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Valentine's Day

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Turn up the chocolate on Valentine's Day

Few desserts are more universally enjoyed and coveted than chocolate. It is the flavoring for sweet and savory cakes, cookies and pies, and chocolate can be enjoyed entirely on its own. Chocolate is particularly prized on Valentine's Day, when it is enjoyed as a special treat, whether it is given as a gift or eaten as an aphrodisiac.

With so many varieties of chocolate desserts available to tempt the taste buds, it can be difficult to decide on which treat to serve to that special someone. Cheesecake is versatile and works well with chocolate as the centerpiece. It also can be prepared in advance and enjoyed later on for the best taste and results.

Cherry-Chocolate Cheesecake Pie

Serves 6 to 8

3    packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened

1    cup (8 ounce container) sour cream

2    large eggs

1    teaspoon vanilla extract

4    to 5 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate

1    stick unsalted butter

12    to 18 chocolate sandwich cookies, like Oreos(R)

1    container cherry pie filling/topping

Preheat the oven to 350oF.

Prepare the crust by melting 1 stick of butter over low heat on the stove or by using the microwave. Do not overcook. Separate the halves of cookies and remove the cream filling. Put the chocolate cookies into a large zipper-top bag and use a rolling pin to crush the cookies into crumbs. You may also pulse the cookies in a food processor to create crumbs, if available. Mix the crumbs with the melted butter in a bowl until they begin to clump. Press the cookie crust into a 9-inch pie plate, coming a little bit up on the sides. Allow the crust to set in the refrigerator.

Soften the cream cheese by leaving it at room temperature for a little while and massaging the unopened packages with your hands. Otherwise, microwave the cream cheese on low power until slightly warm and softened.

Add the cream cheese, sour cream, eggs and vanilla to a large bowl. Using a stand or hand mixer, blend the cheese mixture until all ingredients are well incorporated. Then continue to mix for 2 or 3 minutes more to make the mixture more creamy.

In a microwave-safe bowl, place the squares of baking chocolate and use low to medium power to melt the chocolate. Mix thoroughly until all the chocolate has liquified. Let the melted chocolate cool off before adding it to the mixture, so the hot chocolate will not curdle the eggs and cream when added to the cream cheese mix.

Blend the chocolate with the cream cheese batter until thoroughly incorporated. (Note: If you prefer marble cheesecake, swirl the chocolate through the cream cheese instead of mixing thoroughly.)

Pour the batter into the pie plate over the crust. Bake for around 1 hour, checking the cheese cake to see if it is firm and set. Place the finished pie into the refrigerator and allow to cool for 3-4 hours, or overnight.

Do not worry if cracks have formed in the top. Use the cherry filling to top the pie. If desired, decorate with chocolate curls. Serve and enjoy.