch seasoning on a plate, lay the chicken on top, then cover with more ranch seasoning. Let sit while the bacon cooks. When you go to wrap the chicken in the bacon later, the chicken will be a little gummy from the ranch seasoning. Don't worry, that just means the flavor has really gotten in there. However, if you want to avoid that, dry the chicken really well before covering in ranch seasoning, and don't let it dry marinate as long - maybe only 3-5 minutes.
Wrap each piece of chicken in a slice of bacon and place on a rack* over the same sheet tray you cooked the bacon on. The rack will ensure the heat gets all the way around the chicken fingers, making sure the chicken cooks quickly and the bacon gets crispy. Also, one pan dinner!
*You don't have to use a rack over a sheet tray if you don't have a rack. Just make it straight on the hot sheet tray. The first time I made this, I baked the chicken fingers in a casserole dish and I didn't get the crispiness I desired. Also - I don't like to bake my bacon on the rack if I'm only par-cooking it initially, because it sticks. This is all personal preference of course - you do you.
Bake in the 375 degree oven for 20 minutes. Take out, top each chicken finger with half a slice of cheese, return to the oven for 5 more minutes.
These come out so cheesy but also crispy and tender and juicy and are one of my most recent obsessions. I like to serve them with just a veggie on the side - grilled zucchini here - and some of Kyndra Holley's ranch dressing. I absolutely love her blog and her cookbook, Craveable Keto, is where I got the recipe for her ranch dressing.
I really hope you make these tonight and that they become a regular in your house. They're easy and extremely satisfying.
Ingredients (there's only FOUR!):
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First - sorry it's been so long since you've heard from me! We have been so busy this past week! We visited with my side of the family in Lake Keeowee and had the most perfect view of the eclipse last weekend, then Ryan started a new position on Tuesday, and I began substitute teaching again on Thursday. I've been so busy juggling all of that and finalizing our plans for visiting Germany in a few weeks that while I have been cooking (don't worry!), I haven't had the time to sit down and write it all out for y'all. Please forgive me and try this recipe!
I decided to pick a quick, easy, and minimal effort dish to give y'all as a reflection of what our life has been like this week. Have you ever had company casserole? This was a dish my grandmother made for us all the time growing up and it has always been one of my favorites. I like to tell people that it's basically a spaghetti casserole - ground beef, tomato sauce, noodles, and cheese. I wanted to make my version low carb and used shirataki noodles for the first time. The result was almost, and I really do mean almost, like 99.99%, exactly like the real thing. If you want the traditional carby goodness, use egg noodles or bowtie pasta to get the perfect chewy texture and a hefty noodle to hold the sauce and cheese. This ain't for angel hair, folks!
Ingredients: 3 packages of fettucine shirataki noodles*, 1 lb ground beef, 1 small can of tomato sauce (I like to buy the low-sodium or no salt added, so I can control the amount of salt in my dish), 8 oz. cream cheese, and 16 oz. cottage cheese.
*Shirataki noodles can be found in the produce section, usually near the pre-made salads and vegan cheese.
Bring the cheeses to room temperature (or as close to it) at least 2 hours before cooking. If you're pressed for time, soften the cream cheese in the microwave so it will mix well with the cottage cheese.
When you're ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 and start browning the beef.
When the beef is browned all the way through, drain the fat and discard it once it's cooled.
Add a pinch of salt, 1/2 tsp of garlic powder, and the can of the tomato sauce to the beef. Stir over low heat until well combined. This mixture can sit at room temperature until ready to assemble the casserole.
Next, prepare the noodles according to the package directions. Drain and rinse them really well. Then boil for 3 minutes, drain again, and lay on paper towels to dry out.
I like to bring my water to boil while the beef is browning, then while it's simmering and getting saucy, I cook the noodles. This way, both the noodles and the beef are ready to go at the same time.
Now it's assembly time!
Combine the two cheeses into a smooth mixture - this is where room temperature helps.
By the way, bringing the cheeses to room temperature is the only thing that needs to be done somewhat in advance for this recipe. The beef can be done earlier in the day, the night before, or can be leftovers. Imagine how good taco meat would be! The noodles can also be prepped and cooked in advance and kept in the fridge. Although, the shirataki noodles take no time at all. But leftover pasta from family Italian night works great here. Just throw everything together like we are now.
Add the cooked and drained noodles to the cheese mixture, add a pinch of salt, and stir to combine.
In a casserole dish sprayed with cooking spray, start with 1/3 of the beef. I like to do 3 layers of beef and two layers of the pasta/cheese mixture, but do what works for you. You could even mix it all together!
Next, add half of the noodles and smooth out to cover the beef evenly.
Keep layering the beef and noodles until you've used everything up. Then put the casserole in the oven for 30 minutes, until the cheeses have melted and combined with the tomato sauce and beef, and made the noodles more tender and it's all just one creamy gooey dish.
After 30 minutes, let the casserole sit and cool slightly for 10 minutes to allow everything to set up, like you do with lasagna. When you do this, it won't spill out all over the plate; the casserole will stick together better.
Ahhh. Yum. I was so happy this turned out just as delicious as the original. It was slightly more liquid-y than when you use egg noodles, so if that's an issue for you, use half the container of cottage cheese instead of the whole container.
And Ryan even got seconds!
Here's the recipe!
Food that maximizes flavor and minimizes effort and time.