Eric’s Easy Pizza Dough

3 cups bread or all-purpose flour
1 cup of lukewarm water
1 Tbsp of salt
Drizzle of olive oil
1 packet of instant yeast (~1 tsp)

1. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Cover, and let it sit as long as you want (the longer it sits, the more sourdough flavor it will have).

2. About an hour before baking, remove the dough from the bowl and place in a foil “tent” (get a couple of large pieces of foil and wrap your dough up in them, with enough extra space for the dough to rise further – they tent does not need to be completely sealed).

3. Before preparing pizza base, flour your hands and work surface to avoid sticking. Fold the dough over a couple of times with your hands, and then make a medium-sized dough ball – this will become your pizza crust. The size of the dough ball will depend upon the size of the pizza you plan to make and the diameter of your pizza stone, so results here will vary.

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Bon Bons by Serena

Y’all know I love local products, smart design, and delicious treats. This one’s a three-fer!

Austinite (via New York City and Tyler, Texas) Serena Hicks is cranking out the bon bons! Last night I had the opportunity to sample her delicious creations at the Austin Social Affair at the Rattle Inn. Recently featured in the Austin American-Statesman, Bon Bons by Serena is generating a lot of well-deserved buzz.  If you’re still looking for a perfect Valentine’s Day gift for that special foodie in your life, look no further!

Serena currently offers four unique and addictive bon bons:

The Matriarch is inspired by Serena’s 84-year-old grandmother, and they’re made using her original, vintage recipe! Described as a “classic vanilla shortbread cookie hand stuffed with a maraschino cherry, hand dipped in a vanilla frosting,” this sweet treat is my favorite in the line. The cherry’s bright flavor and smooth texture is a nice complement to the buttery exterior.

The Susie Q is named after Serena’s mother and incorporates ingredients from her favorite cocktail: brown sugar and dried apricot, hand dipped in a 100% Arabic coffee bean liqueur frosting and topped with an espresso bean!

The boy’s favorite was The Texas Treat, a basic vanilla shortbread bon bon containing a Texas pecan, then hand dipped in Texas whiskey and chocolate frosting. His favorite part? Serena uses Balcones Baby Blue Whisky, homegrown in Waco!

Finally, the Brown Sugar Kiss bon bon is a brown sugar confection with a kiss of chocolate on the inside and outside! The dough is wrapped around semi-sweet chocolate morsels, hand dipped in a semi-sweet chocolate sauce, and then finished with a banana chip. Fancy!

You can order bon bons in adorable boxes of four or luxurious boxes of twelve on the Bon Bons by Serena web site–she even delivers! These little treats are a great gift; the expert design and packaging makes the most of a great product and inspires a real sense of occasion. Serena also does catering.

And be sure to check out Serena’s blog for all the latest from the bon bon curator! This is a local food business to watch.

Bon Bons by Serena
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Eric’s Pumpkin Roll

As previously mentioned, Eric has successfully grown some pumpkins in our allotment garden. We’ve been obsessively researching pumpkin recipes for a few weeks in anticipation (I really want to make a curried pumpkin soup!).

Our homegrown pumpkins are wonderful for cooking, because they are or a variety meant for cooking. Most of the pumpkins you see at the store are grown for decoration. Their pulp is therefore stringy and flavorless. I’m sure you’ve encountered this nastiness if you’ve ever carved a jack-o-lantern. However, our tiny handful of seeds have matured into an overflowing plot of medium-sized pumpkins containing soft, flavorful flesh.

We’re using the whole pumpkin, too.  In addition to making delectable treats such as this pumpkin roll, we’re composting the shells and stems, and Eric’s also making his own home-baked pumpkin seed snacks, with a generous dusting of Old Bay!

Though this pumpkin roll is properly more of a dessert, owing to its cream cheese icing and overall sweetness, we ate it for breakfast. It’s especially tasty with coffee.

Eric’s Pumpkin Roll

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 medium-sized pumpkin (~1 cup of flesh)
2 Tbsp cinnamon (powdered)
1 Tbsp nutmeg (powdered)
3 eggs
1 tsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp confectioners’ sugar

Cream Cheese Icing

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners’ sugar

plus extra butter and flour for greasing

1. Preheat oven to 375°. Grease and flour a standard size cookie sheet.

2.  In a blender, purée the pumpkin to a smooth consistency.  This may require scraping down the sides of the blender a couple of times.  Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, nutmeg, and half the cinnamon. Stir in the puréed pumpkin, eggs, and lemon juice.

4. Pour mixture onto the cookie sheet, making sure to spread evenly, and bake for 15 minutes.

5. On a clean counter top (or cutting board), sprinkle the confectioner’s sugar.  Pour the pumpkin mixture onto the surface.  Carefully roll up the pumpkin mix, and let it sit for at least 20 minutes, cooling.

6. Meanwhile, you can prepare the icing.  In a medium bowl, blend cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and sugar.  I recommend using an electric hand mixer.

7. Once the pumpkin is cool, unroll it on the counter.   Sprinkle the remaining cinnamon over the entire surface.  Then carefully spoon the icing onto it, and spread it out evenly.

8. Re-roll the mixture and secure it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the roll for at least a couple of hours, to solidify.

9. To serve, remove the plastic wrap and cut carefully into slices, then serve immediately.

The pumpkin roll should be replaced in plastic wrap after serving, and will keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.  It also freezes well; wrap securely in foil and use within a couple of months for best results.

Thanksgiving for Two

This year, the boy and I stayed in Austin and had a cozy and relaxing Thanksgiving at home.

As I did back in 2008 (when my mom came down to visit and we had a vegan holiday), we bought most of our food at Wheatsville Co-op, our regular grocery store and all-round favorite place. They always produce an array of fresh, ready-made items for the holidays, and this year we picked up some of their addictive vegan macaroni and cheese, along with a large quantity of sausage stuffing, some roasted root veggies, and some garlic mashed potatoes. Eric also surprised me by bringing home a pumpkin pie! Wheatsville’s pies are fantastic.

Of course, I couldn’t resist doing just a little cooking.

Though someone forgot to buy sweet potatoes and marshmallows, and we didn’t have my great-grandmother’s cornbread gravy, I managed to make some English-style roast potatoes with gravy, cooked alongside two fresh, organic turkey breasts (also from Wheatsville) in an aromatic mixture of bacon fat, olive oil, and fresh-picked homegrown rosemary.  I have yet to cook a whole turkey, but this hit the spot for us!

Roasting potatoes with salt, pepper, and fresh rosemary.

Wednesday night, I made bangers and mash, which is one of my go-to weeknight winter meals.  They turned out beautifully, and I had enough mashed potatoes leftover to make two hearty servings for Thanksgiving Day, as well.  This time, I left the skins on (as per Eric’s request) and added a generous amount of sour cream.  Little did I know, Eric had already purchased about a week’s worth of garlic mashed potatoes from Wheatsville!  Coupled with the roast potatoes and roast root vegetables, it made for a starchy holiday!  No complaints from me!

Even though it was just the two of us and our cats, I tried to make the day festive and visually appealing, as well.  This year, I brought out my large ceramic turkey serving dish (thanks, Debbie!) and the traditional taper candles.  Coupled with Eric’s autumnal mums (also from Wheatsville!), and a few scattered tealights, this simple decor elevated the table to true festivity.  I’m not one of those folks who goes crazy with fake leaves and pilgrim window decorations (or, indeed, gourds) I nevertheless really love holidays.  I enjoy the cessation of regular workday time, the unabashed sumptuousness of the food and drink, and the communal celebration and connection.  I must admit, Thanksgiving has really grown on me over the years.  Not only is it a secular (or at least religiously non-partisan) holiday of particularly American origin, it’s also all about huge quantities of the most delicious, autumnal, American food, and it features four five days of football.*

Our plate.  Yes, that is a biscuit from a can.

To finish things off, we popped some canned buttermilk biscuits in the oven, and I whipped up some Bisto beef gravy.  I have no shame about this.  I didn’t make a whole turkey, or any other meats–how was I supposed to make a gravy?  I just wanted a little drizzle over my mashed potatoes, and the Bisto was fine!  The canned biscuit was, of course, less than delicious, but acceptable nonetheless.  Maybe next year I will make homemade yeast rolls (…once I convince Eric that “yeast roll” is not a redundant term.  And after I’ve enlightened him to the true superiority of cornbread dressing, which he thinks is on par with Yankee white bread dressing!  I know!).  But I refuse to feel ashamed about enjoying a processed food, even on Thanksgiving.  Since there were only two of us, after all, we decided the time was better spent relaxing.

All in all, this meal was a great combination fun but easy homecooking and the work of other hands.  And for that I am very grateful.  We got to spend the whole four days in a cocoon of warmth and leisure, reading long-coveted books and watching football–both kinds.  And all our teams won!**

But I still haven’t told you about dessert.

Eric’s Pumpkin Roll: homegrown pumpkin, homemade dough, and homemade cream cheese icing.

Actually, we had the first dessert for breakfast.  Eric’s pumpkin and squash crop only recently matured, and he had been wanting to bake with pumpkin for some time.  To my surprise and elation, I came home Wednesday night to find a beautiful, spicy, perfectly swirled pumpkin roll in the fridge!  Thursday morning, we sliced it and enjoyed it with coffee–wonderful!  As I said, the student has become the teacher.  Eric may soon take over blogging duties here at Stella Cooks (Eric Cooks?).  I mean, look at that thing.

But, wait, there’s more!

Since we’d already had the pumpkin roll for breakfast, we went straight to the pumpkin pie for dessert.  And not only did we have pumpkin pie, but I had the brilliant (if I may say so myself) idea to top that sucker with a scoop of Blue Bell Buttered Pecan ice cream.  Oh, yes.

You want to click on this picture to enlarge…

So, while I’m sorry I don’t have any fantastic new Thanksgiving recipes to post, or any crazy relative stories (well, not about this Thanksgiving…), I wanted to share a little bit of our relaxing*** and delicious weekend with you all.

I hope everyone had a restful and meaningful Thanksgiving.

76-37-5.

*Suck it, Aggies.

**Goodbye to A&M!

***Except during the last two minutes of the UT-A&M game, at which time I seriously considered whether or not I might throw up.

I made a Spanish omelette

This was the last thing I made before I became vegan in February 2007.

Our September of potatoes has now turned into a whole season of potato dishes at Casa Stella, and we also go through about 16 eggs a week from Alexander Family Farm. I can’t believe I hadn’t thought to make a tortilla española! Of course, I started it off the right way: with bacon fat.

Making this was a joy. What’s not to love about fried potatoes, onions, and eggs?!

Of course, I overcooked it a little, but it was delicious!

Eric enjoyed his serving topped with homemade pico de gallo.

I’m not even going to post a recipe, because there are “about 483,000” already on the web. However, you should definitely make one. It’s cheap and simple and great for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner. It’s tasty with ketchup or salsa or on its own. It’s a main and a side. It’s fun to make and makes great leftovers.

Now that I’m thinking about how good this was, I think I’ll make another one this weekend!