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A new twist on chocolate desserts

In the world of culinary pairings there are combinations of ingredients that, if they were humans, we’d call them “best friends”: Peanut butter and jelly, bacon and eggs, oil and vinegar, fruits and cheeses, gin and tonic (oops that’s another column) and chocolate and well, just about anything.

For most of us with chocoholic tendencies we’re always looking for that perfect way to combine our need for cocoa and something that isn’t the same old same old candy bar-like dessert or cake.

Email me your favorite chocolate paring and the recipe that keeps you coming back for more so I can share them with the chocolate challenged. In the meantime the following recipes are truly perfect to serve anytime (even the leftovers for breakfast, don’t judge me), but especially when the kids are home during the holidays. Chocolate and (fill in the blank here) beats tweeting, texting and iPoding anytime.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup, plus 2/3 cup peanut butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 pinch salt

1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

2/3 cup powdered sugar

1/4 cup shortening

1/2 cup milk

6 chopped peanut butter cups

3/4 cup whipped topping or sweetened whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9-by-9-inch baking pan. In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the butter, 1/2 cup peanut butter, brown sugar, egg and 1 teaspoon of vanilla until smooth. In another bowl combine the flour, baking soda and salt then fold it into the peanut butter mixture. Spread the batter into the pan. Bake 20 minutes, until firm. Remove bar from the oven and sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top. Let stand for about 2 minutes or until the chips are melted then spread the chocolate over the top. Set aside to cool.

While the bar is cooking, combine in the bowl of an electric mixer 2/3 cup peanut butter, powdered sugar and shortening. Mix to combine. With the mixer running slowly, add in the milk and vanilla. Refrigerate the mixture When everything is cool, by hand, gently fold in the whipped topping and spread the mixture on top of the cooled bar. Sprinkle the chopped peanut butter cups on top; cut and serve. Makes 12 to 16 pieces.

Land O Lakes Chunky Caramel Popcorn

I’ve made this recipes for a few years now and everyone loves it.

12 cups popped popcorn

1 (9.75-ounce) can (2 cups) whole cashews

1 (5-ounce) bag (1 1/2 cups) pecan halves

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

3/4 cup Land O Lakes Butter

1/2 cup corn syrup

1 teaspoon baking soda

Drizzle:

1 cup dark chocolate chips

1 1/2 teaspoons shortening

1/2 cup white baking chips

Heat oven to 250 degrees. Place popcorn, cashews and pecans in large roasting pan.

Combine brown sugar, butter and corn syrup in 2-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil (7 to 8 minutes). Continue boiling 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in baking soda.

Pour butter mixture over popcorn mixture in pan; stir well. Bake for 60 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from oven; place onto waxed paper or parchment paper. Cool completely. (Do not break into pieces.)

Place chocolate chips and 1 teaspoon shortening into resealable plastic food bag. Microwave 30 to 45 seconds; knead bag. Continue microwaving at 15-second intervals, kneading until smooth. Cut tiny corner from bag; drizzle melted chocolate over popcorn mixture. Repeat with white baking chips and remaining 1/2 teaspoon shortening, microwaving on medium-high (70 percent power). Drizzle over popcorn mixture. Let stand until chocolate is set (3 to 4 hours). Break popcorn mixture into pieces.

Store in container with tight-fitting lid or resealable plastic food bag.

Chocolate Raspberry Cake

12 (2 ounces) squares semisweet chocolate

6 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate

1 cup butter

2 cups sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup flour

7 eggs, separated

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

1 (4 ounce) package frozen raspberries, thawed

3 tablespoons seedless raspberry preserves

Fresh berries to decorate (optional)

Chocolate curls to decorate (optional)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line bottoms of two 9-inch cake pans with waxed paper.

To make cake: Melt 6 ounces of semisweet chocolate and 6 ounces of unsweetened chocolate in the top of a double boiler, or in a microwave. Cool, and beat in egg yolks.

In a bowl of an electric mixer combine the butter or margarine, 1 1/2 cups sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add in the chocolate mixture, and continue beating until smooth. By hand fold in the flour until just combined.

In another bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually beat in 1/2 cup sugar, and continue beating until the whites hold soft peaks. Fold the whites into chocolate batter and then pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake about 40 to 45 minutes.

To make frosting: In a saucepan, bring cream just to a simmer and then add the 6 ounces of semisweet chocolate. Whisk to combine. Immediately remove the mixture from the heat, and continue whisking until smooth. Pour the mixture into a glass bowl, top with waxed paper or plastic wrap (push it against the top of the chocolate to prevent skin from forming) and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until you can spread it.

Drain the thawed raspberries and place them in a bowl. Add the jam and mix to combine trying not to mash the berries too much. Place one of the cakes on a serving plate. Spread the raspberries over the top. Top with the second cake and then frost with the chocolate frosting. Decorate with fresh berries or chocolate curls.

– Modified from a Land O Lakes website recipe – Submitted by Candy Marscoli of Chicago; modified from Epicurious.com Slice of Life is a food column that offers recipes, cooking advice and information on new food products. It appears Sundays. If you have a question about cooking or a food item, contact Eileen Goltz at eztlog@gmail.com or write The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802.

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