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Recipe Box

Recipe Box

3.7 9
by Sandra Lee

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From New York Times bestselling author Sandra Lee comes her debut novel, a heartwarming story about food, family, and forgiveness.

Grace Holm-D'Angelo is at her wit's end, trying to create a new life from broken pieces. Newly divorced, she is navigating suddenly becoming a single mother to her fourteen-year-old daughter. Emma, resentful about being


From New York Times bestselling author Sandra Lee comes her debut novel, a heartwarming story about food, family, and forgiveness.

Grace Holm-D'Angelo is at her wit's end, trying to create a new life from broken pieces. Newly divorced, she is navigating suddenly becoming a single mother to her fourteen-year-old daughter. Emma, resentful about being uprooted from Chicago to LA and still reeling from the divorce, is generally giving her mother a hard time.

Then Grace's best friend, Leeza, succumbs to breast cancer after a long battle, and Grace realizes that you don't get a second chance at life. She returns to her hometown of New London, Wisconsin, to try to reconcile with her own mother, Lorraine, with whom she's been estranged for longer than she cares to remember.

Over the course of the summer, Grace rediscovers the healing powers of cooking, coming to terms with your past, and friendship, and learns you can go home again, and sometimes that's exactly where you belong.

The Recipe Box celebrates mothers, daughters, and friendships, and also features Sandra's delicious original recipes.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Recently divorced from her high school sweetheart, Grace is trying to forge a new life in LA, but a rebellious 14-year-old daughter and her dying best friend draw her back to her Wisconsin hometown. Grace Holm-D'Angelo feels adrift after her divorce from Brian, her high school boyfriend. Moving from Chicago to LA to work with Ken, a renowned set designer and one of her two best friends, is difficult on her and her teen daughter, Emma, and things get worse once Leeza, Grace and Ken's other best friend, begins to lose her battle with breast cancer in their hometown of New London, Wis. When Emma pushes one boundary too many and finds herself in a dangerous situation, Grace takes a leave of absence and heads to Wisconsin for a few months with her wayward daughter. During the visit, she must face her own secrets and insecurities and finds that she is helped in this through reconnecting with her own heritage and past, particularly in her mother's kitchen with an old wooden recipe box that's been in her family for generations. Emma and Grace meet new neighbors and become entwined in the New London community, though they both have their feet straddled between Wisconsin and LA. Coming to terms with their own hopes and fears, the mother and daughter reconnect in powerful ways--to each other, Grace's mother and their own potentials as they navigate difficult choices and fortuitous opportunities. Food Network celebrity Sandra Lee has penned a decent story with her first foray into "food fiction," complete with recipes between chapters--nothing groundbreaking or transcendent but a competently drafted book which will satisfy the right crowd. Slow in some parts, and with some awkward storytelling and segues as well as an overly dramatic reaction to a past secret that readers are asked to believe shadowed every aspect of Grace's life, the book still offers a generally heartwarming tale of a mother and daughter who are facing real-life problems and show the courage and determination to confront them, along with some clever details that flesh out the story in unique, surprising ways. Fans of Lee will likely find this a fun, quirky addition to her eclectic media presence.

Product Details

Hachette Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Recipe Box

By Sandra Lee


Copyright © 2013 Sandra Lee
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4013-1083-7


As soon as she heard the ring, Grace knew there would be no answer. Every mother recognized that ring—the one where you could just sense your child wasn't going to pick up.

"Hi, it's Em, leave a message ..."

Grace had hoped to reach Emma. She was hours late, but she still smiled at the sound of her daughter's voice as she raced through LAX, cell in one hand, wheelie handle in the other, veering past a food stand, around a woman pushing a stroller, and almost sideswiping a man in a motorized wheelchair. "Oh my God, I am so sorry ..." Good grief, she was running down babies and seniors. Grace, get a grip!


"Honey, it's mom. I'm really sorry, Em. The plane was late, there was weather out of Green Bay, I missed my connection in Chicago and ..." What was the difference? Grace thought. Emma would only care that her mother wasn't there again when she got home. "I'm going straight to the set, so don't worry if you don't see my suitcase when you get home. Just start your homework. I'll bring sushi for dinner, OK? I love you." Grace picked up her bag and raced down the escalator steps, breaking into a run as she dragged it to the parking lot. It was a perfect spring day in Los Angeles. Sunshine and bright blue sky a world apart from the foggy dawn darkness of New London, Wisconsin, where she'd started her day ten hours ago.

Grace's phone rang. Great, Emma was calling back. "Sweetie?"

"Don't sweetie me! We still have six scenes to cover today. Where is my trusty assistant? Are you back in LA?"

With the time difference it was only lunchtime in LA, so Grace still had a half day of work ahead of her. "Ken, I feel terrible, you were wonderful to have Emma stay with you, but the flight was late. I left you a message about the connection ..."

"Yeah, I got it. Just glad you're back, and heads up—we're gonna run late. Artie's out of control again."

Grace sighed. Artie was the director of the show she and Ken were working on, The Lost Ones. He was a creative genius, but his management style was terrible. Ken was an amazing godfather, letting Emma stay with him while Grace was in Wisconsin. Ken adored Emma, and his domestic skills were, Grace had to admit, a thousand times better than her own, but Emma was only fourteen and the reality was that Ken had a very high pressure job as a head stylist for a hit TV show. "I tried calling Emma. She's probably at lunch. Leeza asked me to stay a bit longer, the flights were delayed, but I'm here now."

His voice softened. "It's OK, Grace. Just get here when you can, honey. How's our fighter doing?"

"Not great." Grace had managed to miss her connection, but she'd spent an extra day with Leeza, and right now that was what mattered. Ken understood. Grace and Ken were taking turns helping Leeza and her family. Back in high school in New London where they'd all grown up, Grace, Leeza, and Ken had joked they were closer than the Three Musketeers.

"I'll fill you in later." Grace sighed, thinking of that morning. "Be there shortly."

Pulling onto the 405 headed north, Grace groaned. The freeway was a parking lot. She'd have to get off at the first exit and take Sepulveda, or if that was blocked another surface street all the way to Century. This was going to be a long, painful exercise in stop-and-go. She looked at her reflection in the rearview mirror. Good lord, Grace thought. There were circles under her blue eyes. Her skin was paper white. She looked like she hadn't slept in three days.

This crazy schedule that left Grace exhausted and racing from LA to Wisconsin and back had started last fall during the annual Fall Family Fun Fest. The leaves were in full fall color. Music and the smell of sausages, cheese, and beer filled the air all week. Grace, Ken, and Leeza had been going to the festival together since they were kids, and even though Grace and Ken had moved away, they wouldn't have missed it for the world. Like New London's huge St. Patrick's Day Parade, the Fall Family Fun Fest was a town tradition. On the last day of the festival this year, Grace and Leeza stole a quiet moment to talk while they watched Grace's daughter Emma and Leeza's little Sara dance around the town square.

"I can't believe I actually live in LA," Grace had mused. "Me, a die-hard Midwesterner. Now, Ken, that I can believe. He's taken to it like a duck to water. In fact, he is a duck on the water. You should see his houseboat." Grace had chattered on in the way lifelong girlfriends do, filling Leeza in on the latest annoyance with Brian, her ex-husband.

"I guess he's moving into a huge loft in Chicago," Grace had sighed. "Reclaiming his lost bachelorhood or something. LA is so far away, I worry about sending Emma to Chicago and Emma said he had a date over Labor Day."

"Who says you couldn't have a date, too?" Leeza said as she put a straw in a juice box for Sara.

Looking back, Grace realized she'd yammered on about her ideal man, Brian's issues, and other insignificant blather until Leeza had abruptly interrupted her.

That's when Leeza had told Grace about her recent doctor's appointment and the lump he'd found in her left breast. "It's probably nothing," Leeza had assured her. "I'm sure it's just a cyst. Lots of women get them." Then she added, "The doctor is just being careful because Jonathan and I want to try for a little brother or sister for Sara." Leeza flashed her famous grin at this confession, the look that said, Watch out world!

"I'm sure you're right," Grace agreed and added, "Still, I'm glad you are going in for the follow-up."

Before Grace could ask Leeza any more questions, Ken appeared with beer for everyone, and they'd toasted the happy news. "A new baby! How great!" Ken said. "Dibs on godfather. Emma got Sara. The next munchkin is mine!" They toasted, and the conversation turned to possible baby names, all thought of Leeza's follow-up appointment forgotten.

Grace had been absolutely certain nothing would be wrong, nothing could be wrong. It had been a perfect trip. She'd hugged Leeza good-bye at the airport, and she, Emma, and Ken flew back to LA.

A week later, Leeza called and said she had breast cancer, but it had been caught early and there was nothing to worry about. Just something to take care of before she resumed with the Baby Plan.

But it turned out it was something to worry about. Leeza actually had aggressive, stage three breast cancer.

Suddenly the friends were cast into an ocean of tests, radiation, surgery, chemo—and after all that, the cancer had still spread. Then more surgery, more treatments, and finally weeks of isolation during Leeza's grueling bone marrow transplant over the winter. It was finally spring, and after months of hospital rooms, Leeza was at last home with her husband and little girl, where she could recover and spend time in her beautiful garden.

Whether it was people or plants, Leeza was a caretaker. She had a gift for making things bloom. Just the day before, Grace and Leeza had sat outside admiring the forsythia banking the side of Leeza's house, a faint dusting of pale butter yellow starting to peek through.

Grace had tried to keep their conversation light to give Leeza a break. "Your garden is going to be stunning this year, Leeza. I still can't believe Claire designed it. Claire Howard, the meanest girl in school. Who would guess? Oh my God, do you remember the time Ken put a laxative in Claire's milkshake?"

Leeza laughed. Ken had been a devil in high school. "God, she deserved it, though." She rolled her eyes and added, "She was the absolute worst!"

"The number-one popular girl," said Grace. "I still think she's the one who stole my sweater and put it on that scarecrow at the festival senior year."

"How about the time she accidentally 'lost' your tennis racquet when she was in charge of the equipment at the regional championships?" Leeza added.

Grace and Leeza laughed, recalling what had seemed like the worst things in the world back in high school. "We were so clueless. It's hard to believe she's my sister-in-law!" said Leeza. "Will miracles never cease?"

They'd been quiet for a minute, and Grace had said a little silent prayer: I hope not. Please let the miracles continue and let Leeza get well. But she didn't want to scare Leeza, so instead she just said, "Maybe it was Ken's milkshake."

"Yeah, Ken gets total credit for the turnaround," giggled Leeza.

They talked for another hour about their girls, Grace's work, and about Leeza's husband, Jonathan. They were still talking when it was time for Sara to wake up from her nap. As she got up, Leeza turned to Grace. "How's your mother? Will you see her this trip?"

Grace said nothing. Leeza knew Grace didn't want to see her mother.

"She comes by the hospital, you know," Leeza added. "All the time. Whenever I'm there."

"You don't have to see her, Leez."

"I know. But she's just trying to help."

"That's Lorraine—soup kitchens and hospitals are her specialty." Unspoken were the words Daughters are not. Especially her own daughter. Grace hadn't really had a relationship with her mother for sixteen years. She hadn't stood between her mother and Emma, but her own estrangement put a distance there as well. When she went back to New London, Grace stayed with Leeza and Jonathan. They were her family now.

"Maybe it's time, Gracie," said Leeza, squeezing her hand. "Sometimes there's less time than we know."

"There'll never be enough time," said Grace firmly, hating that they were discussing Lorraine. "Now, about Sara's birthday—" She tried to change the subject.

But Leeza cut her off. "Gracie." Grace could hear their whole history together, the secret only they shared, the reason they were closer than any sisters, in the way Leeza said her name. "There is never going to be a right time, but it's up to you now. You're going to have to be the strong one."

"I don't see why ..."

Leeza shook her head. "It's not about you and me anymore, Gracie, it's about Emma and Sara. As mothers we both have to do things that aren't easy, but we owe it to our daughters." She looked at Grace pointedly. "I can't help but wonder if maybe Lorraine thinks the same thing."

Leeza was right, but Grace could only shrug. Her relationship with Lorraine was complicated. Grace and Leeza had hugged, linked arms, and walked back to the house, each carrying her favorite mug.

At dinner that night, they had made plans for Grace to come back for the Fourth of July. "I'll be well then, you'll see," Leeza said as she picked at her food.

"You need to come visit us and get some California sunshine," said Grace. "We'll stay on Ken's boat and be California girls together." She sang the line from the Beach Boys' song: I wish they all could be California ... Jonathan had joined in and they'd gotten Leeza to laugh.

"I'll get a tattoo like Emma's," Leeza had teased, and Grace had winced. "Oh, no, don't encourage her." Jonathan winked, took Leeza's hand with seriousness, then joked, "I don't know, I think a Snoopy tattoo would be fun," and they'd all laughed because Snoopy was the nickname Leeza had given Jonathan back in high school for following her around like a puppy.

Leeza was tired after dinner, so while Jonathan had finished the dishes Grace had helped her up to bed.

"Thank you for coming to visit and for staying this extra day, Grace," Leeza said. "I know it's hard for you to be away from Emma, but this time with you means the world to me. I wish you didn't have to leave in the morning."

"I'll be back soon. Fourth of July, and I'll bring Emma. It'll be here before you know it!" She'd settled the quilt around Leeza, and as she was dropping off to sleep Leeza squeezed Grace's hand and whispered, "Be strong, Grace."

It was Leeza who needed strength, Grace thought, but that was so Leeza, always thinking of others.

That morning Grace woke up grateful she'd spent the extra night, but dreading the drive to Green Bay, returning the rental car, then the commuter flight to Chicago's O'Hare Airport, where she'd connect with the flight to LA. Jonathan had gotten out of bed in the predawn darkness to turn on some lights and walk Grace to her car. He looked like a man who had been to hell and back.

"It's going to be fine now," Grace had assured Jonathan as she hugged him good- bye. "She's home with you and Sara. That's going to help her get better fast. Being home is the best medicine. You'll see."

Suddenly a space opened up in front of Grace, and a car veered into her lane, cutting her off. She slammed on the brakes and leaned on the horn.

Leeza and her family were not the only victims of Leeza's illness. Ken had made several trips out to see Leeza too, and Emma had bounced back and forth between Grace, Ken, and, on holidays, her father, Brian, in Chicago.

Grace reached for her cell phone to try Emma again. No answer. She checked her messages. Nothing.

At last, Grace saw the sign for the Culver cutoff and started inching the car over to the right lane. Driving in LA was a far cry from the streets of New London, Wisconsin. She still wasn't used to it. Truth be told, Grace still felt like a visitor. She had one foot in LA, trying to make a new life, and the other back in her hometown, New London, for Leeza. She didn't know if she was coming or going, and most days she didn't think she was doing anything very well. If she was with Emma, she felt she should be with Leeza. If she was with Leeza, she felt she should be with Emma. If she was with either of them, she felt she was leaving Ken in the lurch at work. Her whole life looked like a bad patch of traffic. It will get better soon, Grace thought. She gritted her teeth, zigzagged across three lanes, and merged onto the exit ramp.


An hour later, Grace was at work on the set of The Lost Ones, surrounded by a family of vampires.

"Grace, put these in the refrigerator and line them up for the next shot," said Ken, pushing a metal cart full of glass bottles of fake blood toward her. "The natives are hungry."

"Got it." The Lost Ones was the story of a vampire family that moved into a normal suburban neighborhood. The vampire kitchen looked like something out of Leave It to Beaver, but The Lost Ones' family was a far cry from Ward, June, Wally, and the Beav. Ken's eye for detail, his perfectionism and creativity, had made him a go-to name in Hollywood for set design, and Grace had him to thank for transforming her from a starving artist to a professional stylist with a union card who could now afford to rent a precious apartment overlooking a canal in Venice.

Grace stocked the refrigerator with decanters filled with cranberry juice, red food coloring, and a cornstarch thickening agent. The refrigerator looked normal enough, except it had no back, so the camera could shoot from the inside out.

"Grace!" Ken was calling her through her headset. "Where are the sparklers?"

"In the tackle box. I'll get them." Grace hurried to the team van. The tackle box held the answer to every problem from a loose screw to a special prop spray that killed the shine on surfaces to, Ken liked to say, the solution to total consciousness. It was indispensable and should have been on the set, but it wasn't there because she had been late. She raced back, hoping this wouldn't hold things up.

"Here are the sparklers," she said, snapping the box open. "We have three boxes."

"I only need one sparkler," Ken said as he opened a large rectangular cardboard box. Inside was a sheet cake.

"That is gorgeous," said Grace as she helped Ken transfer the cake to a large tray. "What is it? Red velvet?"

"Please! Nothing so common for the undead! It's a blood orange cake for our vampires. We're number one in our time slot! Isn't that great news? This means the show will get picked up again for sure. We're celebrating job security! I have some champagne to go with it. If this doesn't put old farty Artie into a good mood for a change, nothing will, baby cakes." He raised one eyebrow. "It's a good thing somebody around here bakes." He leaned in closer and lowered his voice. "The secret is never use anything but blood orange juice. Plain old O.J. is so last century."

Excerpted from The Recipe Box by Sandra Lee. Copyright © 2013 Sandra Lee. Excerpted by permission of Hyperion.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Sandra Lee is an Emmy-nominated and internationally-acclaimed expert in all things kitchen and home. She has predicted and changed the trajectory of American lifestyle with her signature "smart and simple" philosophy. She is the host of Food Network's Sandra's Money Saving Meals, and Semi-Homemade Cooking, a veteran program on the network in its' fifteenth season, as well as the host of HGTV's Sandra Lee Celebrates, a series of holiday primetime specials.

Sandra has launched several lines of home, garden, and craft products and produced a successful DIY home improvement series. Her new home products line, entitled Sandra by Sandra Lee, launched at Sears and Kmart in Spring 2012. With a commitment to service and charity, Sandra works with numerous philanthropic organizations including UNICEF, Share Our Strength and Feeding America . Since 2002, Sandra has written 23 cookbooks and a memoir Made From Scratch, which all together have sold over four million copies.

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The Recipe Box 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
NickyCaffey More than 1 year ago
This is my first book by Sandra Lee. I was very impressed. It details a single mother, fresh from divorce, trying to put her life back together.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hokey! That's all I can say. She should stick with cookbooks.
SandpiperDS More than 1 year ago
An okay story, similar to a lot of chick lit out there. Nothing too exciting, fairly predictable. Pretty cover, though and the added recipes were a nice touch!
readbooksCA More than 1 year ago
well written, good story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MDTuck More than 1 year ago
I found that there were some interesting criteria presented for the reader to think about and ponder, but on the whole, not a very profound story. Some common threads of a single mother trying to balance a career, new location, young emerging teen daughter and all the problems confronting her. Some good character development and personalities. I finished the book but would not seek out this author again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Byrd009_ More than 1 year ago
I can't wait to read this! Anything from Sandra Lee is amazing!