Archive for December, 2013


Chocolate Pretzel Pecan Pie

Here’s a pecan pie for those who don’t really love pecan pie. I love pecan pie but I couldn’t resist the idea of adding more good stuff to one of my favorites.

The result? My kids, who don’t really care for pecan pie, LOVED this! Me? Turns out I’m a pecan pie purist. I love all the ingredients in this pie and thought I would absolutely love it, so I was surprised to discover I liked it but didn’t love it. Or it could have been that I was stuffed on the Chicken Artichoke Lasagna my daughter made for dinner and the plethora of sweets I’ve had lately. I’m not sure. I might have to make this one more time to decide.  🙂Chocolate Pretzel Pecan Pie

Alex said he isn’t really a nut person – I beg to differ 😉 – but he really liked this pie. Tish liked it because she doesn’t like the texture of regular pecan pie. She also might be a bit of a chocoholic so that helped, I’m sure. When she was younger, maybe in junior high, I remember coming home from work and her telling me she had spent the day reading a book and eating the chocolate cookies she’d found in the kitchen. That’s my girl!

I’d say this pie is definitely worth the try! It’s super easy to throw together, and you can use a pre-made pie crust if you don’t want to make it from scratch. I’m lazy. I used the refrigerated pie crust. The crust is not pre-baked and you should not prick the crust before loading it with the filling.

One thing I didn’t do well, though – I didn’t rub enough flour on the pie crust before putting it into the pie pan. Shame on me for not following the directions on the box! If you’re making a pie with a high sugar content, such as pecan, you need to put flour on the pie crust to help absorb some of the sugar and prevent the filling from leaking through the crust. Mine leaked through the crust and the result was a pie that didn’t come out of the pan cleanly. Lesson learned!

Chocolate Pretzel Pecan Pie

from Culinary Covers

Stuff you need:

1 pie crust (store bought or homemade)
2 large eggs
1 cup light corn syrup
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon grated orange zest [I use the jarred grated zest found in the spice aisle.]
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups pecans
3/4 cup mini pretzels (about 18), broken into pieces
3/4 cup semi-sweet, bittersweet or extra dark chocolate [I used semi-sweet because that’s what I had. The kids liked it so I’d use that again.]

Now what?

Preheat the oven to 350F. Fit the pie crust into a 9-inch pie dish. Fold the edges over and crimp as desired. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use. [Make sure you flour the crust first! Rub a Tablespoon or so on each side.]

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, corn syrup, melted butter, vanilla, brown sugar, orange zest, cinnamon and salt. Stir in the pecans, pretzels and chocolate.

Pour into the prepared pie crust. Bake for 30 minutes.

Cover the pie with foil and continue to bake until the filling is puffed and the center is just set, another 15 to 20 minutes. [I think mine took about 65-75 minutes. Might be my oven because my pecan pies take longer than the recipes suggest, so keep an eye on yours.]

Let cool and serve at room temperature.

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Typically I’d agree with my friend’s assessment of homemade Chinese food: “Homemade is never as good as the restaurant!” Typically. But recently I made this Orange Chicken and I think it really IS as good as the restaurant version!

Orange ChickenI’m a sauce girl. It has to be good, and there has to be plenty! No skimping on the sauce – I want to drench my rice or pasta in it! Well, this sauce is near perfect. It’s got great flavor, and with this recipe, there’s plenty of it. The recipe only calls for 2 chicken breasts but there was enough sauce for 3 good-sized chicken breasts or 4 small ones.

The original recipe includes a recipe for fried rice. I’m lazy and I really wanted pasta that evening so I made orzo instead. Honestly, I liked the orzo better than rice, but I have never really a big rice fan.

The recipe, the way it’s written, is delicious but takes some time and the frying makes a mess! I consolidated some steps when I made it, and next time I’ll make an even  more streamlined version. I liked the heat of the dish, but if you don’t tolerate spiciness it can be toned down, so don’t let this recipe scare you off! See the tips below for a simpler recipe and for a milder version.

Streamlined Version

I followed the recipe and fried my chicken. I won’t lie. It was good, but it made a mess! I know the restaurant version is fried but if you’re pressed for time or you don’t eat fried food, you could skip the breading and frying part. Sautee your chicken in a little oil, use 3-4 cups of a rotisserie chicken, 3-4 breasts of baked or broiled chicken, or even leftover turkey. It’ll be faster and healthier!

Less Spicy Version

I never seem to get the heat of cayenne correct and this was no exception. I had no idea what the peppers are that were called for in the recipe, so I substituted 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. I would have used crushed red pepper flakes but I didn’t have any in my pantry. I used fresh ginger which I grated directly into the pan – without measuring – so it’s hard to say how much of the kick came from the cayenne and how much came from the ginger. Maybe I should have measured. Nah!  😉   It had a pretty good bite to it. Not unbearable, but it would have been too spicy for someone who doesn’t like spicy food. Anyway, if you don’t like ginger, don’t have fresh ginger, or don’t want all the bite, you can substitute ground ginger. It still provides flavor, but it doesn’t have the bite of fresh ginger root.

Orange Chicken

Adapted from Tasty Kitchen

Stuff you need:

3 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts or alternate as suggested in the Streamlined Version notes above
¼ cup cornstarch [if you are frying the chicken]
Salt and pepper
1 cup fresh orange juice [I used a good bottled orange juice.]
1 cup water
2 Tablespoons lime juice
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3 strips orange zest – 1″ wide by 2″ tall OR 1 Tablespoon grated orange peel
½ cups lightly packed brown sugar
½ teaspoons fresh minced or grated ginger (optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons light soy sauce
4 whole dried red chilies, broken in half OR 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 Tablespoons cornstarch, for the slurry
2 Tablespoons water, for the slurry
Cooked rice or noodles

Now what?

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat about an inch of vegetable or canola oil to about 375F.
In a large zip top bag, combine the cornstarch, salt and pepper. Add the chicken chunks and seal the bag. Toss to coat completely.
Add the coated chicken to the hot oil in two or three batches. Cook until lightly golden and the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 160 F. Transfer the cooked chicken to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Hold the chicken in the oven or microwave, covered.
Drain the oil from the pan but don’t wash it.
In the same saucepan over medium heat, combine the water, orange juice, lime juice, lemon juice, vinegar, orange zest, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and dry chilies. Stir to combine and stir the bottom of the pan to dredge up the leftover chicken bits.
Bring mixtsure to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and let the sauce reduce by 1/3. [This step is VERY important. If you don’t let the ginger and garlic cook, you will have very raw flavors, not the mellowed-out flavor that the simmering brings about.]
In a small bowl, prepare the slurry by combining the cornstarch and water until smooth. Pour the mixture into the sauce and whisk until the sauce thickens. If it doesn’t thicken up, make more slurry and add it a bit at a time until the sauce is thick.
Add the chicken and heat through. Remove from heat and serve over rice or noodles.