Arleen Kerman always looks forward to cooking -- and cooking and cooking -- for Passover. And sweets hold a special place in her heart.

Kerman, 70, has had a lifelong special connection with food and cooking. Her grandfather, Jake Kodner, was one of the first kosher butchers in St. Louis.

"My mother was an excellent cook," she adds. "She'd make Cornish hens for 24 people at the drop of a hat."

The food portion of Kerman's own career included cake decorating, catering and consulting -- with 16 years as the business manager for the Center of Creative Arts squeezed in between. Her signature dish is banana bread: "There are never less than 10 or 15 in my freezer," she says.

When Passover arrives, Kerman draws from a collection of dozens of recipes she's collected or developed over the years.

One of her favorites is Date Nut Bars, based on a recipe given to her more than 40 years ago.

"I got it from a neighbor," Kerman recalls. "She was from Hawaii, and she got care packages with tons of dates in them. She gave me the recipe, and I converted it (for Passover)."

Kerman can date that particular recipe, so to speak, because she remembers living next to that neighbor just after she married her husband, Jack, 43 years ago.

Throughout the year, Kerman's cooking is a big draw at the conservative synagogue where she and Jack belong.

"When they know she cooks for synagogue, everyone comes!" Jack says.

Passover date nut bars

Servings: 27 bars

For crust:
1 cup matzo cake meal
1/4 cup ground walnuts
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature

For filling and garnish:
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar