Pecan Pie Muffins

Pintesting Pecan Pie MuffinsThe American Pie Council National Championships are about a month away and this year I get to be a judge! I can’t even tell you how excited I am for this honor. So I’m going to be doing some pie-related Pintestings this month leading up to the big event. My Pinterest page, Desserts – Pies/Tarts/Crostatas are all about pie related recipes. Go check it out for some inspiration. The first recipe I’m doing is this pin for Pecan Pie Muffins by Christy from The Girl Who Ate Everything.

Pintesting Pecan Pie Muffins

Even though the recipe has the word muffin, don’t be fooled. These are just like little pecan pies but a whole lot easier. Personally, I like that they don’t have the corn syrup that pecan pies traditionally have. And instead of thinking of them as muffins, you can think of them as self-crusting. Let’s get baking.

The Pintesting:

There are just 5 ingredients and most of them are kitchen staples.

Pintesting Pecan Pie Muffins

First mix the dry ingredients.

Pintesting Pecan Pie Muffins

Toss them together until they’re evenly coated.

Pintesting Pecan Pie Muffins

Next, mix the softened butter and the eggs.

Pintesting Pecan Pie Muffins

It won’t look pretty – mine looked kind of like curdled milk. Don’t worry, it’s supposed to look this way and will smooth out once everything is mixed together.

Pintesting Pecan Pie Muffins

Now stir in the dry ingredients JUST until mixed. See the bits of butter in the mixture? It’s okay to leave it like that.

NOTE: For the most part, muffins turn out best when they’re not over mixed. It’s better to leave a few lumps in the batter and have a tender crumb than to over mix the batter and have your muffins turn out like bricks.

Pintesting Pecan Pie Muffins

According to Christy, you want to grease your muffin pan really well or your muffins will stick. I love to use the “Best Ever Pan Release” recipe by I Am Baker (you’ll find the recipe at the end of the recipe in the Pineapple Upside Down Bundt Cake post found here).

Pintesting Pecan Pie Muffins

Fill the cups 2/3 full. The mixture made more than the mini muffin tin could hold so I made 6 regular-sized muffins, too.

Pintesting Pecan Pie Muffins

Bake at 350 degrees until done; see the recipe for baking times.

Pintesting Pecan Pie Muffins

The muffins easily pop out of the pan and into my mouth.

Pintesting Pecan Pie Muffins

WARNING! These are incredibly addictive. If you’re not careful it’s easy to pop 4 or 6 of the mini bite-sized pecan pie muffins in your mouth before you realize it. (I have no idea if or how that happened.)

The Pintesting Results:

Overall Results: 4.7 Pins

Pintesting Seal 5 Pins

Accuracy:  These muffins have the taste and texture of pecan pie. In fact, the next time I have the urge to make a pecan pie I’m going to make these instead.They turned out just like Christy said they would. 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Difficulty:  These are very easy to make. Just five ingredients and, if you buy the pecans already chopped, the only prep work is to make sure your butter is softened.  You don’t even need to use a mixer. 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Time:  According to the recipe, this should make 8 large or 16 mini muffins. When filling my muffin cups 2/3 full, I ended up with 24 mini muffins and 6 regular muffins. Since there were different baking times, I baked the different sized pans one after the other; 12 minutes for the minis and 14 minutes for the regulars. I also let the regular sized muffins rest in the pan for an extra 5 minutes to set after running a knife around the edge; they seemed just a bit soft. Total time was just over half an hour so I’m giving this 4 Pins.

Pintesting Rating - 4 Pins

Cost:  Most of the ingredients are kitchen staples – all but the pecans. I don’t know if they’re not in season, but they seemed a bit pricey at more than $10.00. 4 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 4 Pins

Practicality:  Not only are these an easier substitute for home-made pecan pie, but they’re quicker to make, too. They make a lot of the mini muffins, and the bite-sized treats are perfect for lunches or, don’t judge, dessert portion control. I’m guessing that they’ll freeze well, too (although I’ll have to confirm and let you know). 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Salad Swag: 3 Cures for the Common Salad

Bringing your lunch to work is a great way to save money and eat healthy. If the thought of taking your own lunch brings images of bologna sandwiches, bruised fruit, and pre-packaged “pastry” – think again! Bento lunches are all the rage. Sandwiches, wraps, and flatbreads have had healthy and delicious overhauls. Even packaging has improved, allowing for more and better options.

When I saw this pin for Salad Swag: 3 Cures for the Common Salad from the folks at The Kitchn, I knew this would be a great lunch test.

Salad Swag - Original Pin

The Pin linked via Kelly’s blog and site, It’s not Just Lunch. If you need some ideas for lunches and packaging, Kelly is a FANTASTIC resource. Her blog has lots of recipes and ideas, as does her cookbook, and she has links for not only her own lunch packaging system (can you say successful “momtrepreneur”?) but also other bento and lunch ideas.

BONUS TEST: Two of the salads call for chopped fresh fruit (pear and apple). Since I like my job, and they frown upon bringing a knife to work, I went with the tip given for keeping the fruit from turning brown; store it in a bit of water.

I chopped the fruit (pear pictured).

Salad Swag - Cut Pear - Pintesting

…Put it in a small container, and covered with water.

Salad Swag - Cover with Water - Pintesting

This was a good way to keep the fruit from turning brown, and it did not turn mushy.

Salad Swag - Keep from browning - Pintesting

The only down side is that it’s a bit awkward to drain if using a single-unit container like in The Frenchie Lentil. It was a lot easier draining the apples in the lunch system I used for The Bleu Apple. Read on to see the details.

Back to salads – three of them! Rather than post a pile of ingredients for all three salads, I’ll show each one individually.

NOTE: none of these recipes have measurements, so I eyeballed the pictures and went for a rough estimate.

* THE FRENCHIE LENTIL

This salad calls for cooked lentils, rough chopped hazelnuts, chopped fresh pear, crumbled feta, arugula, and balsamic vinaigrette.

Salad Swag - The Frenchie Lentil - Original

I took my pictures at the lunch table at work.

Salad Swag - The Frenchie Lentil - Pintesting

Although the photo isn’t as fancy, the plated product looked nice and tasted nicer. You can also see how draining the pears would be more difficult with a single-unit container. I also put the dressing in a separate container to make it easier to pour on the salad and make clean-up a bit easier.

Salad Swag - The Frenchie Lentil Served - Pintesting

I would not have thought of putting lentils in a salad, but I’m glad that The Kitchn did. They added a heartiness and meatless protein. The nuts gave a nice texture contrast and added to the protein, keeping me full all afternoon. The pears added a hint of sweet which played nicely against the saltiness of the feta. A filling and delicious salad that was perfect for lunch.

* THE BLEU APPLE

This salad calls for chopped apple, bleu cheese crumbles, cooked and cooled pearl barley, chicken breast, baby spinach, and lemon vinaigrette.

Salad Swag - The Bleu Apple - Original

I made a couple of changes – some accidental – with my lunch. I used leftover shake and bake chicken breast on my salad (rather than get another pan dirty at 0-dark-thirty in the morning). When I picked up the bleu cheese at the store, I accidently grabbed crumbled goat cheese and didn’t notice until I was packing the lunch. Goat cheese it is. Finally, when I went to make the vinaigrette, my lemons were bad. *sigh* Creamy balsamic vinaigrette.

Salad Swag - The Bleu Apple - Pintesting

On this day I used the Rubbermaid Lunch Blox Sandwich Kit. This lunch system comes with four containers and an ice-pack cooler that all snap together whichs keep things from falling all over my lunch bag and organized. Because the containers are all separate, it made draining the apples much easier and the dressing had it’s own container, too. The one “side” container that you don’t see held a small piece of leftover cake. Since it’s not part of the recipe I left it out of the picture.

Salad Swag - The Bleu Apple Served - Pintesting

The combination was still fantastic. The apple was crisp and sweet (but not too much so). The goat cheese was creamy and added a nice tanginess. The pearl barley was chewy and hearty – a nice addition to a salad. The chicken was, well, chickeny. The creamy balsamic dressing tied everything together very nicely. It was another great lunch.

* THE HAWAIIAN

This salad calls for pineapple, almonds, bacon, chickpeas, baby kale, and ranch dressing.

Salad Swag - The Hawaiian - Original

 

I used canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed, and substituted the rest of the bag of baby spinach. Waste not, want not.

Salad Swag - The Hawaiian - Pintesting

This was the hardest to get to lunch, because the bacon kept disappearing. I have no idea how it happened. Let’s just say I’m thankful my salad got some.

Salad Swag - The Hawaiian Served - Pintesting

 

Once again, this salad played a symphony of tastes. The sweet, juicy pineapple was a lovely contrast to the crispy, salty bacon. The chickpeas were creamy in contrast to the crunchy almonds. And the coolness of the ranch dressing brought it all home.

Each one of these salads was delicious, filling, and anything but boring. I had enough leftovers of ingredients to make The Frenchie Lentil again for lunch, and even made The Bleu Apple for a light late supper for two.

Now for the Pintesting Results:

Overall Rating: 5 Pins

5 Pins Overall

Accuracy: All three of the salads were extremely flavorful and filling. There were no measurements given, which nearly brought it down to 4 pins, but I like that you can modify the salad to your own tastes. Even though I had a few substitutions of my own, everything was delicious. 5 Pins

Rated 5 Pins

Difficulty: Some of the salads required a bit of prep work such as cooking and cooling lentils, pearl barley, or chicken, chopping fruit or nuts, etc. Not as easy as opening a salad kit, but definitely not hard. 4 Pins

Rated 4 Pins

Time: Each salad requires something with a cooking time of 20-30 minutes; lentils, pearl barley, or bacon. The chicken breast can be cooked on a George Foreman Grill in about 10 minutes. The rest is quick work. 4 Pins

Rated 4 Pins

Cost: These are restaurant quality salads that you would cost about $10 in most moderately priced chain restaurants. Each salad had a variety of ingredients, but most would make more than one salad. The Bleu Apple was the most expensive salad due to the chicken; roughly $4.50. The Frencie Lentil and Hawaiian both came in at $4.00 each. That’s what you’d pay for a Mc Fast Food lunch, only you’re getting a healthy, nutritious and delicious lunch that won’t make you feel guilty. 4 Pins

Rated 4 Pins

Practicality: These salads are easy to make ahead and have ready for the week. They’re a cost effective way to bring your lunch that’s anything but boring. 5 Pins

Rated 5 Pins

 

 

 

 

 

Mexican Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing

Like so many, I’m really trying to make an effort to eat better. Translation, eat more salads – especially ones that have more veggies, fruit and legumes. While strolling through Pinterest (does anyone else stroll through Pinterest?), I saw a pin that showed a blender with an avocado dressing recipe. I LOVE avocados. I was happy eating them sliced and sprinkled with a little kosher salt, but then my wonderful husband went and took it up a notch by making his guacamole. Talk about Holy Guacamole! Even people who don’t like the stuff love my Tony’s guac.

Sorry – sometimes I digress, then need to reign myself back in to the topic at hand.

When I clicked on the link, the recipe shown was different than the one in the comment of the pin. I thought Krista’s recipe for Mexican Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing sounded amazing and I had everything on hand, so went for it.

Here is the original pin that I posted from Pinterest.

Original Pin with altered recipe

THIS is picture from Krista’s blog, Krista’s Kitchen – I think it would have been a much better choice.

Original Pin

I gathered the ingredients for the dressing…

Dressing Ingredients WM

and the salad. (Note: I used grape tomatoes rather than slicing roma tomatoes, since I had the grape tomatoes on hand.)

Salad Ingredients WM

The dressing was very easy to make. Krista mentions using a Cuisinart CSB-76 Smart Stick Hand Blender, but I used my regular blender instead.. All of the dressing ingredients went in.

Dressing in the blender WM

Then they were blended until creamy and smooth. This didn’t take very long, which was very good since I had a hungry hubby to feed.

Blended smooth WM

Next came the salad. I didn’t have corn chips, but I did have organic blue corn tortilla chips, so I substituted them so I wouldn’t have to make a trip to the store.

Salad in the bowl WM

Krista used a big, lidded purple bowl to mix her salad in. Mine is green. I didn’t notice any difference. Once everything was in, I lidded the bowl and shook it to toss the ingredients together. (Sorry about the shadow in the picture. I’m working on the food photography.)

Salad tossed WM

Once combined, I added the dressing then shook it up to coat evenly.

Add the dressing WM

Dressed salad WM

I served it with chicken enchiladas, but this could easily be a vegetarian meal on it’s own.

Served with chicken enchiladas WM

The Mexican Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing rated as follows:

Overall Rating: 5 Pins

5 Pins Overall - LARGE

Accuracy: The recipe came together just as Krista posted. The avocado dressing was creamy and delicious, with just a hint of heat to let you know it’s there.

Rated 5 Pins - SMALL

Difficulty: Aside from my bowl being green rather than purple, I had no trouble with this recipe. It was very simple and the instructions were clear.

Rated 5 Pins - SMALL

Time: Even with all the photography, the salad came together in about 15-20 minutes. This includes removing the avocado flesh, opening cans, etc.

Rated 5 Pins - SMALL

Cost: I had everything on hand, but most kitchens might need a few items. None would be more than a few dollars.

Rated 5 Pins - SMALL

Practicality: The recipe was a household hit. I could serve this at a pot luck, as a vegetarian meal, or as a side dish.

Rated 5 Pins - SMALL