- See more at: http://blogtimenow.com/blogging/automatically-redirect-blogger-blog-another-blog-website/#sthash.2lzcOnhH.dpuf Nothing but Delicious: December 2012

Ten things I'm definitely making in 2013

I'm at my parent's new house in Chattanooga, cooking out of a 1960's galley kitchen. It's frustrating, to put it lightly. So today I'm dreaming of all the wonderful things I'm going to make when I get back to Nashville in the new year...

What are you going to make, bake and eat in 2013? 
 Fontina and blackberry basil smash sandwich from How Sweet It Is
 Persimmon pomegranate feta salad with chili lime dressing from Journey Kitchen
 Broiled mussels from Smitten Kitchen
 Roasted zucchini, black bean and goat cheese enchiladas from Sprouted Kitchen
Leek and chevre souffle omelet from Gourmet Traveler
Orange and ricotta doughnuts from Daily Life.
Fig and almond frangipane tart from Kitchen 72.

Black sesame and ginger ice cream from Golubka.

Parsnip cake with cardamom cream from The Vanilla Bean Blog
Lemon cake with black tea frosting from Honey & Jam.

You can see more of my to-do list on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/hmmessinger/

Saltine Toffee Brittle

I don't know about you guys, but most years, my inspiration for Christmas presents is a roller coaster ride. It's December 20 and I still don't know what to get my parents (any suggestions?!?). But, for some reason, I knew back in September what to get my boyfriend. That was when we had been dating for one month, by the way. I've only known by parents for 26 years.
 The good news is that I always have this to fall back on: saltine toffee brittle. The toffee is sticky, sweet and buttery, nesting around salty, flaky saltines, and topped off with bittersweet chocolate. It's the perfect combination of flavors to soothe your holiday stress.
 P.S. This is my favorite way to wrap presents: free USPS flat rate boxes, inside-out paper grocery bags and weeds from my yard. I use all cheap stuff to support my raffia addiction.
 You can get the recipe and read some of my more eloquent writing on the subject at Darling Magazine (a subscription would be a great last-minute gift for a lady you love, too!).

A Very Happy Occasion

So many things happened this past week. Some of them are hard to speak of. Others, I just can't shut up about. On Wednesday (12/12/12), my dear friend Colleen turned 30. She also got engaged. So on Sunday we celebrated.
Amidst glasses of pomegranate mimosas, we laughed. We ate (and ate and ate): piping hot baked brie with strawberry habanero preserves, maple bacon that was flirting with burnt, deliciously Southern biscuits with tomato gravy and winter fruit salad dotted with flecks of vanilla bean.  
 Dim winter light crept into the dining room and lit up the gold edges of Rebekka's vintage white milk glass. Jazz roared out of the speakers. After brunch, we danced
And what birthday or celebration (or Sunday for that matter) would be complete without cake? I made my favorite dark chocolate cake with the dreamiest milk chocolate buttercream. And y'all, I just need you to know and to understand: this is the cake. The cake that I go to for the specialist of days. The cake I make every single Christmas Eve. The cake I make and eat at my happiest and saddest of times. It has the bitter bite of deep, dark chocolate and the sweet aroma of almond oil. The buttercream floats on top of it, a gossamer of sugary fluff
And now, we wait for Christmas. To celebrate and to be together and to eat well, once again

Dark Chocolate Almond Cake

1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2/3 cup almond flour
1 stick salted butter
4.5 oz dark chocolate
2t almond extract

Preheat oven to 400. Beat eggs and sugar together until tripled in volume, 8-10 minutes. In a separate bowl, melt chocolate and butter together and add almond extract. Fold almond flour into eggs, followed by chocolate. Bake in a greased 8" cake pan for 28 minutes. Let cool for five minutes and unmold. Cool completely before frosting.

Milk Chocolate Mascarpone Buttercream

1/4 cup sugar
2 large egg whites
6T mascarpone cheese
3.5 oz milk chocolate, melted and cooled

Bring sugar and eggs to 140 degrees in a double boiler, whisking frequently. Remove from heat and whip until stiff peaks form. Add cheese, one Tablespoon at a time. Pour in chocolate. Use immediately and DO NOT REFRIGERATE.

Christmas Cookie Roudup

As I told you in my previous post, I just participated in The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. Here's a little bit more about it, from The Little Kitchen:

"We [had] over 570 food bloggers sign up and moved over 20,000 (TWENTY THOUSAND) cookies all around the world (forgive me while I catch my breath) – we raised over $2200 for a wonderful organization, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. With OXO’s generous matching, it brings it up to over $4400!!"

Holy crap and Merry Christmas! 

You can see all 570 cookie recipes here and here, but I thought I'd give you a little roundup of my own. These are my top eight favorite Christmas cookies:
(YES, I do want her book, "I love Tocana," for Christmas!)
(I'll eat anything that comes out of Alexandra's kitchen.)
(I seriously can't wait to make these.)
(I'm a sucker for any dessert with pretzels in it). 
(While you're on Caroline's site, be sure to check out some disgustingly cute pictures of her baby and her dog.)
(See? I'm not the only one who's obsessed with 5 spice powder!)
(Simply beautiful, aren't they?)
(Espresso + Fudgy + Walnut = sold!)

Linzer Thumbprint Cookies with Apple Butter

Yesterday I was writing an article about last-minute Christmas gifts and was appalled to see what had come out of my mind and onto the page:

"I, for one, often wonder if the true magic of Christmas is how quickly time is able to disappear."

Perhaps the swift passage of time is not the magic of Christmas, but the grand illusion of life itself. This year has gone by in a whirlwind! In 2012, I have started freelancing full-time, a totaled my car, bought a house, moved my parents out of my childhood home, traveled across Spain and broken up with my boyfriend of two years. It's been a doozy and it's been a blur (to say the least).

Which brings me to my point: the real magic of Christmas is time spent together in the kitchen and around the table*. Christmas is the one time of year that families come together and miraculouslyeveryone wants to help.
Every year we make my Aunt Katie's gingersnap cookies (you can find the recipe here). Normally I wouldn't recommend baking something that is so involved - mixing, refrigerating, rolling each cookie into a ball and then in sugar, baking in five different batches... as my Jewish grandmother would say: OY!  But at Christmas my Mom mixes the batter, we drink coffee together while it chills, I roll the dough into balls and pass it down to my little cousins to dunk in sparkly sugar.

So when my friend Leah told me she was making Linzer thumbprint cookies for the holidays, I thought, "what a perfect dessert for families to make together."

Linzer Thumbprint Cookies
-makes 50-60 small cookies

3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) salted butter
3/4 cup raw cane sugar
2 large egg yolks
2t almond extract
1 cup AP flour
1 cup almond meal, divided in half
1/2 t baking powder
1t five spice
1 jar farmer's market apple butter

Preheat oven to 300. Whisk flour, 1/2 cup almond meal, baking powder, and five spice together with a fork. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add egg yolks one at a time, followed by almond extract. Gently fold in dry mixture in two parts, until just combined.

Roll dough into 1t sized balls and roll each one in remaining almond meal. Place on silpat or parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Make a well in the middle of the dough with the end of a wooden spoon. You want to put what looks like too much apple butter into the well- remember, the cookies are going to spread in the oven. I'd say a heaping 1/2t is about the right amount. Bake for 18 minutes and cool on a wire cookie rack.

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2012
I made these cookies as part of the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. They went out to three bloggers: Stacy from Every Little Thing, Liz from Cooking by Moonlight and Eleana from Chou Down. Special thanks to Trippin with Tara, Life of a 'Bama Girl and Twice Charmed Gourmet for sharing their Christmas cookies with me! And of course, to my dear friend Leah, who inspired me to make these cookies.

I am also very grateful for Maria Fine and Holli Hargett, who provided me with what feels like a lifetime supply of apple butter.

And how could I forget? My beautiful friend Colleen, who is turning THIRTY today made the wooden stand that is pictured. If you would like to buy one you can email her at sayooh [at] gmail [dot] com.

*(If ever there was an appropriate time to say the much-hated-by-my-Mother word, "DUH," it would be here.)