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Mon, Feb. 17

Column: Chocolate recipes in plenty of time for Valentine's Day

One of the perks of being a food writer is the wonderful things people share with you. I recently was given a packet of recipes from the Nestle company that was chock-full of good things, so I thought I would share with you what was shared with me. Almost everybody loves chocolate, and these recipes are just in time for the Super Bowl, Valentine's Day, or a no-holiday-needed craving.

CRUNCH PIZZA COOKIE

About 12 servings

Good for the big game, a party, or anytime snack.

1 cup plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp. each baking soda and salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened

6 tbsp. each granulated and brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups (8 oz.

package) Nestle Crunch baking pieces, divided

1/2 cup peanut butter

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Set aside.

In bowl beat butter, both sugars. Beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in 1/2 Crunch baking pieces. Spread or pat dough onto bottom of greased 12-inch pizza pan. (May also use greased 13 x 9 x 2 pan).

Bake in preheated 350 oven for 14-18 minutes or until set and deep golden brown. Remove from oven. Drop peanut butter by spoonfuls over hot crust; let stand 5 minutes to soften. Gently spread over crust. Sprinkle remaining Crunch baking pieces in single layer over peanut butter. Serve warm or at room temperature.

REALLY EASY CHOCOLATE CAKE

Sometimes it really is just the little extra effort.

3 bars (2 oz. each)

Nestle Toll House semi-sweet baking

chocolate melted and cooled

1 1/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks)

butter or margarine, softened

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup milk (NOTE: I often have non-fat or low fat milk on hand, but my experience with using milk in baking, it is usually best to use whole milk for best results.)

CREAMY CHOCOLATE FROSTING

1/2 cup (1 stick) margarine

1 bar (2 oz.) Nestle

Toll House semi-sweet baking chocolate

2 1/2 cup powdered sugar, divided

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/8 tsp. salt

2-3 tbsp. milk

FOR CAKE: Beat sugar, butter and vanilla in large bowl. Add eggs; beat for 1 minute using electric mixer. Beat in melted chocolate. Combine flour, baking soda and salt; beat into creamed chocolate mixture alternately with milk.

Pour into two well-greased 9-inch round baking pans or one 13 x 9 x 2 baking pan. Bake in preheated 350 oven for 30-35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes clean. Cool 20 minutes, invert onto wire racks to cool if using round baking pans. Frost with Creamy Chocolate Frosting.

CHOCOLATE DIPPED OR DRIZZLED FRUIT

(Doesn't this just say party?)

About 36 strawberries, orange segments, kiwi slices, pineapple chunks

1 cup (6 oz.) Nestle Toll House semi-sweet chocolate morsels

2 tbsp. shortening

Rinse fruit in cold water; pat dry. Melt morsels and shortening over hot (not boiling) water, stirring until mixture is smooth. Remove from heat; cool slightly. Dip fruit about halfway into chocolate mixture; shake off excess. Or, drizzle chocolate from pastry bag fitted with small tip, or a heavy-duty plastic bag with tiny corner snipped off or even a squeeze bottle with small tip. Place on waxed paper-lined tray; chill for 15 minutes until coating is set.

MICROWAVE METHOD:

Microwave morsels and shortening in medium, microwave-safe bowl on high (100 percent) power for 1 minute. Stir. Microwave at additional 10-20 second intervals, stirring until smooth. Dip and chill as above.

PREMIER WHITE COATING

Melt 3 bars (2 oz. each) Nestle Toll House premier white baking bar with 2 tbsp. shortening over hot (not boiling) water as above, or, chop white baking bars and microwave with shortening in medium bowl on medium (50 percent) power for 1 minute; stir. Microwave an additional 10-20 second intervals, stirring until smooth. Cool slightly. Dip and chill as above.

For a nice touch: Also dip dried or candied fruit, nuts, marshmallows, or cake cubes. Arrange on doily lined platter for a nice presentation.

NESTLE HOT COCOA

Most of us enjoy a hot cup of cocoa by opening a package and adding hot water or milk, but a good cup of cocoa is also worth a little effort and has a much richer and satisfying taste. So, wash all that chocolate or other goodies

with a cup of the real thing. It doesn't take long and you won't be disappointed.

4 Servings

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup Nestle Toll House baking cocoa

4 cups milk, divided

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Marshmallows or candy canes for stirring, opt.

Stir together sugar and cocoa in medium saucepan. Gradually stir in 1/3 cup milk to make smooth paste; stir in remaining milk. Warm over medium heat, stirring constantly, until hot but not boiling. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Serve warm with above toppings or whipped cream.

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