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Treat your sweetheart with quick confection

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Love is in the air and so is the ambrosial fragrance of chocolate. Here’s a great inexpensive, last-minute indulgence to share (or not?). I must warn you: These chocolate candies are dangerously easy to make. So, I’ll apologize to your Spanx in advance.

Everyone is familiar with peanut butter cups and most people will swoon over a homemade version of this popular treat. But let’s look at the possibilities. You can fill chocolate cups with any filling your heart or taste buds desire.

When making your cups, you can vary the size and shape by using different molds. Muffin or cupcake tins are perfect, both regular and mini size. Silicone baking and candy molds are super easy to use and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Adjust the quantity of the recipe as needed. It’s better to have too much chocolate than not enough.

Here’s a tip: Everyone should have chocolate cups in their confectionery repertoire. Just make empty cups in any size. Next, fill your cups with lovely things like fruit, whipped cream, mousse, cheesecake, sorbet, ice cream, the list goes on. What an easy and inexpensive way to upgrade simple ingredients into stunning desserts. Happy Valentine’s Day!

CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER CUPS

Yield: Makes 24 mini cupcake sized candies

Time: 10 minutes

What you’ll need:

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 teaspoon coconut or vegetable oil, optional

½ cup peanut butter, freshly ground, if possible

Here’s how:

Prepare your chosen mold. I used mini muffin tins lined with paper cupcake liners.

Melt the chocolate chips by either microwaving in 20 second increments, stirring in-between until smooth (be careful not to burn the chocolate) or melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Once melted, as an optional ingredient, you can stir in coconut or vegetable oil for a smoother chocolate. Spread 1 teaspoon of chocolate in the bottom and up the sides of mini cupcake liners and place in the freezer for a couple of minutes.

Meanwhile, stir nut butter to soften. Add about a teaspoon of filling to each liner, then cover with another teaspoon chocolate. Freeze again to set. Remove from molds and serve with love. Or hide them.

Here are some ideas for variations:

All the chocolates: Change it up by using white chocolate, dark chocolate or milk chocolate.

Peanut butter and jelly: Top the peanut butter with ¼ teaspoon any flavor jam or jelly.

Fluffernutter:Add ¼ teaspoon marshmallow cream to peanut butter filled cups.

Almond butter cups: Simply replace the peanut butter with an equal amount of almond butter. This also works with cashew butter, macadamia butter or sunflower seed butter for a nut-free version.

Chocolate truffle: To make ½ cup of ganache truffle filling; heat 2 tablespoons heavy cream to nearly boiling (I use the microwave) and pour over 6 tablespoons of good quality chocolate chips. Let this sit for four minutes. Begin to stir. There will be a moment when you will think you’ve made a terrible mistake, but keep stirring. It’ll come together. I promise. If it doesn’t come together in a couple of minutes, warm it in the microwave for another 15 seconds and stir until you have glossy, thick ganache.

Raspberry truffle: Fill with raspberry jam and chocolate ganache.

Inside out: Use peanut butter chips instead of chocolate chips and fill with ganache.

Salted caramel: Melt 12 caramels, 1 tablespoon milk or heavy cream and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt in the microwave or in a double boiler. Use in place of peanut butter. Top with a sprinkle of salt.

My favorite:Dark chocolate and fresh almond butter. They’re practically virtuous.

Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is a recipe developer and food writer of the website “Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at divapatti@divasonadime.com.

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