Praise the Lard

True confession.  I’ve made a lot of pie dough and pastry in my time, but I’ve never used lard.  I’ve always considered it to be shortening’s big, bad cousin. Being an animal fat, it’s associated (in a bad way) with obesity, heart disease, and high blood pressure. That being said, proponents swear that lard makes the flakiest pastry possible and the few samples I’ve tasted in the past made me agree.  I thought it time to learn a little about lard.

It turns out that pure lard is healthier than most of us think.  It contains no trans fat and is 60% monosaturated fat. It contains more saturated fat than olive oil but less than butter.  Really? Yes, really. It’s not perfect; fat is still fat. And lard today isn’t pure the way it once was, now containing hydrogenated fats and other non-naturally occurring ingredients. But in moderation, like anything else, it’s okay to indulge in a little lard-based pastry now and again.

To that end, when I started the annual tourtiere bake-off last week, I decided to use Tenderflake lard for my pastry instead of the usual shortening or shortening/butter combo.  The lard looked like shortening, cut in and mixed like shortening, but then something different happened. Once the dough came together, it felt soft and, well, tender. It rolled out and shaped more smoothly than any pastry I’d made before and it was so easy to work with.  That was enough to sell me on using lard for pastry but this, this was the final push.

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Layers and layers of flaky goodness, slightly crisp on the outside, melt-in-your-mouth good on the inside.  Makes you want to go and bake a pie, doesn’t it?

I’ve been using this tourtiere recipe for years now and haven’t a clue where I originally found it or how much I might have changed it. Here you go, Jennifer. Ready, set, BAKE!

Tourtiere (8 servings)

1 lb. lean ground beef

1/2 lb. ground pork

(feel free to change meat mix to 1/2 lb. each ground beef, ground pork, and ground veal)

1 small onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup chicken stock

1 lb. potatoes, peeled and cut into large dice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Pastry for 1  9″ or 10″double pie crust

Combine ground beef, ground pork, onion, and water in a large saucepan, mixing well. Bring to boil, then cook, covered, over very low heat for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Halfway through cooking time, place potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Cover pot and bring to boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium high, and cook partially uncovered, until tender, about 20 minutes; drain. When meat mixture is cooked, add in spices and stir thoroughly.  Add potatoes and mash meat/potato mixture with a potato masher until well-combined and smooth. Line 9″ or 10″ pie plate with 1 pie crust and brush water onto edge. Spoon filling into pie crust and smooth, topping with second pie crust, and pressing along edge of pie dish to seal. Trim and flute crust any way you’d like and brush top and edges with egg wash (one egg beaten with a couple of teaspoons cold water). Bake in preheated 450° oven for 10 minutes, then lower temperature to 350° and continue baking for 20-30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.  Tourtiere may be cooled slightly and served hot, or served at room temperature.  Either way, put some chili sauce on the table to go with it.

I find that this recipe freezes well. Cool completely then chill until cold. Wrap pie, plate included (you may want to bake pies for the freezer in aluminum pie pans) with cling film and overwrap in foil.  Place in large freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months. To serve, thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then reheat in a 300° oven until warmed through.
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On The Road

Day 2 of the great adventure dawned a lot cooler than we’ve become used to.  Living in Kelowna has that effect on people.  A quick breakfast and we were on our way, spending 9 hrs on the road to Regina.  We (and 4 other cars) managed to avoid hiting a bear cub as it crossed the highway outside of Canmore, but the 2 purple martins that suddenly swerved towards us weren’t nearly as fortunate. I’ve never seen birds do that before.  The sound was horrific.

People often comment about the flatness of the prairies and how boring they are to drive through, but the clouds made the trip fascinating for me.  It looked as if someone had carefully placed them in position, then let them go with the breeze. Almost Dali-esque.

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The highpoint of the day was stopping for gas in Swift Current. We made it on fumes, hearing the low gas warning bell just before we could see the station.  BB was a little leery of the fellow approaching him as he got out of the truck, until he realized the station was full-serve. Been awhile since we’ve seen that. To top it off, there was free popcorn with every fill-up.  Great day!

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Road knitting was a swatch for a sock. Still thinking over a pattern.

We ended the day in Regina, tired and hungry and looking forward to next days trek.

 

 

 

Effecting Change – Part 2

I recently celebrated a birthday but the changes that came with it are greater than those that simply come with age.  Two weeks ago, we sold our house. We weren’t ready for the move and it took it’s toll on us. Selling up and starting over was the only feasible plan. To add to the changes,  BB and I are separating and as I write this, I’m halfway towards my new life.  It’s not the life I would have chosen, at least not on my own, but it’s the life I’m going to have, so I’m dealing with it. I’m moving back to the town where I was born and raised and where the majority of my family still lives. It’s extremely hard but I know it’s not impossible. I hope it’s not impossible.

We packed the truck up on Wednesday and pulled out of Kelowna Thursday morning. BB is driving my moving van and towing my car behind; I’m riding shotgun, as usual (you don’t just walk away from each other after all this time, you pull away gently – but with all your stuff).
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We made a quick stop in Banff where we had a private memorial service for our Skyler. It was very difficult being on the golf course, surrounded by memories.  When Skyler died, we were 3 days from moving to Kelowna and there was no time for me to grieve the places we’d shared – even if I was capable. I got to do that yesterday to some extent but it became obvious to me that the process is far from over.  We laid his memory to rest in one of his favourite spots, the ‘beach’ off the golf course where the Bow and Spray Rivers meet.

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We spent the night in Canmore and it was lovely to see the Three Sisters again. And to know that the bunnies are still running rampant.

Day 1 knitting involved sock repair.  The sole of the foot had blown out and a simple darning wasn’t going to work. Reknitting up to the toe was quicker than I imagined.

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Next stop: Regina, SK

Effecting Change – Part 1

It’s been a rough 18 months or so for BB and I, here in the valley.  Most every time our life moves one step forward, it seems to fall 2 steps back.  It’s become such a common pattern, we barely react to it anymore.  When we’re down, we know we’ll be back up again, and when we’re up, well, we know something will alter that.  Maybe we’re channeling too much negativity.  Whatever the reason, we’ve decided to make some changes.

Step 1.

Sell the house.

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With so many moves behind us, what’s one more?The market is certainly the best it’s been since we bought our Kelowna house 3 years ago, so we’re hoping for the best.  Let’s see how we do.

 

 

 

 

Tuesday in K-Town

I’ve been living in Kelowna, BC for just over a year now and have been working so hard that I seldom have any time to enjoy my surroundings.  You know how it is: work, housework, errands, sleep, repeat.  Even knitting time has fallen by the wayside over the past few months.  I’m hoping to change that.  Now that Spring has sprung (and it truly has sprung here in the Okanagan), I’m going to try to take a little time for myself for sightseeing (and knitting – while I sightsee, of course) or just hanging out around town and away from the house.

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Rhapsody, Waterfront Park Plaza

It’s 14º out as I write this, but it was about 6º cooler when I hit the waterfront earlier this afternoon and it certainly felt cooler.   I tried to catch up on some knitting while I was there, but after 10 minutes, I couldn’t feel my fingers.

 

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It’s a favourite pair of store-bought socks with a very badly sewn toe section. I love them but they’ve been too uncomfortable to wear.  Out with the old toes and in with some new hand-knitted ones.

Wee hyacinths are in bloom near the Delta hotel,

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and the tulips are budding.

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Mallards are everywhere.

I’m looking forward to more sunny days (warmer ones!) and sharing more of my locale. Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Weekend!

I’m enjoying a rare Saturday off.  There are so many possibilities but only so much time. Here’s how I’m spending it.

On the needles:

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Sunnyside Cardigan in Yarn Retriever, Giant Airedale Peaches

In my glass (or about to be):

 

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On the tube: Under the Tuscan Sun

On the stove: Soup stock from Christmas turkey bones.

And in the garden:

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Rhubarb!

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Knit. Frog. Knit. Dragon.

I finally had a chance to glance through the winter issue of knitty last week and fell in love with a sock pattern. When I mentioned needing to knit socks the other day, ‘Here Be Dragons‘ is what I had in mind. I cast on Sunday night with much anticipation. The pattern is toe-up, which I haven’t worked in a while, and there are lacy bits in the instep and leg. So exciting!

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(Here Be Dragons by Rachel Gent, in Raventwist Tyr, Galway Warrior)

That was before this cold took over and stuffed up my brain. You see, there are charts (5) and actual instructions to read and, well, I can’t. I keep frogging every 4th round and reknitting. BB complimented my progess on this pattern, with which I am so enamoured, and my response was, “Whatever”. Yep, definitely sick.

Down but not Out

It was only a matter of time, I suppose.  Everywhere I go, there is someone coughing, sniffling, sneezing.  Mostly cold germs, a few flu bugs, but I’ve stood strong and fought them all off.  Until now.  BB came down with the beginnings of a cold 2 days ago.  He probably picked it up in the hospital (more on that later).  I woke up early this morning  with my throat on fire.  Here we go.  To top it all off, we got a few inches of snow overnight.  Luckily, it wasn’t heavy wet snow.  Shovelling the driveway this morning worked up a sweat.  I’m told that’s good for a cold.  Or is that a fever?

Socks and mitts for the Canadian War Museum exhibit went out a couple of weeks ago. I fell deeply in love with the finished mitts.

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The yarn was wonderful to work with and so very warm. Much as I’ll miss them, I’m happy to let them go to someone who’ll need them more than I.

I had cast on a wee shawl back in September but hadn’t got past the stockinette start. Once i figured out where I’d left off, it practically knit itself. Here’s the beginning; it’s been off the needles for a number of days but hasn’t been blocked yet.  You’ll need to bear with me before you can see what it really looks like.

 

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(Live Oak Shawlette by Romi Hill, in Cascade Yarns Heritage Silk Paints, Forest Glen)

BB had knee replacement surgery last weekend, which is why he was in hospital (getting sick, obviously).  He’s recovering well but starting to get a little stir-crazy, I think.  Only 9-11 more weeks of recovery and rehab!  And me? Well, I’ve been working and knitting and fetching what can’t be carried while one is operating a walker. And knitting some more.

There’s been a lovely skein of Anzula Cricket in my stash, waiting for the perfect time to evolve.  I won it a while back from Grace Akhrem, designer extraordinaire, and loved it so much I couldn’t use it (this may only make sense to a knitter; the rest of you may disregard).  Until earlier this week.  Now, I’m wearing it (or a portion of it) on my hands.

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(Swirling Gauntlets by Susanna IC, in Anzula Cricket, Grace)

The original (free!) pattern is thumbless and a completely naked thumb always makes me feel awkward, so I covered it up.  It was just a matter of picking up the cast off/on stitches and knitting up a little 1×1 rib. I only used about 40 g of yarn for these so I’m thinking of eventually making another pair of fingerless gloves with the rest.

But first, it’s been a while since I’ve knit a pair of socks just for me and there’s a skein of Raventwist Tyr calling to me from the back of the sock yarn cupboard.  I’ll have to dig it out and ask it what it wants to be.  I’m thinking something ‘fancy’, and just hoping I’m not too sick to concentrate on charts.  I’ll let you know.

 

 

 

 

 

January Challenge

A friend recently told me about a knitting challenge sponsored by the Canadian War Museum.

“The Canadian Red Cross estimates that 750,000 volunteers knit 50 million articles during the Second World War.

So here is the Canadian War Museum’s Canada-wide challenge to you: send or bring them your hand-knit socks, hats, mitts, scarves and other items until January 31. The museum will tally the items and announce how it compares. The museum may not match the wartime output, but it can try!

At the end of the project, IODE Canada, a national women’s charitable organization that supported wartime knitting (among many other things!), will distribute the donated knit goods to organizations that need them.”

(See the CWM Facebook page here.)

I love both a knitting challenge and the opportunity to knit for charity, so combining them appeals to me.  Using some worsted weight yarn in my stash meant this pair of socks only took 3 days to knit.

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(A Good Plain Sock in Patons Classic Wool, Forest & Canadiana, Chocolate

Since that went so quickly, I decided I have time for one more project before the mailing deadline.  These fingerless gloves are practically knitting themselves and I’m thrilled to have a fitting project for this yarn, which came to me from Norway in a swap a few years ago. I love the way it’s knitting up and it’s very warm.

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(Last Minute Mitts in Schachenmayr SMC Juvel, #461 Dk Green)

I know time is tight, but if you’re interested in joining the challenge, please send your item(s) to:

Sandra O’Quinn / Awesome Yarn
c/o Canadian War Museum
1 Vimy Place
Ottawa, ON K1A 0M8

Remember they need to arrive in Ottawa by January 31/16. Happy Knitting!

 

Out With the Old

Happy New Year, everyone! For those of you who had a stellar 2015, may the new year bring you even more happiness. And for those who slogged through more challenges than imaginable this past year, here’s hoping 2016 will bring you what you need.

Being in the latter camp myself, I’m hoping for smoother sailing this year. We survived an unexpected move from Alberta to B.C. that included some severe downsizing and we’re still manoevering through the financial changes the move has created. Worse though, was saying goodbye to our bestest boy 3 days before we left Banff. That is something I’m still trying to deal with.  My world was forever changed when  Skyler died; he was the light of my life.

Though challenges seemed the norm for us in 2015, I did end up with 2 jobs that I love and have added some new members to my ‘squad’ – the friends that support me through all the ups and downs. (Y’all know who you are. Thanks for being there!)

And then there’s the knitting.  Too many changes, and more time spent working than I was used to, proved too much for me; months passed before I could pick up sticks and string again.  Don’t get me wrong – I tried.  I looked at new patterns daily and reorganized my stash but it wasn’t enough to get me motivated until, one day, I picked up the ‘cardigan in progress since November’ and kept knitting until it was finished.  It still needs to be blocked, the pockets sewn down and buttons added, but it’s progress, right?

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(Roosevelt Cardigan in Cascade 220 SW Aran, ‘Chocolate’)

Finishing that led to a gorgeous scarf/shawl (again, something awaiting blocking) and a hat/mitten/cowl ensemble.  Some previously finished projects finally found homes over the past few months.  My favourite knitted dress went to a friend’s new grand-daughter in Markham.

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(Fiesta Frock in Noro Taiyo)

A lovely alpaca sweater now belongs to a co-worker’s son.

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(Top Down Raglan Baby Sweater in Berocco Ultra Alpaca, ‘Tiger’s Eye Mix’)

In new knitting, a request for a pair of fingerless gloves yielded these beauties.

(Woven Fingerless Gloves in Patons Kroy, Cadet Colors)

I’m finally starting to feel like myself again, as more things come off the needles. It feels good to find my way back. Now we’re preparing for a few more changes.