July 26, 2012

Pesto and Tomato Grilled Cheese

Pesto and Tomatoe Grilled Cheese

The fun thing about grilled cheese sandwiches is you do not have to stop at cheese. As I was preparing lunch one day, I found left over pesto in the fridge and thought that would be so good on a grilled cheese melt!
Once I made this little, hot sandwich I was in love with all the flavors! Definitely a keeper...why didn't I marry these flavors together sooner! All in good time...

Click here for fresh basil pesto recipe
sliced avocados
baby spinach (washed and dried)
diced or sliced fresh tomato
thinly sliced Munster or Mozzarella cheese
sliced bread
softened butter

butter one side of each slice of bread. Spread pesto on the opposite side of each slice of bread.
Heat pan or griddle over medium heat.
Place one slice of bread in the pan, buttered side down, lay a slice of cheese then top with baby spinach, sliced avocados, tomato slices, another slice of cheese, and the remaining slice of bread, buttered side up!
Turn the heat down a notch and cook until golden brown, about 2-4 minutes.
Flip and cook until golden brown on the other side, about 2-4 minutes.


July 24, 2012

Fresh Basil Pesto

When my garden is bursting with basil, pesto is on my brain!

Garden Basil

This is a very simple recipe I use and it can be found at Simple Recipes.
Fresh Pesto

This is your basic basil recipe and can be easily altered to your taste!


July 21, 2012

Root Beer Pancakes

Looking for a fun weekend breakfast for the family? Well, look no further...these pancakes are perfect! Fluffy, moist and sure to please everyone. Top with a scoop of homemade whipped cream and lightly dust with powder sugar.

Root Beer Pancakes

Root Beer Pancakes
serves 8

1 1/2 cups Root Beer ( I used A & W)
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1/4 cup butter melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
cooking spray

Combine dry ingredients into a bowl. Add Root Beer, eggs, butter, and vanilla to the dry mixture and mix. Mix until all lumps are gone.

Heat a lightly greased griddle to medium heat, adjust heat as needed. I use an electric griddle and set the temperature to 350 degrees.  Pour or scoop approximately 1/3 cup of batter onto the griddle, use more or less batter to create your desired size of pancakes. Brown pancake on both sides and serve warm!

Homemade Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup powder sugar, sifted

Chill your mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Then in a large metal bowl, whip cream until stiff peaks are just about to form. Beat in vanilla and sugar until peaks form. Scoop (using an ice cream scoop) whipped cream and top pancakes. Lightly dust with powder sugar and serve with a smile!


July 19, 2012

Grilled Rosemary Potatoes and Squash

I love grilling and one of my favorite ways to prepare vegetables on the grill is wrapped in foil. There is a smile on my face when I prepare this meal because no pots and pans are required for this recipe...easy clean up!
Fire up your grill we are about to get started!

Grilled Potatoes and Squash in Foil

 How to prepare the potatoes and squash:
Serves 2 adults and 2 children
double the recipe if needed

2 large baking potatoes, washed and peeled (or not peeled)
(you can use any variety of potatoes, I like using red potatoes as well)
2 small yellow squash
1 small zucchini
2 tsp fresh chopped rosemary
1 tsp fresh chopped parsley
an additional 1 tsp of fresh rosemary and parsley for the squash
onion powder to taste or 1/2 onion sliced
garlic and herb seasoning to taste
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
about 3 TBS butter for each foil packet

First, lay foil on a large cookie sheet and evenly dice your potatoes. Then add  herbs and seasoning. No need to measure ingredients, just evenly sprinkle and toss to coat. Last, top 1 TBS of butter in 3 different areas of the potatoes. Instead of using onion powder you can also slice 1/2 of an onion and toss it in with the potatoes.
raw potatoes in foil

Then fold the sides of the foil in creating a foil packet.
wrapped potatoes ready for grill

Next, double wrap in foil. If you are using heavy duty foil one layer may be enough.
double wrapped potatoes in foil

Set potatoes on a hot grill and cook for approximately 25 minutes, turn occasionally. I cooked my foil packets at 450 degrees. Slice open and serve warm.
rosemary potatoes grilled in foil

Prepare the squash as you would the potatoes only cook the squash no longer than 10 minutes.

grilled squash wrapped in foil 1

These wonderful grilled sides pair well with grilled fish, chicken, or steak.

If you ever have any questions about my recipes please feel free to contact me. Thank you for stopping by and have a wonderful day!
Do not feel limited to these ingredients. Food Network has put together 50 things to grill in foil, please check out the link below and be inspired!
50 Things to Grill in Foil

July 16, 2012

Avocado, Spinach, Basil Pesto

Hi everyone, long time no see! I have been out for a few weeks, but I had some pretty amazing guest bloggers filling in for me while I was away. I hope you enjoyed all those wonderful dishes they brought over for us!
Today I am sharing  a simple recipe for Avocado, Spinach, Basil Pesto. Yes, it is pretty amazing. My garden is bursting with basil right now, so I have been adding basil to everything. This recipe was inspired from Giada's recipe,
Linguine with Avocado and Arugula Pesto.

Avocado, Spinach, Basil Pesto

Avocado, Spinach, and Basil Pesto
2 small avocados, halved, peeled, and seeded
2 cups baby baby spinach leaves
2 packed cups fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 - 1/2 cup olive oil

Add the avocado,spinach, basil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper to a food processor or a blender such as a Vita Mix. Slowly add olive oil and b
lend until smooth. I used close to a 1/2 cup of olive oil in my pesto, but you could use less if needed.
This pesto paired well with linguine pasta noodles and best topped with grilled chicken and garden fresh diced tomatoes.

How to prepare the pasta:
In a large pot bring salted water to a boil over high heat. Add 1 lbs of pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite. Stir occasionally for 8 to 10 minutes.
Drain and reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water.

In a large serving bowl add linguine and toss with pesto.
Add 1/2 to 1 cup of fresh grated parmesan and add pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce.

How to prepare the grilled chicken:

balsamic vinegar marinade

Balsamic Vinegar Marinade
1/4 tsp Fresh Ground Pepper
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
2 tsp garlic and herb seasoning
3 TBS Olive Oil
2 TBS Balsamic Vinegar
2 TBS Water


1. Whisk together all ingredients for the Balsamic Vinegar Marinade. Add the marinade to 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast. Marinate for at least 10 minutes.  

2. Heat grill  to 400 degrees and spray with Pam grilling spray. Place chicken breast on grill and turn chicken occasionally. Cook chicken until the internal degree reaches 170. Place in foil and allow to rest for about 5 minutes before slicing.

Grilled Chicken


July 13, 2012

Passion Tea Lemonade with Melon Syrup

Post by: Christian Elizabeth, Audra’s daughter

As you probably know I am a huge fan of Starbucks coffees, teas, Frappuccino's, and all of their baked goods. My last Starbucks post was my take on a Mocha Coconut Frappuccino click here if you missed that post.
Well, I am here today to unveil another one of Starbucks drinks. If you a fan of passion tea lemonade you must know there used to exists a thing called melon syrup and I would have a few pumps added in my tea. Well there came a day when the Barista told me that they had discontinued the syrup and the tea has never tasted the same. So I did what any faithful fan of this drink would do. I went on a riot and never order the drink again in memory of my dearly beloved melon syrup. There is no reason to be on riot anymore because I have created a recipe that taste just like Starbucks used to make it. And here it is…


(makes one gallon)
2 filter Tea Bags of Tazo Iced Passion Tea
2 quarts of boiling water
2 quarts of Lemonade
(I used the brand Simply Lemonade but any brand or prepared lemonade would be fine)

Melon Syrup
1 cup of fresh pureed watermelon
½ cup of sugar

Cool Fact on Ingredients: Tazo Passion Tea is the same band they use at Starbucks ;) 


1. Place tea bags into a gallon size pitcher. Bring water to a boil and then pour the boiling water into the pitcher with the tea bags. I leave the tea bags to brew for about an hour to an hour and a half. You really want the tea to have a strong flavor . This also gives the tea a chance to cool after being at a boiling point. Once finished brewing, compress the tea bags between two spoons until all of the extra tea is drained out.

2. To make the melon syrup, I placed fresh watermelon in a blender until I had one cup of its sweet juice. Then pour 1/2 cup of the juice into a small sauce pan. Add half a cup of sugar and place on low heat. whisk constantly until the sugar has completely dissolved. Once sugar is dissolved, let it cool. Then pour 3/4 cup of melon syrup into the passion tea.

3. Add lemonade and the extra 1/2 cup of watermelon puree to the pitcher and stir well! Consume and enjoy within 24 hours.

Do you know how much you just saved?

Starbucks price for a gallon of tea is about $26.60 (though you can not purchase a gallon of Starbucks tea, this is how much it would be according to their current price per ounce of tea)

Price to make this gallon of tea is around $3.23 (taken that you already have watermelon and sugar on hand)

Isn’t saving fun, especially when it taste so good too! Since this recipe makes a whole gallon the whole family can enjoy a Starbucks treat at a fraction of the cost. My brother Liam quite enjoyed this drink. After taking the picture below he grabbed my cup and quickly consumed the deliciousness, but no worries because there was a whole gallon in the fridge waiting for me. This summer fun drink pairs really well with my mother’s
Grilled Fish Tacos, check out the recipe


July 12, 2012

Guest Post {Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom}

First of all I would like to thank Audra for the chance to guest blog for her. I hope she enjoys every minute that her husband is home. I really admire the wives of our armed forces. They endure so much here at home while their spouses protect us and our freedom! I don’t know how they do it. I work every day with my husband on our farm and I can’t imagine going months without seeing him.

My blog is called
Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom
I try to let my readers know what is going on around our farm each week and how I try to balance working on the farm full time with raising two adventurous boys. I also post recipes that are Farm Mom approved called
What’s for Dinner Wednesday.
Sometimes, my farm mom friends from across the United States help me with recipes for the products they raise. I hope you enjoy my favorite Lasagna recipe. It is certainly a favorite of my kids and husband and uses both beef and wheat. We raise both on our farm.

A Kansas Farm Mom’s No Boil the Noodle Lasagna 

Brown 1 pound of ground beef and drain if necessary. Beef needs a certain amount of fat to brown effectively without sticking to the pan. If you have ever wondered what cattle eat, check out this link
Explore Beef
Cattle actually carried the video cameras around their necks to show what they eat.
Add 2¾ cups tomato juice and 24 ounces (3 small cans) of tomato sauce. Add 2 tablespoons of Italian seasoning and 1 clove of garlic.

I like to use the Italian Seasoning from the Pampered Chef. Simmer for 10 minutes. I feel I need to talk about the garlic. I love to use fresh garlic.
I sold Pampered Chef products for a few years before I had kids and ran into a few people who didn’t know how to use fresh garlic and were a bit afraid of it or had used way too much of it (They had used an entire bulb instead of a clove!). So here is my tutorial on using Fresh Garlic.

This is a bulb of garlic:

The piece I have pushed out with my finger is a clove of garlic.

A clove of garlic is a small piece of the bulb that easily separates itself.

I like to use a garlic press to get the garlicky goodness out of a clove. You can peel it and chop it, but then your hands tend to smell like garlic for a while. You just put the clove in the press and squeeze to release the flavor. Has anyone ever been to a garlic farm? I wonder if the smell is overwhelming.

In another bowl mix 1½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese, ¼ cup of parmesan cheese, 1 egg, 1 carton (8 oz) of cottage cheese and ¼ cup dried parsley. Mix well. I love to eat cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products; however, I do not have any desire to be a dairy farmer and truly appreciate the fact that I don’t have to milk a cow twice a day for my family. I have a friend who milks cows. If she wants to go shopping with her daughter, she must get up at 4:00 am, milk cows, feed baby calves, get cleaned up, and if she is lucky, she can shop for a couple of hours before she needs to milk again at 4:30 p.m. I don’t see how she does it day after day!

To assemble lasagna, spread 1½ cups of the meat sauce over the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish.

Arrange 5 of the uncooked noodles in a single layer over the sauce by placing 4 noodles lengthwise and 1 noodle crosswise to cover the bottom of the baking dish. (Break the noodle to make it fit.) Press noodles into the sauce. Pasta noodles are made from wheat. Our family just finished up wheat harvest. It is a stressful time full of 14 to 16 hour days, but what a sense of accomplishment when we are done.  If you want to know why it is so stressful, check out this post I did after harvest was finished:
Wheat Harvest is Finished

Spread all of the cottage cheese mixture over the noodles.

Top with 1½ cups of the sauce.

Place 5 more uncooked noodles over the sauce.

Spread the remaining sauce over the noodles.

Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil. (At this point, the lasagna can be refrigerated for several hours, overnight or even frozen.) If I am going to refrigerate or freeze the Lasagna at this point, I use a Sharpie to put the date, oven temperature and baking time on the foil. This way my farmer husband can even get supper started if he gets in from the field before me. There are nights that I operate the combine harvester late and he gets the boys in bed. In fact, I am the main combine operator on our farm. I also drive tractors, feed cows, vaccinate calves and bring baby calves born on cold winter nights into my house.

Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes (55 minutes if lasagna was refrigerated) or until noodles are tender.

45 minutes allowed my youngest son and me enough time to go feed the bottle calves, 4-H show heifer and 4-H lambs for the evening and play with the barn kittens for a little bit. They all get fed twice a day mostly by the boys and like their meals to be at the same time everyday.

And The Farmer was busy planting soybeans on this day. Soybeans are one of those crops that we raise that raises the question of: “What are those used for?” I call them the amazing bean. They are used in nearly 75% of your grocery store items and can be found in wood stain, insulation and newspaper ink. If you want to know more check out this link-
Beyond the Bean

OK, now back to the rest of the recipe. Carefully uncover and sprinkle with 1½ cups of mozzarella cheese and return to the oven for 15 minutes uncovered.

Enjoy! I made this Lasagna for a Farm Mom friend of mine who had not been feeling well for almost 2 weeks. I had just finished driving the combine during wheat harvest and wanted to help her husband out. It appears that her kids loved it.

I would love it if you came to visit my blog at http://talesofakansasfarmmom.blogspot.com. I just started a Facebook page that will be updated as things happen on the farm as well, so come by and visit anytime!
A Kansas Farm Mom Facebook Page

If you have questions about farming and your food, check out the website
Common Ground Kansas

We are a team of farm moms who try to help consumers understand how their food is raised. The group also has a Facebook page too-
Common Ground Kansas

Have a wonderful week everyone! I hope you enjoy the recipe- A Kansas Farm Mom.

July 10, 2012

Guest Post {Chew Love}

Hello Once a Mom, Always a Cook Readers! My name is Amanda, the blogger over at
Chew Love
and I am so excited to guest post for all of you. This is also my very first guest post, so I hope I don't completely bomb. Chew Love is a blog that follows my journey as a newlywed and finding my way around the kitchen. I am an advocate for healthy living and eating our meals with family around the table.

Growing up, my family never had sit down dinners together and now that I am starting my own family with my husband, I know that this is an important thing I want to provide for my future children. I also believe that making your own meals is extremely important to stay healthy. I like knowing exactly what is going into my food and meals at home taste better than most things you can get at a restaurant.

I wanted to share two of my all time favorite dishes with y'all that make the perfect Summer Dinner! My great Grandmother, Momo's pork chops and my Avocado, Chickpea and Quinoa Salad. These are staples in our home and everyone I have cooked them for has loved these recipes. Thanks so much for letting me share these with you! I hope you enjoy them.

To follow my journey and see all my recipes follow me on Facebook and Twitter or stop by

Momo's Pork Chops
: I came across this recipe a few months ago as I was thumbing through my mom's recipe book. I came to a page that had a couple of recipes from my Great Grandmother, Momo. They were written in her hand on pieces of scrap paper and I knew I had to copy them down and try them out. I can just picture her in the kitchen with her apron on cooking these for her family in the 1930's. I was lucky enough to know my Great Grandmother and Grandfather growing up. So I like to think that she is smiling down on me every time I make these.

Momo's Pork Chops

What you need:
  • 4-6 boneless pork chops
  • Italian salad dressing
  • 3/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
Place pork chops in a large ziplock bag with enough Italian dressing to coat the pork chops. Let marinate in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile combine breadcrumbs, cheese, garlic powder, Italian seasoning and pepper in a shallow dish. Remove chops from the ziplock bag and coat with breadcrumb mixture. Place pork chops in a glass baking dish and bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes or until they are cooked through.

Avocado, Chickpea and Quinoa Salad:
I don't know about you, but I am obsessed with Quinoa. This is the perfect recipe for summer time and is one of my all time favorites! The Quinoa and chickpeas give it a great dose of protein and it makes a great side dish or a wonderful Vegan dinner. It is refreshing, filling and oh so healthy! Going to a lot of BBQ's this Summer? Bring this dish, and you won't believe how many compliments you get.

Avocado and Chickpea Salad

What you need:
  • 1 cup uncooked Quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 avocados, diced
  • 2 cups spinach, thinly chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
For the Dressing:
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • juice from 2 lemons
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
In a small saucepan bring Quinoa and water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 to 25 minutes or until water is absorbed. When done, set aside and let cool. Meanwhile, combine all chopped and diced vegetables in a medium size bowl and whisk all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Once Quinoa has cooled, add it to the medium bowl and then pour the dressing over and gently mix everything together. Let chill in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes so flavors blend. Serve cold. Happy Chewing!

July 7, 2012

Guest Post {Sweet Heat Chefs}

Crunchy Quinoa Chicken Strips

Sweet Heat Chefs

Quin, who? Qunioa! I know, a weird word, but a delicious whole grain which is really considered a SEED!
At any rate, I try to get my family to eat different foods to heighten their pallets, if they know about it, likely they won’t try it! If I tell them about it AFTER they have tried it sometimes the result is better. But most importantly if I disguise it or hide it, they never know and I know they are getting good nutrition and their pallets are being exposed to new foods.
Quinoa is a bland grain which is good because you can add to it whatever you want sweet or savory.
It is very versatile this way.
 In order to disguise it using my trickery methods for my family I decide to encrust in on some chicken strips. Yet, that wasn’t enough nutrition for me in this meal. I had to take it 1 step further. Normally when you make cutlets you dip in flour dip in egg, then dip in breading. I decided to take some purees veggies as my egg mixture instead.
You know the ends of asparagus you throw away? I keep them in the freezer for experimentations…experimentations such as this!

Creating a “pesto” if you will as the sauce created from veggies, then dipping the chicken strips in it then coating in quinoa and pan fry. Yes it is doable and here is how!

Pesto Ingredients

½ c fresh basil
2 cloves minced garlic cloves
¼ c olive oil, good quality
(may require more depending on consistency, add more or less as needed)
       2 asparagus stem bundles
      Juice of ½ a lime plus zest
        1 handful frozen peas
¼ c parmesan cheese
¼ c. toasted whole pine nuts
        Salt and pepper to taste

Pesto Preparation

Mix all ingredients together in a food processor until a smooth consistency. Taste test before continuing, you may need to add more olive oil or salt and pepper.
Chicken Ingredient

4 chicken breast halves, sliced into strips and pounded thin
1 1/4 cups quinoa

2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour

¼ c parmesan cheese, shredded or grated
2 T garlic powder
1 egg
1 teaspoon paprika
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
freshly ground pepper to taste
Chicken Preparation
1.  Place quinoa in a sauce pan with the chicken stock, salt/pepper, and cumin, and bring to a boil.

Cover and simmer over medium low for about 15 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed. Cook 1-2 more minutes uncovered, stirring, until quinoa starts to stick to the pan.

Remove quinoa from heat and spread out in a thin coat on a plate to cool.
4. Place the flour, parmesan cheese, garlic powder, s/p (if using), and paprika in a shallow bowl. Sprinkle over cooled quinoa 4 T at a time as you coat the chicken pieces adding more to the dish. I do it this way so I can reserve the flour mixture for later use. Once it touches the raw chicken, you cannot reuse it.

5. Beat 1egg and add ½ cup pesto mixture and place in another shallow bowl together.

Heat 4 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat.

Season the chicken pieces lightly with s/p. Dredge each piece of chicken first in the pesto/egg mixture, then in the flour/quinoa mixture patting the quinoa onto the chicken to coat.  NOTE: this is a bit of an acquired technique. If quinoa falls off, you are not alone. I find it best to hole the chicken tender in my left hand and press the quinoa firmly onto it. Add it immediately to the heated oiled pan. Once it is in place, LEAVE it until time to turn.

Place as many chicken pieces that will fit into the skillet and cook, turning once carefully with a spatula, about 4 minutes per side, or until chicken is cooked through.  NOTE: You need to use a spatula, the quinoa tends to stick and if you use a different utensil, you will take the coating off the chicken.

Repeat with remaining chicken, adding a little more olive oil to the skillet as necessary. 
10. Serve warm.

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