It’s beginning to taste a lot like Christmas

Mini Morsel Toll House Pound Cake dusted with confectioners’ sugar

Now that flour is flying through the air in my kitchen and butter is getting seriously creamed, I am in full holiday baking mode.

You know from my blog and other social media accounts, most of what I post are entrees, side dishes and everyday food (Instagram @collardgreenscaviar).

Desserts are not my mainstay, but I have to admit I have a repertoire of confectionery offerings that I’ve mastered.

During Christmas is when I roll them out and bask in baker’s joy.

Yes, I can be a bit of a baker. It’s part of my Southern roots. I’ve had years of experience, nearly 40 to be honest.

This Pecan Tart has always been a part of my dessert gift repertoire.

When I was a young woman who was high on energy and low on cash, I baked all of my Christmas gifts for my family. I’d packed the baked goodies in decorated hat boxes because back then Broadway Department Store (now known as Macy’s) would give them away for free. And free fit my budget just fine.

What were some of the desserts that where piled into those coveted hat boxes? An array of my favorites: Lemon 7up Pound Cake, Mini Morsel Pound Cake, Almond Cookies with powdered sugar, Pecan Tart (thanks to Martha Stewart pie of the month calendar I got as gift in 1980), Deep Dish Sweet Potato Pie, Hello Dolly Bars, and sometimes Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies dipped in dark chocolate.

Plated Christmas delights I’ve been making for nearly 40 years.

When I finally got a real job that afforded me some “disposable income,” I flipped my skirt tail with joy. Now I could finally afford to buy my family proper Christmas gifts. But oh no, they wouldn’t have it. All they wanted was that hat box of goodies.

2017 Plated delights all dressed up and ready to deliver.

So to this very day, the tradition continues. Oh I’ve upped my game a bit. No longer do I pack the annual delights in a hat box.  I don’t think they exist anymore. Instead each year I buy a series of  various dinner plates (which is part of the gift) and pile the goodies onto them. I wrap them in cellophane and finish with a holiday bow.

One of my favorite recipes in the box or on the plate is the Mini Morsel Toll House Pound Cake. Back in the day, the recipe was featured on the back of the Mini Toll House Chocolate Chips bag.  Today, it’s no longer there. In fact, it’s not even on their website anymore.

Why do I love this cake so much? It’s moist, rich and not airy or fluffy. It is a substantial cake, one that is perfect with your morning cup of coffee, and the ying to your yang when you top it with ice cream (I prefer butter pecan).

Mini Morsel Toll House Pound Cake without powered sugar.

Sometimes I dust it with powdered sugar, and sometimes I don’t. But no matter how I finish it, it’s always a treat that makes me smack my lips.

I want to  wish you all a beautiful holiday season,  and also encourage you to think about adding this classic old school recipe to your holiday baking list. Now, get baking!

*Cook’s note: Know your oven. I have had to make adjustments in the temperature and baking times over the years based on my oven. For the past 15 years, I have had two electric ovens. I’ve learned that when using my oven, the baking time is the same, but the temperature was adjusted down to 325 degrees Fahrenheit for the older oven. Now it is adjusted to 300 degrees Fahrenheit for the new oven I purchased two years ago. I would suggest if you have a gas oven, that you set it at 325 degrees Fahrenheit and bake it for 70 minutes, then insert a tooth pick to see if comes clean (I use a wooden skewer) and adjust cooking time from there. This will help prevent over browning.

Mini Morsel Toll House Pound Cake

  • Servings: 12 to 16
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Print

This moist and delicious pound cake will be a must have at your next holiday gathering.


Ingredients


1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 eggs
3⁄4 cup evaporated milk
1 bag of mini morsel chocolate chips
confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to *350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Grease and flour a 10 inch tube/Bundt pan (I use a non-stick flour cooking spray).
  3. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. set aside.
  4. In a separate bowl beat the sugar and butter with mixer (I used an electric hand mixer) until creamy, then add the vanilla.
  5. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until each one is incorporated.
  6. Gradually mix in the flour mixture, alternating with milk. Then mix batter (about 1 minute) with mixer.
  7. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  8. Pour batter into grease and floured pan. (Note: the batter will be thick)
  9. Bake 70-80 minute or until toothpick, when inserted, comes out clean.
  10. Cool 10 minutes, loosen sides and invert onto cake plate, cover with lid until cake is room temperature.
    (this will make for a moist cake). When there is no more moisture on top of cake, dust it with the confectioner sugar.

 

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Gifts That Give Hope

The holiday season is a scared time of giving and blessings. I hope you are inspired from this offering from Family Features to be a blessing to those less fortunate than us. Have a beautiful holiday season my foodie friends.

Photo credit: Family Features

Hope is a gift on every child’s wish list, especially those in parts of the world ravaged by natural disasters and poverty. Giving hope lets these children know that the world hasn’t forgotten them.

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Goods from around the globe

From jewelry to accessories to home decor, each item purchased through the UNICEF Market benefits programs that provide children with basic necessities such as nutrition, medicine, education, clean water and more. The UNICEF Market, market.unicefusa.org, is a partnership between UNICEF USA and Novica that offers unique items such as multicolored snowman ornaments made in India and an artisan leather tray handmade in Peru.

Inspired giving

Another option is UNICEF Inspired Gifts, which are lifesaving items that can be purchased in honor of a loved one and go directly to help children in need around the world. Examples include hygiene kits, mosquito nets and winter survival packs. Find more options at inspiredgifts.org.

Kid-friendly inspiration

Motivate kids, inspire philanthropy and help save the lives of malnourished children around the world with the Star Wars: Force for Change UNICEF Kid Power Band. Every movement made while wearing the activity band adds up to points that unlock lifesaving nutrition, which is sent to malnourished children around the world. Bands are available at Target or unicefkidpower.org.

Accessories with purpose

This holiday season, ALEX AND ANI is spreading a message of world peace with a jewelry collection that features the iconic peace symbol and benefits UNICEF’s work for children. The World Peace collection includes an online-exclusive sterling silver necklace with Swarovski crystals, a charm bracelet and a trend necklace. In addition, bracelets with a festive-themed snowman, daisy and a mother and child charm also support the cause. Until Aug. 31, 2018, ALEX AND ANI will donate 20 percent of the purchase price of all items sold through its retail stores, authorized retailers and on alexandani.com.

Comfort that keeps on giving

To help children around the world, L’Occitane will donate $4 from each Shea Butter Collection and Shea Butter Deluxe Collection Gift Sets to UNICEF, up to $120,000. The gift sets are available for purchase at boutiques throughout the United States and Canada, and online at usa.loccitane.com.

Giving a gift that inspires hope this holiday season can impact not only the person receiving the gift but also vulnerable children around the world.

Mazing macaroons

Cookie season I salute you.

mac-gift

Mazing Macaroons packaged for gifting giving

It’s the most wonderful time of the year when I dust off my treasured and sometimes secret cookie recipes to bake for the holidays.

Cookies just make the holidays bright.

These sweet treats are the things that memories and traditions are made of. They are objects of enchantment and folk lore when they are baked and shared with generation after generation.

This Christmas my three-year-old grandson Elijah – or “Eli” as I call him – is totally into the holiday season because he’s figured out this time of years gives him a pass to eat all the cookies he wants, or so he thinks.

eli-car-from-tia

My grandson Elijah “Eli” surrounded by the things he loves best – cars

Every year I bake up an assortment of cookies, cakes and treats and package them for gift giving. This year I included a new macaroon recipe I had been developing.

Eli was happy to be my cookie tester. When I pressed the lightly toasted macaroon into his  little hand he said, “Bella (which is what he calls me) they look like snow balls!”

“Well I guess they do. They are called coconut macaroons,” I said.

He took a bite, and then tried to shove the rest of the cookie into his mouth. After he finished the cookie, he raised his hands over his head and said, “These macaroons are mazing Bella!”

Mazing. I like that. I wonder if that’s better than a-mazing?

If you are thinking about making a few baked goods for the holidays, this recipe is simple and you can have these tasty little treats baked up in no time. They are moist, chewy, soft and delicious little mounds with a pop of chocolate. The video below will show you just how easy they are to make. And like Eli says, they are mazing!

Mazing Macaroons

Ingredients
14 ounce package of angel flake sweetened coconut
½ cup chopped pecans
½ cup mini chocolate chips
½ cup sweetened condensed milk
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon vanilla
1 egg white, beaten stiff

Method
Combine together coconut, pecans and mini chocolate chips in a large mixing bowl. Mix well.

Add sweetened condensed milk, vanilla and salt to coconut mixture. Mix well and make sure the condensed milk is thoroughly blended in the mixture.

Beat egg white in a bowl until stiff, until the texture similar to meringue. Fold beaten egg white into the coconut mixture.

Set oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop out heaping tablespoons of the mixture and form into densely packed balls. Place each ball on the baking sheet and press them down lightly.

Bake for 15 minutes at 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from oven. Cool and store. Makes 20 to 22 macaroons.

 

A thoughtful gift that counts

It’s not the gift, but the thought that counts.

Christmas PresentsThat quote by American author and clergyman Henry Jackson van Dyke was something I grew up hearing, particularly around Christmas time.

It’s not surprising a clergyman would coin such a phase. Perhaps it sprang from the need to help assuage the anxiety, guilty and disappointment people customarily feel with when they can’t afford to buy lavish gifts for their families and friends. This pithy phase not only provided a pass, but gave permission to focus on what’s important when giving a gift: the earnest gesture of thoughtfulness. Continue reading