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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July 13, 2015

My new go-to fruit crisp recipe

My youngest son, Will, has a cherry tree, and this is its third summer. His Grandma Prater got the tree for him, because when he was a little bitty guy, he'd go around to everyone and put his hand on their heads, and say, "A cherry on top!" It was so cute! Cherries are his favorite, so the tree is perfect for him.

The first year, he harvested about 5 cherries. Last year, there were none. I was worried, but chalked it up to a harsh winter. This summer, he picked a whopping 121 cherries! He ate his fill as he picked them, and asked me to make a crisp with the rest.

When I posted the photo above on Facebook, my neighbor, Alan, shared the crisp recipe his family uses for all kinds of berries, including mulberries, which are ready now! He says the recipe is the same regardless of the fruit you use, unless it's rhubarb. In that case (and I'd imagine with gooseberries as well), toss the fruit with a cup of sugar before putting it into the pie plate. If it's an especially juicy fruit, you could also add a little corn starch to thicken it up a bit.

Easy fruit crisp

3 cups fruit
1 cup flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup oats (I used old fashioned)
1 stick butter
1 tsp. vanilla or almond extract
1 Tbsp. cinnamon (more or less to taste)

Place fruit in the bottom of a greased pie pan or 8x10" baking dish. Melt the butter and mix in the remaining non-fruit ingredients with a fork. Spread over fruit in pan and pat down a bit.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 40-45 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown and the fruit is bubbly.

That's it! This couldn't have been easier, and it was so good! The topping is super crunchy, and is the best crisp topping I've ever made! The crisp was such a hit that I made it again last night with fresh blueberries, and it was just as good. This is now my go-to crisp recipe!

Here are some more tasty crisp recipes to try: 9 tasty crunches crisps, and cobblers

July 10, 2015

Peach clafoutis

One of the great things about social media is the sharing of recipes. I'm always seeing things on my Facebook feed, and on Instagram and Pinterest, that I just have to make. The most recent was a cherry clafoutis recipe shared by Lara Durben, a Women in Ag blogger for our sister site, Unfortunately, I saw it about a week after we harvested cherries from my son Will's cherry tree, but I thought it looked like it would be great with any kind of fruit.

Clafoutis is a French dessert (it sounds so fancy!), that is basically a custard or flan-like mixture poured over fruit (traditionally cherries) and baked. I was happy to find that it didn't call for any exotic ingredients, though, so I was able to whip it up using some fresh peaches I had just bought. I also have a bunch of blueberries I got on sale, and they'll be going into a clatoufis next! 

My husband loves peaches, and he was happy with being served this dish for dessert, but said he would've rather had pie or crisp. I loved it, however, and thought the custard was just perfect. I even ate a cold slice for breakfast the next day, and it was very good! 

Peach clafoutis

Peeled, sliced peaches (or any fruit!) to fill the bottom of a 10" pie plate
4 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp melted butter
Butter and sugar for pie plate
Powdered sugat

1.  Butter the bottom and sides of a 10" glass pie plate. Add 2 Tbsp sugar to the pie plate and shake to coat the surface. Arrange slices of fruit (or whole fruit if using berries or cherries) to cover the bottom of the pan.

2. Whisk eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt together in a medium bowl. Add flour a little at a time, and continue to whisk until combined. Add vanilla and milk, and whisk to combine. Add melted butter an whisk again.

3. Pour mixture into pie plate, covering fruit. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F. oven for 40-45 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. Remove from oven and dust with powdered sugar.

July 3, 2015

50th anniversary cookie buffet

My parents, Gary and LaVerta Foust, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last month, and my family hosted a party for them. I love planning parties, so I had a great time with this. Thanks to Pinterest, things got carried away pretty quickly, but I did find some fantastic ideas there, and I managed to rein myself in before I went completely overboard.

One of the main things I needed to figure out was food. At first I considered doing appetizers and other finger foods, but since the party was from 2:00-5:00 on a Saturday, I decided to give myself a break and just go with a cookie buffet. Everybody loves cookies, right? Plus, this would be a fun way to use some recipes from family members who are no longer with us. My dad's favorite cookie is his mom's snickerdoodles, and he loves the way I make them. Perfect!

I initially planned on making the cookies a month or so in advance and freezing them to save time before the party. I somehow forgot that I have two sons who play baseball, and my middle son played both little league and junior high ball, so as soon as school was out, we had a whopping 11 baseball games a week. That's a lot of baseball pants to get clean, and a lot of meals to pack for the ballpark. Needless to say, the pre-baking didn't happen. 

A few days before the party, my mom was kind enough to spend the day baking cookies with me. We baked and baked and baked, and then she baked while I ran errands for the party. It was really a fun day, and although it was a lot of work, we had fun together in the kitchen. We ended up baking more than 400 cookies, thinking we'd have leftovers for lunch with the family the following day. We did have a few left, but the bulk of the cookies were gobbled up at the party!

The party was a huge success. The bunting decorations and lovebird centerpieces I made turned out really beautiful, if I do say so myself, and the team of family and friends who helped me set up did an amazing job. We were done with time to spare, and I looked around the room at their faces, and at the transformation, and was just overwhelmed. I have a tendency to go crazy with planning events like this (my husband calls my planning notebook my "manifesto"), but I can honestly say it was more beautiful and more perfect than I had even imagined. I could have cried! (And possibly did.) Everyone came through for my parents, but then again, my parents always come through for everyone!

My sons and I each performed solos on our instruments, and my cousin Chelsea sang, and it was such a special afternoon. Each of my boys presented their grandparents with a special project they had made. Jake interviewed them and created a timeline of their lives with photos and hilarious commentary. Luke folded an origami heart for each year they have been married, and strung them up in a beautiful display. Will, who collects coins with my dad, found a penny from each year from 1965 to 2015, and we put them in a frame. We had more than 100 guests, including family from all over the country and friends from my parents' childhood. Everyone enjoyed visiting, looking at the hundreds of photos on display, and, yes, eating cookies! 

Here are the cookies we made for the big day:

Grandma Foust's Snickerdoodles

These are my dad's favorite cookie of all time, and I love them, too, because they make me think of my Grandma! So many cousins said they remembered her when they tasted these!

Get the recipe >>

Russian Wedding Cookies

My mom was given this recipe by a friend more than 50 years ago, before she met my dad! There's a reason she held onto it for so long ... it's amazing! These buttery tea cakes melt in your mouth!

Get the recipe >>

Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies

My mom made these for the party because they are fast and easy. I am not generally a fan of raisins in cookies because I have been tricked too many times thinking they were chocolate chips, but these are good!

Get the recipe >>

Aunt Dollie's Chocolate Chip Macaroons

I inherited a priceless heirloom from my Great Aunt Dollie: her recipe box. This was the first recipe I made of hers, and it has become a favorite at my house. These cookies are perfect!

Get the recipe >>

Coffee Bites

This recipe is actually a take-off on my Aunt Mary's Southern Comfort balls. She is famous for her Christmas treats, and these are everyone's favorite. For this occasion, we left out the rum and substituted coffee. They were great!

Get the recipe >>

Wedding Ring Donuts

This isn't actually a recipe, but a clever idea I found on Pinterest! I cut diamond shapes from white glittery scrapbook paper, drew on the facets with a gold marker, taped a toothpick to the back, and stuck them in pre-packaged mini powdered donuts to make wedding rings. These were a huge hit with the little girls at the party!

We also served egg-shaped candies and truffles to go with the "lovebirds" theme. I was smart and planned ahead, and bought all that candy right after Easter when it was half off, and stuck it in the freezer! (That was before baseball started.)

The day was all about memories, both reliving them and creating them! It was a very special weekend, and I'm so happy I could thank my parents for their example and guidance by putting this party together. The best is yet to come!


July 2, 2015

Russian wedding cookies

My mom recently helped me make more than 400 cookies for her and my dad's 50th wedding anniversary party. She was kind enough to make a batch of amazing Russian wedding tea cakes, from a recipe given to her by a friend long before she met my dad. There are many things that go into making a marriage last 50 years, and making delicious treats like this is surely one of them.

Russian Wedding Tea Cakes

1 cup butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar (confectioner's sugar)
2 cups sifted flour 
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp water 
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped

Cream together butter and powdered sugar. Mix in remaining ingredients. Roll into walnut-size balls. 

Bake on ungreased baking sheets for 25-35 minutes at 275 degrees. You can lightly grease the cookie sheets, but I don't think they would stick with all that butter!

Roll in powdered sugar while still warm. Enjoy!

July 2, 2015

Oatmeal-raisin cookies

If there's one thing my mom knows how to do, it's bake. She recently was kind enough to help me bake more than 400 cookies for her and my dad's 50th anniversary party. Even though I'm not a huge fan of raisins in cookies (they have tricked me into thinking they were chocolate chips one too many times), even I will admit these are really good!

Mom's Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup butter at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 pkg (4-serving size) French vanilla INSTANT pudding 
2 eggs
3-1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1-1/2 cup raisins

Combine flour and baking soda and set aside.

Combine the butter, both sugars, vanilla and instant pudding mix in a large mixing bowl. Beat until smooth and creamy. Beat in the eggs. Gradually add the flour mixture, then stir in the oats and raisins. (Batter will be stiff.)

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart.

Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Makes 4-5 dozen cookies.

June 3, 2015

Easy strawberry upside-down cake

This spring, my mother-in-law invited me and my mom to a Mother's Day lucheon at the senior center in her town. She has lunch there almost every day, and has made some great friends.  I was definitely one of the younger moms in the room, and it was great to be surrounded by so many women who have had such varied experiences. The hostess shared several poems and readings about motherhood, and we could all relate to them. We were treated to a yummy lunch, followed by a homemade strawberry upside-down cake so good I had to ask the hostess for the recipe! (That's my mother-in-law on the left, my mom, and me, at the luncheon.)

The hostess said that when she found the recipe, it said to mash the strawberries. Hers weren't ripe enough to really mash, so she ended up putting them in the blender. She said that ended up pretty much turning them to liquid. Luckily, she had more strawberries, and she just chopped them up really well. She said she left her kitchen in a mess and was worried the cake wouldn't be very good. She did not need to worry!

When I made the cake, I used my food processor to chop up the strawberries. I used a bundt pan, and I've also made it in mini loaf pans. I even added pineapple to one cake, and it was delicious! This recipe is very forgiving, so use the fruit you have, and enjoy! This is such a great way to really dress up a store-bought cake mix, but if you have a yellow cake recipe that you love, you can use that as well!

Strawberry upside-down cake

1 pound strawberries, smashed or chopped into small pieces
1 package strawberry-flavored gelatin powder (or use your favorite flavor)
3 cups miniature marshmallows
Yellow cake mix and ingredients needed to prepare it, or your favorite homemade yellow cake recipe

1. Spread strawberries into the bottom of a prepared cake pan. Sprinkle gelatin powder evenly over the top. Sprinkle marshmallows on top.

2. Prepare cake mix batter. Pour evenly over the strawberries and marshmallows in the pan. Bake according to cake directions.

3. Let cool and invert cake onto a platter or cake stand. Top cake slices with whipped cream if desired.


February 20, 2015

Slow-cooker ground beef sandwiches

Growing up in Iowa, Maid-Rite loose-meat sandwiches were a favorite! People in other parts of the country may not see what the big deal is, but they are so good! Sadly, the restaurant in my hometown that served these tasty treats is no longer in business, so I've had to resort to making my own sandwiches. There are several copycat recipes on the internet, and after trying a few different combinations, I found a sandwich I think is pretty darned close!

3 lbs ground beef, uncooked
1 cup water
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. dried minced onion
2 beef boullion cubes (or equivalent powder)

Place ground beef in slow cooker. In a bowl, whisk the remaining ingredients together. Pour over the ground beef and stir to combine. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour, stirring occasionally to break up the meat into very small pieces. Remove lid and continue to cook on high for 3 hours, until most of the liquid has cooked off. Stir occasionally to break up meat.

Use a slotted spoon to serve on buns. Top with mustard, ketchup, pickles, and a slice of cheese! 


January 7, 2015

Perfect pannekoeken

Several years ago, I ate at a restaurant in Minneapolis called Panneoeken. They served these giant puff pancakes right in the skillet, topped with assorted kinds of breakfasty goodness. You could get one topped with a bacon-and-egg scramble, sausage and potatoes, or fresh fruit and whipped cream. It was delicious. And to be honest, it was just fun saying, “pannekoeken” over and over. It doesn’t take much to entertain me.

Fast forward 20 years. I was thinking about these delicious puff pancakes a while back, so I did some searching online, which is how I find a lot of my recipes. Well, in addition to browsing through my collection of a gazillion cookbooks. In my research, I learned that one of these Dutch puff pancakes is called a pannekoek. Pannekoeken is plural. And it’s one of my favorite words … right up there with my favorite Spanish word, pelicula.

I was half expecting something complicated when I went on my recipe search, but found this dish couldn’t be much simpler. Here’s what you need:


1/2 stick butter
3/4 cup flour
3 eggs
3/4 cup milk
Toppings of your choice

Melt your butter and pour it into a pie plate or a skillet that can go into the oven. I used a Pyrex dish since my pie plate had recently shattered into a million pieces, and it worked just fine. Mix the remaining ingredients together (minus the toppings) and pour into your pan or pie plate, on the melted butter. Bake for 25 minutes or so at 400 degrees F., until the pastry is puffed and golden.

If you want, you could add your toppings halfway through. This would be good if you were using a fruit filling with a streusel or crisp topping, or an egg and meat combo with cheese on top.

The pannekoek will puff up as it finishes baking, but will deflate fairly quickly, so serve it as soon as it comes out of the oven. It’s still delicious even after it de-puffs a bit, so refrigerate leftovers and enjoy them later.

My kids were impressed by the fancy puffy pancake, and it was actually much easier and much less time-consuming than making regular pancakes. Give this easy dish a try, and have fun saying, “pannekoeken!”

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January 6, 2015

Stovetop cocoa

It's cold out. Crazy cold. The high tomorrow is supposed to be NEGATIVE 6, with wind chills of -35. That's just not right. We got some snow yesterday, which meant I didn't make my weekly grocery run today. When my boys got home from school, they were freezing and I asked if they wanted hot chocolate. Then I went to the pantry and realized we were out of mix! I didn't even have any chocolate syrup. I won't let something like that stand between my frozen children and hot chocolate, though.

I whipped this cocoa up for them, and Jake said, "This is the best hot chocolate ever, and I'm not just saying that." Well, there you go. Proof positive. It's the best hot chocolate ever.

Stovetop hot cocoa

1/3 cup boiling water
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
Pinch salt
3 cups milk
1 tsp. vanilla
Whipped cream, if desired

Bring 1/3 cup water to a boil. In a separate saucepan, whisk all the dry ingredients together. Add boiling water and whisk. Heat until boiling. Add milk and vanilla, whisk together, and heat until hot but not boiling. Pour into mugs and top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon, if desired.

That's it! This was super easy and so good. I'm not saying I won't buy those quick and easy hot chocolate mix packets anymore, but it's good to know we can still have hot chocolate when we run out!


December 17, 2014

Snickerdoodle bars

I love snickerdoodles. My Grandma Foust used to make them for me and my dad, and they were our favorite. (Here's her recipe.) So when I saw a Facebook post from my friend Ann the other day with a recipe for snickerdoodle bars, I knew I had to try them. Since it's almost Christmas and I am in full-on baking mode, I decided to make some today for an after-school treat for my boys. They were really easy to make and use basic pantry ingredients, so they can be thrown together anytime. I'm happy to report they were a big hit! I'm thinking of making another pan to send to school for the teachers!

Hat tip to my friend Jessica, who made these adorable mustache mugs for my boys, and even made Luke's especially for a lefty!

Snickerdoodle Bars

1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 1/2 cups flour
Mix of 1 1/2 Tbsp. cinnamon and 2 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
3 Tbsp. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Greas a 9x11" baking dish. In a large bowl, use a hand mixer (I used my stand mixer), cream the butter until fluffy. Add the sugars and continue to cream. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add eggs and vanilla. Beat for 1-2 minutes. Lower speed and add baking powder and flour.

Spread half the batter in the pan, and sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the top. Use a spoon or small ice cream scoop to drop the remaining batter over the top of the cinnamon sugar. Carefully smooth out without mixing the cinnamon-sugar into the batter. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool completely. Whisk together the glaze ingredients and drizzle over the bars. Enjoy!