25 Great Ideas for a Date Night In

Having a great date night with your significant other doesn’t have to mean a night out on the town. Here are 25 great ideas to have a great time right at home by adding a little creativity to make things special.

  1. Grab the laptop and plan out a fantasy vacation. Money is no object, so explore where you would stay, what you would eat, tours you would take, what you would wear, and souvenirs you would bring home. It’s almost as fun as the real thing, and much more affordable!
  2. Give each other a “Chopped” challenge by putting a handful of random ingredients in a shopping bag and exchange them. One of you creates dinner with your ingredients and the other creates a dessert.
  3. Recreate your first date, but at home. Cook the same meal you first ate together, find that old movie to watch together, or set up a bowling lane in your hallway. Whatever it was, rekindle those first flames with a creative repeat.
  4. Read to each other from a favorite book or a sexy novel.
  5. No need to embarrass yourself in front of a class. Learn to dance together by finding instructional videos online and then trying them out together.
  6. You like Chinese food, but he prefers pizza. So why not do a little of both? Order your favorite take out from different places and enjoy your own food festival.
  7. Get in your pajamas and make breakfast for dinner and eat by candlelight. Try one of our favorite breakfast menus for inspiration.
  8. Learn some birding basics and go birdwatching in your backyard. You’ll discover a whole new world right outside your door.
  9. Build a fire in the fireplace and spread out a soft blanket with some pillows. Add a cheese plate and a bottle of wine and you’re set for hours of romantic relaxation.
  10. Have your own karaoke night alone or with friends. Borrow a karaoke machine or sing into a hairbrush, but whatever you do, belt out a love song for your date.
  11. Get out your favorite board game, but add some “naughty” twists to the rules. (Wink, wink.)
  12. Do you know your significant other’s lifelong dreams and wishes? Write out your bucket lists together and then post them somewhere in the house as a reminder.
  13. Pack a picnic and head to the backyard for a private, romantic, eat-with-your-hands meal. Bring a blanket big enough to sprawl on, some good music, and a book of poetry to read.
  14. Prepare a deluxe bubble bath to take together. Splurge on some fancy soaps and loofahs, light some candles, and bring a plate of chilled berries and drinks.
  15. Give the opera a try without the expensive ticket and uncomfortable seats. Watch famous opera arias online, or rent a popular opera and watch it together. (Subtitles help, so look for one that has them.)
  16. Give each other massages. All you need is a bottle of massage oil, a new age music playlist on Pandora, and some simple tips and tricks to get started.
  17. Buy an exotic food at the grocery store and learn how to cook it together. Ask your grocer for tips and ideas, and even recommendations. You may discover a favorite new food!
  18. Learn the night sky and do some stargazing together after dark. Get a map and look for the naked eye constellations, or use a telescope to explore more hard-to-find clusters.
  19. Take a long, lingering walk around your area. Hold hands, walk slow, take time to stop and smell the roses.
  20. Have a wine tasting together. Choose 3-5 bottles of a specific type of wine, ranging in price and have a tasting together.
  21. Do your best Barbara Walters and interview each other. Use these questions for inspiration or jot down your own probing questions to learn even more about each other.
  22. Have a pretend power outage. Turn off the power to the house and shut down all those handheld devices. Enjoy the quiet and the candlelight and get creative to entertain yourselves.
  23. Use your best sound system and create a concert of your favorite songs, or look up your favorite artists in concert and enjoy the best seats in the house.
  24. Get a new perspective and climb up on the roof together. (But be safe!) Enjoy the view, the quiet, and a chance to reconnect.
  25. Have a cookie bake off where each of you choose a favorite cookie recipe and put your baking skills to the test. (Search our Recipe Index for some Mrs. Fields favorites!)

{Image via Getty Images.}

Happy Thanksgiving + Black Friday Special

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From all of us at Mrs. Fields, we want to wish you a wonderful (and delicious) holiday! And congratulations to the winners of our Thanksgiving giveaway. Our grand prize winner came from this nomination:

I want to thank my amazing mom for all that she has done for me, and continues to do every day.

After my dad passed away very suddenly ten years ago my mom was crippled with an ungodly amount of medical debt resulting from the incident. Nearing her golden years when she should have been settling in to retirement, she had to go back to work to pay off all the debt, knowing that she’d have to work the rest of her life to pay it all off (all while dealing with the grief of losing her partner).

Two years ago, my husband and I finally became pregnant after years of trying when things suddenly took a terrible turn. It was a complicated pregnancy the entire way and we were told our little one (if she made it) could be mentally challenged, have heart defects, lung defects, possibly blind and/or deaf. We were at the mercy of fate, and I could only be comforted by the arms of the woman who had seen me through all of life’s challenges: my amazing mom.

Being a 2-income family by necessity, the idea of finding childcare for a special needs child became overwhelming, to say the least. It was an added stress that was weighing me down emotionally and financially… Then, my loving, thoughtful, never selfish mom came to me and declared that she had put in her notice at work and was going to stay home to be our “Granny Nanny!”

The day our daughter was born gave me new insight into the love my mom has felt for me all these years: undying, selfless and eternal. AND, knowing that our little one was going to be cared for by the most amazing person on earth gave us so much comfort that we were able to go back to work with peace of mind.

Here’s the happiest part of all: our daughter came out 100% healthy, and now she and Granny get to play and learn together all day long! They are the best of friends and I couldn’t be more thankful for the most amazing mom the world has to offer: mine!

And now for tomorrow’s fun–we have three fun offers for your Black Friday shopping!

In our stores:

Online:

And at a Walgreens near you:

Now go have a slice of pie!

Coming Soon: The Brookie Pan by Mrs. Fields Bakeware

Mrs. Fields Secrets Brookie Pan
Cookie or brownie? How about both? Meet the Brookie, a cookie baked inside a brownie. Genius, right? And now meet the Brookie Pan, part of our incredible line of Mrs. Fields Bakeware, available soon at Mrs. Fields online.

This bakeware pan is such high quality and so well designed that it’s bound to become a favorite in your household as it is in mine. The design bakes an already baked cookie inside a luscious brownie for an incredible surprise inside. Plus, I love that it uses an already baked cookie—it’s the perfect way to use up your leftover cookies, slightly stale cookies and baking blunder cookies. (Yes, we all have them!) You can even use your favorite store-bought cookies inside for a completely new reinvention. (I’m looking at you, Oreo.)

The other thing I love about this pan is that the final product is a perfect individual dessert, which can be enjoyed as-is or topped in that cute little dimple on top with ice cream, whip cream and your favorite chocolate or caramel drizzle. It can be as casual or fancy as you like.

Of course, I have all sorts of other grand plans for this pan, moving beyond Brookies and experimenting with other things like:
-cornbread with a spicy cracker inside
-cheesecake with a fruit center middle
-baked scrambled eggs with cheese and herbs inside

What would you bake in the Brookie Pan?

Sign up for emails from our Cookie Club and you’ll be the first to know when it’s available!

Foods That Fight Sunburns

They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but did you know that a tomato a day might just keep a sunburn away? It’s true! There are some great power foods that can actually boost your ability to resist sunburns while you’re enjoying the summer sun. It doesn’t mean you can skip sunscreen, but don’t you love the idea of protecting your skin inside and out?

Tomatoes lead the way in sun-fighting power foods because they contain the antioxidant lycopene, which can neutralize harmful molecules produced in skin exposed to harmful ultra-violet rays. Fresh tomatoes are good, but cooked tomatoes contain even more lycopene. Your best bet is tomato paste, so put pizza or spaghetti on your weekly menu for the summer and enjoy up to 33 percent more protection from the sun.

Another summer food that’s rich in lycopene is watermelon, so help yourself to that extra wedge at the pool party. Your skin will thank you.

Research suggests that regularly drinking green tea and matcha tea can boost your skin’s ability to resist sunburn, and the tannic acid can also help soothe burned skin. Treat a sunburn by adding some tea bags to a warm bath and enjoy a good soak.

Pomegranates are another tasty power food, rich in ellagic acid, which can help your skin resist cell damage from UVA and UVB rays. Eating this fruit fresh is best, but the juice is helpful as well.

Carrots, sweet potatoes and red beets contain rich amounts of Vitamin D, which strengthens skin and its ability to resist burns. Raw, roasted or juiced, these power foods are skin defenders in any form.

Salmon and other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to boost skin’s ability to resist sunburn and research suggests that these important fats also prevent skin cancers.

Treat yourself to three ounces of dark chocolate not only for sunburn prevention, but also smoother skin. Oh, and it tastes delicious too. Win/win/win.

It’s no surprise that tropical fruits like guava are helpful for fighting sunburn. The Vitamin C in one guava fruit is five times that of a medium orange, and vitamin C is a skin-healing antioxidant. The more you eat, the healthier your skin. It may not be easy to find guava locally, so stock up on other Vitamin C-rich foods like broccoli, bell peppers, and strawberries for similar benefits.

Hit your local farmer’s market to stock up on these power foods and enjoy a burn-free summer that tastes great too!

{Image via flickr}

15 Tax Deductions You Don’t Want To Miss

Tax Day is only two weeks away. While you’re preparing your taxes, make sure you don’t miss some of these often-overlooked deductions. Little savings can add up big time!

  1. Eyeglasses, breast pumps, weight-loss programs, and other medically-related supplies. Get a copy of the IRS’s Publication 502 for a full list of items.
  2. Fees associated with job hunting in 2012, including food, lodging, employment agency fees, and 55.5 cents per mile if you had to do a lot of driving.
  3. The cost of moving for your first job if it was over 50 miles away. Plus parking, tolls, and even 23 cents per mile if you drove your own car to move there.
  4. Financial advising costs, including the cost of subscriptions to financial publications, and even the cost to travel to meet with your financial advisor.
  5. Supplies you may have sent to help Hurricane Sandy victims.
  6. Credits for energy-saving home improvements made in 2012, like hot water heaters and geo-thermal heat pumps.
  7. Sales tax on your new car or boat, depending on the state you live in. Use this guide to find out if you’d qualify.
  8. Care for your parent, depending on their income level and how much financial support you give them.
  9. Student loan interest, even for voluntary extra payments.
  10. Student loans interest paid for by mom and dad. A child who’s not claimed as a dependent can qualify to deduct up to $2,500 of student-loan interest paid by Mom and Dad (and you don’t have to itemize to get this one).
  11. Refinancing points paid on your mortgage.
  12. Pay for jury duty collected by your employer.
  13. High-speed internet, phones, new computers, and other minor and major costs associated with a home office for the self-employed.
  14. Smaller charitable giving costs, including out-of-pocket costs like stamps for mailing out a fundraising ad or even the ingredients for the brownies you made for the bake sale.
  15. State taxes paid last spring for your 2011 taxes can be deducted from your 2012 return.

And after all these savings, I recommend treating yourself to a giant chocolate chip cookie!

These are just suggestions and we are not tax professionals. If you have specific questions, you should contact an accountant or tax professional. (Sources 1, 2)

Creative Ideas to Surprise Your Valentine

Creative Valentine Ideas
It doesn’t take a lot of money to create a memorable Valentine’s Day. All you need is a little creativity and the element of surprise to let your sweetie know how much you care. Here are 10 ideas to get your creativity jump started:

  1. Create a Yarn Trail from that leads your valentine to a romantic picnic.
  2. Giant Valentine Posters make a big statement, hand delivered or mailed.
  3. Fill your valentine’s car full of balloons for a fun morning surprise.
  4. Name a star for your valentine, then use a telescope to find it.
  5. Tuck love notes in your valentine’s shoes, pockets, wallets, desk drawers, sun visors,  etc. to be found throughout the day.
  6. Send your valentine on a treasure hunt with you as the final prize.
  7. Make a personalized e-card on JibJab.
  8. Document your love story with photos and words to create your own book.
  9. Record yourself singing your valentine’s favorite song, even if you can’t carry a tune.
  10. Order a Big Cookie Cake, personalized with a special message written in frosting (up to 20 characters) that only the two of you will understand. Maybe the first place you met or kissed or maybe the date. Be creative. You can order Big Cookie Cakes online, or from your local store for pickup. Mention this blog post for $2.00 off in store.

Big Cookie Cake

By the way, there’s still time to order great gifts at MrsFields.com. Use code 13CEC at checkout for a free upgrade to 2-Day delivery!

5 Dessert Ideas for Your Halloween Party

Party foods always seem so far down on the to-do list in October. Halloween is kind of the trifecta of busy holiday madness. If you have kids, you’re trying to get some costumes together, they have their own school Halloween parties and probably some parties with friends, and you’re trying to pull off your own spooky shindig with all the drinks, appetizers and goodies that entails. When you’re so busy, it’s best to have one or two dishes to wow your guests, and some simple but delicious cookies, cupcakes and other bite-sized sweets to add variety.

To help you out, I’m putting a few simple Halloween party food ideas out there to help fill out your party menu. And they’re mostly desserts because — let’s be honest — All Hallows Eve is more about the treats than the tricks these days.

Cookies, Cocktails and Other Spooky Side Dishes

Halloween cookies are bite-sized magic. Cookies are one of my absolute favorite fall treats, probably because nothing beats the cold like hot cocoa and a chocolate chip cookie, in my mind anyway. Moist pumpkin cookies are definitely a fall favorite through October and November. And may I suggest sugar cookies for the kids to decorate at your kid-friendly soirée; you’ll be knocking out a treat and an activity at once. Guests may not go back for a second helping of the grape “eyeball” salad, but they’ll constantly be snatching up cookies if they’re hanging around.

Everyone goes home with goody baskets. It’s always fun to come away from the party with a little memento of the fun you had. I always try to find some goody gift baskets or bag of treats to send people home with. I try to keep it neutral, something that everyone will like, such as candy or cookies. Throw in a few silly party favors or dollar-store toys for the kids. They’ll see their favors the next day and rave about your party to everyone.

Halloween concoctions lift everyone’s spirits. It’s not too early to whip up some pumpkin-spiced hot chocolate, and I think it’s about time I had some hot apple cider (with whip cream, a dash of caramel and some chocolate sprinkles on top). And a party is always the right time and place to try out some new cocktail recipes that are part of your holiday theme. A friend of mine made a cocktail for me last year with black vodka, coffee liquor and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I have to say, it was pretty awesome, and perfectly dark for Halloween. If you’re using a black light for fun, consider just about anything with tonic water in it; the quinine in it will glow. And a cube of dry ice is all you need to make just about any drink feel like a witch’s brew, brimming with fog.

Brownies are your secret weapon. Is there anyone who doesn’t like brownies? This one is kind of a cheat because they’re my go-to side dessert for just about any holiday part that I have. They have universal appeal, and they’re not specific to any theme or party until you add garnishes of, say, orange and green to make them Halloween-esque? It must be working, because I’ve never had any left over at the end of the night!

I think there are some winning Halloween goodie ideas, here. What are your go-to snacks and finger-foods for parties this time of year? And tell us your costume ideas, too!

Kids in the Kitchen: Frozen Treats

Frozen Grape Skewers

We’re beating summer boredom (and teaching lifelong skills) by sharing some great tips and delicious kid-friendly recipes to get your kids in the kitchen and having fun. Last week I shared my favorite no-bake recipes. This week, I’m excited to share a handful of delicious frozen treats that kids can make on their own or with a little adult supervision, depending on their age or skill level.

TODAY’S TIPS

Teach kids proper hand washing techniques. Talk to your kids about keeping germs and disease from food by thoroughly washing hands: wet hands first with water, apply soap, and scrub hands thoroughly while singing the Happy Birthday song twice (about 20 seconds). Teach them to scrub the backs of their hands, in between fingers, and especially under fingernails.

Explain freezer safety. We’re used to teaching kids about hot stoves, but freezer burns are real (and painful). Make sure hands are completely dry before handing any metal from the freezer, or use hot pads as a precaution. If skin gets stuck to something frozen, teach them to run warm water over the skin to release it.

FAVORITE FROZEN RECIPES

Frozen Grape Skewers
(shown above)

1/2 pound red grapes, washed and dried
1/2 pound green grapes, washed and dried
bamboo skewers

Directions
Using the spear end of bamboo skewers, pierce through a grape and slide it to the end. Alternate with red and green grapes until skewer is full. Place skewers on a freezer-safe tray at least a 1/4 inch apart and freeze for at least 3 hours or until grapes are frozen solid. Once frozen solid, transfer skewers to a freezer bag or air-tight container.

Watermelon Ice Pops

Watermelon Ice Pops
from Eat Yourself Skinny 

5 cups seedless watermelon
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
1 pint lime sherbet, softened
Directions
Puree watermelon and sugar in batches in your blender or food processor until smooth and strain into a medium bowl. Cover and freeze until puree is slightly slushy, but not quite solid, about 2 to 3 hours.  Remove from freezer and stir in chocolate chips. Place twelve small disposable cups in a shallow baking pan and spoon watermelon puree into cups, leaving about a 1/2 inch space left from the rim.  Place pan in freezer for 2 hours, or until puree is solid, but not rock hard.
Allow lime sherbet to soften before spreading on top of each cup, filling it nearly full.  Smooth sherbet with the back of a spoon and cover each cup tightly with plastic wrap.  Cut a small slit in the center of each cup and insert a popsicle stick.  Freeze until solid. Before serving, allow pops to sit at room temperature for about a minute, then gently pull out from the cups.

Frozen Peanut Butter Banana Bites

Frozen Peanut Butter Banana Bites
from nom! nom! nom! blog
2 large bananas
1/4 cup peanut but­ter
1/2 cup choco­late chips
2 tbsp-1/4 cup milk

Directions
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Slice bananas into coins about 1/2–3/4 inch thick. Spread a lit­tle dol­lop of peanut but­ter on top of each one. In a small bowl, com­bine the choco­late chips and milk. Microwave in 15 sec­ond increments, stirring between each one, until you can whisk them together. It should be thick enough to coat the bananas, but not too thin. Add a splash more milk if nec­es­sary. Dip the banana chunks using a fork, dip­ping them into the melted choco­late. Place choco­late coated bananas on the pre­pared sheet and place in freezer until com­pletely frozen (about 3–5 hours). Remove frozen banana chunks from the sheet and store in a freezer container.

Homemade Ice Cream in a Bag

Homemade Ice Cream in a Bag

1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk or half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 heaping tablespoons sugar
1 gallon-size plastic food storage bag
1 quart-size plastic food storage bag
rock salt
Ice

Directions
Fill the gallon-size bag 3/4 full of ice cubes and sprinkle a handful (about 1/4 cup) rock salt over the ice. In the quart-size bag, add cream, half-and-half, sugar, and vanilla. Seal the bag, removing excess air, and place inside the larger bag and seal it as well. Shake the bags vigorously (probably outdoors) for 5-10 minutes, or until the ice cream in the inner bag gets thick and hard. Remove and dry the inner bag to keep the saltwater out of your ice cream. Discard the larger bag. Serve immediately in a bowl or right out of the bag.

For Chocolate Ice Cream: Add 2-3 tablespoons of chocolate syrup and reduce the vanilla to 1/4 teaspoon.

For Strawberry Ice Cream: Add 3-4 tablespoons sweetened, pureéd strawberries.

For Mint Ice Cream: Replace vanilla with 1/4 teaspoon mint extract and add 3 drops of green food coloring.

Clever Home Remedies

I love a great tip almost as much as a great recipe. Check out this collection of ideas and give them a try!

TO FRESHEN TOWELS: Add 1 cup white vinegar to a load of towels and wash them on a hot cycle. When the cycle has finished, add 1/2 cup baking soda to the load and wash again on a hot cycle. Dry them and be amazed at their fresh smell and fluff!

TO GET A LUSH, GREEN LAWN: Add 2 tablespoons of epsom salt to every 1 gallon of water and spray over your lawn to get a more green, full growth.

TO KEEP MOSQUITOS FROM YOUR DECK PARTY: Fill a spray bottle with Listerine mouthwash. Spray the deck before the party and enjoy 3-4 hours of mosquito-free fun. (Test for color fastness first!)

TO KEEP WATERMARKS FROM YOUR FAUCETS: Rub clean faucets and handles with wax paper. It will repel water and keep them shiny.

TO REMOVE A STRIPPED SCREW: Place a wide rubber band over the stripped screw and the drill bit will be able to grip the rubber.

TO FRESHEN A STINKY GARBAGE DISPOSAL: Pour 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain immediately followed by 1 cup of white vinegar. Allow it to bubble and fizz. Once it’s quiet, turn on hot water and allow it to run for 3-5 minutes. While the water is running, cut a lemon into quarters and turn on the garbage disposal. Put the lemon pieces down the disposal, one piece at a time until it is gone. Enjoy a fresh, clean scent.

TO REMOVE STUBBORN GRIME AND STAINS: A few tablespoons of cream of tartar mixed with hot water or hydrogen peroxide will remove stains and rust from aluminum pans. Rub cream of tartar mixed with lemon juice on copper and watch the shine return. Use equal parts cream of tartar and white vinegar (a few teaspoons of each is perfect) to create an amazing non-abrasive cleanser for your kitchen and bathroom.

REFRESH YOUR SUMMER SKIN AND HAIR: Add 2 tablespoons epsom salt to 3 tablespoons olive oil to create a skin scrub. Rub in a circular motion to exfoliate skin and rinse. Mix epsom salt and your favorite shampoo in your palm and scrub your scalp to revitalize your scalp and hair.

Share your own favorite home remedies and clever tips in the comments section!

Kids in the Kitchen: No Fail, No-Bake Recipes

DSCN5428

For the next few weeks, let’s beat summer boredom by getting the kids in the kitchen to create recipes and learn skills that will come in handy for the rest of their lives. I’ll share my favorite kids-in-the-kitchen tips and my favorite kid-friendly recipes. Today’s I’m sharing my favorite no-bake options, perfect for quick results and no unnecessary heat!

TODAY’S TIPS

Teach kids how to read a recipe. Before you begin preparing food, read the recipe from beginning to end together. Explain any terms that are unfamiliar, and talk through individual steps.

Mise en place. This French term means to gather and measure all ingredients and equipment before you begin. (Hey, it’s a French lesson, too!) This is an especially important idea for kids because it ensures accuracy and speeds up the actual cooking or baking process, creating a more satisfying experience.

Teach safety one recipe at a time. Kids can learn to properly handle knives, heat and other dangers as they practice with your supervision. They’ll feel empowered as they learn to master safety in the kitchen.

Keep them involved. Maintain their interest and involvement in the kitchen by inviting them to choose recipes and shop for ingredients. This is a great idea for picky eaters who are more likely to try new things when they’re involved in the process.

Aim for fun, not perfection. Resist micro-managing and let them learn through experience.

NO FAIL, NO-BAKE RECIPES

No-Bake Rocky Road Cookies

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup (one stick) butter
4 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 cup milk
1 cup peanut butter
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups oatmeal
1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
1 cup chopped cashews
1 cup chocolate chips

Directions
In a heavy saucepan, bring the sugar, butter, cocoa, and milk to a boil. Allow it to boil for one minute, then add peanut butter and vanilla and stir until combined. Remove from heat. Stir in the oatmeal, marshmallows, nuts, and chocolate chips. With an ice cream scoop, form balls of dough and set on wax or parchment paper until cool.

DSCN5428
S’more Bars

4 c. graham cracker cold cereal
4 c. chocolate puff cold cereal
1 10-ounce package marshmallows
5 T. butter

Directions
Melt butter in large pot over low heat.  Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted.  Remove from heat and add both cereals.  Stir with a large spoon until thoroughly mixed.  Transfer to a greased 9 x 13 pan and allow to cool.  Cut into squares and enjoy!

No-Bake Energy Bites
(from Smashed Peas & Carrots)

1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup honey
1 cup sweetened, shredded coconut
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips
2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir until thoroughly incorporated. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, then using a cookie dough scoop or melon baller, divide and roll into bite-sized balls. Store in an air-tight container and keep refrigerated for up to one week.

HINT: Substitute peanut butter for your favorite nut butter (almond, cashew, etc.). Nutella also works great for a chocolate-y twist.

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