Tag Archives: holiday

Best Gifts for Mom

Happy Mother’s Day!

We are days away from the day we honor all the people we call Mom. If you’ve got babies, step babies, fur babies, grown babies, grand babies, and so on, this day is just for you!

Mother’s Day can be super stressful for some folks. How do you celebrate such an important person in your life? Don’t worry, I have some great ideas that are sure to make your Mom smile and keep you in her good graces.

Mother’s Day isn’t too difficult for me. My mother lives 600 miles away and ever since I gave her my first macaroni necklace I realized she is pretty happy with just about anything I give her. I know she would love to have me in person or even just love to enjoy the warm beaches here in Florida, but I sent her the second best thing: chocolate. My mom is totally a self proclaimed chocoholic. There is nothing she enjoys more than savoring a  Hershey’s milk chocolate bar while sipping on a cool can of Pepsi.
Of her three children, I am not the “good” kid. I was the oldest. I was the trailblazer and rebel. So of course I didn’t send the Hershey’s bar and Pepsi. I’ll leave that to my younger siblings.

But I did find these delectable chocolate covered strawberries from Shari’s Berries.

Always keeping a thrifty eye, I also purchased a Groupon for them to save some money. Actually I got the Groupon so that I could get her more strawberries for less money.  I’m not going cheap on my Mama. I just know how delicious these things are.

#ShareTheBerries

Once your order is delivered, she can just tag Shari’s Berries and add #ShareTheBerries with a photo of her sweet loot to be entered to win even more goodies. That is a totally sweet deal all the way around!

Being my mom’s oldest child, means that there was a time when I was growing up that it was just me and her. My parents divorced when I was less than two years old and my stepfather didn’t appear in the picture until I was five. Very much like how I’ve raised Cupcakeasaurus Rex, we were both single parents with a young child.
Mother’s Day can be hard for single moms. Many times they are doing the work of both parents and not getting recognition for either roll. They work long hours and constantly have a guilty feeling about not spending enough time with their babies. They realize though that working provides finances that allows them to improve their children’s lives. Looking through my limited pictures of CRex and me, I realized that the same phenomenon happened with my mother and me. There aren’t many pictures of us together. When you are busy being the parent, there is no time to take pictures of being the parent.

A special photo session would be an excellent idea for the mother in your life that may be parenting alone or just doesn’t have the time to update the scrapbook.

You can opt to purchase a gift certificate with a local photographer or even offer to take a mini photo shoot out at the park. Either way, those pictures are memories she can treasure for a lifetime.
Alright, so my mom loves chocolates. That may seem clichè but sometimes the common gifts are the best. Think of her favorites.

Think of what she would enjoy. Flowers?
I know, I know, the clichè-est of them all! However, there are some really cute ways to personalize such an over done gift.

For example, if you are a grown able bodied person and you want to give your mom flowers, you could by chance do some yard work for her. This could include planting, trimming, edging, mulching, etc. It is a task that she probably isn’t looking forward to doing herself but she will appreciate a beautiful job well done. She can take pride in her home and curb appeal.
If you are looking for a simpler route, you can pick out a planter that is representative of her personal style or something you two share together. Hanging plants can go a long way too. There are super cute pots that are shaped like coffee cups, or boots or large cry babies even. I know! What mom would want a flower pot that looks like a crying baby? I have no idea but there are all sorts out there.

Now, you are like me and your mom lives 600 miles away? Using a Groupon for a flower delivery service like ProFlowers is an option as well.

ProFlowers delivery on my doorstep

You pick out the prettiest bouquet you can find and you can pick the date it will arrive and any extras you might want to tack on. For Mother’s Day, you can tack on chocolates, special cards or deluxe vases. A neat thing about this option is that you can surprise Mom at work or at church or at Bingo night. You can choose the delivery options and make sure everyone she knows KNOWS that she has a kid that loves her.

My lovely Tulips still wrapped up and ready to bloom on the big day. Thanks Grandma! She knows what’s up!

For more ideas on flowers and exactly which types to choose, check out this post from Tione over at Beauty That Walks.

Chocolate and Flowers too traditional? I have ideas on not so traditional ideas too.

Groupon is still my favorite place to find all sorts of ideas. You can search for deals local to you if you want to do an activity together or you can search deals local to her if she lives farther away.

Some of the Groupon offers are for massages or spa days.

They sound nice for certain types of mothers but may not work for all. I remember being gifted a massage gift card for a baby shower gift. It was super thoughtful and sounded amazing. However, I finally got that massage when CRex was three years old. Sometimes life just gets away from us moms too much for all of that.

For more practical gift ideas to help make your mom’s life easier, check out this post from Divya at Eat Teach Blog.

She has the perfect solutions for that mom that just won’t go to the spa. Like me, she also recently married and uprooted her life to move across the country.

 Groupon also offers exotic experience gifts like riverboat tours, paddle boats or PaintNite sessions.

PaintNite is a fun gift idea I’ve done with my mom on her birthday before. This is a great idea for so many reasons. First, she gets to spend time with you, or she gets to spend time with whoever else she chooses to take. I’m sure she will have a great time with your younger brother.

Second, PaintNite makes everything super easy and fun. You don’t have to do any prep work. Their instructors bring all the supplies you need to make a wonderous masterpiece. Not to say everyone makes a wonderous masterpiece by any means. The instructor is there to help and encourage all levels of painting experience. They also host their sessions at restaurants and bars so you and Mom can enjoy food and drinks while you paint.

Lastly, you can give Mom your painting just like you did with your macaroni necklace. She will love it and think of this time spent together every time she sees it. Or you can keep it for yourself because really who wants your macaroni necklace?

I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge my Mama. Thank you for always supporting me and my dreams. You did all the hard and yucky jobs and I definitely didn’t make it easy on you.

I would also like to wish a Happy Mother’s Day to my Mother In Law. This is our first Mother’s Day together and I look forward to our upcoming plans.

Hopefully, you have not waited to the last possible minute to celebrate Mom and hopefully one of her best achievements: you. If you have, then I hope these ideas have helped you narrow down that perfect way to thank Mom for teaching you how to feed yourself, use a toilet and function as a human being. There is not a way out of this one. You have to celebrate!

If all else fails, bake her cupcakes. Cupcakes are always a winner around here. These Pretty In Pink cupcakes are sure to make Mom smile.

 

Was this post helpful to you? Did these ideas help you find the perfect gift? What excellent idea did I miss? Let me know in the comments below! I want to know!

 

 

 

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Gingerbread Cream Cheese Frosting

 

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Gingerbread Cream Cheese Icing

Hey Guys!

Man, it has been a fun filled week. I have successfully completed almost all of the Christmas shopping. There are just a few things left to check off that list but for the most part done. We added two new furry members to the family this week. They are the sweetest little eight week old kittens who have diligently been helping me gift wrap presents. By help of course I mean chase string and chomp on bits of paper.

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As we all get into the holiday spirit, Little Cupcakeasaurus Rex built his own Gingerbread house made of foam. Why not a real Gingerbread house? Well, one, I have always felt funny about eating candy off of real Gingerbread houses. Something about Hansel and Gretel and eating stale candy….but I digress.

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Gingerbread Cream Cheese Icing

But reason two is that we were filling the house with the smell of delicious Gingerbread cupcakes instead. These taste way better than any prefabricated Gingerbread house kit or stale candy you can pick up at the store.

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Full disclosure, this was the first Gingerbread anything I’ve ever made from scratch. I knew that Gingerbread required molasses but I had never directly worked with it before. In my mind, I imagined molasses being a lot like Karo syrup. Molasses is NOT like Karo syrup. It does not smell good and doesn’t really taste good raw either. Yes, of course, I had to try it. Just like that time when I was about seven or so and decided that vanilla extract smelled good enough to eat. No no no. But thankfully, molasses mixed with other delicious things, much like vanilla extract, ends up tasting amazing in the end.

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Gingerbread Cream Cheese Icing

 

These Gingerbread Cupcakes with Gingerbread Cream Cheese Frosting are super easy and super cute for all of your holiday gatherings and treats. Much like so many of my recipes, you separate your dry ingredients and your wet ones and then you mix them in together. The consistency and color of the batter will look like the smoothest peanut butter you’ve ever seen.

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When the cakes come out they are so  fluffy and much more enjoyable than the rock hard cookies in the kits. Can you tell I have some hate for the Gingerbread house kits? It is probably repressed anger from never being able to get my royal icing packet to the right consistency to dry before my house fell over. I’m a baker. I bake. I am not an architect nor a construction master. I’ll leave the house building to the other guys. We’ll stick with cupcakes.

Gingerbread_Cupcakes_with_Gingerbread_Cream_Cheese_FrostingThe frosting is just as easy as the caking. At first, I felt like that was a TON of sugar for a cream cheese icing but then I realized why. Ginger and molasses both have really strong flavors. You end up needing the extra sugar to balance out those flavors. It works out I promise. It works out so well that I was practically eating the frosting by the spoonful. Really, this stuff would taste good on sooo many things.

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The final touch is adding these adorable little Gingerbread men to the top. I LOVE almost any food I can bite the head off of. Ok, that may sound weird. I don’t mean like meat and animals and such. I mean I love biting the heads off of Peeps, and Teddy Grahams and gummy bears. So, if you have an obsession like I do of edible decapitation, then you’ll love these decorative Gingerbread men decorations. Wilton has a great line of Christmas Icing Decorations that include Christmas trees and snowflakes and these lovely Gingerbread men. I also noticed they have some dressed in ugly Christmas sweaters or my favorite, the ones I used, which are holding little gum drops. Too cute!

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Gingerbread Cream Cheese Icing

 

So while you are decking the halls and inevitably making spirits bright, make sure to make life taste sweeter with these scrumptious Gingerbread Cupcakes with Gingerbread Cream Cheese Frosting!

 

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Gingerbread Cream Cheese Frosting
Print Recipe
Gingerbread Cupcakes with Gingerbread Cream Cheese Frosting.
Servings Prep Time
24 cupcakes 30 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
24 cupcakes 30 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Gingerbread Cupcakes with Gingerbread Cream Cheese Frosting
Print Recipe
Gingerbread Cupcakes with Gingerbread Cream Cheese Frosting.
Servings Prep Time
24 cupcakes 30 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
24 cupcakes 30 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Ingredients
Gingerbread Cupcakes
Gingerbread Cream Cheese Frosting
Servings: cupcakes
Instructions
Gingerbread Cupcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together dry ingredients of flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves.
  2. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar on medium high speed. Add in eggs and mix well. Then add in molasses, again mixing well.
  3. Add a third of the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix completely. Add about half of the water to the wet ingredients. Continue to alternate between flour mixture and the water, ending with adding the last third of the flour mixture. Mix until well blended.
  4. Fill 24 lined cupcake tins 3/4 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees. A toothpick will come out clean when done.
Gingerbread Cream Cheese Frosting
  1. In a large mixing bowl, with whisk attachment, cream together the cream cheese and butter. Texture should be smooth and creamy.
  2. Mix in salt, ginger, and molasses until well blended.
  3. Add in powdered sugar a cup or so at a time. The frosting will thicken and really take shape.
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White Chocolate Christmas Cupcakes

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us and we are all plum full of turkey and fixings, it is time to turn toward Christmas. Maybe it is being one of the few Christmases I’ve ever spent away from home, or maybe it is the still 90 degree heat here in Florida, but I have been craving the Christmas season like no body’s business. I love seeing the stores decorate with lights and ribbons. Well, I am an ADD kid, I’m always going to love sparkly lights no matter the reason.

As soon as we returned home from our family travels this year, I had Captain Cupcakeasaurus pulling down the tree and decorations from the attic. So my little four foot prelit tree is up and shining. It was fun deciding which ornaments made it on the tree this year. This is the first Christmas Captain and I have decorated and celebrated together. Last year we were still living 600 miles apart.

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Little Cupcakeasaurus Rex also got in the spirit  by hanging up his chocolate advent calendar. Aldi had a cute one available that lets him pull out a small milk chocolate each day counting down to Christmas.

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To really make the house festive I had to whip up some thematic cupcakes. I may not see a white Christmas this year but that is okay because these White Chocolate Christmas Cupcakes make it feel like a white Christmas regardless.

Everything about these cupcakes are white. A white vanilla batter with sour cream for extra whiteness. Then a delicious white chocolate Lindor truffle is placed inside of each one. Top with a white chocolate cream cheese frosting and you’ve got yourself the perfect White Chocolate Christmas cupcake.

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I have to share something a bit embarrassing but supremely funny with you guys. When Little Cupcakeasaurus Rex tried one of these Cupcakes he was surprised, naturally, by the truffle inside. I then tried to explain to him what a truffle was and relate it to something he knew. He says, “Oh, truffles are those things that help your uterus calm down!”White_Chocolate_Christmas_Cupcakes

I often enjoy the milk chocolate truffles during a certain time of month and apparently even the six-year-old has picked up on it. I suppose I’m training him right because knowing a woman’s favorite chocolate can certainly get him out of all kinds of trouble in the future.

 

Some of our recent cupcakes have had some extra steps that made them a bit more difficult than your average cupcake recipe. This one is not one of those. It is super easy especially if you have everything on hand. I wanted these cupcakes to be as pure white as possible. I was really going for full on snowy Winter Wonderland effect here. 

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So I even used my colorless vanilla extract by Wilton in order to ensure the cakes turned out as white as possible. It is also important to make sure to fold in those egg whites towards the end. You want a nice light and fluffy batter. If it is over worked, your cake will be more dense rather than light and airy.

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One of the best parts about these cupcakes are the freaking melt in your mouth Lindt Lindor truffles that just take this cake over the top. Truffles are delicate and melt easily so this is definitely not one of those things you want to try and bake inside the cupcake.

White_Chocolate_Christmas_Cupcakes White_Chocolate_Christmas_Cupcakes

But while the cupcakes are still hot just take some kitchen shears and cut down into the cake about a half an inch. Make another cut crossing your first and it can look like a plus sign or an X which ever you prefer. Then just nestle one of your truffle babies right down inside and press a little bit to get it in there nice and tight. I would love to see what these cupcakes would look like with a chocolate or caramel truffle in them as well. Mmmmmm.

 

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The White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting is a perfect pairing with this cake. It is thick and chocolate-y and the cream cheese adds that refreshing flavor. This would also be a great frosting for decorating a Santa beard or adding snowballs to other decorating endeavors.

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Now, like I said, I was going for a pure white Winter Wonderland feel. So I wanted my icing to be as pure white as possible and really almost glisten like snow dunes do beneath the moon light. I sprayed a light coating of silver Color Mist food spray over the frosting to really make the icing shine and it  resembles the lights reflecting off  icy snow.

White_Chocolate_Christmas_Cupcakes

And because these cupcakes are so pale in complexion, you can decorate with almost any color and really make them pop. These would look amazing on a bright red serving platter or even done up as gifts on colorful plates. The possibilities are endless. As an extra little texture to the top, I added a little shaved white chocolate which gives a nice preview of the tastes inside.

White_Chocolate_Christmas_Cupcakes White_Chocolate_Christmas_Cupcakes

What are some images that immediately come to mind for you when you think about Christmas and this time of year? Do you think of a Winter Wonderland or hot peppermint cocoa? Do you imagine blues and silvers or is everything in red and green? We all have those memories, whether from sights or tastes, that take us back to the childhood excitement of this time of year.

I hope you enjoy these cupcakes as much as we did. This time it was Lindor chocolate truffles that made life taste sweeter.

White Chocolate Christmas Cupcakes
Print Recipe
White fluffy vanilla cake with a white chocolate Lindor truffle center and topped with a white chocolate cream cheese frosting.
Servings Prep Time
24 cupcakes 20 minutes
Cook Time
15-20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
24 cupcakes 20 minutes
Cook Time
15-20 minutes
White Chocolate Christmas Cupcakes
Print Recipe
White fluffy vanilla cake with a white chocolate Lindor truffle center and topped with a white chocolate cream cheese frosting.
Servings Prep Time
24 cupcakes 20 minutes
Cook Time
15-20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
24 cupcakes 20 minutes
Cook Time
15-20 minutes
Ingredients
White Chocolate Christmas Cupcakes
White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
Servings: cupcakes
Instructions
White Chocolate Christmas Cupcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together dry ingredients of flour and baking powder. Set to the side. Measure out the milk and add vanilla to the milk.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, beat egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form. In a large mixing bowl, mix butter and sugar on medium high speed until smooth.
  4. Add a third of the flour to the sugar mixture. Then add half of the milk. Alternate additions, ending with the last third of flour. Mix well between additions until smooth.
  5. Add a third of the egg whites and whisk into batter. Then, take the remaining two thirds of egg whites and fold them in with a spatulas as to not over work the batter. Place liners in 24 cup liners and fill 3/4 of the way fill with batter.
  6. Bake at 325 degrees for 17-20 minutes. Use kitchen shears to cut a plus sign in the top of each cake. Place a Lindor White Chocolate truffle inside and press down slightly so that the tops of the truffles are at about the same height of the cupcake.
White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
  1. Place chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for about a minute. Stir and heat in 30 second increments until fully melted and smooth.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix on medium speed cream cheese, butter and vanilla. Add in white chocolate and mix until well blended. Add in powdered sugar in increments and beat until smooth.
  3. Optional garnish is to add white chocolate shavings to the top. Another optional garnish is to spray lightly with silver Color Mist Food Color spray for a shiny finish.
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Festive Favorite: Rum Soaked Chocolate Covered Cherries

Hey guys!

I am so excited to be finally sharing this recipe with you guys! As Halloween approaches, it means it is officially the holiday season. Soooo much is going to be coming through my kitchen the next couple of months it isn’t even funny. As much as we hate the Christmas merchandise going up in stores before Halloween, I still feel it necessary to share this recipe as far in advance as possible.

       Several years ago there was a little segment in a magazine (I don’t remember which) about easy gifts for people. The gift that caught my attention was a can of Coke, a travel bottle of rum and a little bag of Chocolate Rum Soaked Cherries.

       Let me say that again to let it really marinate…. Chocolate Rum Soaked Cherries.

      If your mouth didn’t just salivate then you have not yet been gifted with this miraculous holiday pleaser. But make no mistake, they do not just have to be for the holidays. You’ve probably realized by now that I rarely make anything straight by the recipe. So the original recipe had everything you can easily glean from the name. I added a few extras to make them truly remarkable. I know, I’m humble too. 🙂

       Last year I brought them to the family gathering for Christmas. This ordeal is usually dramatic and has someone yelling and someone crying and someone storming out.  I don’t know about your family but I suspect this is a pretty universal phenomenon. Not this year. I handed these miracle cherries out and everyone was content to keep their mouths shut and relax. The added chili powder and just pinch of cayenne bring out the flavors in the chocolate. The Kosher salt adds a bit of savoriness to counter the sweetness of the chocolate cherries. The rum, well, I think the rum does all the work. If you let these buggers really marinate (a few months in the frig), five cherries in you may want to pick out a designated driver.

      So without further ado, you are going to need cherries with stems. I know you’ll find the ones at the dollar store without stems but that makes everything else a pain in the butt. I promise, you want the stems. You will also need melting chocolate. You can get the baker’s melting chocolate from craft stores but the baking aisle at the grocery store or Wal-Mart even has the quick melting chocolate that comes in a tray. The tray is handy because it saves you from having to scrub hardened chocolate off your good bowls. You will also need rum. I like using dark spiced rum but I suppose your preference on rum will work just fine. You just want those cherries really drunk.

      The extras that you will need that are not included in the name of the recipe (I wish all recipes had a section like this). You will need a bit of shortening to add to your chocolate so that it is wet enough for dipping. You will also want to grab that chili powder, cayenne pepper and Kosher salt. For ease of drying, I also recommend pulling off a few sheets of wax paper so everything can harden nicely before creating your treat bags. And I suppose you will also want to get treat bags. If I’m trying to be fancy (pinkies out ladies), I’ll get mini muffin liners in festive colors and small treat boxes from either the dollar store or the craft store. Presentation really comes down to who you will be giving them to and for what purpose. Alas, you’ll want something to put them in regardless and I suggest a container that doesn’t require them to be stacked on top of each other.

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First things first, take the cherries and dump out all the juice. You can save it if you want to and use it like Grenadines. Add a little to your Coke and now you have Cherry Coke. I just leave my cherries in their container. I don’t take them out to drain them or move them to another bowl or anything. Then pour in your rum to completely fill the container. I buy my stemmed cherries from Sam’s club because I make a ton of these cherries and they always disappear so freaking fast. The Sam’s club cherries come in a large plastic jug and I end up using a ton of rum to fill it. It will make you feel like you are wasting alcohol but I promise it is not wasted once you’ve enjoyed these cherries. Also, afterward you then have remaining cherry flavored rum. Add a little (or a lot) to your Coke and now you have a Cherry Rum and Coke. Yum, recycled rum!

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Let those sit and marinate in the refrigerator for days. I mean it, the longer you let them marinate the better. I’m sharing this recipe with you in October so you can have well marinated cherries for Christmas (or whichever preferred holiday you wish to celebrate). These don’t need a holiday but you will want that chocolate-y rum warmth once the chill of winter sets in. These are also fantastic for Valentine’s day. I do make a few additions to make them more uniquely festive for the holiday.

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When you are ready for the chocolating, which should be days, weeks, months from when you first touched the cherries, go ahead and drain your cherries. Again, you can keep the cherry flavored rum if you want but this time I go ahead and pour the cherries out on to a plate with a couple of paper towels to absorb the extra liquid.

Remember when I mentioned the melting chocolate that comes in a tray? If you have the tray, follow the melting directions on package and add a teaspoon or so of shortening to make the consistency wetter. If you do not have a tray, grab a microwave safe bowl, break the chocolate up into ice-cube size pieces and add the teaspoon of shortening to melt the chocolate. Be careful not to over cook your chocolate. I melt mine in 15-30 second increments, stirring in between.

When the chocolate is melted thoroughly, add a half teaspoon of chili powder and a pinch of cayenne to the chocolate and stir. Then add a half teaspoon of kosher salt and stir. Taste test the chocolate and add additional salt if needed.

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Now for the fun part: the dipping! This can be time-consuming depending on how many cherries you are making. Take a cherry by the stem (see you do need those stems) and dip into the melted chocolate making sure to cover the entire cherry. Place coated cherry on wax paper to dry. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. If your chocolate starts to become thick and hard to dip, return to microwave for 5-10 seconds. You may also need to add a bit more shortening too in order to return it to the best consistency.

The cherries are ready to eat as soon as the chocolate dries. I would suggest resisting temptation until after all of the cherries are chocolated so as not to have to keep warming your chocolate. Once dry, place them in your desired treat box and they are ready for gifting. Enjoy!