Winter fruits in season make delectable desserts

Although there are certain times of the year when our favorite fruits may not be available, there is hardly any season at all without a few well-liked fruits in the markets.

Bananas and citrus fruits are with us the year around, while at the moment there is still an abundance of the meaty winter pears to satisfy the longing for fresh sweets to be served as desserts or to be eaten out-of-hand.

The pear is a fruit that tastes better when not ripened on the tree. The sugar content increases after picking as starch converts to sugar for improved flavor and smoother texture.

The banana has its distinctive characteristics, too. the banana plant isn't really a tree; it's an herb. Even when eaten in the tropics, bananas are ripened off the tree.

Both pears and bananas will ripen at room temperature. Contrary to oft-repeated advice, bananas can be kept in the refrigerator for several days after they have ripened to the stage you like. The skin will turn dark but the inside will be luscious.

We're all very familiar with the versatility of citrus fruits in both juice and the whole form. It is almost impossible to conceive of cooking in America without lemons and oranges. Here are some recipes using these fresh fruits.

A banana pound cake is easy to make when entertaining. Based on yellow cake mix, it combines ripe mashed bananas, instant vanilla pudding, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Wrap any leftover cake in foil and refrigerate. Banana Pound Cake 1 package (18 1/2 ounces) yellow cake mix 4 eggs, at room temperature 1/3 cup salad oil 1/2 cup water 1 1/3 cups mashed ripe bananas (4 medium) 1 package (3 3/4 ounces) instant vanilla pudding mix 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in large bowl. Mix until blended, then beat at medium speed for 4 minutes. Turn batter into greased and lightly floured 10 -inch tube pan. Bake in 350 degrees F. oven for one hour or until cake tester inserted in cake comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack and cool completely. If desired, dust with confectioners' sugar before serving. Yield: 16 servings.

Baked bananas are a quick, simple dessert or they may be served as an accompaniment to baked ham. Baked Bananas

Wipe each banana and loosen one section of skin, then replace.Place fruit in shallow pan. Cover and bake until skin is dark when bananas should be soft. Peel, then sprinkle with sugar or, if serving as a dessert, make a lemon sauce. Both sauce and bananas should be served warm.

Pears should be slightly underripe and firm for cooking. Pear Macaroon Bake is an easy dessert of pears, orange juice, and macaroons.

The fresh fruit picks up subtle almond flavoring from the crumbled cookie topping. Serve as is, or with ice cream or whipped cream. Pear Macaroon Bake 4 firm pears 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice 2 tablespoons grated fresh orange rind 1 cup crumbled macaroons (8 to 10) 1 tablespoon butter or margarine

Pare and core pears; cut into 3/8-inch slices. Arrange in layers in an 8 -inch greased shallow baking pan or pie plate. Sprinkle orange juice and grated rind over pears. Distribute crumbled macaroons evenly over pears; dot with butter. Bake in 400 degrees F. oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until pears are tender and macaroons are browned. Baking time will vary according to the type of pear used. Serve warm. Yield: 6 servings.

Boil gently until fruit is soft but not broken. Add lemon juice just before removing pears from heat. Serve warm or chilled. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

Stewed Pears are an old-time favorite suited to breakfast, luncheon, or dinner, with or without light cream, whipped cream, or lemon sauce. Stewed Pears 6 pears 2 cups boiling water 8 tablespoons sugar 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Pare and core fruit. Place in cold water to prevent discoloration until ready to use. Combine remaining ingredients in a saucepan. Stir well. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and allow sauce to simmer until thoroughly blended. Add fruit, cored side down.

Boil gently until fruit is sort but not broken. Add lemon juice just before removing pears from heat. Serve warm or chilled. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

Pear Mousse is an unusual dessert, rich, light, and a little goes a long way.

Pear Mousse 1 cup mashed fresh pears, cored and pared 1 cup sugar 1 teaspoon gelatin 1 tablespoon cold water 1 cup heavy cream, whipped

Add sugar to mashed pears. Add gelatin dissolved in the water. Fold in stiffly whipped cream. Freeze in refigerator tray for 3 to 4 hours. If desired , chopped pecans or walnuts may be added to pear mixture before it is frozen. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

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