Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Gift-Giving Stress

As soon as the calendar flips over to December, I start to feel gift pressure. I know some people just grab any old thing and toss it into a gift bag. I really try to find just the right gift and that ratchets up the pressure.

The worst case of gift pressure I ever had was in high school with my first boyfriend. We'd only been going out two months and Christmas was bearing down on my like a sleigh full of "holy cow, what am I supposed to get for him?" At the two month mark, the relationship was still in a "I really like you, but I'm not sure how serious this is" state. It was a fine line to tread in gift-giving. Too mushy and I'd feel foolish. Too extravagant and I'd feel foolish. But not enough and I'd feel chintzy and possibly jeopardize the relationship.

It would help a lot, I thought, if I knew what he was planning on giving me. I tried to pry it out of his friends. No dice. One of his girl acquaintances said she knew but refused to tell, leaving me on tenderhooks with the cryptic comment, "It's reeeallly nice. You'll like it!"

Oh, poop! What were we talking about here? Favorite book nice? Pretty sweater nice? Or, gulp, jewelry nice?

To get an idea of his general gift-giving habits, I asked him what he was giving to his family. Sweater to his sister (check), book to his other sister (OK), and necklace to his oldest sister (fine). And to his mother he was giving a trash compacter.

What?? He was giving a trash compactor? A freaking major kitchen appliance? This was gift giving waaaaay out of my league. I certainly hoped he wasn't planning on dropping that kind of cash on me! Holy steaming mounds of poop!

I got him some joke gifts, things he could take any way he chose. And he gave me a coat. A popular (and expensive) brand of ski jacket. Yikes. Gift inequality, big time.

What I should have done was give him food. Food is always appreciated (especially by guys). And if you go by price tags, homemade marshmallows are a great value for the time invested in the kitchen. It takes little money and time to produce show stopping results. And if you deck them out in peppermint, they're perfect for the holiday season.

So, word to the wise, when you're stumped for a gift, wrap up some of these beauties in cellophane with a fancy ribbon. They'll look like a million bucks and you'll never feel you've been outgifted. Unless diamonds are involved.

Peppermint Marshmallows
- adapted from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Family Style

3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
2 oz. finely crushed peppermint candies
Confectioner's sugar, for dusting

1- With a sieve, generously dust and 9 x 13 inch baking dish with confectioner's sugar.

2-Combine the gelatin and 1/2 cup of cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and allow to sit while you make the syrup.

3-Meanwhile, combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat to high and cook until the syrup reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat.

4- With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the dissolved gelatin. Put the mixer on high speed and whip until the mixture is very thick, about 15 minutes. Add the peppermint extract and mix thoroughly.

5- Pour the marshmallow mixture into the pan, smooth the top, and sprinkle the crushed peppermint candies over the top. Then dust with more confectioners' sugar. Allow to stand uncovered overnight until it dries out.

6- Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the marshmallows. Turn the marshmallows onto a board and cut them in squares. Roll them in confectioners' sugar and store in an airtight container.


LizNoVeggieGirl said...

Don't feel pressured!! Enjoy, my friend :)

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

Food will always be the "go to" gift no matter who the gift is for.

Abby said...

They're beautiful! This will be the year I make marshmallows!

And cute story. Was his coat worth a long relationship? (Long in teenage years, of course.)

Romy said...

Lynn, you are a hilarious writer! I am a recent reader but I enjoy your blog a lot. And those marshmallows look wonderful!

Homemade Heaven said...

This a wonderful gift to give - I have just the right people to give it too! Thanks for the recipe, it will go perfectly for the people I am not that close to - but I still want them to know how special they are!

grace said...

if i had to pick something to use to enhance my calm, peppermint marshmallows would be high on the list. more specifically, peppermint marshmallows in hot chocolate. :)

Dolce said...

This is such a nice idea! And I am pretty sure they would rock my world in a homemade hot chocolate... Why, why do I have to read your blog when I am at work and can't bake anything right away, I ask you?

Susan from Food Blogga said...

A trash compactor? Not exactly every woman's dream gift, huh? I'll take the marshmallows any day. They're so pretty, Lynn!

Melinda said...

Well, got you a diamond tiara. Please send these marshmallows.


Barbara said...

Great idea...and really delicious looking too. Seasonal and sweet goes a long way in competition with a trash compactor.
When in doubt, I sometimes go with books...

CaSaundraLeigh said...

I actually just saw these in a magazine and I really want to make them--since yours turned out so nice, I think I will have to give em a shot!

Jason said...

Wow, those look outstanding!

Good work like always!


aforkfulofspaghetti said...

they look superb - pretty as a picture, and so Christmassy! And definitely better than a trash compactor... ;)

The Blonde Duck said...

I always enjoy food as gifts. It's my hips that protest.

Gretchen Noelle said...

These look beautiful AND delicious!

Peabody said...

Those turned out great looking. I plan on making homemade ones when my parents come.

I hear ya on the feeling pressure to find the perfect gift. Why do we do these things to each other? Sigh