Creamy Parmesan and Black Pepper Salad Dressing

This dressing is quickly becoming a favorite of mine.  The creaminess of the parmesan, the pepper, and the yummy hot sauce I added, YUM, it’s so good!!

And I was able to use with the last of my lettuce from my garden.  I planted a variety of lettuce seeds, then it got pretty cold and it seemed to stop growing.  Then we were blessed with some 50-60 degree days and nights and the lettuce just took off!  I was able to harvest two large bags of lettuce.

I had a few tomatoes too, and I made homemade croutons too (recipe is here).  So this salad and dressing is just perfect right now.

So let’s get to it… start with a good brand of mayo that you love.  The parmesan cheese needs to be finely grated, and again, you want the good stuff.  NOT the jarred stuff in the pasta aisle, I am pretty sure there is no cheese in the green jar anyway!  Fresh lemon just is best too.

Yes, in a pinch you could use the jarred cheese and bottled lemon juice, but fresh is best.

I put mayo, cheese, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper in a bowl and stirred well. Then I added the lemon juice, about 1 Tablespoon at a time until I was happy with the taste.  Same with the hot sauce, about a teaspoon at time.

I think this might be good drizzled over chicken too!

Creamy Parmesan and Black Pepper Salad Dressing

¾ cup mayonnaise

½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese

¼ to ½ cup fresh lemon juice, add 1 T at a time

4 tsp Dijon mustard

4-5 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Hot sauce, add to your preference, 1 tsp at a time

Salt and lots of freshly ground pepper

  1. Add mayo, parm cheese, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper to a bowl and stir to combine.
  2. Start adding lemon juice, 1 T at a time, to your liking.
  3. Add hot sauce to your liking, 1 tsp at a time.
  4. Store in a tightly sealed jar in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Taco Chili Cornbread in a Cast Iron Skillet

I love taco’s so much that I have prepared them many different ways, all of which I am sure you do too: Taco pizza, taco flatbread/naan, taco salads just to name a few basics.

Then I came up with this taco chili recipe. And it is crazy good!

First, I made my cornbread in my 12inch cast iron skillet. I preheated the oven and the pan to 400 degrees. The recipe for the cornbread is below. When the batter was prepared, I pulled the pan out of the oven and put 2 T of butter in the pan and swirled it around to coat the pan. Then I poured in the batter and baked for about 30 minutes, just until it is golden and starting to pull away from the sides of the pan. It’s important to not overbake so keep an eye on it.

You could chop a jalapeno and add that to the cornbread batter before baking, that would be delish!

While that cornbread is baking I prepared the taco meat by browning the ground beef and onion. After that is cooked add the taco seasoning and mix well. Add 1 can of fire roasted tomatoes and the juice and 2 T water, let that simmer for a few minutes. Then I tossed in a chopped bell pepper that was sautéed from a previous meal. Mix that well and remove from the heat.

I wanted to add beans to this recipe but, I didn’t have the can of beans that I thought I had in my pantry sooo….due to the COVID-19 virus I was not running back to the store.

When the cornbread comes out of the oven spread the meat mixture over the cornbread and top with a package of shredded cheese. Pop that back in the oven for about 8-10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

Remove from the oven and let it sit for about 5 minutes then serve. Top with sour cream, guacamole, salsa, whatever you want.

My next experiment with this is using refried beans instead of the meat mixture, then lettuce and tomatoes and top with cheese. That I am sure will be just as delicious.

Taco Chili Cornbread in a Cast Iron Skillet

Serves 6


1-1/2 cup buttermilk *see note below

8 T butter, melted

2 cups cornmeal

½ cup flour

1-1/2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

Pepper and cayenne pepper to taste

2 T sugar

2 eggs

2 T butter for skillet

  1. Put all ingredients in a large bowl, mix by hand until well blended. Set aside until oven and cast iron skillet are heated.
  2. Before pouring batter into the 12” cast iron skillet, melt 2 T butter and swirl around skillet to coat.
  3. Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until golden and starting to pull away from the side of the skillet. Do not overbake.

*NOTE: if you do not have buttermilk, just add 1-1/2 T of white vinegar to the milk and let it sit for about 5 minutes, stir before pouring into the batter.

Taco chili meat mixture:

1 lb ground beef

Salt and pepper

1 small onion, diced

1 bell pepper diced

2 T taco seasoning

2 T water

1 14 oz can of fire roasted tomatoes

8 oz package of shredded cheese of your choice to top the meat mixture

  1. Brown ground beef and onion, add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. When the beef is almost cooked, add the diced bell pepper. Drain the beef when cooked and reduce heat to low.
  3. Add the taco seasoning, water and tomatoes and mix well.
  4. Pour the meat mixture over the baked cornbread and top with the shredded cheese.
  5. Bake for about 8-10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Do not overbake.

Serve with sour cream, guacamole, salsa, or whatever you usually like with your taco’s and/or chili.


Furniture Refinishing

I have often admired the beautiful pieces of refinished furniture that I would see on Pinterest. And I secretly wished I would have the talent and time to produce the lovely painted tables and chest of drawers.

One of my favorite things to do is to browse through some local antique shops, over the summer I found a hutch with glass doors that I just loved! Except for the color of stain. Soooo that was my first piece to transform.

I learned a lot, and mostly from my mistakes.

The hardware on the hutch is the original, they were very tarnished. And nothing I used on them was working well at all. I was very upset and frustrated. Needless to say I ended up soaking them and then used a scouring pad with some cleanser and white vinegar. It helped some but I now have some scratch marks on them.

Below is the after picture, I forgot to take a before picture. Seriously! *smh

This picture is how I have it decorated for Christmas. Each shelf has a small string of fairy lights wrapped around the dishes and the decor.

A small, slightly mismatched nativity set. My Grandparents had the full set, but I found these few pieces in my Dad’s attic. It was always one of my most favorite things at Christmas when I was little!

I also have a lot of family heirloom glassware that I filled with Christmas ornaments.


I have my Grandparents everyday dishes in my possession, and usually this hutch is filled with the entire set but for Christmas I am only using 2 pieces. I wanted to use some of the other heirloom pieces I have for some Christmas décor. So, one of the serving bowls from my grandparents set of dishes is filled with snowflake ornaments.

My Mom’s Christmas Princess House glassware. Remember those?

A set of snowman mugs and a cookie plate that I used when my kids were small.

The rest of the décor are things I have collected over the years such as the bottle brush trees, the snowflake ornaments, the glittery star, the Santa’s and greenery.

The reindeer on the top of the hutch I found a few years ago, they have a texture of paper-mache but had some gold leafing on them. I spray painted them copper and just love them now!!

The greenery that they are sitting in was actually used around the entrance to my dining room but the area is too small and it seemed cluttered so this year I used it for the hutch.

I am just about finished with my second piece of furniture. I’ll post it soon, I need to find new door knobs, I’m leaning to clear glass knobs. Stay tuned!

Game Day Food

It’s game day!  No matter which team you are cheering for, let’s be honest…. the commercials and the game day food are really the highlights of the day!

Here are some yummy idea’s from some previous posts.

This Cheeseburger Quesadilla is really yummy!  Easy to make and you can cut them into smaller slices for easier serving for your crowd.

And I can’t forget the Chicken and Avocado Quesadilla. These quesadillas can be made earlier in the day and reheated in the oven.

This Three Cheese Roasted Red Pepper Dip is unbelievably good!  I haven’t made this lately, but it’s a sure thing for my next gathering.

Don’t forget the Taco Dip!! This is just a basic taco dip but it is always a crowd pleaser.  Over the years I have changed up the ingredients using black olives, guacamole, various seasonings, chopped roasted red peppers, chopped jarred jalapenos, and chopped onion.  This list could go on and on!

Enjoy your day and the game!


Mudslide Hot Chocolate

This hot chocolate is perfect for these cold, snowy Pennsylvania nights.

I’ll get right to it….

In a small saucepan over medium low heat, heat your milk, about 1-3/4 cups.

Meanwhile in a microwavable cup, add a heaping tablespoon of cocoa, 1 square of semi-sweet chocolate (or whatever you have on hand), and about 2 or 3 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk. Heat it for about 10 seconds, remove it and stir and pop it back in for another 10 seconds. Do not over heat the chocolate but it should be completely melted.

The milk needs to be hot when combining with the chocolate mixture. Use a small whisk if you have one but a spoon will be just fine. Stir or whisk until the chocolate and the milk are well combined.

Add about 1-1/2 shots of Kahlua. Is there such a thing as one and half shots?? Whatever. It worked for me. Be a rebel and add 2 if you want!

If you are going to be fancy, and why not be fancy! Use a clear glass mug, drizzle with chocolate syrup. Pour the hot chocolate into the fancy chocolate swirled mug. Top with marshmallows, whipped cream, or nothing. Would that be naked hot chocolate?

This alone can be a dessert, it is just that rich.


Sausage, Corn and Potato Chowder

I love hot and hearty soup on a chilly day. It hasn’t been too chilly yet but the soup is still a wonderful meal.

This soup is easy to put together, and can be on the table and in your tummy in no time!

I started with a pound of loose sausage, I usually like using a spicy Italian sausage, which would be great for this soup but this time I opted for just a plain sausage. I wanted to use my own spices this time around.

Brown your sausage and a chopped onion, salt and pepper. As it was browning I added paprika and a few dashes of cayenne pepper.

As soon as the sausage is cooked I added 4-5 cups of chicken stock and 2 cups of cooked, diced potatoes, 1-1/2 cups of corn. And I tossed in a rather large sprig of fresh thyme from my garden.

I love using thyme in just about everything. Last year I was lucky, our winter wasn’t too terribly cold and my thyme lasted all winter. I have it in a large pot by my back door. My rosemary survived as well.

Bring the soup to a light simmer, adjust the spices to your preference. After about 15-20 minutes, remove the sprig of thyme, and serve.

Sausage, Corn and Potato Chowder

Serves 4

1 pound loose, ground sausage

1 small onion, chopped and diced

4-5 cups chicken broth or stock

2 cups cubed cooked potatoes

1-1/2 cups corn

1 tsp paprika

few dashes of cayenne pepper

salt and pepper to taste

1 sprig of thyme

Brown sausage and onion in olive oil in a soup stock pot, salt and pepper to taste. Add the cayenne pepper and paprika.

When the sausage is cooked, add your broth, about 4 cups to start. Adding more if you prefer.

Add in the corn, and potatoes and bring to a light simmer, add sprig of thyme. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Taste and adjust your spices. Remove sprig of thyme before serving.


Pumpkin Crumb Muffins with a Cream Cheese Center

Fall has finally arrived! And with that comes hot chocolate, soups, and pumpkin. Pumpkin everything! And I am one of those people that loves everything pumpkin.

I also love muffins. And cream cheese.

Last year I made a pumpkin muffin that had the cream cheese swirled in it, this year I made them with a cream cheese filling. Oh. My. Gosh.

First you will need to make the cream cheese filling and pop it in the fridge to chill. Super easy, just take an 8oz block of cream cheese, room temperature and blend in 1 cup of powdered sugar.

Next, make the sugar crumb topping. I used ½ cup sugar, about 6 tablespoons of flour, 1 tsp cinnamon and 4 tablespoons of butter cut into chunks. Cut the butter into the sugar and flour until it resembles crumbs. Guess that’s why it’s called crumb topping! Anyway, I usually like to use my hands towards the end of the blending as I can get better crumbs. Just my thing. Set aside.

Now for the muffins! I used my stand up mixer for this. Pour in your bowl 1 cup of vegetable oil, one 15oz can of pumpkin puree, 1-1/2 cups sugar, and 4 large eggs. Mix until just combined.

Then add your spices, I used 1 teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg, ½ teaspoon ground cloves, and ½ tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice. Also add 1 teaspoon of salt and baking soda. Blend until the spices are just blended in.

Now add your flour, one cup at a time, 3 cups total. Scrape the bowl often. Once the flour is blended in do not mix any further.

Preheat your oven to 350 and line your muffin tins with paper cups. I still spray the paper cups. Remove the cream cheese filling from the fridge and be prepared to assemble!

Put a little of the batter in each of the cups making sure that the bottom of the cup is totally covered. Drop in about 1 tablespoon of the cream cheese filling. Then fill the muffin cup with batter until no less than ¾ full. I tap the muffin tin gently on the counter to make sure there are no air bubbles and that the cream cheese is completely surrounded with the batter.

Top with a sprinkling of the sugar crumb topping. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. Remove the muffins from the pan to cool.

I can’t tell you how long they will last because I can promise you ….. they won’t! You and everyone that you share them with will scarf them up!!


Pumpkin Crumb Muffins with Cream Cheese Filling

Makes 24-26 muffins

 Cream Cheese Filling:

1 8oz block of cream cheese, softened to room temp

1 cup powdered sugar

Blend until soft and creamy, refrigerate until ready to use

Sugar Crumb Topping:

½ cup sugar

6 T flour

1 tsp cinnamon

4 T butter, cut into cubes

Cut butter into sugar, flour and cinnamon mixture until crumbly, set aside


1 c vegetable oil

1 15oz can of pumpkin puree

1-1/2 sugar

4 eggs, large

Blend until combined

Add in 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg, ½ tsp ground cloves, ½ T pumpkin pie spice, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking soda. Mix until just combined.

Add 3 cups of flour, one cup at a time and only mixing until blended, scraping bowl frequently.

Preheat oven to 350, line muffin tin with paper cup liners. Drop in enough batter to cover the bottom of the paper liner, drop in about 1 T of the cream cheese filling, fill the rest of the cup with batter. No less than ¾ full. Tap the muffin tin on the counter to remove air bubbles. Sprinkle with crumb topping. Bake for about 20 minutes. Remove from pan to cool.

Mexican Skillet Dinner

Get out your cast iron skillet! This creation turned out way better than I had anticipated! I loved it! And it’ll be a recipe I use often.

I am trying to incorporate more veggies in my diet. This dish is definitely the way to do it, I just love the combination of the spices and sauce with the veggies and rice. And the topping of cheese is just an added benefit.

And its versatile so you can pretty much change the veggies and spices to your liking and serving size. You can’t really mess this up. Unless you burn it. And that would be a tragedy!

This is perfect for those days or nights that you are just too darn tired to cook but you really need something healthy and filling. It comes together quickly so I would suggest you have everything on the counter and ready to go.

If you do not have a cast iron skillet, you can still make this recipe you but you won’t be able to pop it in the oven for the final step. Unless you have a skillet that you can wrap the handle so it doesn’t melt. I have never tried that so I am of no help!

In a cast iron skillet, coat pan with enough olive oil to sauté your veggies. Dice a half of green bell pepper, half of a yellow bell pepper, and a small onion. Toss into the pan, season with a little salt and pepper, sauté until tender. Add in either frozen corn or corn freshly cut off the cobb. Grilled corn is even better.

Here is where the variety comes in, you can use any veggie that you want. Just make sure you start with the veggies that take longer to cook and end with your softer veggies. Make sense?

When the veggies are cooked, I added my beans. I used canned, small white beans. Stir well to heat. Again, you could use whatever bean you prefer.

I then grabbed my jar of sliced banana peppers and chopped a few of them up and tossed them into the pan. You decide if you want them and how much heat you want. You can use jalapenos, green chillis, or whatever you want for the heat.

Toss in cooked brown rice and your spices. I used cumin, paprika, red pepper flakes, chili powder, and fresh thyme from my garden.

Stir until heated through. Add red enchilada sauce. Stir gently until heated and the ingredients are blended well. Turn off the heat and top with your favorite cheese, I use shredded Monterey Jack. Pepper Jack would be good too. Or cheddar. Well, probably most any cheese would work.

Broil in your oven until the cheese is bubbly.

Top with chopped parsley, sour cream, guacamole, more cheese, nacho chips and a good bottle of Shiraz.

Here’s the recipe:

Mexican Skillet Dinner

1/2 each of a green and yellow bell pepper, seeded, and diced

1 small onion, chopped and diced

1 cup corn, can be frozen, or grilled on the cob and cut off

1/2 T finely chopped banana peppers

3/4 to 1 cup cooked white beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup cooked brown rice

1-1/2 cup red enchilada sauce

Salt, pepper, season to taste

1/2 tsp each of cumin, paprika, chili powder, and season to taste

Dash or two of red pepper flakes

a sprig or two of fresh thyme, remove leaves from stems

About 2 cups of shredded cheese, I prefer Monterey Jack

Assorted toppings to serve: salsa, sour cream, guacamole, nachos, etc.

  1. Heat olive oil over a medium heat in a cast iron skillet, use enough oil to coat the skillet you are using..
  2. Saute peppers and onions until tender. Salt and pepper to taste. You can also start adding some of your spices, I prefer to season each layer of food that I add.
  3. Add corn to sauté a little, especially if you’re using frozen.
  4. Add the beans, banana peppers and rice along with the rest of the spices. Taste and adjust the spices to your taste. Stir until ingredients are heated, just a few minutes.
  5. Reduce heat, stir in enchilada sauce to coat and heat through. Turn heat off.
  6. Cover top with as much shredded cheese as you like.
  7. Place skillet under the broiler until cheese is bubbly. Don’t walk away.!
  8. Ladle each serving into a bowl, top with desired toppings.

I hope you love this dish as much as I do! Live well friends!