Just Because Giveaway

One of our favorite reasons to share Mrs. Fields cookies is just because. There’s something special that happens when you recognize someone, not because of a date on a calendar, but just because you care. That’s why we’re so excited to launch our Just Because Giveaway to help you recognize someone in your life…just because. We’re giving away three great gifts on behalf of three of our readers. Here’s how to play:

1. Choose one of the following gifts and post it on your Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest pages.
2. In your post, tell us who you want to give this gift to just because.
3. Be sure to use hashtag #MFCJustBecause in your post to be eligible.

Classic Tin

Sunshine Satchel

Classic Craft Box

Fine print: You must be 18 years or older to participate. Nominee must live in the continental US. Multiple entries allowed. Contest ends Sunday, March 9, 2014. Winners will be selected and notified on their original posts.

Color Your Hair with Household Items

It’s always amazing to discover new uses for your household products, but these ideas really stand out…for your hair. You can switch things up with some bold color, go dramatically dark, or add soft highlights with simple items you probably already have in the pantry and under the counter. Follow the links for helpful instructions. It’s time to raid the cupboards and play beauty parlor!

Dye your hair brown with coffee: This natural way to color hair is totally safe (and smells good too). It even works to cover gray! The instructions recommend using decaf, but you might enjoy an energy jolt with regular beans!

Lighten your hair with honey: Blonde highlights are not just for summer months any more. Mixing honey and peroxide give you lighter locks with natural conditioning. (If you have very dark hair, this method will likely produce orange hues. Test a strand of underside hair first!)

Add a burgundy tint with beets: Dark hair can take on a rich, burgundy hue. (Not recommended for blonde hair.)

Take your hair a shade darker with black tea: A couple of cups of strongly brewed tea will take your natural color one to two shades darker and last for a couple of weeks. Just enough to feel new.

Add bold streaks of color with Koolaid: You’ll look great for your next home game or rock concert with this simple trick. Careful, though, depending on the natural color and health of your hair, this could be permanent!

Have you ever tried these methods? What did you think?

{Image via fineladyshop.com}

Recipe: Russian Sweet Cheese Dumplings

Mrs. Fields Secrets Russian Sweet Cheese Dumplings
Ladies and gentleman, we have a winner. Rounding out our series featuring Russian desserts, we have discovered our favorite. These creamy, sweet and crisp dumplings are an amazing treat. Drizzled with a chocolate sauce or a dollop of cream, these pillowy treats are a wonderful indulgence. We like them best with a spray of powdered sugar and fresh berries.

Russian Sweet Cheese Dumplings

2 eggs
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
15 oz. Ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups flour (plus more for dusting)
4 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 tablespoon salt for boiling water

Directions
Place a pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil with the 1/2 tablespoon of salt. Whisk eggs, sugar, and salt together, then add to a mixing bowl with dough hooks and combine with the ricotta. Once you have a creamy texture, add flour and mix until you have a consistent dough ball, but don’t over mix. Transfer dough ball to a floured surface and divide into four quarters. Roll each quarter into an inch-thick rope, then cut rope into half-inch dumplings on the diagonal. Toss in a trace amount of flour to keep them from sticking. Repeat with remaining quarters of dough.

Carefully drop dumplings one batch at a time into the boiling water. They will sink to the bottom and then pop up on the surface once they are cooked. Remove and allow to drain. Continue with remaining dumplings until they are all cooked. Rinse dumplings with cold water to remove extra starch and allow to drain while you preheat a frying pan. Drizzle melted butter over the dumplings and toss to thoroughly coat. Fry them one batch at a time until golden brown on either side. Remove and serve with your favorite toppings.

Great Oscar Party Ideas

Mrs. Fields Secrets Oscar Party
The hottest party in Hollywood is happening Sunday, but your house can be just as glamorous and fun with these clever Oscar party ideas. Invite some friends, don some fake eyelashes and get your acceptance speech ready because you’re about to to win best party host!

1. A range of flavored popcorns are perfect party fare. Have savory and sweet varieties.
2. These Tuxedo Cake Pops look so dapper. They might win best dressed.
3. You can recreate the Hollywood sign in a number of creative ways, but cupcakes would be dreamy.
4. Add a wedge of star fruit to give your bubbly drink the star treatment.
5. Make your napkins look like nominee envelopes for the ultimate touch.
6. Add your own labels to drinks so that everyone can enjoy an “Oscar Buzz.”

And don’t forget to download your free Oscar Dress Rating Card to keep track of your favorite (and least favorite) fashion looks.

25 Ways to Share a Smile

Smile Cookie Cake

If you’re pining for some sunshine, why not create some yourself by sharing a warm smile? Share a Smile Day is coming up on March 1, but you can get started now with these simple ideas. If we all work together, maybe we can bring on an early spring!

  1. Pay for the person behind you in the coffee line.
  2. Buy a package of note cards and write kind messages to friends or family and drop them in the mail.
  3. Pick up a bouquet of flowers and share them put them on display.
  4. Give someone a sincere compliment, something you’ve noticed but maybe never said.
  5. Write an email to a supervisor of someone who did a great job.
  6. Pick something bright and colorful to wear, even a crazy pair of socks. You’ll feel brighter and that brightness spreads.
  7. Ask someone to tell you about the thing they are most proud of, then listen.
  8. Invite friends over for a casual brunch.
  9. Think of a task your friend dreads and secretly do it for them.
  10. Slip a note of encouragement into your kid’s lunch box.
  11. Start an email chain with your friends asking for the funniest YouTube videos.
  12. When you see someone in military uniform, go up and thank them for their service and for their family’s sacrifice.
  13. Make a playlist of songs that make you smile and share it with your music-loving friends.
  14. Track down an old friend you’ve lost touch with and catch up.
  15. Make a donation to your favorite museum or charitable cause.
  16. Contact a local women’s shelter and ask about current needs, then organize a donation bin at work.
  17. Hold the door open on the elevator.
  18. Strike up a conversation with somebody new.
  19. When parking at a meter, feed a few extra coins into any nearby that are expiring soon.
  20. Think of someone from your past who influenced you and write them a letter.
  21. Take a walk outside and breathe in fresh air and invite a friend to join you.
  22. Break out the old home movies and watch them with the family.
  23. Visit an animal shelter and spend some time holding and petting the animals.
  24. Make your favorite “special occasion” meal just for fun.
  25. When reading, look for articles that would interest your friends and family and send them.

Of course, our favorite way to share a smile is with a fresh order of cookies from our Sunshine Collection. It’s practically impossible not to smile when you get an order of these.

Do you have a favorite way to share a smile? Share your ideas in the comments or on our Facebook page.

Recipe: Russian Tea Cookies

Mrs. Fields Secrets Russian Ginger Cookies
It’s time to explore another Russian recipe to go along with your Olympic viewing. These sweet, soft tea cookies called pryaniki are a Russian favorite, filled with the flavors of honey, lemon, ginger and spice. Try them with a cup of hot tea and some prime time Olympic broadcasting for the full experience. (Notice that they are golden circles? Purely coincidence!)

Russian Tea Cookies

3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon dry ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely grated
1 cup honey
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest

Directions
Sift the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and salt together. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar on high until pale and thick. Gently heat the honey and fresh ginger in double boiler until warm, but not hot. Stir the vanilla into the honey and then slowly incorporate into the egg mixture. Add the dry ingredients to form a stiff dough. Cover and chill for at least an hour. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place 12 even scoops of dough on a prepared baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the edges are barely golden brown. While cookies are baking, prepare the icing by combining the powdered sugar, lemon juice and zest until smooth. Spread a dollop on each cookie while still warm.

5 Fun Activities While the Kids Are Out of School

Looking for a way to entertain the kids (and yourself) on a rare day off from school? Try one of these five fantastic ideas to make the most of your day:

  • Build a giant fort together then fill it with blankets, snacks and books, or watch a movie together on a laptop or tablet. Flashlights are a must.
  • Venture outdoors for a nature walk. Equip each person with a camera if possible and have everyone look for beauty and details in nature. Then, put together a slide show with all the photos set to one of your favorite songs.
  • We use the phrase “like a kid in a candy store,” but when is the last time that actually happened? Look online for an old fashioned-style candy store nearby and take the kids on a field trip. Encourage them to try something different.
  • Escape winter by finding an indoor pool and spend the day barefoot in swimsuits. Go all the way by stopping for ice cream cones on the way home.
  • Preheat the oven, roll up your sleeves and bake batches of cookies together. Cookies are a perfect beginner’s course for young bakers. Read the recipe together, measure ingredients, explain the process, and most of all, remember to lick the beaters! Bake the cookies and let the kids bask in a job well done. (Looking for recipe recommendations? Try our Blue Ribbon Chocolate Chip Cookies or Melting Snowman Cookies.)

25 Last Minute Valentine Gift Ideas

Okay, maybe you fell in love yesterday, or maybe you’re the ultimate procrastinator. Either way, you’d better put something together quick! Here are 25 great ideas to rescue you from the Valentine’s Dog House.

  1. Head to your nearest Mrs. Fields store and get a decorated Big Cookie Cake. Call ahead and have your own personalized message (up to 20 characters) inscribed in frosting!
  2. Write a love poem. Think you can’t do it? Think again!
  3. Fill your valentine’s car with balloons.
  4. Enroll them in a sock-of-the-month subscription.
  5. Prepare a relaxing bubble bath with all the right ingredients: candles, music, fancy soap, warm towels and uninterrupted time.
  6. Track down your valentine’s favorite old movie  and have a romantic movie night in with buttery popcorn.
  7. Send a special, meaningful text one word at a time, every hour on the hour throughout the day so your valentine is anticipating each one and putting the puzzle together.
  8. Find a karaoke track of your favorite love song and give a private concert.
  9. Remember the first meal you shared together? Buy the ingredients and prepare it yourself.
  10. Make a special playlist of meaningful songs. Print out the lyrics and make notes in the margins about how it relates to your love story.
  11. Is there a task that you valentine has been putting off? A squeaky door, a broken drawer, a watch that won’t work? Surprise them by fixing it (or having it fixed).
  12. Make a giant homemade greeting card out of a big cardboard box. Pull out the construction paper, markers, glitter and glue to make it oversized and over-the-top sweet.
  13. Call a local radio station and dedicate a song. (Make sure you valentine is listening!)
  14. Buy a book or find some video tutorials and give your valentine a thorough, relaxing massage.
  15. Write love notes on the bathroom mirror in lipstick, soap or dry erase marker.
  16. Prepare a virtual vacation with photos from around the world that you would love to take your valentine. Make imaginary plans and explore them together.
  17. Make a silly online card with Jib Jab.
  18. A heart-shaped cookie cutter can turn any food into a valentine.
  19. Create a photo slide show of the two of you together set to a favorite song.
  20. Record a video of yourself listing all the things you love about your valentine and email it to him/her.
  21. Surprise your valentine at work with a special picnic lunch.
  22. Go old school and make a clever candy bar poster.
  23. What’s your valentine’s favorite cocktail? Buy the ingredients and play bartender.
  24. Plan a last-minute romantic road trip.
  25. Build an adult fort and fill it with pillows, blankets, chocolates and a book of love poems.

Recipe: Russian Blinis

Mrs. Fields Secrets Russian Blinis
One of the best parts of the Olympic Games is learning about different countries and cultures around the world. Since Russia is playing host this year, we’re putting together some great Russian recipes for you to try at home. Today’s recipe, the blini, has been a staple in Russian culture for generations. Similar to a crepe, but with a bit more chew and substance. This recipe is authentic and delicious, perfect for pairing with sweet toppings for a breakfast, brunch or dessert. Of course, you could also skip the sugar and wrap up savory fillings. The batter is very versatile! Try a batch and go for the gold!

Russian Blinis
adapted from Olga’s Flavor Factory

1 3/4 cups buttermilk
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 3/4 cups flour
2 3/4 cups boiling water
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Butter and sugar (optional)

Directions
Whisk the buttermilk, egg, salt and baking soda together in a saucepan and heat over medium heat until mixture heats until about 120 degrees, or very warm, but not burning to the touch. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and whisk flour in to create a thick batter. Pour in boiling water and quickly whisk to incorporate without getting too many lumps. Finally, stir in oil. Batter should be slightly runny, similar to pancake batter. Add more water if necessary.

Heat a non-stick pan on medium-high heat and pour about 1/2 cup of batter in the middle and turn pan to spread out as evenly and thin as possible. Allow to cook until top looks dry and full of tiny holes. Flip over and cook an additional couple of minutes. Remove from heat and immediately melt a thin layer of butter over blin and then sprinkle generously with sugar. Then, roll the blin up and serve with your favorite toppings: jam, jelly, berries, honey, syrup, peanut butter, Nutella, fresh fruit and/or cream.

Fun Facts on Olympic Eating

If you’re caught up with the rest of the world in the Olympics, here are some fun facts about what’s on the menu in Sochi for athletes and guests of the 2014 Winter Games:

  • The US Olympic team has a private chef to prepare familiar, healthy food for the athletes. Chef Allen Tran says the US athletes prefer spicy ethnic foods.
  • Mexican food is the favorite among US skiers.
  • The US brought maple syrup and Sriracha hot sauce with them for fear that it couldn’t be found locally in Sochi.
  • Inside the Olympic Park, the most popular food items are pizza, hot dogs and baked potatoes.
  • Favorite local foods in the Olympic Park are blini (buckwheat pancakes served with sour cream) and grilled shashlik (lamb kebabs).
  • Sochi is famous for a spiced meat dumpling called khinkali.
  • Craving  a Big Mac? There’s a huge McDonald’s right in central Sochi and another right on site in the Olympic Village for the athletes.
  • A favorite drink in Sochi is cha-cha, a grape vodka from Georgia that is usually illegally imported.
  • The concession stands at Olympic events sell Russian staples like cabbage coulibiac, meat coulibiac (a stuffed puffed pastry) or salmon and cream cheese bagels.
  • Snowboarder Sean White says he always eats a big steak the night before a competition.
  • After a big competition, some of the favorite “recovery foods” of Olympians are chocolate milk, pickle juice, sweet tart cherries, and beet juice.
  • The daily calorie intake for athletes varies greatly by sport. Downhill skiers need around 4000 calories per day, compared to half pipe athletes who need around 2000 calories.
  • Almonds are always on hand for snacking since they provide quick energy and protein.
  • Greek yogurt is a go-to ingredient in the Olympic diet. It’s perfect for breakfast or a snack, plus it’s a protein-rich substitute for mayo and sour cream.
  • Although sugar and candy are not a big part of Olympic diets, Chef Tran says that a box of oatmeal cookies has gone missing from his kitchen. Good to know our athletes have their cookie priorities straight!
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