Monday, March 19, 2018

Book Review and Giveaway: The Recipe Box

By Melissa Amster

Growing up in northern Michigan, Samantha “Sam” Mullins felt trapped on her family’s orchard and pie shop, so she left with dreams of making her own mark in the world. But life as an overworked, undervalued sous chef at a reality star’s New York bakery is not what Sam dreamed.

When the chef embarrasses Sam, she quits and returns home. Unemployed, single, and defeated, she spends a summer working on her family’s orchard cooking and baking alongside the women in her life―including her mother, Deana, and grandmother, Willo. One beloved, flour-flecked, ink-smeared recipe at a time, Sam begins to learn about and understand the women in her life, her family’s history, and her passion for food through their treasured recipe box.

As Sam discovers what matters most she opens her heart to a man she left behind, but who now might be the key to her happiness.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)

I have to be honest about something...when I read The Recipe Box back in January, I had a whole review in my head. Then life got in the way and I forgot to write it down. I knew I was going to post it here today, which is why I ended up procrastinating a bit on what to say. Having said that, this review will be much shorter than my reviews for The Hope Chest and The Charm Bracelet (the reviews are linked to the titles here). The good news is that I tried out a couple of the recipes and will be sharing my experiences here (and photos), as well!

Like its predecessors, The Recipe Box was a charming and enjoyable story. And also like those books, instead of charms or treasures telling the story, it was recipes this time around. I love how each recipe was tied to the characters' experiences and memories. In her other novels, Viola gave a preview of how she writes a good baking scene, so I knew I was in for a treat this time around. I could practically smell the food as it was baking. It was also easy to visualize not only the food, but also the characters and settings. The Mullins orchard gave off a cozy feel that enhanced the story even more. It made me think of when I would go to a quaint shopping village near my home where they had an apple store that made fresh cider donuts. Reading about the "misfits" (donuts that were not sell-able) took me back to the taste of those donuts from my childhood.

Since I read the previous two novels as audio books, I had Andi Arndt's voice in my head while I was reading this one in print. I couldn't wait for audio this time around (to get a review done by publication time), but I also learned that there's a different narrator for this book anyway.

Sam was a likable character and I enjoyed reading about Willo a lot, as well. They had some meaningful moments together that made me think of how I bake with my kids and hope to pass a love for baking down to future generations.

I mentioned in my reviews of Viola's previous novels that the language gets to be too sappy. I felt the same way about this book, but I'm used to it by now and I still felt an emotional tug from the story anyway. I even got teary-eyed toward the end. I recommended it to a friend who needed something light and happy after two sad books.

Overall, The Recipe Box is a sweet and heartwarming story with delicious sounding recipes! I look forward to whatever Viola comes up with next, as I'm always up for a comfort read. (Side note: I guess this review ended up being longer than I was expecting!)

Dream cast:
Sam: Caitlin Thompson
Willo: Sharon Gless
Deana: Elisabeth Shue
Angelo: Carlos PenaVega

Recipes I tried:

Strawberry Shortcake: The dough was very sticky, so I had to add a lot of flour to get it just right. I also missed hearing the oven timer go off, so I may have left it in a few minutes longer, but it looked good coming out. I let the cakes stay covered overnight so I could have them the next evening with my family. The shortcakes came out a little harder than I was expecting, but they still tasted good with the strawberries and frosting. (I think the hardness was due to me adding extra flour to balance out the stickiness. I need to figure out a different way to work with it next time.) The cinnamon sugar enhanced the flavor, as well. This dessert was definitely a hit for my family.



Thumbprint cookies: Dough is extremely easy to make and work with. It can even be vegan if you substitute butter with margarine. I used strawberry jam and orange marmalade for the fillings (as that was all I had that I thought would taste good in these cookies). The frosting was a bit thick and I had to loosen it up a bit, but then it worked just fine, and it enhanced the flavor of the cookies. Everyone in my family enjoyed them.




Thanks to St. Martin's Press for the book in exchange for an honest review. They have one copy to give away! I also have a copy of The Hope Chest to share with a lucky reader.

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

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Giveaway ends March 25th at midnight EST.

26 comments:

Janine said...

I have a lot of stories about cooking gone wrong. Some funny, some not so funny, like the time I made one of my mother's recipes for my first husband and he ended up throwing it up all over the bathroom. But I think the funniest one was when I was first learning to cook in Home Ec. in high school. One of the tests was to cook the teachers a meal. One of my friends and I were in charge of making pudding. The only thing I can think of was we didn't get enough of the egg whites out (or maybe we didn't remove any at all, I honestly can't remember) and our pudding turned out with a scrambled egg type texture.

Linda May said...

The only thing I can remember is cooking something in the oven & losing track of time & it burned a little bit. Thanks for your generosity.

Carla S. said...

I can't remember any cooking disasters, but here is a link from Cake Wrecks to a cake decorating disaster: http://www.cakewrecks.com/storage/maryjam.lw.weddingrosesresult.jpg?__SQUARESPACE_CACHEVERSION=1405997669557

Barbara Khan said...

I am not the best cook, recipe or not! Let’s just say I’ve thrown stuff out!!

Margie Shaw said...

I can’t think of anything really funny. I’m not much of a cook, actually I kind of hate doing it. I’ve overcooked and undercooked things. Sometimes stuff doesn’t rise like it should when I bake. Although I dislike cooking, after all these years I kind of like the taste of my own cooking over others. Weird!

Suburban prep said...

I recently made some bread for my mother. It looked great and it came out of the pan without a crumb attached to the pan. Later she told me that the exact middle was still dough and not cooked. I would never have been able to tell and she said the same thing from the looks of it. I even put a cake tester thru it to test it before I took it out of the oven.
I have more disastrous things happen when I cook --not so much bake.


(love the books that I have read previously by Viola Simpson).

traveler said...

Cooking has always been an adventure for me. Sometimes it worked out well and other times was a debacle. I have to understand that nothing too difficult, otherwise there will be a problem. Dried out, tasteless and when I was very young my m-i-l gave me plenty of trouble and was extremely critical.

Dianne Casey said...

One year at Christmas my Sister and I were cooking a ham for dinner. We got busy doing other stuff and forgot about the ham. It turned out like a rock and ended up in the garbage.

Tracy said...

This sounds good! I am a horrible cook :)

Mary C. said...

I had a pot of spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove. My brother decided to add some crushed red peppers to the pot. The sauce was so hot one couldn't taste anything. I had to make another pot and combine the two for the sauce to be edible.

Di said...

we've had the dog (Einstein) snatch a pot roast off the kitchen counter!

Rita Wray said...

I can't think of anything really funny. But it seems like I cook something dozens of times and it is great but when I cook it for guests it doesn't seem as good.

jean602 said...

I dropped a pot of spaghetti, sauce and all on the dining room carpet.

bn100 said...

https://s-i.huffpost.com/gen/1105242/images/h-CAKE-FAILS-BAKING-MISTAKES-628x314.jpg

Melanie Backus said...

I sat a can of condensed milk in a pan of boiling water to carmelize. Being tired, I sat down for a litlle bit and drifted off to sleep. My pan of water boiled dry on the stove and after a while of no water in the pan, my can of milk exploded. What a mess in my kitchenn!

Bonnie K. said...

On a busy week and day of Christmas, I bought several large containers of what I thought were spinach. It turned out that I had bought spring mix. Well, after the initial shock and disappointment, I went ahead and pretended they were spinach and prepared creamed spinach. I wouldn't say that it was fantastic, but they were edible. LOL

Lesley McIntosh said...

I have had some bad experiences when cooking , but I tend to stick to the tried and true now as I dont have hens or a dog to clean up the disasters.

Mary Preston said...

I dropped the chicken - pan and all - the cat took off with the chicken. We didn't see her the rest of the day.

The Book Sage said...

I haven't read any of this author's books. But I think I would enjoy them.

Kelley B said...

When I first started baking my cookies were like hockey pucks.

Cresta McGowan said...

So the first time I ever cooked Thanksgiving dinner I didn't realize there was a bag of stuff INSIDE the turkey -I cooked it, plastic and all!! Surprisingly, it did not ruin the turkey and only a few people ever knew.

John Smith said...

Cake Wrecks cake with a bizarre deer/chihuahua hybrid:

https://i.pinimg.com/736x/c1/1f/49/c11f499b0aa81ae2425be7cc66c01169.jpg

Anonymous said...

I've stored a plastic bowl of popcorn in an oven - then pre-heated same oven and wondered where 'that' smell was coming from.....

Book sounds amazing!

Kate Sparks girlygirlhoosier52@yahoo.com

Leslie Lawrence said...

One year my husband and I were planning making things ahead of time for Thanksgiving. Growing up my Mom always saved the bread bag to store the homemade stuffing in overnight. It just fits better in the fridge than in the dish we bake it in. So I asked him if he had put anything in the bread bag and he said no. I put the stuffing in and put it in the fridge. When I got it out the next day and opened the bag there was a strong coffee smell. He had dumped his used coffee grounds in the bag. We didn't stuffing that Thanksgiving.
im2early4u(at)gmail(dot)com

Tatum Rangel said...

When I was in Home Ec, in middle school, we were assigned to work in groups to bake coffee cake. My group overlooked the instructions and oversalted the whole thing. Once it was time for sample tasting, we all made faces at how badly we'd messed up the cake. Even our teacher cringed at the taste.

Jan Hall said...

This is more my sisters story than mine. When she baked her first came she cooked it on about 150 or 200. It did not rise and took hours to bake. She made the frosting when she put the cake in the oven. Then poured the frosting on the warm cake layers. I've seen pancakes thicker than this two layer cake. It tasted good but it was many years before she attempted another cake.