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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April 1, 2013

April Fools!

I love April Fool's Day! When I was a kid, my dad would fool me RELENTLESSLY on April 1, and it was so much fun. Now I get to fool my kids!

This morning, I made them green scrambled eggs by putting some blue food coloring in the bowl as I whisked the eggs and milk together. I didn't take a picture, because the bus comes just after 7:00, and mornings are a bit crazy at my house.

When the boys got home from school, they could smell brownies. I asked them if they wanted a brownie, then I opened up a pan and they saw this!

Ha! Brown EEEEEs! They thought that was pretty funny, but their laughter was followed immediately by fury at the lack of actual brownies. No worries, I had a pan baking in the oven!

I must say my oldest got me even better than I got him, though. When he first walked in the door, he looked really worried and upset, and told me that he had been suspended. Thank goodness that was an April Fool's prank!

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March 23, 2013

Coconut shrimp

Whenever I go to a certain seafood chain restaurant that rhymes with Fred Globster, I always get the coconut shrimp. There's something about the crunchiness of the coconut and the sweetness of the fruity dipping sauce that just makes me feel like it's summer and I'm someplace tropical.

For my husband's birthday, the boys and I got him a giant outdoor fryer. It's fairly huge, and can fry a turkey lying flat, or four fried chickens at once. It also came with two baskets for frying a couple of different things at once. As you know, we love fishing for catfish, and this little gadget will make it much easier to host a fish fry. We are looking forward to lots of tasty fried fish this summer, but we had to go ahead and try it out.

Today, as we were bracing for what is HOPEFULLY the last snowstorm of the season, we decided to fry ourselves some lunch. We made corn dogs and fries, and since I am in desperate need of sunshine and a tropical feeling, I tried coconut shrimp. I found a recipe on our sister site,, and customized it a bit. I have loved this site for years, so you can imagine how excited I was when Meredith purchased it! It's a great addition to our family of magazines and websites.

The coconut shrimp was delicious! It tasted every bit as good as in the restaurant, but we made a giant batch for around $6. You can't beat that!

If you live in an area where fresh shrimp is readily available, then lucky you! Use your fresh shrimp! I live in Iowa and it's a million degrees below zero, so I went with frozen. The shrimp I bought was precooked, peeled and deveined, but had the tails still on. Perfect for this dish.

Coconut shrimp

1 egg
1/2 cup flour
2/3 cup beer
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/3 cup flour
1 1/2 cup coconut
24 shrimp (I used 28 large shrimp, which came in a 12-oz. bag)
Oil for frying

Dipping sauce

Orange marmalade or apricot preserves
Orange juice

Clean and/or thaw shrimp, if necessary. In a medium bowl, combine egg, 1/2 cup flour, beer, and baking powder. Stir to combine. Put 1/4 cup flour in a small bowl, and coconut in a separate small bowl.

Dredge shrimp in flour. Shake off the excess flour.

Dip shrimp in batter, and allow the excess to drip off.

Dip in coconut to coat both sides. Place on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Repeat until all shrimp are covered. Place baking sheet in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Heat cooking oil to 350 degrees. Fry shrimp in small batches for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown. Drain on a platter lined with paper towels.

To make dipping sauce, spoon some of your favorite marmalade or preserves into a small bowl. Add orange juice, a little at a time, and stir well. Add juice as needed until it reaches a dipping consistency.

Put some Jimmy Buffett on the radio, pour yourself a margarita, and enjoy!


February 27, 2013

Potato chip cookies

Potato chip cookies? Are you kidding me? I had never heard of this before, but apparently moms and grandmas have been making these cookies for years. I was given this recipe by one of my cousins, and couldn't wait to give it a try. Today, my kids are home on another snow day. We wanted a treat this afternoon, and honestly they needed some time apart, so Luke helped me whip these up.

Let me say that I in no way recommend eating cookie dough or anything containing raw eggs. It is a terrible idea. But I am a dough hound and can't help myself. I am telling you, this cookie dough is the absolute best cookie dough I have ever tasted, with the possible exception of my grandma's snickerdoodle dough, and that is really saying something. When I was growing up, my mom couldn't even make noodles without me and my dad swiping bunches of dough. With dough this good, I knew the cookies would be great. 

We were so excited to try these, and they didn't disappoint! The cookies are thin and crispy, and the chips give them a nice extra crunch, and really add to the flavor. It's hard to describe, but I'm telling you they are good. Really good. Plus, crushing the chips is a great job for a kid. Luke went to town crushing them up, and he made sure we got the regular potato chips out of the pantry, not the sour cream and onion kind. "That would be a disaster," he said. The boys can't wait for their dad to get home, so we can give him a cookie and make him guess the secret ingredient!

Potato chip cookies

1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup butter or margarine suitable for baking, softened
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (or butterscotch chips, or nuts, or whatever you like)
2 cups crushed potato chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream together the sugars and butter or margarine. Add eggs and beat until combined.

Add baking soda and flour. Mix well.

Fold in potato chips and chocolate chips. (To be honest, I dumped everything in my stand mixer, in the order listed here, and mixed well between ingredients.)

Drop by teaspoon onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (I used my mini ice cream scoop). Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden brown.

February 26, 2013

Make snow ice cream!

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When life gives you snow, make snow ice cream!

I have been wanting to make snow ice cream all winter, and today, I finally did it! Both of my parents said their moms would make snow ice cream for them and their siblings on snowy Iowa winter days. My Aunt Carolyn said my Grandma Foust mixed milk, eggs, sugar, and vanilla into the snow. My Grandma Tilton likely used a similar recipe. I didn't want to use raw eggs, so I asked around and found several suggestions.  One friend said she uses just snow and as much sweetened condensed milk as needed. Another said her recipe calls for 4 cups of snow, 1 cup of milk or cream, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. I combined the two for my first attempt, and it worked out well!

Keep in mind making this really isn't a science. You have to adjust your ingredients based on how your ice cream tastes, and the consistency you want. 

First, you need a big bowl of clean, freshly fallen snow. We had a bunch of unexpected snow this morning (it's still falling!), so my boys got out of school early. Perfect! Luke and Will went outside with a big mixing bowl and a measuring cup after lunch, and filled the bowl with snow. They assured me it was clean. I took their word for it.

I gave the ice cream a good stir with a big "granny fork" to get the frozen bits smoothed out. Then, I dumped in a can of sweetened condensed milk and gave that a good stir. We needed a little more liquid, so I added about a teaspoon of vanilla to about a cup of milk, and added it. I gave everything a good stir, the boys and I tasted it, and we decided it was just right! It tasted just like old-fashioned homemade ice cream! You really just have to go for it and add as much liquid as you think you need. After you stir it around, if it's too dry, add more liquid. If it's too wet, add more snow! I suppose the quantities would also vary depending on what kind of snow you have. Today's snow is wet and heavy.

We ate all of our ice cream right up, so I'm not sure how it would taste if you put leftovers in the freezer for later. I would probably suggest just making batches to eat as snow is available. That kind of makes it more special anyway!

I served the snow ice cream in the sundae dishes from The Morning Glory Cafe, which my Grandma and Grandpa Tilton owned when my mom was little. I am so lucky to have these dishes. I had mine with a few vanilla wafers, because one of my favorite treats when I would go to my Grandma Foust's house (other than her snickerdoodles) was vanilla ice cream with vanilla wafers. It was nice to make a treat for my boys using these memories from my grandmothers. Maybe someday they'll tell their kids and grandkids about how their mom used to make them snow ice cream when they were boys!

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!

If you want to keep your treats alcohol-free, substitute coffee or espresso for the Southern Comfort. I recently made these with coffee and they turned out great!

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.