A smooth custard-like dessert flavored with vanilla bean, and topped with fresh roasted summer 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.
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.
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.
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!
baking tip: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
For the panna cotta:
- 1 1/2 cup (355 ml) whole milk
- 4 teaspoons (5.5 grams, 1 1/4 envelope) unflavored gelatin
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split open lengthwise
- 1 1/2 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:
- In a saucepan, sprinkle the gelatin over 1/2 cup of milk. Let sit for about 3 minutes until softened.
- 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.
- 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:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- 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.
- 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.