Valentine's Day is the perfect time for chocolate, and it's never too early to plan for the sweet stuff. These recipes are all quick and easy to prepare. The first two make a single serving, so they'll work well whether you celebrate with someone else or alone. Simply double the recipe for two. One of the following desserts is made in a slow cooker, so you can start it midday and it will be warm and ready for after-dinner consumption. The last two recipes make enough for seconds. You'll want to keep them handy because you'll be asked to make them again soon.
Cake in a Mug
Put the dry ingredients in a mug, and mix well. Add the egg, and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and oil, and mix well. Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla, and mix again. Microwave for three minutes. The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed! Allow to cool, and tip the cake onto a plate if desired -- or eat right from the cup. Enjoy! -- Patty A., Utah
In a cup, place the peanut butter, confectioners' sugar, cocoa and a few drops of water. Add vanilla, if desired. Stir vigorously until blended, and add more drops of water until consistency is reached for spreading. Spread on bread to desired thickness. -- Donna, Canada
Mix all the ingredients together well. Spray the slow cooker well with nonstick spray. Pour the batter into the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for six hours. Serve with ice cream. Cook's note: I slid a sharp knife around the edge of the cake, and it slid out quite nicely onto a plate. -- Pip, e-mail
Chocolate Layered DessertCrust
Melt butter in a 13-by-9-inch pan in a 375 F preheated oven. Add the pecans and flour. Mix well, and spread out. Stick back in the oven until slightly browned. Let cool.
Mix 1 cup confectioners' sugar with 6 ounces Cool Whip and cream cheese. Spread all over the crust, add the chocolate pudding (make the pudding first) spread, and then add the vanilla pudding (make first), and over the top add 6 ounces Cool Whip and pecans. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Optional: Use your favorite pudding flavors, such as butterscotch, banana, lemon, etc. -- T.P., New Mexico
In a large bowl, mix together the peanut butter, butter, vanilla and confectioners' sugar. Roll into 1-inch balls, and place on a wax-paper-lined cookie sheet. Press a toothpick into the top of each ball, and chill in the freezer for a half-hour or the refrigerator for an hour to firm them. Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler, in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water or slowly in a microwave. Stir frequently until smooth and fully melted. Dip the chilled peanut-butter balls into chocolate. Remove toothpick. Put back on a wax-paper-lined cookie sheet, and refrigerate until serving. -- Kimberly, New York
Sara Noel is the owner of Frugal Village (www.frugalvillage.com), a Web site that offers practical, money-saving strategies for everyday living. To send tips, comments or questions, write to Sara Noel, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016, or e-mail email@example.com.
Copyright (c) 2010 Sara Noel. Distributed by United Feature Syndicate
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