Family Fun- Sledding, Bonfire & Homemade Marshmallows

Family time is so precious. In our busy world, it's all too easy to find ourselves constantly coming and going; off to music lessons or karate class, book club, movie club, youth group, sleepovers, choir practise, airsoft event, birthday party, church function, community function, sporting event.... you know how it is. Between work and school and all the rest of life, it's hard to find time to just be together.  

We've been more intentional about playing family board games, having tea, visiting with and enjoying each other, but it's still interspersed with so much else. That's why, every year on the Family Day long weekend, we are careful hoarders of our time together. 

On Family Day, there are free community events all over the place. You can get into some museums for a steeply reduced rate, there are parties at pools and community centres and bowling alleys... there are so many opportunities to go out and do something. In our area there's a free skate/free hot dogs event hosted by the Ag society. 

And while all of these things are bound to be a lot of fun, there's not much that separates them from the other activities of our daily lives. With that in mind, our family does things a bit differently. 

For us, Family Day long weekend is strictly hoarded time where we focus on having fun as a family. Just the 6 of us. We don't go out to events; we don't have people over. We say "no" to a lot of things. And that leaves room for us to say yes to our own traditions.  We make the weekend about quality time, whatever that may look like. 

On Family Day itself, the traditions are simple but enduring. We go sledding (as long as it's not crazy cold), or we play board games. And, no matter how cold, we have a bonfire, on which we burn the Christmas tree, roast wieners and smokies and marshmallows. 

Some years, the weather is mild and the bonfire stretches out for hours. Other years, we laugh as we bite into a just-roasted-but-already-starting-to-freeze hot dog, jumping up and down to avoid turning into popsicles, and hustle into the house as soon as we feel we've met our bonfire obligation. Usually, it's challengingly cold, but not so cold that we can't enjoy the fire. We feel tough, unified and proud as we take on the elements together. 

Depending on how the weekend goes, I might do something special like make homemade  buns, or we'll make bannock over the fire, or some crazy s'mores thing. 

Last year, we discovered the joy of homemade marshmallows. I'd tried making them years before, but it was a flop - they stayed sticky and floppy. After seeing an old Good Eats with Alton Brown, I filed this recipe away.... and I'm so glad I did. Awesome recipe!  We don't eat a lot of sugar, but when we do, we like to do it right. This is definitely doing it right. I added a bit of extra vanilla to ours, and they were SO good. 

Whatever you do with your family this weekend, I challenge you to be intentional, and to really make it about your own nuclear family. Focus on unity, on fun, on shared experiences that you all love, and you will be rewarded with closer relationships and renewed energy for all that lies ahead. 

Homemade Marshmallows

from Alton Brown - click here for original.


3 packages unflavoured gelatin (I used 2 1/2 T of this grass fed gelatin)
1 cup ice cold water, divided
12 ounces granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch

Nonstick spray (healthy option is this oil atomizer)

Combine the gelatin with 1/2 cup of the cold water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Have the whisk attachment standing by.
Combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, the granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt in a 2-quart saucepan. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. When the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.

Turn the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment to low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows.

Combine the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.

When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel or knife dusted with the confectioners' sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

By Good Eats Books © Alton Brown, 2014