Finished Quilt Top

Every minute I spend posting to this blog, I could be working on my art quilt….which is due January 11th at the local quilt guild meeting if I want it to be in the January Quilt Show.

This is what I had to work with around Thanksgiving: I was arranging the poppy appliques and trying to figure out where they looked best. There was an awful lot of pinning and re-arranging going on before I settled on where each flower looked best.

After looking at it for a while, I realized I was going to need a couple more poppies for the design to feel balanced. I made a couple of appliques at the dining room table; here you see the pieces cut out, but not yet sewn together:

And here’s the finished applique:

If I worked on this before dinner time, I got this look from the corgis in the house:

They are staring at the dining room table. Where I am sewing. Not eating, and not making them dinner.

This is how dinner looks:

Baxter eats about 1/4 cup of wet food and then conks out for a bit while Bearbear attacks his kibble and peanut butter filled Kong toy.

I lost a whole evening of sewing at Thanksgiving time making pies with that super-special lard I blogged about a few weeks ago; yum yum, here are 2 sweet-potato pies and an apple pie and they were DELICIOUS:

Then, upon further inspection of my art quilt, I decided that the satin-stitching wasn’t dense enough: in certain places, because I was using light thread on dark fabric, you could see the fabric through the stitch. So. I put stabilizer under all of my reverse applique poppy shapes and put down another layer of satin stitch on top of the existing stitch. It took FOREVER. I was going crazy. But, the end result is much better: you can’t see it too well here, but, the orange thread on the right side of the sewing machine needle is 2 layers of satin-stitch and the orange thread on the left side is just one layer:

In the photo, it looks insignificant; but trust me, the real thing looks greatly improved with my sewing due-diligence.

My goal was to have the quilt top done–absolutely done–by the end of November, so I could spend all December quilting. Which I hope will be enough time. Here’s the finished quilt-top: pressed, all bits of thread snipped, and looking pretty darn good:

I met my deadline! I’ve already sewn together my muslin backing for the quilt, gotten my batting; I’ll put the quilt sandwich together Friday and get quilting this weekend.

Wish me luck. And just a few chiropractic visits.

Best Pie Crust Yet!

Yes, that is a 4# tub of lard. But it’s really good lard, which I had shipped from Prairie Pride Farms in Minnesota; they are one of the few sources of lard with no trans-fats. Lard makes the BEST pie crust, but sadly, all lard you buy in the store now is shelf-stable:  the pig fat–which normally would need to be kept cold to preserve it–is instead pumped up with hydrogen to keep it “fresh” and also full of trans-fats.

It’s bad enough to eat saturated fat, but can you imagine eating saturated fat that is also artificially hydrogenated? Yuck.

Plus, that kind of lard comes from industrial pigs. Pigs full of chemicals; and chemicals tend to be stored in animal fat.

Now that it’s finally gotten cool, and the holidays are around the corner, I thought I’d brush up on my pie skills. Above, my pie crusts; the 2 on the right are going to be the top-crusts.

I must say, the crust rolled out like a dream and it was really easy to lift off the counter and deposit in the pie tin: nothing broke.

I chopped up 10 average-sized organic granny smith apples.

I then tossed the apples with flour, cornstarch, sugar, lemon juice and just a pinch of pumpkin pie spice. I’m not a big fan of lots of spice in my apple pie.

Above, the assembled pie; an egg wash was used to brush the top and help squish down the sides. I didn’t pre-cook the pie filling, something my mom and dad were amazed at when they tasted my pie (they loved it). It’s such a gamble, making fresh fruit pie, unless you really know your fruit and how it cooks down.

I was feeling adventurous, though, knowing what a risk it is! But the pay-off, if it turned out….yum.

Below, the finished pies. When I cut into them, the filling was a little bit runny….but not much.

Yum.

If you want great pie crust, you need great lard; and that, gentle readers, cannot be found in the grocery store–even the local Mexican grocery stores here in Tucson–anymore.

Aunt Mary’s Biscuit Recipe (from Newfoundland

When I came home from Boston last April, my insufferably long and cramped flight (and I had an aisle seat!) was made infinitely more bearable because I had half a dozen of my Aunt Mary’s super-fresh biscuits in a Ziploc bag.

Recently I tried making these biscuits. Now, I’m a competent cook, but a good biscuit is not easy to make and I think I’ll need some more practice after this.

The recipe is: 2 cups white flour, 2 cups whole-wheat flour, 2 Tbsp (yes) baking powder, 2 sticks butter, and about 1 3/4 cups milk (exactly how much milk will depend on the type and grind of flour) and 3 Tbsp sugar. Mary said the recipe calls for some salt, but she never adds it. There’s probably enough sodium in the leavening.

Here’s how you start: flour, sugar and leavening a bowl with the butter cut in:

I used my pastry cutter and my fingers to get the butter/flour mixture to have the consistency of coarse crumbs, then made a small “well” in the middle, where the milk went:

The secret to biscuits, scones or pie pastry is simple: hardly mix the dry ingredients with the wet ones, just barely toss dry and wet together to combine, and handle the dough as little as possible. In this case, I poured the milk in the well, and just “folded” the ingredients together (this is my aunt’s word); I then turned the (sticky) dough out on the lightly floured counter top and kneaded just 8 times (this exact number is per my aunt); after that, I rolled out the dough; you can see the pale bits of butter in the dough, evidence of the dough being handled minimally:

I rolled it too thin, though; I guess I was instinctively thinking I was making pie crust. Anyway, I cut biscuit-shapes with a mason jar lid, and slid them onto a greased cookie sheet, not realizing the biscuits were too thin until they were done:

The biscuits bake for 12 minutes in an oven pre-heated to 425; though my 1978 model electric oven runs hot and I set my oven to 375 and baked for 12 minutes. Every oven is different, so…..Know thine oven!

My biscuits tasted good, but since I rolled out the dough too thin, I wound up with a shape more reminiscent of Eucharist than biscuit; flat, but tastier than any religious wafer (thankfully!).  Next time I’ll make my biscuits twice as thick and resist the urge to roll out the dough much. One day I’ll have this recipe down!

Good Craic, Cookies and Tunes

For those of you who don’t know what craic is, read the definition here.

It’s my good fortune that David Levine and Roz McLean are spending part of the winter in Tucson; David has a great sounding concertina–for the life of me I cannot figure out how anyone can play that instrument, but he does it well. Sounds lovely with the fiddle.

David also plays the flute.  It’s great to have someone in town who plays all of my favorite tunes. We were trying to remember a really cool jig by the flute player from Offaly, John Brady, when Roz took this photo:

We also had a few chocolate-drop cookies I made; I follow this recipe, except I use 1 cup cocoa powder (Ghiradelli) and 1/2 cup butter and only good quality chocolate chips. It’s my favorite cookie recipe.