Making Your Kitchen the Hit After-School Spot for Your Kids and Friends

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It's the most magical time of the year here in the Jones household.  I dropped my kids off this morning for their first day of school.  I tried my hardest to look sad and forlorn even though I was giddy with relief from my nose to my toes.

As a mom of six children, I can't help but feel that the classic Christmas carol "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" by Andy Williams was really destined to be played at the end of August instead of December. This is the season of joy, peace and love, and I can't believe we don't deck our halls for this momentous holiday.

Rice Krispy Treats

Like all good holidays, this back to school season brings with it the opportunity to entertain from the heart of my home, the kitchen. No, I'm not throwing parties for my girlfriends while the kids are gone for the day, although I just might give that a go. This time of year means opening my home to the endless supply of friends that seem to pour in the front door when my kids come home from school. I am not complaining. I honestly love it!

You see, one of my favorite roles as a mom is playing host to the friends my six kids bring home. I adore getting to know these kids who play such a vital role in the life of my children. I want them in my home and I want them to feel at home here. I'm not trying to be the "cool" mom, just the one whose door is always open and whose kitchen is stocked with great food to keep them coming back.

Once kids hit those teenage years, the amount and variety of food found in your kitchen is directly related to the amount of time they spend in your home versus the home of someone else. I learned this priceless lesson from a wonderful friend when I was just a young mom. She always had an endless supply of ice cream treats in the freezer and containers of homemade baked goods on the counter. She wanted her kids and their friends in her kitchen eating, hanging out, and making a ruckus. She wanted those friends to be a part of her life, as well as the lives of her children. I made the decision long ago to follow in her wise footsteps.

The food blogger in me is always on the hunt for new, delicious recipes to keep those friends hanging out in my kitchen to enjoy a treat or two. They all definitely have their favorites that must be worked into the rotation or I will hear about it, however. Some of the no-fail recipes are No Bake Chewy Granola Bars, Monster M&M Cookies, DIY Buttered Microwave Popcorn, and Cheesy Puff Crackers.
Rice Krispy Treats

So for today, this extra special "You Survived the First Day of School" treat will be waiting on the kitchen counter for my kids and all their friends. It will be the perfect treat to get them sitting around the kitchen island and opening up about the day's news and gossip. Plus, if you start off the school season with a treat like this, all those friends will put your house at the top of their list of where they want to hang out.

These bars are some gooey, jacked-up Rice Krispy Treats! Caramel inside and out, plus that sprinkle of sea salt over the top hits that perfect salty and sweet note. If you really want to go the extra mile, melt a bit of chocolate in the microwave to drizzle on top. That addition was really just for me, because if I'm going to have caramel, I'm going to have to have some chocolate to go with it! (Cue your favorite "If You Give a Mouse...." book).

Salted Caramel Rice Krispy Treats

makes 24 bars

(recipe adapted from Redbook)

Caramel:

  • 1 bag of caramels, unwrapped
  • 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 C butter

Bars:

  • 1/4 C butter
  • 11 ounce bag mini marshmallows
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp sea salt flakes
  • 8 C crispy rice cereal
  • chocolate chips (optional)

1. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt all the caramel ingredients together until smooth.  Remove from heat.

2. In a large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat, add the marshmallows and stir until almost melted. Add vanilla, sea salt and about half of the caramel mixture and stir well.  Remove from the heat and stir in the cereal until evenly coated.

3. Pour into a greased 9x13 inch pan and press down firmly with damp hands. Spread the remaining caramel over the top of the bars. Sprinkle an additional 2 tsp of sea salt flakes over the top and allow to cool before cutting into bars. If you would like to drizzle chocolate over the top, just melt some chocolate chips in the microwave and drizzle all over!

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