Every holiday season, most of us are confronted with a similar dilemma at least once: What on earth should I get for (Insert name here) ??? He/She has absolutely everything that they could ever need, and if they ever need something else, they just go out and buy it for themselves anyhow!
In my case, "Insert name here" is my dad. He really enjoys old movies and the classic I Love Lucy genre T.V. shows, but his collection alone has probably kept Amazon.com in business over the past 10 years. The same applies for music. If this whole food writing thing doesn't work out for me, I could easily start some sort of "Oldies meets Irish folk music" radio show from my parents' basement. He doesn't golf. He has oodles of books. I don't like to give people clothes (although I am a huge advocate of people giving me clothes.) You see my predicament.
Then, one day as I was flipping through a magazine, it hit me. I had found the perfect gift that, at least for this year, would solve my what-to-get-dad dilemma. I am writing this now because obviously I couldn't spill the beans prior to Christmas. My dad, like many people I know, is a huge, huge fan of the classic holiday movie A Christmas Story. As a family we watch it every year, but I'm fairly certain that my dad watches it multiple times every year. His favorite scene, without a doubt, is the one in which Ralphie's dad opens up the large crate marked "FRA-GEE-LAY" (a.k.a. fragile ) to reveal his "must be Italian major award," an obnoxious fish-net stocking clad leg lamp. Ralphie's dad promptly displays the lamp in the window for all of the neighborhood to see. Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder.
Would you believe that there is an on-line site dedicated solely to the sale of A Christmas Story themed items? Of course there is–there's a web site dedicated to just about anything these days. Anyhow, on this site, I found an exact replica of the leg lamp from the movie (complete with a delivery box marked "FRAGILE"), and I knew that I must give one to my dad for Christmas. Useful? Probably not. Tacky? Definitely. Does my mom hate it? Oh yes. She is seriously lobbying for my dad to take it to the office. But, look at how proud he looks in the photo, and look how lovely the lamp looks in their living room. Maybe my mom should reconsider. Remember this idea next year when you are at a loss for gifts. You can thank me later.
In the event that the above idea is not compatible with your tough to buy for recipient, you can always give them the universally welcome gift of homemade candy. This recipe is the second of the two recipes that I prepared, but never posted, prior to our vacation. I gave this out to various friends, and it is one of my holiday standards (but it is pretty good any time of the year.) Not only is this recipe easy, but it makes quite a bit, so you can save some for yourself. The peanut butter flavor is a bit different for fudge, and adding a hint of chocolate makes it taste like a peanut butter cup. No, it's not a leg lamp, but it's darn close. Here are a few extra tips for making this easy and irresistible treat:
- Instead of using foil to line the pan, you can also use parchment, which tends to wrinkle less. I tend to prefer foil, as it is easier to mold around the sides of the pan.
- This fudge can be stored at room temperature, tightly wrapped, for up to 5 days.
- Creamy peanut butter can be substituted for the crunchy variety. I opt for the crunchy because it adds texture to the fudge. I do not recommend natural or low-fat varieties of peanut butter for this recipe, as their consistencies are different, and the fudge will not turn out correctly.
- If you decide to add melted chocolate to the fudge, you can also swirl it into the pan (as opposed to drizzling it on top.) Right after you pour the peanut butter mixture into the pan, drop small dollops of melted chocolate around the top of the pan and immediately swirl them throughout the fudge using a knife or small offset spatula.
- For variety, try mixing dried cranberries or chopped walnuts into the fudge prior to pouring it into the pan.
Easy Peanut Butter Fudge
4 cups sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 pound butter
1 cup evaporated milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
3 tablespoons marshmallow fluff
Melted bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (optional)
Line a 9X13X2 inch baking pan with foil so that the foil hangs over the edges by 1 inch. Spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.
In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, butter, and evaporated milk. Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the butter has melted and the temperature reaches 242F degrees.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the vanilla, peanut butter, and marshmallow fluff. Beat the mixture with a wooden spoon until it starts to thicken. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and let it stand for several hours until completely cooled and hardened.
Remove the fudge from the pan by lifting it out with the foil. Drizzle the top decoratively with melted chocolate, if desired, and let the chocolate harden for 15 minutes. Cut the fudge into 1 1/2-inch squares and serve.