There's no place like home for the holidays

20111227-030732.jpgChristmas was not quite what I thought it would be this year. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely adore my two boys and our crazy dog and want nothing more than to have them right by my side, but...just the 3 of us for Christmas weekend did not feel as intimate and romantic as I had dreamed it might.

20111227-030748.jpg We made a delicious Pacific Northwest inspired Christmas Eve dinner of salmon over quinoa with steamed green beans and David's Gan-Gan's rolls. Note: All the Christmas colors represented on our plates! The fish dish was quick and easy, but looked elegant enough for our Christmas Eve table.

Salmon in Tomato Sauce Adapted from Saveur

2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil 3 4-oz. skin-on fish filets, such as salmon Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced lengthwise 1 1/2 lb. cherry tomatoes 4 tbsp. finely chopped basil

Heat oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Season fish with salt and pepper and add to skillet, skin side down. Cook until skin is browned and crisp, about 4 minutes. Remove from skillet; set aside. Add onions to pan; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until soft, about 4 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook until soft and releasing their juices- I popped a few so the juices would more easily release- about 8 minutes. Add fish, skin side up, and cook until done, 5-8 minutes more. Sprinkle with basil before serving. Then plate on top of quinoa or couscous.

20111227-030800.jpg Then, we put a cookie out for Santa, read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, got Jack all cuddled up, and giddily played Santa Claus setting out Jack's new things.

20111227-030813.jpg If you read my previous post, then you know about our present's how it applied to Jack's gifts this year: Something you want- a felt board that was, shhhhh, handmade by mama! I love that I got crafty this Christmas. This was seriously the easiest project and I know we will get hours of pretend play out of it! Jack's eyes lit up when he saw it, which made my morning. Something you need- a new sweater from Toto Knits which I love! It's soft and warm and has a secret snake hiding in the kangaroo pouch pocket! One little something- a wooden doctor kit so he can "be just like dada". And, something to read- The Happy Day and My Mommy Hung the Moon, which we call Mama Hung the Moon. These are Jack's two favorite library books and now he keeps saying in amazement "HO HO brought Happy Day and Mama Hung the!"

20111227-030828.jpg On Christmas morning, we enjoyed a breakfast of my family's traditional sausage balls and spiced ginger muffins with apple butter. The ginger muffins are yummy...not too sweet and just the right kick from the ginger. David found them a bit too dense- I might try reworking the proportions of flour and baking soda, tell me if you try them and do anything differently.

Spiced Ginger Muffins Adapted from Roost

2 1/2 cups flour 1/2 tsp salt 1/2 tsp baking soda 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon 1 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg 1 1/2 tsp ground allspice 4 tsp ground ginger 3 eggs 1/2 cup honey 1/2 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Then, combine wet ingredients- eggs, honey, and melted butter- in a seperate bowl. Using a whisk, mix wet and dry ingredients until combined. Spoon into greased muffin tins. Bake for about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and insert a toothpick or cake tester in center, if it comes out dry they are done baking. Allow to cool for one hour before removing from tins.

20111227-030834.jpg20111227-030821.jpg Then, we spent the whole day playing and opening new things. I loved being able to wake up with just the 3 of us, snuggling in our pajamas and watching Jack gawk at his presents and enjoy each one with as much enthusiasm as the last. I had a good Christmas...but, I couldn't help but want to be in the middle of my family gathering...participating in the gift wrap contest, drinking beers with my aunts, uncles, and cousins, and getting lost in the chaos of it all. In all honesty, I really missed the crowd, I missed eating a grouper sandwich and a banana shake at Jerry's Drive-In, I missed seeing Pensacola friends, I missed eating dinner at theMarina Oyster Barn, I missed the feel of the sticky and humid Florida weather... In the end, I guess there really isn't anything as good as being home for the holidays.