Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Roasted Berries |

I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for a little over a year now and the novelty of it all has worn off. This is it. This is my life. While it’s a very, very good life, that realization was a little unsettling. Being a mom is hard. I love my son more than I ever thought I could love anything and I’m grateful that I get to be with him and care for him every day, but it definitely comes with its challenges. As all of you other stay-at-home moms know.

I feel isolated in many ways. Some days I battle with boredom. And often I go the whole day without having a real conversation with another human being. I am so happy with my life, but sometimes the day-to-day really gets to me.

The past several years have been spent looking forward to the next big life milestone. And now? I’m here. I’ve got everything I ever wanted and I honestly don’t know what to do with myself.

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Roasted Berries |

All of this, plus a conversation I had on twitter, was running through my mind one afternoon as we took our afternoon walk when this idea smacked me upside the head:

Live in the present. Be happy with where you are. Enjoy it while you’ve got it, because nothing lasts.

I’m never going to get this time back with my son. John will never be a toddler again. It may be hard at times, but I think the only thing that needs to change is my attitude. And perhaps I need to arrange a few more playdates.

Thanks to my new mantra, the rest of the week was great. I played with John more. I baked cookies for no reason. I allowed myself to let go of the pressure to always be productive and busy and instead tried to live in the moment and enjoy it for what it was.

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Roasted Berries |

Over the weekend my brother and his fiancé came to visit while they were in town. Seeing some of my family was the last step to completely turning my week (and mood) around. We sat out on the back deck, grilled pizzas, sipped lemonade and caught up on each other’s lives. It was great.

For dessert I served these vanilla bean panna cottas with roasted berries. This was my first time making panna cotta, which means “cooked cream” and is a little bit like pudding, only thickened with gelatin instead of eggs or cornstarch. I was thrilled it turned out so well. The vanilla flavor came through wonderfully and the roasted berries were the perfect topper.

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Roasted Berries |

I may not have it all figured out, but at least I have a new dessert to add to my arsenal. Do any of you stay-at-home moms out there have any insights, or advice on how to get through the day? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Using Gelatin

Gelatin is an unflavored thickener made from animal protein. It’s used to thicken desserts like mousses, puddings, and panna cottas. Since it’s not a common ingredient in cooking and baking, most people aren’t very familiar with it. But don’t be intimidated! It’s actually very easy to work with.

First, dissolve the gelatin in a cold liquid. This will make it easier to combine with the other ingredients. Then, it’s warmed to melt it completely and to activate its thickening power. Be sure not to let it boil, or you’ll destroy that thickening power and it won’t set. The final step is to chill it to let the gelatin take effect.

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Roasted Berries |

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Roasted Berries
A smooth custard-like dessert flavored with vanilla bean, and topped with fresh roasted summer berries.
Yield: 4 servings
For the panna cotta:
  • 1½ cup (355 ml) whole milk
  • 4 teaspoons (5.5 grams, 1¼ envelope) unflavored gelatin
  • ½ cup (100 grams) sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split open lengthwise
  • 1½ cup (355 ml) heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the roasted berries
  • 3 cups (375 grams) mix of blueberries, blackberries and raspberries
  • 2 tablespoons (25 grams) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
To make the panna cotta:
  1. In a saucepan, sprinkle the gelatin over ½ cup of milk. Let sit for about 3 minutes until softened.
  2. Place the saucepan over medium heat and add the rest of the milk, sugar, and vanilla bean. Heat while stirring frequently until gelatin melts and sugar dissolves. Do not let boil.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the heavy cream and vanilla extract. Remove the vanilla bean pod. Pour the mixture into 4 half-pint jars or ramekins. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 6 hours.
To make the roasted berries:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Toss the berries with the sugar, olive oil, salt, and vanilla and place in a baking dish. Place in the oven and bake until berries are tender and juices have started to thicken, about 20 minutes.
  3. Let cool to room temperature, then spoon over the panna cottas and chill completely before serving. Sauce will be thin, but should thicken slightly in the fridge.
Panna Cotta recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert.

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16 Responses to Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Roasted Berries

  1. These panna cottas look incredibly delicious! I’m not a big fan of panna cotta but yours looks so good that I think I’ll need to make it because it seems to be totally worth it!

    My mom leaved her job one year ago to stay at home and take care of me, and I notice she’s not always happy about this change. Sometimes she misses her job and her colleagues, she gets a little bored when I’m at school because she’s nobody to spend her time with, or talk a little…but I think the time we get to spend together the rest of the day rewards her completely. I think your new mood is the right one to enjoy the present and not feel overwhelmed by your way of living!

    xo, Elisa

  2. Sues says:

    These are so beautiful! And I’m sure delicious, too. I love the presentation!

    I’m not a mom yet, but definitely wonder what I’ll be like when I have a baby. My day job is so consuming and stressful, I know I can’t be a mom and have my current career, but I’m also not sure how I’ll be without a career. However, my mom stayed at home with me when I was a kid and I will always be so, so thankful to her for it 🙂 It made all the difference, I believe!

  3. You know what you should be able to socialise more as a mum. I always believe you guys have the hardest good in the world because of the lack of support everywhere! So to you I give my utter and full respect

    I love panna cotta as a simple but elegant dessert. I prefer to use leaf gel sheet because I am hope less at the powder stuff!

  4. This sounds so lovely! Such an awesome flavour combination!!

  5. I could eat a jar of just the roasted berries. YUM!

  6. So gorgeous, delicious and summery! I love this dessert, Annalise. Can’t wait to meet you at the Ziplist dessert party before BlogHer, too!

  7. My mom always says, no matter what in life you want, half of the journey is getting there and once you get it, the passion of what you want is gone. Because you now have it. While my daughter is in school all day now, I get how you feel now that I’m working from home and no longer in an office environment and am beyond appreciative I can do what I am for a living without answering to someone else, unless its a request from my daughter :). I love your new mantra, own it sista!

  8. This looks totally delicious and beautiful!

  9. carrian says:

    Those are beautiful.I love panna cotta but I’ve never made it. Pinning this now that I finally have a recipe!

  10. nessa says:

    I love panna cotta, and this looks fantastic! Really great post-puts things in perspective. You rock Annalise 🙂

  11. Chels says:

    That is such a great perspective to have! I’ve been a stay at home mom for 9 years-well, I went back to work 2 days a week for a few years after my first was born but it was just for a few hours a day so it doesn’t count, lol! But our lives can be very mundane some times and I think because of that, I’ve grown accustom to this shell which I never leave. My life revolves around my 3 kids and my husband and I would rather be with them than anywhere else. But, this means I have no time for friends. Sadly for me, all of my good friends with kids live in other states so now I’m trying to branch out and do a few things here and there for myself without the kids. Being a mom is hard-but there is no better job and this dessert looks AMAZING!!!

  12. These are just beyond gorgeous, Annalise. I love panna cotta, and served like this, they are perfect for summer parties. Thanks for sharing! I’m so looking forward to meeting you at the Ziplist dessert party tomorrow, too!

  13. Ann says:

    I was a stay at home Mom for almost all the years my 2 girls were in grade school. Then I worked at a school close to theirs for middle and high school. I basically embraced the whole nesting thing, had a couple really good girlfriends to vent with, and saw myself as supporting our family every bit as much as my husband and his paycheck. I’m 65 now and I don’t regret my decisions. By not having a career, I have gotten to taste life as a smorgasbord,rather than a steady diet. I got to do pretty much what I wanted when I wanted every day. I just included kids. It helps to be a creative person, as you obviously are. Think of it as a job only with people you love and who need you as a world class CEO. Then be sure to take your vacations by yourself lol!

    • Annalise says:

      Thank you so much for your comment, Ann. Sometimes it’s hard to see the true value in what I’m providing for my family by staying home with my son. Thanks for the reminder!

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