Small Bite Dessert | Chocolate Hazelnut Tassies

Every Christmas I couldn’t wait for my mother to make her Pecan Tassies, the bite-sized pecan tartlets with a simple cream cheese pastry crust. For my pop-up event at the Lake Forest Bookstore, I put a spin on her traditional recipe, swapping hazelnuts for pecans, and adding chocolate and hazelnut liqueur to the filling. The next step was creating a chocolate pastry crust to up the chocolate ante. If you’re looking for something to take along to a Thanksgiving feast, these little gems make a great addition to the dessert buffet. With or without the dollop of Nutella and toasted hazelnut crown, guests too stuffed for another piece of pumpkin pie will appreciate this sweet little nibble with a cup of coffee. Continue reading

Care Package | Dorie Greenspan’s Lucky Charm Brownies

fullsizeoutput_5b1Have you ever loved an experience so much that you mourn the ending long before said experience is over? A few weekends ago, our daughter Hannah flew home from boarding school for a long weekend. Not to celebrate a birthday or a holiday, but to just be home. We spent our time as most mothers and teenage daughters do, in much the same way we did but took for granted before she went away to school. We went out to lunch, we shopped a bit, we went to the movies. But we also stayed up late talking and watching tv, spending long stretches in our pjs lazing about and enjoying the nearness of one another.   Continue reading

Sweets | Chocolate-Peanut Butter Mousse Parfaits

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When I was growing up, my mother cooked almost every night. Going out was reserved for special occasions and the rare evenings when she was too exhausted to think about putting food on the table. On those nights when we sensed a crack in her resolve, my sister and I would lobby for KFC, where I loved not only the crispy, salty fried chicken but also the whipped cream laden dessert parfaits. Kath always picked the one with chocolate pudding and I, the one that riffed on strawberry shortcake with those unnaturally red, gelatinous strawberries and too sweet vanilla cake. While you couldn’t pay me to come near one of those peel-the-foil-off-the-plastic-container confections now (or KFC for that matter), I still get a child-like thrill when excavating my way through parfait layers with a long spoon.  Continue reading

Sweets | Pear Lillet Compote (+ three cocktails)

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Have you tried Lillet Blanc, the French wine-based apertif? It is a main component of the Vesper Martini (3 ounces gin, 1 ounce vodka, 1/2 ounce Lillet with a twist of lemon) made famous in 1953’s Casino Royale where it was shaken, not stirred, of course. Less boozy, my go-to spring cocktail is well-chilled Lillet Blanc stirred with a splash of French Curaçao and an orange twist. You could also simply pour it over ice or make a delightful champagne cocktail, with two parts Champagne to one part Lillet. Here, however, it serves as a spiced and citrusy poaching liquid for vanilla bean-flecked pears. I created this as a light, make-ahead dessert to be served over vanilla ice cream, but you could also spoon it onto a thick slice of pound cake.

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Sweet Treat | Strawberry Vanilla Rice Krispie Hearts

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When the ice cream man rolled through our childhood neighborhood sending us scrambling for money, the only thing I’d give up my hard earned allowance for was a Good Humor Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream Bar. I created these Strawberry Vanilla Rice Krispie Treats in homage to the childhood favorite just in time for Valentine’s Day. They are perfectly delicious without the white chocolate drizzle, but holidays call for gilding the lily a bit, don’t you think? Continue reading