It was Valentine’s candy craft day at my house this morning, which led to a sampling of Milk Duds, BB Bats, Bit-O-Honey, Reese’s Pieces, Good & Plenty, and Goobers all before 10 a.m. Sure beats a bowl of Cheerios.

My kids and I started with a brainstorming session and came up with a handful of candy-related sweet sayings, including …

- I’m about to tell you a Whopper. I love you!
- I am such a Goober when I’m around you.
- You’re one Hot Tamale in my book.
- Valentine, let’s Take 5 in New York [Peppermint Patty] City!
- Luv U to [Reese's] Pieces.
- I always have a Good & Plenty time with you.
- Kiss my Whatchamacallit! (All credit goes to neighbor Jenny for this one)

From there, we cut out red hearts from poster board and applied our “sweet nothings” and candy to paper. Snap!

Here are three that my kids made with a teeny-tiny bit of motherly input (see heart #3) …

If you're not into playing "hard to get," this is the Valentine for you.

This box of Milk Duds is empty because we had no self control while candy crafting.

"My kids" made this on behalf of my husband. Wink.

Hope our humble hearts inspire you to create homemade candy greetings for your own sweeties!

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A few months ago, I heard about a famous pastry chef who opened up a unique storefront just minutes from my home. Turns out it’s like a mini Willy Wonka Factory.

Chef Roby’s All-Chocolate Kitchen in Geneva, IL, is filled with Chef Alain Roby’s life-sized chocolate and sugar creations, including a replica of his own custom kitchen made out of 1,500 pounds of Barry Callebaut chocolate.

Chef Alain Roby sculpting sugar into edible art.

Last week, I sat down with the French pastry chef and found out how he went from studying culinary art in Paris to becoming one of the world’s best sugar and chocolate artists. (He also earned two Guinness World Records, had a 20-year career as corporate pastry chef for Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, and appeared on The Martha Stewart Show and several Food Network shows in between. Overachiever!)

Frosty the Sugar-man.

While I was  sipping inhaling Chef Roby’s signature hot cocoa, he showed me the top of his “World’s Tallest Chocolate Sculpture,” which is on display in the shop and in the Guinness World Book of Records.

Right as he was explaining how he constructed the chocolate skyscraper, he got an e-mail asking if he’d be interested in a third Guinness World Record: making the world’s tallest chocolate cactus. Not sure if he’s going to do it, but he was thinking out loud about how he’d construct it. If he winds up in the 2012 Guinness World Book of Records with an enormous edible cactus, you heard it here first.

Also on display in the shop/museum are life-sized chocolate sculptures, including a Chicago Blackhawks hockey player, a dinosaur, and an astronaut. (Funny story on the astronaut: Chef Roby originally created it for Chicago’s Adler Planetarium. Every two weeks, he says he’d get a call from the Planetarium asking him to come out and replace one of the chocolate fingers, which, I presume, was broken/eaten by one of the field-trip kids.)

The all-chocolate kitchen.

The painting in the kitchen was done by Chef Roby's artistic wife, Esther, who used white chocolate as her medium.

If you’re in the Chicago area and have an interest in culinary arts, chocolate, and heavenly hot cocoa, Chef Roby’s All-Chocolate Kitchen is well worth the trip … and 100% kid-friendly.

If you go, there’s a good chance you’ll see Chef Roby making chocolates or sculpting sugar figurines in the middle of his shop.

Admission to the edible museum is free. The storefront offers a sit-down cafe with Chef Roby’s hot cocoa, chocolates, and pastries, as well as freshly brewed Starbucks coffee. Private tastings, birthday parties, and demonstrations are available upon request.

Visitors can also learn about the Saving Tiny Hearts Society, which is something near and dear to Chef Roby and his wife Esther’s hearts as their own son was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect. A portion of the profits from Chef Roby’s All-Chocolate Kitchen are donated to the organization.

Chef Roby's gorgeous truffles.

GO Chef Roby’s All-Chocolate Kitchen, 507 S. Third St., Geneva, IL,
 (630) 232-2395, ChefAlainRoby.com. Hours: Fridays from 12 to 8 p.m., Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Mondays from 2 to 7 p.m.

Photos courtesy of Steve Eisen Photography


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About an hour ago, I called Tootsie Roll Industries to get the straight dope on the cute little Indian guy that occasionally appears on Tootsie Roll wrappers.

According to the Tootsie Roll spokesperson, “Chief Shooting Star” wasn’t originally intended to signify good luck. Back in 1931 when Tootsie Roll Pops launched, the chief represented “children at play” and still does today.

No matter. My daughter and her friends collect all of their Chief Shooting Star wrappers and stash them in their jewelry boxes for good luck. The kind woman I spoke with at Tootsie Roll Industries says her own daughter crumples these special wrappers and makes a wish. I like that.

I re-crumpled the wrapper I photographed above and wished for a bouquet of cherry- and chocolate-flavored Tootsie Roll Pops for Valentine’s Day.

I hope my family is reading.

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Update: Contest winner announced! Congrats to Donna Anderson, who won the $25 Candy.com gift certificate with her Valentine candy heart phrase: RAWR! Thanks to all who participated. Candy.com fans are sweethearts!


We got an avalanche of responses to the contest question: “What Sweet Saying Would You Place on a Valentine Candy Heart?”

After a careful and top-secret review process, a Top 25 list has emerged.

From the 25 Valentine phrases below, tell us your favorite after this post or on Facebook. The phrase with the most nods wins the $25 Candy.com gift certificate. Here goes …

YOU SWEETEN ME
MEOW
LUV U MORE
SMOOCH
KISS MY …
SUGAR RUSH
SHORE THING
SUGAR LIPS
LUCKY CHARM
LUV U MORE
CUDDLE BUG
URS 4-EVA
LIKE
MY 1 & ONLY
KNOCKED UP
EAT YOUR ? OUT
SNUGGLE BUNNY
KISS MY …
LOVE SICK
SWEET BUNS
SQUISHY HUG
SUGAR BOOGER
RAWR!
U + ME = ?
GLEEK

I’ll post the winner tomorrow.

P.S.  There were quite a few entries that ran a bit long for a tiny candy heart, but these three deserve an honorable mention …

I’D CATCH A GRENADE FOR YA
I TASTE BETTER THAN THESE ANTACIDS
LIKE COOKIES AND MILK, WE BELONG TOGETHER

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