Chocolate Caramel Surprise Crackle Cookies!

It’s the holiday season and I think this might be our Christmas Card this year…
Chocolate Caramel Crackle Cookies

Ok, I’m kidding! But it looks good, right?

With the hustle and bustle of parties, family, friends, work obligations, decorating and shopping everyone needs a simple, easy, looks-like-you-spent-hours-on-it-but-really-didn’t treat! Here it is. My gift to you. You’re welcome! 🙂
Chocolate Crackle Cookies with a caramel center

Chocolate Caramel Crackle Surprise Cookies!
(recipe inspired by the back of the Ghirardelli box and leftover candy in my pantry!)

Ingredients
1 box of your favorite Brownie Mix (I used Ghirardelli Double Chocolate!)
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup powdered sugar (reserved for coating)
30 Rolo mini’s, unwrapped. (Be creative! Any small candy treat will work-mini peanut butter cups, Hershey’s kisses, maraschino cherries, use whatever you’d like!)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Place brownie mix, flour, eggs and oil in a medium bowl. Stir until blended. Place powdered sugar in a separate bowl. For each cookie, scoop 1 rounded tablespoon of dough and wrap it around a single piece of candy. Roll the dough gently in your palm to form a ball. Place the dough ball in the powdered sugar and roll again until coated completely. Place 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Depending on your oven, bake 10-13 minutes until the cookies have crackled and look a bit dry on the top. Do not let them brown!

Makes 30 cookies

Start to finish these cookies took me about an hour to complete. Not bad, right? Don’t worry, it will be our secret. I’ll swear you spent forever on them. Now, let’s grab a glass of milk and share something sweet!

Chocolate Caramel Crackle Cookies

Till next time Foodie Friends!

Baked Chili Cheese Fries!

What do you do when your 18-year-old is hungry? Put him to work making dinner!

Actually this was a sneaky way to kill two birds with one stone. I’m in a Facebook group called “Sundays with Joy!” and we are cooking and baking our way through Joy The Baker’s cookbook “100 simple and comforting recipes.” When I was working, I didn’t have time to do a recipe a week. Now that I’m off, I can catch up.

Handing “The Kid” a list of recipes yet to accomplish and a cookbook was amusing. I figured I’d be making some type of dessert, but when he came across these Baked Chili Cheese Fries we had our winner!

He was excited to make french fries from scratch, though slightly disappointed the “Chili” in this recipe refers to the spice, not a can of chili he thought he’d be pouring over the top. Insert amused Momma Moment here. 🙂

He started by mixing all the spices together in a bowl. Chili powder, paprika, cumin, red chili flakes and a pinch of cayenne pepper. These are some flavorful fries!

After cutting up two russet potatoes and tossing them with olive oil, Worcestershire sauce and some steak seasoning, our fries looked like this:

He added all the delicious (not from a can 🙂 ) chili spices and tossed again.

These went into a 425 degree oven and baked for 35 minutes. Easy, right? When they were done, we covered them with cheese, chopped green onion, and diced chicken. Then they went back into the oven for a few minutes to get all melty and delicious!

Topped off with a dollop of sour cream and dinner was served!! Thanks to Joy, we had a great Mother/Son dinner and I barely had to lift a finger. Talk about a Win-Win!

P.S. So, the deal was, if he made dinner and I would make dessert. Can you guess what my next post will be?

Until then foodie friends, lots of love and cookies to you from our Imperfect Kitchen!

S’mores with Homemade Marshmallows!

I couldn’t think of a better way to begin this new chapter in my life, than heading out to Santa Monica to take a S’mores class from my favorite place on the planet: The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories!

OK, so the class was scheduled well before I knew it would officially be my first day off, but still.. here’s to SWEET beginnings!

While we made chocolate ganache and homemade graham crackers in class, the highlight for me was the marshmallows! I’d heard they are easy to make. Heck, I even have the French Laundry recipe for their famous Marshmallows. I’ve just never taken time to make them myself. Well, it’s true, they ARE super easy! You will need a heavy bottom sauce pan, a stand mixer and a candy thermometer, but it’s worth it! Here is the recipe:

Honey Marshmallows
recipe courtesy of The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories

3/4 cup cold water
3 TBLS gelatin (about 3 packets)

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup honey

2 egg whites
1 TBLS sugar
Pinch of salt

2/3 cup powdered sugar, split, for dusting.
1/2 cup powdered sugar for rolling marshmallows after they are set and cut.

(We used powdered sugar because we were making marshmallows for S’mores. Regular sugar would burn when we toasted the marshmallows but if you giving them as gifts, you can use regular sugar!)

Directions:
1) Line a half sheet or quarter sheet pan with parchment paper and dust with 1/3 cup powdered sugar.
2) Place 3/4 cup cold water in a medium bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over water and set aside.
3) Place the honey, 1/2 cup water and 2 cups sugar in a medium sauce pot and cop up to 240 degrees (soft ball stage for you candy makers out there)
4) While the sugar is cooking, start beating your egg whites, 1 TBLS sugar and pinch of salt in a stand mixer until you reach soft peaks.
5) Once your sugar syrup reaches 240 degrees, slowly drizzle it, with the whisk attachment running on medium speed, into your egg whites.
6) Keep beating the mixture for about 2 minutes. Add in your gelatin and beat another 10 minutes.
7) Pour into prepared pan, sprinkle with remaining 1/3 cup powdered sugar and chill to set. You can also leave them at room temperature for about 24 hours.

These are my marshmallows freshly dusted and ready for the fridge!

8) Once the marshmallows are set, turn them over onto a cutting surface. Use a sharp knife and cut them into squares or use cookie cutters to create whatever shapes you’d like! If you use a cookie cutter, be sure to spray it with non-stick cooking spray so it will go through the marshmallow easier!
9) Gently roll cut marshmallows in a pan with 1/2 cup powdered sugar and you’re ready to eat!

There are about a million things you can do to marshmallows. You can add freeze-dried fruits, add vanilla bean (which we did!), stir in flavored extracts like peppermint, coconut or almond, swirl in anything from chocolate ganache (which we did!), peanut butter, caramel, nutella, lemon curd or whatever strikes your fancy! You can roll them in different things too – like shredded coconut or crushed candy canes. They are super versatile. Use your imagination and have fun!

Next up for me? Salted Caramel Cream Swirled Marshmallows! Probably as Christmas gifts. See, I told you life was sweet! 🙂

Taking a leap of faith!

Hi Foodie Friends!

Did you think I’d fallen off the face of the earth? No new posts in nearly three weeks! YIKES! I miss all of you and I miss my kitchen! Rest assured, you will be seeing more of me soon!

Unfortunately, the last several months (let’s be honest: the last few years) have been very rough professionally. Things started to go downhill in May when I was juggling personal and professional conflicts and I couldn’t get the time off to take care of my family. I used nearly all my vacation hours to be there for doctors appointments and help my parents. I spent days in tears worrying about how I could manage everything in my life. Friends were telling me I was under too much stress and needed a break…

In July, when I was hospitalized for three days, I knew it was time for a change. My family has a long history of heart problems, high blood pressure, cancers and diabetes. At what point do you say “Enough is enough!!” when it comes to your own mental and physical health?

It has taken four months of long conversations with my husband, dealing with more stress at work and juggling the guilt and “what-if’s” to finally make a decision.

What’s the decision? Well, I am taking a leap of faith. I put in my notice at work and I’m walking away. I don’t have another job lined up. I’m leaving good money, paid vacations, discounts, the ability to write my own schedule (kinda) and a team of people who are more like family than employees. This could be the worst decision I’ve ever made OR it could be the best thing I’ve ever done. Simply put, it came down to needing to be away from the management/leadership/stress in my current position. I am not good at taking care of me, but it’s time to be selfish and focus on my health and my family.

People have asked, “Are you leaving to go full-time in food?” The answer to that is no. This blog and food journey started as a way to do what I love and share with my family and friends. It will continue to be a fun, delicious and delightful part of my life, but I have no current plans to make this a career.

What’s next? I don’t know. I am excited and scared out of my mind all at the same time! This is my last full week at work. I have five days this week and one day next week. 48 work hours and then… we’ll see what happens. Like I said, it’s a leap of faith. Wish me luck!

With lots of love and cookies!
Sara~

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