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

Follow Lisa's Kitchen on Twitter!

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


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!

July 16, 2013

Rhubarb dump cake

Some days, it seems like all you see on Facebook are recipes. Some look super good, and others just look frightening. One I've been seeing A LOT of lately is rhubarb dump cake. Now, I love rhubarb, and I love cake, so naturally I wanted to give this one a try. Luckily, my parents have a ton of rhubarb growing at their house!

It turned out to be really delicious! I'm not sure I'd exactly call it a cake; it's more like a cobbler or a crisp. But when it tastes this good, who cares what you call it?!? Here's the recipe we used, as seen all over Facebook:

Rhubarb dump cake

1 lb. rhubarb, cut into 1/4" pieces (between 3-4 cups)
1 cup sugar
1 (3-oz.) pkg. powdered strawberry gelatin
1 pkg. yellow cake mix
1 cup water
1/4 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13" baking dish. Spread the rhubarb evenly in the bottom of the baking dish. Sprinkle the sugar over the rhubarb, followed by the gelatin, and finally the cake mix (just the powdered mix, not prepared batter). Pour the water and melted butter over the top. Do not stir. Bake for 45 minutes or until the rhubarb is tender and the top is golden brown.

That's it! Serve it up with whipped topping or ice cream, and you're all set. You could experiment with other types of fruit as well, adjusting the amount of sugar as needed. Rhubarb obviously would require more sugar than peaches, for example. Enjoy!

Find more ways to use your rhubarb here: 8 amazing rhubarb recipes

July 3, 2013

Gooseberry crunch

Yesterday, my boys and I packed a picnic lunch and went for a hike in our back 40. I wanted to check the raspberries, and we needed a little adventure. After lunch, I started looking for raspberries, and noticed a bush with something else on it ... gooseberries! We have lived in our house for 14 years, and I had no idea there were gooseberries growing all over the timber parts of our property. Not only that, but there are raspberries, blackberries, mulberries, and grapes, too. We picked enough gooseberries to make a dessert, and also picked raspberries and mulberries to just munch on. The blackberries and grapes aren't ready yet, but we'll be there when they are! (See more photos of our berry-picking hike!)


My mom found her recipe for gooseberry crunch, and we made it today. It was delicious! The gooseberries (picked when green) are mouth-wateringly tart. The boys described it best: they look like beans but taste like rhubarb!

Gooseberry crunch

Crumb topping:
1 cup flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup soft butter
1 tsp. cinnamon

Fruit mixture:
3-4 cups gooseberries
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. corn starch
1 cup water
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix together crumb topping until crumbly. Press half of the mixture into a greased 9" baking dish.

In a saucepan, combine sugar, corn starch, water, and vanilla. Bring to a boil. Add fruit and cook until clear and thick.

Pour fruit mixture over crumb mixture. Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture on top.

Bake at 300 degrees F. for 45 minutes or until browned. 

June 18, 2013

Peach-graham crisp

My husband and our oldest son, Jake, LOVE peaches. I was feeling extra nice the other day and decided to buy a whole mess of them at the grocery store, and whip up a peach crisp. I found a recipe on our sister site,, and set to work.

Unfortunately, the peaches I bought turned out to be less than stellar. A few of them were hard as apples, and the rest were mushy. They all felt fine when I picked them out the day before. Apparently I need to refine my peach selection technique. Ideally, I'd get them from a farmer's market or orchard, but it's not quite time for that around here yet. My parents just planted a small white peach tree in their backyard, so with any luck, I'll be able to get peaches from them in a few years. 

I think next time I make this recipe (and I will make it again!), I'll just use a few bags of frozen sliced peaches. The work of peeling and slicing is done, and the peaches are uniform in size and texture. I also think I'll double up on the topping. We like our crisps extra crispy, with lots of crunch. That said, this dessert made everyone happy, and we loved the way the sauce became almost caramel-like. It would be delicious with apples! The graham crackers in the crisp topping added a nice flavor, too. Here's the recipe as I prepared it.

Peach-Graham Crisp

1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
7 cups 1/2-inch fresh or frozen peach slices (8 peaches about 3-1/2 lb.), or 1/2-inch cooking apples, such as Granny Smith
2 tablespoons honey
2/3 cup coarsely crushed graham crackers (5 squares)
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons rolled oats
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. For filling, in a bowl stir together granulated sugar, the 2 tablespoons flour, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Add peaches; toss to coat. Spread in 2-quart rectangular baking dish. Drizzle honey over peaches; set aside.

For topping, in a bowl stir together crushed graham crackers, brown sugar, 1/3 cup flour, rolled oats, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle topping evenly over the peach mixture.

Bake, uncovered, for 40 to 45 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Serve warm. Makes 8 servings.

June 14, 2013

Monkey bread

When you live in a house full of monkeys, it's important to feed them the things they would eat in the wild. That means lots of bananas, and, of course, monkey bread. Here's their favorite monkey bread recipe, courtesy of Grandma!

1 pkg. (3 1/2 oz.) cook-and-serve butterscotch pudding mix
1 cup brown sugar
4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, melted
3 tubes (10 oz. each) refrigerated biscuits
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans (optional)

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine pudding mix, brown sugar, cinnamon, and pecans, if desigred. Pour the butter into a shallow bowl. Cut biscuits into quarters.

Dipseeral pieces into the butter, then place in the bag and shake to coat. (Note: the butter gets cold fast because of the cold biscuit pieces being dipped into it, so you may need to rewarm it.)

Arrange coated pieces in a 10" fluted pan. Repeat until all biscuit pieces are coated and in the pan. Pour any remaining butter and mix over the biscuits in the pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 30-35 minutes or until browned. Cool for 30 minutes beore inverting onto a serving platter. Makes 10-12 servings.

June 7, 2013


I went to college at Grand View (then Grand View College; now Grand View University), a Danish school in Des Moines. There were many wonderful things about being a Grand View Viking: a rich history with many interesting Danish traditions, small class sizes, excellent teachers, and every Christmas, an all-you-can-eat aebelskiver breakfast. Go, Vikings!

So what is aebelskiver? I had never heard that word before I went to Grand View. This traditional Danish pastry can be served for breakfast or as a dessert. It's like a cross between a pancake and a popover, with a pancake texture and a popover flavor, but in the shape of a ball, usually between golf ball and tennis ball size. Heavy cast iron aebelskive pans with round cups are used to make the treats. (Aebelskive is the singular form of the word; aebelskiver is plural.) A few years after graduation, I came across an old pan at an auction and snapped it up. I had never actually used it to make aebelskiver until today! (You can find aebelskive pans online, sometimes called pancake puff pans.)

This morning when I saw something on Facebook about today being National Donut Day, I thought I'd make some baked donuts for my still-sleeping boys. Then I remembered my aebelskive pan was tucked away in my cupboard, so I found a recipe on our sister site,, and got to work. I like this recipe because it's basic and simple, and what I think traditional aebelskiver must have been like. It doesn't call for fancy ingredients, so the old-time Danish farm mom would have everything she needed on hand to whip these up for her family. The word aebelskiver is actually Danish for "apple slices" because traditionally, they would mix chopped apples into the batter. That would be delicious! 

You can top the aebelskiver with powdered sugar, maple syrup, honey, jam, peanut butter, or whatever tickles your fancy. I had mine with honey and a mug of hot tea, and they were delicious. It definitely brought me back to Julefest breakfast at Grand View! The boys tried all kinds of toppings on theirs, but decided they liked strawberry jam the best. 

It may take a little practice to perfect your method for flipping the aebelskiver. I tried using a fork, but found that using two wooden chopsticks worked best. I'd push on one side of the aebelskive with one chopstick, until it started to come up out of its cup, then would let the uncooked batter pour back into the cup and flip the shell over on top. In the old days, Danish ladies used their knitting needles to flip aebelskiver, which I think would work perfectly! I also had less trouble with sticking when I used non-stick spray rather than oil. Give this recipe a try, find which method works best for you, and share this delicious treat with your family, on Donut Day or any day at all!


1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 egg yolks
2 egg whites
Cooking oil (about 3 tablespoons)
Jam, jelly, honey, syrup, or applesauce (optional)
Sifted powdered sugar (optional)

1. In a mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In another mixing bowl stir together milk and egg yolks until well combined. Add to flour mixture. Stir until smooth.

2. In a small bowl beat egg whites with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight). Gently fold beaten egg whites into batter, leaving a few puffs of egg white. Do not overbeat.

3. Place an aebleskiver pan over medium heat; lightly brush each cup with oil. When the oil sizzles, use about 2 tablespoons of the batter to fill each cup 2/3 full. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes. As a thin shell forms, use a fork or wooden toothpick to gently invert the cooked portion and allow the uncooked portion to flow into the cup. Invert each aebleskiver and cook until all shells are set and all sides are sealed. Continue rotating and cooking until they are evenly golden brown and a wooden toothpick inserted in their centers comes out clean.

4. Use a fork or wooden toothpick to transfer each aebleskiver to a plate. Serve immediately or keep warm in a loosely covered ovenproof dish in a 300 degree F oven. If desired, serve with jam, jelly, honey, syrup, or applesauce and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Makes 30 aebleskiver.


April 8, 2013

Cherry cordial brownies

I love taking a box of cake or brownie mix and turning it into something sort of homemade! Last night for dessert, I tried something new, and it was a hit. I was trying for the flavor of chocolate-covered cherries, or cherry cordials, with the creamy filling. They turned out great, and Jayson even said, "This may be the best thing you've ever made." He's a sucker for chocolate and cherries, though. Here's how I did it!

Cherry cordial brownies

1 family-sized box of brownie mix, plus the ingredients called for on the box
1 cup dried cherries or cherry-flavored dried cranberries
1 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 Tbsp. flour

Preheat oven and prepare brownie mix as directed on the box. stir in the cup of dried cherries. Pour batter into a greased 9x13 baking dish.

Beat together the cream cheese, sugar, egg, and flour. 

Spoon the cream cheese mixture on top of the brownie mixture, forming stripes. Drag a butter knife through the batter in the opposite direction as the stripes, going one way and then the other, to marble the batter.

Bake as directed on the brownie mix box. You'll need to add a little time, but start checking the brownies about the time the box says they'll be ready. When a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean, they're ready! Serve with ice cream, hot fudge sauce, and, of course, a cherry on top!