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Chocolate Festival prize winner shares sweet recipes

Janet Dahmen rolls dough inballs encase candy piece for her
Caramel Filled Chocolate Cookies.

Janet Dahmen rolls the dough into balls to encase a candy piece for her Caramel Filled Chocolate Cookies.

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Caramel-Filled Chocolate Cookies

2-2/3 cup flour

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided

1-1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup butter or margarine

2 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

1 cup chopped walnuts, divided

9 ounces Rolo caramels (about 48)

4 ounces white almond bark

Blend flour, cocoa and baking soda in a small bowl. In large bowl, beat 1 cup sugar, brown sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Blend in vanilla and eggs. Add flour mixture and combine well. Stir in 1/2 cup of walnuts. Chill dough about 10 minutes for easier handling.

In a small bowl, combine remaining 1/2 cup walnuts and 1 tablespoon sugar. Lightly flour hands and shape one tablespoon of dough around one unwrapped caramel, covering caramel completely. Press cookie into the walnut sugar mixture and place, nut side up, onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 7 to 10 minutes at 375 degrees until set and slightly cracked. Cool two minutes on cookie sheets before removing to wire racks to cool completely. Melt almond bark and drizzle over cookies.

Mixed Nut Bars

1-1/2 cups flour

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, divided

12-ounce can mixed nuts

6 ounces butterscotch chips

1/3 cup light corn syrup

Combine flour, brown sugar and 1/2 cup butter in a food processor. Pat into a 9-by-13-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool. Lightly chop nuts and sprinkle over the cooled crust.

Place butterscotch chips, corn syrup and 2 tablespoons butter in saucepan and melt over low heat, stirring constantly. Pour over nuts and bake an additional 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool for 30 minutes and cut into bars. If you cut the bars too soon, topping will run. If you wait too long to cut the bars, they will be too hard to cut.

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Updated: February 12, 2013 6:12AM



Janet Dahmen’s career in cooking didn’t start simmering until she was in her 40s. That’s when she took a part-time job with a food-service company. After a short time on the job, she realized she had a talent for cooking.

“I guess I didn’t figure out what I wanted to be until then,” says the 56-year-old Aurora resident.

Since then she moved from the food-service position into catering and has found her passion.

Dahmen is working on perfecting her annual entry into the Sweet Treats Baking Competition in Naperville. She has entered the contest for several years and has a collection of ribbons from her prize-winning entries. The contest is part of the annual Chocolate Festival, a fundraising event sponsored by 360 Youth Services.

“I love chocolate, so I love entering this contest,” Dahmen says.

The festival features baking demonstrations, vendors displaying products and non-stop entertainment in addition to the competition, which is Jan. 19 this year.

One of Dahmen’s many catering ventures is a murder-mystery dinner package in private homes. She provides the client with a murder-mystery game pack and a complete meal prepared in their kitchen. While the guests figure out who-dun-it, Dahmen prepares a delicious meal. Clients can choose from several menus, including some that are themed to match the murder mystery. Guests taking on the roles for the Western-themed mystery can dine on barbecue. If the mystery is set in Rome, Dahmen supplies a delicious spread of Mediterranean specialties.

“It is really a fun evening for friends,” she says.

To learn more about the mystery dinners, call 630-229-0033.

In addition to making great meals, Dahmen is a creative baker who never tires of trying new combinations for cakes, cookies and desserts. This Christmas, she baked 14 different cookie varieties, including a butterscotch cashew cookie, pistachio baklava and chocolate gingerbread.

“I give away most of the cookies and also take a few to the police and fire stations,” she says.

Cupcakes are going to be Dahmen’s next baking venture. She hopes to start selling her specialty cupcakes soon.

There is no fee to enter the Sweet Treats Competition and entry forms are available at www.ncoyouth.org, and are due today. As a seasoned veteran, Dahmen recommends “using good-quality chocolate in the recipe. Dressing up the entry is also a good idea.”

Know someone who really likes to cook and is good at it? Contact columnist Judy Buchenot at Buchenot@comcast.net.



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