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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January 4, 2012

Chili-corn bread salad

This year, we went to my brother- and sister-in-law’s house in Kansas City for Christmas. Rather than having a big, sit-down dinner, we decided on a spread of appetizers and salads we could just snack on throughout the day. You might call it grazing. There was so much good food, but one of my favorite things there was a unique, delicious chili-corn bread salad Katrina made. I had never had anything like it, and boy was it good. I brought some leftovers home, and they were just as good the next day! She was kind enough to share the recipe.

1 package (8 1/2 oz.) corn bread/muffin mix
1 can (4 oz.) chopped green chilies, undrained
1/8 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. ground oregano
Pinch rubbed sage
1 1/4 cups mayonnaise
1 1/4 cups sour cream
1 envelope powdered ranch salad dressing mix
2 cans (15 oz. each) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans (15 1/4 oz. each) whole kernel corn, drained
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 bunch chopped green onions
15 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
3 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

Prepare corn bread batter according to package directions. Stir in the can of chilies, cumin, oregano, and sage. Spread in a greased 8×8″ baking dish and bake at 400 degrees F. for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool.

Combine mayonnaise, sour cream, and ranch dressing mix; set aside.

Crumble half the corn bread into bite-sized or smaller pieces and spread on the bottom of a 13x9x2″ dish. Top that layer with half the beans, mayonnaise mixture, corn, tomatoes, pepper, onions, bacon, and cheese. Repeat layers. Dish will be very full. Cover and refrigerate for two hours before serving.

Give this tasty dish a try … it makes a delicious meatless meal, but you could add browned ground taco meat to make it a main dish. I’ll definitely be making this a part of my regular rotation. Thanks, Katrina!

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December 13, 2011

Gingerbread (ninjabread) men

You just can’t have Christmas without gingerbread men! A few months ago, I happened across a website that was selling gingerbread man cookie cutters in the shape of ninjas. Ninjabread men! They came in three different shapes, and I have three little ninjas myself, so of course I had to order them! They are a hoot!

I keep the baked, undecorated cookies in a sealed container, next to a tub containing cookie icing in a tube (hey, it’s easy and I’m busy), candy eyeballs, and tons of sprinkles. When the boys are in the mood for a ninjabread cookie, they sit down at the table and decorate them one at a time. This way, the fun lasts for days, and nobody gets burned out decorating dozens of cookies at once.

There are plenty of gingerbread cookie recipes out there, but why mess with perfection? Here’s the recipe from our sister site,

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup 50% to 70% vegetable oil spread
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup full-flavor molasses
1/4 cup refrigerated or frozen egg product, thawed, or 1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour or whole wheat flour

In a large bowl, combine butter and vegetable oil spread; beat with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and cloves. Beat until well mixed, scraping side of bowl occasionally. Beat in molasses and egg. (Mixture will look curdled.) Add all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour, beating just until combined. Divide dough in half. Cover and chill the dough for 2 to 3 hours or until easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper; set aside. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough, half at a time, to 1/8-inch thickness. Using a 2- to 3-inch gingerbread person cookie cutter, cut out shapes; reroll scraps as necessary. Place cutouts 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 4 to 6 minutes or until edges are firm and centers are set. Cool on cookie sheets on wire racks for 1 minute. Transfer to wire racks; cool.

Dough can be made ahea of time and frozen.

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December 13, 2011

Peppermint bark

I’ve been on a peppermint kick lately, thanks to some peppermint mocha coffee creamer I’ve become addicted to. It’s so tasty in my coffee, with a little candy cane stir-stick. So yummy! I was flipping through a catalog and saw some really delicious looking (but expensive!!) peppermint bark. I figured I could make some myself with ingredients I had on hand.

I would have preferred dark chocolate or even semi-sweet, but I’m running dangerously low on chocolate chips, and I live too far away from the store to just run into town for chocolate. What I did have was a bunch of milk chocolate bars in the freezer. I melted 8 regular-sized bars in a double boiler and spread the melted chocolate onto a cookie sheet covered with wax paper. Then it went into the freezer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, I melted a 14-ounce bag of white candy chips (the kind they sell in the cake decorating section, specifically for making molded candies). Then I added 1/4 tsp. of peppermint extract and mixed it in. (Don’t overdo the peppermint extract … a little bit goes a long way!) Finally, I added a few drops of red food coloring, and just barely mixed it, so the melted candy had a swirled look to it.

I poured the peppermint mixture on top of the layer of chocolate, and spread it around with a spatula. Then I sprinkled 1/2 cup of peppermint chips (found in the chocolate chip section at the store) over the top, and went over the whole thing with several different types of Christmas sprinkles I had on hand.

The whole thing went into the refrigerator until it was set, and then I broke it into pieces. This was such a simple treat to make, but it’s really tasty, and the kids loved it! I’m thinking Santa might like a little of this left on his plate of goodies Christmas Eve.

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December 11, 2011

Magic cookie bars

Magic cookie bars are an old-fashioned favorite. They’re so rich and delicious, and even better, they’re easy! Make them your own by using dark chocolate instead of semi-sweet chocolate chips, or add peanut butter or butterscotch chips to the mix!

1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (I like to use chocolate graham crackers!)
14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1-1/3 cups flaked coconut
1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans are good in these bars)

Combine graham cracker crumbs and melted butter or margarine. Press into the bottom of a greased 13×9″ baking pan. Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over the crumb base. Spread chocolate chips, coconut, and nuts evenly in layers over the top. Press down firmly with a fork or spatula.

Bake at 350 degrees F. (or 325 if using a glass dish) for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely, then cut into bars. Enjoy!

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December 10, 2011

Super easy stuffed mushrooms

Stuffed mushrooms are so delicious, but some recipes are so labor-intensive that it hardly seems worth the effort. The other night, we treated ourselves to a “steakhouse Saturday night.” We stayed home, but fixed ourselves and our kids a yummy steakhouse-style dinner. We went all out, and had a great night! Jayson grilled steaks, we had a yummy salad, baked potatoes, sauteed onions and mushrooms, and for an appetizer, stuffed mushrooms. I made them the easy way, though! Here’s how:

18 whole mushrooms
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
8-ounce package cream cheese, softened (you can use a low-fat or fat-free variety)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
2 tsp. olive oil
1 cup Panko bread crumbs (or you can use regular bread crumbs or round rich cracker crumbs)

Remove stems from mushrooms, and hollow them out a bit to make room for the stuffing. Slice off hardened ends and discard.  Dice the rest of the mushroom stems. Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a skillet. Add garlic and diced mushroom stems, and fry until cooked through, but be careful not to burn. Let cool.

Stir garlic and mushrooms into cream cheese. Add Parmesan cheese, pepper, onion powder, and cayenne pepper. Use a spoon to scoop the mixture into the mushroom caps.

Mix bread crumbs and 2 tsp. olive oil together until well combined. Take the stuffed mushroom caps, flip them over, and dip the cream-cheese side into the Panko mixture. (This is so much easier than sprinkling the crumbs over the top!) Place mushrooms on a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees, or until liquid starts to form under the mushrooms.

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December 9, 2011

Cranberry meatballs

This year for Thanksgiving, I made my friend Ginger’s recipe for cranberry meatballs. They were so easy, and were a huge hit! For the Prater family Christmas Eve gathering, we’re doing a spread of appetizers instead of a sit-down meal, which is an idea I love. Lots of yummy little bites. I’ll be making these little gems again!

This recipe makes 50 to 60 meatballs, so it’s perfect for holiday parties. You can also freeze the meatballs either before or after they are cooked.


2 lbs. ground beef
1/3 cup parsley flakes
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
2 Tbsp. minced onion
1 cup cornflake crumbs
2 eggs
1/2 cup ketchup


1 can cranberry sauce with whole cranberries
12-oz. bottle chili sauce
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

In a large mixing bowl, combine Meatball ingredients until well mixed. Form into golf-ball-sized meatballs and put in lightly greased baking pans. Bake at 350 degrees F. for about 30 minutes, or until cooked through.

While meatballs are baking, combine Sauce ingredients in saucepan. Heat over low heat until jellied sauce and brown sugar melt. Stir frequently.

Place baked meatballs in slow cooker. Pour sauce over meatballs, and gently stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 2 hours or until the sauce is bubbly. Turn the cooker down to the warm setting, and serve with toothpicks or festive party picks!

NOTE: You can change up the meat used in these meatballs however you’d like. Use ground turkey, ground pork, half turkey and half beef, or whatever you have on hand. Also, if you’re worried about the meatballs being too spicy with the chili sauce, you can use a 10 3/4-oz. can of condensed tomato soup in its place, mixed 1 tsp. prepared mustard.

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October 30, 2011

Cake pop mania!

Cake pops are all the rage these days. Generally, people make them by crumbling a baked cake into a large bowl and mixing the crumbs with a can of frosting, then scooping the mixture into balls and coating with almond bark. They’re delicious and so cute, but that’s a lot of work. That’s why I was so excited to find a cake pop maker. This countertop appliance turns ordinary cake batter into perfect little balls in 4 minutes. It does a dozen at a time, and I’ve found most cake mixes make just shy of 5 dozen balls.

All you have to do is add a stick and some candy or chocolate coating, and you’re all set! I have been going nuts with my new cake pop maker. So far I’ve made three different types of cake, just using a mix, and they turned out great. I’ve also made pancakes and muffins (shown at right) from a mix. I generally like to make things like this from scratch, but the mixes are so handy on busy school days. I can make the kids hot pancake balls or muffin balls for a super quick breakfast, and they’re excited to come home and have fresh cake pops waiting for a snack. My next project is to use a baking mix, grated cheese and mini pepperoni slices to make a savory pizza-flavored pop, which the kids can dunk in pizza sauce.

I went to a Halloween party over the weekend, and the cake pops were a hit. I made pumpkin spice balls, added sticks, coated them with white almond bark, and set them in the refrigerator to firm up. Then I used food coloring markers to paint them like eyeballs, and stuck them in a cardboard cake pop holder I found at the store. I also made devil’s food cake balls, coated them with melted chocolate, and sprinkled orange sugar on top. They looked and tasted great!

Speaking of Halloween, here’s a peek at the spooky school lunch I packed for my three sons:

They each got a jack-o-lantern PB&J sandwich with gummy worms (or are they?!?) crawling out of it, a mini banana “finger”, cake pop “eyeballs” and pretzels with candy corn and a pumpkin spice marshmallow stabbed with a sword. They also got a blood bag (juice pouch with blood label) and a Halloween card in their lunch bags. FUN!

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October 14, 2011

Swiss steak roast

My boys take their lunches to school, except for one day a week when they get to eat hot lunch. I read them the menu at the beginning of the week, and they carefully weigh their options. When Swiss steak is on the menu, however, there’s no need to even consider the other options. That’s what they want.

I’ve never made Swiss steak, but decided to give it a try for them. I got a chuck roast out of the freezer, and my plan was to let it thaw a bit and slice it into steaks, then cook it in sauce. I decided to take the easy way out, however, and just threw the frozen roast (it was about 2.5 pounds) into my slow cooker, which was treated with non-stick spray. I love being able to put a frozen roast into the slow cooker at breakfast and having a hot juicy meal ready at suppertime.

I had a ton of carrots in my refrigerator, so I cleaned and cut them into chunks and tossed them into the slow cooker as well, around the roast. Then, I opened a pack of dried onion soup mix and sprinkled it over the top of the roast.

For the sauce, I combined a small can of tomato sauce, a small can of condensed tomato soup, 1 soup can of water, 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce, and 2 Tbsp. steak sauce. I used a Vidalia onion steak sauce. I poured the sauce over the top of everything, sprinkled some Italian seasoning over it all, and turned the slow cooker on high.

This all came together around 9:00 a.m., and by 5:30 p.m., we were eating a roast that tasted like Swiss steak. I made some mashed potatoes, but it would be good served over pasta as well. The kids loved it, and my husband said the sauce was just like his mom used to make. It was nice to eat a roast that was a little different than the usual plain old meat, carrots and potatoes. This one was a hit, and I’ll definitely be making it again!


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October 7, 2011

Apple pancakes

It’s apple season! I picked up a bunch of red, gold and green apples the other day, and the same day, my husband stopped and got a few more bags. So we have an over-abundance of apples at my house. It was fun slicing the different varieties up and letting the kids taste the difference. We love them dipped in caramel, and they’ve been taking lots of apples in their lunches. I’m also planning to make some apple butter in the slow cooker.

We decided to have breakfast for dinner last night, and I wanted to use up some of our apples. I found a recipe for apple pancakes, but the batter turned out to be much more like a crepe than a pancake, and they weren’t exactly what I wanted. Still, I love the idea of apple pancakes, so I wanted to include it in the blog anyway.

Wash, core, and thinly slice your apples, then dip in your favorite pancake batter. Melt butter in a skillet. Using a fork, lift apple rings out of the batter and place into the hot skillet. Flip when browned on the bottom.

Sometimes things don’t go exactly as planned in the kitchen, but that’s OK. Even with the less-than-stellar batter recipe I tried, the apples were pretty good, and the kids enjoyed them. We also cooked up some sausage patties, and enjoyed making little sandwiches with a patty in between two apple pancakes. Yum!

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September 30, 2011

Macaroni and cheese muffins


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!


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!


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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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