Thursday, December 13

Mama Kat Thursday: Best Christmas Lights

The Mama Kat blog writing prompt I chose today was "Best Christmas Lights," where I live.

And really I don't have to go anywhere to see a great Christmas Light display. It's right in my neighborhood. I
 just have to walk out the door.

Right Across The Road:

Right Across the Road, Next Door to the One Above:

Next Door One House Over:
Two story house. These guys went all out.

If I drive down the road, there lot's more. No musical set-ups, but lots of lights! 'Tis the Season!
So with outdoor Christmas expression, do you do a lot or a little?

Thanks for Visiting!

Wednesday, December 12

Garden Pic Wednesday: Dressed up Holly!

After several days of gray cold gloom, I was quite happy to see sunny days again today and yesterday!
I actually went outside today. I wanted to water my containers and some of the newly bulb planted areas in front bed with Miracle-gro.
Also the garden veggies. Broccoli is just starting to head.
I walk around and see so much growth---everything that blooms in the spring is poling up it's greenery right now to energize from the winter sun: Dutch Iris, Easter Lilies & Daffodils greens so far.

Today's Garden Pic is my Oakland Holly all decorated up for Christmas!
It's about 4 feet tall now. I had a box of unused plastic ornaments and bought two strings of 50 light battery lights. Those are genius. 
No worries running extension wires to power anything. Once turned on, an auto-timer runs it a few hours nightly.
This Holly was bred for the Southern climate. It's self-pollinating. The berries are edible for birds. It doesn't grow overly tall.

Monday, December 10

Good Eating Monday: Easy Mexican Casserole

Today's recipe: Easy Mexican Casserole
I found it on Pinterest in a collection of Weight Watchers Casseroles and tried it because I liked the recipe.
But it wasn't Weight Watchers anymore once I got my hands on it, because I didn't think a 1/3 cup smidgen of cheese on top was near enough---so used a whole bag (1 1/2 cups) 2% Milk Mexican Cheese Blend! 
(Might as well. I didn't have any other use for it.)
I always find these sorts of recipes calling for "8 Corn Tortillas."  I've never found Corn Tortillas packaged in "8." Ever.
I had a choice of 10 or 30. I chose the 10 pack and for a 10 x 13 pan, 10 worked perfectly!
I also used light sour cream instead of fat-free and for diced tomatoes I had on hand a can of Mexican diced tomatoes with Green Chili's added, which was a plus.
I also used Ground Sirloin, which very lean and makes next to no grease during browning. 
The original recipe was super spicy with a lot of jalapeno, but Hubby doesn't like too spicy, so I skipped the jalapeno and I just added an extra teaspoon of Chili Powder instead.

Easy Mexican Casserole
1 lb extra lean beef
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 (15oz) can diced tomatoes 
1 (11oz) Mexican corn, drained
1 (15oz) can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 package Taco Seasoning (choose spicy, reg or mild)
3/4 cup non-fat sour cream
1/3 cup reduced fat shredded Mexican blend cheese
10 Corn Tortillas

If you want it extra spicy:
Use 1/4 cup minced jalapeno pepper

Decorative Options:
Minced Cilantro or diced green onions

Oil Spray a 10 x 13 baking pan or dish. Preheat oven to 350.

Cut the Corn Tortillas in half: 10 halves for bottom of pan and 10 halves for second layer. Arrange the first 10 halves on the pan bottom so it's mostly covered.

In skillet: brown meat and onions. Once meat is browned and onions tender, add tomatoes, drained corn, beans and taco seasoning pack and mix together. (Add minced jalapenos here, too, if you're using them.)  Simmer 5 minutes.

Now spoon 1/2 of meat mixture over first layer of corn tortilla halves in pan.

Then spoon sour cream over the meat mixture and smooth out over meat mixture so it's roughly evenly covered. (If you dot with small dollops all over, this works easier)

Top sour cream with remaining 10 corn tortilla halves, then rest of 
meat mixture, spreading it evenly.

The original directions said bake it 25 minutes, then add cheese and return to over for 5 minutes to melt, but I put my cheese on it right away and baked it with the cheese and that was just fine. So do it your way.

Serve topped with decorative options, like cilantro or green onions and salsa and chips on the side!

I served this to guest and they loved it! The sour cream layer in the middle makes this Mexican Casserole different from others.
And it was very simple to put together.

Thursday, December 6

Mama Kat Thursday: Thanksgiving Tag Questions!

The Mama Kat blog writing prompt I  chose today is answering a series of questions regarding my assorted opinions regarding Thanksgiving, called 
"Thanksgiving Tag Questions." 

1) What is my favorite Thanksgiving side-dish?
During the years of family feast while I was growing-up in Indiana, my favorite side-dishes were Cauliflower with delicious, melted Velveeta Cheese Sauce or Broccoli with Velveeta Cheese Sauce. Velveeta makes anything good.
However, nowadays my favorite side-dish is usually Garlic Sauteed Sweet Potato Strips with Halved Brussels.

2) What is my favorite Thanksgiving dessert?
Definitely Pumpkin Pie. 
My Mother used to make the most delicious pumpkin pies with home-made lard crusts. 
I remember eating cold slices of pie for snacks and even breakfast the next day!  

3)  What does your ideal Thanksgiving outfit look like?
I've never really dressed up for Thanksgiving. As a kid, our Thanksgiving was just immediate family at home and always casual.
This past Thanksgiving we had Thanksgiving dinner at a friends house and everyone was dressed casually.

4)  What is your best Thanksgiving memory?
One of my favorite memories is the
year my middle sister found this stubby, flat piece of water-worn 'driftwood' down at the creek on our property and brought it home to make a centerpiece with it. She and Dad cleaned it up, then he supervised her drilling 3 candle holes in it. I think she applied a coat of varnish, too. That driftwood became our table centerpiece every Thanksgiving and Christmas thereafter.

5)  What is my least favorite Thanksgiving dish?
I like food and I'm usually willing to try just about anything, but I have to say the marshmallow-topped canned yams is not my fav.  
It wasn't standard fare at my house growing up, though I recall one year one of my sisters wanted to try making it, so we had a pan marshmallow canned yams at least once.

6)  Do I have any quirky Thanksgiving traditions?
No, not really.

7)  Where do you usually celebrate Thanksgiving?
Growing up, it was always at home, just the immediate family.
Since I've been grown-up, I've celebrated it lots of places over the years:
* For many years once we moved here to Florida, we ordered a pre-cooked Turkey dinner from the local grocery store that included Turkey, stuffing, green beans, sweet potato casserole & buns and we'd have our Air Force friends come to our house. Eventually, those grocery chains all closed.
* After that, for a change of pace, we once made Thanksgiving Dinner reservations at Cracker Barrel dined there with two of our Air Force friends, since there were so few at the time.
* Then for about 3 or 4 years after that, we met up with our young Air Force friends at the Eglin Air Force Dining Facility for Thanksgiving. They could eat free and we, being retired, could eat for a small cost. The Mess put on a huge affair and have senior officers waiting tables, serving the Airmen. 
* We had the Airmen Center for 5 or 6 years after that and it had a full kitchen, so we held our Thanksgiving dinners there. Usually it was just Stouffers Lasagna & garlic bread, which is easier to serve then Turkey. 
* Then after the Airmen Center closed, one of our friends hosted a pitch-in group gathering for Thanksgiving at her house for 2 or 3 years. 
* Then this year, Hubby and I were invited by a Army couple to join the pitch-in Thanksgiving gathering at their house.

8)  What do you love most about Thanksgiving?
Eating.  I love eating dark meat, whether turkey or chicken. I love a good sage dressing, canned jellied cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. And if it's a pitch-in Thanksgiving, I like sampling other people's dishes.

9) What do I think has changed most since the first Thanksgiving?
The convenience of grocery stores.
Before 1930, acquiring a turkey or goose or chicken or whatever for your table was a greater challenge. In rural areas, you probably had to kill it yourself or have a farmer kill one for you.
 In large urban areas, there'd be butcher-shops.

No frozen turkeys in a freezer.

10)  What are you thankful for?
Really about everything. Health, home, family, freedom & grocery stores.

Wednesday, December 5

Garden Pic Wednesday: Succulent Tea Cup!

I have all these teacup planters all sorts of places with various succulents in them.
This particular cup was empty before I moved it to this spot pictured and where it was, wasn't working.
 One thing about teacup planters outside is they need to be put on a slight slant, because though they drain, they drain so slowly they overflow in rain if they're set flat.
So I moved this teacup to this spot between red blocks out front in my new landscape project area, on a slant, filled with Chicks and Chinese Stonecrop and a few red lava rocks in and around the cup.

The next picture below shows a larger perspective of where
it is.
(red arrow)

This bit of landscape is planted with ground covers plus shamrock, daffodil and grape hyacinth bulbs and a couple other things. I intend it to be a no-mow area.
The grass never liked it there anyway.