Add extra-deliciousness to desserts with sweet chocolate

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You may be celebrating Valentine’s Day, National Chocolate Month or just a great day! Whatever the cause for rejoicing, make it tastier by adding chocolate.

Think about dipping cake in melted chocolate fondue, coating strawberries with chocolate or indulging in chocolate-covered peanuts or cashews.

Chocolate sometimes gets a bad rap because of its high calorie content, but some research has shown chocolate has certain health benefits. According to a study published in The Journal of Nutrition, chocolate consumption might help reduce low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, known as the “bad fats.”

And scientists at Harvard Medical School suggest that drinking two cups of hot chocolate a day could help keep the brain healthy and reduce memory decline in older adults. The researchers found that hot chocolate helped improve blood flow to parts of the brain where it was needed.

Here are a couple of chocolaty recipes sure to sweeten the deal.

Chocolate-coated Maraschino Cherries Sprinkled with Macadamia Nuts

½ cup macadamia nuts
4 ounces chopped chocolate (60%-70% cocoa)
24 maraschino cherries

In a food processor, chop the macadamia nuts; set aside. Chop chocolate into fine bits.

Set aside one-third of the chocolate. In a double boiler, melt the other two-thirds of the chocolate until completely liquidized. Remove chocolate from heat, and place bowl on a cold towel or in an ice bath briefly to stop the cooking process.

Place the bowl of chocolate on a sturdy surface, and slowly add reserved chocolate while stirring; this is called seeding the chocolate. Continue to seed chocolate until the temperature is slightly lower than your body temperature (Touch chocolate to your lower lip; it should feel slightly cool).

Dip cherries in chocolate and place on a parchment-covered baking sheet. Quickly sprinkle macadamia nuts onto chocolate before it hardens.

Source: National Cherry Growers & Industries Foundation

Orange U Nutty Cookie Pizza

16.5-ounce package refrigerated sugar cookie dough
¾ cup orange marmalade 
2 tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons bittersweet chocolate chips
⅓ cup toasted pecan halves, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350°. For the crust, shape cookie dough into a flat round. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough into a 12" circle that is ¼" thick. Transfer to an ungreased 15" round baking sheet. Bake 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven, and let cool on the pan for 8-10 minutes.

Using a large, angled spatula, carefully loosen the crust from the pan; let cool completely.

Spread marmalade evenly on the crust up to ½" from the edge. In a small, microwave-safe bowl, combine semi-sweet and bittersweet chocolate chips, and microwave on high 30-45 seconds or until melted, stirring every 20 seconds. Drizzle chocolate over marmalade, and sprinkle evenly with pecans. Cut the cookie pizza into 16 slices, and serve.

Source: Florida Department of Citrus


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