The Chocolate Diaries: secrets for a sweeter journey on the rocky road of life

Renee Ann Smith —  September 14, 2011 — 50 Comments

Reality shows have taken our culture by storm. Probably all of us have whiled away an hour or two watching a real life person cook a meal, decorate a room, compete in a talent contest, raise a family, or plan a wedding. The other day, I even watched a young woman have a baby. (It was tastefully filmed, of course!)

In the first chapter of The Chocolate Diaries, Karen Scalf Linamen compares life to a popular reality show. Here’s what she says . . .

“Unfortunately, when I watch the Food Network, the programs that seem to best represent my life are part of a series called Chopped. In every episode up-and-coming chefs compete for ten thousand dollars by whipping up extravagant dishes in thirty minutes or less. The timer starts as each chef is given a basket containing three or four ingredients that must be included in the dish.

I’m not talking about flour, sugar, and eggs. These chefs have to create dishes using zany combinations such as . . .

  • Oranges, grapefruit, and bacon!
  • Or apples, shrimp, and peanut butter.
  • My favorite episode is the one where the chefs are asked to create an appetizer with chocolate and sardines. A tasty chocolate-and-fish appetizer. You should see the looks on their faces.

And then the timer starts.

Now that’s real life.

After all, you and I are given a limited amount of time on earth. (Sure, it’s longer than thirty minutes, although we’re never sure how much longer. Thirty years? Sixty? Ninety?) Then we’re given a variety of zany ingredients with which to make something of our lives. Inevitably, some of the ingredients are things we don’t want and may not even know how to handle.

Just yesterday a woman was telling me about her pending divorce. Through tears she said, ‘It’s not what I thought I’d have to deal with in my life.’ I’ve had that same feeling. My guess is that you have, too.

As we stare into the kitchens of our lives, we see all sorts of ingredients we didn’t ask for . . . We can even become convinced the we’ve been given such bitter ingredients that nothing can ever make our lives sweet again.

After all, it’s hard to imagine even a skillful chef making something palatable out of a childhood hurt, a mistake from long ago, baggage from a difficult marriage, or lingering disappointment. But this philosophy suggest that the ingredients are more important than the life they produce. Don’t believe it!”

Back to me: I love reading stories of how God brought various fellow travelers through the tough times in their lives and met some amazing people through Karen’s book. Their personal testimonies bolstered my strength and renewed my hope. Some of the anecdotes Karen shares made me laugh out loud—which is an effective joy-inducer. I learned from the many practical suggestions about how to handle day-to-day stresses or make life fun no matter what our circumstances may be. And I especially loved the Chocolatherapy generously sprinkled throughout the pages, including yummy recipes like Grilled Chocolate Sandwiches (featuring heavy cream) and Microwave S’mores.

If you know someone who needs encouragement, this little bookย  would make a great gift! I’d feature it in a basket with some special kinds of chocolate or with the ingredients of one of the recipes. You can grab a copy at this link. ***Thanks to WaterBrook Multnomah for providing a copy for me to review. I already have plans to pass it on to a friend.

Giveaway: This is a September Giveaway Post. At the end of September, I’m giving away a $10 Amazon Gift Card. If you leave a comment on this post, I’ll enter you in the giveaway. If you rate my review, I’ll enter you twice!

Rate my review: I reviewed this story for the Blogging for Books Program. If you rate my review, it opens the way for me to choose another book and enters you in two giveaways. Rating is a two-step process. 1. Rate my review here.

2. Check your email account for a message from Blogging for Books and click their link to verify your email. 3. Let me know that youโ€™ve verified your email, and Iโ€™ll enter you again in the giveaway or simply say, Thanks! 4. Also, if you rate my review, you’ll be entered in a giveaway by WaterBrook Multnomah. They’ll choose one person who rates my review to receive a copy of the book for themselves.

Before you go, check out my favorite recipe from the book . . .

Three-Minute Chocolate Cake in a Mug

1 large coffee mug
4 tbs. flour (not self-rising)
4 tbs. sugar
2 tbs. cocoa
1/8 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1 egg
3 tbs. milk (my sub strong coffee)
3 tbs. oil
2 tbs. choco chips
1 tbs. chopped pecans
Small splash of vanilla

Add dry ingredients to mug andย  mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in milk and oil and mix well. Add chips, nuts, and vanilla, and mix again. Put mug in microwave and cook for 2 minutes. (Depending on strength of microwave, cook a little less or a little longer.)

Renee Ann Smith

Posts Twitter Facebook

I teach literature in a Christian high school by day and write inspirational fiction by night. I love to share heart-touching quotes and stories here on my blog. So glad you stopped by!

50 responses to The Chocolate Diaries: secrets for a sweeter journey on the rocky road of life

  1. Oh that recipe looks amazing.
    Thank you so much for sharing it and your review.
    (not an entry)

  2. I love the gift basket idea!! I’ll have to keep this book in mind when gift hunting! And a 3 minute cake?! That’s my kind of cooking! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I rated your review.

    bluerosesheart at yahoo dot com

  3. I love the 3 minute cake recipe! I made one before and it turned out to be pretty yummy. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Please don’t enter me since I won last month’s giveaway.


  4. Did you try this recipe Renee Ann? I think I’m going to try it tonight. I’m craving chocolate right now.

  5. My email has been verified! Thanks so much for all these reviews and giveaways!

  6. Thanks for the review! The recipe sounds like a great college student birthday gift as it’s quick, easy, homemade, and a mug in one! =]


  8. Oh, that chocolate cake looks so good and real! I almost tried to reach through the computer screen and take it out, LOL! I do know someone who needs encouragement in the midst of life storms, and I would love to get this book for her. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. I rated your review, but never received the email! Oh well, just enter me in the gift card for the one time anyway! ๐Ÿ™‚

    That mug cake looks tasty! I love chocolate though, so pretty much the entire book looks scrumptious!


  10. I agree that’s the way life is. Sometimes it’s chocolate and good then sometimes it’s lemons and sour. Sometimes I have a little “pity party” thinking about myself and the stresses of each day. That’s the key though – thinking of myself. During my “pity party” I’m complaining about things and saying me, me, me and sometimes have a good cry. Knowing it’s not about me – but that the Lord is faithful.

    Love those recipes! They look so good!

    I rated your review.

    Never received an email to verify though

    • Good thoughts–thanks for sharing, Patsy! And thanks for trying to rate my review. The verification email might have gone to your spam folder, but if you can’t find it, no worries. I’ll still enter you twice! Thanks!

  11. Great Review. I love your idea of the gift basket. Thank you so much.

    I rated your review and I tried to verify my email but the link said unable to verify, then said already verified.

  12. This looks like a tasty book. And that recipe looks tasty too. That’s much better than making a whole cake when you have a craving!

  13. Thank you for sharing this blog. I am excited to get this book and the gift basket idea is so fun! I already have a person who came to mind that I would like to give the book/create a basket for. The mug cake is such a great idea! I mentor a girl and think we will make this when we get together this weekend! Thanks for the great ideas ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Interesting concept for a book.

    I rated your review, too!

  15. I think this is a great series; Iโ€™ve gotten a lot out of these two posts so far.

  16. I have made the cake in a mug many times. I love it! But I have to say you need a bit of vanilla ice cream to go with it! great review Renee! I’m going to do your suggestion of the book with a basket of chocolates!

  17. That does look yummy. Great review. It sounds like a great book to give as a holiday gift.

  18. I’d love a chance at winning that $10 Amazon gift card, Renee.

    And I went and rated your review, too, for an extra entry. Thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. I’ve tried to do a blog, but mine doesn’t turn out pretty like yours!!!

  20. I watch Chopped all the time actually! It’s such a stressful show but still fun to watch. Life can be pretty unpredictable at times but like them, we just have to roll with the punches. That chocolate cake in the cup looks really good! Thanks for posting the recipe. I think I’ll give it a try!

  21. Hey you. Neat one. Makes me want cake for breakfast. Looks like waffles will have to do. I’m verified. I have written tons of reviews over there and I’ve yet to get a rating alas.

  22. soooo YUMMY! love that you’ve added the mug ‘o cake recipe =))
    the book sounds PerFect! even for gifting one’s self ! and an xtra for a friend…
    thanks for the giveaway & safe happy travels for your conference~

  23. review rated and verified! good to go…
    thx, Renee Ann, for the 2nd opp to win =)

  24. Hi Renee!

    I found your blog through the Blogging for Books Blogger Snapshot! I love your blog…sounds like we like the same type of books! ๐Ÿ™‚ I also loved The Chocolate Diaries! I am so glad I read this tonight…after my stressful day at work I was craving chocolate. I think I will go make some Chocolate Cake in a Mug! ๐Ÿ™‚



  25. I love that brownie recipe! Someone emailed it to me years ago and I’ve got it memorized now. I reduce the sugar by 1 tbsp and don’t use the baking powder or salt (should try it that way – maybe it’s better). It also works fine with barley flour.

  26. Just loved this review…makes me definitely read this book…in fact, it would probably be a great book for me to share with some of the women at church. Thanks!

  27. Also verified my email through Blogging for Books! Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Text formatting is available via select HTML. <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>