Fresh fruits for summer desserts

Apr 23, 2008 at 9:17 p.m. ET

One of the good things about summer is the availability of fresh fruits in season. Although low-carbers don't tend to eat a lot of fruit, it's still possible to enjoy lower-carb fruits. In the warmer months, lighter desserts are a pleasant way to finish a meal and fruit makes the ideal ingredient around which to base summer eating.

Fruit Salad
It's quite surprising just how creative it is possible to be using fruit in a dessert. Many
fruit desserts can be adjusted to include to your favorite fruits and, in particular, berries can be interchangeable according to your own preference.

In England, fresh fruit salad is frequently served as a dessert at summer parties, often with either cream or ice cream. It's easy to prepare, looks very colorful and fresh and tastes delicious!

Bring on the creaminess!

Desserts containing fresh cream and fruit are some of the most appealing recipes to prepare at this time of year. Whereas, perhaps in your days of higher-carb eating, you would have added sugar, you will probably find now that your tastes have changed and for some recipes you can avoid sweetener altogether, especially if the berries are ripe enough.

For the simplest of desserts on a day-to-day basis, a bowl of berries with heavy cream is perfect by itself. If you prefer a lighter dessert and/or want to avoid cream, the use of canned coconut milk in place of cream makes a welcome change of flavor, provides good fats, plenty of taste and is in keeping with a summery theme. The recipes below, although not as simple as a bowl of berries, are all nearly effortless to prepare yet look very special at the table!

As we are avoiding sugar, one of the easiest ways to make fruit-based desserts is with the use of sugar-free gelatin. Sugar-free gelatin not only adds sweetness to a recipe but also means the dessert can be set in various ways which adds a pleasant change in texture. All the recipes following here contain sugar-free Jell-O to provide both sweetness and texture but each recipe is quite different, which indicates just how versatile sugar-free gelatin can be in dessert recipes.

These recipes are primarily for those who are following a low-carbohydrate lifestyle or maintaining weight loss and/or for special occasions. If you are still losing weight on your low-carb diet, then you may want to be careful with some of these recipes as the high fruit and/or alcohol content might affect your weight loss. Refer to your specific low-carb plan to determine if these recipes are right for you!

Raspberry Coconut Jell-O Dessert

This is an extremely simple recipe to prepare, but produces a very impressive-looking layered Jell-O dessert.

As the Jell-O cools and sets, the coconut milk rises to the top, leaving the raspberries at the bottom. You could also experiment with using any other lower-carb berries or fruits, either canned, or cooked and prepared at home from fresh or frozen berries. Serve with dried unsweetened coconut sprinkled on top for added texture, flavor and good fats!

1 packet sugar-free raspberry Jell-O, .35-ounce package
3/4 cup fresh or frozen raspberries (defrosted) or 1 can raspberries in water, drained
1 cup coconut milk, canned, unsweetened
1 to 2 tablespoons dried unsweetened coconut (optional)

Pour one cup of boiling water into a measuring jug. Sprinkle on the Jell-O crystals and stir well until dissolved. Add the coconut milk and whisk with a fork to break up any coconut milk particles.

Place the berries, or well-drained canned berries, in the bottom of a 4-cup glass bowl. Add the Jell-O mixture and stir well. Cover the bowl, place in the fridge and leave to set (about four hours). Just before serving, sprinkle the top of the dessert with the dried coconut.

Serve with heavy cream. Serves four.

Per serving (without cream): 5.2g carbs; 1.7g fiber; 1.6g protein; 13.1g fat; 0mg cholesterol; 13.5mg sodium; 134 calories

Rhubarb Fool

This recipe is delicious, is very simple and takes very little effort to prepare. The swirled pink and white colors make it a very attractive dessert and it would be an lovely contribution to any summer party.

1 pound rhubarb
1 packet of sugar-free raspberry Jell-O, 0.35 ounce
2 cups heavy cream

Chop the rhubarb and place in a saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water. Cook gently for 10 to 15 minutes until the rhubarb is very soft. Sprinkle on the Jell-O crystals and stir into the mixture whilst still hot until the crystals have dissolved. Place the mixture in a small bowl and allow to cool and set in the fridge, about two hours.

In a separate larger bowl, whisk the heavy cream with an electric whisk until thickened but not stiff. Spoon the Jell-O mixture into the cream and whisk again until well combined. Scrape the mixture into a pretty glass serving bowl and leave in the fridge to set again, about one hour. Serve with an extra spoonful of cream or yogurt. Serves four.

Per serving (extra cream not included in analysis): 9g carbohydrates; 2g fiber; 44.3g fat; 163mg cholesterol; 55.1mg sodium; 3.6g protein, 436 calories

Summer Fruits Terrine

This recipe was inspired by a recipe by British cookery writer, Delia Smith. Do take note that it has quite a high alcohol content for a dessert, and also fruit! So you may want to keep this recipe for very special occasions. Again, it is a very simple dessert to prepare but looks very special when you present it to your guests! It's best to prepare the terrine a day in advance to give it time to set properly in the refrigerator.

2 cups sparkling rose' wine (use regular table rose' if you can't find sparkling wine)
1 packet gelatin powder (plain, like Knox, 1 tablespoon)
1 packet sugar free raspberry, Jell-O, 0.35 ounce
4 1/2 cups mixed fresh or frozen berries (eg, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries) (If you are using frozen berries, you do not need to defrost them in advance).

Heat the wine in a pan until simmering and then add the gelatin and Jell-O and stir well until dissolved completely.

Arrange the berries in a deep sided rectangular bread pan (mine measures at the base 6 1/4" long x 3 3/4" wide x 3 1/2" deep). Pour the wine and Jell-O mixture over the fruit and level the top.

Place a piece of food wrap in direct contact with the top of the fruit and then a piece of foil on top of that. Transfer the pan into the refrigerator and place two heavy cans on top to weigh the mixture down. Leave overnight to set completely. When you are ready to serve, dip the terrine into hot water very briefly (three to five seconds), then run a sharp knife around the edge. Place a serving plate on top and invert the whole thing so that the dessert turns out onto the plate.

Cut into slices with a sharp knife dipped in hot water and serve with cream. Serves eight.

Per serving (analysis with table rose' wine and strawberries, and without cream): 7.6g carbs; 1.7g fiber; 0.3g fat; 1.5g protein; 0.0mg cholesterol; 8.2mg sodium; 72.8 calories