Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee

Creme Brulee | Pinky's Pantry
So I was lying in bed watching TV with my Old Goat Honey dozing next to me when a slight movement off the side of my eye caught my attention. Looking over, I gasped! A huge, horrible, monstrous, leggy, brown bug was crawling up the wall towards the ceiling! Anyone who knows me knows I have a deep-seated, inexplicable fear of creepy crawlies. Anything with more than four legs strikes the fear of God into my quivering heart. This thing had like a million legs! I kid you not! With a shriek, I recognized it as a house centipede.

I shook my Old Goat and in a nervous whisper said that there was a gigantic monster house centipede crawling up the wall and I needed him to take it away….. immediately! In typical heroic fashion, my knight in shining armor drowsily said, “Just leave it alone. They eat spiders.” Gah! Really? Is there anything more gag-inducing than the thought of an ugly leggy bug happily munching on another ugly leggy bug? Unable to tear my eyes away from the terrifying sight of the beast crawling up the wall, I watched in helpless fascination as he reached the part where the wall meets the ceiling and stopped. I swear he stood there looking right at me as if trying to decide whether I would make a tasty meal or not. Surely he wouldn’t walk across the ceiling towards me! He would be upside down if he did! How would he stay up there? Do they have like little dots of double-sided sticky tape at the ends of their legs? No….. he couldn’t walk upside down across the ceiling. He wouldn’t. He……… Ahhhhhhhhhh!

To my absolute horror, he started across the ceiling towards our bed! My mind filled with visions of him getting right above our bed, imagining how suddenly the double-sided sticky tape at the ends of his legs would lose its stickiness and he would drop right onto me in a full-on, ravenous attack. I quickly shook Old Goat again and in a panic-stricken voice yelled, “He’s coming this way! You’ve got to get him before he gets us!” to which my fearless knight sleepily responded, “Have No. 1 do it.”  O_O

By this time, I had already leaped out of our bed and made it across to the safety of the other side of the room. I watched from the doorway mesmerized as it crawled right above Old Goat, then suddenly veered towards the center of the ceiling where it crawled up onto the base of the ceiling fan. My powers of deduction obviously impaired by this point, I hit on the idea that if I turned on the fan, those big wooden blades would somehow chop up that little body with the million little legs into tiny flecks of dust that would poof away into nothingness. So I hit the ON button and to my utter shock, the fan sucked him right into its body! I always knew fans blew air out front. Never thought of them sucking air in on the back side but that’s just what this one did. Now what? I stood there waiting indecisively, but he never dragged himself out of the swiftly-whirring fan.

So, brave soul that I am, I hightailed it downstairs to the kitchen as fast as my shaky legs could take me, and feeling in dire need of some comfort, debated on whether to pour myself a stiff drink or make some Crème Brûlée for dessert tonight. The Crème Brûlée won.


  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • turbinado sugar for caramelizing
  1. Preheat oven to 300ºF. Place 8 small ramekins or custard cups in a roasting pan and set aside until ready to use.
  2. In a saucepan, stir together the cream, sugar, and salt.
  3. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with the back of a paring knife.
  4. Stir the seeds into the cream and drop the vanilla bean halves in.
  5. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.
  6. Turn off the heat, cover, and let stand for 20 minutes.
  7. In a large glass measuring cup, whisk the egg yolks lightly just to break them up.
  8. Remove and discard the vanilla bean halves.
  9. Slowly pour the warm cream into the egg yolks, whisking constantly.
  10. Fill each ramekin with the custard mixture.
  11. Carefully place the roasting pan with the filled ramekins into the oven.
  12. Slowly pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come at least halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
  13. Bake until the custards are just set but still a little jiggly, about 30-35 minutes.
  14. Remove custards from the water bath and place on a wire rack to cool to room temperature.
  15. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap directly onto the surface of each custard to prevent them from forming a skin.
  16. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.
  17. Just before serving, preheat your broiler.
  18. Sprinkle 1-2 teaspoons of turbinado sugar evenly in a thin layer over the top of each custard.
  19. Place in broiler, about 3 inches away from the heat source, until the sugar melts and caramelizes. You may have to rotate your pan so it caramelizes evenly. Watch carefully and don’t let the sugar burn. If you have a kitchen torch, use it! It’s much easier to control the caramelization with a torch.
  20. Set the custards aside to let the caramel cool and harden.

NOTE:  If you can’t find vanilla beans, you can substitute 1 tsp. of pure vanilla extract.


Coffee Panna Cotta

Coffee Panna Cotta | Pinky's Pantry
We’re having some old friends over for dinner tomorrow. We haven’t seen them in a while so I’m really looking forward to it. For the dinner, I thought I would keep it simple so I’m making a slow-roasted beef brisket with mushroom gravy, roasted potatoes, and steamed broccoli. But for dessert, I wanted to serve something that would be easy to prepare and yet be fancy enough to make a statement. I decided to make Panna Cotta but didn’t feel like doing the traditional vanilla flavor. Then I thought, ‘how about coffee flavored?’ It would jazz up the custard quite nicely and make it sophisticated enough to appeal to the grown-up palate. If I could come up with some kind of sauce to serve it with, that would be the icing on the cake!….. or the icing on the cotta….. LOL! I must say, I think it turned out pretty well! I hope my friends, Maureen and Bullet, like it too.
Coffee Panna Cotta with Coffee Cream Sauce | Pinky's Pantry


  • 1 packet Knox unflavored gelatin
  • ¼ cup cold water
  • 3 cups whipping cream
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1½ tsp. instant espresso or coffee granules
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  1. In a small bowl, soften gelatin in cold water; set aside.
  2. Place whipping cream, sugar, instant coffee and vanilla extract in a saucepan.
  3. Stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a simmer.
  4. Simmer gently for 5 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and add gelatin to hot cream mixture, stirring until gelatin dissolves.
  6. Pour into 6 lightly oiled 1/2 cup ramekins or other small containers and refrigerate overnight or at least 8 hours.
  7. Once panna cottas are firm, turn out onto dessert plates.
  8. Decorate with chocolate covered espresso beans and mint leaves.
  9. If desired, serve with Coffee Cream Sauce.

Weight Watchers Lime Panna Cotta

Weight Watchers Panna Cotta | Pinky's PantryMy family loves creamy, rich Panna Cotta, but let’s face it – it’s not exactly the lowest calorie dessert out there. However, I do have the Weight Watchers PointsPlus Cookbook sitting on my bookshelf, and browsing through it I was more than pleased to discover that it contained a recipe for a low-fat Panna Cotta! I decided to give it a try and was pleasantly surprised. Of course, there’s nothing like the flavor of a full-cream Panna Cotta, but when you’re trying to cut down on the calories, this really was a good substitute.


  • 1-1/2 tsp. unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup fat-free half-and-half
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. grated lime zest
  • pinch salt
  • 3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1/3 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 tbsp. water
  1. Spray four 6-oz. custard cups or ramekins with nonstick spray.
  2. Sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup of the half-and-half in small bowl. Let stand until gelatin softens, about 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, combine remaining 1/2 cup half-and-half, 1/3 cup of the sugar, the lime zest, and salt in medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Cook, whisking, until sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high, bring just to boil, and remove saucepan from heat. Whisk in gelatin mixture, cover, and let stand 10 minutes. Pour through fine sieve set over medium bowl.
  4. Whisk buttermilk and vanilla into strained mixture. Divide mixture evenly among prepared custard cups. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled and set, at least 4 hours or up to 1 day.
  5. To make sauce, combine 1/2 cup of the raspberries, the blueberries, remaining 1 tablespoon sugar, and the water in small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to boil and cook, stirring often, until blueberries pop and sauce begins to thicken, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in remaining 1/2 cup raspberries. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
  6. To serve, run thin-bladed knife around edge of each custard cup; then dip cups into bowl of hot water, holding them there about 15 seconds. Immediately invert cups onto plate. Top each with 2 tablespoons of the sauce.

ONE SERVING (1 custard with 2 tablespoons sauce) = 4 POINTS

NOTE:  I followed the Panna Cotta recipe as is, but I didn’t have any raspberries or blueberries so instead of making the Berry Sauce, I made an Apricot Sauce to go with it by first draining a can of Lite Apricot Halves, and then pureeing the fruit with an immersion blender. Stir in a little squeeze of lemon juice and you’re good to go. If you want it sweeter, just add some Splenda to taste.

Strawberry Panna Cotta

Strawberry Panna Cotta | Pinky's Pantry
Panna Cotta is an Italian custard dessert. Panna Cotta literally means “cooked cream.” My kids love Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta which I usually serve with different fruit sauces, but since strawberries are in season, I thought I would try making Strawberry Panna Cotta by switching the vanilla bean for strawberry extract and making a strawberry sauce. They liked it a lot so I made it again to take to my sister’s house for Labor Day. It was a hit.
Strawberry Panna Cotta | Pinky's Pantry


  • 1 packet Knox unflavored gelatin
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 3 cups cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. strawberry extract
  • few drops of pink baker’s gel food coloring (or red grocery store food coloring)
  • fresh strawberries and mint leaves, for garnish
  1. In a small bowl, soften gelatin in cold water; set aside.
  2. Place cream, sugar and strawberry extract in a saucepan.
  3. Stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a simmer.
  4. Simmer gently for 5 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and add gelatin to hot cream mixture, stirring until gelatin dissolves.
  6. Stir in a few drops of food coloring until mixture reaches the shade of pink desired. This is optional. You could skip the food coloring if you want.
  7. Pour into 6 lightly oiled 1/2 cup ramekins or other small containers and refrigerate overnight or at least 8 hours.
  8. Once panna cottas are firm, pour a little strawberry sauce on top.
  9. Decorate with sliced strawberries and mint leaves, if desired.


  • 1-1/2 cups strawberries, hulled
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • sugar to taste
  1. Blend strawberries and orange juice together until smooth.
  2. Add sugar to taste. How much sugar you add will depend on how sweet your strawberries are. Just add in one tablespoon at a time until it’s as sweet as you want it.