Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Cagey Raccoon and Pumpkin Pie SWOON

They're back! Better late than never. The black swallowtail caterpillars have finally appeared in the garden! They're pros at gripping slender stems while they feed.

They're beautifully colored.

They've got extra "feet" in the front to assist them in stabilizing their bodies and in grasping the food that they find.

Now I can start looking for chrysalises!

Someone who's just finishing up his metamorphosis: this cicada.

They have a fascinating life cycle. Nymphs hatch from eggs laid in trees and burrow into the ground. There they stay until adulthood, when they dig their way out and prepare for their final molt. You can see the bits of dirt still clinging to this cicada, and you can see how the shell is nearly translucent. His green wings can be glimpsed through the brown shell.

He attaches himself securely to a tree...

...and then pushes out of his shell. He pushes right...

...pushes left...

...leans back...

...and then he's out! He vibrates his wings to dry them quickly.

He rests as his exoskeleton hardens, and then it's off to find a mate.

Check out this link to see it in detail! It's really amazing!

Speaking of amazing, we had a pretty clever escape artist in our clutches...briefly...this weekend! The cats alerted us to the presence of a raccoon scampering around on the roof. Up went the trap. It wasn't long until we caught this little guy:

Todd caught a glimpse of him through our upstairs bathroom window and came downstairs to get the ladder. But somehow, the raccoon escaped in that two minute gap!

Up went the trap, again, and we caught the little fellow. As Todd searched for some wire to secure the cage, I saw something interesting on the roof. Another raccoon peeked out...

...and then, after a leisurely stretch, exited the soffits that I've had shored up again and again against these pesky creatures.

He made his way to the lower roof...

...and was quickly followed by ANOTHER raccoon!

The second raccoon was definitely younger and more timid.

The first raccoon wasn't shy at all. He headed straight for the spot where we'd had the trap and nosed around for leftovers.

The young one finally joined him.

We relocated the first raccoon and then cut away several tree branches that hung over our roof - surely the method they use to travel to and from our rooftops. No sign of raccoons since!

Some major excitement in the kitchen, too. I've discovered a really wonderful recipe! Now, I'm not a huge fan of pie or of pop tarts, so I didn't really have high expectations. But this is truly one of the best desserts I've ever had!

Pumpkin Pie Pop Tarts with Maple Sugar Glaze
Adapted from Joy the Baker
Makes 9 pop tarts

2 cups of white flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) of butter, cold, cubed
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk

3/4 cup pureed pumpkin
1 egg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon maple sugar (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup brown sugar

1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon maple sugar (optional)

To make the crust, mix the flour, sugar and salt. Cube your butter and cut it into the flour mixture until only pea-sized lumps remain. In a separate bowl, mix the egg and the milk together and then add it to the flour mixture. Combine and knead briefly. Divide dough in two, wrap it in plastic, and store in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

While you're waiting, go ahead and prepare the filling! Mix pumpkin and spices together and heat until fragrant. Remove from heat and whisk in egg, salt, and sugar. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Now your dough should be chilled! Flour your work surface and roll out one of your dough circles. Square it off to about 9 x 12 inches. Sorry about the photos...my kitchen is incredibly dark.

Use a pizza cutter to slice your dough into 9 pieces, and then do the same with your other dough circle. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling into the center of each square...

...and top it with another square. You can use a little water around the edges to help them adhere. Crimp the edges - mine looked a little raggedy because the high humidity caused the dough to stick to everything, even my flour-covered fork - and poke vent holes in the top.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely, and then mix all glaze ingredients together and add to cooled tarts. Even though I was careless and cooked my pop tarts too long, and then just slopped on the glaze in a hurry to get them to the table in time...

...they were amazing. They don't taste like pumpkin pie, exactly, and they sure don't taste like pop tarts. I've been dying to make these again, only using cookie cutters to make bite-sized tarts, but the two grocery stores I've been to recently were out of pumpkin, and I've used up my frozen pumpkin from the fall, too.

Must find more pumpkin.

I really hope you'll try these. They're addictive!

Have a great week!


  1. Great photos !!! It makes me want to take a photography class - you are inspiring.

  2. Thanks! I want to take one too...I've got to learn Photoshop!