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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February 15, 2012

Baked chili-cheese dip

There’s something really comforting about hot, cheesy foods on a cold day. I made this cheesy chili dip a few days ago, and it made me and my husband happy: I love anything in a bread bowl, and my husband is a leftover-using maniac.

Originally, this was going to be a cheesy bacon dip, but I had about a cup of Jayson’s delicious homemade chili left in the fridge. I saved myself the hassle of frying bacon, and used up those leftovers!

You can make your own bread bowl, of course, but I picked up a round loaf at the store, cut off the top, and hollowed it out. The bread scraps were toasted and eaten with the dip.

8 oz. sour cream (I used low-fat)

8 oz. cream cheese, softened (also low-fat)

24 oz. grated cheese (I used Colby Jack)

1 cup chili

Green onions

If you don’t have chili lying around, use 1 cup of chopped ham, 1/2 pound chopped cooked bacon, and 4 oz. chopped green chilies.

Mix sour cream, cream cheese and grated cheese together, reserving a little cheese to sprinkle on top. Fold in chili. Top with cheese and chopped green onions, if desired.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for one hour, or until dip is heated through and cheese is bubbly. serve with bread pieces, chips and crackers.

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February 11, 2012

Buffalo chicken egg rolls

I love making homemade egg rolls. They’re fun to eat, tasty, and healthy. Yes, healthy egg rolls! When you make them yourself, you control what goes in them, and you can bake them instead of frying. So good.

My family loves buffalo chicken, so when one of my friends posted something online about eating buffalo chicken egg rolls, I knew I had to try to make them! Here’s how I did it:

1 package egg roll wraps
1 cup shredded cabbage (I used bagged cole slaw mix!)
2 cups cooked chicken
Buffalo sauce to taste
1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles (or whichever cheese you prefer)
Ranch or blue cheese dressing for dipping

Shred or dice cooked chicken and toss with buffalo hot sauce. Use a little or use a lot. I used a lot.

Separate egg roll wrappers. Onto each, place a few pinches of shredded cabbage, top with chicken in buffalo sauce, and sprinkle with blue cheese crumbles. Fold in two opposite corners, fold one remaining flap over the filling, and roll.

Place wrapped egg rolls on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or treated with non-stick spray. This is the trick for getting crispy egg rolls in the oven: spray the heck out of them with cooking spray.

Bake in a 425-degree F. oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until they are golden brown. Serve with blue cheese or ranch dressing for dipping.

I loved these buffalo chicken egg rolls, and discovered that they were even better the next day, cold, right out of the fridge. Perfect for packing in lunches! They make great appetizers or snacks, too.

I’ll warn you that the blue cheese does have quite a bite. I love blue cheese, but if you don’t, use something else. Cheddar or Colby Jack would be good.

You can use this egg roll method to wrap just about anything. I’ve wrapped leftover shredded pork with a little onion, barbecue sauce and Cheddar cheese, and voila! Barbecue pork egg rolls. Next time I’ll top these with a little cole slaw as well, for Memphis-style barbecue egg rolls!  What a great way to use up leftover meat! It would also be fun to try something sweet, like fresh berries and cream cheese sweetened up with a little powdered sugar. If you’d like to try regular old Chinese-style egg rolls, here’s my recipe!

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February 3, 2012

Pineapple angel food cake

Angel food cake is so good, and you can make it from scratch, but this is one of those desserts where the box mix is usually  just as good, and a ton easier. Like with many box mixes, you can really jazz it up with little or no effort.

When I make an angel food cake mix, I simply combine the dry mix with a 20-ounce can of crushed pineapple, juice and all. Just mix well, pour in an ungreased angel food cake pan, and bake as directed.

There are a few tricks to making a perfect angel food cake: don’t overbeat (follow the times listed on the box), don’t grease your pan, and don’t underbake. You should bake it until it’s golden brown and the cracks on the top (which will be the bottom) are no longer sticky to the touch. Make sure you flip your pan upside down and let the cake cool completely before you remove it from the pan by running a knife along the edges. My angel food cake pan came from my great aunt, and has built-in legs for cooling upside down. If your pan doesn’t have these, you can put a pop bottle in the middle to hold the pan upside down and off the counter.

Give this easy cake a try … it’s so tasty and moist, and is perfect with fluffy frosting and fresh fruit!

February 3, 2012

Fluffy frosting

Frosting is good. That’s all there is to it. But sometimes it’s just heavy, not to mention the calories. My neighbor Kelsey shared this fantastic recipe for a super simple frosting that is easy to lighten up.

First, choose any flavor of instant pudding mix. I used vanilla this time, but you can use chocolate, pumpkin, or whatever tickles your fancy. I also used the fat-free, sugar-free mix, but you can use regular, of course. Beat together the pudding mix with HALF of the milk it calls for on the box, which will usually be one cup. Once the pudding starts to thicken, add a carton of frozen whipped topping, thawed, and beat until fluffy and well combined. Again, I used light whipped topping to cut the calories.

You can really use any size pudding and any size whipped topping. It will be great any way you make it. The more pudding you use in the ratio, the thicker and more flavorful it will be.

I love this fluffy frosting on angel food cake, because it doesn’t overpower the lightness of the cake. You can use it to frost any cake, cupcakes, or cookies. Dollop it in your hot chocolate. Spoon over berries. Serve with pie. Use in place of whipped topping in other recipes. Spread between graham crackers and freeze for a lightened up version of an ice cream sandwich. The possibilities are endless!

> Make my pineapple angel food cake!

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February 3, 2012

Slow cooker French dips

French dips are a classic comfort food. There’s nothing like a crispy roll stuffed with warm, moist meat and melted cheese, dipped in delicious au jus. Best of all, you can make them in the slow cooker, and they couldn’t be easier!

Traditionally, French dips use a beef roast. It just so happens I have a freezer full of pork, though, so I made these with pork — boneless pork chops, to be exact. You can just just about any cut of meat.

Pour a 10.5-ounce can of French onion soup into your slow cooker. Add your meat. Then pour a 20-ounce can of beef broth on top. If you prefer, you can use 10 ounces of broth and 10 ounces of beer. Over the top, sprinkle two diced cloves of garlic and half of a sliced onion. Add a little pepper. I shook on a little barbecue-flavored St. Louis rib rub. I recommend holding off on the salt for now, because chances are there will be enough salt in the soup and broth.

Then, just pop on the lid and cook! For your average 4-pound roast, you’ll need to cook on low for 7 to 8 hours. Just make sure whatever meat you use is cooked to the appropriate temperature. Once cooked, remove the meat, shred it using two forks, and put it back into the sauce for 30 minutes.

Spoon the meat onto a crusty roll, top with a slice of Swiss cheese, and pop under the broiler just until the cheese is bubbly. Serve alongside a cup of the juice from the slow cooker.

The onion soup and broth gave the meat such a great flavor, that I’m going to use them whenever I make a roast in the slow cooker from now on. It was delicious! This is a great recipe for parties and sporting events, and even for school nights, since you can pop the ingredients into the slow cooker before you leave in the morning. Enjoy! Or, rather … bon appetit!

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January 31, 2012

Cereal chicken

When my husband was growing up, his mom made “Wheaties chicken” just about every Wednesday, and when Jayson and I started dating, this was one of the first meals he made for me. (The first was his famous lasagne!) I don’t make this dish nearly as often as his mom did, but I should make it more often, because it’s super easy and really delicious. And best of all, the kids love it!

You can use any cut of chicken, and either leave the skin on or remove it. I thawed out a big bag of frozen hindquarters we got on sale, and made six of them. This was just enough for the five of us, plus enough for my middle son, Luke, who is a chicken aficionado, to take a couple of legs in his lunch the next day.

There isn’t a specific recipe, per se, but I’ll tell you how I made my mother-in-law’s chicken. First, I put about a cup of Miracle Whip (you could use mayo, of course, and I actually used light Miracle Whip) in a dish. Add enough milk (about 1/4 to 1/3 cup) to thin it out to be about the consistency of buttermilk. In fact, you could probably just use buttermilk if you had some sitting around. If you want, you can add a little barbecue sauce to the wet mixture, or a packet of powdered ranch dressing mix.

In another dish, I crushed a bunch of cereal flakes. This is a great job for the kids! You want the flakes to be broken up but not completely crushed. You can use wheat flakes, corn flakes, or bran flakes, which is what I used this time.

Simply coat the chicken pieces in the wet mixture, then dip in the crushed cereal flakes until completely coated. Put pieces on a foil-covered cookie sheet treated with non-stick spray. Glop any leftover cereal flakes with a little of the wet mixture and pile it on top of the chicken. This is the best part!

I baked the hindquarters at 350 degrees F. for about 45 minutes. The time may change a bit depending on your cut of chicken, and how much you are preparing. Just make sure the internal temperature of the meat reaches 165 degrees F. That was easy!

The mayonnaise/Miracle Whip base gives this chicken a nice tang, and it’s crunchy and delicious without being fried. We like ours served with a little stuffing (I actually prefer the stovetop variety) and cheesy cauliflower from the freezer section. This dinner is good enough for Sunday, but fast enough for a school night!


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January 26, 2012

Double-duty Italian meatloaf & meatballs

It’s a busy time of year … my two youngest sons have wrestling practice two nights a week plus meets on the weekends, plus we have homework and Cub Scouts, so there isn’t a lot of time for four-course sit-down meals. My slow cookers are getting a workout these days. They keep food warm so it’s ready whenever my hungry wrestlers get home from practice, and they’re such a time-saver.

Another great time-saving tip is to make double batches of food or find double-duty uses for the same recipe. Lasagne, for example, is so easy to double up. I always make two pans; one to bake, and one to freeze. Meatloaf is also great for doubling. Whenever I make my mini meatloaves, I make a double (or triple) recipe, since they freeze so well.

I’ve been craving meatloaf lately, but I’m also trying to eat healthier, so I came up with a new recipe that doesn’t include cheese or bacon, which are delicious, but fattening. I used super-lean ground beef from the beef we split with our neighbor, but you could use ground turkey if you prefer. I made a 4-pound batch, then turned half into a meatloaf and half into meatballs. Two meals in one … POW!

4 lb. lean ground beef
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 medium red bell pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried rosemary (I run a knife through it so the leaves are smaller)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups oats
1 cup spaghetti sauce, plus extra to top meatloaf

Combine ground beef, onion, bell pepper, garlic, spices, eggs, oats, and sauce in a large bowl. Mix well with your hands or a potato masher.

Divide the mixture in half. Line a 5-qt. slow cooker with foil. Form half the mixture into a loaf and place in slow cooker. (The foil will make it easy to lift the meatloaf out and makes clean-up a snap.) Cook on high 3-4 hours or low 6-8 hours, until the internal temperature is 160 degrees. Top with additional pasta sauce an hour before meatloaf is finished if desired. Let sit 30 minutes before cutting. (If you skip this step, the meatloaf could fall apart.)

Meanwhile, use a 1/4-cup scoop to make meatballs with the other half of the meat mixture. Freeze for later use by putting raw meatballs on a wax-paper-lined cookie sheet and placing in freezer. Once meatballs are frozen, store in a freezer bag. Or go ahead and make the meatballs and stick them in the fridge until you’re ready to use them. Brown meatballs on all sides in a large skillet sprayed with non-stick spray. Place meatballs in a foil-lined crock pot to finish cooking, about 3 hours on high, or until the internal temperature is 160 degrees. Serve meatballs with spaghetti and sauce, put them into a hoagie roll and top with sauce, or serve as sliders on mini bagels or small rolls.

This recipe makes both a 2-pound meatloaf and 16 golf-ball-sized meatballs. It was enough for dinner and leftovers for my family of five … twice. That’s a win-win-win-win for me!

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January 4, 2012

Chili-corn bread salad

This year, we went to my brother- and sister-in-law’s house in Kansas City for Christmas. Rather than having a big, sit-down dinner, we decided on a spread of appetizers and salads we could just snack on throughout the day. You might call it grazing. There was so much good food, but one of my favorite things there was a unique, delicious chili-corn bread salad Katrina made. I had never had anything like it, and boy was it good. I brought some leftovers home, and they were just as good the next day! She was kind enough to share the recipe.

1 package (8 1/2 oz.) corn bread/muffin mix
1 can (4 oz.) chopped green chilies, undrained
1/8 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. ground oregano
Pinch rubbed sage
1 1/4 cups mayonnaise
1 1/4 cups sour cream
1 envelope powdered ranch salad dressing mix
2 cans (15 oz. each) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans (15 1/4 oz. each) whole kernel corn, drained
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 bunch chopped green onions
15 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
3 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

Prepare corn bread batter according to package directions. Stir in the can of chilies, cumin, oregano, and sage. Spread in a greased 8×8″ baking dish and bake at 400 degrees F. for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool.

Combine mayonnaise, sour cream, and ranch dressing mix; set aside.

Crumble half the corn bread into bite-sized or smaller pieces and spread on the bottom of a 13x9x2″ dish. Top that layer with half the beans, mayonnaise mixture, corn, tomatoes, pepper, onions, bacon, and cheese. Repeat layers. Dish will be very full. Cover and refrigerate for two hours before serving.

Give this tasty dish a try … it makes a delicious meatless meal, but you could add browned ground taco meat to make it a main dish. I’ll definitely be making this a part of my regular rotation. Thanks, Katrina!

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December 13, 2011

Gingerbread (ninjabread) men

You just can’t have Christmas without gingerbread men! A few months ago, I happened across a website that was selling gingerbread man cookie cutters in the shape of ninjas. Ninjabread men! They came in three different shapes, and I have three little ninjas myself, so of course I had to order them! They are a hoot!

I keep the baked, undecorated cookies in a sealed container, next to a tub containing cookie icing in a tube (hey, it’s easy and I’m busy), candy eyeballs, and tons of sprinkles. When the boys are in the mood for a ninjabread cookie, they sit down at the table and decorate them one at a time. This way, the fun lasts for days, and nobody gets burned out decorating dozens of cookies at once.

There are plenty of gingerbread cookie recipes out there, but why mess with perfection? Here’s the recipe from our sister site,

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup 50% to 70% vegetable oil spread
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup full-flavor molasses
1/4 cup refrigerated or frozen egg product, thawed, or 1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour or whole wheat flour

In a large bowl, combine butter and vegetable oil spread; beat with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and cloves. Beat until well mixed, scraping side of bowl occasionally. Beat in molasses and egg. (Mixture will look curdled.) Add all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour, beating just until combined. Divide dough in half. Cover and chill the dough for 2 to 3 hours or until easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper; set aside. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough, half at a time, to 1/8-inch thickness. Using a 2- to 3-inch gingerbread person cookie cutter, cut out shapes; reroll scraps as necessary. Place cutouts 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 4 to 6 minutes or until edges are firm and centers are set. Cool on cookie sheets on wire racks for 1 minute. Transfer to wire racks; cool.

Dough can be made ahea of time and frozen.

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December 13, 2011

Peppermint bark

I’ve been on a peppermint kick lately, thanks to some peppermint mocha coffee creamer I’ve become addicted to. It’s so tasty in my coffee, with a little candy cane stir-stick. So yummy! I was flipping through a catalog and saw some really delicious looking (but expensive!!) peppermint bark. I figured I could make some myself with ingredients I had on hand.

I would have preferred dark chocolate or even semi-sweet, but I’m running dangerously low on chocolate chips, and I live too far away from the store to just run into town for chocolate. What I did have was a bunch of milk chocolate bars in the freezer. I melted 8 regular-sized bars in a double boiler and spread the melted chocolate onto a cookie sheet covered with wax paper. Then it went into the freezer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, I melted a 14-ounce bag of white candy chips (the kind they sell in the cake decorating section, specifically for making molded candies). Then I added 1/4 tsp. of peppermint extract and mixed it in. (Don’t overdo the peppermint extract … a little bit goes a long way!) Finally, I added a few drops of red food coloring, and just barely mixed it, so the melted candy had a swirled look to it.

I poured the peppermint mixture on top of the layer of chocolate, and spread it around with a spatula. Then I sprinkled 1/2 cup of peppermint chips (found in the chocolate chip section at the store) over the top, and went over the whole thing with several different types of Christmas sprinkles I had on hand.

The whole thing went into the refrigerator until it was set, and then I broke it into pieces. This was such a simple treat to make, but it’s really tasty, and the kids loved it! I’m thinking Santa might like a little of this left on his plate of goodies Christmas Eve.

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