Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mushroom Turnovers

When I posted about our Christmas Eve dinner, I didn't include one of our appetizer/snacks: Mushroom Turnovers. This is a recipe I've had for a long, long time -- it's from the December 2005 issue of Southern Living. I've wanted to try these for so long but they always seemed like so much work and I always shrugged, sighed, and thought, well, maybe someday.

Someday finally arrived. I felt like we needed something else for our buffet, and my first thought was the puff pastry pinwheels with Gruyere & prosciutto & basil, but I just wasn't feeling like those. I wanted something new. As I flipped through one of my cut-out recipe binders, I came across these and suggested them to SP. He agreed that Christmas Eve was a great time to make and serve these.

So Tuesday morning before the holiday weekend, I made the pastry dough. It's very easy -- just butter, flour, and cream cheese mixed together. Tuesday afternoon, mom and I made the mushroom mixture. We slowly cooked a chopped onion in butter:Meanwhile, we finely chopped the mushrooms:And I measured out the sherry, sour cream, and flour and mixed together the thyme-pepper-salt seasoning.After the onions softened, we added the mushrooms and sauteed them for a bit, then dumped in all the other ingredients:After everything was thoroughly mixed, we removed the pan from the heat and set it aside to cool.

When SP got home from work, he rolled out the dough and cut out the 3 inch diameter circles:Mom placed small teaspoonfuls of the mushroom mixture on each round:The mushroom mixture was very tasty. There was a lot of sampling going on, just to be sure the mushroom mixture still tasted OK!I moistened the edges of each round with water and folded them in half:And used a fork to seal them shut:Since they can be made ahead of time and frozen, then taken directly from the freezer and baked, I placed them between sheets of waxed paper in a container:On Christmas Eve, we baked the turnovers at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes:The baked turnover photos are actually from this past Tuesday night. I forgot to take photos of the mushroom turnovers on Christmas Eve! Plus, they got eaten too quickly! Dad was 'auctioning off' the last two turnovers! They were a huge hit with everyone. SP & I have been informed that we can make these every year! They are a lot of work, but it was so nice to make something other than cookies over Christmas, and they are so tasty that they are well worth the effort.

Mushroom Turnovers from Southern Living:

1 and 1/2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup butter, softened
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 pound mushrooms, chopped
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons sherry
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Combine first 3 ingredients. Shape dough into a ball; cover and chill 1 hour.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add onion, and sauté 12 minutes or until onion is golden. Stir in chopped mushrooms, and sauté 3 minutes. Stir in thyme, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons flour evenly over mushroom mixture. Stir in sour cream and sherry. Remove from heat, and set aside.

Pat or roll chilled dough to 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface; cut with a 3-inch round cutter.

Spoon 1 teaspoon mushroom mixture on half of each dough circle, fold dough over filling. Press edges together with a fork to seal. Place turnovers on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake at 400° for 15 to 20 minutes or until edges are lightly browned; brush tops evenly with melted butter.

Note: To make ahead, place uncooked turnovers in a single layer on baking sheets, and freeze. Transfer frozen turnovers to large zip-top plastic freezer bags, seal and freeze up to 1 month. Place frozen turnovers on ungreased baking sheets. Bake as directed.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Papaya Fine Asian Cuisine

Today is an odd day . It's all backwards. SP has to work from 3 pm until 11 pm today, so he was home this morning and afternoon. Weird! I am used to being alone during the day. But we did have errands to do, and since we've been eating cookies and leftovers for several days (and we're getting kind of bored of ham), I suggested that we have a lunch date. SP quickly agreed. Since he was such a good sport about having 6 members of my family stay in our house over the holidays, I decided to offer him his choice of Thai or Chinese for lunch. He was very excited, since rarely do I suggest dining on those cuisines! We ended up at Papaya in Robinson a bit before noon.Papaya is a little bit Thai, little bit Chinese, and little bit Japanese. It's between the Pier One & Panera, near Chipotle and the WalMart. It's sleek and modern inside. Spacious. Christmas music was playing, but not too loudly. We were greeted warmly and seated right away. It wasn't too crowded. We were seated next to a front window. There is a small lucky bamboo plant on each table.

SP ordered a oolong tea and I opted for just water. Our server brought us an additional cup in case I wanted some tea.We each decided on a 'Happy Lunch Special.' There are 7 options, 5 of which are listed as spicy, and each comes with soup, a spring roll, and white or brown rice for $7.95. The two soups of the day were a miso soup and a hot & sour soup, neither of which I like, but I ordered the hot & sour soup anyway:SP got the miso soup:And SP got to enjoy both soups! He said the miso was good but could have been a bit warmer. He liked the hot & sour soup, too, and said it was spicy but not too spicy (could have been spicier) and it gave him the hiccups just like any hot & sour soup he eats.

I ordered the Fried Pork Dumplings appetizer:These are wonton wrapper dumplings, so much thinner and crisper than the usual doughy dumplings I get at Chinese restaurants. The filling wasn't just pork, there was sort of an egg roll filling taste to it, but it was good, and I enjoyed the sweet soy dipping sauce a lot.For his meal, SP chose the Red Curry Chicken:He got brown rice. I swiped his fried wonton wrapper. I figured that if he got both soups and one of my dumplings, I could eat his fried wonton. The curry was red chili paste in coconut milk. He enjoyed his meal.

I opted for Sesame Chicken:And of course I got white rice!! The egg roll was good, I even dipped it in some sauce. I liked that it was small, thus increasing the amount of wrapper to filling. Usually I don't like egg rolls because I think there's way more filling than wrapper and to me, the tasty part is the wrapper, not the filling! The sesame chicken was fine. The sauce almost tasted like some kind of BBQ sauce, which surprised me.

After lunch we were too full for dessert, but SP ordered a green tea bubble tea:He really likes bubble teas, slurping up the tapioca balls. He was surprised there was milk in this one, making it creamy, and whipped topping on top. He said it was good, but he likes the bubble teas at Rose Tea Cafe better.

I thought our service was good. We did not have any long waits; the soup, dumpling, and meals were spaced out nicely. Plates were promptly cleared. Both the man who seated us and took our order and another woman stopped by to check on us and see if everything was OK.

I was a bit skeptical of trying Papaya after some reviews I read on Urbanspoon and after an article in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The Post-Gazette noted that Papaya, which opened in September 2010, had to Americanize the menu, which I find a bit sad. I might not like true Thai food, but Robinson, like many suburbs, really needs some authentic Thai places (or authentic Chinese, Japanese, etc.) not some dumbed down American versions of these cuisines. I'm not sure I agree that Papaya has a higher price point than Panera or Chipotle -- $7.95 for lunch at Papaya seemes reasonable to me when I know that a sandwich at Panera is $6-7 and I'm pretty sure Chipotle is similarly priced. As for quantity of food, I thought the lunch portions were fine, and for me, more than I could eat. I brought home half my rice and half my chicken.

As for some comments on Urbanspoon, again, I didn't find lunch over-priced. We were not charged by the number of tea cups placed on the table for tea but charged for the pot of tea we had. I would say the food was not super fantastic/must return again soon, but it was certainly average/edible Asian cuisine. Not the best Sesame Chicken I've ever had, but not the worst. I glanced at the dinner options and prices and nothing struck me as terribly overpriced, but I suppose I can't really judge that because I didn't eat dinner/see the dinner portion size.

Definitely a nice addition to the Robinson dining scene.

Papaya Fine Asian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Dinner & Cherries Jubilee

Christmas dinner was a smaller, calmer affair than Christmas Eve dinner. SP and I had only a few responsibilities. We bought the spiral cut ham at Costco:Mom and dad took care of cooking the ham. Mom made the scalloped potatoes:And mom made the jello-applesauce side dish (also a tradition; we always had a jello side dish at grandma's on Christmas):Mom also got out and washed the Christmas dishes and set the table.

SP bought and steamed the broccoli.

And he made vanilla ice cream:The ice cream was for the Cherries Jubilee dessert. I know I said that Cherries On Snow was a family tradition, and I am about to say the same thing about Cherries Jubilee. That can't possibly be right - we wouldn't have had 2 cherries desserts on one day plus cookies! So I called out to mom in the living room. Mom yelled back that she would make Cherries On Snow at holiday time when we had guests over for dinner but not on Christmas Eve. That's why I associate Cherries On Snow with Christmas Eve, but it actually was just at Christmas time. Christmas Eve was definitely Cherries Jubilee because it's my brother's 'thing.' Ever since he was about 10 years old, he's been in charge of flaming the cherries in the chafing dish.

He heats a can of pitted dark cherries and then puts them in the warmed chafing dish:I think there's a few other ingredients, like powdered sugar & cornstarch, but I am not sure. Like I said, this is my brother's thing. I just provide the worn out recipe card.

Time for the flaming! We used brandy.A small spoonful. Always start small, because if you're like us, you need several spoonfuls to get it to flame!!!Here's SP using a match, trying to get the brandy to flame.It wasn't working very well. We couldn't find our plastic lighter and that would've been much better than our kitchen matches because we could have kept the heat/flame constant. SP kept having to light a new match!!! Eventually we got a small cherries flaming:But for the most part, it looked like this:Oh well! A small flame is better than no flame. We scooped the cherries over the homemade vanilla ice cream:My niece and nephew from GA didn't want any cherries, but they loved the ice cream. Niece kept sneaking small tastes all afternoon and nephew decided to make sure we didn't waste any:Yes. He literally licked the bowl.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Eve Dinner

Mom, SP, and I did a lot of cooking on Thursday & Friday (Christmas Eve). My family's 'tradition' when I was growing up and through my college years was that we hosted on Christmas Eve and Grandma hosted on Christmas Day. Of course things have changed. Grandma passed away several years ago, Grandpa passed away in 2009, my parents moved away from Pittsburgh, my brother moved away from Pittsburgh, I moved back to Pittsburgh. When my family is in town for Christmas, I host. Probably because they always stay with me when they come into town! This was the first time in 5 years that my whole family was together at Christmas on Christmas. So mom and I wanted to do it right. Some might say we went overboard, but we also like leftovers for easy lunches and dinners after the holidays.

In those growing up years, mom and dad always made BBQ spare ribs and lasagna for Christmas Eve. The BBQ spare rib sauce was from a Williamsburg cookbook. Dad was the one who made it. He got up early on Christmas Eve, made his sauce, and let it simmer away all morning and afternoon, filling the house with tangy BBQ smells. Competing with the BBQ smell was mom's pasta sauce smell. It was heavenly, warming, comforting. It was Christmas Eve.

Sometime during my college years, the menu changed to an appetizer/snack type dinner. We make a lot of different dishes and put them on a table, like a buffet, and everyone eats a little bit of everything. This year, we invited SP's still-in-town family to join us, and his dad and Googer did. I hope they enjoyed our appetizer/snack buffet!

Here are the goodies we made for Christmas Eve 2010:

Cheese Tray (smoked gouda, havarti, cheddar, mozzarella-prosciutto roll, and pimiento cheese dip):

There were Ritz crackers and Carrs crackers and tiny bruschetta-ish cracker rounds:Vegetable Tray (green & red pepper, carrots, celery, and mom's parsley dip, which is cream cheese, mayonnaise, parsley, lemon juice, & grated onion):Olive Dish (spicy chipotle, regular green, kalamata, and regular black):Turkey Salad (with finely chopped celery & egg; a turkey breast roasted in the oven and ground in the food processor):SP bought smoked salmon at Costco and made a smoked salmon platter with cream cheese & capers:And for with the smoked salmon, regular baguette and multi-grain baguette:Breaded chicken tenders (some breaded with panko, some with Progresso Italian bread crumbs for the kids):The chafing dish my grandma gave my mom many, many years ago:We made Pork Balls, one of my dad's favorites, and kept them warm in the chafing dish. They're ground ham and ground pork with bread crumbs and dry mustard, covered with a brown sugar-cider vinegar glaze and baked. Yum! Ours were a little larger than grandma used to make. Hers were maybe 1/3~1/4 the size of ours, which explains how dad and grandpa each managed to eat 32 pork balls one year in their pork ball eating challenge. I remember sitting at the table at grandma's house when dad & grandpa faced off. That was way back when everyone had large appetites, weighed a lot, and always ate a lot. Since those days in the 1970's/80's, everyone has cut back and lost a lot of weight. But we still enjoy the pork balls!A platter of shrimp:I almost forgot to photograph the shrimp, so you'll notice that one side of the platter is empty because people started eating! They were served with a homemade cocktail sauce (ketchup & horseradish):SP's fondue pot:Smokey German Fondue (smoked gouda, jarlsberg, lite ale, dry mustard, and I forget what else):It took a long time for it to come together. It was very lumpy. SP and Googer took turns whisking. It was very tasty, but never did smooth out the way it should have, and we think it's because we didn't start making it early enough and then everything else was ready, so SP rushed the fondue and added the cheese too quickly (too much at a time) and it just never melted/smoothed out. In spite of it's somewhat clumpy texture, it tasted good and all of got eaten. For dipping in the cheese fondue we had pumpernickel bread:Apples (which Googer sliced and sprinkled with lemon to keep them from browning):And kielbasa:Whew! After all of that food you'd think we wouldn't want dessert... but of course we did! In addition to trays filled with all 13 kinds of cookies, mom made another family tradition, Cherries On Snow:Actually, it's not really a tradition anymore. It's been years since we made it. Maybe even 20 years. So it's more of a nostalgic thing. We used to have it every year. It's a very old recipe from a Hallmark holiday craft & cookbook that my mom got back in the 1970's. The cookbook is now missing, but we found the recipe handwritten on a piece of paper in one of my first recipe collection binders. Cherries On Snow is like a cheesecake, but it doesn't require baking and there's not as much cream cheese.It's 8 ounces of cream cheese, some gelatin, dream whip, milk, powdered sugar, lemon juice, all mixed together and poured on top of a graham cracker crust in a spring form pan. Set it in the refrigerator to firm up, them dump a can of cherries on top, let it sit overnight, release from pan and serve.My dad loves this dessert. Most of us had a wee wedge on Christmas Eve. So there was a bit less than half left. Dad finished it!!!! I'm glad he enjoyed his dessert so much.

Everything was yummy and I ate a lot of food! We've been enjoying the leftovers for lunches and dinners -- but there wasn't as much leftover as we expected! I'm glad my family is only all together every few years because all that cookie baking plus the Christmas Eve buffet is a lot of work. The results are worth it, but SP and I are still quite tired! And our tummies are still quite full (in a good way).