|Photo: Donna Fasano|
Love and Chocolate. Nothing goes better together…well, almost nothing. I wrote romance novels for Harlequin for over 20 years. I've been cooking with chocolate for as long as I can remember. I would never call myself a writing expert or a cooking/baking expert, but all those years of experience have to count for something, right?
I can’t tell you how many times over the course of my long career as a published romance author I have been asked, “When are you going to write a real book? You know, a [insert genre of choice: mystery, family saga, historical, thriller, horror, western, etc].” So I’d like to take this opportunity to tell readers why I write romance novels.
I suffered a lot of tragedy while I was growing up, the worst of which was losing my mother just as I was entering my teens. I felt as though I went from 13 to 35 overnight, and when my friends were off having fun, I was cooking and cleaning and helping my little brother with his homework. Romance novels were an escape for me. The Wolf and the Dove, The Far Pavilions, Whitney My Love, Rebecca, The Thorne Birds…if the book featured one man and one woman falling in love, I read it! Romance novels offered me hope for a happy future filled with love (hokey, yes, but I was young). As a young wife and mother, I discovered Silhouette Romance Novels. These books were short and sweet and uplifting. Each and every story put a smile on my face, and the happily-ever-after endings always boosted my spirits. Are romance novels real? No. Does every relationship end in HEA? Of course not. But if I wanted doom and gloom, I’d watch the evening news.
As an author, I can’t think of a better way to use my talent than to bring pure enjoyment to my readers. I tell people that I write cotton candy for the mind. Think about that. When you were a kid and you put a small cloud of that wispy confection on your tongue, what did you do? You smiled. And maybe you even laughed. That’s the reaction I’m going for with my short, upbeat stories. That’s why I write romance novels. So if you’re looking to get lost for a few hours in a fun, cheery story, I hope you’ll try one of my books. Another of my favorite escapes over the years has been cooking and baking. I collect cookbooks and have been known to page through one while enjoying my morning coffee. I love to imagine how the ingredients on the written page will look and taste once I've put them all together, and I always have fun fiddling with recipes to make them my own. Below is a recipe I've come up with—it's very rich and sweet and should be served in small portions with a cup of hot coffee or afternoon tea.
Nutty Chocolate Chip Caramel Squares
The original recipe for this chocolatey, gooey, nutty, and delectable dessert can be found on the Kraft Foods website. I'd like to thank my friend, Allie, for alerting me to this one! As usual, I've fiddled with the recipe, and I offer you the final chocolatey, rich, and delicious result.
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 box Dark Chocolate Fudge cake mix, 16.5 oz.
1/4 cup evaporated milk, undiluted
1 egg, slightly beaten
Preheat oven 350 degrees.
Stir together the butter, the cake mix, ¼ cup evaporated milk and the egg. Mix until thoroughly combined.
Press half the mixture into the bottom of a 13" x 9" baking pan and bake for 15 minutes. This is the crust of the squares.
Set aside remaining uncooked fudge cake batter.
1 bag Kraft caramels, 14 oz.
1/3 cup evaporated milk, undiluted
While crust bakes, unwrap caramels and place in a microwave-safe bowl.
Add 1/3 cup evaporated milk and melt in microwave for 3-4 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes, until caramel is completely melted. Stir until smooth and set aside.
Now it's time to assemble.
1 cup walnut pieces
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks
Sprinkle 1/2 cup nuts and 1/2 cup chocolate chunks on the hot crust.
Drizzle melted caramel over the nuts and chocolate chunks, being careful to spread caramel to the edges.
Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup nuts and 1/2 cup chocolate chunks over the caramel.
Drop spoonfuls of the remaining fudge cake batter onto the caramel, pressing into caramel with the back of a spoon.
Bake an additional 30 minutes.
Cool before cutting into small squares.
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About Donna Fasano's latest book: Her Fake Romance
"Mom, get a life!" Her teenage daughter's words were daunting. True, struggling single mom Julia Jones hadn't had a date in over a decade, but she could still catch a man–if she needed to! So Julia, who claimed not to want a husband, found herself entangled in a fake romance. Ryan Shane was tall, dark, and devastatingly handsome. And he just so happened to need a no-strings date himself. Their plan was perfectly thought out. Until a conveniently staged good-night kiss turned into very inconvenient passion… This sweet romance novel contains bonus material that includes several delicious recipes!
You can find Donna on the web at www.DonnaFasano.com, or on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/DonnaFasanoAuthor, or on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/DonnaFaz. Her books are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, Sony, and Apple iBooks.