Low Carb Dessert – Panna Cotta, Strawberries & Balsamic Vinegar

low carb dessert with yogurt and strawberries

Panna cotta with strawberry balsamic sauce (a low carb dessert)

I’ve been working on meal plans for Low Carb and Slow Carb diets this fall and winter, and while main dish proteins and vegetables are pretty easy to modify, low carb desserts are challenging.  Most meal plans that are developed with health and diet in mind will veer towards fruit desserts, and berries are the best of the fruits when considering low carb recipes.

While it’s true that most fruit has more nutritional value than sugary candy bars or prepared foods, for the most part fruit is very high in sugar (fructose).  And, as our sweet tooth has grown stronger over the past years, the seed companies have kept up with the demand, hybridizing fruits and vegetables to be sweeter and sweeter.

Berries (and some citrus) give the biggest bang for the buck on a low-carb diet, meaning they have the most nutritional value (high in antioxidants) and the least amount of sugar.  I’ve included a chart at the end of this post listing the popular fruits relative to the amounts of carbs in them.

But first the promised low carb dessert.

Acknowledging berries as the go-to fruit to work with in a dessert, the next challenge is to make it rich in flavor without adding much sugar.  Heavy cream and yogurt have very little lactose (milk sugar) so I was intrigued with a recipe that I found in a cookbook called “Farmers’ Market Desserts”.  The Panna Cotta was made with yogurt and heavy cream, neither of which have much lactose, and it used very little sugar.

I modified it a bit and it was perfect!  Lots of great flavor, low in carbs (for a dessert) and easy to make. It does have 1/3 cups sugar in a recipe that serves 4 so be aware if you are being really, really strict).

The only tricky thing is getting the panna cotta out of whatever you use for molds or ramekins, but the strawberry sauce can cover up any cosmetic breaks.  And who cares about cosmetics anyway when it tastes this good!!

Low Carb Dessert Recipe:

Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta with Strawberry Balsamic Sauce

Low Carb Dessert with yogurt and strawberries

Panna Cotta with Strawberry Balsamic Sauce (a low carb dessert)


  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1 1/4 tsp unflavored gelatin
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (I like the FAGE brand)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar + 2 Tbsp
  • 3 cups strawberries (frozen is OK)
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2-3 Tbsp good balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper


  1. In a small bowl add the water and then sprinkle the gelatin over the top and let it sit undisturbed for 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup of the cream, 1 cup yogurt, the vanilla and the salt. Let the yogurt mixture sit while you heat the remaining 3/4 cup cream and 1/3 cup sugar in a small pot over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is just starting to bubble gently (not boiling).
  3. Remove the pot from the heat and scrape in all of the gelatin mixture, stirring until completely dissolved (no granular texture, it should be smooth).  Then add this gelatin-cream mixture to the yogurt mixture and whisk together thoroughly.
  4. Ladel mixture into 6-ounce molds (anything works; small bowls or ramekins).  Refrigerate until set (4 hours or up to 3 days).  Only cover with plastic wrap after they are cold to avoid condensation.
  5. About an hour before serving, make the strawberry sauce by first slicing up 2 1/2 cup strawberries (I used frozen berries that were thawed) and placing them in a medium bowl.  In a food processor puree the remaining 1/2 cup berries with 2 Tbsp sugar and 2 tsp lemon juice.  Add the puree to the sliced berries and stir in 2-3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1/4 tsp pepper and a pinch of salt.  Let sit for 30 to 60 minutes.
  6. When ready to serve, dip ramekins or molds into hot water for a few seconds, Run a thin, sharp knife around inside of mold and then invert panna cottas onto individual dessert plates.  Shake to loosen, or tap bottoms of mold and then lift off ramekins or molds. Spoon strawberry sauce over each panna cotta. Serve immediately.

If you don’t care for the balsamic topping with the strawberries, I’ve posted another low carb dessert recipe that uses red wine with the strawberries instead and buttermilk instead of greek yogurt.  Click here to see that recipe.

Low carb dessert with yogurt and strawberries

Panna Cotta w/ Strawberry & Red Wine Sauce (a low carb dessert)

Now, I’ll end the post with a list of low, medium and high carb fruits that comes in handy when you are making decisions on a low carb diet.  If you want more hands on help I do provide online diet coaching on a platform called coach.me.  Click here if you want to see more about the diet coaching.

Low Carb Fruit Quick List (for use in Low Carb Desserts)

Serving Size: 1/4 cup.

Fruits Lowest in Sugar:

  • Lemon or lime
  • Rhubarb
  • Blackberries
  • Cranberries

Fruits Low to Medium in Sugar

  • Strawberries
  • Casaba Melon
  • Papaya
  • Watermelon
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupes
  • Honeydew melons
  • Apples
  • Guavas
  • Apricots
  • Grapefruit

Fruits Fairly High in Sugar

  • Plums
  • Oranges
  • Kiwifruit
  • Pears
  • Pineapple

Fruits Very High in Sugar:

  • Tangerines
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Pomegranates
  • Mangos
  • Figs
  • Bananas
  • Dried Fruit

Slow Carb Vegetables with Caper Butter

Slow Carb Veggies with Caper Butter

Slow Carb Vegetables with Caper Butter

After being on the Slow Carb Diet for 3 years now, I am definitely a fan of this lifestyle in terms of energy and health (not to mention that I am 3 clothing sizes less than when I started!).

There is only one aspect of the diet that I haven’t thoroughly incorporated into my lifestyle, and that is cooking fresh vegetables.  You just can’t get the fiber and micronutrients that you need for health from just protein and fat, and fresh vegetables (especially the leafy greens) are the best nutritional supplement you can find.

It’s not that I don’t love fresh veggies….I do.  It’s just not something that I have typically cooked a lot of in the past so it always requires a bit of “thinking”.  Thinking tends to go out the window around 6:00 pm when I am hungry and trying to get dinner on the table, so I just default to protein and frozen bags of vegetables heated up in the microwave.

There’s really nothing wrong “nutritionally” with frozen vegetables heated up in a microwave.  It’s just that they are….well….boring.  So I’ve recently been on a kick to cook a new fresh vegetable dish every Sunday until it becomes a habit that I don’t have to think of anymore.  It’s already happened with the skillet saute of some leafy greens (see this post for a great bok choy recipe).  Now onto some cruciferous veggies that are so fresh this time of the year.

One other thing….most of the high-protein-low-carb diets out there right now also herald the inclusion of fat.  Olive oil and coconut oil are the fats of choice, but butter can stand in also as long as it’s in moderate amounts.


A saying I found interesting from a scientist that works with the ketogenic diet relative to cancer research is:  “vegetables are a fat delivery system”.  Well, my hope is to find the flavor appeal in the vegetable itself with maybe a bit of enhancement from the fat.  This recipe does just that.


Slow Carb Vegetable Medley with Caper Butter

Slow Carb Vegetables w/ Caper Butter

Slow Carb Vegetables w/ Caper Butter

(inspired by Deborah Madison)


  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temp.
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup drained small capers
  • 3 Tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts
  • 1 small cauliflower
  • 1 small head broccoli
  • S & P


  1. Make the butter (can make this ahead of time): Place the garlic cloves and salt on a cutting board and pound it with heavy object until it is a paste.  In a bowl, mix the garlic paste with the room temperature butter.  Using a microplane, zest the lemon over the bowl of garlic butter.  Add mustard, capers, lemon zest and oregano and stir together thoroughly.
  2. Trim the bottom off of the Brussel sprouts and then slice them in half and place in large pot of water.  Bring the pot of water to a boil and cook the sprouts for about 3 minutes.  While the sprouts are cooking, cut the cauliflower and broccoli into bite-sized pieces.
  3. Add the cauliflower and broccoli to the pot of sprouts and boil for another 5 minutes.  Using a colander, drain the vegetables, dump into a bowl and use a spatula to mix the caper butter into the hot vegetables.  Salt and pepper mixture to taste and toss again lightly.

Zucchini Frittata – Slow Carb Style

baked zucchini frittata

The standard breakfast fare on the Slow Carb Diet is eggs, beans and spinach.  For those that don’t cook or are rushed for time it is usually a protein shake.  Well, eggs are highly correlated with success on the Slow Carb Diet, but they do get kind of boring cooked in the same old way day after day.

The idea of folding vegetables into a frittata was always intriguing to me, but as it was something I hadn’t made before, of course I put off learning how to do it.  Last Sunday I decided to give it a go, and really it’s often so much the case that the thing you put off is actually pretty darn easy.  Why do we do this to ourselves?  Or am I the only one who delays trying the unknown?

Here is the recipe I used (from “Cooking with Bon Appetit).  I modified it slightly and added some bacon to it for flavor, but other than that it is the same recipe.  Now that I’ve done it once, it will be easy to add different veggies to it, depending on what is in season (right now I have a boatload of peppers to do something with!)

I have followed the slow carb diet for 3 years, and am currently an online diet coach (info can be found here if you’re interested).  A note to 4-hour body purists, I do believe it is OK to use minimal amounts of aged hard cheeses as they do not have the milk sugar (lactose) of other cheeses.  This kind of cheese is dense in calories however, so you don’t want to use a lot, but a little will not spike your insulin the way lactose heavy dairy will.

Oh, and lest I forget….this is great warmed up the next day for an even easier breakfast (or lunch)!

Baked Zucchini Frittata

6 servings


  • 4-5 strips bacon (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cups thinly sliced zucchini (about 2 small zucchini)
  • 4 green onions (scallions), minced
  • 3 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
  • 8 eggs
  • 2/3 cup freshly grated Romano cheese (OK to use Parmesan or another hard aged cheese also)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • dash of freshly ground black pepper
zucchini & bacon frittata slice

zucchini & bacon frittata slice


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Lightly grease 9-inch square baking pan.  Fry up some bacon if you’re going to add bacon.
  2. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Add zucchini, onion and parsley and saute until softened, about 4-5 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. In large bowl, use a fork to beat eggs with cheese and seasonings.  Add zucchini mixture and blend well (add crumbled up bacon at this point – amount depending on your taste).
  4. Pour into prepared pan and bake until just firm in center, about 20-25 minutes.  Serve hot or cold.



What is the Most Effective Diet?

What is the most effective diet?

The most important thing I learned in graduate school was how to “curate” reams of information and synthesize it into a coherent document that someone who knew nothing about the subject at hand could understand.

This skill has served me well as a diet coach on coach.me platform.  Every day I get a range of questions as esoteric as, “how do male and female bodies respond differently to insulin spikes from carbs?” and as specific as “is chewing gum with Erythritol  as the sweetener OK to have on a low carb diet?

The answers to all questions are out there on the internet somewhere.  It’s just that the answers may be opinions from a 5-year old or a long-held(but inaccurate) myth.   In other words the answers may not be “evidence-based” at all.  Just opinions.

As a “curator” of evidence-based information and as a coach to people with pressing diet and/or health issues I have come to the conclusion that the answer to the question of “the most effective diet” is  a high-protein-low-carb-medium-fat diet.  Effective meaning it is the most efficient  and healthy way to a achieve long-term, sustainable weight loss.

Now a high-protein-low-carb-medium-fat diet isn’t exactly a phrase suited to a book cover.  If you break down the most popular, evidence-based diet programs currently catching our interest however, they are all a nuanced version of high-protein-low-carb.  The Slow Carb Diet is nuanced by adding beans and a cheat day.  Paleo, on the other hand, includes no beans and no cheat day, but does include fruit.  Atkins includes cheese and more fat, but no fruit, no beans and no cheat day.  Primal, South Beach, the Zone, the Duke University Medical Diet, and many more are all nuanced forms of high-protein-low-carb diets.

Even the Blue Zones diet information is high-protein-low-carb, just more plant based.

Why are these high-protein-low carb diets effective?  Two main reasons:

1) Protein and fat are satiating and so you do not get hungry.  Hunger can derail a diet quicker than anything.  This is one of the things that makes these diets sustainable.

2) Carbs are essentially sugar as far as your hormones and insulin are concerned, and sugar is directly correlated to obesity.  Sugar is also known to be addictive and once you sustain a low carb diet for a while the sugar cravings decrease to the point of sustainability.

So, there is a lot of research going on in the diet and nutrition field these days, with the most interesting ideas surrounding gut bacteria and probiotics.  I can’t wait to curate that information and nuance the high-protein-low -carb diet even further!   If you have esoteric or specific questions on high-protein-low-carb diets, click here  and  I will certainly do my best to help you out,  with curated information as well as with inspiration.



Slow Carb Ratatouille – Roasted or Sautéed


Roasted Slow Carb Ratatouille

Roasted Slow Carb Ratatouille

Ratatouille lends itself perfectly to Slow Carb eating and end of summer.  If you don’t mind chopping and peeling while you listen to music or a podcast or a movie, it’s really a pretty easy dish to make also.  I always avoided Ratatouille because it seemed so complicated with all of those different veggies, but once you have all of the beautiful produce laid out in front of you, it doesn’t take much thinking and you can easily let your mind wander.

I like the rich taste of roasted vegetables so much more so I prefer the roasted version.  If you don’t mind heating up your house with the oven, it is actually a bit easier.  The saute version is perhaps a bit easier if you are used to one pot cooking.  It is basically a layering approach where you saute one veggie till done, add another layer of vegetable, and keep adding layers until you have a wonderful, colorful, tasty mixture of summer produce and herbs.

Add a pork chop and you have a perfect Slow Carb Sunday dinner!

Roasted Version of Slow Carb Ratatouille


  • 1 eggplant (about 1 lb), peeled & cut lengthwise and then into  1″ dice
  • 1 zucchini (about 8 oz size), ends trimmed off and then cut into 1″ dice
  • 1 yellow summer squash (about 8 oz), ends trimmed off and then cut into 1″ dice
  • 3 beefsteak type tomatoes (meaty rather than juicy), cored and cut into  1″ chunks
  • 2 large red bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1″ dice
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 large onion (red or yellow), peeled and cut into 1″ chunks
  • 1/4 tsp (or large pinch) crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves



  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line two sheet pans with foil
  2. Cut peeled eggplant, peeled zucchini, red peppers,  and tomatoes into similar sizes (about 1″ dice or chunks) and lay out on the sheet pans (aka, cookie sheets).  See ingredient list for more specific cutting directions. Add several garlic cloves (peeled and thinly sliced) to each sheet pan.
  3. Gather all the vegetables into a mound in the middle of the pan and drizzle each mound of vegetables  with 1/4 cup olive oil and about 1 to 1 1/2 tsp. salt.  Mix the oil and salt into each mound of vegetables gently with your hands and then spread veggies out on the sheet into a single layer.
  4. Roast vegetables in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, use a flat spatula to turn veggies over and roast for another 15-20 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and coat the bottom with 2 Tbsp olive oil.  When the oil is hot, add the onion, crushed red pepper and season with salt, to taste.  Sauté until onions are soft, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the roasted vegetables to the pan along with the vinegar, oregano and thyme.  Toss well to coat and add more olive oil, if needed.  Taste to check the seasoning and transfer to a platter and serve.

Sautéed Version of Slow Carb Ratatouille


same as above


Heat 3 Tbsp olive oil in large skillet over medium heat.

Add the onion and sauté until tender, stirring often, about 7-10 minutes

Add the garlic and sauté 1 more minute

Add 2 more Tbsp olive oil to the pan.  Increase the heat to medium-high and add the eggplant.

Sauté until eggplant is softened, about 3 minutes.

Stir in zucchini, yellow squash and bell pepper and cook for 5 minutes more.

Stir in the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and cook mixture for about 10 minutes.

Stir in oregano and thyme and serve with grated Parmesan.



Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes