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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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January 8, 2011

Stuffed French toast

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I saw a commercial for a “breakfast all the time” restaurant promoting their stuffed French toast, and it looked really good. The chances of me getting my family around on the weekend and going clear to the city to go to a restaurant for breakfast are slim to none. Instead, I decided to try and recreate this tasty dish at home!

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I’m happy to say it was a huge success. Everyone loved it, and my 9-year-old said, “This is awful … awfully good!” This breakfast looks and tastes fancy, but it’s really easy. It would be perfect to make when company stays over.

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1 loaf French bread

8 oz. cream cheese, softened (I used reduced fat)

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup chopped nuts

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

4 eggs

1 cup whipping cream

1 cup fruit preserves

1/2 cup orange juice

Butter

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Slice the French bread into 2-inch slices with a slit in the middle of each. I found the easiest way was to make the slit and then slice the 2-inch piece from the rest of the loaf. Then you can hold onto the loaf rather than having to make a slit in a single slice.

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Beat the cream cheese and vanilla until fluffy; stir in chopped nuts. Spread this mixture inside the slit of each piece of bread. You could also add raisins to this mixture, or chocolate chips, or anything you like!

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In a small saucepan, heat the preserves (I used strawberry, but you can use any flavor) and orange juice, stirring and cooking until thickened and bubbly.

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Beat eggs and whisk in the whipping cream and nutmeg.

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Melt a few tablespoons of butter in a non-stick skillet. Dip the stuffed bread slices into the egg mixture, completely coating them on both sides. Cook in the skillet until browned on one side, then flip them over and repeat.

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Serve with the fruit sauce or maple syrup, and top with additional chopped nuts if desired. Get ready for rave reviews from your family!

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January 6, 2011

Moroccan pork chops with apricot couscous

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Our neighbor raises hogs, and a while back he had one processed and we split it with him. I love having a freezer full of pork. The bacon, fresh side, and sausage are great for Sunday morning breakfasts, and the roasts and pork chops make quick, easy dinners. If I can’t get to town for groceries, we always have meat on hand.

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Serving plain pork chops gets old after a while, though. It’s amazing what a few spices and a different side dish can do for a chop! I’ve been making this recipe for years, and the whole family loves it. And your kitchen will smell amazing while these Moroccan-spiced chops are cooking. The best thing about this recipe is that the leftovers are delicious cold. I like to just cut up the leftover chops and mix the meat in with the leftover couscous, making a cold lunch salad. Delicious!

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1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

2 tsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. paprika

2 tsp. olive oil

4 pork chops or slices of pork loin

10 oz. box uncooked couscous

2 cups fat-free chicken broth

8-1/2 oz. can apricot halves or 8 fresh apricot halves, chopped

1 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped

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In a resealable plastic bag, combine cinnamon, cumin, paprika, and coriander. Add pork to bag, seal and shake until well-coated; allow to marinate 20 minutes. 

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Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook pork, turning once, until light pink and cooked through, about 8 minutes.

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Meanwhile, prepare couscous according to package directions using broth instead of water. Fold apricots and cilantro into cooked couscous and stir. Serve chops on top of couscous.

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January 5, 2011

Cannoli fruit crisp

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Cannoli is a fantastic dessert, and so is fruit crisp. This tasty dish combines the two, and it’s sure to be a hit at your house! The beautiful thing about it is that you can use any kind of fruit for the base. Running short on time? Pie filling out of a can works great. Have a bunch of peaches you need to use? Slice them up, toss with a little sugar and cinnamon, and go from there. Today I used a can of cherry pie filling and a can of whole cranberry sauce, mixed together. A little sweet, and a little tart!

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8 oz. ricotta cheese (fat-free is fine if you can find it)

3 Tbsp. sugar

Fruit of your choice

3/4 cup oats

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 cup margarine or butter

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Beat ricotta cheese with sugar until fluffy. In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, oats, and cinnamon. Cut in margarine or butter until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. 

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In a greased deep pie pan or 13x9x2-inch baking dish (I used my trusty Pyrex baking dish), spread fruit or pie filling  to form the bottom layer. Next, drop the ricotta mixture by the spoonful over the top, and spread around. Then sprinkle the crumb mixture over the top. Bake in a 350-degree F. oven for 35 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm.

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I enjoyed my cannoli fruit crisp out of one of the ice cream dishes from my grandparents’ cafe from the 1950s. I’m sure they would approve!

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January 4, 2011

Slow-cooker orange pop chicken

orangechicken

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If you can turn on a slow-cooker, you can make this dish and it will turn out perfectly! Orange chicken is a favorite of mine, but the chicken is usually battered, fried, and soaked in sauce. It’s delicious, no doubt, but it’s also loaded with fat and sugar. You can make this tasty version at home, and not only save on calories, but also save money. You can’t beat that!

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This recipe originally called for chicken breasts, but last night I made it with thighs. Although they aren’t quite as lean as chicken breasts, they’re more flavorful, and about one-third of the price.

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4  4-oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, or 16 oz. chicken thighs

12 oz. can diet orange soda

1/4 cup soy sauce (use the low-sodium version if possible)

1 cup brown rice (buy instant brown rice and shave 45 minutes off the prep time)

Fresh or frozen stir-fry vegetables (2 bags frozen)

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Place chicken in slow cooker. Combine soy sauce and orange soda in medium bowl. Pour over chicken. Cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours. 

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Transfer the liquid from the slow cooker into a medium-sized sauce pan reserving 1/2 cup, and add water to make 2 cups liquid if needed. Bring to a boil. Add brown rice, cover, and cook according to the rice package directions. 

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Meanwhile, stir-fry vegetables. I use non-stick cooking spray instead of oil to save on fat. Once the vegetables are cooked, add the reserved 1/2 cup of liquid from the slow cooker and toss to coat. Allow to boil down a bit if needed.

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Plate it up, top with crunchy noodles if desired, and break out the chopsticks! I’m happy to report that between this and my baked egg rolls, my three sons actually ate all of their vegetables without me nagging them. Hooray!

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January 4, 2011

Baked egg rolls

eggrolls

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I love egg rolls, but I don’t love all of the added fat and calories that come with deep-frying them. When you make them yourself, though, you control what’s in them, and you control the fat and calories. You can bake egg rolls, and they’re delicious. I promise you won’t miss the grease!

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eggrollsteps2 cups carrots, grated or chopped

1 14-oz. can bean sprouts, drained

1/2 cup water chestnuts, chopped

1/4 cup green or red pepper, chopped (or use celery if you don’t like peppers)

1/4 cup green onions, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

2 cups cooked chicken, shrimp or pork, finely chopped

4 teaspoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon oil

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1 pinch cayenne pepper

16 egg roll wrappers

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Coat a large skillet with nonstick cooking spray; add the first six ingredients. Cook and stir over medium heat until veggies are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Add meat; heat through. This is a great way to use leftover meat. Chop up that chicken breast or pork chop, and toss it in the pan!

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In a small bowl, combine corn starch, water, soy sauce, oil, brown sugar, and cayenne until smooth; stir into meat mixture. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes; remove from the heat.

Spoon 1/4 cup of meat mixture onto an egg roll wrapper; fold (see photos). Place seam-side down on a baking sheet coated with nonstick cooking spray. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling. 

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Spray tops of egg rolls with nonstick cooking spray. Bake at 425 degrees F. for 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned.

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That’s it! It’s really pretty simple to make your own egg rolls at home, and the best thing is that the leftovers are even better the next day, cold, right out of the refrigerator, with a little soy sauce. Enjoy!

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January 3, 2011

Pocket sandwiches

runza

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I couldn’t wait to use the new stand mixer my parents got us for Christmas, and I was especially excited to try out the dough hook. We had a bunch of leftover sliced ham that needed to be used, so I decided to make pocket sandwiches: I could use my dough hook and use up the ham!

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This is the type of dough used to make Runzas, and if you’ve spent any time in Nebraska, you’ve no doubt had one of these tasty treats. They’re filled with ground beef and cabbage, and they’re delicious. You can fill these pouches with anything you want, though. What a great way to use leftovers! Fill them with barbecue pork and cheddar cheese. Make a hand-held pot pie by adding chicken, gravy and veggies. Get the kids to eat their broccoli by putting it in a pocket with some cheese. The possibilities are endless! The sandwiches are also wonderfully portable … make a few extras for school lunch!

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Here’s how to make the dough:

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4 1/2 cups flour (or more as needed)

1/2 cup sugar

2 packages active dry yeast

1 tsp. salt

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup shortening (I used 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup oil)

2 eggs

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In a large bowl (or your stand mixer), place 1 3/4 cups of the flour, plus the sugar, yeast and salt. Combine well. 

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In a small pan, heat milk, water, and shortening to about 125 degrees F. Pour the liquid over the flour mixture. Add the eggs. Beat on low until blended, then beat an additional 3 minutes on high.

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I using a stand mixer, switch to the dough hook. Add the remaining flour, plus additional flour as needed.  Knead (either by hand or with the mixer) for 6 to 8 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour.

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Punch the dough down and roll into 12 6-inch squares or circles. Top each piece of dough with meat, cheese, or whatever ingredients you wish to include, then fold the dough in half and seal tightly by pinching the edges. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F. for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

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January 2, 2011

A few of my favorite things

mixerpinI had to share a few Christmas gifts for the kitchen I was lucky enough to receive. My husband and I both love to cook, and my parents bought us a new stand mixer! I have been wanting one for years! I actually screamed like a little girl when we unwrapped the box. My kids thought that was hilarious.

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I’ve used it multiple times each day since Christmas, and have tried out all the attachments. I have to say my favorite is the dough hook. It does all the kneading for you, and now making dough is a snap! I’m also excited about the optional attachments available. I’m planning on picking up a pasta roller/cutter next time I’m in town.

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Another wonderful surprise was the mini rolling pin my folks got me. I have a standard non-stick rolling pin and a long French pin. They are great for rolling out pie dough on the table, but when it comes to rolling out tortillas or other smaller pastries on the counter, the long pins are too big. I had mentioned to my mom that I wanted to find a shorter pin for working on the counter, and she came through! This cute little pin is just right. the flat rolling section in the middle is about 4 inches long. It’s also just the right size for the kids to use!

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Thanks, Mom and Dad! I owe you dinner!

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January 1, 2011

Gingerbread syrup

gingersyrup

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I love coffee, and I love going to the coffee shop. I don’t love driving clear to town to get a yummy coffee drink and then spending $5 on it, however. One of my favorite coffee treats is a gingerbread latte. 

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For most flavored coffee drinks, the barista uses flavored syrup. These syrups come in dozens of flavors, and many are sugar-free. The syrups are often for sale at the coffee shop, or you can find them online or at your local grocery store. They’re expensive, though, and I’ve yet to see gingerbread at the supermarket.

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Fortunately, there’s an easy way to make gingerbread syrup at home, for less. Here’s how!

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2 cups water

1 1/2 cups sugar or granulated artificial sweetener

2 1/2 teaspoons ginger (I bought a small sprig of fresh ginger, peeled and grated it finely)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

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Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Let cool and store in an airtight container.

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I had a glass bottle meant for making vinaigrette, and it worked perfectly for my ginger syrup. I used artificial sweetener to make the syrup basically calorie-free. The consistency wasn’t thick like maple syrup, but it was slightly thicker than water. 

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I filled my cup about 2/3 full of coffee and added a little milk and a splash of the gingerbread syrup. It was delicious. It definitely had a gingerbread flavor, and I made it for next to nothing and didn’t have to leave my house. Yay! The boys want to try it, but of course I don’t let them drink coffee (they’re wired enough), so they’re having a dash in their hot chocolate later. I have some adorable gingerbread-flavored marshmallows in the shape of little gingerbread men, which will be perfect with their ginger hot chocolate!

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I’m thinking some homemade ginger syrup in a pretty bottle with a ribbon around it would make a nice hostess gift. I know I’d like it!

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December 28, 2010

Egg nog French toast custard

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For the past few years, I’ve made a scrumptious breakfast on Christmas morning. I love it because you put it all together the night before and stick it in the fridge, so the next morning all you have to do is pop it in the oven. Perfect for a busy morning of opening presents and getting ready for visitors.

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The original recipe called for half-and-half, but with the eggs and nutmeg, the rich, creamy dish had a little egg nog flavor to it. So this year, because of  our egg nog obsession, I decided to change the recipe and pump up the “nogginess.” Here’s how I made it this year:

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Cut a 10″ loaf of French or Italian bread into 1″ slices (day-old is fine … I buy it on sale and stick it in the freezer, then just thaw it out overnight). Butter both sides of the slices and arrange them to fill a greased 9×13 baking dish.

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In a large bowl, beat 4 eggs and 2 egg yolks. Add 2 cups of egg nog and 2 cups of milk. (I used 4 cups of milk nog, which is made by AE Dairy. It’s half egg nog and half milk. Your local nog-making dairy may make something similar.) Add 1/4 cup sugar, t Tbsp. vanilla, and 1 tsp. nutmeg. Beat well. Pour over the bread, cover, and chill overnight.

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The next morning, take the dish out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Then bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees F. for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or drizzle with maple syrup.

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That’s it … this easy dish tastes so special. It’s like an egg nog bread pudding you can eat for breakfast. The tops of the bread slices get a little crispy, but underneath everything is creamy and custard-like. Because all the work is done the night before, this dish is also perfect for anytime you have overnight guests. They’ll be impressed for sure! And if there are any leftovers, just stick them in the fridge … they’ll be great warmed up later in the microwave.

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Note: If you don’t love egg nog as much as we do, or if it’s out of season, you can use 3 cups of milk and 1 cup of whipping cream for the liquid. Replace the nutmeg with cinnamon if you like, and enjoy!

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December 24, 2010

Hot chocolate mix

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Is there anything better than coming in from the cold to a nice, hot mug of hot chocolate? Sometimes the promise of hot cocoa is the only thing that will convince my boys (including Luke, above) to come in from playing in the cold.

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Homemade hot chocolate is so good, but sometimes a mix really comes in handy. Like when you have three little boys who are freezing and need a warm drink, and fast! I put together an easy mix for them so nobody has to wait.

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Combine 3 cups dry milk, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup baking cocoa, and a dash of salt in a large bowl. Stir well to combine, and store in a tin or sealed plastic container. Spoon 1/4 cup or so into the bottom of a mug and ad a cup of boiling water. Stir, add marshmallows, and serve.

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We like gingerbread-flavored marshmallows for a change of pace, or hooking a candy cane over the edge of the mug so it melts into the hot chocolate and makes it all pepperminty. Or add a little cinnamon to the mix for Mexican hot chocolate. A mix like this would also make a nice gift. Put some of the mix in a glass jar, make a fabric topper, and attach a handmade tag with some pretty ribbon, and you’re set!

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