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 7, 2012

Breakfast kebabs

Everybody loves food on a stick, even for breakfast! These breakfast kebabs are a fun way to jazz up a simple morning meal.

I just skewered fresh fruit and muffin pops I made from a mix in my favorite invention ever: the cake pop maker! And a little cinnamon sprinkled on some yogurt made the perfect sauce for dipping.

This is a breakfast you can feel good about giving your kids (or letting them make themselves!) And since it's on a stick, it's special!

June 18, 2012

Slow cooker orange-ginger chicken

One of my favorite things to get at a chinese restaurant (when I can tear myself away from the kung pao scallops) is orange chicken. I love how the tangy sweetness of the orange sauce combines with the savory chicken and rice. Of course, the chicken is breaded and deep fried, and the rice is also fried. Or at the very least, white. Some Chinese restaurants are offering brown rice now, which I always appreciate. I actually prefer the taste, and it's much healthier.

I wanted to use my slow cooker to make orange chicken, but didn't want to spend the time or the fat grams frying the chicken pieces first. That makes this version much healthier than the usual restaurant fare, but I liked it just as much. The ginger adds a nice subtle flavor. 

My husband was sure he was NOT going to like this dish, but when he walked into the house after work, he had to admit it smelled amazing. He gobbled it right down, and even said, "Of all the chicken and rice dishes you have made, this one is the most flavorful." The only adjustment I made is that my youngest, Will, hates lettuce with a passion. I just scooped some rice and meat mixture into a bowl for him, and he was good to go! You could stir-fry some frozen Chinese veggies to go with this dish while the rice is cooking if you like. It would also make a nice appetizer for a party, since the Romaine leaves make it semi-portable. Enjoy!

Slow cooker orange-ginger chicken

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (you can use breasts if you prefer)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup orange juice
4 tsp. soy sauce
4 tsp. ginger, freshly grated or from a jar
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 orange (zest and fruit)
3 scallions, sliced
Romaine lettuce

Place whole chicken thighs into a greased 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, vinegar, juice, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, and the zest of one orange. Whisk to combine and pour over meat in slow cooker, turning to coat. Cover and cook until the chicken is completely cooked through and tender, 3 to 4 hours on high or 6 to 7 hours on low.

In a separate pan, make rice on the stovetop. Instead of using water, use juice from the slow cooker.

While the rice is cooking, remove chicken pieces to a cutting board and shred into bite-sized pieces. Return to slow cooker. Cut orange segments into bite-sized pieces and fold into the mixture, along with scallions.

To serve, scoop rice onto the end of a piece of Romaine lettuce. Top with meat mixture and drizzle with sauce.

June 13, 2012

No-bake millionaire pie

I have seen several different recipes for millionaire pie floating around, and I had never heard of it before. I wondered why it was called millionaire pie ... that's interesting. It looked delicious though, so I made my own version of it last night, using the fruits we like best. One bite of this delicious, creamy pie and I had my answer: They call it millionaire pie because it's so rich! AHA! This pie was seriously good, and since it's no-bake, it will definitely be moving into regular rotation at my house this summer. Here's how I made it:

Millionaire pie

1 store-bought graham cracker crust (shortbread crust would be good, too!)
8 oz. frozen whipped topping, thawed
Half of a 14-oz. can of sweetened condensed milk (try to avoid eating the other half with a spoon)
10 oz. jar maraschino cherries, drained and cut in half
11 oz. jar mandarin orange segments, drained
Half of a 20-oz can of crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 cup nuts (I used a combination of chopped almonds and walnuts)
1/2 cup coconut flakes

In a medium bowl, mix whipped topping and condensed milk together thoroughly. Fold in fruit, nuts, and coconut. Pour into pie crust. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or over night, until set. Enjoy!

June 13, 2012

Summertime sangria

Jerry Jeff Walker has a song called "Sangria wine" and I couldn't get it out of my head while I was making this! Sangria is such a fun drink to make, and it just tastes like summer. You can use any fresh fruit you have on hand, and the best thing is, there's no need for expensive wine. You can seriously turn a $3 bottle of wine into a delicious drink! Here's how I made this batch of sangria.

Summertime sangria

750 ml bottle of inexpensive wine (I used a sweet red table wine)
1/2 cup sugar
1 orange, sliced
1/2 lemon, sliced
2 key limes, sliced
3 cups club soda (try lime flavored!)

Pour wine into a pitcher. Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Add sliced fruit and stir again. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight to let the flavors mingle. Try to keep yourself from sneaking drinks. Warn the kids it's a grown-up drink.

Immediately before serving, add club soda and give it a stir. Pour into glasses and garnish with fruit slices. If you are just having a glass at a time rather than serving the pitcher to friends, skip adding the whole amount of club soda. Just pour the wine and fruit mixture into your glass and top with a little soda.

You can make a delicious non-alcoholic sangria by just using grape juice in place of the wine. Then everyone can enjoy the taste of summer!

Cheers to you, friends!

June 13, 2012

Slow cooker Parmesan chicken with pretzel crust

I've been using my slow cookers (yes, plural) like crazy this summer, and I love it! Last night, I took a classic Italian dish and made it in the slow cooker. I decided on Parmesan chicken, but didn't have any bread crumbs on hand. I love using Panko, which are crispy crumbs you can find in the Asian food section. We were also running low on bread, so rather than use all we had left to make crumbs, I made do with what I had and used pretzels! You could "crumb" them in the food processor, but I have three small boys, so I just put the pretzels in a plastic bag and turned the kids loose with a rolling pin. Instant crumbs. Cracker crumbs would also work. Just use whatever you have in your pantry!

The grown-ups and thekids loved this dish. The kids weren't so sure about chicken in spaghetti sauce at first, but they were soon asking for seconds. The only thing I may try differently next time is to brown the crumb-covered chicken in a little olive oil before putting it into the slow cooker. This may help crisp it up a bit. The crust was very good, though, and I actually really liked it with pretzels. The best thing about it, though, is that it cooked away all day while I drove the boys to swimming lessons and to my parents' house in town for a little visit. There's nothing like coming home and walking into an amazing-smelling kitchen with dinner ready!

Slow cooker Parmesan chicken with pretzel crust

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs (you can use breasts if you prefer)
1 egg
1 1/2 cups pretzel crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 cups shredded Parmesan or Mozzarella cheese (or use an Italian or pizza blend)
4 cups marinara sauce (canned is fine!)

Pour olive oil into your slow cooker crock. Spread around to grease well. In a medium-sized bowl, combine crumbs, grated Parmesan, herbs and spices. In a small bowl, beat egg.

Dip each piece of chicken into the beaten egg, then dip into the crumb mixture to coat all sides well. Arrange on the bottom of the slow cooker crock. Spread any remaining crumb mixture over the top of the chicken pieces. Sprinkle 1 cup of the shredded cheese on top. Reserve the other cup of cheese.

Pour marinara sauce over the top. Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours, or until chicken is completely cooked through. Turn slow cooker to warm setting. Sprinkle the remaining cup of cheese on top, replace lid, and let warm until cheese melts. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Serve chicken and sauce over pasta.

June 8, 2012

Slow cooker chicken fajitas

Slow cookers are great in the winter, but they often get shoved to the back of the cupboard in the summer. I live in an old farmhouse with no central air, and even with a couple of window unit air conditioners, it gets pretty hot in my house. Hot enough that I avoid turning on the oven at all costs. Once again, my many slow cookers come to the rescue! They let me prepare a nice meal for my family without heating up the house, and I can start dinner, take the kids to the pool, and when we all get home, dinner's ready!

I made these chicken fajitas yesterday, and was a little worried about my youngest not wanting to eat them, because he thinks he doesn't like peppers and onions. He also thinks he doesn't like tacos or fajitas, but he loves burritos. So ... whenever we have tacos -- or in this case fajitas -- I just roll his up like a burrito, hand it to him, and we're good to go. Everybody loved these, and the only thing I would change is that next time I'll make more! Everyone wanted seconds! I was a little afraid the chicken would fall apart and we'd have shredded chicken instead, but the strips held together beautifully.

Slow cooker chicken fajitas

2-3 cups sweet and/or hot peppers, cut into strips
1/2 onion, cut into strips
1 lb. raw chicken, cut into strips (I used boneless skinless thighs)
2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. garlic powder (or you could use fresh minced or garlic from a jar)
2 Tbsp. lime or lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Spray slow cooker with non-stick spray. Add chicken and vegetables. Top with spices. Toss to combine everything, and sprinkle lime or lemon juice on top. Cook on low for 6 to 7 hours, or  until chicken is done.

Serve on tortillas (here's a link to my recipe for delicious homemade tortillas) with sour cream, salsa, guacamole, and whatever else you like! By the time this dish is finished cooking, there will be a lot of juice in the crock pot. I used that juice instead of water to make some instant rice, and it gave it a great flavor. If you're looking to save calories, skip the tortillas and serve the meat and veggies in lettuce wraps. Enjoy!

This recipe would also be great for the freezer. Just put all the ingredients into a freezer bag instead of the slow cooker, and freeze! Then all you have to do is just thaw the bag in the fridge, toss in the slow cooker, and go!

May 23, 2012

Slow-cooked gyros with light tzatziki


I love Greek food, especially gyros. There's something so yummy about the perfectly spiced meat combined with cool, refreshing tzatziki sauce. I had never made these at home before, but with the slow cooker, they are easy and delicious! I used beef, but you could use lamb or chicken, or any meat you like.

Slow-cooked gyros

3 large steaks, about 2 1/2 pounds (I used boneless arm steak)
1/3 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
4 tsp. minced garlic
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Slice your steak into thin strips, or have your butcher slice it for you. I threw my steaks in the freezer for a few hours and sliced them with my trusty chef's knife. This makes cutting meat so much easier!

Line your slow cooker with foil or a liner. Arrange beef strips on the bottom. Mix the other ingredients together and pour over the beef. Toss gently.

Cover and cook on low 6 to 7 hours, until the meat is thoroughly cooked and tender. Serve on pita bread with lettuce, cucumber slices, onions, and tzatziki sauce.

Light tzatziki sauce

8 oz. fat-free plain Greek yogurt (or use regular plain yogurt, strained to remove liquid)
1 small cucumber, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh or dried dill, chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh or dried chives, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate a few hours before serving.

May 23, 2012

Spicy-sweet bacon chicken with orange dipping sauce

Everything's better with bacon, including chicken. I knew even before I made this dish that it would be a huge hit with my family, and I was right. The best thing about these pumped-up chicken fingers (other than the absolutely delicious flavor) is that I cooked them in the oven in the afternoon, then put them in the slow cooker to keep them warm during my boys' baseball game. When we got home, dinner was ready! (You could also cook them on the grill!)

Spicy-sweet bacon chicken

Oven: 400 degrees F.

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 lb. sliced bacon
Salt and pepper
Garlic powder
Chili powder
Brown sugar

Cut chicken breasts into strips, so they're finger-sized. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and chili powder, to taste.

Depending on the number of slices of bacon per package, you may want to cut them in half, so you have the same number of bacon strips as chicken fingers.

Wrap each seasoned chicken strip with a piece of bacon. Start at one end and spiral wrap around the chicken. Roll in brown sugar and place on a foil-lined cookie sheet with raised edges. If you want to keep the strips out of the fat, place a cooling rack inside the cookie sheet to lift them up a bit.

Bake at 400 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the bacon is nice and crispy. Serve with orange dipping sauce.

Orange dipping sauce

1/2 cup orange marmalade
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt

Combine ingredients and serve with chicken strips.

April 1, 2012

Sourdough chicken pot pie

Well, it was bound to happen. The sourdough starter I got from my friends was left unattended too long and bit the dust. I did use it for several tasty recipes though, and I’m going to get a fresh starter at some point. Probably in the fall, since I don’t do a lot of baking in the hot summer. One of the dishes I did make with my starter was a scrumptious chicken pot pie. The sourdough flavor really came through in both the sauce and the crust, and gave this savory dish an unexpected tangy twist.

First, I made the sauce:

4 Tbsp. sourdough starter (If you don’t have starter, you can use 4 Tbsp. of roux, made with flour and butter)
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (I used Colby Jack)
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Then I made the crust:

2 cups flour
1/2 cup sourdough starter
4 oz. onion or chive flavored cream cheese
3 oz. butter
1/2 tsp. salt
Milk, for brushing


3 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed or shredded
1 large can mixed vegetables, drained

Of course you can use fresh or frozen vegetables, but I always have big cans of mixed veggies in my pantry, and they’re just right for throwing together for a quick pot pie.

For the crust, combine the flour and salt, then place in a mound on the counter. Create a well in the center, and put the sourdough starter in the well. Fold the flour into the starter using a spatula, until all incorporated. Add cream cheese to the mixture and fold in. You may need to work it in with your fingers. You want to have some small chunks of cream cheese left. Form dough into a square. Cut butter into the center and fold dough over itself so it encases the butter. Roll, fold over, and roll again into a 9×13″ rectangle.

To make the sauce, put the stock and water in a pan over medium heat. In a small bowl, combine sourdough starter and 3 Tbsp. of milk, whisking until dissolved. Add the rest of the milk and whisk. Once the stock is bubbling, whisk the milk/starter mixture into the stock. Add cheese. Add salt, pepper and spices. Continue to whisk and heat until cheese is melted and mixture is smooth and satiny. Add chicken and vegetables and stir gently until coated.

Pour filling into a 9×13″ baking dish and top with the crust. Brush crust with milk and make a few incisions with a knife to allow steam to escape.

Bake at 400 degrees F. for 30 minutes or until the filling is bubbly and the crust is golden brown. Enjoy!



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March 29, 2012

Two-ingredient apple cake


I love the idea of taking box cake mix and making it into something special by adding your own ingredients. I recently shared my pineapple angel food cake recipe. Here’s another tasty way to use angel food cake mix!

1 box angel food cake mix
1 can apple pie filling (I used no sugar added pie filling)

Combine pie filling and cake mix. At first, you won’t think there’s going to be enough liquid in the pie filling to incorporate all of the cake mix, but trust me, there is. Just keep stirring and eventually you’ll have a lovely cake batter. Pour into a greased 9×13″ pan and bake at 350 degrees F. Mine was ready after 20 minutes, but depending on the size of your pan, whether you use a glass or metal pan, and your oven, it may take up to 35 minutes. I suggest checking the cake after 20 minutes by inserting a toothpick in the middle. If it doesn't come out clean, bake another 5 minutes and check again, until the cake is light golden brown and passes the toothpick test.

I didn’t make any frosting this time, but this cake would be delicious with my fluffy frosting. You could also use any type of pie filling. Cherry, blueberry, and peach would all be super yummy!

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