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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.


SHF #31: The roundup

Whew. When I was first approached by Jennifer to host this month’s Sugar High Friday, I approached it with nervous optimism. Everyone’s had that feeling, that illogical fear of “what would happen if I threw a party, and nobody came?”

Thank goodness for food bloggers. I did not expect, and could not have hoped for, a more enthusiastic and supportive group of contributors to this month’s event. From the dramatic to the sublime, these desserts celebrating the shades of white run the spectrum. 45 entries from around the world, are all delicious variations on the theme. What a party!

Again, my gratitude to those who participated, and those of you who have come by to see the results of our little event. Cheers to Jennifer, once again of the Domestic Goddess, who will be the host of next month’s SHF installment. It will be a confectionery celebration of Canada’s 140th birthday on July 1st - look out for the announcement and details on her site.

And with that, on to the desserts; click the photos to link to the author's site ...