No-Bake Summer Desserts

By Chelsea Alaine Ferguson –

kidsIn the summertime, my sweet-tooth goes hay-wire. With berries in season, hyper-amounts of festivals and picnics, and my livin’-is-easy state of mind, my craving for a little something sweet intensifies.

Growing up, my brothers and I would play outside in summer until our cheeks were beet-red. Summer was hot! My mom would always set out a simple but sweet snack for us to cool off with, like fresh fruit or homemade popsicles. As an adult I have adopted this same custom. I don’t return to my house with chlorine hair or new freckles from the sun anymore, but I do enjoy incorporating a light summer dessert into my day to balance the hot season of summer.

In the summer, I like to venture out and try new recipes that I am too occupied to make during my busy seasons of the year. It is not unusual for me to sit on my kitchen floor, yellow notepad and pen in hand, surrounded by all of my cookbooks with the dessert pages open.

I tend to favor no-bake fruit desserts in the summer. It’s already hot enough outside, the last place I want to feel the heat is in my house. There are many fruit-dessert options apart from baked pies, cakes and parfaits that are often associated with this time of year. Thanks to my annual recipe dive, I have an entire list of no-bake fruit desserts to try this season. Here are a few of my favorites that you can add to your list:


Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries

s1Serves 8

1 packet unflavored gelatin powder

3 cups heavy cream

2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt

1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 vanilla bean

¾ cup sugar

4 pints sliced fresh strawberries

5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Freshly grated lemon zest, for serving

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin on 3 tablespoons of cold water. Stir and set aside for 10 minutes to allow the gelatin to dissolve. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together 1 ½ cups of the cream, the yogurt , and vanilla extract. Split the vanilla bean and use the tip of a knife to scrape the seeds into the cream. Heat the remaining 1 ½ cups of cream and the sugar in a small saucepan bring to a simmer over medium heat. Off the heat, add the softened gelatin to the hot cream and stir to dissolve. Pour the hot cream-gelatin mixture into the cold cream-yogurt mixture and stir to combine. Pour into 8 ramekins or custard cups and refrigerate uncovered until cold. When the panna cottas are thoroughly chilled, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  Thirty minutes to an hour before serving, combine the strawberries, balsamic vinegar, sugar and pepper. Set aside at room temperature. To serve, run a small knife around each dessert and dup the bottom of each ramekin quickly in a bowl of hot tap water. Insert each ramekin onto a dessert plate and surround the panna cotta with strawberries. Dust lightly with freshly grated lemon zest and serve.

Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten, Clarkson Potter Publishers, $35.00.


Watermelon-Mint Sorbet

s2Serves 7

4 cups cubed seedless watermelon

½ cup sugar

¼ cup packed fresh mint leaves

¼ cup Cointreau (orange-flavored liqueur)


1. Place all ingredients in a blender; process until smooth. Pour mixture into the freezer can of an ice-cream freezer; freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Spoon sorbet into a freezer-safe container; cover and freeze 1 hour and 30 minutes or until firm.

Cooking Light Fresh Food Fast 24/7, Oxmoor House Publishing. $24.95


Grilled Bananas with Chai Syrup 

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Serves 4

(Recipe also works well on grilled peaches or pineapple)

For Chai Syrup

½ cup water

1 chai tea bag

¾ cup honey

5 black peppercorns

1 cinnamon stick

1 whole star anise

2 Cardamom pods

2 whole cloves

one 1-inch pieces fresh ginger, peeled

To make the syrup, in a small saucepan, boil the water. Turn off the heat, add the tea bag and brew the tea, leaving the bag in the water until cool and the tea is very dark. Remove the tea bag, squeezing the excess tea. Add the honey, spices and ginger. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and simmer until the liquid has reduced the 1 cup, 5 to 7  minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 30 minutes. Using the fine-mesh strainer or tea brewer, strain out the whole spices and ginger. The syrup should be thinner than honey, but still have body.

For grilled bananas

Cooking spray

4 ripe, firm bananas

To grill the bananas, coat the grate of an outdoor grill or a grill pan with cooking spray and preheat over medium-high heat. Peel, then slice the bananas in half lengthwise. Grill the fruit until slightly softened and light grill marks form, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Place bananas halves on a dessert plate, drizzle with 2 tablespoons syrup, and serve.

The Food You Crave by Ellie Krieger, Taunton Press Publishing. $28.00



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