As Justine announced yesterday, this week we’re discussing recipes of both the edible and readable kind. As I’ve planned and written and moved toward release of my romance series this past year, I’ve put a lot of thought into what I like in a romance series. Here’s my favorite recipe.
Start with an ensemble cast of characters who each bring something good to the party. Use their interconnected lives to lead us from the story of one happy couple to the next, but be sure to let their individual qualities shine, even when it’s not ‘their book’. When done well, you’ll have me pre-ordering the books that finally give my favorite secondary characters their own romance, like the duke in Slightly Dangerous from Mary Balogh’s Bedwyn Saga series.
Add a generous dollop of inside jokes, memories, and friendly bonding opportunities. Make me feel like I’m in on all the fun even if I haven’t read other books the series, but feel free to repeat or build on these fun themes across books, providing fan service for loyal readers. Think the running joke of the terrible music created by the Smythe-Smith Quartet (with the musician line-up changing for each annual performance) from Julia Quinn’s The Bridgertons series.
Sprinkle in a bit of past HEAs. Show me the couples who got together in past books, still together, still happy, still interacting like they did in the book of their own love story. It shouldn’t be so heavy-handed that having read those other books in the series is a prerequisite to understanding the current book, but it should be enough to tempt me to pick up those other books to find out how the settled couples found their own happy endings together. The books in Anne Stuart’s House of Rohan series always include at least a few of the happy couples, made up of reformed rakes paired with strong women, from previous books. These happy couples guide, advise, and generally annoy the bejesus out of the couple currently struggling toward their own HEA.
Mix all ingredients together into a multi-book series, pair with a good red wine, and serve over a long weekend with nothing to do but read!
And now, an actual recipe…
I might have mentioned before that I’m the youngest child in my family. You might wonder what that has to do with Thanksgiving recipes. Turns out, a lot, at least in my family. I’m pretty sure my sisters don’t know I can cook. I used to think they assigned me things like chips and dips to bring to family gatherings because I have to travel from out of state, thus bringing a cooked dish is difficult. But over the years, I’ve become convinced they don’t trust me with anything more difficult.
I confirmed their worst suspicions of me when, for a brief time about ten years ago, my mother assigned me the task of reviving Waldorf salad as part of our Thanksgiving tradition. We’d grown up with this fruit salad as a staple part of the meal, and my daughter even remembers having it at a few Thanksgiving dinners when she was very young. Weirdly, though, none of us could remember exactly what ingredients went into it. And internet research did no good, as whatever recipe my mother had concocted (and neglected to write down) was an homage to the original dish, not the actual recipe. I tried a number of fruit combinations over the course of a few years, never quite getting it right.
Then came the year of the great orange debacle, when I added this delightful citrus fruit to the recipe. My own daughter proclaimed me a blasphemer and organized a revolt that ended in me being permanently relieved of my Waldorf salad duty. (Have I mention my daughter is in politics? They don’t care whose mother you are in politics.) I’m now back to bringing chips and dips to family functions, although sometimes I go all rebel and bring a vegetable tray instead.
The point of this long story is that I actually don’t have any Thanksgiving recipes. However, during the off-season, I have been known to make a mean sweet potato casserole. If you are allowed to cook for Thanksgiving, you might like to make it then. If, like me, you are banned from the Thanksgiving kitchen, you can make it any damn time you please. They cannot stop you!
- 6 large sweet potatoes
- 1 C milk (dairy, soy, or almond)
- 4 Tbsp butter
- 3/8 C pure maple syrup
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 4 eggs (I use 3/4 C egg whites)
Topping (optional, please opt out if any potential guests have nut allergies!)
- 3 C pecans, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 C pure maple syrup
- 4 Tbsp butter, melted
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- pinch of salt
Pierce the potato skins and microwave the potatoes on high until they are tender. I do 3 potatoes at a time for about 10 minutes, checking halfway through cooking; YMMV (your microwave might vary.) You can peel, chop, and boil the potatoes, but you will lose more nutrients that way. Scoop out the potatoes into a large mixing or food processor bowl and discard the skins. Add the remaining non-topping ingredients, and use an electric mixer or food processor to blend until the mixture is completely smooth. Transfer to a large casserole dish and smooth the surface. (If making this a day early, cover the dish and refrigerate at this point.)
When you’re ready to bake the casserole, heat the over to 375 ºF. In a medium bowl, combine all topping ingredients, then sprinkle over the potatoes. Cover the casserole dish with foil and bake 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 20 minutes. Pecans should brown but not burn.
This amount easily serves 12 people, probably more on Thanksgiving, when there’s so much other yummy stuff to try, so you can adjust accordingly.
Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate the day, and a happy week to all!