Monday, November 28, 2011

Recipe - Chocolate Cream Pie

My older sister London, who is an amazing cook, made chocolate cream pie for the Nichols' Thanksgiving get together. It was the best chocolate cream pie I have ever had! There is no way I can go back to instant pudding mix in my chocolate cream pies after trying this recipe. It is super sweet, super chocolatey, and melt in your mouth super yummy! Top each piece of pie with homemade whipped cream (this a must in my family's book; you will never see Cool Whip accompany any of our desserts) and it is absolutely heaven.

Chocolate Cream Pie

1 pie crust (use your favorite recipe or even pre-made refrigerated dough)

Filling:
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/3 cups semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 large egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream, divided
2 cups milk

Topping:
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cook pie crust and allow it to cool completely.

To make filling - place the chopped chocolate, butter, and vanilla extract in a 2-quart mixing bowl; set aside. In a medium saucepan away from heat, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, cocoa and salt. Whisk in 1/4 cup of cold heavy cream until the mixture is smooth, with no lumps. Repeat with another 1/4 cup of the cream. Whisk in the egg yolks. Place the saucepan over medium heat, and gradually whisk in the remaining cream and milk. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly as the mixture thickens; boil for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the mixture over the reserved chocolate and butter. Whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Pass the filling through a strainer into a bowl to remove any lumps. Place plastic wrap or buttered parchment paper on the surface to prevent a skin from forming, and chill thoroughly. Once completely cooled add filling on top of cooled pie crust. Chill until ready to serve.

To make whipped topping - place the heavy cream in a chilled mixing bowl. Whip until the whisk begins to leave tracks in the bowl. Add the sugar and vanilla and whip until the cream holds a medium peak. Spread or pipe whipped cream on top of chilled pie or serve each piece of pie with an individual dallop of cream.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thankful

We had a lovely Thanksgiving this year. Greg had the whole week off, so it was even more wonderful! We had two meals, one with the Nichols side of the family the Sunday before and we ate on Thanksgiving with the Hess side of the family. I sadly had the stomach flu most of the week, and was just starting to feel better by Thanksgiving. However, it was still a great week and we couldn't help but reflect on all the many blessing in our lives. This year we are especially thankful for...

Lera:
  • my wonderfully kind, funny, spiritual and hot hubby

  • my fun, energetic boys

  • my extended family, especially my sisters who are my best friends

  • the gospel and our ward family

  • my health and the ability I have to be active

  • our home

  • friendship

  • our jobs and that we are able to provide for our family

  • uplifting and entertaining books

Greg:
  • my wife and that she is always there to help and for the wonderful mother that she is

  • Palmer and who energetic and playful he is

  • Brody and how sweet and innocent he is

  • my job and that I am appreciated there, and also for good management, and coworkers that I get along with

  • our ward family and friends and the past and present Bishopric

Palmer:
  • Mommy, Daddy and Brody

  • Grandmas and Grandpas and Aunties

  • friends

  • preschool

  • games

  • paint

  • candy and macaroni and cheese

Brody:
  • Mommy, Daddy and Palmer

  • Grandmas and Grandpas and Aunties

  • his stuffed teddy and hippo

  • Yo Gabba Gabba

  • animals

  • candy and pop

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Family Photo Shoot

We had family pictures taken this month. It was a rough day. You'd think family pictures would be a time of unity, happiness and love, but in my experience it has been anything but. The boys fought me all morning getting ready. I was literally running out the door to get to the appointment on time. Once we arrived, Greg was nowhere in sight. I called him a couple times, and finally got through to him. I asked him where he was and his reply was, "Oh shoot!" He had forgotten to leave work to meet us for the shoot. He said he would leave right then. The photographer moved the appointments around and said she could squeeze us in for a quick session in about 20 minutes. We'd start with the boys' pictures if Greg wasn't there yet. I tried to entertain the boys and to keep them from getting into things, but wasn't very successful at doing so. Right before our session started, I realized Palmer had picked all his product out of his hair, so I quickly ran Brody to the bathroom and washed the product out of his hair to match. Greg arrived just as we were going to start. At that point Palmer was overly hyper and unable to focus and Brody had been crying almost all morning long. Needless to say, we were all frazzled by the time the camera came out. The results, I think, are only okay. But there is no way I am going to go through another family photo shoot, so this is it. I've posted the few good, and few decent pictures from the session.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Let It Snow

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow, is what Palmer and Brody say. These boys absolutely love the snow. Seeing it fall, trampling through it, playing around in it, eating it, it's all good in their opinion. To the boys' absolute delight, we had a couple snow falls last week.

The first only left about 1/2 inch of snow on the ground, and it only lasted for about an hour, but that didn't dispirit Palmer or Brody. They were outside having a good time the moment they realized there was white fluffiness on the ground, and they enjoyed it until each and every flake had melted away.

The second time it snowed, it was a bit more plentiful, and once again, they were as happy as can be to be out in it. Since the snow never melted away this time, the boys played for a couple hours straight before we persuaded them to come inside for some hot chicken noodle soup.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Palmer at Brody's Two Year Photo Shoot

Palmer enjoys being the center of attention (like his mom!). He did great encouraging Brody to smile and be happy during his photo shoot, but he was very anxious to have a turn in the spotlight. As the shoot concluded, Palmer asked if he could have a turn. I replied that we would be back the next week for his turn during our family picture session. The photographer kindly interjected with an offer to take a few shots of Palmer right then, which made Palmer's day. Since he was overly excited, he pulled a couple very funny, cheesy and silly poses. But among those goofy shots, this little gem emerged.
Palmer's preschool teachers often tell me how Palmer is so very animated (like his dad!), and it's true. I love how alive and full of life this little boy is! He was practically born with a big cheesy smile on his face, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Two Year Photo Shoot

We took Brody to JCPenney Portrait Studio to get his two year old pictures taken. I am very happy with the results. He is such a beautiful boy, with his big bright eyes, and his great smile; it's almost hard to take a bad picture of him. He brought along his new favorite toys - his tools that he received for his birthday. He plays with them nonstop and is often found "fixing" things around the house with any number of his toy tools.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Recipe - Trudy's Chili

This recipe comes from Trudy, a special education teacher I worked with. Trudy ate this chili for lunch almost daily during the fall and winter months. And once I tried it, I knew why she ate it so often. I would never think olives would be appetizing in chili, but after my first taste, I was hooked. It is delicious! I made it for a couple chili cookoffs last month, and it tied for first place at one of them.

Trudy's Chili

1 pound Jimmy Dean Hot Sausage
1 onion, chopped
1 large can stewed tomatoes
2 cans black beans
1 can white pinto beans
1 can red kidney beans
1 can olives
1 small can green chilies
1-2 teaspoons chili powder (depending on how spicey you like it)

Brown sausage and onion and drain. Add tomatoes. Drain juices off all beans and olives and add them to the pot. Add green chilies and chili powder to your liking. Let all ingredients simmer together for 20-25 minutes.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Trick or Treating and Other Halloween Fun

We have candy coming out of our ears at the Hess home! The boys brought in sugary sweets by the bagfuls this year. We definitely celebrated Halloween to its fullest by...

  • ...going to the Safety Fair at the local fitness center. We played a couple games and trick or treated around the facility.
  • ...trick or treating at Greg's work. The boys got so much candy there that they couldn't physically carry it out of the building and had to drag it in a bag behind them.
  • ...attending a Halloween party with Greg's coworkers, just Greg and I. Greg dressed up as a three hole version of himself (thank you Jim Halpert from The Office for the inspiration) and I was a Post-It note. We visited, played a lot of games and ate yummy food.
  • ...participating in the ward Chili Cook Off and trunk or treat. Aunt Andrea and cousins Amaya and Alyssa joined us for the fun.
  • ...trick or treating with Palmer's preschool class; his teacher kindly invited Brody to join them. After trick or treating, Palmer enjoyed a Halloween party with his preschool teachers and friends.
  • ...trick or treating Halloween night around Grandma Nancy's house in Daybreak. We also had a family dinner with Grandma and the Baarz/Terrillion family.
  • ...eating lots of candy, and possibly even more chili. We had chili Friday night at Greg's work party (our chili tied for first place at that cook off - I will post the recipe soon. It's delish!), Saturday night at the ward chili cook off, Sunday night as leftovers and Monday night at the Hess family dinner.

And here are our now very experienced, cute trick or treaters decked out in their pirate costumes.Thanks to our friends The Hepworths and The Christiansons for letting us use their previous costumes for our Halloween festivities this year. They boys loved being pirates and were often heared proudly exclaiming, "Arrrr!" in proper pirate fashion.