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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December 12, 2014

Saltine toffee

There's a recipe for saltine cracker toffee that has been making the rounds on Facebook lately. My friend Cara posted it, and said, "Neeeeed." We had her family over for dinner last night, so I decided to give it a try for dessert.

I'm happy to report that it turned out great! The only thing I didn't like is that it stuck to the foil like crazy, and those of us with fillings in our teeth do NOT want to bite into a chunk of foil. The next time I make these (and there WILL be a next time), I will either butter the foil, or maybe use parchment paper instead. I also recommend keeping these in the fridge, because otherwise they are just too sticky. The best thing about this recipe is that I have all of these things in my pantry at all times, so now I have a quick snack I can make anytime!

I also made the slow cooker mac and cheese recipe that has been posted all over Facebook lately. It wasn't blog-worthy. It tasted really good, but it looked kind of awful, and it basically turned to spackle once the slow cooker was turned off. You win some, you lose some. The tenderloins I made were a hit, so overall, dinner was good, and Cara was happy!

Saltine toffee

1 1/2 sleeves saltine crackers
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
12-oz. bag chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a jellyroll pan or cookie sheet with sides with foil, so the foil comes up over the sides. (See my notes above about the stickiness issue, and consider greasing the foil or using parchment paper.) Spread crackers out to cover the foil (see photos below).

Melt butter over medium-high heat, and add brown sugar. Stir until dissolved. Bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes without stirring. Pour over crackers.

Bake in preheated oven for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately top with chocolate chips. After a few minutes when they have melted, use a spatula or scraper to spread the melted chocolate around.

Cool completely, and refrigerate until cold. Lift bars from pan using foil and place on cutting board. Cut into pieces and store in the refrigerator.

November 24, 2014

Easy bread pudding

I love treating my family to warm, yummy breakfasts, especially on cold days like those we've been having lately. Weekday breakfasts are usually eggs or something fast, but on the weekends I like to make things a little more special. Bread pudding is so easy and tasty, and I found a way to make it even easier! Now this is a regular request at my house, and it disappears in a flash!

The grocery store in one of the small towns in our area has a day-old bread rack, where they sell 16-ounce loaves of Pepperidge Farm flavored bread for $1.25. Seriously. I have been buying bags and bags of the limited edition fall flavors of caramel apple and pumpkin spice whenever I'm in the neighborhood, then I bring them home and pop them right in the freezer. When the mood strikes, I use them to whip up a tasty bread pudding. There's almost no preparation time involved, but the result is so tasty!

Easy bread pudding

1 16-oz. loaf raisin bread, or other fruit or flavored bread
2 14-oz. cans sweetened condensed milk
3 eggs
Raisins, fruit, and/or nuts, optional
Canned frosting or homemade glaze (see below)

Cube fresh or frozen bread and place in 1 1/2-quart greased baking dish. Stir in raisins or nuts, if desired. (For this batch, I used caramel apple bread, and added a diced apple.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together sweetened condensed milk and eggs. Pour over bread cubes, coating evenly.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 25-30 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Meanwhile, make glaze if desired. For this glaze, I melted together 2 oz. cream cheese and 3 Tbsp. butter, and whisked to combine. I added about 3/4 cup of powdered sugar, and enough milk to reach the desired consistency. Play around with the amounts of powdered sugar and milk until the glaze is the consistency you prefer.


November 18, 2014

Ham balls

I find this shocking and nearly impossible to believe, but there are some people out there who have never had a ham ball. Chances are good those people are not from Iowa. There are a few schools of thought when it comes to ham balls, and they're all about the meat mixture. Some people mix ground ham and ground pork together as the base. But those of us who do it the right way also add ground beef. It mellows the flavor, and makes it less salty. Believe me, it's the way to go.

I had never made ham balls before until a few weeks ago. It's one of the many dishes that my mom makes so perfectly that I don't even bother trying. It's just better when she does it, so I'll just let her do it! She uses my Aunt Thelma's recipe, so that's what I used, too. It's perfect. In fact, her ham balls are probably my favorite food ever. EVER.

My mom only makes ham balls on special occasions or holidays, because she has always ground her own meat, and frankly, that's a TON of work. These days, most butcher shops and grocery stores carry a ham loaf mix. Ask them about it. I asked at one local grocery store and found their mix was just ham and pork. No. But at my favorite butcher shop, they have a mix that is ham, pork, and beef, and guess what? It was $1 a pound less than the grocery store mix. I bought 10 pounds, cooked 6, and froze 4. Score. I told my mom about the butcher shop find, and just yesterday she and my dad drove over there and she bought some! Yay for more ham balls!

Traditional ham balls are about 1/2 cup, or a little smaller than a baseball. I made a pan of these for my family, but I also made a bunch of bite-sized ham balls for my oldest son, Jake, to take to a potluck for the cast and crew of the high school play, Aladdin, where he put on a smashing performance as Razoul. And as much as I consider myself a ham ball traditionalist, I have to admit I kind of liked the mini size better. They're easier to eat, and you get more sauce per square inch of ham ball. I've done the math.

So here's the ham ball recipe. Enjoy this scrumptious taste of Iowa! As my friend Sara Hatcher-Hobart says, "They're amazeballs!"

Ham Balls

6 pounds ham loaf mix (2 pounds each ground beef, ground pork, and ground ham, combined)
4 eggs
2 cups milk
3 cups graham cracker crumbs (don't cheat and use regular cracker crumbs or bread crumbs)

2 cans (10.75 oz. each) tomato soup, undiluted
3/4 cup vinegar
2 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 tsp. mustard

Combine meatball ingredients, form into meatballs, and place in a baking dish. (This will take 2 or 3 baking dishes.) In a separate bowl, whisk together sauce ingredients. Pour over meatballs. Bake at 325 degrees F. for 1  hour or until meat is cooked through. Spoon sauce over meatballs several times while baking. Transfer to a slow cooker to keep warm if you're taking them to a get-together or just want to snack on them all day.

November 13, 2014

Grab-and-go sausage biscuits

I don't know about your house, but things are pretty crazy at my place in the mornings. Getting three boys up, fed, and ready for the bus by 7:10 is easier said than done some days. That's why I love this recipe! It's fast and easy, can be adjusted to use ingredients you have on hand, and when everyone's running late, they can just grab breakfast and head out the door.

The other night, I browned 2 pounds of ground sausage for spaghetti. I didn't have Italian sausage on hand, so it was regular old sausage. Before adding the meat to my sauce, I scooped out about 1/2 pound and stuck it in the fridge to make these biscuits. The next morning, I spent a couple of minutes mixing up the batter, and the biscuits cooked while the boys got dressed and ready for school. They LOVED them, and have asked for them again already! This recipe makes 12, and we had 3 left after breakfast. They were great the next morning just zapped in the microwave. Win!

Grab-and-go sausage biscuits

2 eggs
1 cup milk
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3 cups baking mix
1 cup shredded cheese (Or more, or less! Use what you have on hand.)
1/4 to 1/2 pound cooked meat (ham, sausage, bacon, leftover taco meat, whatever!)

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 12 regular-sized muffin cups with non-stick spray.

Beat eggs. Add oil and milk. Beat well. Stir in baking mix, just until combined and moistened. Mix will be thick. 

Fold in cheese and meat. (If you'd like to add vegetables like mushrooms, onions, or peppers, fold them in here!) 

Divide batter evenly among 12 muffin cups. They will be fairly full, and the muffins will puff up quite a bit when they bake.

Bake 18-20 minutes, or until golden brown.

August 2, 2014


At my house, we love pork. We also love a good deal! One of our neighbors' sons was raising some hogs to show at the county fair, but thanks to a paperwork snafu, he wasn't able to show them. They had spent a lot of money on expensive show feed and just wanted to cut their losses and sell the hogs. We jumped at the chance, and he delivered our hog to the local locker. 

My husband talked with the butcher and told him how we wanted the hog processed, and a few days later, I loaded up the back of my Suburban with fresh pork. We have a big freezer in our mudroom, and we've spent the past few weeks cleaning it out, reheating frozen lasagne, and grilling all kinds of meat. I was able to squeeze almost all of the meat into the freezer, and put several pounds of bacon in my kitchen freezer so it's handy.

With the cost of the hog and the processing fees, we wound up spending just over $2 per pound for 170 pounds of pork. And we won't have to buy meat again all winter. Not too shabby!

We have hams, ham steaks, shoulder roasts, ribs, Iowa chops, pork chops, 30 pounds of sausage, bunches of bacon, pork cutlets, and assorted other cuts of pork filling our freezer. So now what will we do with it?

I put together this slideshow today of some delicious pork recipes on our site. A few are favorites from my blog (Havarti-ham quiche and apple-cranberry slow-cooked pork loin). I'll definitely be making these again in the near future, along with some of the other tasty pork recipes!

Browse the slideshow: 10 terrific pork recipes

What's your favorite pork recipe?

July 12, 2014

Goat milk ice cream

Summer just isn't summer without making homemade ice cream. It's even better when it's shared with friends, and better still, I learned, when using goat milk!

Our neighbors have added several dairy goats to the menagerie of dogs, chickens, and guineas on their acreage. Their house is a great gathering spot for our group of friends, which includes bunches of bunches of boys, and the occasional girl or two.

They currently have one goat in the milking stage. Dipsy is a Sable Saanen goat. Their other goats are either bred or waiting to be bred, and will be milked after they kid. Dipsy is milked in the morning and evening, and generally gets 6 to 8 cups of milk per day. This is her first freshening, though, so once she kids again, her milk output should increase.

The family enjoys the goat milk straight from the fridge, plus on cereal and in other dishes. So when the Goodwins decided to make some goat milk ice cream, of course we and some other friends agreed to come help!

We picked up a carton of ice cream mix from the grocery store, and another friend brought over an ice cream maker. We followed the directions on the carton, using goat milk instead of the bovine variety. The men put the machine together, added ice and rock salt to the outside of the canister, poured in the ice cream mix, and turned on the machine. A few minutes later, we realized we had forgotten to add the paddle that actually stirs the ice cream while it's being frozen. A few minor adjustments later, the paddle was in place and the ice cream was finishing up.

There was definitely a noticeable difference in the final product. The goat milk ice cream was richer, thicker, and in my opinion, better than if it had been made with cow's milk. It almost tasted like custard. It was delicious! The grown-ups and the kids all cleaned their bowls and gave it a thumbs up!

Whether you own your own dairy goats or purchase goat milk at the store or farmer's market (if raw milk sales are allowed in your state), you have to give goat milk ice cream a try! You'll be gla-a-a-a-a-ad you did!

Step 1: Milk goat.

Step 2: Use goat milk to make ice cream recipe and pour into ice cream maker. (Don't forget the paddle!)

Step 3: Look adorable while you wait.

Step 4: Enjoy delicious goat milk ice cream!

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

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.

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

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.