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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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September 30, 2011

Macaroni and cheese muffins

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My 6-year-old, Will, is in love with macaroni and cheese. When we go to a restaurant, it doesn’t matter what else is on the menu. If they serve mac and cheese, he stops reading right there. I’ve made it for him from scratch, but he honestly prefers the orange boxed version. I can’t have that. I had to come up with a way to make homemade mac and cheese he would love. And last night, I did it!

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We had bacon cheeseburger meatloaf, so since we were already splurging and having a comfort food extravaganza, it seemed like the perfect time to make macaroni and cheese muffins. If there’s anything better than mac and cheese, it’s being able to just pick it up and eat it with your hands!

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2 1/2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni

2 tsp. butter or margarine

1 egg, beaten

1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar or Colby Jack cheese

1 1/2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese

1 cup milk

3/4 cup bread crumbs (I used Panko, available in the Asian food section)

1 Tbsp. olive oil

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Cook macaroni in boiling salted water for 8 minutes, until it’s just al dente. Drain and return it to the pan. Add butter or margarine, and stir until it melts and coats the macaroni. Let it cool slightly. Add the egg, 1 cup of the Cheddar or Colby cheese, all of the Mozzarella cheese, and the milk. Stir well.

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Spoon the mixture into treated muffin tins, filling them right to the top. Press down with the back of a spoon to compact them a little. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the mac and cheese.

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In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs and olive oil. Spoon it on top of the muffins and press down a bit to hold the mixture in place.

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Bake in a 350 degree F. oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Let the muffins rest in the pan for at least 5 minutes before removing. This will let the cheese set a bit, so the muffins will keep their shape. This recipe makes about 18 mac and cheese muffins.

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This recipe got two enthusiastic thumbs up from my mac and cheese aficionado, Will. He was VERY excited about being able to pick them up and eat them, and he liked the crunchy topping. Everyone else loved them, too!

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These tasty little morsels would also make great appetizers or party snacks. If you want to make a meal out of them, add some cubed cooked ham or browned ground beef into the mixture. If you go with beef, you could add a little crumbled cooked bacon on top, and make bacon cheeseburger macaroni muffins. Tell me the kids wouldn’t love that!

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September 30, 2011

Bacon cheeseburger meatloaf

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Meatloaf is the ultimate comfort food. Add bacon and cheese, and it’s like a warm, all-enveloping hug from your mom. Last night I decided to pull out all the stops and make a Sunday-style comfort food dinner in the middle of the week. Why save all that good food for the weekend?

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My husband and sons love bacon cheeseburgers, so I thought I’d turn a meatloaf into a giant version of their favorite burger. Here’s how:

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2 pounds ground beef

1 pound pork sausage

1 small onion, chopped

2 eggs, lightly beaten

3/4 cup bread crumbs (I used Panko, available in the Asian food department)

1/3 cup ketchup

1 tsp. seasoned salt

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

6 slices bacon

Sliced cheese (I used Colby Jack)

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Combine the meats, eggs, bread crumbs, ketchup, seasoned salt, and Italian seasoning. Divide in half. Form one half into a loaf and place it in a treated casserole dish. Place sliced cheese on top, leaving an inch border all the way around on the outside. Put the other half of the meat on top of the cheese, and press down on the edges to seal. Drape bacon over top of the meatloaf, overlapping slightly, and tuck the ends underneath. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 90 minutes or until you get an internal reading of 160 degrees F.  Let the meatloaf rest a few minutes before slicing.

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I made a 3-pound meatloaf, so we’d have plenty of leftovers for sandwiches. You can adjust the size to suit your family, of course. The rule of thumb is to cook meatloaf 30 minutes for every pound of meat. Use a meat thermometer to make sure it’s fully cooked.

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When I sliced into this meatloaf, the cheese started oozing out, and I knew it was going to be good. There was absolutely no conversation at dinner, because everyone was too busy eating … a sure sign everyone loved it!

 

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September 28, 2011

Easy chicken tortilla soup

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Fall is in the air, so soup is back on the menu! It’s also an extremely busy time at my house, especially on Tuesdays. My oldest has play practice, the younger two have football practice (and my husband helps coach their team), plus every other week, we have Cub Scouts. That means we have a very small window for eating supper, and it’s often late in the evening, so we don’t want anything too heavy. Hello, slow cooker!

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I love the warm spiciness of chicken tortilla soup, so I thought I’d give it a try! It was perfect for the slow cooker, too. I’ve been trying to plan my meals for the week ahead of time, so since I knew I was making this on Tuesday, I threw some frozen chicken thighs in the slow cooker on Monday and just let them cook. Then, I removed the skin and bones and shredded the meat. I reserved 2 cups of meat for this soup, and froze the rest in a freezer bag. Perfect for a future soup or casserole! I also strained all the juices left in the crock pot and put the container of stock in the refrigerator.

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Tuesday around lunchtime, I put the soup together in the slow cooker. Here’s what I used:

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2 cups chicken broth (I skimmed the fat off the top of my refrigerated stock and added hot water to make 2 cups)

2 cups shredded cooked chicken

1 medium can tomato sauce (you can used crushed tomatoes, but I don’t like tomato chunks!)

1 can enchilada sauce

2 small cans green chiles

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 can corn, including the liquid from the can

1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, finely diced

2 Tbsp. cilantro

2 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

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Just dump everything into the slow cooker, put on the lid, and cook it on high for 3 to 4 hours, or low 6 to 8 hours. My slow cooker also has a “warm” setting, which is great. The soup was ready before we left for football practice, so I just turned it to low, and it was perfect when we got home.

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Traditionally, tortilla soup is served with toasted strips of corn tortillas. Why not make things easy? I used slightly crushed tri-color tortilla chips, and also added a sprinkle of cheese. You could add sour cream if you like. I made this soup to be on the mild side, since my youngest doesn’t love spicy food. You can certainly pump up the spice factor by adding more peppers or hot sauce.

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Sometimes it’s hard to get kids on board with just soup for supper, but all three of my boys cleaned their bowls and said they loved the soup! It was nice to come home from a busy afternoon and evening and sit down together at the table with a warm, hearty meal that was waiting for us.

 

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September 26, 2011

Muffin tin apple pies

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My oldest son, Jake, is a very good eater, and happily eats just about everything I fix. He rarely asks for any food in particular, so when he does ask, I usually make whatever he wants. This week, he wanted apple pie. Apple pie it is.

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I happened to have a fruit bowl full of apples, and a couple of refrigerated pie crusts, so I set out to work. I wanted to make mini pies so they could take extras in their lunches. I didn’t have any mini pie pans, but I did have a muffin tin. I found a cup that was about an inch wider than the muffin cups, and used it to cut out circles, then pressed them into the bottom of the muffin cups and up around the sides. A double-crust box of dough was just enough to make 12 mini pies, with enough dough left over to cut out stars with a mini cookie cutter for the tops.

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Here’s how I made the filling:

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8 apples, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces (smaller than for a normal-sized pie)

Lemon juice, if needed (I had Jonathan apples on hand, so added some lemon juice to make them more tart)

1/2 cup sugar

1 Tbsp. flour

1 tsp. apple pie spice

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Toss all the ingredients together and fill the crust-lined muffin tins. Top with the dough cut-outs, sprinkle with a little sugar, and bake at 425 degrees F. for 30 minutes.

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These little pies turned out so cute, and they couldn’t have been easier. You can use canned pie filling to make these pies easier still! They also make portion control easier. There’s no way a pie would be cut into 12 pieces in my house, but with the same amount of ingredients, we had 12 mini pies. They’re also the perfect size for lunchboxes, so Jake and his brothers are happy campers!

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September 14, 2011

Easy chicken tetrazzini

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As you know, I pack a lot of sack lunches for my boys. I let them choose one hot lunch a week, but send a homemade lunch the rest of the time. Since they are normal kids, they generally choose pizza day or chili and cinnamon roll day to eat at school. But for some reason, when chicken tetrazzini is on the menu, that is their choice, hands down.

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They love the school tetrazzini so much that Luke even asked Mrs. Gillespie, the school cook, for the recipe. She is a very nice woman, and always has a kind word for the kids as they go through the lunch line. She shared the recipe with Luke, who of course shared it with me. I made a few changes since I’m cooking for five people instead of 150, and made a few substitutions to fit the ingredients in my pantry.

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This quick and easy version of chicken tetrazzini can be whipped up in no time, so it’s perfect for busy school nights. I had a quart-sized bag full of cooked, chunked chicken in the freezer, so I put it in the fridge to thaw the night before. Having cooked meat in the freezer is such a great time-saver. If you’re browning a pound of ground beef for a recipe, go ahead and brown two pounds, and freeze half. Or if you’re making baked chicken for dinner, double the amount, then cut up the leftovers and throw them in the freezer. It doesn’t take much extra effort, but saves a lot of time in the long run.

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For my tetrazzini, I broke 16 ounces of spaghetti into 3-inch pieces. Instead of boiling it in plain water, I added a couple of chicken bouillon cubes to the pan. You could use chicken stock, but the cubes work well and are so easy and inexpensive. The pasta was then cooked according to the directions on the box, but before draining, I reserved a few cups of the broth.

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The drained spaghetti pieces went into a large bowl, and I added 2 cans of condensed cream of mushroom soup. I used one can of low-fat, and one can of garlic-flavored cream of mushroom, and folded them into the pasta. Then, I added the quart-sized bag of cooked, chopped chicken (turkey would also work well), 1-1/2 cups of shredded cheese (I used my favorite, Colby Jack) and 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, and stirred to combine.

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Here’s where the reserved broth comes in. Add it as needed to the mixture to get a moist, creamy consistency. You’ll just have to play it by ear depending on how the mixture looks. If your family likes mushrooms or peas in their tetrazzini, go ahead and stir them in now.

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Pour the creamy pasta mixture into a greased casserole dish. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of grated cheese over the top, and another 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan. Then crush 1/2 sleeve of round rich crackers and sprinkle them on top. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 35 minutes or until bubbly.

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The kids loved my easy version of Mrs. Gillespie’s chicken tetrazzini. Give it a try!

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September 6, 2011

Brownie cupcakes

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Today is my oldest son Jake’s 10th birthday. My policy is that I will make absolutely any treat their little hearts desire for my boys to take to school on their birthdays. Jake was torn between brownies and cupcakes, so I surprised him with … brownie cupcakes!

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In fact, this is birthday week at my house. My middle son Luke had his 8th birthday on Saturday, and my youngest, Will, turns 6 on Friday. Luke took s’mores bars for his treat, and now that Will has seen the brownie cupcakes, he wants them for his birthday as well. And so it shall be.

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These treats really are the perfect combination of brownies and cupcakes. The tops get crinkly like brownies, and they don’t need any frosting. They’re chewy like brownies, but in easy-to-serve cupcake form. Perfect for, say, taking to school!

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Give these a try … you won’t be sorry!

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1-1/2 cups butter or margarine suited for baking

1-1/2 cups chocolate chips

6 eggs

2-1/4 cups sugar

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla

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In a saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate chips over low heat, stirring until smooth. Let cool slightly. If you like nuts in your brownies, add 1-1/2 cups or so of walnuts or pecans to the chocolate mixture. Jake doesn’t, so I didn’t.

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In a large bowl, combine the eggs, flour, sugar, and vanilla. Fold in the chocolate mixture.

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Fill cupcake tins (I sprayed mine with a non-stick spray for baking) about 3/4 full, and bake at 325 degrees F., for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on wire racks.

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This recipe made 2 dozen cupcakes, and I had just enough batter left over to fill a tin that makes a dozen mini donuts. We ate the donuts for dessert, and sent the cupcakes to school with Jake!

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September 4, 2011

PB&J French toast

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As you know, I love breakfast. Any excuse to make pancakes or French toast, and I’m in. So when my friend Ginger mentioned making PB&J French toast for her boys, Jake and Josh, I knew I had to make it for my boys! What a great idea!

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Basically, I just made PB&J sandwiches, dipped them in a bowl of eggs beaten with a little milk and cinnamon, and toasted them in a skillet sprayed with non-stick spray.

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This is another one of those “I can’t believe I didn’t think of this” recipes. So easy and so simple, yet so good! The peanut butter and jelly were gooey and melted, and ran out of the middle of the toasted sandwiches. All I put on top was a sprinkle of powdered sugar, and that’s all they needed. The kids went crazy for this breakfast, and I loved it too!

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September 1, 2011

Easy slow cooker chicken and rice

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My husband came home from the store the other day with three 10-pound bags of frozen chicken hindquarters. They were on sale. We have a big freezer on our back porch that’s full of meat, and now we have a bunch of chicken to go with the hog and half beef we split with our neighbor. Now … what to do with all of that chicken?

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Now that the kids are back in school, it’s feeling like fall, even though it’s still nice and warm. That puts me in the mood for using the slow cooker!

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I used my 5-quart cooker, and sprayed the whole thing with non-stick spray. Then I shook some garlic powder on both sides of half of the frozen hindquarters and just popped them in the cooker and turned in on high. This was about 11:00 a.m. (If you start cooking first thing in the morning, just set the slow cooker on low instead of high, and your meat will be ready by dinnertime.)

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Around 4:30, the house started to smell really amazing. I checked on the chicken, and there was a ton of liquid in the cooker, and the meat was done. I dumped in a bunch of quick-cooking rice, eyeballing the amount based on the amount of liquid that was in the cooker.

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An hour later, dinner was served. It smelled and tasted great, and it couldn’t possibly have been any easier The chicken was moist and tender, and the rice had soaked up all of that chicken stock and garlic powder.

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The next day, I cooked the rest of the bag of chicken in the slow cooker, this time without the rice, and with a sprinkling of Italian seasoning. When the chicken was cooked, I removed the skin and bones, and cut the meat up into bite-sized pieces and froze it. I also strained the liquid that was left in the pot and froze it. This stock and meat will be great in a soup or casserole later this fall!

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August 15, 2011

Easy blueberry blintzes

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I’ve been on a breakfast kick lately. It’s probably because I’m about to send my three little boys back to school, and our lazy mornings together will soon be replaced by rushed breakfasts and frantic searches for shoes and backpacks before the bus comes. Today, I tried something new, and the boys were very pleased … so was I!

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I love the blintzes they serve at those pancake restaurants, but I’d never tried making them until today. I found a recipe for crepes in my trusty Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, made a few adjustments, and whipped up a filling that would use some of those blueberries I still have in my fridge. 

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Cinnamon crepes

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3/4 cup milk

1 cup flour

1/3 tsp. cinnamon

1 egg

1/2 Tbsp. oil

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Beat these ingredients together well., until the lumps are gone. Heat a lightly greased 6-inch skillet. Remove from heat and reduce temperature to medium-low. Pour a small amount of batter into the center of the pan (I used a 1/8 cup scoop), then immediately begin swirling the pan in circles to cover it with batter. This may take a few tries before you get it down pat. Return to the burner, and cook until the bottom begins to turn brown and the top is cooked (dry to the touch). Flip onto a plate and cover with a paper towel. Do not cook the second side of the crepe. Repeat. This recipe makes about 8 crepes.

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Easy blueberry-cream cheese filling

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For the filling, microwave 8 ounces of cream cheese until very soft, about 1 minute. Stir in 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar. Fold in 1/2 cup of fresh blueberries.

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Spread some filling into each crepe and roll. Hold the crepe shut using a little cream cheese as “glue”. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Enjoy!

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August 14, 2011

Taboule salad

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Taboule (also spelled tabouleh, tabbouleh, tabbouli, or any combination thereof) is a Middle Eastern dish that also fits right in with Mediterranean cooking. It’s basically a bulgar wheat salad with lemon juice, olive oil, mint, garlic, and other herbs and spices. It’s traditionally made with cucumbers and tomatoes. The texture and flavor reminds me of couscous, which I also love.

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You can find quick-cooking taboule in the grocery store near the rice and couscous. The box contains the bulgar and a delicious assortment of herbs and spices. Prepare the taboule according to the directions, then make it your own.

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For my lunchtime taboule salad, I added 1/2 can of rinsed garbanzo beans (chick peas), 3/4 cup sliced fresh mushrooms, 1/2 cup chopped cucumber, a few teaspoons of olive oil, and a tomato-basil marinated grilled chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces. Then I sprinkled about 1/2 cup of tomato basil Feta cheese crumbles over the top.

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Serve this salad cold, and store leftovers in the fridge. They are just as good, if not better, the next day! You could leave out the chicken and serve this as a side dish for fish, lamb, or just about any meat. It’s fun to try new foods, so pick up a box of taboule and see what you think!

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