Wednesday, December 28, 2016

eShakti Review


You're probably thinking, "What the heck, this isn't a food post!"
You'd be right about that. 
I am happy to say we are doing something a little different on joandsue.blogspot.com today.
A company called eShakti (website HERE) contacted us and asked if we would be interested in doing a review of their clothing. We were given a product of our choosing for our time but, as always, our opinions here are our own.
eShakti is a clothing company that makes "Real Fashion for Real People" with sizes varying from 0 to 36W (how awesome is that?!)  And, even more cool, you can customize designs to suit your personal preference. Want a higher hemline? A lower neckline? Different sleeves? No problem. They customize designs for just $9.95 per item - customization is free for all first-time customers. You can order "off the rack" or you can enter your exact measurements for a perfect fit!


They have a ton of beautiful dresses but Sue and I are soooo not dress people. I decided to go with a Cross-Strap Cotton Knit Top. It comes in a variety of colors but I chose black for a classic look that would go with more of my wardrobe. 
I ordered it on the 1st of December and I believe it arrived on the 15th. The company is located in India so I thought the 2 weeks+ was pretty decent. The website said 10 - 14 days for delivery so it was pretty darned accurate. 


I'm not a sewer by any means but it seemed very well made. The material was quite thick and sturdy. To be honest I am used to softer, flow-ier material so my first impression was thinking it would feel weird when I tried it on. 
I tried it on and decided it was actually more comfortable than I figured it would be. My niece then came along and fell in love with it. 
She is my model in the photos accompanying this post. She wore it to her Christmas party with nude tights and heels, then posed for me here with white tights and boots. 


I love the thumb openings and the cross straps across the chest. 


Perfect for in the winter to help keep the hands warm! 


You can easily customize this shirt by changing the length of it, color, sleeve style, or the neckline. 
If you are a lover of cute clothing then I say hop over to eShakti (link HERE) and check them  out. SO MANY cute pieces to choose from. You can follow them on Facebook (HERE)  to read other reviews and customer comments. (Or, just google them - tons of bloggers have posted reviews about their experiences.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Pecan Pie Cheesecake


I would like to start off by apologizing. You see, this dessert will ruin you for all other desserts.
For realz.
Pecan Pie meets cheesecake for a ridiculous, mind blowing sugar-coma inducing experience.  
I am pretty sure nothing in my life will be the same after this. 
What's that? I may be over hyping it a tad? 
No.
Just....no. 
It is everything you think it will be. Unless, of course, you don't like cheesecake. *sigh*  Do those people really exist? 


Pecan Pie Cheesecake

Ingredients
Crust
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted

Pecan Pie Filling
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup corn syrup, light
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped
1 tsp vanilla

Cheesecake Filling
3 bricks cream cheese (24 oz), room temp
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp flour
4 eggs
2/3 cup whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla

Pecan Topping
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 cup pecans, chopped & toasted

Butterscotch Whipping Cream
1 cup whipping cream
2 Tbsp Butterscotch pudding powder

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray the bottom of a 10 inch springform pan with cooking spray, set aside.
Prepare Crust - In a mixing bowl, stir together graham crumbs, brown sugar, and melted butter until well combined. Press firmly into the bottom and halfway up the sides of the prepared springform pan. Set in the fridge while you prepare the Pecan Pie Filling.


Prepare Pecan Pie Filling - In a medium saucepan combine sugar, corn syrup, melted butter, eggs, pecans, and vanilla. Stirring constantly, over medium high heat, bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring constantly until thickened - about 5 - 7 minutes. Pour into the chilled crust and set aside. 


Prepare the Cheesecake Filling - Beat the cream cheese until creamy, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Beat in the brown sugar and flour until well combined. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined after each addition. Do not over mix. Again, scrape sides as needed. 
Stir in the whipping cream and vanilla. Pour on top of the pecan pie filling.


Place springform pan on a cookie sheet (I used a pizza pan) and place in 350 degree oven. Reduce the heat to 325 and bake for approx 80 - 90 minutes, until cheesecake is still a teeny bit jiggly. Turn off heat and leave cheesecake in the oven with the door closed for 20 more minutes. **If it starts to crack then remove it from the oven to a wire rack to cool completely.**


Run a knife around the outer edge of the cheesecake but do not remove sides of pan until cheesecake is completely cool.


Prepare Pecan Topping - In a small saucepan, combine butter and brown sugar. Cook for 3 - 5 minutes, or until very bubbly. Stir in the cinnamon, whipping cream, and pecans. 


Let cool for 15 - 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
Pour the topping over the cooled cheesecake. Let topping cool completely. 


Prepare Butterscotch Whipping Cream - Beat whipping cream until soft peaks form. Sprinkle with the 2 Tbsp of pudding powder and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. Decorate cheesecake as desired with the whipping cream.


Chill, covered, until ready to serve - overnight is best but at least 5 - 6 hours.


Fancy schmancy, am I right? 


Yes, it takes a bit of work as you have several different steps BUT, trust me on this one, it is totally worth the effort. 


It makes a large 10 inch cheesecake which is perfect for feeding a bigger dinner party.
I would say 12 pieces easily. It is very rich and a small piece goes a long way!


I stabilized the whipping cream with butterscotch pudding powder but you can easily use vanilla pudding or even cheesecake pudding powder. If you are serving it right away you can just use plain whipping cream without any pudding powder as well. 
Sorry, but we're not even sorry. 

Monday, December 26, 2016

Orange Cranberry Cake


This lovely cake is perfect for Christmas dinner!
The orange and cranberry flavors are light and refreshing after a heavy meal. And those sugared cranberries on top..... so cute for the holiday! It looks fancy schmancy but is super easy to whip up AND to decorate. Plus, the cake can be made ahead of time and frozen until needed. 
What are you waiting for?


Orange Cranberry Cake
(ever so slightly adapted from Baker By Nature)

Ingredients
Cake
1 cup butter, room temp
1 3/4 cup sugar
zest of 1 large orange (about 1 Tbsp)
2 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
2 1/2 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen)
2 Tbsp flour

Orange Frosting
1 brick cream cheese (8 oz), room temp
1/2 cup butter, room temp
4 cups icing sugar
zest of 1 large orange (about 1 Tbsp)
1 Tbsp fresh orange juice
pinch salt
2 Tbsp milk

Decorations
1/4 cup sugar + 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 cup cranberries (fresh or frozen)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350. Line 3, 8 inch pans with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Set aside. 
Prepare cake - In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the orange zest and vanilla until well combined, scraping sides of bowl as necessary. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 
Beat the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined. There should still be some floury streaks throughout. (Don't over mix!)
Gently stir in the sour cream and orange juice.


Toss the 2 1/2 cups cranberries in 2 Tbsp of flour to coat (this helps prevent them sinking down in the cake). 


Fold them into the batter.
Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pans.


Bake at 350 until cake is done - about 35 to 40 minutes. Tops will be golden brown.


Let cool in pans for about 8 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen, invert onto wire rack to cool completely. 
Prepare frosting - Beat together the cream cheese and butter until smooth, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Gradually beat in icing sugar, orange zest & juice, salt, and cream until frosting reaches a spreadable consistency. (You may need to add a bit more icing sugar or cream.)
Assemble cake - Place one layer of cake on a serving platter. Top with about a third of the frosting. 


Repeat with 2nd, and 3rd layers.


Place cake in fridge to set up a bit while you prepare the sugared cranberries.
Prepare cranberries - Combine 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently. Simmer for 3 minutes then remove from heat. 
Stir in the 1 cup of cranberries (if using frozen then do not allow them to thaw first). Using a slotted spoon, remove the cranberries to a wire rack and allow to dry for 20 or so minutes (cranberries should be tacky but not wet). 
After 20 minutes, roll the cranberries in the remaining 1/2 cup sugar.


Let the cranberries dry for another 30 minutes. Decorate cake as desired with the cranberries.


FYI - The sugared cranberries are safe to eat but taste quite sour if you do eat them. 


Chill until ready to serve!


You can make this cake the day before and will last very nicely, covered, in the fridge. Just take it out about an hour before you want to serve it so it can come up to room temp. 
Impress your family and friends with this beautiful and delicious dessert perfect for any family gathering! 
If you would like to see the original recipe, pop over to Baker By Nature - HERE

Friday, December 23, 2016

Lacey Cookies


I found cookies at Costco that I was pretty sure must have been created in a secret government lab somewhere. Designed to get you addicted in one bite. They were called Lacey's Cookies. Maybe you've tried them? If you have then you know what I'm talking about.
Crunchy pecan, caramel, and chocolate goodness that goes straight to that area in the brain that controls all reason. 
I have brilliant news you guys. I found pretty much the exact recipe over at Bake. Eat. Repeat. (Link HERE) and it is soooo much easier than I thought it was going to be. It's no more difficult than making any other cookie. Seriously. 
Thank you Bake. Eat. Repeat. These are now my new favorite everything. 



Lacey Cookies

Ingredients
2 oz pecan halves (about 3/4 cup)
4 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp liquid honey
1/4 cup flour
pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla

Topping
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

Directions
Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside.
In a blender or food processor, process pecan halves until finely ground. You should have 1/2 cup ground pecans. 


In a medium saucepan, combine butter, sugar, and honey over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until butter is melted and sugar dissolved. Continue stirring until mixture just comes to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the pecans, flour, salt, and vanilla until just combined. 


Let sit for 4 - 5 minutes to cool slightly, stirring once.
Drop by the teaspoon full onto prepared cookie sheet. Make sure to leave about 3 inches between cookies as they spread a lot.


Bake at 350 for 10 - 12 minutes, until evenly browned.


Be sure to keep an eye on them. **Note - When I put the second sheet in the oven I checked them at the 6 minute mark and they looked like this ...


I'm not sure why the second sheet burned in only 6 minutes. I'm guessing it had something to do with the batter sitting on the cookie sheet while the first batch cooked in the oven. the first batch took 11 minutes and worked perfectly. 
Let the cookies cool on the cookie sheet until they start to firm up - about 5 minutes. Remove them to a wire rack to cool completely. 
When cookie are cool, place chocolate chips in a plastic bag and microwave in 20 second intervals, kneading in between, until melted. (You can also melt in a bowl)


Snip a teeny corner off and drizzle the chocolate over the cooled cookies.


Let chocolate solidify (can place in fridge to speed up process). Store in an airtight container at room temp for 3 - 4 days (if they last that long!)


Guuuuuuuuys!!!
These are just ridiculous. 
Just remember to keep an eye on them in the oven. I'm still not sure why the first sheet took 11 minutes and the second was burnt at 6 minutes. 
Also - I used a small cookie scoop and got 18 cookies. the original recipe at Bake.Eat. Repeat. said to use a teaspoon and she got 24 cookies. 
And, do NOT try to get more than 6 cookie on a sheet. they will grow into a giant blob. You can cut the cookies apart while they are still warm but it is easier to just cook less cookies per sheet! 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Easy Cheddar Crackers


This holiday season why not whip up these super-de-duper crackers and totally impress your guests?
They are easy, tasty, crispy bits of loveliness that will have everyone asking for the recipe. 
Homemade crackers are always best the day they are made but can be kept in an airtight container for a day or two. They will just lose some of their crispiness. 
Be sure to use aged cheddar so the cheese flavor really shines through. 


Easy Cheddar Crackers

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups flour
generous pinch of salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp paprika
6 Tbsp butter, chilled
8 oz shredded, aged cheddar
2 egg yolks
2 (or more) Tbsp water

Directions
Preheat oven to 350. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, set aside.
In a blender (or food processor), pulse together the flour, salt, and garlic & onion powder. Add in the butter and pulse until combined. Add in the cheese and pulse again. 
Add in the egg yolks and 2 Tbsp of water and process until a stiff dough starts to form. You may need to add in a bit more water to get it to come together. 
Remove the dough and pat into a log. Place on a floured work surface.


Roll the dough to about 3/8 of an inch thickness (the thinner the cracker the crispier it will be). 
Cut out crackers using a cookie cutter.


Place on prepared cookies sheet. They can be quite close together as they don't spread, only puff up!
Bake at 350 until crackers are golden brown, about 20 - 30 minutes.


Remove from cookie sheet to a wire rack to cool, or enjoy them warm.


Store in an airtight container.
If you find you are having a problem with the crackers spreading when they cook, simply place the cut out dough on the cookie sheets in the fridge for 15 minutes before baking. 
I believe I got about 50 or so crackers out of one batch. This will, of course, depend on how big you make the crackers. I think my star cutter is about an inch across. 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Vegetarian Mushroom and Lentil Pot Pie


Sue and I are very excited to be sharing this post with you today. 
This post was created in partnership with CorningWare (Click HERE for link). We received complimentary products and compensation but, as always, our opinions are our own. 
The Meal Mugs make cooking memorable meals as easy as 1, 2, 3! It's the only tool you will need to make everything from coffee and cocoa to soup, chili, oatmeal, and more. The mug's vented lid allows steam to escape, keeping your microwave clean and you safe from steam burns. They are made of a durable and beautiful stoneware material which comes in different colors. 
The mug is dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer, microwave & pre-heated oven safe (meaning, do NOT put it in when the oven is cold, only once the oven is preheated for even cooking and prevents damage if it heats up unevenly). The non-porous surface does not absorb food odors, flavors, or stains. The patented vented lids are BPA free, microwave and top-rack dishwasher safe. Just do NOT put the lids in the oven!


So cute, am I right?
Anyway.... we decided to go with a vegetarian mushroom and lentil pot pie because it an be made 2 ways, with 2 toppings and 2 ways to cook! It's a perfect meal to make ahead, keep in the fridge, and then just take out what you need to cook up for dinner or lunch. It freezes very well or can be covered in the fridge for several days. 
First up we will show you how to make it in the oven with a puff pastry topping!


Vegetarian Mushroom and Lentil Pot Pie

Ingredients
2 Tbsp oil
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 large potato, finely diced
10 large button mushrooms, finely chopped (or pulsed briefly in a food processor)
1 large onion, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalks celery, finely diced
1 leek, finely diced
2 cans lentils (about 3 cups), drained
1 cup peas
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp dried chives
4 cups vegetable broth
3 Tbsp flour
generous dash of Sriracha 
salt & pepper

Topping 
Puff pastry

Directions
In a large pot or skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook carrots, potato, mushrooms, onion, garlic, celery, and leek until veggies are softened, about 5 - 8 minutes. Add in lentils, peas, garlic & onion powder, soy sauce, and chives. 
In a bowl, whisk together the flour and about 1/2 cup of the veggie broth. Whisk in the remainder of the broth. Add the veggie broth to the vegetables and lentils in the pot. 
Add in the Sriracha and salt and pepper. 
Cook and stir until the mixture thickens.


Scoop the mixture evenly into your CorningWare Meal Mugs.


At this stage you can either proceed to cooking OR you can let them cool, cover with their lids, and refrigerate for later. 
To cook - Preheat oven to 425. 
Roll out puff pastry sheet on a lightly floured work surface. Cut out rounds just slightly larger than the top of the Meal Mugs. 


Press firmly to the rim of the Meal Mug. Poke a small hole for steam to escape in the center of the puff pastry. Repeat until all of your Meal Mugs are covered. (Can also place rolled out puff pastry sheet on top of a large casserole dish!) You can place the mugs on a cookie sheet if you are cooking more than one to make things easier. 


Cook in preheated 425 oven until tops are golden brown and puffed up, about 20 - 30 minutes. 


FYI - you can brush the puff pastry with a beaten egg, if desired, but it is not necessary. 
Let sit for about 5 - 10 minutes before eating as the filling is super-de-duper hot when it comes out of the oven. 
If you are using the oven method using filling that has been in the fridge you will want to warm up the filling first before putting the puff pastry on top. You can either do this for a minute in the microwave OR by briefly heating it in a pot on the stove top. (I found that it took the chilled filling quite a bit longer than 30 minutes to heat all the way through in the oven)


It looks pretty darned impressive, does it not?


And tastes even better!


You can easily change up the recipe to suit what you have on hand or your favorite veggies.
The mushrooms add a lovely flavor and add a beef-like texture to the dish. 


It is soooooo filling. One Meal Mug will definitely fill up your heartiest eater!
Now.... what about if you want to cook it in the microwave?


Vegetarian Mushroom and Lentil Pot Pie (Microwave Version)

Ingredients
Filling from above recipe.

Topping
4 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
generous pinch salt
1/2 Tbsp butter, chilled
2 tsp herbs 
3 Tbsp milk
sprinkle of paprika

Directions
Fill your CorningWare Meal Mug with a generous helping of the pot pie filling. 


If your filling has just been prepared you are good to go to the next step. If your filling has been chilled in the fridge, simply microwave it for a minute to warm it through, give it a stir, and then you are ready to proceed to the next step. 
Prepare topping - In a small bowl, using a fork, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Using a fork, mix in the cold butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in herbs. 


Stir in milk until thick batter forms, Spread evenly on top of the pot pie filling.


Microwave for roughly 2 minutes - up to 3 or so minutes. Keep checking it. It is done when the biscuit batter is firm on top and appears dry. 


Sprinkle it with a little paprika to add some color. 
Let sit for a minute so you don't burn yourself and then dive in!


The biscuit topping is super tasty! 
So there you go, you can make it with puff pastry OR biscuit topping, you can bake it or microwave it all in a handy Meal Mug that will also store your leftovers. 
Sue and I were really impressed with the Meal Mugs. Our only complaint - if you could call it a complaint - is that each mug is quite large. Almost a 2 serving size instead of one BUT, that being said, with the handy lid you can just pop any leftovers in the fridge for later. 
Want to get one for yourself? Here is a list of Canadian retailers that carry the Meal Mug - 
Want a chance to win some FABULOUS prizes? RSVP here - http://www.foodbloggersofcanada.com/2016/12/mealmug-twitter-party-with-corningware/ - and join the fun at a Twitter party on December 15th. All you need is a Twitter account to participate! Click the link for all the info!