Terrarium Trifle and The Importance of Foundation
I meet a lot of amazing people who are so creative and passionate and interesting, but just don’t quite know what to focus on to be able to follow their dreams. Many have vague ideas of what they’d be good at, while others just have so many hobbies they can’t narrow it down to just one. When I talk to those people or hear their frustrations, it reminds me of just how lucky I am to have my business, art practice, and life built on such a strong foundation!
My best friend’s background is in strategic planning, and we have done a couple of powerful sessions together to determine how to give me solid footing to stand on as The Wondersmith. She had me take many personality tests to learn more about the way I work. She had me assess my ethics and values and come up with a list of what is most important to me. She had me define a clear mission statement to help define what I do now, and a vision statement so I know what I’m shooting towards in the future. Now that I know what kind of earth my roots are digging themselves into, I feel both centered and free; that as long as I stay in integrity with my mission and my values, I can be free to follow my creativity on lots of interesting little side journeys.
Have you ever really taken the time to write out what is important to you? What success looks like? And I’m not just talking about the “American Dream” kind of success of a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence, two kids and a wife, and maybe a dog. I mean what does success look like to YOU? Is it being able to afford a giant mansion to live in and be respected in your community due to your stature? Is it to simplify your life and spend more time living in a cabin in the woods? Is it having the freedom and ability to travel whenever you want? Is it doing something that will leave a legacy for others to enjoy? Being as specific as possible is what lays the foundation for every aspect of your life. I can’t over-emphasize just how important it has been for me and what a difference these discussions, exercises, and realizations have made to how I run everything in my life. They are my base.
I suppose I think of building a creative business a bit like building a terrarium. First you have the rocks - the stable support that holds up the rest of the layers, the core values and traits that shape your actions, whatever you are doing. Next comes a layer of soil - the things that give you pleasure, the parts of your life that enrich and feed your experience. This can be working on projects that excite you or being able to spend more time with your family. What truly makes you happy? What could you do every day and not get sick of it? Then comes the finer topsoil - the layer of commitment. To run a creative business on your own, you have to learn a lot of things. Over the years I have taught myself photography, food styling, social media management, how to apply for an LLC, how to file taxes, and many other things. These days merely being creative is not enough; you have to learn how to market, where to sell, how to package, and so much more. It’s a commitment. But it is what will ultimately feed your creative soul.
Finally: the moss and plants, the visible passion you show through your work! This layer represents the portfolio books, the storefronts, the websites, the markets, the music gigs, and all other forms of creative expression. If you try to just stick a plant in a bowl with nothing else, it may survive for a time, but it will soon get depleted, burnt out, and wither. It’s the same with your creative expression. Give it something to root into and it will repay you with a life that is meaningful, personalized, and in line with everything you value.
Terrarium Trifle Recipes:
These are some things to think about as you construct this delightful summertime trifle. This trifle may look completely decadent, but there’s a garden’s worth of produce hiding beneath those silky layers! I’m talking about 2 zucchinis, 4 avocados, 1 c. basil and lemon balm, and 3 c. spinach. When I fed it to my guests, none of them had any clue just how many veggies they were eating. It disguises them well. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did! Just make sure to plan ahead so that it can chill overnight. That helps the flavors come together in a delightful, herbs and chocolate way.
Chocolate avocado mousse
I almost couldn’t believe how easy it was to make a rich, sensual chocolate mousse using avocados! It’s soft, it’s creamy, it’s chocolatey, and the addition of maple syrup and extract give it just a little extra boost of delicious flavor. Yum.
3 c. mashed ripe avocado (4-5 small avocados)
1 Tbs. vanilla
3/4 c. pure maple syrup
1 ½ c. cocoa powder
1/2 c. almond milk
⅛ tsp. Salt
2 tsp. Maple extract
In a food processor, combine all ingredients and blend until smooth. Add a little more almond milk if needed to make a softer texture.
Keeps covered in fridge up to one week
Lemon balm and basil gelatin
This optional layer adds a stripe of green, an herbal flavor, and a different texture to your trifle. Jellies and gelatins are more often seen in British trifles, but I think they are delicious so I included one in mine.
4 c. water
1 c. fresh herbs of choice
4 Tbs. gelatin
4 Tbs. sugar
Put 1 c. water in a small saucepan. Evenly sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Leave for 10 minutes to allow it to “bloom.”
Add the remaining water and herbs to a high-speed blender and blend until the mixture is green and smooth.
Strain the herb liquid through a fine sieve into a bowl. Dissolve the sugar in the liquid.
Meanwhile, gently heat the gelatin in the pan over medium-low heat until it’s liquid.
Pour the gelatin mixture into the green mixture and stir well. Pour into a silicone mold and chill until set up.
What a fantastic way to use overly-prolific zucchini! These cakes are rich, moist, and chocolatey. They are also gluten free - the moisture from the zucchini keeps the cakes from drying out as much as regular gluten free cakes tend to.
2 c. gluten free flour
1 ½ c. packed brown sugar
½ c. cocoa powder
1 tsp. Baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. Baking soda
½ tsp. Salt
2 large eggs
1 c. canola oil
2 tsp. Vanilla extract
2 c. shredded zucchini
Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease 2 (9”) cake pans and place a circle of parchment paper in the bottom of each. Then grease that and flour the pans, tapping out excess flour.
Whisk together the dry ingredients.
Whisk together the wet ingredients and pour them into the dry ingredients. Add the zucchini. Mix until the batter is even. Pour half of the batter into each cake pan.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Mini Moss Cake:
This is adapted from my recipe for moss cakes. It’s a little simpler and smaller, with the same glorious mossy green color.
½ c. shortening
½ c. sugar
2 Tbs. lemon juice
⅔ c. nettle or spinach puree
1 ½ c. flour
1 ½ tsp. Baking powder
Preheat the oven to 325 and grease and flour a medium cake pan. (I used a spring-form pan that is about 8” across and 3” tall.)
Put the shortening and sugar into a medium bowl and beat until fluffy and light colored.
Mix the eggs, lemon juice, and nettle in another bowl. In a third bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
Add ⅓ of the flour mixture to the sugar mixture and beat until smooth. Add half of the green mixture and beat until smooth. Continue alternating, ending with the last third of the dry ingredients.
Pour into pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Decorations and Assembly:
If possible, the succulent decorations should be made a day in advance so they have time to dry out a little before serving.
1 log of marzipan
Matcha tea powder
Blue spirulina powder
2 c. chocolate-covered almonds
To sculpt the agave-like succulents, add ¼ tsp. Matcha powder and ¼ tsp. Blue spirulina powder to half of the marzipan. Knead until it is evenly colored. Adjust the color as desired by adding more of either powder.
Separate the mixture into small balls about the size of a grape. Roll the ends to make a tapered leaf-shape. Gently press the “leaves” together to form a plant. Leave to dry for a little while.
To make the other succulents, follow the same directions as above but exclude the blue spirulina powder. Make the “leaves” a bit smaller and flatter. While the marzipan is still damp, use a dry brush to brush a little bit of the blueberry powder on the edges for life-like coloring.
Mix up a small amount of pipe-able white icing by adding a couple of drops of water at a time to ½ c. powdered sugar. Mix well and add water until it is a pipe-able consistency. Using a small round tip, pipe little dots/spikes along the edges of the succulent agave. Let dry completely, preferably overnight.
To assemble your trifle: place a layer of the chocolate covered almonds on the bottom to act as “rocks” for your base. Then, gently press in a layer of zucchini cake. Top that with the green herbal jelly, then half of the chocolate mousse. Top with the other zucchini cake and more mousse, then crumble the moss cake and sprinkle it on top. “Plant” the succulents on top. Refrigerate overnight and then serve chilled.
* A note: the trifle pan I used was 9” by about 5” tall. Depending on the size you use, you may have leftover filling ingredients. These are delicious on their own or can be formed into additional mini trifles!
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