Wednesday, November 28, 2012


I recently, came across this advertisement for pears.  I can't help but think it is brilliant.  It actually made me crave a ripe juicy pear with some soft blue cheese and almonds.  I love that it is brief, but it tells you how to choose a ripe pear, gives you a recipe idea, and makes you crave a pear.  

Come to think of it, I have an awesome pear pizza recipe that I'm going to have to break out this week with the fresh pears this ad inspired me to buy......

Pear and Goat Cheese Pizza

  • 1 thin  Boboli pizza crust
  • 2 ripe pears
  • 3 large shallots
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Honey
  • 1 small Goat Cheese log (can use plain or honey goat cheese)
  • 1/3 cup parmesan
  1. Put thin crust Boboli pizza in the oven for 8-10 minutes (at 375 degrees) - I do this to get the crust a little crispy beforehand; I don't like the taste of raw dough.  
  2. Cut thin slices of 2 ripe pears (you now know how to pick a ripe pear)
  3. Cut 3 large shallots thin.  Saute in a butter/olive oil combo (2 Tbsp. butter; 3 Tbsp. Olive Oil)  
  4. Add Salt +Pepper and cayenne to the onions.
  5. Take out crust.  
  6. Drizzle honey on crust (probably 1/2 Tbsp.)
  7. Put goat cheese on the crust and spread around with a spoon.
  8. Top with the shallots and liquid. 
  9. Put the pear on top of the goat cheese. 
  10. Sprinkle with parmesan – put in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until the top starts to brown a little.   I put the pizza directly on the rack with a pan on the rack under it to catch any drippings.
Sauting the Shallots
Spreading the goat cheese on the hot, crispy crust

Topping the goat cheese with the shallots and olive oil/butter sauce

Next comes the fresh, ripe pair slices

Finish with freshly grated parmesan

It is as good as it looks

Serve with a salad and wine

I like to serve this with a goat cheese, beet, and arugula salad w/ balsamic dressing, and red wine.  It is a good fall/winter meal.  So good!

Cheers to fresh, ripe pears!     

Sometimes there is nothing better than a fresh, ripe pear.  

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Sides

Every year, I am torn between whether to stick to the basics or to try new Thanksgiving items.   There are inspirations and recipes everywhere.   I recently took a Thanksgiving sides cooking class and there were two recipes that I am definitely going to make this year. 

Cranberry and Pomegranate Sauce
Cranberry and Pomegranate Sauce

Makes 4 servings


  • 1 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1 package fresh cranberries (can also use frozen)
  • ¾ cup dried cherries, chopped
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
  • Zest of one orange
  • 2 Tbsp. butter


  1. In a large saucepan, bring pomegranate juice, cranberries, and cherries to a simmer.
  2. And remaining ingredients and continue to simmer for approximately 10 minutes, until sauce is slightly reduced.
  3. Transfer sauce to a stainless steel bowl to cool.  Chill for 2 hours of overnight.  
  4. Serve at room temperature. 

  • If you used frozen cranberries, they have been partially cooked so the cooking time is less.   The fresh berries take longer but they hold up better (i.e. less mushy texture).
  • You can use any sweetener, such as honey, agave nectar, brown sugar, etc.
  • Feel free to play, you can use other dried fruit or add apples.  

I am not normally a fan of cranberry sauce; I think the cranberries are too tart and let’s be honest; a lot of my cranberry sauce experience has been that blob of cranberry from a can.   However, I liked this sauce.  I love the pop of color it provides on the plate and it is a great palate cleanser.   

Dried Apple Wild Rice Pinenut Dressing
Dried Apple Wild Rice Pinenut Dressing

  • 3 cups chicken stock, divided
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 3 Tbsp. parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. thyme, minced
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 8 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 cups onion, ¼ inch dice
  • 2 cups celery, ¼ inch dice
  • 1 cup toasted pinenuts (or pecans)
  • 1 cup dried apples, chopped (or any dried fruit that you prefer)
  • 2 cups pre-cooked wild rice
  • 6 cups of sourdough or whole grain bread
  • 2 eggs

  1. Preheat oven or grill to 400F.   Coat a baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.  (That’s right if you don’t have room in your oven, you can bake it on your grill.)
  2. Combine 2 ½ cups of stock, milk, herbs, salt & pepper in a large sauce pot and bring to a boil.  
  3. While waiting for the stock to boil, heat a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the butter, onion, and celery.   Cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the pinenuts, wild rice, and dried apples, mix to combine.  
  4. When the stock comes to a boil, ad the bread and cook over a simmer until the liquid has been absorbed.   Remove from heat and add the onion mixture to bread and stir to incorporate.  
  5. Whisk the eggs and remaining ½ cup of stock together.  Slowly stir into the onion and bread mixture.
  6. Transfer to the prepared baking dish.   Grill or bake until set, about 30-40 minutes

  • If you use fresh apples, make the dressing the day of (not the day before, which you can do).
  • Don’t try to be healthy and use olive oil instead of butter; the butter helps with the balance between soggy and dry.
  • Feel free to add mushrooms (sauté first) or raisins or anything else you think would be good.
  • If there are walnuts in the whole grain bread you use, beware that the walnuts will turn purple.
  • For the wild rice…. I would recommend hand harvested rice because you can cook it the same day and it has a more delicate flavor.   In contrast, cultivated rice has to soak over night and has a stronger nutty/burnt flavor.  
  • If you decide to use your grill, here are some tips:  1) make sure the dish isn’t directly over the charcoal; you can use a heating stone to help or put it off to the side, 2) use a ceramic baker that is cast iron + ceramic porcelain, and 3) make sure the dish is freezer to oven safe verified.    These tips will help ensure that your dish doesn’t shatter. 
  • Don’t stuff the turkey!   There is no flavor benefit, and there is an increased chance of bacteria due to the raw juices.   The internal temp of the dressing has to get to at least 165 which is hard with everything else going on in the oven.    I also think it is soggy; baking it gives it a little bit of a crispy topping.  
This stuffing was delicious.  It was rich, creamy, and hearty.  I loved the flavors and the textures and I can't wait to make it.

STUFFING SIDEBAR: I am going to have to tell you what I have done to cheat for stuffing in the past – it is the easy way and it is good; my husband is actually disappointed that I’m not making it this year.  Basically you buy Stove Top stuffing and make it according to the directions with the following tweaks: 1) use chicken broth instead of water, and 2) sauté onions, celery, garlic, apples, and raisins to add to the stuffing (be creative - there are lots of things you can add to make it seem homemade).   This stuffing is really good and really easy; and since it can be done on the stove top, it is not taking up space in the oven.  Although, you could bake it for a bit if you wanted to.
Easy Stuffing

While we are talking about Thanksgiving, I also thought I would share my favorite gravy recipe.  Anything with a splash of sparkling wine has to be good, right?  A cup of bubbly for the gravy and the rest of the bottle for me (okay, maybe I’ll share - it is Thanksgiving after all).   

Champagne Gravy


  • 5 cups turkey drippings
  • 1 cup sparkling wine
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary (most fresh or dried would work, such as thyme or tarragon)
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 6 Tbsp. flour
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  1. Strain the turkey drippings through a fine mesh sieve into a large saucepan.   
  2. Stir sparkling wine, rosemary (or other herb), and black pepper into the drippings in the saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Simmer for about 15 minutes to reduce and blend the flavors.   
  3. In a separate pan, sauté the garlic in butter and then add the flour to make a roux.   Whisk the roux into the hot gravy.  Allow the gravy to simmer until thickened, about 3 minutes.  Add salt to taste.
  • If you don't have the full amount of turkey drippings, you can add chicken stock to reach the amount.
  • If you like your gravy thicker, add 1 or 2 more tablespoons of flour.

As for Dessert….
I don’t like traditional pumpkin pie, so I usually make a creamy 2-layer pumpkin pie with a graham cracker crust that I love.  However, this year I have decided to branch out and I’m making a recipe that I found on Pinterest.  You’ve heard of better than Sex cake, right?  Well this is the pumpkin version.  Find the recipe here:
Photo from

Pairings:  I prefer to have Sparkling Wine with my Thanksgiving meal.  I feel like the bubbles make everything feel lighter.  This year I am serving a light rosé and a Prosecco. 

I’d love to hear what is going to be on your Thanksgiving menu and whether you prefer to stick to the basics or try to mix it up a bit?   Talk to me. 

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving.   Life offers a lot to be thankful for and it is important to focus on that once in a while.  


Saturday, November 17, 2012

So many recipes, so little storage......

Admittedly, I am a recipe addict.  Seriously, I cannot get enough of recipes.  I rip them out of all my magazines, I collect cookbooks, I print them out off of emails and websites, etc…

Well, I am running out of storage space and I cannot buy another filing cabinet.  It can be really hard to organize all these recipes and not forget about them.   There has been more than one occasion when I’ve been trying to find that “one” recipe with no luck.   

Well, Pinterest is the answer to this recipe chaos.  It is an online filing cabinet for my recipes.  You can organize them by category and have easy access to them.  Basically you just “pin” a link to the recipe to your “boards.”   Most of the recipes I’ve ripped out of magazines can be found online, so I am now beginning the process of going through my files of recipes and moving them online.   It is very freeing.     

I also love that you can share with your friends, and anyone else for that matter.  Pinterest is not only limited to food; there are many categories, such as decorating, crafts, fashion, etc…

Seriously, check it out.   You can follow my pins under Penelope Austin.

What is Pinterest? Pinterest is a Virtual Pinboard.

Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes.
Best of all, you can browse pinboards created by other people. Browsing pinboards is a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Roast Pumpkin with Cheese "Fondue"

This is your Thanksgiving appetizer.    
You’re welcome.  Believe me, you will be thanking me later.  This baby hits all of your senses; it looks gorgeous, it tastes sublime, and it even sounds good when you take out the sizzling pumpkin full of cheesy goodness.

My girlfriend made this last night for a Fondue and Vintage Champagne themed party.  It was seriously amazing.  It was rich, cheesy, gooey, and delicious.  If you could hear the photo, you would hear the hot bubbly cheese calling your name.   

To serve, you just scoop a little pumpkin from the side along with some cheese and bread and it is the perfect combination.  Seriously.  We scooped it into bowls and ate it with a fork, and we also put it on crackers.    

Yield: Makes 8 (main course) servings; Active time: 25 minutes; Total time: 2 hours

As the pumpkin roasts, its skin becomes gorgeously burnished, while inside, slices of baguette, Gruyère, and Emmental coalesce into a rich, velvety concoction that is utterly fabulous served with a scoop of tender pumpkin flesh.

  • 1 (15-inch) piece of baguette, cut into 1/2-inch slices (7 ounces total)
  • 1 (7-pound) orange pumpkin
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 2 1/2 cups coarsely grated Gruyère (6 ounces)
  • 2 1/2 cups coarsely grated Emmental (6 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in lower third.
  2. Toast baguette slices in 1 layer on a baking sheet in oven until tops are crisp (bread will still be pale), about 7 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.
  3. Remove top of pumpkin by cutting a circle (3 inches in diameter) around stem with a small sharp knife. Scrape out seeds and any loose fibers from inside pumpkin with a spoon (including top of pumpkin; reserve seeds for another use if desired). Season inside of pumpkin with 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  4. Whisk together cream, broth, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl. Mix together cheeses in another bowl.
  5. Put a layer of toasted bread in bottom of pumpkin, then cover with about 1 cup cheese and about 1/2 cup cream mixture. Continue layering bread, cheese, and cream mixture until pumpkin is filled to about 1/2 inch from top, using all of cream mixture. (You may have some bread and cheese left over.)
  6. Cover pumpkin with top and put in an oiled small roasting pan. Brush outside of pumpkin all over with olive oil. Bake until pumpkin is tender and filling is puffed, about 1 ½ hours. 

This recipe is from Gourmet Magazine November 2008.

Pairing: The vintage Champagne was delicious; we especially liked the 2002 vintage.  


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Asian-style Meatloaf

Original Recipe

1 (3.5 oz.) package of plain rice crackers (gluten free)
1 lb. ground turkey breast
½ lb. lean ground pork
1 cup chopped green onions
½ cup hoisin sauce divided
½ cup chopped red pepper
½ cup drained and chopped water chestnuts
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
½ tsp. salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 large egg whites
Cooking Spray

This is the most used appliance in my kitchen.  I use it all of the time.  For this recipe, I used it to mince the garlic and the carrots.

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Place rice crackers in food processor; process until finely chopped.
  3. Combine ¼ cup hoisin and everything else in a large bow (except for the cooking spray).  For a little spice add some Sriracha or cayenne pepper to the mixture. 
  4. Shape mixture into 6 (5 x 2 ½  inch) loaves on a broiler pan cated with cooking spray; spread hoison over the top of each meatloaf. 
  5. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until the thermometer registers 165.  You can also use a muffin pan.  Just spray the cooking spray in the muffin tins and add the meat.   The cooking time will be quicker, probably 30 minutes.   
  6. These also make great meatballs.

My Recipe Tweaks
  • I used sesame rice crackers instead of plain and I did not use the entire package, I used 2/3 of it.
  • I used the meatloaf mix (ground hamburger, pork, and veal) instead of turkey because I think turkey can get dry. 
  • I added Sriracha and diced jalapeno for spice.
  • I did not use the red pepper – you can add any vegetables you want.  I added ½ cup chopped carrots.  I love adding carrots to different things, you can chop them really fine in the food processor and they add a healthy sweetness to various dishes.   Carrots are really good in lasagna.  
  • I also added cilantro.
  • I used one whole egg instead of 2 egg whites.   Make sure to stir/mix up the eggs before you add it to the mix.  I basically did this on accident.  I just cracked the whole egg without reading the recipe (shame on me) and I only had one egg because my first one I put on the counter and left it unattended and it proceed to roll and splat on the floor.   

I made wasabi mashed potatoes to go with the Asian meatloaf.  I boiled red potatoes, then mashed them and added a little bit of butter, salt and pepper and then mixed wasabi powder with milk and added that to the potatoes.   Be careful with how much wasabi powder you use as you don’t want it to overwhelm the flavor.  Start with 1 tsp. to 1/3 cup of milk.   

SIDEBAR: I got this recipe from my sister, Chelley.  When she got married, my other sister, Casey, and I were in her wedding and she made us both a personalized recipe book as a gift.   It is full of photos of the three of us and tons of recipes.  It is a great personalized gift idea - and the holidays are coming up!

I really liked this recipe.  I like the vegetables and the flavor of it.  Do you have any unique meatloaf recipes to share?