Justine: Recipe Week at Eight Ladies

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Image (c) Shutterstock.

This week, in honor of US Thanksgiving, some of the Eight Ladies will be sharing their favorite recipes…and not just food recipes, either (although there will likely be plenty of that…see below!). Be sure to check in each day to see what sort of goodies we’re revealing!

I started thinking about recipes for the kind of books I like while discussing with Jilly some of my favorite romances. My recipe for a good romance includes competent women and men who DO things for them, plus a dash of community.

In the era of women’s rights and #metoo, I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to writing (and reading) romance. Not that I have anything against competent women who can do for themselves, who know their potential, and who go for what they want. In fact, I AM one of those women, trying to make a career out of writing while raising two kids, taking care of two pets, and managing a household with a husband who travels…a lot.

It means I DO a lot…from helping with homework to shuttling kids around to fixing leaky toilets and installing ceiling fans. And most of the time, when something’s gotta give, it’s me and my work. Sometimes, though, I just want another person to do the shuttling/fixing/installing for me, without me having to write a check.

That’s where my heroes come in…both the ones I read and the ones I write.

Without a doubt, I admire heroines that are self-sufficient, capable women. And I like it when their heroes understand, accept, and especially celebrate that. But in my mind, what better way to show your love for a lady than to do something for her? That’s what my heroes do, without stepping all over their ladies in the process.

Screen Shot 2018-11-18 at 1.45.43 PMI always think back to Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Without any prompting, Darcy arranges everything for Mr. Wickham, paying off his debts and ensuring he marries Lydia in order to restore some honor to the Bennet family. His actions were a demonstration of his love for Elizabeth. And he even tried to keep it from her! *swoon*

Another great example is Shane from Jennifer Crusie’s Agnes and the Hitman. Agnes is trying to pull off a wedding reception when her A/C dies. Instead of Shane telling Agnes about it or offering to help, he just BUYS her an air conditioner and has it installed. Problem solved. It’s what she needed, when she needed it, and she didn’t have to ask for help. (Lord, I could use some of that these days.)

Just like with cooking, you often pick up new tricks in the kitchen that making your food richer. Something I’ve come to love in a good romance is community. I never put much stock in it until I started planning my own six-book series and realized how much I become invested in all the secondary characters, their backstories, and the little dramas they bring to the page. They’re people, too, in these fantasy fiction worlds that we create (or get created for us), and I usually care as much for them as I do the main characters. They’re a bit like butter and sugar…they make the world rich and sweet.

So…that’s what it takes for me to read (and write) a good book.

As for favorite recipes, here’s one that my family regularly asks for every Thanksgiving…Homemade Southern Banana Pudding, courtesy of Deep South Dish.

IngredientsScreen Shot 2018-11-18 at 1.38.18 PM

3 large eggs, separated
¾ cup granulated (caster) sugar, divided into ½ and ¼ cups
1/3 cup all purpose flour
Dash salt
3 cups whole milk
1 overflowing teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
1 box of Vanilla Wafers (regular, not mini)
4-6 ripe bananas, sliced (as many as you want, really)
Pinch of cream of tartar

Separate the eggs and set aside the whites to come to room temperature for the meringue.

Custard

In a double-boiler, whisk together ½ cup of sugar with the flour, salt, and milk. Whisk in the yolks and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and mixture reaches 170F/77C. Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla, and set aside to cool slightly.

A note about the custard: this takes TIME. Like, lots of time. At least 30 minutes or more. So be patient. Do not turn the heat up too much, or you’ll burn it. You must stir it constantly, so be prepared to be chained to the stove while you do this. But trust me, it’s WORTH IT!

Layering the Wafers, Bananas, and Custard

In a 1-1/2 quart baking dish (I use a large, glass oven-safe mixing bowl), begin layering.

  • Small amount of custard on bottom
  • Layer of wafers atop the custard and around side of bowl (rounded tops facing out)
  • Layer of sliced bananas
  • Custard
  • Wafers
  • Bananas
  • (Repeat for 2-3 layers)
  • End with custard layer on top

Set aside.

Meringue

Whip the egg whites and ¼ cup of sugar and cream of tartar. They should be stiff, but not hard (lift up the beater…if it makes a peak and doesn’t fall back down, you’re good). Put on top of the custard, pressing and lifting the back of a large spoon against the meringue to create little peaks. Bake in a preheated 350F/175C oven (no fan) for 15-20 minutes or until the peaks of the meringue brown. Watch carefully, because it only takes about 30 seconds for the peaks to go from browned to burnt.

Remove and let sit for about 1 hour, then refrigerate for up to 4 hours before serving.

DO NOT COVER the meringue with a lid or plastic wrap or you’ll get little beads of condensed sugar-water (and the meringue will shrink from the edges of the bowl).

Happy eating!

8 thoughts on “Justine: Recipe Week at Eight Ladies

    • You know, I don’t think I bought into the idea of community even when I was in the McDaniel program. It’s really been in the last two years that I realize the value of it in stories. But I’m glad I have!

      Hope you can find GF vanilla wafers. This is such a good recipe!

  1. I love homemade custard. You’re right—it’s a lot of work, and mundane, noncreative work at that, and it does need watching, but it’s delicious. How do simple ingredients turn out so well? My mother served a thick version plain with whipped cream on top; my grandmother served a thin version as sauce over a homemade poppyseed cake. I loved both, and your recipe sounds excellent, too. Might make some later!

    • I’m also impressed by the deliciousness of simple ingredients. This custard is to die for. I can eat through half the dessert, which probably isn’t a good thing. LOL! My brother-in-law and mother-in-law always ask for it. I’ll have to try a little more liquid version dribbled over fresh fruit or something. Sounds lovely!

  2. This recipe sounds amazing! I love banana pudding, banana pie, banana custard, and it sounds like this is all of those in one.

    It’s so funny that you brought up the hero solving things for the heroine as one of your catnips. I inadvertently had a bit of that happening in one of the novels in my series, and didn’t even realize it until my editor pointed it out. She was not a fan, not because of the trope itself, but because it didn’t work for that book. It makes sense that I’d have trouble pulling that off in my writing, because as much as I adore Shane in Agnes and the Hitman, if someone installed an air conditioner for me without checking with me first, not asking for my input, not caring about what specifically I might want, we would have words. And some of them would probably have four letters in them. It has been suggested to me that I have control issues ;-).

  3. I have to say Justine, I don’t think it’s traditionalist for someone to do something for someone else. I think that’s kind and thoughtful. I’d also like to think it’s basic human instinct (which admittedly has been beaten out of a lot of people).

    As for the recipe, I love banana anything, and I didn’t know you could make banana pudding from scratch – I thought all you needed was a box of jell-o. I’m relieved to see old fashioned Nilla Wafers in the recipe.

    • If you follow the link to the website for the recipe, there is a Jell-O version of it, but to me, it’s just not as good as making it from scratch. Call me a purist!

      I’m glad someone thinks that doing something for someone else as a good thing. I always am afraid that the modern, sensible woman will take offense to a guy doing something that she could do. To Nancy’s point, it would probably be good for some women to be able to chime in on how that good deed was being executed, but sometimes, I’m happy to just take whatever I can get.

  4. Well, I wish my hero would make the banana custard you describe here! For some reason, we never had Nilla Wafers when I was a kid at home. I think my mother felt graham crackers were healthier, and if she wanted to have a cookie crust, she’d do up a shortbread (which was a little more complicated than crushed Nilla wafers, and much more complicated than a simple layer of Nilla wafers, so we often did without).

    It was a huge treat to stay over with someone who had Nilla wafers . . . or wonder of wonders, had made a dessert with them! Oh, how they softened so delightfully in a bed of custard or even Jello pudding mixed with Cool Whip!

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