Stella’s Thanksgiving Recipe Ideas

Believe it or not, I’m not cooking a Thanksgiving meal this year, even though I’ll be at home the whole holiday weekend!

Last year it was just me and Eric, and our menu was a mixture of homemade and Wheatsville.  This year, we’re hosting my mom, who’s down from Paris, Texas, for the first time in exactly four years (she hates the drive, and I don’t blame her!).  I was originally planning to make my great grandmother Tollie’s cornbread dressing, and my mom even made a phone call to our Aunt Barbara to refresh her memory regarding the recipe, which neither she nor I have made since I came home from the UK for Christmas in 2003 (I think!).

But as the list of ingredients got longer and longer, and I considered the fact that I don’t have a dishwasher, and worried about the allergy attack I was suffering last weekend turning into a full blown illness, I decided the dressing with have to wait till Christmas.  I’ll make it in early December and post in time for your Christmas menu planning.  And when I finally post the recipe, you’re in for a treat!

Meanwhile, if you’re still searching for some fairly unfussy but crowd-satisfying dishes for your holiday table, check out some of my Thanksgiving recipe ideas, below.

We’re buying a garlic chive cheese ball from Wheatsville, but if you want to approximate that addictive, nostalgic flavor with a simpler recipe that keeps well, try Debbie’s Delicious Cheese Spread, one of my favorite family treats.

If you’re like us, and have more pumpkins than you know what to do with, try Stella’s Pumpkin Soup.

Okay, okay.  I lied.  I will actually be making my Southern Sweet Potatoes tomorrow morning while my mom drives down.

This morning on KUT, John Aielli was on a rant about how he hates sweet potatoes, and is tired of people trying to “fool” him into liking them, by making them into things like sweet potato chips (?).  After playing a few Calexico songs, he changed his tune and raved for a full ten minutes about Bettie Winn Reeves Harris’ sweet potato pie recipe.  If you make it, I’d like to hear what you think about it.  Apparently, this is the only way John Aielli can eat sweet potatoes.  Oh, dear.

For an even easier sweet potato solution, try my Perfect Oven-Roasted Sweet Potatoes.

If you’re like John Aielli and still hate ’em, try my Pesto-Tossed New Potatoes instead.

And you know you want some Macaroni and Cheese.  This one’s special.

Another of my favorite recipes on this site, that happens to be pretty Thanksgiving-y, is this one for Pecan-Stuffed Delicata Squash.  This one is a little more involved, but the result is so filling and flavorful that it makes a great alternative main for a vegetarian holiday celebration.  Something about the combination of nuts and sage approximates sausage, and I just can’t get enough of it.

A similar dish for meat eaters is my Bacon-Stuffed Acorn Squash.  I suggest pairing this with some Garlic Roasted Brussels Sprouts.

Another great main dish for vegetarians: Autumn Vegetable Fritters with Homemade Applesauce.  Or, save these for your Chanukkah party.

Another really easy, budget-friendly recipe that’s sure to please are these Roasted Parsnips and Carrots. Parsnips are a wonderful tuber to which I was first introduced at a typical English Sunday roast dinner. If your local market has them, try them like this first to see if you like their flavor. I love them.

For the opposite end of the diet spectrum, this sweet and low-carb alternative to pumpkin pie is sure to please any primal eaters: Paleo Pumpkin Pudding.

Finally, this is a picture I took this morning, of Eric’s Pumpkin Roll.  We sampled it for breakfast, but there’s enough left to see us through the weekend.  Though he says it’s “more of a pumpkin lasagna,” this sweet dish is both pretty and pretty filling!  He used homegrown pumpkins from our allotment garden again, so it tastes that much better.


Pecan-Stuffed Delicata Squash

It’s decorative-gourd-eating season!

So, I had these two Delicata squash.  I had a bag full of pecans.   I had a handful of freshly-picked sage from our garden.  And I had a little sour cream that was about to go off (do we say that in America, or is that a Britishism I’m still saying, to everyone’s bemusement?).

Lucky for you, I created this recipe, which I’m earmarking for re-use at Thanksgiving.  It would make an excellent main for vegetarian guests, and could be easily veganized by substitution tofu-based faux sour cream for the real thing and skipping the egg.  I might add some breadcrumbs if I was making it vegan, too.

This dish is rich enough for an entrée, but would also make a delightful surprise served alongside a plainer chicken or turkey main.  It’s hard to beat the combination of parmesan, sage, and nuts!

So autumnal, y’all.  It was 63 degrees this morning (when I had to go for a walk instead of a swim!), so this recipe was perfect for dinner.  I hope you like it as much as we did.

2 Delicata squash
2 Tbsp butter
2 small yellow onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
~1 Tbsp fresh sage, roughly chopped
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 black pepper
1/3 cup sour cream
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Cook for about five minutes, until translucent and fragrant. Add sage, salt, and pepper. Stir, and cook for about one minute. Add pecans, stir again, and remove from heat.

2. Slice each squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Delicata squash are some of the easiest to work with, and the pulpy center is perfectly sized for a tablespoon! Place each of the four halves, skin-down, on a cookie sheet or shallow roasting tin lined with foil. Set aside.

3. In a medium-sized bowl, mix beaten eggs, sour cream, pecan mixture, and Parmesan, reserving a little of the cheese for garnish. Spoon into each of the squash halves, so that each has about the same amount of stuffing. Sprinkle with a tad more Parmesan.

4. Bake for 45 minutes (or until squash is soft and easily pierced with a fork). The cheese should be slightly browned when done.

Serve immediately, either as a main or a side dish (one squash half per person should be enough as a side).

Serves 2-4.

H-Town Meatball Subs

When I talk about “H-Town,” I usually mean Houston. Not so in this case!

The Inspiration, by Jackie

The Inspiration, by Jackie

This supremely filling meatball submarine sandwich is named in honor of the place I first tried it: Hummelstown, P-A. You see, my boyfriend hails from Hummelstown, and we spend Christmas there with his family. This year, stepmom Jackie (hayyyyyy!) treated us to Christmas Eve meatball subs, a fruit and cheese spread, Saranac Caramel Porter (my new favorite beer), and a truly amazing butterscotch bundt cake (I have the recipe! Watch out!). It was truly a feast; and that was all before the dinner of roast Cornish game hen and baked potatoes!

But that meatball sub. Man. It really stuck with me.

This week, the boyfriend brought home a big package of beef, fancy organic hot dog buns, and some sliced provolone. Here’s the result: a fast and filling weeknight treat!

H-Town Meatball Subs

1 1/2 lb. ground beef
1 egg
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
4 hot dog buns
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 large slices provolone cheese
2 cups Rio House Red Sauce (can be prepared ahead)
fresh basil (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large mixing bowl, stir ground beef, egg, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and Worcestershire sauce until well mixed.

2. On a clean surface (I use a glass cutting board dedicated to raw meat), shape beef into balls, making twelve from your pound of meat.

3. Place meatballs on a greased cookie sheet and bake for thirty minutes at 350°.

4. Meanwhile, warm (or cook, if making afresh) Rio House Red Sauce in a saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently.

5. Open hot dog buns and drizzle with olive oil. Once the meatballs have cooked for approximately 20 minutes, place the open-faced buns in the oven to toast. When the meatballs are done (25-30 minutes), remove them from the oven along with the buns. Place a slice of provolone on top of each bun and return to oven until the cheese is melted (approximately two minutes).

6. Remove buns from oven and turn off the heat source. Place buns on serving plates, spoon three meatballs onto each, and top with warm sauce (and basil, if using). Serve immediately.

Serves 2-4, depending on their hunger! One was enough for me on both occasions, while Mr. Hummelstown wanted two–and he’s usually a light eater!

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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Travis High Tamales

I was recently on the hunt for some fresh, locally-made tamales (’tis the season!), and a friend got me in touch with the fine folks at the Travis High School Culinary Arts Institute. Last year, Relish Austin‘s Addie Broyles covered the students’ tamalada for the Austin-American Statesman; read her excellent piece here.

For the past two years, culinary arts instructor Rob McDonald has invited parents to help students in his three classes to put on a weeklong tamalada, a tamal-making party that features an assembly line of people helping prepare the Christmas tradition popular in many Latin American countries.

Last week, we picked up six dozen (you read that right) tamales, sampling all three of Travis High’s 2011 flavors: traditional pork, chicken (pictured), and queso and jalapeño. And these are some tasty tamales! The medium to large and generously filled husks, stuffed with well-seasoned meat (or cheese and spicy chiles!) rolled in expertly executed, velvety masa are probably my favorite comestible way to get into the holiday spirit.* Though I come from an pretty exclusively Anglo family in East Texas, my great-grandmother Tollie used to make a huge batch of tamales every Christmas, and one of my aunts carries on the tradition. Maybe the fact that Granny grew up in Arizona had something to do with it…?

Every year I mean to try my hand at making tamales (thanks to ye olde job, I can’t make it back to East Texas in time to learn firsthand from family); I even have a tamale pot that my stepmom gave me a few years back! Maybe someday… Anyway, it’s an all-day (or, even, all-weekend) job, and I’m grateful that the culinary students at Travis High have done my work for me. And don’t forget that tamales freeze well, so there’s no reason not to buy several dozen at a time!

Unfortunately the Travis High tamales are all gone for this year, but they will be selling to the public again in February, when the students will be creating chocolate covered strawberries. These treats will be available by the whole and half dozen, and the students will also be selling pretzels – all to support this amazing program for aspiring culinary professionals. The Institute will be taking orders from February 1st through 14th, with pickup on the 13th and 14th, just in time for Valentine’s Day!

Before winding up, I have to note that, of course, no plate of tamales would be complete without Shanita’s Salsita’s award-winning roasted jalapeño and garlic salsa, Hal’s Hot Love.** Shanita’s is having a couple of open house salsita tasting parties this month, on Sunday, December 18, and again on Sunday, December 18. For details, contact Shanita through her web site. You won’t be sorry!

Institute of Hospitality and Culinary Arts
William B. Travis High School

Contact them here.

*Latkes are gaining. Fried foods with sour cream are my madeleine.

**Hal’s is my kryptonite.