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Saturday, March 2, 2024

Sweet Simplicity: Delightful and Easy-to-Make Desserts for Any Occasion

Dessert is served as the final course of a meal. It is an indicator of the completion of a well-rounded meal. What’s so special about it?

Desserts help release dopamine, the “feel-good” hormone. It sends messages to the brain that leave you pleased, satisfied, and motivated. If your body doesn’t make enough dopamine, your physical and mental health will diminish. A lack of this critical hormone will produce conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, restless leg syndrome, depression, ADHD, and schizophrenia.

So, below are a few easy-to-make desserts, along with instructions from Taste of Home.

Coconut Pistachio Pie

The first people to create pies as we know them today were the Ancient Egyptians. They made a crusty cake from oats, wheat, rye, or barley and filled it with honey.

Fun fact: A chicken pie recipe was discovered on a tablet before 2000 BC.

Ingredients:

2 cups cold 2% milk

2 ½ cups lightly toasted, sweetened, shredded coconut

(To toast, place in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Stir until lightly toasted.)

1/3 cup melted butter

2 packages or 3.4 oz. each of pistachio pudding mix

1 cup whipped topping

Optional: Chopped pistachios to sprinkle on top or any other topping of your choosing

Directions:

You will need two small bowls and a 9-inch pie plate.

In one bowl, mix your coconut and butter well. This will be your crust. Grease the bottom of the pie plate with butter and press your coconut and butter mix to the bottom and along the sides. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm.

Whisk milk and pudding mixes in a second bowl for two minutes. Let stand for two minutes or until soft set. Spread about one and a half cups of this over your crust.

Fold your whipped topping into the remaining pudding mix and spread over your pie. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios and refrigerate for two hours. This pie will last 3-5 days if covered and refrigerated.

Buttery 3-Ingredient Shortbread Cookies

Cookies date back to the 7th century AD in Persia, now known as Iran. They are thought to be used to test oven temperature.

Fun fact: The word “cookie” comes from the Dutch word “koeje” which is a shortened form of the word “koek” or the English word “cake.

Ingredients:

1 cup softened, unsalted butter

½ cup sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

Optional: Confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

You will need a 9-inch square baking pan and a sifter.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Cream your butter in a mixing bowl with the sugar and mix for 1-2 minutes or until pale yellow, light, and fluffy. Sift your flour to break clumps. Beat your butter and sugar mixture into the sifted flour gradually. Press the dough into your pan and pick small holes with a fork. Do not grease your pan.

Bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until light brown. While still warm, cut into squares. Dust the squares with confectioners’ sugar if desired.

Makes sixteen cookies. Shortbread cookies will crumble. You must store them in a single layer. Add a piece of waxed paper between layers and store them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three weeks.

Apple-Spice Angel Food Cake

Enslaved African Americans were the first to bake Angel Food Cake. This cake differs from other cakes because the recipe does not call for butter. Its name comes from its light and fluffy texture.

Fun fact: This is a cake diabetics can enjoy because it is low in sugar.

Ingredients:

1 package (16 oz.) of angel food cake mix

1/2 cup finely chopped toasted pecans

(To toast, place pecans in a dry skillet over medium heat for 2-5 minutes. Stir occasionally, then cool to room temperature.)

1 cup water

2/3 cups unsweetened applesauce

1 teaspoon apple pie spice

Optional: Reduced-fat whipped topping and/or apple slices.

Directions:

You will need a bowl, a 10-inch tube pan, and a mixer.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Combine your cake mix with water in a bowl. Beat at low speed for 30 seconds, then at medium speed for about a minute. Fold the apple sauce, pecan, and pie spice into this mixture.

Gradually spoon your mixture into your ungreased pan. Using a knife, poke the batter to remove air pockets, then bake on the lowest rack for 35-45 minutes or until it is light brown and the top appears dry. Remove and immediately flip-flop the pan onto a serving plate and let cool for about an hour. Wait to remove the cake from the pan.

When cool, run your knife around the edge of the pan and the tube. Carefully remove the pan. Top with whipped topping and/or apple slices.

Makes 16 servings. Cover and refrigerate at the back of the refrigerator if using whipped topping. Otherwise, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and store it in an airtight container for one or two days.

Bonus: Apple Pie Bites

These are fun to make, and they’re yummy too!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 sheets of refrigerated pie crust

3 tablespoons melted butter

Two medium tart apples – can be peeled or unpeeled

All-purpose flour

Optional: Caramel sauce

Directions:

You will need a bowl, parchment paper, and a baking sheet.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Mix sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl, putting aside one tablespoon. Lightly flour your surface before unrolling your pie crusts, then flatten and cut into 8-inch squares using your rolling pin. Brush with butter and sprinkle with the remaining one tablespoon of your mixture. Cut each square into eight one-inch strips.

Cut each apple into eight wedges, then wrap a pastry strip around each wedge with the sugared side against the apple.

Place on parchment lined baking sheet, brush tops with what’s left of the butter, and sprinkle with sugar mixture.

Bake 13-15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with caramel sauce.

Makes 16 servings. Store in an airtight container for two days.

And there you have it! Three easy-to-make desserts, and a bonus that will put a smile on your face!