Living the Country Life
More
Close

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!

August 13, 2011

Quick blueberry-banana muffins

.

What’s a girl to do with a fruit bowl full of over-ripe bananas and a big container of blueberries in the fridge? Make muffins! This easy recipe takes no time at all, and the result is moist, soft muffins bursting with fruit flavor.

.

1-3/4 cups flour

1/3 cup sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

3/4 cup mashed bananas

1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup oil

1 cup blueberries

.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center. In a separate bowl, combine bananas, egg, milk, and oil. Pour into the well of the flour mixture and stir just until moistened. Do not overbeat. Fold in blueberries.

.

Fill lightly greased muffin tins 2/3 to 3/4 full. Don’t use paper baking cups with these muffins. Bake in a 400-degree F. oven for 20 minutes until golden brown. Makes 12 to 15 muffins.

  • Tags:
August 13, 2011

Cinnamon roll pancakes

.

My kids love pancakes, and they also love cinnamon rolls … why not combine the two? I made these cute little cinnamon roll pancakes for my boys yesterday morning, and they flipped over them! They were fun and delicious, and best of all, took almost no more effort than making regular pancakes.

.

I used my basic pancake recipe for these (recipe follows), but you can use your favorite recipe if you’d like, or you could even use a mix. This is a great way to jazz up plain pancakes! 

.

Simply prepare your pancake batter, then take 1/2 cup or so of the batter and put it in a separate bowl. Add a couple of teaspoons of cinnamon, and more as needed, until it’s a nice red color. Put the colored batter in a squeeze bottle. I bought a couple of these at a kitchen gadget store a while back. They look like the ketchup and mustard bottles you sometimes see on tables at restaurants, except they’re clear. Very handy for a lot of things, but I bought mine specifically for pancake batter.

.

Use a tablespoon to drop batter into a greased skillet over medium heat. (Avoid using butter in your skillet for these pancakes, since it tends to make the cakes more brown.) Then, using your squeeze bottle filled with red batter, immediately pipe a swirl design on top of each mini pancake. I keep the heat slightly lower than usual for these, so most of the cake will bake before flipping, without the bottoms getting too dark. When most of the cake is set, flip and cook the swirled side for just long enough to finish it off. This way you won’t lose the design in a pancake that’s too dark.

.

Instead of using syrup, mix up a quick glaze with powdered sugar and a splash of milk. Whisk together and dribble over the pancakes. It’s as simple as that! With school coming up, mornings will be extra busy, so make a bunch of these up on the weekend and stick them in the fridge or freezer, then throw them in the microwave for a quick breakfast the kids will love!

.

Lisa’s basic pancake recipe

Makes about 2 dozen mini pancakes made with 1 Tbsp. batter each.

.

1-1/2 cups flour  (I normally like to use whole wheat flour, but I recommend white for the cinnamon roll cakes to keep the color light.)

3-1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 Tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. salt

1-1/4 cups milk

1 egg

3 Tbsp. melted butter or margarine

.

Combine dry ingredients in medium-sized bowl. Make a well in the center. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, and melted butter. Pour into the well and stir to combine with dry ingredients. Spoon batter into a medium-hot greased skillet. Flip when bubbles appear and the bottoms are golden brown. Cook until the second side is also golden brown. Enjoy!

  • Tags:
July 31, 2011

Back-to-school bento lunches!

Picture 3

.

It’s almost time for the kids to head back to school. Where has the summer gone? At my house, this time of year also means back-to-sack-lunches. I let my three sons choose one hot lunch meal a week, and the rest of the days I make their lunches. Not only is it less expensive, but I feel like they get healthier meals, and things I know they will eat.

.

In the dead of winter, I let them eat hot lunch a little more often so they can warm their bellies. I have yet to find a good container that will keep meals from home hot (or even remotely warm) for 4 hours. Many claim that’s what they do, and I have bought several, but none of them have done the job. If you have a container that keeps food hot, please let me know!

.

Last year, I became obsessed with the idea of bento lunches. Bento is a Japanese term referring to single-serve take-out food. There are usually several small compartments in a bento box, and the idea is that rather than packing one or two big items, you mix it up with several smaller portions. Some people really go crazy with the cuteness of their lunches. Themes are popular, and you can spend hours creating the most adorable bento lunch ever. You can also spend a ton of cash on bento boxes, but that defeats the purpose in my mind. School lunches have to be quick and easy!

.

I found some handy divided plastic lunch containers (Ziploc brand), which work perfect. They’re around $1.50 apiece, and can be used over and over. I also have some smaller, sandwich-shaped containers that work well. I have a little box in my cupboard filled with bento accessories, so I just pull it out when I’m making lunches. It has cupcake papers with matching picks, other plastic and wooden decorative picks (intended for topping cupcakes or holding olives in cocktails), food coloring markers, mini cookie cutters, and fun things like that. Cute napkins are a must, and I also put a note inside their lunches, usually with a corny joke they can tell their friends at the lunch table. The boys have water bottles with ice inserts that clip onto their lunch bags. They usually just take water, since they get milk at school in the afternoon, and drink plenty at home. Sometimes they get a can of spicy vegetable juice or a juice box if they’re on sale. I also use frozen inserts inside their bags to keep their lunches cold.

.

It may sound like a goofy thing to do, but making these special lunches for my boys makes me feel a little closer to them during the day, and it gives them a little hug from their mom while they’re away at school. I’ve had other moms tell me their kids always describe what the Prater boys had for lunch each day, and teachers have told me they go out of their way each day to stop by their table and see what they’re eating. Here are some of the bentos I snapped photos of over the past school year. I may try to get a little more creative this year!

.

bentoantslog

.

Kiwi slices with decorative pick for eating, celery with peanut butter and raisins (ants on a log), string cheese, mini turkey wrap, and fishy crackers.

.

bentoturkeypep

 

.

Cupcake papers make perfect dividers for bento lunches. Some folks use the silicone variety, which can be washed and reused. I haven’t found any that I really like, so I go with paper. It’s fun to switch it up with holiday or cartoon character papers, and they often come with coordinating picks, which is fun! Here, we have mini pepperoni (perfect for bento!) skewered on a pick, turkey slices, raisins, whole-wheat crackers, and a cheese stick. A banana was also included in the lunch bag.

.

bentostarweek       bentobakedapple

.

1. This was Will’s lunch from when he was the “star of the week” in kindergarten. In the upper left compartment, I put grape tomatoes and cheese I cut out with a mini star-shaped cookie cutter. I also wrote “Will” and “of the week” on the stars with food coloring markers. He also took champagne grapes, ham slices, a no-sugar-added dried fruit bar, and Irish soda bread. I could have made his sandwich for him, but this way he got to be a big boy and make his own sandwich, plus his bread didn’t get soggy.

.

2. Turkey wrap, mini cornbread muffin, baked apple (I made extras when we had them for dessert the night before), and carrot chips. A frozen tube of yogurt was also packed with this lunch. They thaw out by lunchtime, and keep the lunch cool!

.

bentohamkabobs        bentomeatloaf

.

1. Mini cornbread muffins, grapes, and grape tomatoes; a peanut-butter-chocolate bar; and cubed ham and pepperoni with picks for eating. A frozen tube of yogurt was packed with this lunch as well to get in some dairy. Frozen containers of fruit cocktail or applesauce also work well to keep lunches cool, and they thaw out by lunchtime.

.

2. Meatloaf is even better cold, the next day! I cut it into bite-sized chunks and included picks for eating, and some cheese. The kids made their own meatloaf kabobs with this. They also got an apple and some baby carrots in their lunchbag. 

.

bentopaintedtortilla        bentomeatrollup

.

1. A PB&J made with tortillas instead of bread, then cut into quarters, makes a great canvas for food coloring markers! This lunch was made around Christmas. Get creative with the markers … you could make pepperoni and cheese quesadillas, and paint the tops to look like pizza! Or, paint a picture like a face, clock, or baseball on the round tortilla before cutting it up, to make an edible puzzle. Also, mini pretzel crackers mixed with raisins and nuts; and a juicy apple. This lunch came with a container of cottage cheese as well.

.

2. Salami and cheese rolled up and poked with a pick, raisins, crackers, carrot chips, and pudding. The cupcake papers are great for separating food. They just hit the top of this container, so when the lid is on, nothing slides around, and crackers stay dry!

.

bentohalloween

.

It’s worth going a little above and beyond for holidays. Here, a PB&J sandwich crawls with gummy worms. Strawberries dipped in white chocolate are painted with dark chocolate to look like skulls and ghosts, and chocolate “eyeballs” round out this Halloween lunch. I normally don’t include candy in their lunches, but hey, it was Halloween!

.

I hope you’re inspired to make some tasty, fun lunches for your kids this school year. I’ve got all kinds of ideas for my boys, and I’ll post photos throughout the year. Have a great lunch!

  • Tags:
July 30, 2011

BLT salad sandwiches

bltsalad

.

Here’s a quick lunchtime salad that’s perfect for summer. Chicken salad, egg salad, tuna salad … and now BLT salad!

.

Just shred some lettuce (or save time by buying a bag of shredded lettuce), toss in some diced tomatoes, add crumbled bacon, and enough mayonnaise or Miracle Whip to coat. Toss, and serve on bread or toast with more tomato slices and leaf lettuce, and cheese, if you like. These are the easiest BLTs ever!

  • Tags:
July 24, 2011

BLT finger salads

bltsalad

.

Bacon and tomato sandwiches are a popular dinner choice at my house in the summer. Well, popular with everyone except me. I just don’t like tomatoes, and no matter how hard I try to change my taste, I just can’t. My husband and our three sons love them, and they think I’m crazy! I don’t mind making them, though, and I’m happy to be able to satisfy my family with an easy dinner that doesn’t heat up the house.

.

They like their sandwiches on either toast or bread, with just Miracle Whip (don’t let my husband hear you call it mayonnaise), bacon, and tomato slices. That’s it. No lettuce, nothing fancy, just the basics. They go nuts for these. We usually serve them with some fresh sweet corn, and I’m happy just eating corn and sneaking a few slices of bacon.

.

I’ve been trying to think of other ways to serve bacon and tomatoes, and came up with the idea for these mini salads. I love finger sandwiches. Why not make a finger salad?

.

First, chunk or section your fresh tomatoes, pop them into a resealable plastic bag, add enough Italian dressing to cover them, give them a toss, and refrigerate for a few hours to marinate. Cook your bacon. (Or even better, use leftover bacon!)

.

I found some miniature heirloom lettuce heads at the market, and they worked out perfect for this. You could use any type of lettuce leaf, as long as it’s a bit bendable so you can use it like a wrap.

.

Lay washed and dried lettuce leaves out on a tray or on little plates. Top each with a few slices of bacon and some of the drained, marinated tomatoes.

.

To make the dressing, simply spoon a little Miracle Whip (or you can use mayonnaise if Jayson isn’t around) into a small bowl, and add enough milk to make it the right consistency. Stir with a fork and drizzle the dressing over the salads. Add a few croutons, and that’s it! Eat them like a mini taco, with the lettuce leaf taking the place of the tortilla.

.

I thought these little salads would be so nice to serve at a tea party, alongside cucumber finger sandwiches, petits fours, and other tiny, tasty treats. They’re also nice for kids. My oldest two sons love salad, and my youngest is coming around, but some kids flat-out hate salad. This is a good way to get them to eat a salad without even realizing it. It can’t be a salad if you’re eating it with your hands!

  • Tags:
July 24, 2011

Creamy cucumber spread

cucumberdip

.

I first tried this spread/dip several years ago when my friend Jill made it for a party. It was so delicious I had to ask for the recipe, and I couldn’t hardly believe it when she told me how easy it was. It’s really good on pita bread or crackers, spread into celery, or used for dunking carrot sticks.

.

First, set an 8-ounce carton of cream cheese out until it’s soft. Peel a cucumber, then slice it in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out all the seeds, and discard them. Next, use a grater to shred the cucumber. Use paper towels to squeeze as much of the water out of the shredded cucumber as possible. There is a LOT of water in a cucumber! Then, just stir the cucumber shreds into the softened cream cheese until well combined. You can eat it right away, or cover and pop it in the refrigerator for up to a couple of days. The flavor is even better the next day, but you may need to stir it up a bit before serving.

.

What a great way to use up all of those cucumbers out of the garden!

  • Tags:
July 8, 2011

Follow Lisa’s Kitchen on Twitter!

Well, I’ve made the leap and joined the wonderful world of Twitter! You can click here to follow me, or find me at @lisaskitchen. I’ll share recipes, cooking tips, meal ideas, and more, and I’ll be asking for your ideas, too!

.

Follow me! Tweet me! I’ll see you on Twitter!

  • Tags:
July 8, 2011

Angelic French toast

.

The boys and I got a nice surprise the other morning when my husband made us breakfast. He took some leftover angel food cake, sliced it up, dipped it in an egg/milk mixture, and toasted it in a skillet with a little butter. Angel food French toast … what a brilliant idea!

.

The French toast was even better since he warmed up some fresh peaches and poured them over the top. I had sliced them up the day before and put them in the refrigerator with a tiny bit of sugar, so they were nice and juicy.

.

When it comes to Angel food cake, I have a little tip. My favorite way to make it is just to buy a box mix, but instead of adding the ingredients listed on the box, I just mix it with a can of crushed pineapple, juice included. Don’t over-stir it, just mix to combine and bake as directed. Yum!

.

What a sweet treat, and what a sweet husband!

  • Tags:
June 26, 2011

Watermelon ice

.

Is there anything better on a hot summer day than a big, juicy slice of watermelon? Maybe! I whipped up some watermelon ice the other day, and we had some for a snack today. It was like all the delicious juiciness of watermelon, but in snow-cone form! The kids loved this shaved ice treat, and the grown-ups thought it would be even better with a little vodka!

.

This is a great way to use up leftover watermelon, too, since it’s pretty forgiving. If the melon is a little softer than you prefer for munching on, make it into ice and you’ll never be able to tell. Here’s how:

.

Add 5 cups of seeded, diced watermelon into a blender. I bought seedless watermelon, and the little white seeds just disappeared in the blender, so don’t worry about taking them out! You could add other fruit if you’d like. Strawberries or blackberries would be yummy!

.

In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup flavored gelatin powder. I used a melon-flavored gelatin, with hints of watermelon, cantaloupe and muskmelon. Pour 3/4 cup boiling water over the mixture and stir until dissolved.

.

Pour the mixture into the blender and blend until completely combined. It will be pretty much liquefied. Pour into a container that has a lid. I used a large plastic container, but a metal pie pan with a lid would work fine. Freeze overnight or until solid. Use a spoon to scrape across the surface, and serve the shavings in a bowl, or for even more fun, pick up some snow-cone cups!

  • Tags:
June 25, 2011

Grandma Ruby’s 1-2-3-4 chocolate cake

.

My grandma, Ruby Tilton, could bake a cake. That’s for sure. Like many good cooks, she never wrote many of her recipes down, which is too bad. Recipes are such a great way to reconnect with people we’ve lost, and even to get to know them. Grandma Ruby, pictured below, passed away when I was four years old. I do remember her, but only vaguely. I remember her hugging me, and that she was soft. 

.

Luckily, my mom had the foresight to watch her mom bake her famous chocolate cake one day, and write the recipe down. Now Ruby’s descendants will be able to enjoy the taste of her delicious cake for generations to come! For me, this cake is like a big soft hug from my Grandma!

.

You can frost this cake however you choose. I like white frosting on chocolate cake. My mom said when she was a kid, they’d eat this cake warm right out of the oven, with a little cream poured on top. YUM! 

.

Like most old-fashioned cake recipes, this one is subject to falling. It happens once in a while. My mom said she isn’t sure what causes that to happen … opening the oven door once to often, kids jumping from kitchen chairs, who knows? But I highly recommend you make this cake and take that risk. It is so rich and moist, and a million times better and more chocolatey than anything you’ll find in a box. Take Grandma Ruby’s word for it!

.

1 cup sour milk (add 1 Tbsp. vinegar to a measuring cup; add milk or half-and-half to make 1 cup)

1 cup boiling water

1 tsp. baking powder

1 Tbsp. vanilla

2 cups sugar

2 cups flour

2 sticks butter, room temperature

2 tsp. baking soda

3 eggs

4 HEAPING Tbsp. cocoa (use a serving tablespoon and heap … should be about 1 cup)

.

Combine cocoa and baking soda in a large bowl and set aside.

.

Combine flour and baking powder and set aside.

.

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, milk, and vanilla. Beat until well combined. Gradually add the flour and baking powder mixture and beat until combined and no longer lumpy. 

.

Pour the 1 cup boiling water into the large bowl containing the cocoa and baking soda and stir very quickly. This mixture will bubble up a lot. That’s why you really need to put it in a large bowl.

.

Pour the cocoa mixture into the batter and beat until mixed well.

.

Pour into a buttered and floured 9″ x 13″ baking pan, and place in a 325 degree F. oven for about 1 hour. Watch closely and use a toothpick to test for doneness. Enjoy!!

  • Tags:

Pages