Louisa Edwards: The Perks (and Pitfalls) of Writing Culinary Romances
When I first decided to write contemporary romances with culinary themes, I was very excited about the research possibilities. Eating out at fancy, adventurous, and/or exotic restaurants! Reading every kitchen memoir I could get my hands on! Poring over cookbooks! And, of course, experimenting in my own kitchen. I always intended to cook the dishes that appear in my books, just to make sure they tasted as good as they sounded (and also to compensate my sweet, supportive husband for those weeks near deadline when all we eat is frozen pizza and fried eggs.)But then my editor at St. Martin’s called to discuss how excited she was to be publishing Can’t Stand the Heat, and she slipped this into the conversation: “And of course, we’ll put recipes in the back.”
I said, “Of course we will!”
I had no idea what I was agreeing to. Let’s be clear: I love to cook. Cooking can be like meditation when I’m cooking something familiar like my mother’s cornbread or my favorite all-butter pancakes from Gourmet, my all-time favorite of the food mags (you can’t imagine my sorrow at the recent news of its demise). Cooking can also be a thrilling leap off a cliff into the unknown, a chance to try new things and expand my horizons with dishes like baekhoffe, a homey pork and vegetable roast from Alsace, or spicy chicken curry with cashews.
But making up a recipe and testing it out so that it can be written down coherently and reproduced reliably? That’s a whole other thing.
In Can’t Stand the Heat, the sexy chef hero convinces the skeptical food critic heroine that he can cook with a single, perfect bite. I decided that bite should be one of the recipes included in the book, and I wanted to use pork belly, because I’d had it in restaurants and knew it could be sensational. The fact that I had no idea how to cook it occurred to me too late. Luckily, my best friend is a sensational cook. She even has her own food blog, www.QueenieTakesManhattan.blogspot.com! When I called her, crying and up to my eyeballs in pork fat, she came running. We organized a Pork Belly Cook-off, a competition in which she, my husband, and I each created an appetizer-sized dish featuring pork belly.
After much discussion, the dishes we submitted were Braised Pork Belly with Pickled Jalapenos and Watermelon (the bff), Pork Belly Milanese with an arugula salad and lemon compote on the side (the husband), and my two: Barbecued Pork Belly with a bourbon brown-sugar glaze on a bed of crunchy citrus slaw, and the dish that made it into the book by a narrow margin: Cider-braised Pork Belly with Apples and Spiced Candied Walnuts.
It was a great day, delicious, but utterly exhausting. I wound up more drained than I am on D-Day (Deadline Day) and that’s saying something! I have a whole new respect for cookbook authors. Cooking ability isn’t enough—the discipline it takes to make note of everything that goes into the dish, from technique to ingredients, is astounding.So what about you? Do you ever come up with your own recipes? Do you share them with your family and friends?
Leave a favorite recipe in the comments and you’ll be entered to win a signature Can’t Stand the Heat apron, a set of darling red spatulas, and a signed copy of the book! And be sure to drop by my website at www.LouisaEdwards.com.
EDITOR’S NOTE: You can find Can’t Stand the Heat at Borders, Barnes & Noble or your favorite Indie.
Since the holidays are coming up, I thought I’d post a variation of a sweet potato/pumpkin dish.
Sweet Potato/Pumpkin Custard
Preheat Oven: 325°F
2 medium sweet potatoes (cooked, cooled and mashed to make 1 1/2 cup)
1 1/2 cups pumpkin (canned or cooked, cooled and mashed)
8 eggs or egg substitute
1 cup Sugar or Splenda
3 tsp Brown Sugar or Sugar Twin Spoonable Brown
1 1/3 cup fat free half and half
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 cup butter (I used I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Light)
Prepare sweet potato and pumpkin to recipe-ready condition. Ingredients should be room temperature. Preheat oven to 325°F.
Coat 12 x 9 baking dish with cooking spray.
In large bowl, stir sweet potato and pumpkin until smooth but slightly lumpy.
In separate bowl, beat eggs with Sugar and Brown Sugar. Add half and half, salt and spices and combine (with hand mixer) until well mixed.
Add egg/half and half mixture to sweet potato mixture and stir by hand to mix lightly.
Spoon mixture into baking dish and smooth to even out. Drop small dabs of butter over top. Bake 45 minutes, until browned at edges and cracking a bit. Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes before serving.
Can serve with scoop ice cream and cool whip for dessert
I’ve been dying to read Can’t Stand the Heat since I attended the Writerspace Chat when you were guesting. I asked you about what your fav scene was and said it was one the hero and eggs 🙂
This is a recipe that of mine that everyone loves, and people beg me to make. You can’t go wrong with a good, and I mean really good choc chip cookie. This recipe is based on one from the Neiman Marcus cookbook, that I have slightly altered to fit our tastes.
1 stick of salted butter (have to use real, no margarine or subs…just doesn’t work)
1 cup of brown sugar
3 T white granulated sugar
1 T vanilla
1 3/4 C flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 C choc chips (calls for 1 1/2 cups but my fam thinks it’s too many chips not enough dough)
I used a stand mixer when making these cookies. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Soften butter in mixer, then add brown sugar and white sugar. Mix until combined. Add egg and vanilla, blend at high speed until light and fluffy. I usually use this time to measure out flour and baking powder, soda and salt and by the time I have all of this ready so is the mixture. I add the flour, baking powder, soda and salt all in at once. Combine at low speed just until combined. Add choc chips mix just until combined. And your done.
Bake for approx 17-20 min depending on how well done you like your cookies. I like mine on the softer side so usually bake for 17 min 30 sec. And yes the 30 sec seems to make a big difference in my oven. If they start to turn golden then for me they are overdone. They may not look done when you take them out after 17 min, but once they cool I think they are perfect. Best choc chip cookie ever!
I enjoyed learning about Can’t Stand The Heat and I look forward to reading it! I like cooking, but I never make up my own recipes. I like to follow other’s. And now, my oldest is in culinary school!! She’s my Chef-Baby-R-Dee and makes THE BEST dishes!! When I can get her to cook for us!! LOL
I LOVE to use my Crock Pot, here’s a yummy recipe that my family loves, especially my picky son!!
Tangy Flank Steak
1 Beef Flank Steak, cut in half
1 yellow onion, quartered and then sliced
1 can (4 oz.) diced Green Chilies
1/2 cup water
2 tbs. White Vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. Chili powder
1 tsp. Garlic salt
1/2 tsp. Sugar
1/4 tsp. Salt
1/8 tsp. Black pepper
Brown each side of the Flank steak in a non-stick skillet on Medium heat. Place into Crock Pot. To skillet add Green chilies, half cup water(I just fill the Chilies can with water to rinse it and pour the water into the skillet!), White vinegar, Chili powder, Garlic salt, Sugar, Salt and Black pepper. Stir. Then add the quartered and sliced onion to the skillet. Stir. Bring to a boil. Pour over Flank Steak in the Crock Pot. Garnish Flank Steak with the onions.
Low 5-6 hours
High 4-5 hours
Wonderful and congratulations. Bruschetta is my fave ever.
Can’t Stand the Heat sounds great!
Sweet Potato Casserole
2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (3 medium), peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup 1% milk
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
4 teaspoons frozen orange juice concentrate
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 cup chopped pecans (1 3/4 ounces)
Place sweet potatoes in a large saucepan; cover with lightly salted water and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over medium heat until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain well and return to the pan. Mash with a potato masher. Measure out 3 cups. (Reserve any extra for another use.)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat an 8-inch-square (or similar 2-quart) baking dish with cooking spray.
Whisk eggs, oil and honey in a medium bowl. Add mashed sweet potato and mix well. Stir in milk, orange zest, vanilla and salt. Spread the mixture in the prepared baking dish.
To prepare topping: Mix flour, brown sugar, orange juice concentrate, oil and butter in a small bowl. Blend with a fork or your fingertips until crumbly. Stir in pecans. Sprinkle over the sweet potato mixture.
Bake the casserole until heated through and the top is lightly browned, 35 to 45 minutes.
What a fun idea, Louisa, writing about cooking. I have some delicious recipees handed by my grandmother, like the Italian canellone or the Mediterranean stuffed grape leaves. But they take so long to cook, I keep them for Holiday’s meals.
im the same way i do a lil bit of this and alittle bit of that tho i did get tired of going to fazolies for baked ziti when they already stopped selling it so i decided to make my own
2lbs of ziti’s
2lbls of ground beef or sausage ( sometimes i use both)
4lbs of grated cheese
1lb of cheddar
1b of provalone)
2contaners of Regotta cheese
these cheeses can be ur own choice really
2 jars of spegetti sauce
a couple tease spoons of sugar to help make the sauce not bitter
ground up the meat in to a large skillett
drain and add the sauce and the seasonings seaosn to taste
boil the noodles till they r half done and drain
get a deep baking pan spray the pain with some nonstick backing spray
layer the cheese noodles and sauce like you would lesagna then lightly coat each layer with the sauce till all is gone
put a final layer of cheese on top
baking in the oven at 350
untill all the cheese is melted and the top layer is golden brown
let stad for 10 minutes and serve with your fav salad and breadstick combo
NO BAKE CHOCOLATE OATMEAL COOKIES1 stick butter
1/4 c. cocoa
1/2 c. milk
2 c. suar
1 tbsp. vanilla
1/2 c. peanut butter
3 c. oats
Boil butter, cocoa, milk, sugar, vanilla and peanut butter for 1 minute. Add oats and mix well. Spoon out onto wax paper. cool and serve.
This is one of my sons favorites. Very easy!
I work and my hubby is often gone so that means that I need recipes that I can use as a base for future meals as well as for the current day. Since Pork Shoulder was recently $0.99 per pound I made a recipe that I found online:
Slow Cooker Pork Pernil:
4-6 pounds of Pork Shoulder/butt
6 or more garlic cloves minced
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp Oregano
1 1/2 Tbsp Olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp white vinegar
4 tsp salt
Mix all of the ingredients except pork together and then rub onto meat, marinate overnight. Put into slow cooker on low add a cup or 1 1/2 cup of water and cook for 8 hours (start in my morning and it is ready when I get home).
The beauty of this well-flavored but plain recipe is that I can now dress it as I would like. Defat the liquid. It can be served by:
Shredding the meat and having it with warmed flour tortillas, salsa, shredded cheddar, sour cream, guacamole, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, minced green onions (whatever of these you happen to have)
Mix some of the shredded meat with a bit of the defatted cooking liquid and your favorite barbecue sauce. Serve in buns and a salad or some cole slaw.
Season some of the shredded pork with soy sauce and add a bit of the defatted cooking liquid. Use leftover rice from a previous meal, as well as some leftover veggies or some frozen veggies and more minced garlic to make fried rice.
Truly, I don’t serve the same meat every day or so but I can freeze up part of a batch of the base and make things as necessary. It saves me grief over dinner to have some base meats/vegetables I can pull out in case I can’t whip something up from scratch on a given day.
Yes, I do make up recipes as I go, depending what is in my pantry, fridge and freezer. And sharing recipes is fun, I never mind that but the way I cook doesn’t always lend itself well to giving measurements.
Maria – Hey there! Thanks for stopping by. And for confirming that the soup is as good as it sounds.
Janel – I don’t have a rice cooker, so I wasn’t really aware you could use one that way! How interesting…
Joye – Thanks for adding my book to your list! I’m adding your steak recipe to MY list of yummy-sounding weeknight suppers to try.
Thisi s my easy peezy meat dish
Cut a round steak into 4 sections and put in a baking dish. Pour over it a can of Campbell’s French Onion soup and a can of Campbell’s Golden Mushroom soup.
Cover and bake at 350 degrees for a couple of hours or until fork tender.
Serve over rice.
Your book has been added to my TBR list
I love looking through cookbooks and finding new recipes. Then I often tweak them and adjust them to my taste.
One of my favorite things to do is make lunch for myself in my rice cooker. I add Italian herbs, some diced pepperoni or salami, sun-dried tomatoes, olives and capers. Sprinkle with parmesan when it’s done.
I don’t have a recipe to share at the moment, but I just wanted to say that I’ve made the taco soup recipe that Ann Marie posted (minus the ranch dressing, interesting touch!) and it’s fabulous. It’s easy, and kids love it. Which is a major plus:)
Kwana – Wow, that sounds awesome! And so healthy. I hate deveining shrimp, but this might make it worthwhile!
It’s so hard for me to come up with a favorite recipe since I never seem to make the same thing twice and I hardly ever write anything down or measure. It’s all whatever I have on hand and a catch all type of thing. Today I’ll go for something that always seems to go over well and is quick and easy. This is one from a friend that I’ve been making a while and the family likes:
Spinach with Curry Shrimp.
Shrimp peeled and deveined about a pound or more
Garlic- crushed about 2 tablespoons (I like garlic)
Curry powder (a lot but to taste)
Salt and pepper
Onion ½ small
Spinach- 2 bags
Sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil until softened and add the shrimp a bit of pepper and curry powder. Cook until shrimp are done, remove shrimp and set aside.
Add spinach in batches and cooked down until all spinach is added stirring with onion, garlic and more curry. Add in shrimp and a bit more curry if you like, salt and pepper to taste then cook for a few more moments to heat throughout and you’re done.
Wendy – Yum! Sounds great. I love things that are even better as leftovers.
Terri W – Good tip with the buttermilk substitution! I’ve used lemon yogurt in my mom’s buttermilk poundcake recipe, and it turns out awesome. This cake sounds scrumptious!
Congrats on your new release and I love the cover and book description!
Here’s a recipe for a cake that is sure to be a hit!
Chocolate Sheath Cake
In a Large Bowl: sift
2 c sugar
2 c plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
In Sauce Pan: boil
1 c water
1 stick maragrine (1/4 c)
1/2 c vegetable oil
4 TBS cocoa
In a Small Bowl: mix
1/2 c buttermilk*
1 tsp vanilla
* Also, you don’t need to use store bought buttermilk. 1 tsp of lemon juice (or vinegar) added to a cup of milk works just as well.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Sift sugar, flour, soda and cinnamon together and set aside.
In a saucepan bring water, margarine, oil and cocoa to a boil (be careful, has a tendency to boil over)
Pour water mixture over dry ingredients, mix well and set aside.
Mix buttermilk, eggs and vanilla together, add the buttermilk mixture to the chocolate batter.
Pour into a greased and floured 13X9X2 pan and bake for approximately 20 to 28 minutes
Begin icing about 5 minutes before cake is done than frost in pan.
Chocolate Icing (this goes on top of the Chocolate Sheath Cake)
1 stick margarine (1/4 c)
4 TBS cocoa
6 TSP milk
1 box 4x sugar (1lb or 1 c)
1 tsp vanilla
1 c chopped pecans (optional)
Place margarine, cocoa and milk in saucepan and bring to a boil – careful scorches easily.
Remove from heat and add powdered sugar, vanilla and nuts, stir, mixing well.
Spread over hot cake and let cool.
*** Notes *** You can use flavours other than vanilla (almond, etc.).
If the cake is too dense, try adding 1 tsp baking soda along with the baking powder. It makes thecake lighter.
Hi Louisa! Congrats on your new release 🙂 I don’t think I recall ever using a recipe that calls for pork belly, but your cook-off sounds fun!
For something fast and easy, I make what my daughter calls Pizza Salad.
1 bag tri-colored rotini – cook, drain, and rinse
1 bottle Italian Dressing
2 Tomatoes – chopped
1 can drained sliced black olives
1 package of sliced pepperoni
2-3 chives chopped
Shredded Colby Cheese
I miss it all up and stick in the fridge for a few hours and voila! It’s really better the next day though 🙂
Cat – That definitely sounds delicious and simple! Perfect weekday night supper. Thank you for posting!
Kristen – There’s nothing like a hand-me-down cookbook. My mom made me a binder when I got married that contains handwritten recipes from waaaay back in her family, full of crazy measurements like “a wine glassful of cream.” I love it!
Ann Marie – Mmm…I bought my first crock pot last winter and have yet to really do much with it. Thanks for posting something for me to try!
I’m not the greatest cook so going off on my own and making up a recipe would be truly scary! But I am always on the look out for good recipes. Especially if they are easy 😉
1 frying chicken ( 4lbs)
1 clove garlic, chopped
4 small onions
1 cup canned tomatoes (or stewed tomatoes & use the whole tin of tomatoes)
5 tbs. Olive oil
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 large green pepper
salt and pepper to taste
Cut chicken into serving pieces. Season with salt and pepper; roll lightly in flour. Heat oil in skillet and brown chicken on all sides about 10 minutes.
Steam, seed, and slice green pepper lengthwise. Mix with onions, garlic, and tomatoes; add mixture to chicken. Cover; simmer slowly for 40 minutes. Add mushrooms; simmer 15 minutes or until mushrooms and chicken are tender. Serve very hot. Serves 4 to 6.
Note: I use more garlic then the recipe calls you can add garlic powder to taste .
I’m a crock pot cooker. Here is one of my favorite recipes for a cold day.
Taco Soup- add the following to a crock pot and cook overnight
1 lb ground beef cooked and drained
2 cans Rotel tomatoes and green chilies
2 cans chicken broth
1 pkg of taco seasoning
1 pkg of ranch dressing mix
drain the following:
1 can kidney beans
1 can pinto beans with jalapenos
1 can black beans
1 can corn
want more spice add chili powder to taste. Enjoy 🙂
The only thing I use a recipe for is baking and even then I tweak. I have tons of cookbooks tho and I love reading them. My favorites are the ones that used to belong to my grandmother and have her notes in the margins. She was a fabulous cook.
Oh, man. Megan. My Lean Cuisine pizza lunch is suddenly soooo inadequate…
Here it is. We’ve got a great Chinese grocery store (the clerks only speak Chinese!) where I can get pork belly wicked cheap (and frozen durian, but no thank you).
Megan – I think I speak for all of us when I say POST THE PORK BELLY RECIPE! Although your broccoli sounds amazing, and I hate broccoli. Thanks!
Susan – I’d love for you to be able to show off the apron at a reader’s group lunch! What a fun idea your group is. Is it like a book club, but over lunch?
Louisa, I am sending a recipe I make alot. I sent for a small batch in the above recipe but it can be doubled or tripled very easily. I love the book cover on the book and it sure would look nice on my bookshelf. ha ha If I am lucky enough to win the apron I will show it off when I help in the kitchen when we hold my reader’s group lunch once a month. That would be neat. ha ha Can you tell I am a little devilish? ha ha susan L.
My husband makes a barbecued pork belly that is so ridiculously delicious it’s insane. And you can’t eat more than a few bites, ’cause it’s so rich!
My recipe (stolen from Mark Bittman, and the only thing I know by heart):
Really Good Broccoli:
1 head broccoli
1 cup chicken stock
1 T. sugar
Heat swirl of peanut oil in nonstick skillet, add broccoli. Cook on high for five minutes. Add stock and sugar, cook another 5 minutes (still on high).
Susan – Wow! That does sound like a crowd-pleaser. Thank you for posting it!
Hey Tessa! Thanks for posting. And especially thanks for including a vegan-friendly recipe; I have a couple of vegan friends and find it really hard to come up with things they can eat that everyone else will enjoy, too. This looks delicious!
I have a receipe but I do not measure anything just go by taste. I will share it anyways as it is very easy. I make this on requests everytime we have our church suppers even in winter.
1-pound of #10 or #11 spaghetti (cooked and rinse and drained)
1 or 2 onions( chopped)
1 or 2 peppers (chopped)
2 cucumbers ( chopped)
Italian salad dressing
salt and pepper
shredded cheese (optional)
Mix all the first five ingredients together. Add salad dressing to your taste but be sure enough to cover the mixture. salt and pepper to taste and add cheese if you so desire. Keep chill.
Thanks for sharing your recipe test method – mine always involves friends and family, too. But I can’t imagine the pressure of having to have it perfect for a book. Yikes!
I am definitely an improv personality, both in cooking and in the rest of my life. But my sister is not comfortable in the kitchen and hates it when I can’t tell her exactly how I made something she likes, so I started keeping track (sometimes) and then I started posting them to a food blog (sporadically), because all the food blogs I was reading were so awesome (mine’s not). So, as a result I am getting better at being able to reproduce what for so long was delicious improv.
Here is one of the first recipes I actually wrote down, a recreation of Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana for vegan friends (non-vegans loved it, too):
1 leek, thinly sliced
½ lg onion, chopped (about a cup)
4-6 cloves garlic, minced (2-4 tsp)
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 large potatoes, cubed
4 cups veggie stock/bullion
2 cups water
couple drops liquid smoke
red pepper flakes
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp oregano
salt & pepper
4 cups kale, de-ribbed and chopped
In a 4.5 quart pot, sauté leek, onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent. Add potatoes, liquid and spices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 min, or until potatoes are soft. Use immersion blender to blend to desired smoothness – I like it still a bit chunky. Add kale. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, until kale is tender but not mushy.
serve with croutons or crostini.
I still frequently don’t measure the spices, or add other, non-vegan ingredients, but that is the base recipe. I think I am constitutionally incapable of leaving well enough alone!
Pam – That taco salad sounds awesome! I bet it’s a huge hit at every picnic. I love local church and community organization cookbooks, too. I have two from churches where I grew up, and one from the Junior League! I look through them especially when I’m trying to find casserole recipes to take to someone’s house.
My mother was the queen of made-up recipes. Everything she made was tasty. I would ask her for the recipe and she would say oh a little bit of this and that it was unnerving. You would actually have to stay by her side and watch closely to make sure you got the whole recipe.
I, as a cook, am not that adventuresome. I can follow instructions. My favorite cooking magazines are the Taste of Home, Cooking for Two, Simple & Delicious. I pour over those magazines looking for inspiration. I also love those local cookbooks that churches or organizations gather from their group and publish as a way of making money.
Your book sounds awesome! I will have to check it out.
Here is a recipe for Taco Salad that I found in one of those local cookbooks.
Everytime I go to a picnic I always get asked to make this salad.
1 11 oz pkg of nacho flavored chips crushed
1 lb ground beef prepared with taco seasoning
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese shredded
1/2 head of lettuce shredded
2 medium tomatoes chopped
1 16 oz bottle of thousand island dressing
chili powder, oregano & paprika to taste
Prepare all items individually , then combine minutes to mealtime.
Love & Hugs,
Pam Keener in PA
Thanks so much for having me! I’m glad you’re enjoying the book. It was tons of fun to write! And research. LOL
Welcome Louisa! We are glad to have you here. I just started reading Can’t stand the Heat and so far it is fantastic 🙂