Treat Yo Self: Valentine’s Day Style

This weekend, my sister, Susan, her husband, Marty, and their adorable pup, Piper, are headed up from South Carolina to visit Kevin, Fulton, and me. They’re awesome, so this is great news. (Here they are in their Christmas card from this past year. Aren’t they the cutest?)


One of the best things about spending time with Susan and Marty is that they’re so easy to be with. Sometimes we plan activities (rock climbing! football games!), but other times, we just hang, and everyone’s happy. It’s perfection. (Susan and I try to hit up a Pure Barre class together whenever possible, too. I love that we share an obsession with Pure Barre. This Saturday, we look forward to taking a class at the Winston-Salem studio, should anyone want to join us at 9 a.m.!)

So anyway, in anticipation of the awesomeness that will be happening this weekend, I’ve whipped up a few Valentine’s Day goodies so we can be in “treat yo self” mode all weekend long. On the dessert menu: Strawberry Chocolate Chip Cookies, Nutella Puppy Chow, and Spicy Brownie Bites. (Yup. You can start drooling now.)

Strawberry Chocolate Chip Cookies

I needed something pink for Valentine’s Day, obviously, and when I stumbled upon this recipe, I knew it was the one. It’s definitely in the “semi-homemade” category, since you use a box of strawberry cake mix in the dough along with a handful of other ingredients, but don’t let that deter you. These are a one-of-a-kind treat (in a good way!), and the chocolate and strawberry pair so very well together.



  • 1 18.5-ounce box of strawberry cake mix
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, stir together cake mix and baking powder, then set aside.


  • In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, and vanilla by hand, then pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients. Stir to completely combine, then gently mix in the chocolate chips.


  • Drop rounded balls of dough (about 2 Tablespoons each) onto the prepared baking sheets.
  • Bake for 10 minutes. They will look under-baked, which is what you want. Be sure not to let them start to brown!
  • Cool completely, then store for up to a week in an airtight container (but good luck getting them to last that long!)

Nutella Puppy Chow

I know you’re imagining how this would taste. I’m here to tell you it’s even better than what you’re envisioning. Just make this ASAP. (You’re welcome in advance.) Oh, but I’d recommend having someone (or a few someones) to share it with, or you’ll probably eat it all yourself.



  • 1 13-ounce jar of Nutella
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cup salted peanuts
  • 6 cups Rice Chex cereal
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar


  • In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter and Nutella, stirring constantly until smooth.
  • Add salt, and remove from heat.
  • Pour the peanuts and Chex into a large bowl, then top with warm chocolate mixture. Gently stir to coat each piece of cereal.
  • Pour the chocolate-coated cereal mixture into a large Ziploc bag or covered container (I used a large tupperware container). Add the powdered sugar.
  • Seal the bag or container and shake well until the cereal is coated with the sugar.
  • Store in a sealed container at room temperature.

Spicy Brownie Bites

Sure, there are chocolate chips in the Strawberry Chocolate Chip cookies and the Nutella Puppy Chow, but I needed to add something that was in-your-face chocolate to the mix in the line-up. This recipe certainly fit the bill. I’ve been craving brownies for going on three weeks, and so it was time to whip up a batch. And a recipe using chile pepper and ginger? YES. I was sold.



  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 teaspoons ground ancho chile pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated or ground ginger
  • 9 ounces 72% cacao dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into one-inch pieces
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 5 eggs at room temperature


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13 x 9 baking pan and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, chile pepper, cinnamon, salt, and ginger, then set aside.
  • Place the chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler or a large heat-proof bowl. Set over a pan of barely simmering water (the bottom of the pan should not touch the water). Heat and stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and combined.
  • Remove from heat, keeping the pan or bowl over water.
  • Add both sugars, whisk until completely combined. Remove from water. Mixture should be at room temperature.
  • Add three eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined.
  • Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Do not over-beat or you run the risk of cakey brownies.
  • Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a spatula (not whisk), fold until there is just a trace amount of flour mixture visible.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top with the spatula.
  • Bake brownies for 25-30 minutes (rotating the pan midway through baking), or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out with a few moist crumbs.
  • Cool completely and enjoy!

It’s gonna be delicious over here for Valentine’s Day! What do you have planned for the weekend?

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