Say It With Chocolate – Celebrating Valentine’s Day With M&M Goodies and Heart-Shaped Tins!

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It’s the night of Valentine’s and as I am writing this, I am sitting on my couch wrapped in my fuzzy red blanket, quietly reminiscing about Valentine’s past and the fun and sweet Valentine’s memories I made today and over the past week.  Decked out in dangly heart earrings, heart printed socks, and my little red jacket, I spent the day with my other half where we enjoyed heart shaped veggie pizza, cookies and cream Hershey Kisses, and dvd episodes of Big Bang Theory.  A day of love and fun much like any other, but special, loving, and heartfelt nonetheless.  Valentine’s Day is quite the commercial occasion, yes, but it’s also a day to acknowledge and reflect on love in all its beautiful forms.  It’s a day to have fun and a day to remind all of us of all the people, pets, and things in our life that warm our hearts and bring us joy. 

In that vein, humour me while I rattle off some reasons why I love Valentine’s:

  1. everything is decked out in red, pink, and white (and the occasional purple)
  2. everything is printed with cute hearts
  3. Valentine’s restaurant menus are fun to look at (not so much fun to pay for, but fun in a creative and thematic way!)
  4. Valentine’s themed accessories and jewelry fit effortlessly into my wardrobe (I wear heart necklaces and earrings, and both my rainbow and hot pink-and-gray heart printed argyle socks all year round)
  5. Valentine’s themed stationery, kitchen, home decor, and baking accessories are too darling not to love
  6. the classic “I Choo-Choo-Choose You” Simpsons episode is one of the best things to ever grace cartoon television
  7. kiddie Valentine’s in general (don’t tell me you never gave your friends and classmates Lion King, Disney Princess, Looney Tunes, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Spiderman, Animanics, Winnie the Pooh, Hello Kitty, and/or Casper the Friendly Ghost valentine cards!)
  8. my best friend, who’s a kindergarten teacher, gets to celebrate Valentine’s with her little ones in kindergarten party fashion complete with crafts, edible goodies, and the quintessential paper baggy card exchange
  9. Valentine’s desserts.  Enough said.
  10. it is yet another occasion ridiculously devoted to chocolate!  Unless you are like my best friend and allergic, this works in your favour. 

And it is here that I will focus on Reason #10.  Everyone is a different type of Valentine’s candy person.  Some get giddy over the cheesy conversation hearts while others will enjoy the bright red spicy cinnamon hearts by the fistful.  Then there are the chocolate enthusiasts.  You know who you are.  The ones who will scarf down an entire box in one night, or the folks who show up at the shops first thing in the morning on February 15th, ready to roll with a shopping basket and a thirst (or rather, appetite) for chocolate on sale.  In those chocolicious moments, the whole world is right.  For some, there is no better way to express love than saying it with chocolate. 

I fall under the second category.  The culprits?  Cookies and cream Hershey Kisses and any and all M&Ms.  You are all aware of my love affair with M&Ms and the pride and joy that is my M&M tin collection!  Imagine my happy dance then when I found a brand new, heart-shaped M&Ms candy tin for Valentine’s Day!  With my favourite green girl M&M on it!  In my chocolate universe, it doesn’t get any better than that.  I know chocolate sales are ubiquitous the day after Valentine’s, but I’ve been through many heartbreaking situations in my life where I would hem and haw about an item, wistfully walk away for the time being, and come back to it only to find it gone.  It’s an awful habit of mine and given how dearly beloved these M&Ms tins are to me, there was no way I was about to take that chance again.  Especially considering they were only available at Pharma Plus drug stores!

In addition to the heart-shaped tin and the coconut M&Ms I love so much, I found myself mint dark chocolate ones too!  After paying a visit to Yonge Market a few weeks ago (where I found the coconut M&Ms at their least expensive last summer – only $0.99 a bag!) and finding out they didn’t have any of the coconut ones, I made my way back to Uncle John’s Candy Shack on Mount Pleasant Rd.  I picked up a baggy of coconut M&Ms and was absolutely ecstatic when I found out they had new mint dark chocolate ones! 

I’ve been so jealous of my American counterparts who have special flavours like strawberry and raspberry, so it felt so nice to find a new flavour I had never encountered before.  They’re $1.49/bag and although the price has gone up by $0.10 since last summer, it’s still less expensive than several other candy shops around the city who sell them for $1.59, $1.79, and even for $1.99!  I am dying to rip open all my M&M candy packages and devour all the goodness inside, but part of me really wants to save them to use for cookies.  Who knew Valentine’s could put me in such a chocolate predicament?  If I bake them in cookies, you will see them and hear about them.  If I eat them all, you’ll just see a very happy me.  Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone, from my heart to yours!

*****

Uncle John’s Candy Shack is located at 635 Mount Pleasant Rd. between Eglinton and Davisville Ave., just north of Manor Rd.

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My Love for M&Ms and the Candy Tin Collection! The Novelty of Candy and Sweet Flavours: Part III

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Talk of candy, chocolates, and all things sweet over the past few days has definitely generated discussion on the blog and my Facebook!  It’s been fun and I’m so happy to be able to share my photos and to let you all see what I see around the city through my camera and my writing.  I’m excited to look for and blog about other sweet treats and to find more candy shops with awesome stuff.  To round out this 3-part M&M and candy shop series (the first of many to come!), I have photos of my M&M tin collection 😀  I’m sure some of you can relate to the enjoyment of collecting certain kinds of foodie merchandise: Coca Cola stuff, Pillsbury Doughboy things, Pez dispensers, everything cupcake related, etc. etc.  Even if you don’t collect any of these things, I’m sure you probably know someone who does! 

Many of you know what I diehard collector I am of Hello Kitty stuff, Bonne Bell lip smackers and glosses, and lip glosses in general.  However, I don’t think I’ve talked about my love of M&Ms quite so much so this collection is probably unbeknownst to many of you.  Obviously, I don’t collect everything under the sun because I honestly can’t afford to do that (judging by my Lip Smacker collection, you’d probably think otherwise, but that’s a story for a different day), but I do snatch up some items when I can and the candy tins are my absolute favourite.  For awhile, I was even ripping out and filing away M&M magazine ads!

Like my sweet friend Laia in Spain, I’m a mega fan of M&Ms and I loooove collecting the candy tins!  I adore things like tin lunch boxes and tin storage boxes, so these beautiful, colourful M&M candy tins made me “eeee” with glee when I saw them years ago.  Each tin comes with two mini packs of M&Ms and each seasonal collection comes with a variety of designs, often showcasing a different M&M character.  The adorable green M&M girl is my favourite, so I’m a fiend when it comes to picking up merchandise with her on it. 

I have three regular-sized Christmas ones, a jumbo-sized Christmas one with a cheeky “Naughty or Nice” mini spinning wheel on the front, a regular-sized Hallowe’en one, and two regular-sized Valentine’s ones.  Oh!  And two green M&M girl candy figurines!  I’m sad though because I know I’m missing tins from a previous spring collection.  Hopefully I’ll be able to stumble on them someday.  Or, you know, there’s always Ebay, ha!  The packets of M&Ms inside are your good ol’ fashioned milk chocolate and they taste the same, if not better, than any regular package you’ll get out there.  I can’t even imagine how crazy I’d be if they came out with special tins like these holding the special flavours like coconut and whatnot.  I’d be in conniptions.

With the exception of the jumbo-sized Christmas tin which my boyfriend bought for me at Uncle John’s Candy Shack, all of them I bought from Shoppers Drug Mart.  I love how colourful and cute they are and I always look forward to the seasonal merchandise that comes out near the start of every season or large-scale holiday.  The discussion about sweets has been great, so keep it coming on the blog and my Twitter and Facebook!  I would love to know what special flavours and sweets you have in your region and if any of you have collections too!       

Candy, Candy, and More Candy! The Elusive Coconut M&Ms, Part I

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Given the title of the post, you all know what this photo teaser post is alluding to 😉  I may not eat candy on a regular basis, but that sure as hell doesn’t mean I don’t squeal like a 4-year-old when I’m surrounded by canisters and shelves full of M&Ms, Almond Joy bars, colourful bags of Skittles, and my personal favourite, Fuzzy Peaches!  I know everyone has their candy and chocolate weaknesses and chomping on the bit on some fruity tutti sweets or fudgy morsels is just half the fun.  The novelty and nostalgia of candy and candy shops hits us all.  It’s fun remembering the goodies we used to eat when we were kids, it’s fun reminiscing about old favourites that are no longer with us but are instead in sugar coma heaven, and it’s fun finding flavours we never knew even existed! 

I can’t tell you how many friends have oohed and ahhed over my Japanese Yan-Yans growing up, how many Aero bars I have sent across the border and overseas to friends, and how many bags of Skittles my friends and I used to share in high school.  Oh, and don’t even get me started on Chupa Chups lollipops!  I remember how much my friends and I adored Fun Dip in elementary school and how much I loved Ring Pops because of the way it resembled colourful jeweled jelly.  I remember how jubilant I was when putting together candy goody bags for a birthday party years and years ago and how funny my friends were when they unleashed their inner child over them: “do you wanna trade?  Oh my god, Rockets!  Forget taking this home, I’m eating this now!”  It’s one of the reasons why writing this blog is so fun.  You get to reminisce but at the same time talk about things that are still fresh and relevant.

It’s absolutely fascinating and so much fun seeing how different candy and chocolate production is in different regions of the world and seeing the different products and flavours that are offered.  I’m telling you, it blows my mind seeing nearly 50 flavours of Lays chips and being able to get my hands (and my sweet teeth!) on flavoured Kit Kats like green tea, orange, banana, and white chocolate!  Candy and chocolate certainly isn’t the healthiest of treats, but it’s definitely the funnest and the treats that generate the most giddiness and nostalgic discussion.  Enjoy the photos, I have an awesome (if I do say so myself) post for you guys tomtomorrow’s post is going to be gooood 😉

*****

Uncle John’s Candy Shack is located at 635 Mount Pleasant Rd. between Eglinton and Davisville Ave., just north of Manor Rd.

The Joys of Soft-Serve Ice Cream – A Vanilla Chocolate Mix with M&Ms!

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What a tease the weather was last week.  Gorgeous, sunny, and warm.  The weather decided it would yank our chains though, and delivered us with three days of rain in a row with no relief in sight till Thursday – and that’s if we’re lucky.  And while their was a humidex advisory nearly four days ago, I was shivering in my house today and sitting on my hands to keep them warm.  Tsk, tsk, weather.  Not cool.  Lucky for me, I enjoy eating ice cream any time of year and in any kind of weather, even in the frigid kind that makes your eyelashes stick together 😀 

Enter soft-serve ice cream, the yummy kind of sweet treat that makes you long for summer and chase trucks down the street as the music ding-a-lings.  I loooove soft-serve ice cream and I almost always get the swirly vanilla chocolate mix.  It’s one of the reasons why I also love the little ice cream sundae vendor in the middle of Markville Mall, La Cremiere.  Even though I’ve avoided mall food altogether for some time now (with the exception of Tim Hortons), La Cremiere is the food gem in the mall for me.  While other ice cream places have started charging $3.25 and up for a scoop of ice cream, La Cremiere is great because you can get a medium ice cream for around $2.70 and I just enjoy the fact that they have soft-serve.  I know, I know, I can get soft-serve at McDonald’s.  And although I do enjoy the hot fudge sundae, they don’t have fun toppings for me to play around and choose from, so for that reason…I turn the other cheek 😉 

I always get the soft-serve ice cream in a cup and because they have tons of sweet toppings that you can add on, I almost never let my ice cream go naked.  I’m notorious for getting rainbow sprinkles (my weakness, they’re just so pretty and fun), but this time around I wanted to go kiddy and get rainbow M&Ms.  It made me happy, it made me smiley, and it was delicious.  Ice cream always makes the day happy.

*****

Markville Mall is located at 5000 Hwy 7. East in Markham, at the intersection of Hwy.7 and McCowan Rd.  La Cremiere is located on the bottom level of the mall by the centre court and food court escalators.

Scrapbook materials used: brown, beige, bubblegum pink, and baby blue cardstock (Recollections); white, pink, and brown polka dot ribbon; alphabet stickers (K&Company); pink alphabet stickers (Recollections); ice cream truck embellishment and stickers (Jolee’s Boutique); ice cream stickers (gifted).        

Ice Cream Bonanza & Rainbow-nanza at Marble Slab Creamery, Part I

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Okay, so it might has been a teeny bit teeth-chattering when I went out today.  And the weather network is forecasting the coldest weekend of the winter thus far for tomorrow and the day after.  The kind of cold that would most likely cause my eyelashes to stick together causing rapid blinking and weird stares from other people.  So I yes, I am a little loopy in the head for posting pictures of ice cream.  But really, tell me that you don’t love eating ice cream any time.  That if someone were to wave a bowl of it in your face you’d decline.  Well, I sure wouldn’t!  So Marble Slab ice cream it is for today!

To me, Marble Slab may not be your go-to place for ice cream on a frequent basis simply because of the larger portions and the higher-end price range (Marble Slab’s branding strategy offers gourmet ice cream, so you’re looking at around $5-$7), but it screams FUN!  The colours, the variety of mix-ins, the waffles cones and bowls; it’s just pure fun to be able to choose your ice cream and go to town with fun add-ons for whatever sweet tooth mood you might be in. 

There are pre-selected, “put together” menu items that you can order off their menu, as well as the choice of creating your own unique ice cream creation using cones, waffle bowls, different combinations of ice cream, and of course, all the toppings your heart desires.  Tasty Creations (the menu items that are already predetermined in composition) include white chocolate raspberry, s’mores, cookies and cake, rocky road, and a slew of others.  In addition to the classic Marble Slab ice cream creations, they also serve items such as sundaes and banana splits among others. 

If you would prefer creating your own ice cream masterpiece, you can choose a waffle cone, one type of ice cream, and one mixin for a flat price ($4.99 for a regular and $5.99 for a large), with additional mixins coming in at an extra $0.79 each.  It’s a splurge, an indulgence, and a total treat.  I have a huuuge weakness for rainbow sprinkles, (who doesn’t get squealy over sprinkles?!) so I chose the Rainbow-nanza icecream off the Tasty Creations menu ($5.78): sweet cream ice cream mixed with rainbow sprinkles and M&Ms!

Cue the scooping of ice cream, the plop plopping of sweets, and the metal clang-clang of ice cream being made right in front of your very hungry eyes!  Yup, how the ice cream concoction is created is what sets them apart from other ice cream parlours (other than Cold Stone Creamery who use a similar technique and concept): the ice cream and mix-ins are mixed and folded on a frozen marble slab, resulting in a generously creamy ice cream 😀  The frozen surface keeps the ice cream from getting mushed and melty, and the folding allows the candies and sweets to be fully incorporated.  It’s quite fun to watch!  Believe me when I say it’s a technique that really needs to be done with care and patience because it’s not just swirling ice cream around till it’s mushy!

The sweet cream ice cream was fabulous (think vanilla but richer and creamier and with more of a cake batter taste to it) and rainbow sprinkles are always up my alley, but in hindsight, I would have chosen something without the M&Ms.  I love M&Ms to death (they’re my favourite chocolate candies!), but to me, they felt misplaced in the ice cream.  It’s almost as if they interrupted my ice cream eating, if you understand what I mean.  I think if mini M&Ms had been used it would have worked out a little better because the regular-sized ones just didn’t provide the fluidity and cohesiveness that you would want in an ice cream dish.  Textures and flavours are tough things to balance out and sometimes combinations work and sometimes they don’t.  The ice cream was good and it was fun, but I’m looking forward to trying other mixins and ice creams to really get a wider breadth of flavours and textures.

Marble Slab has been around town for awhile now with new locations opening up periodically – I think the newest one is on Yonge St. right by the Eaton Centre – but my first time going was actually just this past summer!  The first location I knew of was the one by Promenade Mall (which is the location I went to for this ice cream trip) and several years later one opened up in Markham on Major Mackenzie Dr. E and Markland St., just east of the 404 Highway exit.  My family might not be as heavily into dessert stuffs as I am, but I blabbed on and on about the creamy ice cream and fun mix-ins enough for them to be intrigued.  So we went and all got ice cream just for fun.  Deb -1, family – 0.  Win win! 😉

*****

Marble Slab offers ice cream and cakes, and has 2 locations in Toronto as well as one in Markham and one in Thornhill:

  1. 330 Yonge St. (near the intersection of Yonge & Dundas, just north of Dundas)
  2. 2032 Queen St. E (in the Beaches neighbourhood, across the street from the KEW Gardens)
  3. 11 Disera Drive (near the intersection of Bathurst and Centre St., just west of Bathurst)
  4. 735 Markland Street (on Major Mackenzie Dr. E, at the plaza by Canadian Tire, Swiss Chalet, and Montana’s)