Something Sweet

In honor of Valentine's Day, I thought I would post three of my favorite sweets to make. I love to bake so much and I've tried tons of recipes. I could list twenty of my favorite dessert recipes...but I won't.

Due to my husband being a bit under the weather, he's been eating lots of bland food this week. I've got a whole bunch of bananas for him and I'm kind of hoping he gets sick of them and leaves a few on the counter. Why, you ask? Because when bananas become overripe...so ripe that the peel is practically black and you think you should throw them away...they are perfect for baking! You could use them for Healthy Banana-Blueberry Muffins or you could use them to make banana bread.

Banana bread is awesome. There is no fancy technique or special ingredients. Pretty much all of the ingredients are things you are likely to have on hand so you can make one on a whim. It takes minutes to throw it together and then you put it in the oven.

Banana Bread*
~Great for breakfast, with lunch, with dinner, or for dessert~

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 bananas, mashed (you can get by with only two)
3/4 cup add-in**
1/2 cup chopped nuts (totally optional. I don't like them so I don't put them in)

  1. Grease/spray a standard loaf pan (approx. 9''x 5''). Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. If you are using an electric mixer, put the bananas in the bowl first and mix/mash them thoroughly. If you don't mash them really well, you can get big globs of them throughout the bread instead of them incorporating evenly.
  3. Mix all ingredients together in the bowl thoroughly. If you are including any add-ins, stir them in at the end.
  4. Bake for 45-60 minutes (the time really does vary...start checking it at 45 minutes by inserting a toothpick into the center. Keep adding time until the toothpick comes out clean and it looks brown and finished). Allow to cool in pan for a few minutes and then remove from pan and cool on a wire rack. Store by wrapping in foil or plastic wrap and keeping at room temperature.
*This bread freezes beautifully. Just wrap in plastic wrap and foil and freeze. Take it out of the freezer and allow it to thaw at room temperature (overnight is perfect). Pampered Chef sells a bread pan that makes four smaller individual loaves instead of one large one. My sister freezes these separately and pulls one out at a time to serve with dinner or have as a snack.

**Banana bread lends itself to add-ins so well. You could make it really sweet by adding chocolate chips. I love to add frozen blueberries. You could also add your favorite dried fruit, like dried cranberries. If something sounds good to you, add it in!

Lemon Yogurt Cake*
~If you like the flavor of lemon, you will LOVE this cake~

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 eggs
2 tsp grated lemon zest (zest is the yellow "skin" of the lemon)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan (9'' x 5''). Line the bottom with parchment paper and then grease and flour the pan.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in one bowl. In another bowl, whisk together yogurt, 1 cup of sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla.
  3. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the oil into the batter, making sure it's all incorporated.
  4. Pour the batter into prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  5. Meanwhile, cook 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small saucepan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.
  6. When the cake is done, let cool for 10 minutes and then place on baking rack over a cookie sheet. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon sugar mixture over it and allow to cool.
  7. For the glaze, combine the confectioners sugar and lemon juice and pour over the cake.
*As you can see, this cake is not "diet-friendly". It is wonderful for a special occasion because it is incredibly moist and delicious. It also takes a little bit of time and effort to make, so it's not something you would make all the time.

This recipe is from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa At Home

Coeur a la Creme*
~This french dessert is so good that people are amazed every time I make it~

12 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
2 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp grated lemon zest
Raspberry and Grand Marnier sauce (see below)
2 half-pints fresh raspberries (optional as a garnish)
  1. Place the cream cheese and confectioners sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on high speed for 2 minutes (you can use a hand mixer if you don't have a stand mixer).
  2. Scrape down the beater and bowl with a rubber spatula and change the beater for the whisk attachment (obviously, if you are using a hand mixer you can skip this step).
  3. With the mixer on low speed, add the heavy cream, vanilla, and lemon zest and beat on high until the mixture is very thick, like whipped cream.
  4. Line a 7-inch sieve (mesh strainer) or a Coeur a la Cream mold (can be found in specialty kitchen stores or online) with cheesecloth or paper towels so that the ends drape over the sides. Suspend the sieve over a bowl, making sure there is a space between the bottom of the sieve and the bottom of the bowl so that the liquid can drain.
  5. Pour the cream cheese mixture into the cheesecloth or paper towels and fold the ends over the top and refrigerate overnight.
  6. Discard the liquid, unmold the cream on a platter, and drizzle Raspberry and Grand Marnier Sauce around the base. Serve with raspberries and extra sauce.
*This is very rich. A small serving per person is plenty!

Raspberry and Grand Marnier Sauce*

1 half-pint fresh raspberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup seedless raspberry jam
2 tbsp orange-flavored liqueur (Grand Marnier is recommended, but I use Triple Sec and it works just fine)
  1. Place raspberries, sugar, and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 4 minutes.
  2. Pour the cooked raspberries, the jam, and the orange liqueur into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until smooth. Chill.
*You can do this with blueberries and blueberry jam, strawberries and strawberry jam...you get the point. Pick your favorite fruity flavor and knock yourself out.

I got this recipe from watching Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network. However, I believe it's from Ina Garten's Barefoot in Paris cookbook.

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