What’s more comforting than a loaf of banana bread baking in the oven? Few things my friends, few things. So, in honor of National Banana Bread Day, I wanted to share my favorite recipe with you guys. It’s from the Better Homes And Gardens Cookbook, you know, the one that EVERYONE has on their bookshelf. Great cookbook, by the way. So many tried and true recipes to be found inside!

I’ve tried several other recipes for banana bread, but I always end up coming back to this one. It comes together in minutes, and stays fresh for days. It also uses more mashed banana than most recipe I’ve seen call for, which I like. I’ll usually have 3 bananas left at the end of the week,  and that’s just about what this recipe calls for. It’s great to whip up on a Friday night to munch on all weekend long. Toasted, with a smear of butter or honey, along side a cup of tea. Heaven!

There aren’t too many good things I can say for this time of the year. We’re still got a few more weeks of winter left, and cabin fever set in 2 months ago. One thing that always brightens  my spirits is the abundance of gorgeous citrus fruits. Even out here on the Eastern Shore, in my local mega-mart, I have been able to find prized citrus varieties like meyer lemons and blood oranges. Now, that not may seem like a big deal to most of you “city slickers”, but when I find specialty items like this in the store it’s all I can do to contain my excitement. I usually buy several bags to enjoy for the next couple weeks, then what I don’t use – I’ll juice and freeze for use throughout the year.

Another thing that brightens my spirits this time of year (well, ALL times of year, actually) is booze! While I’ve been enjoying lots of great home brew, courtesy of the Mister, I’ve been enjoying the occasional margarita here and there too. It’s so much fun to play with the flavor profiles of margaritas, with whatever fruits are in season. When I saw a blood orange margarita pop up on Shawnda’s site (the Queen of flavored margs!), it was love at first sight. Blood oranges are more orange-y than their Navel cousin, so I knew the flavor had to be divine. And, the color. That deep, dark red is just to die for!

The first night I made them, I made them for just myself, and they went down far too easy. Needless to say, pictures were not captured. I was too busy shaking my tailfeather to old school tunes upstairs (yea, alone!). Sigh, I *really* need a night out! I’ve made them several times since then for company, and they’re always very well received. A great change of pace from the standard margarita. Blood oranges are already gone from my local store, but I’m already looking forward to next year when I’ll be able to make these again. If you can track down a bag, do yourself a favor and make these margaritas this weekend!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of this neat little site called Pinterest. It’s a great resource for everything; recipes, DIY ideas, housekeeping, sewing, gardening…pretty much anything under the sun. When I came across this pin for strawberry cupcakes, it was love at first site. I think it was the color of the cake and frosting that lured me, a gorgeous punchy pink color. I knew I had to make them.

Because of the addition of lots of fresh strawberry puree, the strawberry flavor really shines through. The cake was super moist, and a tad denser than most cupcake recipes I’ve tried. I changed a couple of things from the original recipe. First, I reduced the eggs to 3-since that’s what I had on hand (these boys have been putting away some eggs lately!). And second, because I’m lazy, I just added the eggs all at one time, and skipped beating the egg whites and folding in at the end. I suspect that they wouldn’t have been as dense if I had taken that extra step. But, hey, they were still delicious. And, one less dish, right? Make these to add a pop of color to a dreary winters day!

I’d made a couple of cheesecakes before, but none had turned out exceptionally. Either I got a giant crack in the top, or my “water-tight” aluminum foil seal malfunctioned, and the water bath leaked into the spring-form pan when baking. They were mostly edible, but nothing to write home about. I got some new spring-form pans for Christmas, so I knew I wanted to make a cheesecake first thing. A cheesecake can be expensive to make, as many recipes call for close to a metric ton of cream cheese.  I came across Ty Flo’s recipe, which only used 2 blocks. It also incorporated sour cream, which I had a giant tub of. It was rated 5  stars with a ton of reviews, so figured it was a good place to start.

It turned out perfect! The texture was thick and creamy, just what a cheesecake should be. For the topping I used Ina’s raspberry topping. In a previous baking venture I’d tried her recipe, which resulted in aforementioned crack. But, the topping – the topping was to die for. It’s such a simple concept; melting down strawberry jelly, then mixing in fresh raspberries. The sugar in the jelly just slightly macerates the berries. Turning them into sweet, juicy, little glistening gems. Perched on top of a decadent cheesecake. Sheer perfection. If you are leery of baking a cheesecake at home, please try this recipe. It won’t disappoint!