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Tom Walsh's social media pages are full of recipes for popular dishes, such as pepperoni pizza flatbread, orange chicken and chicken tenders, but there's a twist: they're all healthy! Tom (@stealth_health_life) specializes in "indulgent and nostalgic foods, made healthier." Here, he shows us his easy jalapeno popper mac and cheese, one of his all-time favorite recipes. "It's packed with protein, low in calories and the perfect meal for a family dinner."
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Meanwhile, tenderize the chicken by pounding it with a meat tenderizer or any heavy object. Focus on the thicker parts of the chicken in order to create equal thickness across the entire piece. Place the chicken on a small baking pan and lightly season with garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt and pepper. (I do not measure the seasoning; just give each side a light coating with each seasoning and it'll come out perfectly.) Set the chicken aside.
Prep the cheese sauce. In a blender, combine the cottage cheese, cream cheese, milk, pickled jalapenos, jalapeno juice, honey and salt and pepper to taste. Blend until completely smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes. Set the sauce aside.
Place the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until it reaches your desired crispiness. Once done, scoop out with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel-lined plate. Carefully wipe out the skillet and set aside.
While the bacon cooks, bake the chicken until cooked through, about 15 minutes. After 3 to 5 minutes, cook the pasta until al dente, then drain. When the chicken is ready, let rest for about 5 minutes, then dice into small pieces.
In the reserved skillet, combine the chicken, sauce, drained pasta, half of the bacon bits and a handful of the scallions. Stir together, then top with the remaining bacon bits and chopped scallions.