“Life is short.”
It’s a cliche, I know. A phrase we’ve all heard, and probably uttered ourselves, countless times. We know that life is finite, and that in the grand scheme of things, our time on this earth is fleeting. But I imagine most of us don’t really think about it much. Until a few months ago, that was true for me. I had built a life – a pretty good one, by all accounts – and every day, I was busy living it. Wake up, shower, get the kids ready, get myself ready. Go to school, go to work, go to little league, go to the park, go swimming, go camping, go to dinner, go to bed…
Go. Go. Go.
I didn’t really give much thought to the fact that this life of mine was barrelling through time at a rather alarming rate. I mean, I noticed it. But I didn’t really pay attention. Then something happened. Life smacked me across the face and for a while, I was left reeling. Oh man, then I started to pay attention. It’s amazing – and frankly, a bit unnerving – what you can see when you start to pay attention.
I saw that despite my good fortune, good job, good life, all was not well. My health was steadily declining. I felt unhappy more often than I cared to admit. Instead of listening to my body – and my heart – and doing something about it, I had spent a lot of time and energy convincing myself that if I just concentrated on what a good life I had, if I just managed to keep all the balls in the air, everything would be fine. Well, you know what? It wasn’t fine. Because I don’t want a good life. I want a great life.
When my husband and I were expecting our first child, a friend with far more life experience than we offered some sage advice: “The best thing you can do to be good parents is to be a happy, loving couple. Take care of each other, take care of yourselves. Because you really can’t be the best parents to your child if you are not healthy and happy.”
Of course, he was right. I deserve to be happy and healthy. Every day. My husband and my kids deserve a healthy, happy wife and mother.
So I’ve been taking action to build a great life. Not the drastic, radical kind of action you see in the movies, where the main character gets a new lease on life and runs away to Italy or France or anywhere but where she is. No, I’m not running away from my good life. I’m taking my good life by the hand and just walking with it, step by step, until it becomes the great life I know it can be.
It’s all about balance. We can try to force something to balance, and that might work for a while. But eventually – no matter how we move things around or how tightly we hold them – if something is out of balance, it will eventually tumble.
The balancing act is much easier in cooking than in life. To wit: these creamy, sweet-tart verrines, which are a lovely addition to a breakfast or brunch table, or served as a refreshing dessert. The word verrine is French, and refers to a small glass artfully filled with layers of either sweet or savory ingredients. Although these do require some time for the gelatin to set up between layers, the individual steps are surprisingly easy. (If you don’t want to mess with the slanted effect, horizontal layers are even more simple.)
Use organic whenever possible.
fresh fruit (e.g., Kiwi, strawberries, raspberries)
* The Bellwether Farms yogurt is rich, tangy, and flecked with real vanilla seeds. I think it’s the best vanilla yogurt on the market. If unavailable, substitute 12 oz. of good-quality plain yogurt mixed with a teaspoon of vanilla extract.
Pour the water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Set aside to dissolve. In a separate bowl, heat half the yogurt in the microwave in 10-second intervals, stirring in between, for 30-60 seconds. You want the yogurt to be fairly hot, but not boiling. Set aside. Microwave the gelatin mixture for a few seconds to warm, then quickly stir the gelatin into the hot yogurt until completely incorporated. Mix in the rest of the yogurt and the honey. Allow to cool to room temperature. (An ice bath will cool the mixture more quickly.)
Position small (2.5 oz. to 7 oz.) glasses at an angle within a larger container, such as an egg carton or a square cake pan lined with a tea towel.** The glasses need to be fairly stable. Divide the yogurt evenly among the glasses, and refrigerate until set (30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the size of your glasses).
** For horizontal layers, just set the glasses flat before and after filling.
For mango gelee layer:
1/4 cup cool water
1 Tablespoon unflavored gelatin
10 oz. fresh or frozen mango, cut into chunks (thawed if frozen),
plus enough water to make 2 cups puree
4 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
Pour the water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it to dissolve. Set aside. Puree the mango in a food processor or blender. Add water a tablespoon at a time and puree again until smooth. If needed, add more water to make 2 cups puree, and blend again before going to the next step.
In a small saucepan, mix together the 2 cups of mango puree with the sugar and lemon juice. Set over medium-high heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in gelatin mixture until the gelatin is completely melted. Cool the mixture to room temperature.
Remove yogurt glasses from fridge and set the glasses flat on the counter or within a larger container. Divide the mango gelee evenly among the glasses, layering it on top of the yogurt. Refrigerate until set, another 1 to 2 hours, depending on the size of your glasses.
Verrines can be made up to 2 days in advance. Store in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap or within a sealed container. Top with the fruit of your choice just before serving (I used diced Kiwi). Best served within 1-2 days of making, although the verrines will keep several more days in the fridge.
Makes 6 to 12 servings, depending on the size of your glasses. The verrine glasses shown in the photos are 7 ounces each, and I made six from this recipe.
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