" " " " Singing With Birds: May 2011

Monday, May 23, 2011

Tuckered Out...

Hello friends. 

No time to blog this week...my guy is scheduled for a major overhaul.  I will be keeping tabs on him 24-7.  Hope to be back in the next couple of weeks with plans to get both of us tuned up and in tip-top shape!

Thanks for understanding.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Warbling Wednesday

Singing With Birds was created to, "sing about all the good things in life."  Each Wednesday I spotlight some of the highlights I see from all of you.  If your project is featured, please help yourself to a button on my sidebar.

Novice  quilter, Eleni, created this oh so lovely Dresden @ Sew Happiness.  The colors and quilting make me happy.  I'm sure her mom was delighted too, Happy Mother's Day mom.

I'm loving these sophisticated new Scripture Stickers created by Mariesa @ Ten Cow Chick.  She's kicked it up a notch from her seminary days, marking the key words from the 100 scripture mastery scriptures.  Thanks Mariesa for sharing a great idea many will want to use.

Kim @ Too Much Time On My Hands needed some pricey grow boxes for her small backyard.  She found a great way to replicate them at 1/3 the price.  Check out her Earth Day Thursday-Grow Box.  I'm so excited to see her follow up project, a decorative cover!

Cute, sunny, {Freebie} Summer Time Celebration Printables @ It's Always a Party at the Parkers.  I'm thinking of all the lucky room mothers who are on the search for end of the year parties!

Orange is hot, but this is not!  Cynde @ The Exchange has a tried and true Recipe for the Best Self Tanning Lotion.  She promises a natural color tan, streak free, and it lasts 5 days.  Anybody else giving this one a try?  Who knows maybe I'll post my "before and after pix" next week!

Make time for lots of fabulous summer days that sizzle with Angela's {Free Printable} Summer 2011 Calendars.  June, July and August, each one is a work of art @ Anything But Perfect.

Don't miss LDH's marvelous photo gallery of May Flowers outside and in.  I enjoy each luscious post;  a creation in her kitchen, lovely old linens, a treasured postcard collection, her organized garage, or her beautiful family and decked out pup!  She is a most talented homemaker and I feel of her goodness @ With a Grateful Prayer and a Thankful Heart.

Last, but oh so yummy, in honor of National Chocolate Chip Day on Sunday, Katrina made individual Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake.  You'll find her delightful no-bake adaptation @ In Katrina's Kitchen.  Don't miss her final presentation...I'm so making this for Girl's Week!

Have an inspired week all!

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Out Back Burgers...Grilling 101

My All-American guy makes the best burgers! 

                                                                                                                               photo by stu_spivack

He's kind of a quiet-doer, but I ask him to grill every chance I get.  He recommended I share this DIY for burgers and  getting your grill-on. 

16 Tips For Grilling the Perfect Burger

 Here are Jeff's Weinstein's top tips for making perfect burgers.

1. Don't Push Down on the Meat
Consider this the cardinal rule of cooking burgers. "It squeezes out the juices, and the juices are the flavor," says Jeff Weinstein, founder and owner of the Counter burger restaurants. "Would you rather have a juicy product that took an extra minute or a non-juicy product that came a little faster?"

2. Buy Good Meat
Weinstein likes to have his butcher custom grind his meat -- he asks for a sirloin steak or rib-eye with a meat-to-fat ratio between 75-25 and 80-20. Even if you just go to your supermarket's meat section, don't fall for the trap so many people do, assuming the leanest meat is the best. "It'll be cardboard by the time you're done."

3. Chill the Meat First
Before you even form the patties, put the meat in the fridge for a half hour or so. You don't want your body heat to melt away the fat as you shape it; getting it colder helps it withstand the treatment. Weinstein even washes his hands in cold water before working with it to reduce their temperature.

4. Use a Scale
Unless you want people griping about unequal treatment, or you have a practiced eye for meat, use a scale to balance even amounts in each burger. Even Weinstein does.

5. Don't Overwork the Meat
People tend to ball up the meat as they form their patties. Don't do that; less handling is better. The more you push down and compress, the tougher the meat will be.

6. Use Both Hands to Form the Perfect Patty
Pull the meat apart into equal pieces, then pat down into a patty on a hard surface with one hand while forming the rough edge with the other. Resist the urge to slam down! Some people use the caps of big mayonnaise jars instead, which is fine. Weinstein prefers a thickness of 3/4 of an inch to an inch.

7. Dimple the Patty
When beef patties cook, they contract, and can leave you with a rounded, uneven burger. Push a little well into the center of the meat, about an inch or two around and a quarter-inch deep. The burger will be perfectly flat when they're finished cooking.

8. Back in the Fridge
After you've formed your patties, put them back in the fridge to cool down again for 30 to 45 minutes.

9. Use the Right Buns
Too many people put all their efforts into the meat without remembering that the bun forms more than half the burger. Try for a meat-to-bun ratio of 1:1. Buns about 4 inches to 4-1/2 inches round are generally good. You don't want a super-thick burger overhanging the buns -- but rather to get a taste of every element -- meat, bun, toppings -- in every bite.

10. Get the Grill Really Hot
"The hotter the better," Weinstein says. "You're trying to sear or char the meat really quickly so you have nice color on the outside and flavor from the barbecue on it." Weinstein likes to put wood chips in his grill for added smoke flavor.

11. Be Generous With the Salt and Pepper
Add the spices just before it goes on the grill, and don't be sparing. Weinstein says he doesn't like to add salt before this stage because he doesn't want the salt drying the burger out.

12. Put It on and Leave It Alone
Place the burger on the grill well-side up, then leave it alone. "The biggest mistake people make is pushing the burger around because they want to look like a grill master," Weinstein says. "Stick it down and leave it. You want to touch the burger three to four times at most. You'll know if you have a sear if it comes right off. If it sticks to the grill, you haven't let it sear long enough."

13. Get a Nice Criss-Cross Pattern
Here's the secret to that nice pattern people love so much: After you get the first sear, do a quarter turn, leave it alone for a little longer -- a total of 5 to 6 minutes for that first side. Then flip it, cooked-side down, leave it another three to four minutes, then do another quarter turn, let it get its marking, then take it off the grill.

14. Put on the Cheese Before It Leaves the Grill
Add cheese after your last flip or turn, while the burger's still on the grill. It'll start to melt slightly and be nicely oozing by the time it gets to the table.

15. Rest the Meat
After you take it off the heat, let the burger rest and redistribute its juices --for two to three minutes -- just like you would any steak. This way it won't immediately lose its juices at the first bite.

16. Have Plenty of Toppings on Hand
Everyone's got a different idea about what tops the perfect burger. Besides the standards -- lettuce, tomatoes, pickles -- try at least five or six other, less common options. Consider pepperoncini, jalapenos, or dried cranberries and break out of the American-cheddar-Swiss triumvirate of cheeses. Think havarti, Manchego or brie.

Wrapping mine in romaine, going bun-less,

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

Hey Y'all...it's pumpkin time!

Lucky for all of us who are joining my friend Lynn @ Happier Than a Pig In Mud for her monthly Celebrity Cook Along.  Her May celeb, Paula Dean is quite the gal, starting out with her restaurant, Lady & Sons and now she's everywhere.  

 So here's Paula in her kitchen...

 and here's my "little pumpkin" in my kitchen.

While I was caring for Sam this week I made pumpkin-oatmeal cereal for his dinner.  All I had was a 29-ounce can of pumpkin in my cupboard, so I had lots of leftovers.  Usually I make pumpkin goodies in the Fall.  Thanks to Baby Sam I made Paula's Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake.

My friend said, "I believe when you're bad, be really bad!"  With 2 cups of butter and whipped cream on top, this one is what she's talking about!  Actually, my family really enjoyed it.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Combine cake mix, 1 egg and butter and pat the crust into a 9x13" prepared pan.

Next combine all but the whipping cream and pour over the crust.  Bake at 350 for 40 to 50 minutes.

Remove and let it cool before cutting if you can.  I needed to serve mine right away and

the whipped cream slid off as fast as I could get it on top!

My baby with his baby, pumpkin fans, gave Paula 2 thumbs up.  Don't ya just love the squash on Sammy's face y'all?

Paula's Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

  • 1 (18 1/4-ounce) package yellow cake mix
  • 1 egg
  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted


  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the cake mix, egg, and butter and mix well with an electric mixer. Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 13 by 9-inch baking pan.

To make the filling: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla, and butter, and beat together. Next, add the powdered sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and mix well. Spread pumpkin mixture over cake batter and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Make sure not to overbake as the center should be a little gooey.

Serve with fresh whipped cream and like Paula, a smile :D

Dreamy Variations: 

For a Pineapple Gooey Cake: Instead of the pumpkin, add a drained 20-ounce can of crushed pineapple to the cream cheese filling. Proceed as directed above.

For a Banana Gooey Cake: Prepare cream cheese filling as directed, beating in 2 ripe bananas instead of the pumpkin. Proceed as directed above.

For a Peanut Butter Gooey Cake: Use a chocolate cake mix. Add 1 cup creamy peanut butter to the cream cheese filling instead of the pumpkin. Proceed as directed above.

Best dishes and gooey hugs to all! 

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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Mini-Oreo Surprise Cupcakes

Have you seen this new Oreo?
There's been some food buzz out there and yes, all the rumors are true.  

Nabisco has confirmed to TODAY.com perhaps the most indulgent Oreo in existence — the Triple Double Oreo, coming this summer.  

I can't remember not twisting an Oreo open and eating it, filling first when I was a kid.  Now my grands love these little guys....I call 'em grand treats.  The Triple Double will be bigger, but I can't imagine better than the perfect little bite-size, Mini-Oreo...still a splurge!

courtesy of Kraft

Mini-Oreo Surprise Cupcakes 
  • 1 pkg. cake mix
  • 1 pkg. cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 48 Mini OREO chocolate sandwich cookie
  • 1-1/2 cups whipped topping
Prepare cake batter as directed on package. Mix cream cheese, egg and sugar until well blended.  Spoon half the cake batter into 24 paper-lined muffin cups. Top each with about 1-1/2 tsp. cream cheese mixture and 1 cookie; cover with remaining cake batter.  Bake 19 to 22 min. or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool 5 min.; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.  Frost with whipped topping. Top with remaining cookies. Frosted cupcakes can be stored in refrigerator up to 3 days.

 lovin' grand treats...

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Warbling Wednesday

Singing With Birds was created to, "sing about all the good things in life."  Each Wednesday I spotlight some of the highlights I see from all of you.  If your project is featured, please help yourself to a button on my sidebar.

Searching for Pergola Plans we landed on Ana White Homemaker.  We are astounded at the detailed free plans provided here.  My guy printed off the 18 page plan, Weatherly Pergola a Pottery Barn knock off project that will save us big bucks and it looks great too.  Thanks Ana!

Another PBK knock off book rack, Red @That Red Headed Stepchild is a lucky woman to be married to a man with some serious woodworking skills. After checking out Ana White’s plans and making a few modifications of his own, hubs set to work and created this beauty! I love how the books face forward so little ones can actually see the covers and know what they’re grabbing. I also think it makes for a more attractive display to see all the bright cover art instead of the book spines.

I'm loving what Lindy @ Cottage Hill created for her vintage frames.  Ballard Bird Knock-offs are fresh and fabulous and you'll appreciate her printable patterns.

Father's Day is coming!  Ms @ Ms Not So Perfect created a gift that will put a smile on Mr Not So Perfect's face for years to come.  Her Dollar Store Personalized Paper Weight requires a favorite picture and just a few minutes to make a terrific gift.

Adoring these little white pots, so fun and fresh?  Liz @ Liz Marie Blog shares Lovely Painted Mason Jars that will brighten any room or decor.

If you visit each Wednesday you know there is always a yummy dessert to sing about.  Guest blogger Heather from Sprinkle Bakes came up with the prettiest Key Lime Swirl Cheesecake Bars.  You will find these yummies @ Confessions of a Cookbook Queen.  It's well worth the trip!

Have an inspired week all!

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

DIY: Clarified Butter

Go ahead, butter me upAfter all it's Tuesday and time for kitchen tips.

How to Make Clarified Butter 

from Bon Appetit


Clarified butter is one of the most underrated stars of the kitchen. And frankly, we think that's a crime. What's so great about it? Well...

* Its high smoke point means you can crank up the heat under a pan to get a nice sear on meat or fish

* Its nutty, concentrated flavor transforms everyday dishes like scrambled eggs into veritable delicacies

* Its lack of milk solids gives it a long shelf life

So how do you make it?

Just take whatever sticks of unsalted butter that are likely already in your fridge--no extra cash required--cook out the water, strain, and voila!  Liquid gold.

When butter is heated, its components separate by density--the water evaporates, milk solids sink, and butterfat rises to the top. Without those milk solids, clarified butter is less likely to burn or spoil.  

I keep a jar of it in my fridge at all times, and I suggest you do the same.

Note: Butter is 25% water, which you'll lose when you clarify it. So if you start with 4 sticks (1 pound) of butter, you'll end up with 3 sticks (3/4 pound) of clarified butter. You know, math.

1. Cut butter into pieces, each about 1 tablespoon. Then melt them in a saucepan over medium heat.

2. Bring the melted butter to a good simmer. Cook until the liquid underneath the foamy layer starts to look clear, about 3 minutes.

3. Remove the pan from the heat, and strain the liquid through doubled-layered cheesecloth into a bowl.


4. Stop straining when you see these cloudy bits (the milk solids) at the bottom. To get ultra smooth clarified butter, strain the liquid through fresh cheesecloth a second time.

That's it! Keep your clarified butter in the fridge for up to 4 months. And remember: this stuff has a super rich, concentrated flavor, so a little goes a long way.

In the next few months, I'll be sharing different ways I use this fantastic butter.

Happy Cooking All

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Monday, May 9, 2011

Honey-Lime Grilled Chicken

How was your Mother's Day?  

I shared a sweet one with some of the wonderful mothers in our family. They along with our two sons and their children helped prepare a special  dinner and it was delightful.  I marvel at the blessings of our family each day.   Have I told you we have 2 more grand babes on the way?  Yes, our 16th and 17th are due to arrive at the same time next Fall!  How's that for fun cousin planning?

My mom is a joy in every way.  I'm so thankful to have her in my life.  She has been such a positive influence in so many lives.  I'm so grateful for her remarkable strength and the love that she shares especially with me and my family.  She and my father filled our home with music and made it a haven on earth.

Mother, I love you; mother, I do.
Father in Heaven has sent me to you.
When I am near you, I love to hear you
Singing so softly that you love me too.

Mother, I love you; mother, I do.
I want to help you because I love you.
I want to mind you; I want to find you
Happy and smiling because I love you.
Mother, I love you; I love you, I do.

Lorin F. Wheelwright

Thank you for the phone calls, messages, cards and flowers that made my day extra memorable.  How I love my sweet kids! 

We've used two awesome chicken marinades.   Both have soy sauce and we needed a gluten free dish yesterday.  Limes are almost always in our fridge, so we came up with a "lime-lite-ful"

Honey-Lime Grilled Chicken

and it is a new family favorite, making our chicken so moist, flavorful and tender.  We tripled the recipe with great success and would add a few boneless, skinless thighs next time for dark meat lovers.  For best results give your chicken plenty of time to marinate.  Try it at your next party.  It's perfect for a special occasion or everyday. 

Honey-Lime Grilled Chicken
  • 4 chicken breast (I use boneless-skinless)
  • 1/2 cup lime juice (2 large squeezed)
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon thyme, dried
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary, dried
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • black pepper
To make the marinate: Combine lime juice, oil, honey, thyme, rosemary, garlic and pepper.  Pour it over washed and dried chicken breasts in a zip top bag.  Flip bag back and forth and refrigerate for 3 hours minimum.  Grill (or broil) till juices run clear.

How to grill chicken:  My guy recommends grilling (on a gas grill) 10 to 15 minutes per side.  He sets his grill on the low setting and cooks his chicken a little longer.  He likes to judge when the chicken is done by the touch and how the chicken looks. Chicken should feel firm to the touch, but not hard, when it's done. The outside of the chicken should be well-browned on both sides. You can also use a meat thermometer to check the temperature (USDA recommended temperature is 165 F for chicken breasts.) Cooking time will depend on the temperature of the chicken, how hot the grill is, the thickness of the chicken breasts, and even weather conditions if you're cooking outside.

Happy Grilling All!


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