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Dessert Menu Ideas

by Kathryn Walsh

No matter how delicious a meal is, a bland or overly sweet dessert will leave everyone with a bad taste in her mouth. The trick to making a successful dessert is to buy high-quality ingredients and let them sing, rather than coating them with sauces and garnishes. Serve dessert on plain white dishes so everyone can focus on the beautiful creations you've whipped up.

Ice Cream

When the weather is warm, you can't beat a dessert of ice cream. Set up an ice cream sundae station so everyone can find a flavor to enjoy. Stock the table with bowls of chopped nuts, crushed cookies, sprinkles, sauces, ice cream cones and whipped cream. When it's time to eat, bring out containers of ice cream and bowls. Buy a few containers of low-fat ice cream or sorbet for guests who want a healthier option.

Fruit

Eating fruit for dessert will make everyone feel refreshed and healthy, and fruit is so naturally delicious that you don't have to do much to prepare it. Use whatever fruit is in season to make a simple fruit tart by baking up sheets of puff pastry, spreading on cream cheese and arranging berries or sliced fruit on top. Strawberry shortcake is another classic fruity dessert. Mix it up by pairing other types of berries or sliced peaches with biscuits or angel food cake and whipped cream.

Chocolate

There's nothing more decadent that a dessert made of rich, creamy chocolate. Buy good quality dark chocolate rather than cheaper milk chocolate chips, which can taste chalky. Warm chocolate dishes are the perfect end to a meal during cold winter months. Serve warm chocolate chunk cookies with glasses of milk, or make a miniature molten lava cake for each guest. When guests dig in, warm melted chocolate will ooze out. Drizzle each cake with caramel sauce and finish with a dollop of whipped cream.

Candy

After a very filling meal, guests may not be in the mood for a slab of cake, but a few bite-sized pieces of candy can do the trick. A buffet of candies is a whimsical and colorful addition to any get-together. Choose candies from your grocery store's bulk foods aisle and arrange each type in its own bowl or wide-mouthed vase. If the candies aren't individually wrapped, place a scoop in each one. Choose from childhood classics, like bubblegum and gummy worms,along with more grownup fudge squares and truffles.

About the Author

Cooking, travel and parenting are three of Kathryn Walsh's passions. She makes chicken nuggets during days nannying, whips up vegetarian feasts at night and road trips on weekends. Her work has appeared to The Syracuse Post-Standard and insider magazine. Walsh received a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.

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