Moving Soon

In an effort to consolidate and simplify, I’ll be moving this blog and combining it with one I established a few weeks ago, My Creative Wanderlust. I’ve got about five blogs going right now and it’s driving me a little bonkers. I’d rather just keep most of them in one place.

All of the posts have been copied over into the new blog. I’ll work on transferring the pages over the next week and then this blog will be deleted. If you follow me, please add My Creative Wanderlust to your bookmarks. All of the posts from this blog and any new ones will be put into a “Recipes” category for easy access. I hope to see you there!


Cheesy Hashbrown Casserole with Kielbasa

Cheesy Hashbrowns & Kielbasa  Cheese? Potatoes? Kielbasa? It’s hard to go wrong really.

I love that this dish comes together in less than 10 minutes with minimal effort. I don’t like that it takes almost an hour in the oven to cook because it smells so darn good!


1 – Two pound bag of frozen shredded potatoes

3 Cups shredded cheese (I use Mexican blend), divided in half

1 Medium onion, finely chopped and divided in half

6 Tablespoons butter, melted

1 1/2 Cups Chicken stock

1 Cup fat-free sour cream

1 Teaspoon ground black pepper – optional

1/2 Teaspoon salt – optional

1 Package kielbasa franks


Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F). Melt butter in microwave. Chop onion until it is finely diced and divide into two piles.

In your trusty lasagna / 9 x 13 casserole dish, spray with non-stick cooking spray and then spread half of the frozen shredded potatoes in an even layer on the bottom. Next, take half the diced onion and sprinkle it evenly over the shredded potatoes in your pan.

Take half of your shredded cheese (about 1 1/2 cups) and spread it evenly over the onions and potatoes. Add the rest of your potatoes on top of the cheese layer. Add the rest of your diced onion, sprinkling evenly over the potatoes.

Next, mix together melted butter, chicken stock, and fat free sour cream until sour cream lumps are gone and mixture is a creamy smooth liquid. Add the salt and pepper to this mixture if you prefer. (Sometimes I add them, sometimes I don’t. It’s easy to salt and pepper to taste as you serve so this step is completely optional.)

Pour liquid mixture over casserole, making sure to spread it evenly over the potatoes so they all get some. Finally, add the rest of the shredded cheese in an even layer.

Bake in the oven for 35 minutes.

After 35 minutes, pull the casserole out of the oven and put the kielbasa on top. Put the casserole back in the oven and bake for an additional 25 minutes. NOM!

– Note 1: I love the cheese crispy and a little brown on top (so good!). If you are a bit put off and thinks it looks burned, then wait and add the final layer of cheese right before you put the kielbasa on top, then cover with tin foil to bake for the last 25 minutes. Personally, I love the crunchy goodness, but choose the option that works best for you.

– Note 2: This reheats like a dream. I always have leftovers for lunch the next day and it’s fantastic!




Baked Ziti

Red Sauce

It feels like Italian week around here. We’ve been eating a lot of pasta lately. This is great if you like leftovers. I put the leftovers into wide-mouth glass pint jars (I always use glass jars, never plastic bowls) and send it to work with Mike for his lunch. It reheats wonderfully.

Baked Ziti

Prep Time: 20 mins | Cook Time: 45 mins


  • 1 Small Box Penne or Ziti Pasta
  • 1 Jar Spaghetti Sauce
  • 1 Large Can Crushed Tomatoes with Garlic
  • 1 Can Diced Tomatoes with Green Chilis
  • 1 1/2 Pounds Ground Beef
  • 1 Large Onion, Chopped
  • 3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 2 Cups Ricotta Cheese
  • 2 Cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese, Divided
  • 1 Cup Shredded Cheese Blend (4 or 6 Cheese)
  • 1/4 Cup Butter (1/2 stick), Soft
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon Dried Parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon Dried Basil
  • 1 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
  • 1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
  • 1 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Put pasta on to boil, cook until not quite done. It should still be a little tough. It will finish cooking in the oven and be perfect. If you boil it to well done, it can turn out mushy after baking. Yuck.

While pasta is boiling, peel and chop onions and garlic. Saute in a large nonstick skillet with ground beef until beef is well done. As beef is browning, break it apart with your spatula until you have small bite-sized or smaller chunks.

Once beef is browning, in a large sauce pan, mix together 1 jar of spaghetti sauce, 1 can crushed tomatoes, and 1 can diced tomatoes.

Tip: The spaghetti sauce I use is rather thick straight out of the jar. I don’t drain the diced tomatoes, just pour the juice and tomatoes all into the sauce. It helps loosen up the sauce without making it runny. If your sauce is already thin, drain the diced tomatoes before adding them.

If you like your pasta saucier, you may want to add a second jar of spaghetti sauce or a second can of crushed tomatoes. I always do because I get very annoyed when I order baked ziti in a restaurant and it comes out dry with very little sauce. If you end up with too much sauce, keep the leftovers in your fridge for pizza sauce.

Mix sauce and tomatoes well and simmer over medium low heat until warm.

If your pasta is done, drain and set aside. Now it’s time to make the cheesy filling.

Add the ricotta cheese to a large mixing bowl. Add one cup of the shredded mozzarella cheese and one cup of the shredded cheese blend. Add the soft (not melted, just soft) butter, the raw egg, and the dried spices. Mix well.

Baked Ziti – Warm and Bubbly

To start building the ziti, spray a large lasagna pan with non-stick cooking spray. Add a very small amount of sauce, maybe a half cup, to the bottom of your pan and spread around.

Drain the grease off your ground beef. Add the beef to the lasagna pan in an even layer. Add one-third to one-half of the remaining sauce to your pan, pouring it slowly over the ground beef so it is evenly distributed.

Next add the cheese filling. Drop it by large spoonfuls onto the sauce and beef. Once you have all the cheese filling in the pan, you can push it around gently with your fingers and pat it down to fill any holes so you have a somewhat even layer of cheese.

Now you want to add your drained pasta directly on top of the cheese mixture. Make an even layer of pasta. Add the remaining sauce over the top of the pasta. Then sprinkle the remaining cup of shredded mozzarella and shredded cheese blend over the top of the sauce.

Bake uncovered in your oven at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes.

Poor Man’s Spaghetti

My Favorite Spaghetti Sauce

What exactly is poor man’s spaghetti? Growing up in my mom’s kitchen, it meant using jarred sauce instead of sauce made from scratch. It’s a very simple, very quick way to make a delicious meal after a long day at work. There’s really no need for a recipe, but Mike is beginning to cook and he asked for this. My husband asks sweetly? I bend over backwards to make it happen.

Poor Man’s Spaghetti

Prep Time: 10 mins | Cook Time: 25 mins


  • 1 Large Onion
  • 1 1/2 Pounds Ground Beef
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Onion Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 Jar Spaghetti Sauce (any basic red sauce will do)
  • 1 Box Thin Spaghetti


Bring large pot of water to boil. Add spaghetti and cook until al dente.

Peel and chop onion and garlic. In large saute pan, add ground beef, onions, and garlic. Add garlic powder, onion powder, crushed red pepper, salt and ground black pepper. Brown over medium high heat until beef is done. As beef is cooking, break into small chunks.

Quick and easy, but so delicious!

Once beef is well-done, add spaghetti sauce and turn heat to medium low. If sauce is thick, use some of the pasta water to thin to the consistency you prefer.

Cover pan and simmer over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sauce is hot.

Drain pasta and add a scoop to your plate. Add sauce and grated cheese on top to taste.

Chocolate Madness Cheesecake

Chocolate Madness Cheesecake

This recipe came to me via an old friend. I don’t know where she got it. I think it’s a fairly common recipe so I’m not taking any credit for it. However; it’s very rich, very decadent chocolate fudge cheesecake.

Use Ghirardelli Chocolate Chips and Sweet Ground Baking Cocoa? You just took it to the next level. If your friends start moaning, don’t blame me.

Chocolate Madness Cheesecake

Prep Time: 30 mins | Cook Time: 1 hr 15 mins



  • 1 1/2 Cups Graham Cracker Crumbs
  • 1/2 Cup 10X (Powdered) Sugar
  • 1/3 Cup Sweet Ground Baking Cocoa
  • 1/2 Cup Melted Butter (1 Stick)

Cheese Cake:

  • 1 Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1 Cup Milk Chocolate Chips
  • 3 8 Ounce Packages Cream Cheese
  • 1 14 Ounce Can Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 4 Eggs
  • 2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract



Melt butter. Combine with other crust ingredients and press firmly into bottom of 9 inch spring-form pan. Wrap bottom of pan with tinfoil to cover bottom and about halfway up sides. Set aside and make cheesecake filling.

Cheesecake Filling:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Melt chocolate chips with method of your choice. I use a double boiler on the stovetop, but a microwave will work as well.

In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese (I used 1/3 less fat cream cheese) until fluffy. Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk until smooth.

Add melted chocolate chips, eggs, and vanilla. Mix until combined. Pour into prepared spring-form pan.

Place spring-form pan on a jellyroll pan (any large cookie sheet with raised sides about 1/2 inch deep). Boil water in tea kettle. Add boiling water to jellyroll pan carefully, until pan is almost full. Do NOT get any water in your cheesecake.

Carefully place jellyroll pan in oven and bake for one hour. Check center of cheesecake and remove from oven once the center is just barely set. (Mine generally takes 1 hour, 15 minutes.)

It tastes even better than it looks!

Let cake cool on stove top. Once cool, place spring-form pan in refrigerator to chill (generally several hours or overnight).

To remove cheesecake from pan, run a knife around the inside edge of spring-form pan to loosen it, then open pan and slide off cake.

Warning: This cake is extremely rich and sweet. May cause chocolate coma and extreme happiness. You want a happy ending? It doesn’t get much happier than this.

Confession: We had it for breakfast on Sunday morning. Best breakfast ever.

Cheap & Easy Pizza Dough

I used to use that Pillsbury pizza dough that comes in a can. You know the kind, just roll it out? It’s okay, quick, and easy. One day I ran out and made my pizza dough from scratch. I used to do my dough this way all the time, until I got lazy.

Once Mike had a slice of the pizza made with my scratch dough he refused to eat the can stuff. “No way, yours is awesome. Make that instead.”

Well, that will teach me.

Pizza dough ready for toppings

Pizza Dough

Prep Time: 45 mins | Cook Time: 20 mins


  • 1 1/2 Cups Warm Water
  • 1 Tablespoon Sugar
  • 1 Package Rapid Rise Dry Yeast
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 2 Tablespoons Garlic Powder
  • 3 1/2 to 5 Cups Flour


Preheat oven to “Low” or the lowest setting you have.

Add 1 1/2 cups warm (not hot) water, sugar and dry yeast to large mixing bowl. Use a whisk to mix well. Let sit for five minutes.

If you have yeasty bubbles after five minutes, continue. If not, start over. Your water was either too hot or too cold and killed the yeast. (It deserved to die, right?)

If the yeast is bubbly, add the olive oil, salt, and garlic powder. Stir.

Add three and half cups flour, stirring after each cup is added (otherwise you end up wearing a lot of flour). Mix well.

Dough should be soft and somewhat sticky. Kneed dough in bowl, adding more flour as needed until it is no longer sticky. You may end up using a total of 5 cups of flour, but just use enough so dough does not stick to your hands or bowl.

To kneed the dough in the bowl, fold one side over the other, squish it into the center. Rotate bowl 90 degrees and repeat. Make sure to dig under and flip dough over every few turns so bottom is no longer sticky.

Once dough is ready, cover top of bowl with wet paper towel (do not let it touch the dough, stretch it over the top of the bowl) and put in warm oven. Turn oven off and crack open oven door.

Set kitchen timer for 10 minutes. When timer goes off, gently close oven door and reset timer for 30 minutes. Dough should roughly double in size,

When dough is doubled, remove from oven. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Turn dough out onto large jelly roll pan that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

We use hot banana peppers and pepperoni, yum!

You may need a small amount of flour to sprinkle on dough to keep it from sticking to your hands. Flatten dough and stretch to cover bottom of pan.

I like to stretch it a little thinner in the center and then push it up against the sides of the pan so the edge rolls over back on itself and makes a thicker edge crust.

Use your favorite sauce, toppings and cheese for your pizza. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until edges of crust are golden and cheese is melty.


Chicken Fajita Enchiladas with Creamy Ranchero Sauce

I’ve been traveling on business for the past week. I couldn’t believe how much I missed cooking dinner with Mike each night. To celebrate, today we tried something new and it turned out wonderful!

Chicken Fajita Enchiladas:

(Prep time, 1 hour. Cook time, 30 minutes)


Baked Chicken:

  • 1 Package Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast Tenders
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Sriracha Hot Sauce
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Paprika
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Fajita Mix:

  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 Green Bell Peppers, Sliced
  • 2 Large Onions, Sliced
  • 4 Cloves Garlic, Minced

Creamy Ranchero Sauce:

  • 3 Tablespoons Butter
  • 3 Tablespoons Flour
  • 2 Cups Chicken Broth
  • 1 Cup Sour Cream
  • 2 Cups Hot Salsa


  • 8-10 Tortilla Shells, Burrito Size, slightly warm
  • 3 Cups Shredded Cheese (Mexican or Taco Blend)


First you will need to cook the chicken:

Chicken ready for the oven, just cover with tin foil.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line 9″ x 13″ baking dish with tin foil. Spray foil with non-stick cooking spray, Put chicken tenders in single layer in dish,

Drizzle olive oil and hot sauce over top of tenders. Dust with salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Set aside to cool. Do not drain drippings, these will be used later. While chicken is baking, prepare fajita mix.

Next prepare the fajita mix:

Clean and remove seeds from two green peppers and slice into thin strips. Peel and slice onion into thin strips. Peel and mince garlic.

Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to skillet, add peppers, onions, and garlic. Saute over medium high heat, covered, until peppers are just barely tender. Set aside to cool.

Now for the creamy ranchero sauce:

In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium high heat. Add flour and whisk to create a roux. Let simmer for a minute.

Add drippings from baked chicken and chicken broth slowly, whisking constantly.

Once all the chicken broth is incorporated, remove from heat and add sour cream and salsa, stirring until sauce is smooth and creamy. Set aside.

Assemble the enchiladas:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray lasagna pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Shred cooled chicken into small pieces.

Warm each tortilla shell in the microwave for 15 seconds (or until warm and pliable).

Out of the oven, ready to nom.

Add a handful of shredded chicken to tortilla shell. Add fajita mix and shredded cheese to taste. Roll tortilla shell tightly, tucking in ends to prevent leakage, and place seam side down in prepared lasagna pan.

Repeat 8 to 10 times. If any chicken or fajita mix is left over, spread over enchiladas in pan.

Pour 3/4 of the creamy ranchero sauce over the enchiladas, reserving remaining sauce. Sprinkle remaining shredded cheese over top.

Bake uncovered in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until cheese begins to brown and sauce is bubbly. Remove from oven and drizzle with reserved ranchero sauce sauce to taste. Serve hot and try not to burn your mouth. So delicious!

Roasted Garlic Hummus

I love garlic hummus. It’s even better when you make it yourself. Roasting garlic isn’t hard and the results are so worth it!

Roasted Garlic Hummus

(Roasted Garlic, 30 minutes. Hummus, 10 minutes)


  • 10-12 Large Cloves Garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Can Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas)
  • 2 Tablespoons Tahini
  • 3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Cup Garbanzo Bean Juice
  • 1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1 Teaspoons Ground Black Pepper
  • 1/2 Teaspoons Salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel garlic and place on a sheet of tinfoil sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Drizzle olive oil over garlic cloves, dust with salt and pepper. Wrap tinfoil around garlic and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Drain garbanzo beans, reserving juice for use in hummus. Add one can of drained garbanzo beans to blender or food processor. Add roasted garlic, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic powder, and 1/4 cup of juice reserved from garbanzo beans. Blend until smooth and creamy, adding more garbanzo bean juice as needed to get the consistency you like. Add salt and pepper and blend.

Chill and serve with toasted pita bread or fresh vegetables. It also makes a great sandwich spread with hamburgers or Triple B Beef. Great with beer and a football game!

Triple B – Beyond Belief Beef

The wooden spoon helps keep it from boiling over.

Do you like melt-in-your-mouth roast beef? Wouldn’t you love to have that warm, savory piece of heaven on a soft tasty roll? This is one of my favorite recipes, Beyond Belief Beef. It takes all day to cook and it will heat the house up. I can only make it in the fall and winter because it is just too hot in the summer. We made our first batch of the season this past Saturday and it was like Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all rolled into one awesome day. Eat it on a soft roll with your favorite sandwich condiments or eat it naked on a plate. Either way, it’s fantastic!

Beyond Belief Beef

(Prep time, 15 minutes. Cook time, 5 hours. Yes, hours.)


  • 3 Packages of Stew Beef, trimmed lean (or sirloin strips)
  • 2 Large Onions, chopped
  • 5 Cloves Garlic, chopped
  • 2 Cups Worcestershire Sauce, divided
  • 1 Tablespoon “Better Than Bouillon” Beef Base
  • Lots of Water (about 2 gallons total, added as needed)


Peel and chop onions and garlic. Add to large stew pot or dutch oven with heavy base. This pot will be on the stovetop for five hours, it needs to take the heat and not scorch your meat.

Trim stew beef until only small bits of fat remain. Add to stew pot along with 1 cup of worcestershire sauce and beef base. Add enough water to completely cover beef.

I use tap water. If your water has a lot of iron or sulpher (it tastes yucky), you might want to use bottled water. Have at least 2 gallons on hand if you are using bottled water.

Spoon this yucky foam off

Place on stove top and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Do NOT walk away from your stove. If this boils over, it will cause a mess that will take hours to clean up. Stand there and watch it carefully. As it begins to boil, a yucky foam will form on top. Spoon this foam off into a bowl and discard.

Once the foam is spooned off and beef is boiling in a gentle, rolling boil, cover with lid ajar to let steam escape. Set a kitchen timer and check your beef every thirty minutes. Stir and add more water (until beef is covered) every thirty minutes for the next four hours.

After four hours, add the second cup of worcestershire sauce. Your beef will start to fall apart when you stir it around the 4 1/2 to 5 hour mark. When it starts to fall apart on its own, let the water begin to boil off.

Do NOT let it boil dry. If it does, it will be ruined. You want your beef soft and juicy so make sure you don’t boil the juice completely off. Leave at least one cup of juice in the bottom of your pan. Mike has me scoop out an extra cup of the broth for him to dump over his bread.

Serve on a soft roll with your favorite condiments. I use mustard and sharp cheddar cheese. Mike eats it naked with lots of juice. Some of our friends put horseradish on it. I sometimes use roasted garlic hummus on my roll (that recipe is coming up next).  Served warm, it’s beyond belief, melt-in-your-mouth beef.

It tastes even better than it looks!

Beer and Bacon Potatoes

You know what I love? Bacon. It’s even better when there’s beer involved. Add potatoes and it’s just about perfect.

Beer and Bacon Potatoes

(Prep time, 20 minutes. Cook time, 45 – 60 minutes.)


  • 1/2 Pound Thick Cut Bacon
  • 5 Pounds Potatoes, Sliced
  • 2 Onions, chopped
  • 6 Cloves Garlic, chopped
  • 4 Tablespoons Butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1 12 oz Can Beer (Any pale American-style lager will do.)
  • 1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Onion Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Basil
  • 1 Tablespoon Parsley


Ready to go in the oven, just add tinfoil.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray non-stick cooking spray in large roasting pan. (I use a disposable pan because I hate clean-up.) Line bottom of pan with thick-cut bacon. Bake in a 400 degree oven approximately 10 minutes or until bacon is just barely crispy. While bacon is baking, slice up potatoes, onions, and garlic. I don’t bother to peel my potatoes, but you can peel or not based on personal preference.

Once bacon is done add the rest of the ingredients, layering potatoes, onions, and garlic with thin slices of butter and more potatoes. Sprinkle spices on top and then pour the can of beer over it all. Cover with tin foil and roast in 400 degree oven for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are easily cut with a fork.

These potatoes can also be done on the grill. To cook on the grill, add all the ingredients, except for the beer,  right on top of the raw bacon. Cook for 15 minutes until the bacon is crispy. Stir it all up, add the beer, recover with tin foil, and roast on the grill until potatoes are soft (about 15 minutes).

The potatoes soak up the butter, beer, and bacon grease to become a mouthful of heaven. Salt and pepper to taste, but you won’t need any additional butter on top. They will melt in your mouth, I promise.

Yummy Goodness

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