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Fun Friday: Valentine’s Day Edition

14 Feb
Valentine's M&Ms made these cookies extra special!

Valentine’s M&Ms made these cookies extra special!

It’s a Friday, and it’s Valentine’s Day! I love when special days fall on a Friday or a weekend day. It makes them all the more enjoyable.

I got a sweet treat myself this week, when my kids who give out Valentine’s Day cards both decided to hand make them and to do it with absolutely no direction from me. For years we made them together and the last couple of years I’ve had to buy them. I just couldn’t pull it all off. It warmed my heart to come home from a meeting earlier this week and see that they were making them.

In addition to Valentine’s Day, we’ve also had a snow day this week, which has provided an extra opportunity for Valentine’s treats, and school vacation is coming up next week, which even though we don’t go anywhere special, is still a fun week off.

Earlier this week, we were having a friend over for one of the kids after school so I decided that in between my morning and afternoon work schedules, I’d make a quick little Valentine’s treat to greet them when they got home.

It called for only three ingredients and one of them was Valentine’s- themed M&Ms. The recipe didn’t use the entire bag, so I used them instead of chocolate chips in the cookies you see above when we had the snow day, and that’ll make a great treat today in the kids’ lunchboxes.

The after school treat was a three ingredient Skinny Dark Kisses treat which a friend posted on Facebook, shared from the Skinny Kitchen site. I can tell it’s going to be a site that I visit often! I hope you’ll check it out.

The recipe is shown below, just as they have it on their site. It was easy, other than unwrapping all of the Hershey Kisses, and a word of warning: they say you need to cool them for two hours, or put them in the fridge to speed up that time. I had a 1:30 story to cover, so I made them on my lunch break at 12:30, left in time for my story, and when I came home with the kids after 3, it had been just enough time for them to cool and be ready to eat!

The recipe below makes 25, but I made slightly more than that since I had a bigger tray. I was able to make 45 and I still had half a bag of M&Ms leftover and a quarter of a bag of Hershey Kisses left as well.

A cute Valentine's treat, you won't be able to eat just one!

A cute Valentine’s treat, you won’t be able to eat just one!

Another word of warning: you can just eat one. They’re slightly addicting!

Prep Time: 15 minutes total (for 25 of them)
Bake Time: 5 minutes
Set Time: 2 hours for chocolate to firm up or 1 hour in refrigerator


25 Special Dark Hershey’s kisses, un-wrapped

25 mini pretzels

25 dark chocolate M&M’s available in bags of Valentine’s Day colors or use a regular bag


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or foil.

2. Place pretzels on cookiesheet. Top each pretzel with one unwrapped chocolate kiss.

3. Bake 4 to 5 minutes or until chocolate begins to soften, but not melt. Remove from oven; top each with 1 M&M. Be sure to press it down a bit to set into the chocolate kiss.

4. Cool completely. This takes about 2 hours. To cool quickly, refrigerate until chocolate is firm.

Makes 25 total

A Chocolate Lover’s Dream Day

13 Aug

We hadn’t even parked the car yet and I was already salivating.

Last week, you may remember that in my post about Boston Cream Pie, I mentioned that Saturday was my birthday. This year for my birthday, I got an extra-special treat: we spent the day before my birthday in Hershey, PA.

That’s right. I was in the Chocolate Capital of the World this past Friday.

I know, I’m a lucky, lucky girl.

I must give all the credit for this amazing treat to my mother-in-law, Marylou, who treated both my family and my sister-in-law’s family to a long weekend vacation in Pennsylvania with all the activities and everything that went with them, this past weekend. It was such a fun weekend and I loved being able to spend my birthday with this side of my family, something I don’t always get to do. We hated to see it end.

All of my favorite things, all in one delicious place!

I had been to Hershey a long time ago, back when we lived in New Jersey, but it was so long ago that I had almost no memory of the trip. It was like being there for the first time, all over again.

The streets smell of chocolate as you drive through the town. It’s heavenly.

The street lamps are shaped like Hershey Kisses.

It was truly a dream-come-true for a chocolate lover.

There are several parts to the Hershey experience, and I can share a little bit with you about the parts that we got to see on Friday. There’s so many family-friendly things to do there, you definitely have to pick and choose what you’d like to do on your visit. We were lucky too, it was a rainy day and at first I thought we would not be able to go. However, there were tons of indoor activities so we were able to keep to our plan for the day.

On our first ride we learned all about how chocolate is made, how all our favorite candies come to be.

We first chose to take a moving ride tour through the chocolate-making experience. It was about 10-15 minutes long and you learn all about how chocolate is made and it was a fun ride while being very informative at the same time. It was during this tour that I realized just how many different kinds of chocolate candies are actually made by Hershey’s.

After that, since it was lunchtime, we ate in the food court, which I thought seemed very affordable. There were ten of us total: five kids and five adults, so eating out is not an easy thing to do, especially when you’re trying to stick to a budget.

Caroline got a great shot of the trolley after we finished our ride.

Following the food court, we took an hour-long trolley ride which led us all through the town of Hershey. Here we not only saw the entire area, but also heard an animated history of the town and of Mr. Hershey himself. There was lots of laughing and singing (yes, we sang) on this ride and it was just as fun to watch our kids reacting to the antics of the tour guides while they were learning about the town and seeing all the local landmarks.

The kids got such a kick out of the antics on the trolley and we got such a kick out of watching the kids.

After the trolley ride ended, we went on to what was the most highly anticipated event of the day: The Gift Shop. The kids had all saved their money for the entire summer to take on this trip and they were anxiously awaiting the first time to spend some of it. I was proud though, both couples are on tight budgets and it’s rubbed off on our kids in what I think is a good way. They all took great care in buying their items and they really seemed to weigh the pros and cons of what to get and why. No one over-spent, as we still had other places with gift shops that we’d be visiting. All of my kids came home with extra money ultimately, and I believe my nieces did as well.

Ready to leave the hotel, wearing our Hershey’s t-shirts, purchased here in RI especially for this trip.

One tip I will pass along: this summer I found brown Hershey’s t-shirts at our local Walmart store. Total cost for three shirts: $22.50. I called my sister-in-law and she went to her store and found two for her daughters. Our five girls wore their matching Hershey’s shirts to Hershey Park on Friday and they looked so awesome. None of them had to spend their money on a $21.50 Hershey shirt from the gift shop. I thought that was a great treat for them and a great lesson as well.

There were some things that we didn’t do at Hershey Park that you might enjoy if you visit as well. They included a 3D show, a tour of the production facilities and an outdoor water park. If we took another trip there, those are things we might consider doing.

Overall, this was a fabulous way to spend the day before my birthday, or any day, and I’m so thankful I got the chance to visit Hershey Park again.  Here are a few last photos from the 200 or so that the girls and I took that day.


The kids got a kick out of the singing cows.

Lamp posts on the streets of Hershey.

Trolley ride antics

So Much Candy

The biggest and for $29.95 it could be yours.

The dessert that almost wasn’t: Brownie Dessert Pizza

25 May

The final product was well-worth the journey, although at the time I was questioning it!

Ever have one of those days where nothing seems to go quite right? Well Sunday was one of those days and we almost didn’t have dessert for our dinner company because of it.

It started out that I was supposed to hit the store on my way home from our troop’s car wash at 1:00 that afternoon to pick up the stuff I needed to make the dessert: brownie mix, strawberries and cream cheese.

I forgot. I hate that.

I got all the way home and I realized I hadn’t gone to the store.

I went back out to Aldi’s at 2pm.

Strawberries: check. Brownie mix: check. Cream cheese: check.

Go home, start the recipe, which I’ve had before as a Pampered Chef recipe, but came across my desk in an email from the 24/7 Moms blog that I follow, which listed five outrageous dessert pizzas. (Of course I had to check them out!) The email directed us to Simply Healthy Cooking with Pam to get the recipe, which I did. Apparently she changed it slightly to make it healthier. (Me throwing chocolate chips into the brownie mix probably canceled out whatever she did to make it healthy.)

The recipe said to use a 15″ round pizza stone and parchment paper so that the mix won’t run off the stone and into the oven. I didn’t have a round pizza stone but I had a large rectangular stone, so I used that.

Parchment Paper: check.

Big mess in the oven: check.

Using the stone didn’t quite go as I’d planned.

About five minutes into the bake time, I smell something burning. Sure enough it’s dessert. I peek in and the brownie is literally dripping down in big, huge, chunky drips, into the oven. I quickly pull out the stone, throw the whole thing into the sink next to me and proceed to wash the brownie mix down the drain.

“Hmmm…technical difficulties with dessert,” I post on my status update on on Facebook as I decide what to do.

Don volunteers to run back out and get me another brownie mix. I take him up on that (he’s such a good guy) and off he goes.

He comes back around 3:30, and in the meantime I’ve decided to use the large bar pan that Pampered Chef sells. It’s long like my pizza stone but has low edges, which apparently I needed to keep the  batter IN the pan.

So I try again. All goes well with the baking, the brownie pizza comes out looking just fine.

Brownie Pizza, Take II

I begin making my cream cheese topping with my block of cream cheese. But now, I’m looking at my topping and looking at my very long brownie pizza and I’m thinking, “I don’t have enough topping.”

My next thought: “I have to go back to the store for more cream cheese.”

I won’t write what my next thought was after that, but it’s at this point where I decide that I should’ve just put a bag of Oreo’s on the table for dessert and called it a day.

It’s now 5:40 pm as I sneak out the door while Don showers, and our company was due in 20 minutes.

This time I ran to Price Rite and got my second block of cream cheese and came home.

The good news is, it all worked out and everyone liked the dessert except Elizabeth who picked off the cream cheese layer and put the strawberries back on top.  Whatever…

I’d definitely make it again and you can too, in fact, I highly recommend that you try it. It was incredibly delicious.

The recipe and directions are below, and now that you know my story, none of these trials and tribulations will happen to you.

See? So beautiful! Sooooo delicious and so just not my day that day!



1 box Ghiradelli Brownie Mix (I wonder if this was my first problem. I just bought any mix and I wonder if it yields more batter than Ghiradelli does. )

Parchment Paper

1 lg. rd. 15″ pizza stone or a round pizza sheet (you now know, I used the large bar pan.)

8 ounces cream cheese, softened (I’d grab two, just to be sure you have enough.)

1/4 cup powdered sugar (double for two blocks of cream cheese)

Handfuls of fresh strawberries, sliced or any fruit you like with chocolate  ( I also served a bowl of extra strawberries on the side so people could add more if they wanted to.)

Melted Semi-sweet Ghiradelli Chocolate Chips (I used Hershey’s syrup instead)

Prepare the brownie mix as per the instructions on the box.

Cut the parchment paper to the shape of the pizza stone (I didn’t use parchment in the bar pan, I sprayed it with cooking spray.)

Spread the brownie mixture on the parchment paper within 1 ” of the edges. It’s important to use the parchment paper because it will help prevent the brownie mixture from seeping over the stone while in the oven cooking (we all now know how that worked out.)

Cook the brownies until the center comes out clean with a knife or toothpick (15-20 minutes).

Cool completely. Flip brownie crust over onto a cooling stone and carefully remove the parchment paper then flip the round brown crust back onto the stone or a nice plate for serving. (I did none of this and served it right in the bar pan.)

Mix the softened cream cheese with the powdered sugar well and spread on the brownie pizza base within one inch of the edge.

Layer cut strawberries around the crust and then drizzle with melted chocolate (or in my case, with Hershey’s syrup.)


Do You Fondue? We did!

8 Dec

Hershey Kiss Fondue Kit from ElizabethThe other day I wrote about my daughter surprising me with a Hershey’s Fondue kit when she got home from school. Well tonight was the night, we had Chocolate Fondue for dessert after dinner. Dinner was leftovers, which was simple and easy, so having a fun dessert like chocolate fondue gave us something to look forward to afterwards!

On my way home from work today I got some fun items to dip into the fondue: apples, strawberries, chocolate chip cookies, and wafer cookies. I have to say, there’s nothing like a chocolate chip cookie dipped in smooth, warm chocolate!! The recipe included in the box also had some dipper ideas.

The Hershey’s Fondue Kit came with two recipes, one for a Milk Chocolate Bar Fondue and one for Chocolate Lover’s Fondue. I looked at both to see which one I had all the ingredients for, and it was the Chocolate Lover’s Fondue. No coincidence there, right?!

Here’s the recipe:


2 cups (12 oz. pkg.) Hershey’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

3/4 cup light cream or half and half (I used half and half)

1/2 cup sugar


1 Combine chocolate chips, light cream (or half and half) and sugar in heavy medium sauce. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until chocolate chips are melted and mixture is hot.

2 Pour into fondue pot; serve warm with Assorted Fondue Dippers. Makes about 2 cups fondue.

Assorted Fondue Dippers: marshmallows, cherries, grapes, mandarin orange segments, pineapple chunks, strawberries, fresh fruit slices, cake pieces.

Here are some photos from our fun dessert!

Hershey's Kisses Chocolate Fondue

Candle is lit, fondue is hot and ready to go!

Kids and Hershey's Kisses Fondue Kit

Can you tell Elizabeth is excited? She got the first bite of fondue since it's her kit.

Caroline and the Hershey's Kisses Fondue Kit

Caroline chooses a chocolate chip cookie dipper.

Alex and the Hershey's Kisses Fondue Kit

Alex tries out the chocolate chip cookie dippers too!

A Hershey’s Surprise for me today!

6 Dec

On the exact day that I announced my being a panelist on the Hershey’s Twitter Party Thursday night, my daughter Elizabeth came bounding off the school bus today with a big surprise for me: A Hershey’s Kisses Fondue Kit!!!!!!!

Hershey Kiss Fondue Kit from Elizabeth

Elizabeth could barely contain her excitement with her prize from school today!

Just getting off the bus was a huge ordeal, with the bus driver putting the box into a bag so that I couldn’t see it. She couldn’t wait for me to open it.

Turns out…she had saved all of her good behavior tickets from the classroom program her teacher runs, until she had 20 tickets.

Today was the day she was going to be able to choose her prize and she had no idea what the choices were going to be.

She was soooooo excited when she came home to show me what she chose and now….we can’t wait to fondue!!! Just in time for the Hershey’s Twitter Party on Thursday night!

Even the forks say Hershey’s on them!

Hershey Kisses Fondue Fork

The forks have the Hershey's Kisses label, just like the little paper label on the real thing!

The "Kisses" label

The kids loved this Kisses Label on the fondue kit.