Living the Country Life

Lisa's Kitchen Blog

Thank you for visiting my blog! I’m glad you’re here. I am a part-time Living the Country Life and Successful Farming web editor, and a full-time stay-at-home mom to my three young sons, Jake, Luke, and Will. My husband, the boys, and I live on 40 acres in south-central Iowa. We have a handful of cattle, an old farmhouse, a dog, a turtle, a goldfish, and a garden. It’s a great life! I really enjoy cooking for my family and friends, and am thrilled to get to share some of my favorite recipes and meals with you. 

Come visit my blog anytime you’re looking for ideas on what to fix for your family. The coffee’s always on!

~ Lisa Foust Prater

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March 26, 2014

Peanut butter fudge cake

My husband had a birthday recently, and I made him his favorite cherry pie. His mom came up to visit a few days later with a delicious peanut butter cake. We shared it with friends, and everyone loved it, so I had to get the recipe. The peanut butter cake uses a mix, so it's super easy, and the rich frosting tastes like peanut butter fudge. 

Grandma Prater's Peanut Butter Fudge Cake

Cake:
1 18.25-oz. box yellow cake mix
1 cup water
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 eggs

Mix the cake ingredients together. Bake in greased, floured cake pan according to box directions. Cool cake. Make frosting.

Frosting:
1 stick of margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt
1/3 cup milk
3/4 cup peanut butter chips

Add margarine, sugar, salt, and milk in a pan, and boil for 90 seconds, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add chips and vanilla, and stir until melted and combined. Pour immediately onto cooled cake and spread to cover cake. Allow frosting to set up before serving.

Note: If you prefer, use chocolate chips in the frosting for a peanut-butter-chocolate cake, or use to frost brownies or your favorite cake.

 

We took Grandma's cake to a friend's house to share, and their little boy, Willby, was so in love with it that he fell into a trance-like state while licking the serving spatula! This recipe is Willby-approved!

January 16, 2014

Cornbread breakfast casserole

Last weekend, we had a lazy morning at home, which is a really rare occurence with three sons involved in sports, music, Scouts, and other activities. It was most definitely a breakfast casserole morning.

I looked through the pantry and fridge, grabbed some ingredients, and set to work. The night before, I had made a 9x13" pan of cornbread (about 1 1/2" thick) to go with ham and beans. We only ate half of the cornbread, so this became the base of my breakfast casserole. I browned some sausage links we had in the fridge, beat some eggs together with other ingredients, added some cheese, and that's it. It baked into a hearty, delicious breakfast! I thought there would be enough left for the next day's breakfast, but we ate the entire pan except for one small square! 

Cornbread breakfast casserole

1/2 of a 9x13" pan of prepared cornbread (the amount you'd get by making 1 box of cornbread mix, about an 8x8" pan, or 6 cornbread muffins)
1 lb. sausage links or ground sausage, browned (you could use bacon or ham instead)
2 cups shredded cheese
8 eggs
1 cup salsa
1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut cornbread or cornbread muffins into cubes, approximately 1x1". Scatter across the bottom of a greased 9x13" baking dish. Cut sausage links into similar sized cubes and place over and between the cornbread cubes, or sprinkle browned ground sausage over cornbread. Top with 1 cup cheese.

In a medium bowl, beat together teh eggs, salsa, and sour cream. Pour evenly over cornbread and sausage mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 35 -40 minutes, or until the egg in the middle of the casserole is completely set. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the top, and bake an additional 5 minutes.

 

January 7, 2014

Quick and easy peanut butter bars

Yesterday, my boys had a snow day on what was supposed to be their first day back to school after Christmas break. Only we didn't really have much snow. The real reason classes were cancelled is that it was well below zero, with wind chills up to 50 below. Too cold to haul kids through the countryside.

We took advantage of our bonus snow day by snuggling up on the couch and watching our go-to snow-day movie, Narnia. I also baked as much as possible, so the excess heat from the oven would help keep the rest of the house warm. It had been a few days since I'd been to the store, but luckily this recipe uses staples we almost always have on hand. The bars tasted like thick peanut butter cookies, and they were just perfect with hot chocolate.

Quick and easy peanut butter bars

1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 Tbsp. milk
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 egg
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 6-oz. package chocolate or peanut butter chips, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 

Mix all ingredients except chips in a stand-up mixer or use a hand mixer to combine them. Fold in chocolate or peanut butter chips, if desired.

Pour batter into a greased 9x13" pan. It will be very thick, so you'll have to spread it around a bit with a spatula. (I sprinkled peanut butter chips on top of the batter at this point rather than ixing them into the batter directly. I'd have rather used chocolate chips, but inexplicably, my oldest son doesn't like peanut butter and chocolate together.)

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

 

January 7, 2014

Crispy Cheddar pork chops

The other day, my husband sent me a chicken recipe he came across, and wanted me to try it with pork chops. Lucky for him, we had all the ingredients on hand, and I had some frozen pork chops in the freezer. I thawed them out, whipped this dish up, and surprised him with it that evening. 

We both loved this dish, and so did our kids. Two of the kids didn't love the sauce on top of the pork chops, but lucky for them, I put their sauce on the side. That's a mom move that comes with experience!

Give these tasty pork chops a try, or you can use boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs if you'd like. Use whatever you have on hand!

Crispy Cheddar pork chops

4-5 pork chops or chicken breasts
1 cup Panko or other seasoned dried bread crumbs
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup milk
3 cups Cheddar cheese, grated
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning

Sauce:
1 10-ounce can cream soup (cream of chicken, mushroom, etc.)
1/3 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp. butter
Milk as needed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Pour bread crumbs, cheese, and milk into three separate containers. Add salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning to bread crumbs and combine. 

Dip each piece of meat into the milk, coating both sides. Then dip one side in the cheese, then the breadcrumbs, and place coated-side down in a foil-lined 9x13" baking dish sprayed with non-stick spray. Sprinkle additional cheese on top, press into the meat  then top with bread crumb mixture and press it into the meat. Repeat with the remaining pieces of meat. Sprinkle any leftover cheese and breadcrumbs on top of the meat.

Cover the pan with foil and bake for 35-40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 10-15 minutes, until the bread crumbs are brown and crispy and the meat is done. If needed, you can turn on the broiler for just a few moments to finish browning the topping.

Meanwhile, in a sauce pan, combine the soup, sour cream, and butter. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until bubbly. Add milk as needed to get the desired sauce consistency. Spoon over meat and sprinkle with additional Italian seasoning, if desired.

January 5, 2014

Cranberry-coconut baked oatmeal

It's cold here ... very cold. So cold that church was cancelled this morning, and school has already been cancelled for tomorrow. We have wind chills in the 30-50 degrees below zero range. It's actually 30 degrees warmer in Antarctica today than it is here. So yeah, it's cold.

This morning, I woke up to find that not only had my husband let me sleep in, but he had piled another blanket on top of me. When I finally got out of bed, I could smell something cinnamony in the oven. He had put together a scrumptious baked oatmeal for breakfast, and even did the dishes! I think I'll keep him! Here's his recipe:

Cranberry-coconut baked oatmeal

3 cups oats
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup coconut
3/4 cup dried cranberries
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, milk, and butter. Stir into oat mixture. 

Place mixture into a greased 9" square baking dish. Bake for 40-45 minutes.

Top with maple syrup and cream or milk, if desired. Makes 9 servings.

December 26, 2013

Brussels sprouts

 It's funny how you sometimes try a new food -- a relatively common food that you've never eaten before -- and wonder why you were avoiding it all of your life. That's what happened to me with Brussels sprouts recently. My dad doesn't like them, so my mom never fixed them. And I grew into a 40-something-year-old adult who had never tried them ... until a few weeks ago.

I was at a food-tasting event, and one of the dishes was roasted brussels sprouts. I took one to be polite, honestly, but when I popped it into my mouth, I couldn't believe how good it was! It was a revelation!

I stopped at the store on the way home and picked up a bag of brussels sprouts. I took them home, removed any long or bad ends or less-than-perfect outer leaves, sliced them in half lengthwise, and gave them a rinse.

To prepare them, I just put them in a gallon-sized resealable plastic bag, poured in a little olive oil, and gave them a toss. I poured them onto a jelly roll pan, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and popped them in the oven at 400 degrees F. for about 40 minutes. Every so often, I gave the pan a shake to toss them around a little, and added another sprinkling of salt and pepper. They came out crispy on the outside and soft and tender on the inside. If you have spray olive oil, you could just lay them on the baking sheet and give them a spray before adding salt and pepper.

My family was as skeptical as I was. Brussels sprouts get a bad rap. But once they saw me eating these tasty little morsels like French fries, they gave in. My husband was as pleasantly surprised as I was when I first tried them. My middle son (we call him the gourmand) absolutely loved them and ate them until I told him it was time to stop. My oldest and youngest son ate a few, but weren't as in love with them as the rest of us. I blame cartoons for giving kids the idea that Brussels sprouts are only good for torturing kids who aren't allowed to leave the table until they finish eating.

Jayson, Luke, and I decided we weren't going to try to convince Jake and Will to jump on the Brussels sprouts bandwagon. That way, there will be more for us!

October 24, 2013

Slow cooker chicken-bacon tater tot casserole

I love fall, and I love my slow cooker, and I love tater tot casserole. I have made TTC, as we call it at my house, with ground beef several times, but this was the first time I used chicken, and it was a hit! The best thing about TTC is that it's completely forgiving. Amounts don't have to be exact. Use whatever meat you like. Add in vegetables, or don't. You're the boss of your own TTC!

I used chicken this time because I bought a pack of super discounted boneless skinless chicken thighs at the store the other day. They were a day from the sell-by date, but I got 12 thighs for $6, saving about $2.50. That's a bargain! The next morning, I threw all of the thighs into my slow cooker, added about a cup of water, sprinkled some Italian seasoning on top, and set it on high. By early afternoon, the chicken was cooked perfectly! I lifted it out onto a cutting board and cut all the meat into bite-sized pieces. I set half aside for my TTC, and put the other half and all the broth from the slow cooker into the fridge. I'm using them to make my Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup tonight!

I poured enough frozen tater tots into my slow cooker (the same one I just used to cook the chicken ... no washing required, so yay!) to cover the bottom. Then I sprinkled on some real bacon bits on top. The good kind that are really like chopped up pieces of bacon. Of course, you could use chopped up pieces of bacon, but I had the bits handy, and they're really good. Next came a handful of cheese sprinkled over the top. I had a huge bag of Mexican blend shredded cheese, so that's what I used. Next, I added all the chicken I had reserved for the TTC. If you were going to add vegetables like corn, or green beans, I would mix them in with the meat. We had our veggies on the side, so I didn't add any. On top of the meat, add another layer of tots (so the crock is nearly full), bacon, and cheese. 

To turn this into a casserole, you need something to bind it together. You can use any type of cream soup, but I love the cream of mushroom with garlic, so that's what I used. Whisk a can of soup together with about 2/3 can of milk, and just pour over the top of your layered dish. 

Since the meat is already cooked, all you really need to do is warm this through, cook the tots, and make it bubbly and delicious. I cooked it on high for about 2 hours, then turned it on low until we were ready to eat a few hours later. 

Like I said, this is a foolproof way to make a hearty, delicious dinner the whole family will love. Use whatever meat, veggies, soup, and cheese you like, and make your own custom TTC!

October 24, 2013

Stuffed pumpkin cupcakes

What's the difference between a cupcake and a muffin? Is it that cupcakes have frosting and muffins don't? Can we just call a cupcake a muffin if we want to make it seem healthier? What's the deal?

I did a little research and found that a cupcake is basically made from cake batter, while the batter for a muffin is more like the batter for a quickbread. So there you go. 

The reason I wondered is that I decided not to frost these pumpkin cupcakes I made, and my boys said they can't be cupcakes because they don't have frosting. My argument is that they have a CANDY BAR inside of them, so they can't be a muffin. Ha! Eventually we decided that we don't care what they're called, because they're just delicious. Of course you could frost these cupcakes if you want, but since they have a candy treat inside, and since frosting makes for a messy sack-lunch treat, I left them plain on top. If I were serving them at a party, I'd frost them for sure.

The best thing about these cupcakes is that you can stuff them however you want. When I told my husband what I was planning on making, he came home from work with assorted mini candy bars, so we could each have a few with our favorites. Inexplicably, our oldest son doesn't like the combination of peanut butter and chocolate, so he stuck to chocolate-covered caramels in his cupcakes. The rest of us mixed it up with peanut butter cups and mini Snickers (my personal favorite). Halloween is a great time to make these, since mini candy bars are everywhere. And what a great way to use up candy the kids bring home after trick or treating!

Stuffed pumpkin cupcakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup cooking oil
12 mini candy bars
1 can Cream Cheese Frosting (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a dozen 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with paper bake cups; set aside.

2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in medium bowl.

3. In another medium bowl, combine eggs, pumpkin, and oil. Add all at once to flour mixture; stir just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each about one-third full. Place a mini candy bar in the center of each, then top with another spoonful of batter, so the cup is about 3/4 full.

4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted near centers comes out clean. Cool in muffin cups on wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from muffin cups. Cool completely on wire rack. Spread frosting on cupcakes if desired.

October 9, 2013

John Foust's apple pie

It's amazing how food really connects us. Families pass recipes down from generation to generation, like jewels. Certain foods remind us of loved ones, or of places or special times in our lives. Food is more than just sustenance. It's a way to remember family. And what do you do when someone has lost a family member? You bring them food. It shows you care.

This week, food -- apples, in particular -- bonded my extended family together. My dad's first cousin, John Foust, passed away unexpectedly. He was a CPA with a law degree, but he never lost his passion for his agricultural roots. He had a farm near where he grew up in south-central Iowa, and was actually working on that farm when he passed. "At least he was doing something he loved," was heard over and over again at his funeral. That knowledge seemed to bring comfort to his grieving family: wife Mary, my cousins Brian and Michael, and their wives and children. (John is pictured here with grandson Mikey, taking part in another of his favorite pasttimes, fishing.)

After the funeral service and burial, we went to Michael's house for lunch and fellowship. When we walked in the door, we were greeted by several bushel baskets full of Golden Delicious apples, along with a sign that explained John had picked these very apples on his farm just a few days before he passed. One cousin said this was the first year the relatively new trees really produced, and that they were just loaded down with fruit. In the middle of the baskets, the family had placed several fabric bags, with an invitation for visitors to take a bag of apples with them. What an amazing and generous idea!

On the dessert table, there were pans of apple crisp, along with more hand-drawn signs that said, "Made with love and John's apples." Again, how generous of the family to share this precious fruit. 

At the luncheon, cousins caught up with cousins, stories of John were shared, and his apples were enjoyed. When we left, I took a few apples home for my boys, and my mom gathered a bag full. The next day, she turned them into two apple pies: one for her and my dad, and one for me and my family. We "toasted" John with our slices of pie, and enjoyed them all the more, knowing his hands had picked the very fruit we were eating, and that it had been a labor of love.

I'm not sure I'll ever eat a yellow apple again without thinking of John and his family, and how they shared with us at their time of loss.

Rest in peace, John.

 

Apple pie

Oven: 450 degrees for 15 minutes: 350 degrees for  45-50 minutes

Filling:

6 cups golden delicious apples, peeled and sliced
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup flour
2 Tbsp. butter

Double Crust:
3 cups flour
3/4 cups plus 3 Tbsp. oil
9 Tbsp. ice water

2 T white sugar to sprinkle on top crust

Peel and slice apples to make 6 cups. Toss with lemon juice to prevent darkening. Combine sugars, cinnamon, and flour. Add to mixture to apples and mix to coat.

For crust, simply combine flour, oil, and ice water. Lightly stir until flour is incorporated into mixture. Divide dough in half and roll to desired size between two sheets of waxed paper.

Fit bottom crust into 10" pie pan. Add the apple mixture, heaping in center. Slice the two tablespoons of butter over the top of the apple mixture. Roll out top crust and place on apple mixture, tucking the outer edge of top dough under edge of bottom dough. Crimp edge to seal.

Brush top of crust with egg white or water if desired and sprinkle with the 2 tablespoons of sugar. Cut slits in top crust to vent.

Bake pie on a sided cookie sheet to protect the bottom of your oven if the filling overflows. Place on the middle oven shelf in a pre-heated 450-degree oven for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from oven when golden brown.

October 9, 2013

Twice-crocked potatoes

One of my favorite parts of my job is putting recipe slideshows together. It's so much fun to look through all the photos and recipes here at Meredith, and choose the ones I think sound best. I recently posted the slideshow 12 Easy Slow Cooker Meals, which featured the recipe for Twice-Crocked Potatoes.

I love my slow cookers. In fact, last weekend, I had three going at once. One had a pork roast cooking in root beer, which we turned into shredded pork with our favorite barbecue sauce. The next was filled with baked beans. The third held the twice-crocked potatoes. 

I have always loved twice-baked potatoes, but they are such a pain to make. These had all the flavor of this favorite side-dish, with almost none of the work. It's a win-win! I did a couple of things differently than the recipe above called for, but that's the beauty of cooking, especially slow cooking! You can tailor the recipe to suit your likes. I didn't have Yukon gold potatoes, so I just used regular old russets. I also had about 6 ounces of cream cheese lying around, so I added it to the mix as well. 

The first step was baking the potatoes in the slow cooker, and this is amazing in and of itself. I have tried this before, wrapping the potatoes in foil, but this recipe said to just pop them in the crock. so that's what I did, and they turned out amazing. They would've been perfect to serve alongside a steak with butter and sour cream. I will never bake potatoes in the oven again! They mashed very easily with a potato masher, which meant that the only dishes that got dirty in the making of this recipe were the crock and the masher. Yes!

Click on the link above and give this recipe a try. My whole family ate it up like crazy!

Happy slow cooking!

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