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Bits and pieces and various meals

And once again, time has flown.

What seemed like the timid start to spring became a full-blown explosion with crocuses raising their delicate heads, forsythia adding its generous golden bloom to gardens and buds appearing on our lilac bushes out back. It has been a busy few weeks, filled with some family celebrations, some further preparations, and of course food.

Some of the things that have caught my eye and tempted our tastebuds recently:

• Cookies (below). For a recently birthday celebration, the honoree was given a batch of his favourite chocolate chip cookies. I have come to realize that these are now so ingrained in our family's palate that no other recipe will do.

• Pies (above). I was in the kitchen with pastry as I continued my search for the perfect pie crust. Still not there yet, but the testers are enjoying their job.

Heidi's Lazy Day Peanut Noodle Salad. An absolutely beautiful looking recipe, and one that tastes just as great. Pointed out to me by a dear friend, it will surely become a staple in our house - a great canvas for variation as well.

Heston Blumenthal's naan. I saw an episode of In Search of Perfection where Mr. Blumenthal made his version on Chicken Tikka Masala (it seems basically butter chicken but I have never had Chicken Tikka); he also included a recipe for homemade tandoor naan. While I did not attempt his MacGyver-worthy cooking rig, I used his recipe to prepare some rather impressive homemade flatbread. I simply heated a cast iron skillet under a hot broiler for about 20 minutes, then used that for my cooking surface. After two minutes or so we were rewarded with beautifully-browned naan, slightly crispy and with an open and airy interior. Gorgeous. My only complaint over the recipe is that it is never clearly stated how early one should remove the dough from the fridge before using; I do believe that mine needed to further warm up before use, but a hungry family took precedent over such concern.

• Trifle cake. Another birthday celebration warranted a truly special dessert created in honour of a truly special person. I combined four recipes from four sources to end up with a cake that offered the best a trifle had to offer; layers of Martha Stewarts's yellow cake sandwiched a variation on François Payard's pastry cream, homemade blackberry compote and a cream filling from Cook's Illustrated. The whole thing was then covered with a combination of the cream filling and a classic white buttercream for some added stability. The flavours were exactly what I was looking for, but now I need an excuse to make it again so I can perfect the proportions.

• Blackberries. Speaking of these beauties, we have just welcomed a few blackberry bushes to our yard. I am looking forward to a summer filled with desserts like this.

• Golden pepper jelly from Kurtz Orchards. I have been asked about my pregnancy cravings, and this has been one of them. Slathered on crusty homemade bread with slices of extra-old cheddar, it is like your classic combination of cheese and chutney - but with the volume turned up. I have also been craving one of these, but as smoked salmon is not recommended during pregnancy I will have to wait to satiate that particular want.

• Brunches. For all the possible mealtime invitation opportunities, brunch is my favourite to include friends and family. Though a relatively easy meal to prepare, there is something about a good brunch that feels particularly indulgent and immeasurably special. I have been eyeing either one of these beauties to add to my entertaining arsenal.

So that is just a look at a few of the things is happening around here, I hope that these last few weeks have been just as inspiring on your end.

Note: I feel I should sheepishly admit that the photos included here were never intended for publication, but were just some shots I had taken recently. Keeping a toddler's greedy little fingers out of frame prevented me from taking my usual time with them.

Reader Comments (7)

i definitely agree about chocolate chip cookies. i think they're ingrained in most american's palates (at least mine growing up and now for the rest of my life). and when you get the craving for them, nothing else will do. love your blog, it's so neat and clean, and the pictures photos always stand out great. courtney @

April 22, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCourtney

Lovely meals and ideas! That peanut noodle salad is fantastic indeed!

April 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTartelette

i'd like to officially put in the request for an upcoming post... about that pie crust! even though you say it's not perfect yet, that picture looks as delicious as any pie i've ever seen :)

April 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKT

the nan technique is fabulous. many thanks.

April 27, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCasey

courtney, I do not think I could tempt my family with any other chocolate chip cookie but these. They've come to expect these as our "standard" recipe! Thanks so much for the compliments on the site.

tartlette, thanks for saying! And as far as the peanut noodle salad goes, I could not agree more - it is great.

kt, thank you! The recipe is Martha Stewart's, her" REL="nofollow"> pâte brisée. I think any faults I am encountering with the pies lay with me and not this recipe - it grants fantastic results.

casey, did you try Blumenthal's or mine? Either way, I'm happy to help.

April 29, 2008 | Unregistered Commentertara

your chocolate chip cookies wonderful and since you said you had decided it was the one and only recipe for your family I was hoping to find it on your blog. So I've been serching the archives one at a time! can you give me a hint where I can find the recipe?

June 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterElisabeth

Hi, Trying to figure out what recipe you used for the chocolate chip cookies in "bits and pieces and various meals". They look incredible and I would love to try baking them. Many thanks and aloha, Patty

February 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

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