I love Christmas; I don't think I need to explain why. I also love having friends, which also needs no explanation. But do allow me to explain why having a lot of great friends during Christmas puts me in a tough spot...
Without friends, Christmas would be lonely, boring and not quite as joyful. However, the more friends I have, the more Christmas gifts I want to buy, which I just don't have the budget for. I say want because I know I don't need to buy them all gifts, but I love giving gifts, and I think in a small way giving a gift says, "I love and value you." Call me crazy!
So that's where the DIY (do it yourself) gifts come into play. They are an affordable alternative to breaking the bank on your friends gifts, and they allow you to say just what you want to say with your gift, "I love and value you." And what says that better then your precious time and love poured into the gifts your giving. Well maybe an Ipad says more, but thats not gonna happen. Sorry friends :)
So this year I poured my love and time into making homemade hot cocoa and marshmallows. But not any old hot cocoa and marshmallows, I made "You Go Glen (Valrhona) Cocoa" mix and Cardamom Vanilla Bean Marshmallows. You may have picked up on my slight sassiness right there, if you've seen Mean Girls, you see why this is a hilarious name. If you haven't, then you should watch it, but in the meantime here is the scene I am referencing...
Although the name of my cocoa is a little silly, the chocolate flavor is drop dead serious. That's because I used Valrhona cocoa powder in the mix, which produces a very full chocolate taste, definitely not for the die hard Swiss Miss fans. Then again, if you are a die hard Swiss Miss fan you need to try some good chocolate.
The Cardamom Vanilla Bean Marshmallows are equally as tasty, but a little subtler in flavor. They are a perfect warm and light compliment to their darker counterpart.
I wrapped them all up in some wax paper and candy bags, tied them in some bakers twine I bought here and then finished them off with some free printable labels I found here and then edited a little.
Cute huh?! And it was easy! So if you need some last minute gifts for your friends and your low on dough, or if you just want to avoid the insanity of the mall, whip these up!
"You Go Glen (Valrhona) Cocoa" Mix
*makes one single serving bad of cocoa
- 2 Tbsp Valrhona cocoa powder (I got mine at Whole Foods)
- 3 Tbsp of chopped semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- pinch of salt
1. Layer the ingredients into a clear candy bag. You can find these at Michael's. Tie off with some bakers twine and finish off with a cute label.
2. Include directions on the back using another label. For directions, see below.
Cardamom Vanilla Bean Marshmallows
* adapted from Alton Brown
- 3 packages of unflavored gelatin (like Knox)
- 1 cup of ice cold water
- 12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) sugar
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 vanilla bean, seeded
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
1. Place the gelatin in the bowl of a stand mixer, or a medium bowl if using hand beaters, and pour 1/2 cup of the cold water over it. Set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of water, sugar, corn syrup and salt over medium-hi heat. Cover the mixture for the first 4 minutes, then remove the lid and place a candy thermometer on the side of the pan and heat until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove it from the heat.
3. With the whisk attachment in place (or using hand beaters), turn the mixer on low speed and while it's running pour the hot syrup mixture down the side of the bowl slowly into the gelatin mixture. Once the syrup has all been added, add the vanilla extract and turn the mixture on hi and whip until the mixture is luke warm and very thick, about 8-10 minutes. Add the vanilla bean seeds and ground cardamom during the last minute of mixing. Below is a little tutorial of how to seed a vanilla bean.
Using a paring knife, slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Open up the sides using your fingers and use the blunt side of the knife to scrape all the seeds out.
4. While the mixture is whipping, prepare a 9 x13 baking dish. Combine the powdered sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl, spray the pan with with nonstick cooking spray, and coat the bottom and sides of the dish with the mixture. Pour the excess back in to the small bowl and save for later use.
5. Pour the mixture into the pan and smooth the top using a spatula coated in cooking spray or a piece of plastic wrap coated in cooking spray. Dust the top with enough of the powdered sugar mixture to lightly coat it. Again, reserve any excess for later. Set aside the marshmallows to set for at least 4 hours.
5. Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and use a pizza cutter to cut them to the size you want. Coat the sides of each marshmallows that had not previously been coated in the powdered sugar mixture and place in a tupperware. Marshmallows will store for 3 weeks.
6. To wrap, use wax paper and wrap 2 marshmallows like you would wrap a regular present. Tie the package up with bakers twin and secure with or knot or with a cute label from Creature Comforts.
7. Gift your mallow/cocoa packages to your friends. Just remember, "none for Gretchen Wieners, bye."