Much to our own surprise, Zach and I managed to exist quite happily in our miniature apartment in Dupont Circle. Sure there were battles over closet space, the annoying sideways shimmy required just to get to the bathroom but of the many more things I cherished about that apartment, one detail stands head and shoulders above the rest. I learned what I truly loved.
Example: Yes, I love homemade ice cream enough to allow an ice cream maker to take up an entire shelf in a kitchen with 3 total cabinets. Dupont forced me in to truly essential living. And while I had some trouble making the tough decisions on what stayed and what went in the end I appreciated what stayed all the more.
However, there was one time of year that always threw a wrench in my well-honed simplicity – gift giving season. For those of us with limited living space, the holidays present a difficult social experiment. Of course, you are always thankful for the thoughtfulness and generosity of others, but what the heck do you do with all those well-meaning thingies, trinkets and general hodgepodge?
Honestly, I never really figured out a sensitive yet useful answer to that question but the challenge of finding a spot for it all did forever change my gift giving philosophy. Unless fulfilling a specific request I do my best to give gifts that fall in to 1 of 4 categories:
- Keepsake – You know, the kind of stuff that brings a tear to the eye or a laugh to the room? Like the framed poem Zach wrote for me when we were just 17 years old or the photo ornament depicting one of my best friends exiting a portable toilet in her bridesmaid’s dress. The kind of gifts that, no matter how many times you move, they always come with you.
- Charitable – Pretty self-explanatory but I tend to favor something locally focused and always smart & smart.
- Usable – As in, can it be used up? Stationery is fabulous for this purpose since I am always on the hunt for a good notecard (sans Thank You.) Experiences also fall into this category, like tickets or a gift certificate for a night out. Zach and I received just such a gift as a wedding present that served as a lifesaving bright spot in a first year of marriage pocked with spotty employment and very little money.
- Consumable – Shocking addition right? In my world, there is little better than the gift of food whether you make it yourself or not. In my family, we all wait eagerly for our individual boxes of perfectly creamy chocolate fudge from my aunt in West Virginia. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without it.
Which brings us to our recipe for the week. Though I promise to attempt the famed fudge at some point, I need some time to learn from the master herself. In the meantime, I love these Coconut-Orange Snowballs which, should be a strong candidate for your gifting tins this year as they are so simple to make and freeze wonderfully. They may look and act like those snowball cookies you see on every cookie tray but the first bite reveals a welcome twist of coconut and the whisper of orange zest that’s sure to delight any recipient.
Adapted from Bon Appetit magazine
1 1/4 cups sweetened flaked coconut
2 1/4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp coconut extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 TB grated orange zest
1/2 tsp salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake the coconut on a rimmed baking sheet, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes. Watch carefully as the coconut can burn quickly.
2. In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter, 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar, and the vanilla and coconut extracts to blend well. Gradually add in the flour, orange zest and salt. Add the coconut and mix well. The dough will be quite dense. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour or up to 1 day. Before shaping, allow the dough to soften slightly at room temperature.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and using a tablespoon scoop out 1 level tablespoon of dough. Roll the dough between your palms until it forms a ball and place on the cookie sheet. Continue with the rest of the dough. Return the unshaped dough to the refrigerator to chill in between batches. It works best if it stays cool.
4. Bake cookies about 18 minutes, until the bottoms are lightly golden but the tops still pale. Allow to cool 5 minutes and then roll generously in the reserved 3/4 cup of powdered sugar while still warm. Let cookies cool completely on a wire rack and roll in the powdered sugar a second time to coat. Store in an airtight container. Cookies keep for up to one week.*
*Note: Though not noted in the original recipe, I discovered that the unbaked shaped cookies freeze well. Freeze the shaped balls of raw dough on the cookie sheets until firm and then transfer to an airtight container for storage. To bake, place frozen dough balls onto baking sheets and place directly in the oven. Frozen cookies may need 1-2 more minutes baking time depending on your oven.