It is time to start planning those special holiday meals, including the rich desserts we enjoy at this time of the year.

One dessert that comes to mind is pecan pie. Growing up in the South, we always had this super rich dessert at various dinners and parties between now and the beginning of the new year.

From time to time, I have experimented with different ways to make pecan pie. Using fresh cranberries helps to reduce the sweetness a little.

Cranberry Pecan Pie

• 3 eggs

• 1 cup light corn syrup

• 2/3 cup firmly-packed light brown sugar

• 4 tablespoons melted butter

• 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh orange peel

• 3/4 cup fresh cranberries, chopped

• 1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust

• 1 cup pecan halves

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In large bowl, beat eggs with a fork until blended. Stir in corn syrup, brown sugar, butter and orange peel. Sprinkle cranberries in pie crust. Arrange pecan halves on top of cranberries. Pour syrup mixture carefully over pecans. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until filling is set. If the edge of crust browns too quickly, cover with a strip of foil to prevent further browning.

Fried Pecan Pies

• 1 cup firmly-packed light brown sugar

• 1 tablespoon flour

• 3 lightly-beaten eggs

• 1 cup light corn syrup

4 tablespoons butter

• 1 cup chopped toasted pecans

• 2 cups self rising flour (see note below)

• 1/4 cup shortening

• 1/2 cup milk

• Oil for frying

In heavy saucepan, combine brown sugar and the tablespoon of flour. Mix well. Add eggs, corn syrup and butter. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and cook, stirring continuously until mixture has thickened. This probably will take 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in toasted pecans. Refrigerate until completely cool. Heat oil (about 3/4 inch deep) in electric skillet to 350 degrees. Combine self-rising flour, shortening and milk in bowl of food processor. Process until mixture forms a ball. Turn out onto floured surface. Knead until slightly firmer than biscuit dough. Divide into 6 to 8 portions. Roll each ball into circle about 5 to 6 inches in diameter. Dough should be thin. Place about 1/4 cup of filling in center of each circle. Fold to form a half-moon shape. Press edges with a fork to seal well. Gently push fork into top and bottom of each pie 3 or 4 times. Place into hot oil and fry until golden brown.

NOTE: If using all-purpose flour for the dough, add 3 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the 2 cups all-purpose flour.

— Prudence Hilburn of Piedmont, Alabama, has won national cooking awards and written several cookbooks. Write her at prudencehilburn@aol.com or visit www.prudencehilburn.com.