Clear the clutter for holiday baking

Linda Conway Eriksson - Contributing Columnist

Usually it sneaks in. It likes to start in corners, where, if it’s noticed, it is likely to be tolerated.

By the time it really accumulates, it occupies its own space. It’s likely to be neatly stacked, either in an out-of-the-way counter or shelf, or in plain sight, awaiting someone’s time to “go through” it.

Of course, it is always viewed as only temporary. It creeps by inches until it takes up more and more space in your house, garage, barn, or yard — in other words, everywhere.

Sounds ominous, doesn’t it? Well, it is. It’s disruptive. It’s a scourge. It encroaches on your space like a duck pecking at your ankles. It takes on an ugly, messy persona all its own.

No, it’s not “Mayhem” of television commercial fame.

It is — gasp — clutter!

Most of us are guilty to one degree or another of the care and feeding of our own piles of clutter.

Kitchens where there’s an active cook are particularly vulnerable to clutter. Little bits of ingredients in odd canisters, jars, and plastic bags of food one day and clutter the next. (Small amounts of half a dozen different shapes of pasta would definitely qualify.)

Pantries are notorious for what they hide. Once things are stuffed in, they ooze unseen into the backs of shelves, never to be seen again. At least, not until spring cleaning. That half of a bag of brown sugar is bound to be unearthed in May, hard as a brick.

Take it from one who knows. Get rid of it before you need open space to ramp up for Christmas and you have to stuff it into a grocery bag in the garage.

For the next two weeks, the big dining room table will be used for wrapping gifts and boxing homemade candy to be sent far and wide this year. (That’s clutter with a deadline — a whole different animal.)

I shoveled out the kitchen — especially the refrigerator — pretty well to get ready for Thanksgiving dinner. The leftovers from that big meal are gone. That’s half the pre-Christmas and New Year’s Eve battle right there.

I over bought chocolate this year, so the extra that’s sitting around will reverse the trend, clutter to food, instead of the other way around. Here’s a yummy way to use chocolate that’s bound to bring a smile or two on the way to Christmas. I might even defeat myself and need to buy more so I can serve this at the next big holiday meal. This is a Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman) recipe. I’ve never used one of Ree’s recipes that has disappointed.


Baking spray, for spraying custard cups

1 stick butter

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate

2 ounces semisweet chocolate

1 1/4 cups powdered sugar

2 whole eggs

3 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Vanilla ice cream, for serving

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray four custard cups with baking spray and place on a baking sheet.

Microwave the butter, bittersweet chocolate and semisweet chocolate in a large bowl on high until the butter is melted, about 1 minute. Whisk until the chocolate is also melted. Stir in the sugar until well blended. Whisk in the whole eggs and egg yolks, then add the vanilla. Stir in the flour. Divide the mixture among the custard cups.

Bake until the sides are firm and the centers are soft, about 13 minutes. Let stand 1 minute. Invert on individual plates while warm and serve with vanilla ice cream if desired.

Serves four.

Linda Conway Eriksson

Contributing Columnist

Linda Conway Eriksson can be reached at

Linda Conway Eriksson can be reached at