There are endless amounts of jokes about babies killing the romance in a relationship, and not without reason. It’s hard to feel sexy when you’re both lacking sleep, gaining weight from a diet of exclusively takeout, and in my case, pumping milk every 4 hours. Our bedroom is littered with baby gear and toys, despite our pronouncements that we would never let that happen. I am in sweatpants every day. When James cries, there’s a game of chicken between my husband and I of “who moves first?” But despite all of this, Craig and I have had a surprising number of dates. The trick is that we turn almost anything into a date. James falls asleep and we’ll order take out from a fancier restaurant and watch a movie in the office – rather than reclined in bed with our laptops open. We take the 5:30 dinner reservation or go for a daytime walk together when my mom can babysit. The dinner + movie + drinks combo of pre-baby has been put on hold, but we find ways to still have our own dynamic as a couple, outside of James. So when Valentine’s day popped up on the calendar, I started thinking of ways to have our low key version of it at home. Truth – I don’t like valentine’s day. Not because I’m a black hearted cynic, which I am but, that’s not the reason, but because of the logistics. In LA, it means 4x traffic, surge charges, up-charged pre fixe menus, impossible reservations. It’s a whole thing. So instead, I’m making a meal of Craig and my favorite things that can be done in under 30 minutes, and most of it prepped ahead of time.
For dessert, I’m doing one of Craig’s favorite sweets – banana pudding. If I try to make this work thematically I guess I should call it a budino. Whatever you call it, it’s thick, silky, and rich milk chocolate putting with fresh bananas and graham crackers, plus a little salt. If you wanted it to be extra grown up, there’s also the idea of pouring a shot of blackstrap rum on top.
To make the dinner more festive, I did the flower arrangements a little secret message under the wine glasses. Make sure to check out my video series on how to put all of this together. Happy Valentine’s day!
INGREDIENTS (MILK CHOCOLATE BANANA CREAM PIE)
5 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons cornstarch (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks
1 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream, plus 1 cup whipped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large bananas, thinly sliced
4 whole graham crackers, plus 1 crushed, for garnish (see note)
Place chocolate in a bowl. In a separate large bowl, sift together sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and salt; whisk in egg yolks and 1/2 cup milk until smooth.
In a large saucepan over high heat, bring remaining 1 cup milk and 1/2 cup cream to a simmer. Pour over chopped chocolate and whisk until smooth. Whisking constantly, slowly pour hot chocolate mixture into egg mixture until completely incorporated and cocoa is dissolved.
Return custard to saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Do not let mixture reach a simmer. If custard begins to steam heavily, stir it, off the heat, a moment before returning it to stove top. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Stir in vanilla.
Spread several tablespoons pudding evenly into an 8-inch square pan (or a glass bowl). Top with an even layer of bananas; arrange whole cookies on top of bananas. Cover with remaining pudding. Top with whipped cream and sprinkle with crushed cookies. Chill at least 3 hours or overnight before serving.