Friendship Day Marshmallows

by ACP on February 10, 2010

friendship_marshmallows

WHAT’S WRONG WITH KIDS celebrating Valentine’s Day? Despite having an adequately tuned radar when it comes to inclusive and “politically correct” language, I confess that I don’t understand the problem with using the term “Valentine’s Day” in elementary school. Maybe the taboo is particular to my son’s school; if not, then I guess it’s a case of generation gap. Do most schools today avoid valentines? However widespread, I’m left trying to figure out what was wrong with the Valentine’s Day celebrations of my own youth, which were called by the same name and seemed innocent, fun. Does the objection have something to do with religion, since the holiday references a saint? Or is it because adults are now more worried than ever about transmitting ideas of romantic (to say nothing of erotic) love to ones so young? Whatever the reason, the reality is: my son is not supposed to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Instead, he and his classmates have “Friendship Day.”

marshmallow_dipping1

Friendship is a great concept. I have always resisted the notion that Valentine’s Day be confined to one type of love only: that shared between romantic or sexual partners. Many a February 14th has rolled around to find me unpaired, and yet . . . I’ve always baked cookies, made plans, always shared tokens of love (cards and sweets) with friends and family. It’s never mattered what the day was called. I suppose Valentine’s Day is a loaded holiday—heavy as it can be with emotional baggage—but what in life is not loaded, at least for someone, some way? As far as I’m concerned, we can forget the psychology; forget linguistics. Young, old, friends, lovers: let’s just stick to . . . chocolate. And marshmallows. OK, and sprinkles, too, while we’re at it. Too commercial? I don’t care. It’s a lovely excuse for getting together with my son in the kitchen. Naturally enough, just as Valentine’s Day brings cravings of chocolate and champagne to many adults, Friendship Day at school coincides with that timeless tradition of the Parents’ Association: the bake sale.

marshmallow_dipping2

This year, my son Q and I decided not to bake but to dip marshmallows in chocolate and roll them in red and white nonpareils. (Well, I also baked. No stopping me.) In the past, we’ve done the chocolate-dipped routine with pretzel rods. I wholly endorse the salty-sweet combination; it mitigates my guilt, though pretzels are hardly health food, so I’m not sure why. But sometimes—bake sale times—there’s really just no point denying that full-on sugar high. In fact, Q will tell you: this is why I tend to be pretty strict about nutrition the vast majority of the time . . . so that I can go all-out for holidays, birthdays, and bake sales.

Q was in a sulky mood when I suggested we get this project underway. I can tell you that this turned him right around. What is it about stabbing squishy white pillows of sugar with a craft stick? It works like a charm on kids. Instead of complaining about who knows what, Q suddenly got industrious and quickly figured out the magic of mise en place. He arranged marshmallows, chocolate, and toppings like a pro, lining everything up in a logical sequence next to the parchment-coated baking tray. And then . . . Stab! Dunk! Roll! Repeat.

Also drip. The only problem with this project was one of impatience (both of us guilty as charged). If you decide to whip up these mallow-pops, my best advice is: wait until the chocolate has cooled sufficiently before dipping the marshmallows. The chocolate should be close to room temperature, in a thickened liquid state, otherwise you will end up with glops dropping into the toppings, weird formations of chocolate (are they stalagmites or stalactites?) on the ends of the marshmallows. Not that it matters. It’s all edible, and the kids really don’t care. Most of them don’t, anyway; Q is a bit too much “like mother, like son” to completely escape the nasty perfectionist habit, I’m sorry to say. But despite the occasional misshapen treat, he forged on happily.

Now, if I’d been more ambitious (next year, maybe?), I would have made my own marshmallows. This week, though, I’ve been more pressed for time than usual, to say the least. If you’re in the same boat, don’t worry. There is no shame in a store-bought marshmallow, so long as it’s fresh. These were wonderful and saved me a lot of work. If you want to get all gourmet-DIY-food-snob, though, as I was tempted to do, feel free to make your own. There’s a recipe for classic vanilla marshmallows from Serendipity Sundaes at Leite’s Culinaria. For something lightly spiced, try chocolate swirl cinnamon marshmallows, an “Editors’ Pick” from Food52.

Personally, I’m just glad these babies are heading out the door tomorrow, far from my line of vision. Although I’m not a huge marshmallow fan (unless they’re melted in Krispie treats or charred on a campfire and smashed between graham crackers with a hunk of dark chocolate) . . . these were too tempting, especially alongside a lethal dose of cocoa on a snowstorm day like we had here in New York.

friendship_marshmallows_with_cocoa

Chocolate Covered Friendship Marshmallows

Yield: 20-30 dipped marshmallows

Ingredients:

Nonstick cooking oil spray

12 ounces chocolate morsels (I use semisweet for the kids, but bittersweet works well, too)

Assorted edible decorations, such as sprinkles, colored sugars, nonpareils

1 (10-ounce) bag jumbo marshmallows (make sure they’re very fresh)

Wooden craft sticks

Method:

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and cover lightly and evenly with cooking oil spray.

Using a double-boiler (or a bowl placed over, but not in, a saucepan of simmering water) melt the chocolate over low heat until smooth. Pour the chocolate into a small, deep bowl suitable for dipping the marshmallows into and let cool to room temperature. Remember, for best results, the chocolate should be still liquid but thick, so that it will not ooze off the marshmallows.

Place decorations in individual, shallow bowls.

Spear each marshmallow with a craft stick, then dip the marshmallow into the chocolate to cover evenly. Roll the chocolate-covered marshmallow in the decoration(s) of choice, and place on the oiled parchment to set. Continue until all the chocolate is used.

Refrigerate the tray of marshmallows for an hour or more to harden the chocolate completely.

Notes for the Non-Allergic:

You can also use chopped nuts, coconut flakes, crushed graham crackers, candies, or other toppings for the marshmallows. Without allergies in the house, we let our imaginations run wild! Of course, if you’re participating in a school bake sale, you’ll want to stick to the decorations listed in the recipe, out of consideration for those who cannot tolerate nuts or wheat gluten.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa February 11, 2010 at 5:03 am

Great idea, my little guy would really enjoy making these with me I think :)

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ACP February 11, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Lisa, kids LOVE this project. If you’re looking for ways to lure your little one into the kitchen, this ought to do the trick!

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maria February 11, 2010 at 7:42 am

your son’s school is right not to celebrate st valentine’s day (this is for older people who want to express desire for another person, not love as in ‘i love you, mommy’)

but it is so utterly disrespectful and quite simply wrong to rename the day just to avoid the squeamish idea of erotica – i cannot think of another reason for doing so

please let them know that on sunday, greece will be putting st valentine’s day aside because another more important (and partly erotic) festival will be taking place instead: it’s the last carnival day before lent begins the next day, which is kathara deutera

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ACP February 11, 2010 at 1:36 pm

I don’t know, Maria. I mean, the original intent of the day—it’s main focus—is adult lovers, but . . . why leave others out? I mean, with all the different types of love expressed in the very roots of Greek language . . . is it imperative that this focus only on desire and not other kinds of love as well? The kids with their “valentines” (well, now “friendship tokens”) are expressing love for each other, not for the parents, and I kind of think this is a sweet “training ground” for them to learn how to express feelings of love (okay, at their age maybe “like”) for others who are not part of their family.

But I do agree that changing the name in order to avoid the usual associations seems like a ridiculous linguistic tap-dance.

Carnival of course is fabulous! Wish I were in Greece for it. Here, I’m having a hard time thinking about the last pre-Lent “hurrah!” before Tuesday and the Mardi Gras indulgence before Lent kicks in for non-Orthodox on Wednesday.

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D Larue February 11, 2010 at 9:49 am

It will date me, but I thought maybe the concern was more sinister: the Valentine’s Day massacre in Capone’s Chicago. If so, very misplaced. And, “erotic,” I guess AL/GA genes are different: as a child, Valentine meant “I like you,” “I’m glad you are my friend,” or “Will you be my friend?” and, we worried about a classmate who might not get any cards and then magically, they did. Then as an adult, single and married, Valentine’s meant and still does, affection, thankfulness at relationships, love, which extends to family as well as friends. The sad thing is that as we become adults, we too often lose the innocence of the child’s simple view: “what fun.”

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ACP February 11, 2010 at 1:44 pm

Gee, I’d forgotten about the Capone bloodbath; I fear you’re right about dating yourself. I probably am, too, just by virtue of knowing the reference. No, I’m sure that’s not what’s on the school’s mind. They do make a point about avoiding the situation with the kid who didn’t get anything, though . . . that’s another thing very different from when I was growing up: our generation left that to chance and popularity, which could certainly result in hurt feelings. Today’s attitude of course is that everyone is entitled to everything, and this is one area where I kind of agree. In things like athletic competitions, making the teams, etc., I have other thoughts, but for the little kids’ friendship tokens . . . At this age, it doesn’t bother me that the classroom policy is “all or none.” People who want to be more exclusive can do that in after school get-togethers. Six years old is too young for rejection . . . they’ve got the rest of their lives (and who knows how many romantic, unrequited love situations we all suffer sometimes) to deal with the “real world” of Valentines. I agree with you: they should have their fun.

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nakedbeet February 11, 2010 at 11:11 am

Yeh, Valentine’s day was pretty innocent when I was in elementary school. I remember making cards for my friends. As I got older, I saw my family giving flowers to one another. I guess it just depends on the school. I have a feeling that because your school might be so international, they don’t want anyone to feel alienated? But the marshmallows look great and that looks like a really fun project to make (and not just with my nephews and niece.)

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ACP February 11, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Yeah, you’re probably right. And thanks for bringing it all back to the most important thing of all: marshmallows! *wink*

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The Curious Baker February 11, 2010 at 7:28 pm

They look so cute and so simple to do. I love recipes like that, the method looks a bit like making lamingtons…In Latin and Central America, they call Valentine’s Day dia del amor y amistad so there’s not such an emphasis on love, but I think you’re right about how there should be no boundaries as to who loves who on Valentine’s. It is an unecessarily emotionally charged day when it be all about families celebrating togetherfor example. I give my mum a card every year and there’s nothing erotic there. I dunno might be a little bitter cos on V Day I also always seem to be unpaired, bref je te laisse, je commence à babiller but you get the gist. Happy V day anyways, @plus!

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ACP February 11, 2010 at 9:47 pm

A nos amours! And “amor y amistad,” I like that, too. Thanks for chiming in.

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watersidemom February 11, 2010 at 9:47 pm

I’m a Rice Krispies Treat- and S’more-girl as well, but these look yummy! My daughter’s preschool notified the parents that “Past experience indicates that sharing Valentines in class at this young age is confusing and inappropriate”. Lord only knows what could possibly have happened in the “past”, but no one is allowed to exchange Valentines or “friendship tokens”. You may mail them to each other if you are inclined toward clandestine/furtive operations, not unlike Romeo and Juliet ;) Viva Valentine’s Day!

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ACP February 11, 2010 at 9:59 pm

Hmmm… that DOES get one wondering, doesn’t it? And now I’m trying to remember if when my son was in preschool, anyone was giving valentines. Actually, they were; I remember my son was excited about the “Cars” themed Valentines that came to him from classmates—boys and girls, and no one was confused!

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Lucy February 13, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Friendship Day sounds adorable, although I agree it seems weird that Valentine’s Day is hushed up towards children. The marshmallows look so pretty – simple and yet OH-so delicious!

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ACP February 15, 2010 at 1:05 am

Simple and pretty and lots of fun (not to mention delicious): Valentine’s Day (or Friendship Day) should always be like this, shouldn’t it? Thanks for commenting, Lucy, and by the way . . . your Valentine cupcakes look really fabulous, too!

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JEP February 14, 2010 at 4:24 pm

My 7 year old granddaughter & I made these this p.m. We had lots of fun!! I found strawberry flavored marshmallows, had some white round plastic sucker sticks, dipped them in melted semi-sweet Ghirardelli & sprinkled away with multi-colored sprinkles (supplemented with a few pink & white Nerds), let them chill in the fridge while we made valentines. Then wrapped them in cellophane heart printed sucker bags. I think I’m pretty special today (in my granddaughter’s eyes) thanks to your creative idea :)

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ACP February 15, 2010 at 1:02 am

Oh, this is one of the greatest benefits of sharing recipes and ideas . . . creating special moments for other families to enjoy. Thank you so much for giving this a whirl and taking the time to post a comment about it. I bet your granddaughter will remember your time together in the kitchen forever—and I bet you made HER feel really special. What a great gran you are! And I love the idea of strawberry marshmallows with chocolate and pink and white Nerds. Fun.

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