Friday, November 28, 2008

Dark Chocolate Espresso Trifle

This Thanksgiving, I decided to concoct my own recipe for a luscious dessert. I had made this dessert over a year ago and it was delicious, this time I revamped it a little and I believe it turned out even better.

For the Dark Chocolate Cake Layers:

3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cocoa powdered
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
1-1/2 cups milk
2 teaspoons vanilla

1. Beat butter until softened. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
2. Add eggs, one at a time, beating 30 seconds after each addition.
3. Measure the flour, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder, and espresso powder into a medium sized bowl and whisk to combine.
4. Measure the milk and vanilla into a measuring thing.
5. Add about a third of the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar and beat to combine. Add about a half of the milk/vanilla and beat to combine. Continue adding, alternating between dry and wet and finishing with the dry.
6. Divide batter into two 9" cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30-35 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

For the Espresso Pastry Cream Layers:
2 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup granulated sugar
pinch table salt
5 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (cold), cut into 4 pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder

1.Heat half-and-half, 6 tablespoons sugar, and salt in medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar.
2.Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks in medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and whisk until sugar has begun to dissolve and mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds. Whisk in cornstarch until combined and mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.
3. When half-and-half mixture reaches full simmer, gradually whisk simmering half-and-half into yolk mixture to temper. Return mixture to saucepan, scraping bowl with rubber spatula; return to simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until 3 or 4 bubbles burst on surface and mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds. Off heat, whisk in butter, vanilla and espresso powder. Transfer mixture to medium bowl and let cool in ice bath, stirring occasionally. (I also poured my pastry cream through a fine mesh sieve to ensure a creamier texture.)

For Sweetened Whipped Cream Layer:
1 pint whipping cream
Powdered sugar to taste
1 teaspoon vanilla

Whip cream, sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form.

For Bittersweet Chocolate curls:
1 bar bittersweet chocolate

Let sit in warm place for 30-60 minutes. With vegetable peeler, slide along the bar lengthwise to make nice chocolate curls.

To Assemble, trim cake to fit your trifle dish. Layer cake, pastry cream, whipped cream and then repeat. Finish by sprinkling Chocolate curls. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My girls as I see them:

Pear is 21 months old. I continue to be blessed daily by her presence. She makes me laugh daily. She can count to 10 now and knows some of her colors. If she does not know what color it is, she'll say that it's pink. Here are a few things she's said over the last few days that have brought me joy:

While driving through town over the weekend I told Stephen, "you're a crazy driver." About 10 minutes later, after taking a turn Pear exclaims, "dad, crazy driver!"

Today, Jovie was crying in the car on our way home. Pear began to get fidgety as she always does when Jovie cries. I said, "it's okay, she's just hungry." Pear said, "mom, feed her scooby snacks!" (When Stephen gets Pear a snack or a treat, he calls it "Scooby snacks".)

Pear was eating a cupcake the other day and blurted out, "It's so tasty too!" Repeating the lines from one of my favorite I Love Lucy episodes: Lucy Does a Television Commercial.

Yesterday, while getting ready for her nap, Pear walked over to me and whined, "grumpy, how come?" In all sincerity, she was talking about herself. She was grumpy and ready for a nap.

Last night, Stephen let me get out of the house for a little bit, when I returned I asked how the girls were, he said that they were great. Pear ran over to me and said, "horses, daddy's game." I interpreted this and returned, "oh, you played daddy's computer game with daddy that has the horses." Stephen quickly said, "shhh! You're not supposed to tell her!"

Today, Pear bumped her leg on her bed. She began whining and said, "Bonk, leg. You okay? Ooooh, come here. Show me." I guess she decided she doesn't need to come to me for sympathy, she'll do it all herself!

As for Jovie, she is 4 weeks old now and she hasn't made me laugh yet, but she makes me smile constantly and I will admit she has made me cry. It's been a tough couple of weeks; rewarding, priceless, and oh so tiresome. Jovie doesn't sleep. Let me rephrase that, she doesn't sleep by herself. If you hold her, she'll doze in and out of sleep for as long as 45 minutes! And, if you're lucky, she'll go into a deep sleep state where it's hard to wake her up and that can last as long as 2 1/2 hours but that is few and far between. We are working on training her little body to sleep but it's not an easy task with a noisy 21 month old following and narrating my every move at a 21 month old volume. When I do lay Jovie down for a nap and she wakes up, Pear tries to beat me into the bedroom to climb on the crib and look over the rail to comfort her by saying, "it's okay Jovie." At night Jovie will sleep some. I got a 4 hour stretch last night! That was marvelous. Jovie began smiling this last week. It's so sweet. I am still soaking up the newborn stage and I can hold her for hours just looking at her without tiring. I seem to be getting farther and farther behind with my housework but I am choosing to soak in and enjoy this time rather than stress-out and worry about housework. Don't get me wrong, I am still doing housework but I am trying to spend some quality time with my girls rather than constantly clean which seems to be what needs to be done in order to have a clean house with a family like ours that cooks a lot, makes a lot of laundry and a baby that is constantly spitting up!

Jovie's "happy look".

A Pretty Smile!

This is Jovie's face the majority of the time.

This is Jovie's face the other majority of the time.

Aren't those beautiful blue eyes?

Just checking things out.

Yes, I am proud of my girls. And yes, I love them ever so much!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A new take on an Old Fashioned Cupcake

Over the last 9 months, I have been eye-balling any and every dessert imaginable and dreaming of baking it after baby arrived. Well, baby arrived and I have begun my quest of baking. I found this recipe for an Old Fashioned Cupcake with Coconut Buttercream Frosting and it was absolutely delicious! Stephen, Pear and I ate far more than we should have.

Of course, Pear helped me make these wonderful cupcakes. At one point I turned my back and walked to the other room to get Jovie, this is what I came back to:

Monday, November 17, 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Must Haves For New Moms

As a new mom for the second time, I feel I'm beginning to understand which luxuries I need for mothering. If you are looking for a great baby shower gift or if you're expecting and want some tips on items that will make your life easier as a mom, look no further!

1. Nursing Cover by Hooter Hiders
This has saved me countless embarrassing moments. It is stylish, comfortable and very practical.

2. Baby Sling by Hotslings

I have this sling in black and it is comfortable, trendy and not a monstrosity when you wear it. I love it!

3. Baby Blanket by Dust Bunnies

A friend bought one of these blankets (different design) for Pear and it was the most practical blanket while still being gorgeous and oh so soft and comfy. It washes up perfectly and wraps around the baby like a glove. I've vowed to get every one of my children one.

4. BabyLegs
I discovered BabyLegs when Pear was only a few months old. I instantly fell in love with them! They are so cute and practical. Beyond that, she has worn them now for a year and half and they still have lots of life and they'll fit her for a few more years!

5. Butt Paste by Boudreaux's

My mom has nine children and has handled countless diaper rashes. She says this is the way to go. I've tried it and proved she's right.

6. Swaddling Receiving Blankets

Nice receiving blankets for swaddling are a must. Something about being wrapped up tight in a nice soft blanket is soothing for a baby.

7. Colic Calm

Everybody has a gassy baby at some point or another. I don't know why more people don't know about gripe water. It was a life-saver for us with Pear. I haven't had to use it yet with Jovie but I have it on hand just in case!

8. Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg

This is my favorite baby guide book. I've read On Becoming Babywise, Dr. Sears' books and The Happiest Baby on the Block. This one fits my lifestyle best! I highly recommend reading it, if for no other reason, simply to help you understand your baby better.

9. Rocking Chair
Stephen's grandparents gave us a rocker when we had Pear. What a blessing! I probably wouldn't have bought one otherwise but now I know, don't try to go without one. When you're too tired to walk or need a comfy spot to nurse, the rocker is there.

10. Infant Bouncer
When you have to go to the bathroom, finish making that cake you started or anything else you might need to do and you need to put that precious baby down, this is a good spot.

Monday, November 10, 2008

How Pear keeps busy:

Pear is such a great big sister and a wonderful daughter. Yes, she does demand attention and requires much parental supervision but she is adjusting to this new life with a sister very well. We have been learning all sorts of ways to keep her busy and to help me out with household chores and such. She helps me unload the dishwasher; she pulls the plates out almost faster than I can stack them. She helps me make dinner by either mixing, stuffing garlic in the press, keep an eye on the Kitchenaid or any other way we can figure out for her to help. Folding clothes has never taken so long!

She takes a bath, while I shower, (we have both a bath and a separate shower in the bathroom.) We try to squeeze this in while Jovie naps.

We have discovered stickers! I bought a book of 1000 stickers several days ago for a couple of dollars and I think it was the most well spent couple of dollars I've ever spent! Pear has a blast and is entertained for quite a while. She peels the stickers off the sheet and sticks them anywhere she sees fit.

Books have always been Pear's favorite pass-time. It continues to be our favorite resource for learning and entertaining. She enjoys looking at the animals in this book and she can now identify and say the names of panda bears, flamingos, penguins, camels, snakes, eagles, wolves, polar bears, parrots and more exotic animals!

Eating. Could you be in our family and not enjoy food? Pear is a picky eater but that's not to say she doesn't enjoy food! My parents are always commenting on how much she can eat when she wants to. One of her favorite things to eat is macaroni and cheese, also know as "Rongi."

And finally, here is her horse. His name is Mac just like my family's horse. He actually looks more like Ringo, my parent's other horse but Pear favors Mac, their palomino so she named her horse Mac. She makes sure to give her horse plenty of exercise. I see her riding at least once a day.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

BIG SISTER, little sister

Pear finally requested to hold Jovie. She's given her a hug or a kiss but prior to now, really didn't want to hold her. Now she doesn't want to give her back to me! I am so glad she loves her little sister. She is always looking for things to show Jovie such as her pretty dress, her new shoes, her little people figure, etc. Pear is such a good big sister. I can't wait for the two to be playmates!

An outing...

Pear, Jovie and I decided to go to my parents' house for a visit yesterday afternoon. I was beginning to go crazy staying at home all day Saturday, Sunday and most of the day Monday. Here are some pictures.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A two minute break!

Well, I think I have about 2 minutes before one of the girls need me! Phew. Two children, one being 5 days old and the other 20 months old with a terrible cold, is definitely A LOT of work.

Here are a couple of pictures of Jovie:

She did not like the traditional binky like Pear did. She absolutely loved this one though. She grabbed on to it with both hands, as if to say, "nobody's taking this away," and sucked away.