These are absolutely the most delicious little treats made with the simplest and healthiest of ingredients. When I was in Shanghai earlier this month, I made them for my parents, and they couldn’t believe that the decadent panna cotta was actually good for them. Whenever I visit my parents, I pack food in my suitcases — cheeses, extra virgin olive oil, whole grain cereal, decaf coffee beans… you name it. My suitcases remind me of the ones hauled by the black market merchants during the era of food rationing in China. This time I brought them a bag of xylitol along with other novelty foods. My dad has a voracious appetite and he loves sweets, but he needs to watch his blood sugar. So xylitol was a perfect gift for him, and the panna cotta was a perfect dessert to showcase it.
Looking at my dad chomping on peanuts in front of the TV, I knew I was doomed. It is amazing how one can inherit a penchant for peanuts from one’s father. There is definitely a peanut loving gene in my DNA. My dad is hard of hearing and talking with him is laborious for the both of us; so we shelled peanuts together while watching some Sino-Japanese war series on TV. It seemed that my parents are always watching the same battles being fought every time I visit them. The Japanese invasion and the Chinese resistance must be one of the few themes that can pass censorship while still showing some scenes of sex and violence. I was able to make them happy simply by sitting with them. Nothing else was required — just my presence. I think only children have this kind of magical power over their parents.
Okay, back to the panna cotta. It is low fat, but feels extremely creamy in your mouth. I made mine sugar free with xylitol and stevia extract. Stevia extract is natural and has virtually no calories. I usually add a pack or two with about 1/4 cup of xylitol. If you don’t like xylitol or stevia, you can use 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup of sugar depending on how sweet you want your panna cotta.
Everyone in the family loved the panna cotta not only because it is delectable and healthy, but also because home-made dessert means mommy is back.
Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta
2 1/2 cups Fage Total or other full fat Greek yogurt
1 1/2 cup 2% organic milk or milk of choice or cream (I used 2% organic)
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup xylitol or sugar
1 to 2 packs of organic stevia or 1 to 2 more tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (optional)
2 1/2 teaspoons (1 1/4 ounce packet) unflavored gelatin
Canola or safflower for greasing the containers
Grease the containers (ramekins or teacups or bowls) if you plan to un-mold the panna cotta when serving. If you plan to serve the panna cotta in the container that you make it with, you can skip the greasing.
Pour 1 cup of milk in a bowl and sprinkle the gelatin in the milk, let soak until soft, 5 to 10 minutes.
In a small sauce pan on low heat, stir the xylitol or sugar, milk and gelatin until melt. (Do not boil.) Let cool for 3 to 5 minutes.
In a food processor, mix together milk gelatin mixture, yogurt, lemon juice, vanilla extract, xanthan gum and stevia.
Pour mixture into desired container and refrigerate for 2 to 8 hours depending on the size of the container, about 2 hours for small ramekins or cups and up to 8 hours or overnight for a cake pan.
To take the panna cotta out of the container, dip the bottom of the container in a pan of hot water for 5 seconds, or use a sharp knife to separate along the side of the container. Cover the container with the plate you plan to serve on and turn the whole thing upside down.
Serve with fresh berries and a dollop honey or maple syrup
Top with brandied dried apricots