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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 8, 2010

Pizza cups

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With school in full swing and little time in the evenings to do much of anything, quick meals are in order! Tonight I made an old favorite … one of the first meals I ever fixed for my family, when I was in junior high. Yes, I’m going back to the Home Ec archives for this one! Mrs. Engle would be so proud.

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Pizza cups are fast and easy, and super good. First, take refrigerator biscuits, roll them into about 4″ disks, and line a cupcake pan with them. Then add your cooked meat and sauce. This morning, I pulled out a freezer bag of browned ground beef to thaw. Tonight, I just emptied it into a skillet, dumped in a can of spaghetti sauce, and warmed it up. (Freezing browned ground beef is one of my favorite kitchen time-savers. It’s ready to roll for casseroles, pasta, or whatever, without the time and the mess.)

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Spoon the meat into the dough-lined cupcake pan, then top with cheese. I put a pepperoni on top just for fun. Bake according to the biscuit directions, and that’s it! I baked mine at 400 degrees F. for about 10 minutes. Just pick them up with your fingers and eat … no forks necessary! Their portability also makes these little cups great for parties or as appetizers. The kids loved them so much that I’m sending cold leftovers in their lunches tomorrow. Cold pizza is good, so these should make them happy!

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The beautiful thing about this dinner is that you can make it to be whatever you want, depending on what you have on hand. Use up those leftovers! I’ve made them with barbecue sauce instead of spaghetti sauce, and topped with cheddar cheese. Pulled pork and barbecue is also good, and leftover sloppy joe meat works well. Heck, you could even use the filling for chicken pot pie. Go plain or go fancy, or set out all the leftovers and let your family fill their own biscuit cups!

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September 8, 2010

Baked cranberry-pumpkin oatmeal

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When I made my crustless pumpkin pie last night, I didn’t have any 15-ounce cans of pumpkin — just the large cans that are about twice that size. I can’t stand wasting food, so I put the leftover pumpkin in a container and stuck it in the fridge. This morning, I put it to good use!

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I always try to make my three sons a hearty breakfast before school. We all sit at the table together, talk about our plans for the day, and listen to our favorite kids’ station on the satellite radio. It’s a good start to their day, and mine!

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This morning I got up a little early so I could make baked oatmeal. I love plain old regular oatmeal, but when you add a few ingredients and pop it in the oven, it becomes something really special! I’ve made this baked oatmeal several times, but decided to add a few extra ingredients today: the leftover pumpkin and some dried cranberries.

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In a large bowl, combine these dry ingredients:

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3 cups of oats (I always use old-fashioned)

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1/2 cup brown sugar

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In a smaller bowl, whisk together these wet ingredients:

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1 1/2 cup canned pumpkin (or a 15-ounce can will work fine)

1 cup milk

1/2 cup applesauce

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

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Add the wet ingredients to the bowl with the dry ingredients, and stir until well combined. Pour the mixture into a sprayed 9″x9″ baking dish, and sprinkle about 1/2 cup of dried cranberries on top. (You can stir the cranberries in if you want, but I like the way they look on top.) If you don’t like pumpkin, just leave it out and add some blueberries, chopped apples or peaches, or whatever fruit you have on hand. It’s also good with raisins and chopped walnuts. You can’t go wrong!

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Bake at 350 degrees F. for 20 to 30 minutes, until set.

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You can just slice this up like cake and serve it on a plate, but we like ours in a bowl, soaking in a little milk or cream. Top with a dash of maple syrup, and you’ve got yourself the perfect breakfast for a crisp fall morning! Enjoy!

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September 7, 2010

Crustless pumpkin pie

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Pumpkin is the ultimate fall flavor. Its sweet and slightly spicy taste just goes perfectly with the season. Tonight, to go with my pie-themed dinner, I pulled out an old recipe from my archives. This pie has no crust, so right off the bat you’re saving a ton of fat and calories … this way you can have two slices! My husband refuses to call this pie since it doesn’t have a crust, but he loves my “baked pumpkin dessert.”

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This pie (or dessert, if you will) couldn’t be easier. In a large bowl, beat together the following ingredients:

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15-ounce can of unsweetened pumpkin

12-ounce can of evaporated milk (fat-free works fine!)

2 eggs, or 3 egg whites

1/2 tsp. salt

3 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2/3 cup sugar (you can use baking-friendly granular artificial sweetener to save calories)

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Beat the ingredients until smooth and pour into a 9″ pie plate sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

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pumpkinpieBake at 400 degrees F. for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature and bake at 325 degrees F. for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center of the pie comes out clean.

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I had a little bit of refrigerated crescent dough left after cutting around the edges of my chicken pot pie casserole dish, so I rolled it out and used my mini maple leaf cookie cutter to make a few embellishments. These went on the pie about 20 minutes before it was finished baking. So there’s a little crust after all! Believe me, though, you don’t need a bottom crust on this pie. It holds together beautifully, and the pumpkin flavor is phenomenal!

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This pie is good as soon as it’s cool enough to eat, but it’s even better right out of the fridge the next day. When packing up our leftovers, I filled two single-serve containers, so my two sons who are taking their lunch tomorrow will have a tasty dessert courtesy of Mom!

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September 7, 2010

Chicken pot pie

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The weather has cooled down a bit, and I am in a baking mood! Today I had a craving for chicken pot pie, so that’s what was for dinner at my house. When I went to the grocery store the other day, chicken breasts were on sale, so I bought a four-pack of boneless, skinless breasts. Perfect!

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I used my favorite chef’s knife and cut the raw meat into bite-sized pieces, and chopped a clove of garlic and about 1/4 of an onion. I put a little oil in a skillet and sauteed the garlic and onion, then added the chicken. I ran out to my patio herb garden and grabbed about 4 lemon basil leaves, chopped them up, and added them to the pan. I covered the skillet until the chicken was just about cooked through, then turned up the heat a smidge and browned it to finish it off. I set about 3 ounces of the cooked chicken aside for my boys’ school lunches tomorrow. They’re taking a salad, and the chicken will add some protein. The rest of the chicken went into a large bowl.

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Next, I put a large drained can of mixed vegetables into the bowl (carrots, celery, potatoes and peas), and a can of drained corn. I also added a can of undiluted cream of chicken soup, and a can of cream of mushroom. I used the low-fat varieties of soup, but whatever you have on hand will do. A little salt and pepper to taste, a good stir, and the filling for my pot pie was ready to go.

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I usually make my own pie crust for pot pie, but I happened to have a few extra tubes of refrigerated crescent dough in the fridge. I was thrilled to find this dough available in a sheet, without being cut into triangles, which makes it really handy for baking. If you have refrigerated pie dough on hand, of course that would work too.

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chickenpotpieI sprayed my casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray and dumped in the filling. There’s no need for a crust on the bottom of the dish, in my opinion. I unrolled a tube of the dough over the top, crimping the edges and poking a few holes in the top to allow the steam to escape.

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The pot pie went into a 375-degree F. oven for 45 minutes. The crescent crust browned a bit faster than a regular pie crust would, so I put some foil over the top for the last 15 minutes of baking.

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I realize this isn’t traditional chicken pot pie, but it was really quick and easy, and everyone loved it! You could save even more time by using leftover cooked chicken, turkey, beef, or pork. And if you prefer, use ramekins or small baking dishes to create individual pot pies. Refrigerated biscuit dough would work well to top the mini pies. These won’t need to bake quite as long, so keep an eye on them. Wonderful comfort food for a crisp fall evening!

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September 3, 2010

Petite pepperoni pizzas

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This is birthday week at my house! Today is my son Luke’s 7th birthday, Jake turns 9 on Monday, and Will turns 5 on Thursday! Birthdays are a big deal for us, so the birthday boy gets to choose what’s for breakfast and lunch, and pick a restaurant for dinner out with the family. 

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Today, Luke chose his favorite breakfast: blueberry cream cheese pancakes. My husband and I went to school and brought lunch for Luke and Jake, since his birthday is on a holiday. We’ll be back at school on Thursday for lunch with Will! Today, we brought fried chicken legs, mashed potatoes and gravy, and biscuits from town. It was a good treat, and their friends were insanely jealous, so the boys were happy!

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I also told the birthday boys I would make whatever they wanted for treats to share with their class. Luke picked his favorite treat, S’mores bars. I hope his classmates like them!

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Jake, on the other hand, doesn’t really like sweets. He’s lucky that way. What he does love is pepperoni. So this morning, I whipped up some mini pepperoni pizzas for him to share. I was originally going to make pepperoni rolls, but I was running out of time to get the dough made, and when I saw the little frozen phyllo dough cups in the store, I decided to take the easy route!

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The little cups are so handy … they can be stored in the freezer, refrigerator, or at room temperature, and they can be filled with sweet or savory fillings. Fresh berries and a little whipped cream would be great, or chocolate pudding, or just about anything you can imagine!

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I needed to send Jake treats for 20 people, so I made 60 mini pizzas. Three apiece should be just enough for a little afternoon snack. I lined the phyllo cups up on foil-lined cookie sheets, preheated the oven to 350 degrees F., and set to work on the filling.

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In a large bowl, I combined 4 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese, a jar of our favorite marinara, a package of roughly chopped pepperoni, and about 1/2 cup of ranch dressing, and stirred until combined. I spooned about 1/2 Tablespoon of the filling into each phyllo cup, baked them for about 8 minutes, and that was it! Ideally, they would have been served right away, but since treat time at school is in the afternoon, they’ll be room temperature. But hey, what kid doesn’t like cold pizza?

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August 27, 2010

Cherry gelatin mold (or something close to that)

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As a rule, kids love gelatin, and my three boys are no exception. Whenever we go to a family picnic or church potluck, they go crazy for all the pretty fruit-filled, gelatinous desserts. My mother-in-law makes a yummy orange-flavored gelatin with shredded carrots mixed in, and a whipped cream cheese topping. The thing is, I don’t love making gelatin. By the time I think about it, there’s never enough time for it to set up in time for dessert, so I just forget it.

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This morning, I decided to attempt a gelatin mold. I found a recipe in my favorite church-lady cookbook, made a few tweaks, and gave it a whirl. First, I boiled 1 1/2 cups of water. In a large bowl, I combined a 4-ounce packet of strawberry gelatin, and a 4-ounce packet of pineapple gelatin. That’s just what I happened to have on hand. The boiling water went into the bowl, along with 2 cups of cold water, and I gave everything a good stir.

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I took 1 cup of the mixture out of the bowl and set it aside, the popped the bowl into the fridge. It was supposed to stay in there for 1 1/2 hours, or until thickened enough that dragging a spoon through it would leave an impression. I should have checked it after an hour, because I think it was set up a bit too much.

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I didn’t have an official gelatin mold, so I sprayed the inside of my Bundt pan with non-stick spray and added half of the cooled gelatin. I stirred some mini marshmallows into it, because, let’s face it, everything’s better with mini marshmallows. Next, I added a can of cherry pie filling. This may have been my downfall. The recipe called for apple slices, but I didn’t have any apples, so I just went with what I had. I tried to scoop out the cherries without getting too much of the sauce, but I should have rinsed them and patted them dry. Anyway, the rest of the gelatin from the fridge went into the pan, on top of the cherries. Back into the fridge for another half hour. It was supposed to be “firm, but not set” at this point. Firm is pushing it.

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Meanwhile, I whipped an 8-ounce package of room temperature cream cheese until it was fluffy, then mixed in the 1 cup of reserved gelatin mix. This went into the pan on top of the gelatin, and the whole shebang went into the fridge for another 4 hours. Man, this stuff is time consuming!

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The moment of truth came after dinner. The boys were VERY excited to see what was going to come out of the Bundt pan. I dipped the bottom in some warm water and loosened the cream cheese layer from the sides with my fingers, and flipped it onto a serving platter. Drum roll … 

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Sound of cymbals crashing to the floor.

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Well, the bottom layer of cream cheese and gelatin was set up perfectly, but the top two layers of gelatin with the layer of cherries in between was more like one layer of slightly gelatinous cherry pie filling with some marshmallows along for the ride.

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We ate it, of course, and it tasted good. It didn’t look as pretty as I had hoped, but that’s OK. The kids were happy, and that’s all that matters. I put the leftovers into single-serving containers, froze them, and sent them in the boys’ lunch the next day, which they loved. But now, I’m the woman who can make perfect cheesecake and all kinds of delicious meals, but not gelatin. I’m going to have to work on that!

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August 24, 2010

Spicy chicken and shrimp pasta

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This is one of those meals that started out as one thing, but turned into something completely different by dinnertime. It’s kind of like a little adventure!

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I got on the ball this morning and pulled three frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts out of the freezer. I bought some bone-in, skinned whole chicken breasts on sale for super cheap a while back, and skinned, boned and filleted them before sticking them in the freezer. (Between us, with the time that was involved in this little money-saving venture, I’m not sure I came out on top at all, but at least I had fresh, natural chicken to freeze.)

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I put the frozen chicken in my slow cooker, then sprinkled half of a packet of fajita seasoning on top and and added two small cans of diced tomatoes and cilantro in lime juice (undrained). I turned it on low and walked away. I love crockery cooking! I also pulled a bag of frozen, fully cooked shrimp (peeled and deveined, but with the tails) from the freezer and stuck it in the fridge to thaw. My intention was to make chicken and shrimp tacos for supper. I was planning on making my delicious homemade tortillas in the afternoon.

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About 7 hours later, I checked the temperature on the chicken and it was done, so I took it out, cut it into chunks, and put it back into the cooker. By this time, the shrimp were mostly thawed, so I chopped off their tails and threw them in as well, then sprinkled the other half of the fajita spice packet on top. 

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By this time, it was apparent that I wasn’t going to have time to make my tortillas, and I didn’t have any store-bought ones on hand either. I live 25 minutes from the nearest grocery store, so I worked up a Plan B. I did have some whole wheat pasta. That would work.

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While the pasta was boiling, I added a can of cream of celery soup and 4 ounces of cream cheese to the cooker, since the juice from the canned tomatoes made everything pretty soupy. I gave it a good stir and let it warm for a few minutes. Shazam! This turned my would-be tacos into a rich, creamy sauce with hearty chunks of chicken and shrimp and a spicy kick. It reminded me of chicken paprikash, but with fajita seasonings instead of paprika. Chicken fajitakash?

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I filled our bowls with some of the whole-grain pasta spirals, then spooned the meat and sauce on top. A sprinkle of tomato and basil flavored Feta cheese and a sprig of fresh cilantro from my herb garden, and we were ready to eat! (If I’d have known this was going to become a pasta dish, I would’ve added a cup or so of frozen peas to the cooker with the shrimp.)

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I wasn’t sure how the kids would like this, especially since they had been promised tacos before they left for school. My youngest doesn’t really love spicy food, either, unless it’s a taco. I was thrilled when they all three cleaned their plates and told me how much they loved it! “You should put this in your blog,” Jake said. And when I asked them to help me name the recipe, Luke suggested, “Pasta a la Lisa”.

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So, there you have it … Pasta a la Lisa! Mangia!

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August 19, 2010

Blueberry cream cheese pancakes

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This morning, I took a giant leap forward in my quest for pancake perfection. I have tried a hundred pancake recipes, but I can honestly say the ones I made this morning take the cake. My boys agree. This is big for us. These cream cheese pancakes are moist, fluffy, and creamy, with a little of that cream cheese tang. They’re amazing!

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Without any further ado, I’ll just tell you how to make the pancakes. Run — dont’ walk — to the kitchen, and whip these babies up!

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In a large bowl, sift together 2 cups of flour, 3 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. salt, and 2 Tbsp. sugar. Make a well in the middle.

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In a separate bowl, beat together 1 large egg, 2 cups of milk, 4 ounces of softened cream cheese, 1 Tbsp. butter or margarine, and 1 tsp. vanilla. Beat it really well, until it’s frothy. Then pour the liquid into the well of the dry mixture, and stir until combined. Don’t over-stir. ( You could try blueberry-flavored cream cheese, but I used low-fat white, and it was great.)

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Cook on a griddle or in a skillet just as you would regular pancakes. I used a 1/4-cup scoop to place the batter in the skillet, which made about 15 4-inch cakes.

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If you want to fold in blueberries, chocolate chips, or whatever else you like in your pancakes beforehand, feel free. When I’m making blueberry pancakes, though, I wait and drop the berries into the cakes as soon as I pour the batter into the skillet. I have kids who will actually feel slighted if they have 5 blueberries in their cake while their brothers have 7. This way, everyone gets the same amount of berries, plus it’s easier to make blueberry smiley faces this way.

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These are officially my new go-to pancakes. Give them a try!

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August 18, 2010

Dutch treat!

 

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Today, my mom and I took my three boys to the small town of Pella, Iowa, for a little end-of-summer day trip. Pella is a Dutch community, home to Central College, and is just one of the most beautiful little towns you’ll ever have the pleasure of visiting. The downtown area is spic and span, with Dutch-inspired architecture and color. Bakeries, meat shops selling the world-famous Pella Bologna, and gift shops line the avenues. There are windmills everywhere, and you really do get the feeling you’re visiting another country.

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The real reason we came to Pella was so the boys could play in one of the city parks. It has a massive playground made of wood, and it’s just beautiful. We got to town just in time for lunch, so we stopped at the Windmill Cafe downtown. They didn’t have any Dutch food on the menu, but oddly enough, I had a really delicious gyro, and one of my boys had biscuits and gravy that was out of this world.

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Our next stop was Jaarsma Bakery. Amazing. You walk in the shop and are surrounded by cases filled with beautiful pastries. It’s my kind of place. We chose several items, then headed to the park for playtime. We headed to another park right by Red Rock Lake, where the boys and I climbed a 170-step tower. The view was absolutely breathtaking, and after all that climbing, we were ready for a snack! Good thing we had already gone to the bakery!

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Of course, a few Dutch letters (the S-shaped pastry above) made their way into our goodie bag. They are basically a flaky dough surrounding an almond paste filling. Too good for words. We also got goat legs, which are flaky pastry sticks with slivered almonds on top, with both ends dipped in chocolate. They do look like little goat legs, and the boys got a huge kick out of the name of this treat. Russian wedding cookies and some apricot-almond strudel rounded out our purchase.

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Even though I didn’t bake any of our treats for the day, I had to share them with you. If you get the chance to visit Pella, do it! And mark my words, I will learn how to make Dutch letters! (Maybe my Dutch friend Stacie or her mom can show me.)

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I also wanted to show you how cute the treats looked on my cake stand. My sister-in-law, Katrina, gave it to me for Christmas, and I absolutely love it. I had asked for a trifle dish, and this double-duty piece serves up layered desserts with the best of them! You just flip the stand upside down, then turn the lid upside down, and the ball fits into the base of the stand … perfect for a fruit bowl also!

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August 14, 2010

Angel food fluff

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I know I’ve been complaining about the heat a lot lately, but it is just oppressive, and is really affecting my performance in the kitchen! As much as I’m dreading sending my boys back to school after a summer of fun, I’m starting to look forward to cool autumn days when I can bake something yummy for them when they get off the bus.

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Normally I don’t mind just skipping the baking this time of year, but this week it was my turn to bring the treats to my church lady group. Now keep in mind I am the youngest woman at these meetings by about 30 years. Our rural congregation is very small, but very loyal. I think the ladies like hearing me talk about my family life, because it reminds them of when their kids were little. And I certainly appreciate all the heart-felt advice they have to offer.

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At these meetings, we take turns offering a devotion, presenting  a program, and “serving lunch” as it’s called, even though it’s really serving dessert at 7 p.m. on a Wednesday. And it’s always something delicious. When it’s her turn to bring treats, Sue Ellen makes cake or cobbler. Gloria has a way with chocolate desserts. Janiece usually bakes an amazing fresh-fruit tart, or sometimes surprises us with her scrumptious chicken salad on mini croissants. As for me, I usually wind up trying a new recipe and keeping my fingers crossed that it turns out. So far, the ladies have liked my treats, or at least they’re too polite to tell me otherwise.

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This week, I couldn’t bake anything. It was just too ridiculously hot to even turn the oven on for a minute. My mom helped me brainstorm for ideas, then remembered a yummy dessert my cousin Kim in South Dakota makes. A quick phone call later, and the recipe was mine! (Here’s a picture of my beautiful cousin Kim and her wonderful granddaughter Lily. Aren’t they cute?)

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Here’s how to make the simple yet delicious angel food fluff:

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Purchase (or bake, if you prefer) an angel food cake, and cut or tear it into bite-sized pieces. I used my bread knife and cut my store-bought cake (I fessed up and told the ladies, who didn’t mind)  into about 1″ cubes.

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In a large bowl, prepare a large box of instant vanilla pudding as directed on the box. Once it’s all set up, fold in a regular-sized (not jumbo) container of thawed whipped topping.

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Fold in whichever fresh or canned fruit you like best. I used a pint of blueberries and a pound of sliced fresh strawberries.  Peaches would be great in this dessert, too. You can also add nuts at this point if you’d like. Finally, fold in the cake pieces, and make sure all the ingredients are combined well.

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That’s it! I served the dessert in my big trifle dish, and everyone cleaned their plates! If you’re looking for something tasty to share at work, take to a potluck, or even serve at a bridal shower or wedding, this is a great choice! It makes a huge bowl of dessert, and could not possibly be easier. Now that’s the perfect recipe for summer!

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