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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March 24, 2012

Crescent chicken bundles

This tasty recipe comes from my cousin Bridget. She’s a teacher and has a husband and two very busy kids, so she — like me — appreciates the value of a meal that’s easy and quick to fix, and that satisfies everyone.

I made this the other night, and wasn’t sure something so simple could really be as delicious as Bridget said, but it was! Everyone in the family loved it, and it could not have been easier! The best thing is that all of the ingredients are staples in my house, so just about anytime I need a last-minute meal, I can pull this together.

Crescent chicken bundles

1 package of 8 refrigerator crescent rolls (I used the jumbo size)
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 cup shredded cheese (I used Colby Jack)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 soup can of milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll crescent rolls out and separate into individual triangles. Spoon chicken and cheese onto the widest part of the dough, then fold in the corners and pinch to seal all the way around, forming little bundles. Place bundles in a 9×13″ baking dish.

Make soup on stovetop as directed, using a can of milk. Pour prepared soup over top of the rolls. Top each with a little extra shredded cheese. Bake uncovered at 350 for 30 minutes, or until bundles are golden brown. Spoon the soup sauce on top of bundles.


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March 2, 2012

Amish friendship bread

Have you ever kept a sourdough starter? My friends Krissy and Nick gave me a start from their sourdough starter a few weeks ago, and I’ve been having all kinds of fun with it! This particular starter is the sweeter variety, also known as Herman starter, which is replenished with sugar, flour and milk. It’s fun thinking of something different to make with it every week, and I’m anxious to see how long I can keep the starter going!

Krissy and Nick shared some recipes, including bread bowls, which I’m dying to try … again. I tried them once, but the yeast I had was probably old, because the dough didn’t rise like it should have and I wound up with hockey pucks instead of bread bowls. I bought some new yeast, so the bread bowls will be one of my next projects.

This time, though, I tried Amish friendship bread. You can add any kind of fruit or nuts you like to this bread. Chocolate chips would even be good! I had an abundance of blueberries, so I mixed some of them into the batter before pouring in to the pans.

If you don’t have a friend who’s willing to share a starter with you, you can make it yourself.

Herman sourdough starter

2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
2 cups warm water
2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar

In a glass or plastic bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water. Stir in the flower and sugar, and mix until smooth. (Do not use metal bowls or utensils.) Cover loosely and leave in a warm place overnight. The next day, stir, pour into a sturdy resealable plastic bag, and refrigerate.

For the next four days, massage the bag to stir the mixture. On the fifth day, stir then divide in half. Give half away with feeding instructions.

Feed starter with 1/2 cup white sugar, 1 cup flour, and 1 cup milk. Stir until smooth. Refrigerate and stir daily for the next four days. Feed again on the tenth day and return to the refrigerator, stirring daily for four days.

On the 15th day, the starter is ready to be used for baking. Reserve one cup in the refrigerator and continue to follow the stir and feed cycle (stir daily for four days, stir and feed on fifth day, ready to use on 10th day).

Amish friendship bread

1 cup starter
2/3 cup oil
3 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1- 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Beat all ingredients together by hand until blended well. Add nuts or fruit if desired. Pour batter into two greased loaf pans. Sprinkle additional cinnamon and sugar on top, if desired.

Bake at 325 degrees F. for 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Test with a toothpick for doneness.


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March 2, 2012

Shortcut caramel rolls

Caramel rolls are such a decadent treat. They’re perfect for lazy Saturday mornings, but they take so darned long! Wouldn’t it be nice if they were fast enough for a Tuesday morning, for a change? Now they are!

My friend Marcy shared this recipe, and I couldn’t wait to try it. The caramel rolls turned out great, and everyone gobbled them right up. They may not have quite the exact flavor and gooeyness as rolls made completely from scratch, but their quickness and easiness more than makes up for that!

2 tubes refrigerator buttermilk biscuits (or 1 tube giant biscuits)
3 Tbsp. melted butter
1/2 cup maple syrup (I used a good sugar-free syrup and it was great!)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional

Combine melted butter and syrup in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, and nuts.

Treat a Bundt pan with non-stick spray. Spoon about half the syrup mixture in the bottom of the pan, and sprinkle with half of the brown sugar-cinnamon mixture. Place the biscuits on top, standing upright in a ring. Pour the remaining syrup over the top, and sprinkle the remaining sugar mixture over the rolls.

Bake in a 375-degree F. oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then invert onto a platter to serve.

How easy is that?!? I’ll definitely be making these again, and next time I may try using a little more of the syrup and sugar mixtures, for extra caramelly goodness. Enjoy!

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February 16, 2012

Slow-cooker beef stroganoff

I am so in love with my slow cookers! There are two large ones sitting out on my counter at all times, and another big one and a few small ones in the pantry. When I saw this recipe for beef stroganoff, I  knew I had to try it!

2 pounds stew meat, cubed

2 cans condensed golden mushroom soup

1 medium onion, diced

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

4 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1/2 cup water

16 oz. cream cheese (I used a low-fat variety)

2 tsp. garlic salt

1 tsp. smoked paprika

In the slow cooker, combine all ingredients except the meat and cream cheese. Once mixed well, fold in the meat cubes. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

Turn your slow cooker to high, cut the cream cheese into cubes and stir into the mixture. Replace the lid and leave for about 10 minutes, until the cream cheese is melted and creamy. Stir well, and serve over egg noodles or mashed potatoes.

My husband and I loved this dish. It was hot and comforting, the beef was super tender and wonderfully flavored, and the mushroom sauce was delicious. The kids, on the other hand, thought it was “too mushroomy” and they only ate it because I made brownies for dessert. This may not be the best dish for children, but I highly recommend it for grown-ups! Next time I may try it with French onion soup instead, to cut down on the mushroom factor.

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February 16, 2012

Egg boats

Making a hot breakfast for my boys every day is a must when it’s so cold outside. I want their bellies to be warm before they bundle up and head outside to wait for the bus. But it’s easy to fall into a rut of making the same things over and over.

The other day, I saw some adorable football-shaped rolls, and I thought they would make perfect breakfast boats for my little sports fans. There were six rolls in the pack, so I used three and stuck the other three in the freezer for another day.

I sliced into the rolls and removed the tops and middles, being careful to leave the “shell” in tact. Then, I beat together 4 eggs, a few tablespoons of milk, and 1/3 cup shredded cheese. You could also add bacon, sausage, ham, spinach, mushrooms, peppers, or asparagus, but I decided to keep it simple for the kids.

The bread was placed on a rimmed cookie sheet, and I poured the egg mixture into each of the three rolls, then sprinkled a little more cheese on top. They went into a 350-degree F. oven for 25 minutes, until the eggs are set.

The boys loved their egg boats! The egg mixture seeped into the bread and baked up with it so nicely. This was a welcome change in our breakfast routine!

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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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