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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February 26, 2013

The Prater pile

Last summer, my husband and I and our boys spent a lot of time in the boat, and we caught a whole lot of catfish. We enjoyed fish fry after fish fry during the summer, and still wound up with an entire shelf in our big freezer full of big catfish fillets. Lately, we have been having a whole lot of winter weather, and it seems like spring and summer will never come. Time to thaw out some of that catfish and get a taste of summer!

Every year for the Daytona 500, we go to my parents' house and have a little party with a few cousins and friends. We eat and watch the race, and just have a fun day. My parents made chili and barbecue pulled pork this year, but Jayson wanted catfish, too. He fried several nuggets and fillets in a big pot on the side burner on my dad's grill. Never mind that it was 31 degrees out. When it's 31 degrees in Iowa in February and the sun is shining, it feels about 30 degrees warmer than it is. (Here's how we make our fish fry coating.)

A while back, one of Jayson's friends kidded him that he was going to open a catfish restaurant and name a sandwich after him. That got his wheels spinning, and he came up with this sandwich, which he named "The Prater Pile." Seems fitting! Here's what's on it, from bottom to top:

  • Bun or hoagie
  • Tartar sauce
  • Fried catfish
  • Slice of sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 2 slices crispy bacon
  • Cole slaw (preferably my mom's homemade slaw!)
  • Hot sauce
  • Tartar sauce
  • Bun

There you have it! I have to admit, Jayson's sandwich was delicious. Yes, it's definitely a "sometimes food," but it was super tasty! Here's Jayson frying fish in my parents' driveway, with a pile of snow behind him. Bring on spring!

February 21, 2013

Yummy chocolate oatmeal bars

Here in south-central Iowa, we are in the middle of a snowstorm that is expected to leave us with 9 inches of the white stuff on the ground by morning. The kids got out of school early, and are excited about the very high likelihood of a snow day tomorrow. It's cold outside, and we had an extra long afternoon, so of course I had to make a warm treat! I asked the boys what they were hungry for, and they just said, "something yummy." Well, that narrows it down! I went back to the cookbook I always go to when I want comfort food from my childhood: The Lemmon, South Dakota, Church of God Golden Jubilee cookbook from 1979. It's full of recipes by women who are my family members, and who were my neighbors and friends growing up in Shadehill, just south of Lemmon. Incidentally, the snow we are receiving now would barely make the folks in that part of South Dakota blink.

As I browsed through the "Cookies and Bars" section of the cookbook, the very last entry caught my eye. "Yummy chocolate oatmeal bars." Well, that sounded like it would fit my boys' request of "something yummy". I gave it a try, and the title did not disappoint! The bars were indeed yummy! They were like a delicious oatmeal cookie with a warm pudding filling. My only regret is that we didn't have any vanilla ice cream to go with them. That would have been perfect! (Maybe tomorrow we'll make snow ice cream!)

Yummy chocolate oatmeal bars

3/4 cup butter or margarine suitable for baking
1 cup brown sugar
1 3/4 cup oats
1 3/4 cup flour
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda

6 oz. chocolate chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. butter or margarine

Mix crust ingredients together. Spread 1/2 to 2/3 of the crust mixture into the bottom of a greased 9x13" baking dish. Reserve the remaining mixture.

In a heavy pot over low heat, melt together the filling ingredients, stirring until smooth. Pour over the crust in the pan.

Dot the remaining crust mix over the top of the chocolate layer, distributing it evenly.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top layer of crust is golden and cooked through. Let cool slightly before cutting. Enjoy warm with ice cream. (If you're lucky enough to have some!)

February 17, 2013

Southern Comfort Balls

When I was growing up, we spent every Christmas Eve with my Aunt Mary, Uncle Ned, and cousins Jennifer and Allyson. Ned is my mom's brother, and we all had some lively times together. There was always lots of laughter, and tons of delicious food. My Aunt Mary is famous for her Christmas Eve spread, complete with peanut butter, chocolate, and butterscotch (my favorite!) fudge; plus bourbon balls, rum balls, and every type of delicious Christmas treat you can imagine. Once the girls grew up, they started making their mom's goodies too, and did an amazing job.

Recently, I had occasion to take a stab at Aunt Mary's bourbon balls. There was an announcement at work that the staffs of Living the Country Life, Successful Farming, and Wood magazines would be having their annual Mardi Gras potluck. Since I work primarily from home, I hadn't ever made it in for this get-together before, but the stars aligned perfectly this year, and I had a meeting to come to on the day of the potluck. Yay!

I decided that since Bourbon Street is a famous New Orleans landmark, bourbon balls would be a natural fit! My mom tracked down my Aunt Mary's recipe, and I was surprised to find out that she didn't use bourbon at all, but Southern Comfort. Luckily, we had some lying around! I couldn't believe how easy these delicious treats were to make. I thought this occasion warranted the use of my Meredith tin, pictured above, which was part of a gift to employees on our company's 100th birthday celebration. It held 4 dozen balls perfectly (I doubled the recipe below). I was very happy with the way they turned out, and I have to say, they tasted a whole lot like Aunt Mary's! One difference, though, is that she rolls her bourbon balls in granulated sugar, and I went with powdered sugar. Either way, you can't go wrong!

Aunt Mary's Rum Bourbon Southern Comfort Balls

This recipe makes 2 dozen 1" balls

6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup Southern Comfort, bourbon, rum, or liqueur of your choice
3 Tbsp. light corn syrup
2 1/2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 cup sifted confectioner's (powdered) sugar
Granuated or powdered sugar for rolling

In a large bowl, mix together wafer crumbs, pecans, and 1/2 cup powdered sugar.

In a double-boiler over boiling water, combine chocolate chips, liquor, and corn syrup, stirring until melted and smooth.

Pour chocolate mixture over dry mixture and mix well. (Don't be afraid to use your hands to get the chocolate mixture distributed throughout all the dry mixture if necessary.) Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Using a mini ice cream scoop or spoon, scoop about a 1" diameter ball of the mixture. Use your hands to form it into a ball, and roll it in between your hands until smooth. Toss or roll in granulated or powdered sugar. Repeat until finished. This recipe makes around 2 dozen balls, and it can be made into a double batch.

Store finished balls in a covered container at room temperature. They taste even better after a few days, so they're perfect for parties or holidays because you can make them ahead of time! Aunt Mary says they freeze very well, too. Just skip the last step of rolling on powdered or granulated sugar, place balls on a baking sheet to freeze, then store in a freezer bag. A few days before you want to serve them, thaw, roll in sugar, and store, covered, at room temperature.

I think the Southern Comfort balls were a hit at the potluck. Everyone seemed to enjoy them and I got lots of compliments, anyway! The food was amazing ... we had remoulade, etouffe, jumbalaya, gumbo, muffaleta, king cake, and all the Mardi Gras fixings! My co-worker, Tracey Kelley, in the middle of the photo, was nice enough to organize the potluck, and it just so happened that Mardi Gras fell on her birthday this year!

 Laissez les bon temps rouler!!

January 28, 2013

Waffle breakfast casserole

When you try a recipe from our sister site, Better Homes and Gardens, you KNOW it's going to be good! I have had the pleasure of visiting the BHG Test Kitchen on several occasions, and I am telling you, the folks who work there know what they're doing! It's incredible! When I saw this recipe on their site, I knew I had to make it for my boys. They LOVE frozen toaster waffles, so I thought it would be fun to make them with a twist!

The best thing is that the work is all done the night before. I mixed this up last night, set my alarm for 5:00, got up and threw the casserole in the oven, and went back to bed until 6:00. When I woke up, the house smelled amazing and breakfast was ready. You can't beat that! The casserole was a hit, and I'll definitely be making it again! This would be a fun one to serve the morning after the kids have a sleep-over, or when family is visiting overnight.

1 pound bulk pork sausage
6 frozen waffles, toasted and cubed
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (4 ounces)
6 eggs
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Frozen waffles, toasted (optional)
Maple-flavored syrup or pure maple syrup (optional)

In a large skillet cook sausage until brown. Drain off fat. (I did this a couple of days ago when I was cooking sausage for something else, cutting my work in half!)

Arrange 3 of the toasated, cubed waffles in a 2-quart rectangular baking dish. Top with half of the sausage and about 1/3 cup of the cheese. Repeat layers. (I actually used a 2 1/2-quart baking dish, so I used 8 waffles total, to cover each layer completely.)

In a large bowl beat eggs with a fork; stir in milk, mustard, and pepper. Pour over layers in dish. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Uncover and bake in preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes or until a knife inserted near center comes out clean. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 cup cheese. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. If desired, serve on toasted waffles and drizzle with maple syrup. (I highly recommend this last step!) This makes about 8 servings.

January 28, 2013

Idaho omelettes

Here is yet another creative meal inspired by Pinterest! If you aren't on this wonderful pinboard site, I recommend it! Take a look at the Living the Country Life Pinterest page and follow us for all kinds of great tips for country living! This is a super simple idea that can be customized based on what you like or have on hand.

I made a quick casserole the other night, and threw 5 baking potatoes in the oven at the same time, specifically for breakfast the next day. If you make baked potatoes with your steaks, this is a great way to use up leftovers! Here's how:

1 baked potato per person
1 egg per person
Shredded cheese (I used Cheddar)
Cooked crumbled bacon, sausage, ham, Canadian bacon, or meat of your choice (I used leftover sausage links and chopped them up)
Green onions, bell peppers, spinach, or veggies of your choice, diced
Butter, optional
Salt and pepper to taste

Slice the very top off of the baked potatoes, and hollow them out with a spoon, leaving enough potato to hold the shell together, at least 1/4 inch. Save the scooped out potatoes for another meal! Brush the inside of the potato with melted butter if you'd like. (I didn't do this, but it certainly couldn't hurt!)

Sprinkle a little cheese into the bottom of each potato shell. Add cooked meat and diced veggies. Each person can choose the toppings he or she likes, for a custom breakfast!

Crack an egg into each potato shell. Top with salt and pepper.

Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees F. for about 20 minutes, depending on how you like your eggs done. I cooked ours until the yolk was still a little soft, but the whites were completely set. If there's one thing I can't stand, it's runny egg whites! Some people like that though, so just cook them until they look good to you!

The kids loved this breakfast, and came up with the name "Idaho omelettes" because it really is like an omelette in a potato. They just picked them up and ate them with their hands, which made for a quick and easy breakfast for a busy school day. From now on, whenever I'm making baked potatoes, I'll throw 5 extras in the oven so we can have these the next morning!


January 23, 2013

Apple bars

Buying apples by the bag or bushel can mean a good deal at the market, but then what do you do with all those apples? After we each eat a few, we're ready for something different. Making these bars is a great way to use those apples! My mom made these the other night for our Cub Scout Pack's Pinewood Derby, and they were a huge hit. These bars are moist and tasty, and you'll love them!


2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
1-1/2 cups diced apple
1-1/2 cups walnuts, finely chopped
Powdered sugar for top of bars

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a large cookie sheet with sides or a jellyroll pan. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon; set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together melted butter, brown sugar, and white sugar with a wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in the beaten egg and vanilla. Blend in the flour mixture until just combined. Stir in the apples and walnuts. Mixture will be very stiff. Spread into prepared pan using a buttered silicone spatula.

Bake 20 - 25 minutes , until the bars are golden brown and spring back when lightly touched. Sift powdered sugar over top of bars after removing from oven. Let bars cool in the pan. Cut in squares. Makes 48 bars.

January 14, 2013


My boys love pancakes, and they love muffins, and they love it when they get to add their own toppings to things. That makes these tasty little breakfasts just perfect! They're part pancake, part muffin, so my boys decided to call them "puffins" ... although they also considered naming them pupcakes, since they could be considered part pancake and part cupcake. They like puffins though, so puffins it is!

This couldn't be easier, and it's quick enough that I can actually make it before school on a busy morning, giving my boys a hot breakfast they love before they head out into the cold to wait for the bus. And since the puffins have maple syrup in them, you don't need to put syrup on them, so they'd also be great to take for an on-the-go breakfast.


1 cup baking mix or pancake mix
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine all ingredients. Spoon batter into 12 muffin tin cups treated with non-stick spray or lined with cupcake papers. This may not look like much batter in each cup, but they will rise quite a bit. (Or, rather, the puffins will PUFF up quite a bit!)

Top puffins with the ingredients of your choice. Absolutely any fruit will do. We used pomegranate arils, blueberries, and chocolate chips. You could use cooked, chopped up bacon or sausage, too! Let the kids top their own puffins! This is a great way to use up those leftover few pieces of bacon or sausage (unless you're at my house, where there's no such thing as leftover bacon or sausage). The photo above was taken just after we added our toppings, before baking the puffins.

Bake for 9-11 minutes, until puffins are puffed, and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Enjoy!

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January 10, 2013

Tasty little tassies

My mom recently made a big platter of tassies for a family get-together, and they were such a hit, I knew I had to blog them! She made four different flavors: chocolate fudge in a peanut butter cookie shell; and pecan, lemon, and raspberry in pie crust shells.

She has a small tassie-tamping-tool, and was nice enough to get me one, too. It's the perfect size for mini muffin pans. Just put in a piece of dough, press with the tamper, and you get perfectly shaped mini pie shells! These little treats would be perfect for tea parties, birthdays, potlucks, and, of course, school lunches!

Peanut butter-chocolate tassies

1/2 roll refrigerated peanut butter cookie dough (or you could use my peanut butter cookie recipe)
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a mini muffin or mini tart pan with non-stick spray. Place a rounded tablespoon of dough into each cup. Bake for 9 minutes until the edges are lightly browned and the dough is slightly firm, but not set.

Remove from oven. Using a tassie tamper or the back of a 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon, gently press a shallow indentation into each tart shell.

Bake 2 minutes longer, or until edges of tart shells are firm and light brown. Let cool in cups on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Carefully remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

For the filling, combine the chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk in a small saucepan. Cook and stir over low heat until the chocolate is melted. Spoon into the cookie shells and cool, allowing to set. Makes 24.

Pecan pie tassies


6 oz. cream cheese
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups all-purpose flour


1/8 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease or spray 30 mini tart tins or muffin cups.

To make crust, in a medium bowl, cream together cream cheese and 1 cup butter until light and fluffy. Blend in flour, 1/2 cup at a time, forming a smooth dough. Roll into 30 balls and press into each tart or muffin cup so it lines the bottom and sides like a pie crust.

For the filling, cream together 1/4 cup butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla until thoroughly blended. Stir in pecan. Fill each pie crust half full. It will rise as it bakes.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let cool in tins, then use the end of a table or paring knife to flip each tart out of its tin.

Lemon and raspberry tassies

2 cups flour
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. oil
6 Tbsp. ice water
Jar of lemon curd and/or seedless raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.For dough, mix flour, oil, and ice water until flour is no longer dry in the bowl. (This is enough dough for a double pie crust.)

Roll dough into rounded tablespoon-sized balls and place in mini muffin or tart pan cups. Press to cover the bottom and sides. You'll want it to be fairly thin, because the dough does puff up a bit.

Fill crusts with prepared lemon curd or raspberry jam. You could use any flavor of jam, really! Bake for 25 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let cool in tins, and remove with a knife.


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January 4, 2013

Bacon pancakes

My parents got me a new electric griddle for Christmas, and I couldn't wait to use it! I can fry an entire pound of bacon on it at once, which is revolutionary for me. And since my kids devour pancakes like they're going out of style, it is great to be able to make a whole stack at once, rather than only 3 or 4 at a time.

I saw this idea for bacon pancakes on Pinterest (follow Living the Country Life!) and knew I had to make it. Basically you just cook your bacon, then pour pancake batter over it and cook the cakes. Why didn't I think of that?!? The pin I saw showed entire strips of bacon, but I cut mine in half so they would basically be finger food for the kids. They like dipping their cakes in maple syrup.

I used my standard recipe for buttermilk pancakes, but you can use whatever recipe you like, or even use a mix! My kids went nuts for these, and will be demanding them on a regular basis from now on. As one of my boys said, "It's like the pancake is giving the bacon a hug."

January 2, 2013

Italian tortellini soup

We spent Christmas day at my parents' house, and enjoyed a relaxed, all-day buffet rather than a sit-down meal. We had bunches of cookies and candies, cheese and crackers, relish trays, and salads. It was all good. And in lieu of a turkey or ham, we had a pot of my dad's chili, and a pot of Italian tortellini soup that my mom made. Thankfully it made way more than she thought it would (she doubled this recipe), because that meant we got to take the leftovers home!

1 lb. Italian sausage
1 cup chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups beef broth
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup dry red wine
8 ounces fresh tortellini pasta
1 cup sliced carrots
2 cups stewed tomatoes
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
8 oz. tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups sliced zucchini
2 green bell peppers, seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
Parmesan cheese

Remove sausage from casings, if needed. Cook sausage, drain, and reserve 1 Tbsp. drippings.

In a large pot, sautee onion and garlic in the drippings until tender. Add broth, water, wine, carrots, tomatoes, basil, oregano, tomato sauce, and the sausage. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.

Add vegetables, parsley, and tortellini. Simmer another 25 minutes, covered. (If you are using frozen tortellini, simmer 45 minutes.) Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.