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.


*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.


Pies of the Frisco Shop

The Frisco Shop pie case

A couple of weekends ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Lockhart, Luling, and the Tiny Texas Houses with some friends. We enjoyed Black’s Barbecue in Luling (warning: they charge by the number, not weight, of sides!), peaches at a roadside farmer’s market, a round of cherry limeades from the Sonic, and a hot but beautiful afternoon on the prairie. We planned to incorporate some pies into our little roadtrip, but when we asked the gentle people of Luling where the best place to get some pie was, they were mostly befuddled and largely unhelpful, suggesting that a “coffee shop” down the street “might” have pies, or that a little cafe had cobblers. No dice.

We ended up calling various places in Austin to ask about their pie selections (in a shocker, Hill’s Cafe also only had cobbler!) before deciding on the Frisco Shop, the Nighthawk spinoff out on Burnet Road. And, boy, did they have pies. A whole case full. Including chocolate and banana cream icebox pies, tart cherry and sugar free peach pie, apple pie with rum sauce, coconut merengue, chocolate meregnue (always my favorite), cheesecake, strawberry pie, pecan pie, and probably several others I’ve forgotten. It was amazing. Pie heaven.

It’s hot out, and I love pies, so here’s a pie retrospective (with some Tiny Texas Houses thrown in for fun).

If anyone wants to meet up at the Frisco, tweet me!

Caldwell County Courthouse

Black’s Barbecue

Brisket, jalapeño sausage, mac and cheese, creamed corn, raw onion, potato salad, cole slaw, yeast roll, Dr Pepper – at Black’s

Tiny Texas House

Upstairs in a tiny house

Tiny Texas Chapel

Friends and pies

Pecan pie, y’all


Chocolate merengue with sprinkles

Coconut merengue

Cheesecake – nom nom nom

The Frisco

See my complete collection of Tiny Texas Houses photos here.

Greek Easter

Χριστός ἀνέστη! It’s Greek Easter!

Alex and I hosted a small but entertaining crowd poolside on Sunday afternoon to celebrate Greek (aka correct) Easter which, somewhat disappointingly, fell on the same date as Western Easter this year. We had a good time nonetheless, enjoying several Greek Easter staples such as lamb (we weren’t ambitious enough to roast an entire goat, sorry!) and red Easter eggs.

Due to the fact that I’ve just changed jobs and have a crazy work schedule, plus that I have a paper due tomorrow in the class I am taking for credit, I won’t be posting any recipes today. But check back later in the week! Or let me know in the comments which ones you’re most interested in making at home.

Greek Easter meze spread

Alex, your fearless host.

Pure Luck Farm Texas Feta, with homegrown basil, olive oil, and cracked pepper

Homemade hummus, using Vefa Alexiadou’s recipe.

Greek Easter eggs!

Lamb skewers with meat provided by Wheatsville Co-op, multi-colored bell peppers, onions, zucchini, and homegrown basil and mint, marinated in olive oil, 25 year aged balsamic vinegar, and garlic.

On the grill.

The cook.  He’s turning Texan!

Kabobs a’cookin’ – with two veggie ones for Eric.

Alex and her delicious Greek village salad.

Delicious charred kabobs.

The dessert table (detail).

Greek Easter cookiesexcellent with coffee.

Strawberries and home-whipped cream, from Mike and Laura (check out her Austin food blog!).  Mmm.

Ruffled milk pie.

Alex’s homemade baklava – made from scratch!  So sweet and delicious!


Alex and I cracking each other’s Easter eggs to see who will have a lucky year!  The winner of each round continues with another person and their fresh egg, going all around the feast, until all the eggs are cracked but one – and the person left with a whole egg at the end is the winner.

The winner.

Kalo Pashcha! Καλό Πάσχα! Happy Easter!

Ruffled Milk Pie

This recipe was the first thing I got excited about when flipping through Vefa’s Kitchen. I mean, look at it.

I finally got around to making it late last night, and it was so easy! I’d never used phyllo dough before, but I will definitely be making more pastries and pies now. The recipe called for six eggs, but I only used four. I’d hate to think how high it would’ve risen with the full six; as it was, it had risen to a huge globe of dough and custard by the time I removed it from the oven.

This is the first thing I’ve made from Vefa’s cookbook that turned out looking exactly like the glossy cookbook photograph, so I was very pleased. It also has an appealing flavor, as it includes not only pastry dough but also sugar, butter, milk, eggs, and vanilla – it smelled heavenly baking. But I think my favorite part is the texture. It’s both rich and creamy, due to the custard component, and warm and crispy because of the baked dough. I thought this might be the perfect dessert when I saw it in the book, but I might’ve been wrong – it’s the perfect breakfast! It was great last night with a glass of cold milk, and it was still pretty good this morning with a cup of coffee and cream. Note that it will be best fresh out of the oven, however; reheated pie won’t be as crispy!

Martha Stewart has posted the recipe here (be sure to check out the video of Vefa and Martha making the pie on the left-hand side of the page!).

Stella’s Peach Cobbler

What could be more Texan than peach cobbler?  It’s prime time for Fredericksburg peaches, so I decided it would be worth heating up the oven to make this pan of crunchy, sweet, peachy deliciousness.  And I was right.

This is a simply, straightforward, budget-friendly recipe.  You have no excuse not to buy a bunch of fresh, in-season peaches and make this immediately.

4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar, divided
1 flat Tbsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 cup milk
~8 fresh peaches, blanched, peeled, cored, and sliced
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Place butter in a large baking pan or Pyrex dish in the oven and allow to just melt, then remove. This will both grease your pan and impart rich flavor.

2. Meanwhile, mix flour, half the sugar, baking powder, and salt, then add milk and stir lightly until the ingredients are evenly mixed and moistened. Pour this batter into your baking dish, on top of the butter.

3. In a stock pot, bring remaining sugar, peaches, and lemon juice to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Once mixture begins to boil, remove from heat and spoon into your baking dish, over the batter. Do not stir them together.

4. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon and bake for 45 minutes or until the batter is nice, crispy, and golden brown.

You can serve the cobbler immediately, or serve it cold. Warm cobbler fresh out of the oven with a big scoop of rich, vanilla ice cream is heavenly. Store the leftovers in the refrigerator, covered with foil – if you have any left!

Makes about 8 servings.