Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Spring Break Experiment

I love to cook – it is a plain and simple fact. I insist on family dinners where everyone eats the same meal. I am willing to be a short order cook when we have breakfast for dinner, but on the average evening what I cook is what is for dinner. Yogurt is always available after the main dish has been tried and tasted, and everyone has input if the recipe gets to stay in the collection. Is it a keeper or not? At least 3 people need to like it to keep it as a family meal. If Ryan and I really love it, then we keep it as an “every now and then” (those more adult meals are often accompanied by mac & cheese).

This spring break we had no major plans; we weren’t going anywhere. Recently I had been trying a new meal about once a week, but decided to really go all out the week of spring break. We tried a new recipe every day. Hannah had a few sleepovers and her friends got to also give it thumbs up or down. We came across quite a few keepers. Some of my friends and sisters were interested in getting copies of the keeper recipes, and I shared them via FB, and then via email. Many of these same folks then suggested putting it together on a blog. So, The Spring Break Experiment has evolved into In the Kitchen with My Little Monkeys. Enjoy!

New Recipes
Braised chicken in white wine and green onion sauce
Black Bean Brownies
Swiss Chicken
Pizza Meatball Subs
Chicken Penne Casserole

Braised chicken in white wine and green onion sauce


* 2 teaspoon vegetable oil
* 1 chicken, cut into 4 pieces (I used boneless skinless chicken breasts and it worked fine)
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 5 bunches scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
* 1/3 cup white wine
* 3 cups chicken stock
* 2 tablespoon half and half
* Thickening agent of your choice (Wondra, flour, etc)


1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper, and cook, until golden, about 5 minutes. Turn chicken, add two thirds of the scallions, and brown chicken on other side, about 3 minutes. Transfer chicken to a platter.
2. Continue to cook scallions until just soft, 1 to 2 minutes more. Add wine, scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon, and reduce by half.
3. Return chicken to skillet, and add stock. Reduce heat to medium low, and braise, partially covered, until chicken is cooked through, about 50 minutes (shorter if using chicken breasts).
4. Transfer chicken to a platter, and loosely cover with foil. Reduce braising liquid by half over high heat. Add remaining scallions, and cook for 30 seconds; stir in half and half and thickening agent. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Uncover chicken, and spoon scallions sauce over chicken.

I served with mashed potatoes, and everyone put the sauce on the potatoes.

Black Bean Brownies


* Butter, for greasing pan
* 3/4 cup cooked black beans
* 1/2 cup vegetable oil, or olive oil
* 2 eggs
* 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
* 2/3 cup sugar
* 1 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips, divided
* 1/3 cup flour
* 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar, for dusting


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 9-inch square baking pan
2. In a food processor, puree the beans with the oil. Add the eggs, cocoa, sugar, coffee, and vanilla.
3. Melt half the chocolate chips and add to the food processor. Blend on medium-high until smooth.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the food processor and pulse until just incorporated. Stir in the remaining chocolate chips. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake until the surface looks somewhat matte around the edges and still a bit shiny in the middle, about 20 minutes. Let cool at least 15 minutes before cutting and removing from the pan.


I doubled this and put it in an 9 x 13 for 40 minutes. They were GREAT - but you really really have to make sure the oil and beans are SMOOTH. They were more cake-like than fudgey. I would make this again and put it in a bigger pan, as they were really high. I would also try to substitute half the oil for applesauce next time. When you are using the food processor, make sure you scrape down the sides a lot!!!

Swiss Chicken


*1/2 stick melted butter or margarine
* 1 to 1.5lbs chicken breasts
* 1 can cream of mushroom soup
* 6 to 8oz shredded Swiss cheese
* herbed stuffing mix (Stove Top or store brand type mix)
* drizzle 1/2 stick of butter over the top


1. Layer ingredients as listed above.
2. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, covered.
3. Uncover and bake another 30 minutes (or until chicken is thoroughly cooked).

Pizza Meatball Subs


* 1 egg, lightly beaten
* 1/3 cup steak sauce
* 1 cup crushed saltines
* 1 teaspoon onion powder
* 1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
* 1/8 teaspoon pepper
* 1-1/2 pounds ground beef
* 6 to 7 submarine buns, split
* 1 jar (14 ounces) pizza sauce
* 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, cheddar or Swiss (or a mix, or whatever you like!)


1. In a large bowl, combine the egg, steak sauce, saltines, onion powder, salt and pepper. Crumble beef over mixture and mix well. Shape into 1-1/2-in. balls.
2. Place meatballs on a greased rack in a shallow baking pan. Bake at 375° for 20 minutes or until no longer pink. Drain on paper towels.
3. Spread pizza sauce on buns, sprinkle some cheese on the sauce. Top with meatballs and more pizza sauce. Sprinkle with additional cheese. Place on a baking sheet. Bake for 5-10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Yield: 6-7 servings.

Chicken Penne Casserole

This was enough 4 to 5 people. I think you could add two cups of uncooked pasta (maybe even a little more since there was a lot of sauce), and maybe a little less mozzarella cheese (maybe 6 oz). I used Parmesan cheese instead of Romano since that is what I had on hand.


* 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
* 1/2 cup each chopped onion, green pepper and sweet red pepper
* 1 teaspoon each dried basil, oregano and parsley flakes
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
* 1 tablespoon canola oil
* 3 garlic cloves, minced
* 1-1/2 cups uncooked penne pasta
* 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
* 3 tablespoons tomato paste
* 3/4 cup chicken broth
* 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
* 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese


1. In a large saucepan, saute the chicken, onion, peppers and seasonings in oil until chicken is no longer pink. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, process tomatoes and tomato paste in a blender; add to chicken mixture. Stir in broth.
3. Drain pasta; toss with chicken mixture. Spoon half of the mixture into a greased 2-qt. baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the cheeses. Repeat layers.
4. Cover and bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Uncover; bake 15-20 minutes longer or until heated through.