A view of our condo complex from our balcony, Asheville, NC
I have never been so psyched and ready and prepared for a vacations like this one. And once home so totally happy and revitalized. SAID NO ONE EVER!
We arrived in North Carolina in time for the monsoon season. I shouldn't make light of that because the whole lower East coast has been dealing with treacherous rain and flooding in the past week. As for myself and The Husband, it rained the entire time we were in Asheville and well, we discovered why umbrellas were invented. It didn't stop us but I'll keep this short. We did our much loved shopping in Biltmore Village very close to our place, and we ventured into downtown Asheville for so many wonderful meals as well as more shopping. My favorites for food: The Lobster Trap, LAB, Strada, Corner Kitchen, and Rezaz. Shopping: Tops For Shoes, Mast, COCO & C, The Screen Door...well, I simply love all of the shops. The Husband and I found a few books we loved, a few things for the house, but mostly little gifts for our kids---including spouses. And our Elsie. The Husband chose some darling finger puppets for her and a Christmas ornament. He's really loving being a grandfather.
Pretty fall mums from the grocery store. A great Pick Me Up!
It was finally Home Sweet Home Wednesday night. We got in at 8:00 p.m. and were sound asleep by 9 (I must confess that I sleep like a baby on planes but still...). And in the days that have followed I have not stopped moving until yesterday. But that's my life story, right?
We found some 'off the beaten path' places in Gatlinburg. I so loved the artisan made pieces. I bought this beautiful dish with a 'flower frog'. I'll try to do a better display when I have more flowers. I just love pottery and it's so nice to meet the potter as well. This area also has an abundance of artists who work in carving wood pieces, I found some very cool Christmas ornaments for myself and the family. The Husband found a shop owned by a photographer and absolutely fell in love with his work, most of which was done in rural Tennessee and the Great Smoiky Mountains. He spent well over an hour chatting with the man and bought three prints. We ultimately ended up shipping our little treasures home via Fed Ex. I was happily surprised that it didn't cost as much as I had expected and the big box arrived 2 days after we got home and everything was securely wrapped and packed just perfectly. We will definitely remember this. So many times I've fallen in love with something only to say, "But how will I get it home?" No problem now.
It has taken awhile to get adjusted to being back at home. The first few days involved cleaning and laundry and shopping...a party on Saturday and Abby staying the weekend (she requires a full time cook and maid). Yesterday I decided to make a pizza as I had been wanting to try a recipe for dough from this cookbook. This is a wonderful book, I'm not a vegetarian but I definitely try to keep the meat down and the veggies up. It makes sense to me. I hope you have time to look up
this chef. He's a British author and broadcaster and has written several award winning cookbooks that are not exclusive to vegetables.. He is all over the place~~~love that,
So I tried the dough recipe and not only does it make the crust for a pizza, but with a few tweaks, you can do bread, crostini, flatbreads and pita. You can also freeze the dough (a great plus). How good can it get?
Basic dough after kneading
I know many of you are thinking, I have no desire to make my own bread, pizza, whatever. I gave it a fair shot myself a few years ago and after covering every bit of counter space and much of the floor with flour, not to mention messy bowls, measuring cups and spoons to wash, I decided it wasn't worth the trouble.
I would not post this version of bread dough if I didn't have the faith that it's simple, versatile and simply delicious. I'm giving you the condensed version from the book but it's exact as far as measurements.
BASIC BREAD DOUGH
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 t sea salt
1 t instant dried yeast
1 T olive oil
1 1/3 c warm water
Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the olive oil and water and mix to a rough dough. Knead by hand for 10 minutes or as I do, use the dough hook if you have a KitchenAid or similar standing mixer. I let it work away for 15 minutes while I prepared a second batch to freeze and cleaned up.
Set oven to 200 degrees. Once it reaches that temp, let it go for 5 minutes. Turn the heat off and open the oven door keeping it ajar for 5 minutes to let most of the heat escape. Take your kneaded ball of dough and place it in a large ovenproof bowl in which you have drizzled a little oil. Roll the dough a bit in it to lightly coat. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and place in oven for approximately 2 hours. I let my dough rise with this method as it's foolproof. Most recipes instruct you to place the dough in a warm spot of your home. That's an impossibility in my drafty old house. Try it this way.
2 hours later. The risen dough
All you need to do now is gently poke the dough with your fingers, let it 'deflate', and then gently shape it into a log-type form. Cut it into three even sections to make crusts for three thin pizzas, approximately 12 inches in diameter. Simply roll out the pieces on a floured surface until they are 1/8 inches thick. Place on a lightly floured pizza pan and fold and crimp the edges any old way. Then create the pizza of your choice~~the possibilities are endless.
I made veggie pizzas. A huge hit. On one I had a simple tomato sauce that I used sparingly and just barely spread around. The second had just a bit of olive oil on the crust and then the same veggies. Here you go:
1 T olive oil
2 T chopped shallot
2 large cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
2 T fresh thyme
3 T fresh parsley
1 t sugar
1 T honey
Heat oil in a large saucepan. over low heat. Add oil and once hot, add shallots and garlic. Cook on low stirring about 3 minutes...do not overcook--you do not want them limp. Add tomatoes, herbs, sugar and honey (these last two ingredients will take away the bitterness of the tomatoes). Continue cooking covered approximately 1/2 hour, stirring often and breaking down the tomatoes. Meanwhile prepare your toppings...veggies, meat, cheeses, whatever your heart desires.
Assemble your pizza and bake at 450 degrees approximately 15-20 minutes or until you see the edges of the crust a nice healthy brown. Each pizza serves 2-3.
A NOTE ON VEGETABLES
Use what you want but remember---all veggies are not alike. I used sautéed garlic, shallots and sliced red onion. Everything but the eggplant got this bit of action on the stove for about three minutes in a pan with a drop of olive oil. This takes the 'edge' off the onions and keeps them from getting crisp in the oven. Use what you want. Eggplant and most squash should be salted once cut and left to 'perspire' on a paper towel for about 15 minutes. They will otherwise get soggy when cooked. Yuk. Root veggies and more dense sorts should be blanched to soften them. So you want to think of this sort of preparation before you aim to pop the pizza in the oven.
I wanted to share this picture with all of you. This is my son who got married in August. He got the hiking bug this past spring when he, my other son, Kevin, The Husband and several guys went hiking and camping near Boulder, Colorado. It is now a huge part of Jeff's life. He did some mountain climbing around Lake Tahoe on his honeymoon and here he is again in Colorado a few weeks ago where he climbed 3 of the highest mountains in the state. I'm simply amazed and in awe. He's so nonchalant about it. The other day I saw these pics for the first time. I thought he was away on business. I asked him, "Why are you doing this? Is this a new passion? You and the wilderness?" (You may want to refer back to my last post and my preoccupation with bears and vultures around our cabin in Tennessee). He said, "No, Mom. I'm facing my fears. I'm going to face every one of them." I was speechless but not surprised. This is what makes Jeff unique. He's truly his 'own person' and while he has tons of friends, a new wife and probably a lot of children in his future, he has a restlessness that I think he's really trying to unleash and this is just very exciting. Of course I worry, I'm hoping he will find someone or a group to team up with and I'm sure he will. We have so many wishes for our children...I may be a bit of a dreamer but I simply want mine to be happy.
It's such an iffy time of year, temperatures going up and down, leaves changing a little slowly. I know so many of you are in very hot climates and relish this time of year and others simply want summer over. I was cleaning out my closet yesterday, sorting through sandals and summer shoes I could donate and then pulling out all the boots and winter shoes. Contrary to the side of me that is a shoe fanatic, I'm happiest in bare feet. I was sort of wincing looking at the leather and suede and thinking, "Oh. Not yet!" Some of us think that time slows down during the winter. I find this time of year to be when I'm on my annual brink of insanity with the holidays just around the corner. But I digress. My gardens and yard are in desperate need of some TLC. I mentioned to Abby that I needed to start tossing the flowers and storing the pots. She looked almost tearful. Why would I do that when they still had pretty flowers? Because I've sometimes waited until mid November and then froze my little fingers and nose off doing it. While writing this (long) post I went outside for a little stroll around the grounds. The squirrels have made a mess digging up the lawn to bury the endless amount of walnuts we have everywhere. In pots of mixed flowers, some of the less sturdy plants have died off from the cold night temps while others are just begging for a drink of water. The morning glory and ivy are eating the house and with little rain here, I haven't seen any birds except crows.
I simply don't know where time goes. I've been a little grumpy the past few days as I feel a bit tired, sort of worn out and not really up for all of the chores, projects and ideas I have swimming around me. I think I expect too much of myself (and others I might say). I find making excuses to be a cop out. Somewhere along the way I've come to equate relaxing with laziness and though I know that's just crazy, I simply feel happy and content when I've accomplished something tangible. And the perfectionist in me wants everything done this minute. I need to find some balance. I don't think I truly know what relaxation means. And I really don't think I found much of it on this vacation.
Okay, enough whining...I'm leaving you with a picture if little Elsie. She is growing so fast! I'll be back soon!