Pound Cake in a Can, and a Little Chickadee

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In other posts I have mentioned that I have a predilection for saving tin cans (I know, it’s pathetic.) and have turned them into pantry organizers and flower vases. Could they be used as interesting little baking tins? I could remember seeing date nut bread baked in a can, but I wanted to try a cake. I had saved a 28-ounce can that had held crushed tomatoes. Then I found a recipe for a small cake based on one egg, and tweaked it a bit, adding some chopped dried apricots and my favorite herb, rosemary. I really didn’t know–would the cake burn or overflow disastrously? The result really surprised me–the cake baked up perfectly, and is absolutely delicious. It has the moist, fine texture of a pound cake, and is studded with tart bites of apricot. The flavor of the rosemary is elusive, but delicious. I was able to whip up the cake with a spoon and pop it in the oven in about twenty minutes, and there was a definite fun factor–so it’s small, easy, delicious and fun. Doesn’t get any better!

By the way, I made the above vase with my Kinkajou Bottle Cutter, and stenciled it with a spray of flowers. I have yet to make a perfectly cut vase, but I’m getting closer!

Pound Cake in a Can

IMG_08291/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
a splash of vanilla
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of salt
1/4 cup half and half
6 dried apricots, chopped
a sprig of fresh rosemary, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and prepare your 28-ounce can. Wash and dry it meticulously, and using the bottom of the can as a pattern, cut a circle of waxed paper. Generously grease the can with shortening, and then press the waxed paper circle to the bottom of the can. Then there will be no doubt you will get the cake out of the pan!

In a medium-sized bowl, cream the softened butter with a big spoon. Add the sugar, and keep mixing. Add the egg, and beat thoroughly until light. Then add the chopped apricots and rosemary, and mix thoroughly until moistened.  Mix the flour with the baking powder and salt, and add it to the butter mixture alternating with the half and half. Begin and end with the flour mixture. Place the cake on a baking sheet and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 50 minute or until the top tests completely done. Wait for about 15 minutes, and then run a knife around the cake and upend into your hand (covered with a dish towel), and then onto a plate.

Baking notes:  I could see adding a handful of golden raisins that had been soaked in rum, along with the above additives. Or it could be made with chopped maraschino cherries and walnuts, or semi-sweet mini chips or candied lemon peel or . . . ? The one negative with this recipe is that it asks for the half and half, and I know that not everyone has that on hand. But I think it would be fine made with milk, buttermilk, almond milk, or soy milk, as long as they are full fat. I think using a nonfat milk would result in a dry cake.

Meanwhile, as I bake, there are always birds right outside the window, tempting me to grab the camera. Here is a little chickadee, looking adorable with crumbs of suet on his beak.

IMG_0817 IMG_0818 IMG_0819And I know sparrows are common, but like all birds, look so interesting when seen close up!

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and here’s a downy woodpecker, in mid peck . . .

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and lastly, a perennial sweet pea, clambering up the rose tower in my side garden. Namaste. Fran

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Morning Glory

The morning glories are in full glorious bloom on this beautiful summer day, and basically this post wallows in their azure beauty. They almost look like they are illuminated from within by their own tiny light bulbs! I have also included a bird or two, plus a just-opening phlox.

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Black-capped chickadee

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Starling

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This morning's goldfinch

This morning’s goldfinch

IMG_7231This post is in memory of our cat Rocket, who died yesterday. He was a little angel in our home for 16 years, and we will miss him.

 

Lemon Drop Cookies and a Goldfinch

IMG_0704This post evolved in a circuitous fashion: first I took some pictures of an especially handsome goldfinch, and then the bright yellow of his feathers reminded me of lemon drops (it was right before dinner), an old-fashioned hard candy. I could remember the little blue and yellow cardboard box that lemon drops came in, and that they cost a quarter. They were made by Ferrara Pan Candy Co., in Forest Park, Illinois, which was near where I grew up. Somewhere I had heard of cookies made with crushed lemon drop candies, and soon I was hunting for the recipe, and for lemon drops.

I found lemon drop candies at the local grocery store, but they came in a bag for $2.99. So much for the old days! But they were still made by the Ferrara Candy Co. Soon I was in the kitchen, bashing at the candies with a big rolling pin. The cookies, while plain looking, deliver a lot of buttery, lemony tanginess, and are quite delicious. The recipe came from the Taste of Home magazine.

I don’t recommend making these cookies without first lining your cookie sheet with parchment paper. Melted candy could stick to an unlined sheet, even if its greased, and cause problems.

Lemon Drop Cookies

IMG_06941/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon half-and-half or milk
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup finely crushed lemon drops
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, cream, and peel. Combine the flour, crushed lemon drops, baking powder and salt; gradually add to the creamed mixture and mix well.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 3 inches apart onto the lined cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until bottoms are brown. Cook for five minutes before removing from baking sheet.

Note: I crushed the lemon drops in a heavy-duty plastic sandwich bag that seals at the top. I covered the bag with a dishtowel, and bashed it with a large rolling pin, though you could use a hammer. It took a heaping 1/2 cup of lemon drops to yield the 1/2 cup crushed. Keep in mind that when the cookies come out of the oven, the lemon drop shards are melted and very hot. So wait until the cookies have cooled before handling.

IMG_0721By the way, I made the vase in these photos with a bottle cutter called a Kinkajou Bottle Cutter, which can be purchased online. The bottle was from some mineral water, and with the bottle cutter, I cut off the top. Then I sanded the edges, and using a wine cork, printed big, lemon-drop colored blobs on the glass with enamel craft paint. It was fun! Wine and water bottles make nice, heavy-duty vases, and I also plan to make a little water bowl for use while I work on watercolors. You can also make drinking glasses.

And here are pictures of the goldfinch, whose neon yellow feathers made me think of lemon drops.

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It was a beautiful day!

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The swamp milkweed was looking a bit cloud-like, itself . . .

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And a sunflower opens. Nice to see it! Namaste. Fran

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Swedish Farmer Cookies and Summer Days in the Garden

IMG_0605I was curious about this recipe for Swedish Farmer Cookies, which was a Grand Prize winner in a Taste of Home magazine contest. Along with the usual butter, sugar and flour, it contained one teaspoon of maple syrup. What could one teaspoon of maple syrup do to a cookie? I got a real surprise when I made up the recipe and tasted one: first, they are wonderfully buttery and crispy. As for the maple syrup, it adds an elusive carmel-y, toasty flavor that is fabulous. It really isn’t easy to eat just one of these. Meanwhile, I found out that most recipes for Swedish Farmer Cookies contain molasses, not maple syrup. I will stick with this recipe, though. These cookies are really good and are perfect with summer berries and cherries.

Swedish Farmer Cookies

IMG_06001/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Cream the butter and sugar thoroughly; add syrup and mix well. Combine the flour and baking soda and gradually add to the creamed mixture. Stir, and then knead briefly with your hands to bring it together. Divide the dough into two halves, and roll each portion to a 9-inch log. Place three inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 300 degrees for 25 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cut into 1-inch strips while still warm. When they have cooled, dust them with powdered sugar.

Baking notes: You can double this recipe. If so, use two baking sheets, as the logs will spread out as they bake.

Daylilies are looking nice right now . . .They seem to be generating their own light source!

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Lilies are looking good, too . . .

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A monarch fluttered through the garden the other day and landed on the leaf of Solomon’s seal.

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And, of course, bird friends fly through . . .

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A young woodpecker . . .IMG_0376

A curious grackle . . .

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. . . and a magnificent gold finch in his summer coat.

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. . . I miss Grumpy 2, and hope he’s doing ok! Namaste. Fran

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Orange Peel and Fresh Rosemary Cookies . . . and Birds

This is the time of the year when, gardening-wise, things move fast. Daylilies bloom and fade in a day, clusters of lilies appear, sing their song and fade, and, or course, weeds go gangbusters. A monarch butterfly visited today, perching on a swamp milkweed flower. Swamp milkweed  (Asclepias incarnata) is a close relation to butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), having the same bitter sap. It’s a lovely flower.

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Daylilies having a party!
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My herbs, including my rosemary bush, are doing great in this warm weather. Rosemary is so versatile, and is good even in cookies! These Orange Peel and Rosemary Cookies are proof! These buttery, wafer-like cookies contain chopped fresh rosemary and are so good. The recipe came from the now-defunct Kitchen Gardener magazine. I wouldn’t use store-bought, dried rosemary for this, as it’s nothing like the fresh, so I hope this will encourage you to buy a rosemary plant.

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Orange Peel and Rosemary Butter Cookies

IMG_04611/2 pound butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
grated zest of one orange
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1-3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cream the butter and sugar, and add the vanilla. Then add the beaten eggs, orange zest, and rosemary and blend well. Sift the flour and the salt together and add to the creamed ingredients; combine thoroughly. I put the dough into the fridge to firm up a bit while I cleaned up.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto the lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes; the cookies should be brown slightly around the edges.

Baking notes: You could definitely used fresh lemon peel for this, as well. And I placed a single rosemary leaf on each cookie, just for pretty.

Meanwhile, we’ve had a lot of rain and warm weather, and the garden is going wild!

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I love the sundial–makes my garden seem like a real country garden.
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Can’t stop taking pictures of the orange day lilies and black-eyed Susans!

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Somewhat to my shock, the robin nestlings have fledged! This is what they looked like this morning (Sunday).

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Their mother found choice tidbits for them, such as this mulberry.

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But shortly after, I noticed there was only one chick. And he was practicing flying!

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He made a brief foray out of the nest.

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The mother robin seemed to be watching him from afar; she had an insect for him.

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Last time being fed.

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He seemed to regress to being a nestling–can’t say I blame him!

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She flew from the nest again, and began scolding a cat skulking through the garden.

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. . . the young robin then began trying out all sorts of pre-flight moves . . .

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I felt so sympathetic, not being able to imagine flying for the first time–jumping off into space and trusting that you can fly.

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I wished I knew how to tell him to go ahead . . .
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When I came back a few minutes later, he was gone. I heard his chirp in a nearby maple tree. I felt relieved, but to be honest, a little sniffly–that now he was on his own. Glad he made it. Namaste. Fran

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Robin Nestlings and Orange Daylilies

I can’t resist posting more robin nestling photos–they’ve been growing very fast. There are two nestlings, and I have been calling them Grumpy 1 and Grumpy 2, and you’ll see why when you see the pictures! But first, I want to share some pictures of an orange daylily that has just opened in my garden–it’s really something!

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Another daylily just opening.

Another daylily just opening.

Here are Grumpy 1 and Grumpy 2!

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The robin mother with dinner for the chicks.

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I took this just an hour ago.

One more daylily! Namaste. Fran

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Baby Robins

I can’t resist frequently checking on the robin nest, and have seen the mom and dad robin being run ragged by the hungry nestlings. At any rate, I thought you might enjoy seeing what’s up!

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Here’s a chick of another feather–my guess is that it’s a young house finch. Looks like he has more feathers than he knows what to do with!

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Lastly, some glorious gloriosa daisies! Namaste. Fran

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