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

Follow Lisa's Kitchen on Twitter!

October 5, 2010

Cream cheese frosting

Cream cheese frosting is the best frosting. There’s just a little bit of tang, and it just tastes amazing. Once I learned to make it myself, I swore I would never buy store-bought frosting again. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s no way to make this recipe healthy. Yes, you can use reduced fat or fat-free cream cheese, and margarine instead of butter. With this much powdered sugar, this is definitely a “sometimes” food.

But somehow, I feel better about eating and feeding my children frosting made with cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar, than frosting made with cream cheese, butter, vanilla, powdered sugar, and a ton of ingredients I can’t pronounce. Homemade is always best!

To make your cream cheese frosting, round up the kids (like Will, above!), and beat together 3 ounces of softened cream cheese, 1/4 cup of softened butter or margarine, and a teaspoon of vanilla until fluffy. Gradually add 2 cups of sifted powdered sugar, beating until smooth. This is enough to frost a cake or a pan of pumpkin bars. It’s also amazing on chocolate zucchini bread. Or, heck, just eat it with a spoon. It’s that good.

  • Tags:
October 4, 2010

Havarti-ham quiche

.Eggs are almost always on the breakfast menu at my house, but it’s nice to jazz things up once in a while. The boys and I got up early Saturday morning and made this amazing quiche, letting my husband sleep in until the delicious scent of it wafted upstairs and woke him. This is a great recipe to make with kids, so try it with yours this weekend!

1 8-ounce package refrigerated crescent rolls (or you could use a store-bought or homemade pie crust if you prefer)
1 cup diced cooked ham
4 ounces Havarti dill cheese, shredded (I found a block in the “fancy cheese” section at the store and shredded it myself)
2 eggs
1 5-ounce can (2/3 cup) evaporated milk
1/2 tsp. Dijon-style mustard (I only had regular on hand and it worked fine)
1/3 cup sliced almonds, optional

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch pie plate. Unroll crescent rolls and press into bottom and onto sides of the pie pan. If desired, mark the edges of the pastry with a fork. Prick the dough every so often with a fork to keep the dough from rising in the oven.  Bake in preheated oven for 8 minutes. Remove from oven..

Sprinkle ham and cheese over the pastry (a great job for little kids!). In a small bowl, beat eggs with a wire whisk. Whisk in evaporated milk and mustard. pour egg mixture over ham and cheese. Cover the edge of the pastry with foil to prevent burning. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. If desired, sprinkle with almonds. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

This quiche was so good. When I told my husband it was made with Havarti dill cheese, he wasn’t sure he would like it, but he did. When the cheese melts and everything mixes together in the oven, the dill gets dispersed throughout the entire quiche, and you can even see it on top of the pie. You can make this with any kind of cheese, of course, but it is definitely worth the effort to find some scrumptious Havarti dill. It really made the dish.

Making this breakfast was super easy, but it was so much more special than plain old eggs. This would be great for a brunch, too, and you could line cupcake tins with the dough, bake them a few minutes, then fill with the quiche ingredients to make individual quiches. The possibilities are endless!

  • Tags:
October 4, 2010

Baked potato soup

The Machine Shed is a wonderful restaurant with locations around the Midwest, including in Urbandale, which isn’t too far from my place. It’s a great place to go for Sunday brunch or any meal with a big group. They have huge round tables that the whole extended family can sit around, and they bring big baskets of breads and bowls of cottage cheese, cole slaw and other side dishes to pass around and share. One of my favorite things to order there is baked potato soup. It’s beyond good.

.A few years ago, I had the pleasure of putting together a cookbook for The Machine Shed and Successful Farming magazine, a sister publication to Living the Country Life. The baked potato soup recipe was a shoe-in. I made it for my family the other night, and everyone went crazy for it. The recipe makes a big batch, so we had it for dinner two nights in a row, and the kids were actually excited about having leftovers! It’s a little trickier to make than basic potato soup, but it’s so worth it. You can do it, and you will be glad you did!

Machine Shed Baked Potato Soup

1 1/2 pounds red potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
6 slices bacon, chopped (I used a little more than this, and my husband requested even more in the next batch)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
4 tsp. all-purpose flour
4 3/4 cups chicken broth
2 1/2 cups milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley (I used basil because that’s all that’s left growing in my herb garden!)

Cook potatoes in a large saucepan in lightly salted boiling water for 10 to 12 minutes or until tender; drain and set aside.

In a 4-quart Dutch oven, cook bacon, onion, and celery until bacon is crisp and onion is tender. (Try to avoid eating all the bacon.) Stir in 4 teaspoons flour. Add broth, milk, salt, and pepper. Cook an dstir until just simmering (do not boil).

In a medium saucepan, heat butter until melted. Stir in 1/2 cup flour. Cook and stir for 1 minutes. Slowly add butter-flour mixture to milk mixture, stirring constantly. (I found that spreading a scoop at a time around the Dutch oven to thin it out, then incorporating it into the soup, worked well to avoid clumps.) Cook and stir mixture until thickened and bubbly.

Stir in cream and parsley. Stir in potatoes. Heat through. Garnish with shredded Colby cheese, crisp bacon pieces and fresh diced scallions if desired. Makes 8 servings. (It completely filled my Dutch oven. Five of us ate our fill two nights in a row.)

  • Tags:
October 1, 2010

Pumpkin waffles

If you’ve read my blog at all, you know I’m a pancake maniac. But there’s something wonderful about waffles, too. Those little pockets hold the syrup just right, and the crunchy crust and soft insides are irresistible. Of course, kids love them, too. This morning, to celebrate the first day of October, I whipped up a batch of pumpkin waffles for my sons. What a great way to start their busy school day! And to make them even more fun, I cut their waffles into strips and give them a little cup of maple syrup for dipping. (Note to other parents: have your kids eat this before they put on their school clothes. Besides, breakfast is always better in your jammies!)

Here’s how I made our waffles:

In a large bowl, sift together:

1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (you can use regular flour if you prefer)
3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice.

In a smaller bowl, mix together:

1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 1/2 cups milk.

Pour the liquid mixture into the dry mix and stir until combined. If the batter is too thick, add a little more milk. Pour onto a hot waffle iron treated with non-stick spray, and close. Cook until the steam stops coming from the waffle maker.

I have a waffle maker that is also an indoor grill and griddle. The plates snap on and off, depending on what you’re making, and best of all, they go right in the dishwasher. Yay for easy clean-up! 

I recommend making at least a double batch of these yummy waffles. Put leftovers in the fridge or freezer, and just pop them in the toaster next time you have the urge for waffles!

After the boys got on the bus, I fixed myself one of these pumpkin waffles and a nice hot cup of pumpkin-flavored coffee. I can’t think of a better breakfast to bring in October!

  • Tags:
September 30, 2010

Scalloped corn

.I just got home from a trip to my old hometown in South Dakota. One person I really miss seeing when we visit is Violet Penfield. She was my uncle’s mother, and since I was hundreds of miles away from my own grandmothers, she and Vern really were surrogate grandparents to me. We spent holidays together, I had tons of fun running around their ranch with my cousins, and every Halloween, Vern would come running out from behind the house dressed like a ghost. It scared the living daylights out of me (and my dad!) every year, even though we knew it was coming! 

Vern and Violet are both gone now, and they are certainly missed. Tonight I fixed her recipe for scalloped corn, and the smell of it baking took me right back to her kitchen. Here’s how she made this tasty side dish:

1 can cream-style corn
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup milk or cream
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. butter
Dash salt

Mix together all the ingredients and pour into a greased, 1-quart baking dish. Bake in a 350 degree F. oven for 1 hour or until set. Could that be any easier? If you’re already making a main course that will be baking, there’s no excuse not to throw this together and toss it in the oven.

My husband and kids loved this so much that we all decided that next time I need to make a double batch. They are so creamy, with just a little crunch from the top crust. Perfect. Everyone wanted seconds, and Violet would have loved that!

  • Tags:
September 30, 2010

Pork chops O’Brien


The other day, I thawed out a big package of frozen boneless pork chops that I picked up on sale a while back. I cooked 4 of them on my indoor grill for dinner, and put the rest back in the fridge. I didn’t want plain pork chops again so soon, so I decided to make an old favorite, pork chops O’Brien. I usually have a few bags of hash browns in the freezer, but no luck today. I had to run to town anyway, so I stopped by the store to pick up a few groceries.


Halfway home, I realized I had forgotten the frozen hash browns … and that was my entire reason for going to the store! I got some other groceries I needed for the rest off the week and the weekend, but left without the one thing I really needed for tonight’s dinner. Fortunately, I did buy a bag of potatoes. I’m making some potato soup this weekend. So I peeled and shredded about half a 5-pound bag of potatoes for this dish and added about 1/2 cup of chopped onions (which I did have in the freezer, ironically). They weren’t quite as good as thawed frozen hash browns for some reason. The shred was a little smaller using my grater, and the fresh potatoes put out a lot of water. I did let them sit in the fridge for a little bit and tried to press as much water out as possible. Next time I go to the store, though, you can bet I’ll be buying 2 or 3 bags of  hash browns to throw in the freezer!


Here’s the real recipe for my favorite pork chop casserole:


6 pork loin chops

1 can (10.75 oz.) of your favorite cream soup (I use cream of celery)

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, plus extra to sprinkle on top

1/2 cup French fried onions, optional

1 bag (24 oz.) frozen hash browns with onions and peppers, thawed 


Brown your pork chops on both sides in a skillet. Meanwhile, stir together the soup, milk, sour cream, and 1/2 cup cheese. Fold in the frozen hash browns until well combined, and pour into a large casserole dish treated with non-stick spray. I use a glass cake pan. Arrange the pork chops on top of the potato mixture. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees F. for 45 minutes. Then uncover, sprinkle with extra shredded cheese and French fried onions, and return to the oven for 10 minutes.


It’s that easy! This recipe comes together quickly, so it’s perfect for a busy weeknight, but tasty and hearty enough for Sunday dinner.

  • Tags:
September 29, 2010

Baked zucchini fries


French fries are good. There’s no denying that. Bake them in the oven instead of frying them, and your side dish just got a little healthier. Use zucchini instead of potatoes, and you’ve upped the healthiness factor once again.


If you’re a gardener who grows this prolific squash, chances are you have had it coming out your ears all summer. I love zucchini, but because my garden was scaled back to containers on the patio this year, I didn’t have the benefit of walking out my back door and grabbing a fresh one off the vine. I bought two small squash (about 10 inches long) when I made chocolate zucchini bread the other day, but only wound up needing one for that recipe. This seemed like a good thing to do with the leftover zucchini.


First, I cut the zucchini into French-fry-sized pieces. Leave the peel on, since that’s where the vitamins are. In one flat dish, I beat an egg mixed with a little oil. In another dish, I combined a cup of Panko, about 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, and a sprinkling of pepper. I use Panko for just about everything. You’ll find these crisp, airy bread crumbs in the Asian food section of your grocery store. If your store doesn’t carry them, you can always use toasted bread crumbs instead. 


I dipped the zucchini pieces into the egg mixture, then rolled them around in the Panko mixture, and placed them on a greased cookie sheet. They went into a 425 degree F. oven for about 15 minutes. Watch them closely … you want the zucchini to be tender and the bread crumbs to be crunchy, but don’t let them burn.


The one small zucchini made enough fries for my family of five to each have enough for a side dish. They were really tasty, and the kids loved them. “You can’t even taste the zucchini,” they said. Now if we could just get the fast-food giants to start serving them, we could do away with those greasy fries altogether!

  • Tags:
September 29, 2010

Sweet potato balls


There’s something really powerful about preparing someone else’s recipes. Make your grandma’s chocolate cake, and you’ll get the feeling she’s right there in the kitchen with you. Take a bite of your mom’s apple pie, and you’re a little kid again. Last night, I made Vallie Bishop’s sweet potato balls. She’s a friend of my aunt’s, and I went to church with her as a child. I thought about her while I made this tasty side dish, and sent healing vibes her way as she deals with some health issues.


I love sweet potatoes, and last year I discovered instant sweet potato flakes in the grocery store. I was a skeptic, but when I tried them, I found them to be delicious! They taste just like you baked and mashed them yourself, and they already have the sweetness and spices right in the packets. They’re great just scooped onto your plate with a little butter and brown sugar on top, or baked in a casserole topped with marshmallows.


Here’s the recipe for Vallie’s sweet potato balls … then I’ll tell you how I cheated and made them the quick way!


3 cups mashed sweet potatoes

1/4 cup butter

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 Tbsp. milk

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. grated lemon rind

8 large marshmallows

1/2 cup crushed corn flake cereal


Combine mashed potatoes, butter, sugar, milk, salt, and lemon rind. With a tablespoon, scoop out about 1/4 cup. Place marshmallow in the center and mold additional sweet potatoes around the marshmallow to form a ball. Roll in corn flakes. Place in a buttered baking dish and bake at 350 degrees F. for 20 minutes or until the marshmallows melt. 


That’s how Vallie makes her sweet potato balls. All I did was prepare a box of instant mashed sweet potatoes. Coincidentally, one box makes 3 cups. I added a little brown sugar (maybe 1/3 cup) to the sweet potatoes, but didn’t need the salt, milk, butter, or lemon rind.


I had mini marshmallows on hand, so I decided to use them and make mini sweet potato balls instead of the larger version. I have a 1/4-cup ice cream scoop, which worked perfectly. I took a scoop of sweet potatoes, pushed a mini marshmallow into the center and filled in the hole with more sweet potatoes. Then I just squeezed the scoop and dropped the sweet potato ball into the crushed corn flakes, rolled it around, and placed it on a sprayed cookie sheet. I baked them as directed.


These little sweet potato balls were so delicious, and the marshmallow surprise inside makes them really special! The kids gobbled them right up, and the grown-ups loved them too. They were great alongside the pork chops I grilled last night, but they would also make a really good side dish to take to a Thanksgiving potluck.


Whether you mash your own baked sweet potatoes or use flakes from a box, give this recipe a try. You’ll love it!

  • Tags:
September 27, 2010

Oreo cookie dessert


I spent the weekend in northwest South Dakota, in my old stomping grounds. My parents and I lived in Shadehill when I was a girl, just south of Lemmon. We still have family there, and we made this trip for a cousin-in-law’s wedding. It was a wonderful trip, a beautiful wedding, and a great chance to catch up with family, friends and old neighbors.


My husband and I and our sons stayed with my Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Cleo. One of the benefits of staying with them is getting to enjoy Carolyn’s cooking. She makes fabulous meals and decadent desserts, and this time, we all enjoyed her delicious Oreo cookie dessert. She was nice enough to share the recipe with all of you! (Here she is with my boys, Luke, Will, and Jake.)


Here’s how to make this yummy treat!


35 Oreo cookies, plus extras for garnish (or similar cream-filled chocolate cookies)

6 Tbsp. melted butter

1-8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup sugar

2 Tbsp. cold milk

12 oz. carton whipped cream

2 small pkgs. chocolate instant pudding

3- 1/4 cups milk


Process cookies in a food processor until they become fine crumbs. Mix in the melted butter and press into the bottom of a 9×13″ pan. Put the pan in the refrigerator while you prepare the rest of the dessert.


Beat the softened cream cheese, sugar, and 2 Tbsp. of milk together. Then stir in 1-1/4 cups whipped cream. Spread this mixture on top of the cookie crumbs.


Beat the pudding mixes with the 3-1/4 cups milk for two minutes, then spread on top of the cream cheese mixture.


Let the dessert stand for 5 minutes for the pudding to set up. Then spread the remaining whipped cream on top of the pudding layer, and refrigerate until ready to serve.


Just before serving, break up the remaining cookies and sprinkle them on top, or stick a few cookie halves on top of each serving. Save this step until serving time, otherwise the cookies will get soggy.


This dessert is so good … it’s cold and creamy, and hits the spot after any meal! Thanks for sharing, Aunt Carolyn!

  • Tags:
September 22, 2010

Chocolate zucchini bread

One of the great things about having kids is that they make friends, and you often become friends with the parents of those kids. My friend Patty works at the school, so I’ve known her since my oldest started preschool. But when my youngest, Will, started school, he became fast friends with Jordan, Patty’s son. And now Patty and I are friends, and all of our kids love playing together.

The other day, Patty said something about making chocolate zucchini bread. I had to have the recipe, and she was nice enough to share! It’s actually her cousin’s recipe, and is featured in a family cookbook. What a great idea to have a family cookbook! I’m going to work on that for my family.

I picked up some zucchini yesterday, and tonight I made the bread. It smelled amazing while it was baking, and I’m pleased to report it tastes great! I love the combination of chocolate and cinnamon, and you hardly know the zucchini is even there! Nothing like sneaking some vegetables into the kids’ diet!

Here’s the recipe, courtesy of Patty and Rhonda:

2 1/3 cups flour (I used white whole wheat)
2 cups suar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. baking powder
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups shredded zucchini (I left the peeling on since that’s where the nutrients are!)
1/2 cup pecan pieces (I didn’t have any, so I left them out, but they’d be great in this!).

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, and vanilla. Stir in te shredded zucchini and pecans. Pour the batter into two greased loaf pans. Bake in a 350-degree F. oven for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the loaves test done. Let cool for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

I got some handy-dandy mini loaf pans as a wedding gift, and each pan has four mini loaves. This recipe filled one pan, with just over a cup of batter per loaf. They only needed about 40 minutes to bake. Since the bread has a cake-like consistency, the batter would also make great muffins or mini muffins. And I haven’t tried this myself yet, but Patty says this bread is even better with a little cream cheese smeared on each slice. I’ll be trying that in the morning!

The kids were already asleep when the bread came out of the oven, but they’ll be surprised in the morning when I serve them a slice alongside their fruit and yogurt!

  • Tags: