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Hot Cocoa Ice Cream inspired by The Branson Beauty

Hot Cocoa Ice Cream inspired by The Branson Beauty
The book tour stops here today for The Branson Beauty, the debut novel by Claire Booth. The first in a planned series, this mystery is set in the Ozark region of southern Missouri, during the wintertime. Recently appointed sheriff Hank Worth responds to an emergency call, where a popular local attraction The Branson Beauty, a showboat, has crashed and its paddlewheel has been wedged into some boulders.

In a county that's low on both fund and resources, rescuing the 100 people on the boat, most of whom are elderly (some in wheelchairs) in freezing weather conditions proves to be a challenge...which turns out to be minor compared to the dead body of a beloved young local track star he finds locked in the boat's private dining room.

Since she was supposed to be away at college, Hank is having a hard time finding answers and motive behind her murder. In this small town full of color and charm, Booth has created an intriguing bunch of characters that I can't wait to learn more about in future books.
Hot Cocoa Ice Cream inspired by The Branson Beauty
Mysteries (of all sorts) are my favorite kind of books to read, and this one did not disappoint. There were moments that seemed sort of off-topic, but I don't necessarily think they detracted from the story since we seemed to be getting an introduction to a supporting cast of characters. While I had my suspicions, I wasn't really sure who the killer was until the end. Although I don't necessarily mind being able to figure it out early on, know, because I fancy myself a bit of an amateur detective like any good mystery reader does.

I'm looking forward to enjoying the rest of this series!

This wasn't a whole lot of food in this one, but the food/drink that was mentioned, was mentioned often. Since it's basically crunchy snow and frozen tundra, there was plenty of hot coffee and comfort foods like meatloaf, grilled cheese, and casseroles mentioned. Our hero seemed to love Russell Stover's Pecan Delights (what I think of as a turtle). Also mentioned were chips, Jello, peanut butter, cereal, eggs, a sandwich and (this one's good)— "an impressive meat mountain studded with green bean trees".
Hot Cocoa Ice Cream inspired by The Branson Beauty
But the single thing mentioned most throughout the pages (aside from coffee) was hot cocoa. Hank's father-in-law, Duncan, lives with the family so that he can watch Hank and Maggie's two young children since the schedule of a sheriff and an emergency room doctor is pretty unpredictable. Let's just say that Grandpop makes a mean cup of hot cocoa, and he makes it often. Theirs is a house that needs to be well-stocked with milk and mini marshmallows.

So, while I knew that I wanted to make some hot cocoa to go along with The Branson Beauty, it's the middle of summer here. I thought that turning it into ice cream would be both delicious and's frozen, which was Hank's constant state throughout the entire book.

Half an hour later he finally extricated his car from the driveway—and he only lost control of the snowblower once, to the delight of Maribel and Benny watching from the window. Those two had a nice, snuggly Presidents' Day holiday ahead of them, playing by the fire and drinking entirely too much of Grandpop's hot cocoa.

The Branson Beauty book cover

The Branson Beauty

author: Claire Booth
series: Sheriff Hank Worth Mysteries (Book 1)
publisher: Minotaur Books (July 19, 2016)
genre: Fiction / Mystery & Detective / Traditional
hard cover : 336 pages
"foodie" read: Not really.

opening sentence: His feet crunched on the snow as he stumbled behind the Company Man.

teaser: The Branson Beauty, an old showboat, has crashed in the waters of an Ozark mountain lake just outside the popular tourist destination of Branson, Missouri. More than one hundred people are trapped aboard. Hank Worth is still settling into his new role as county sheriff, and when he responds to the emergency call, he knows he’s in for a long winter’s day of helping elderly people into rafts and bringing them ashore. He anticipates a lot of anxiety, many arguments, and extra costs for emergency equipment that will stretch the county’s already thin budget to the breaking point. But those are the least of his worries after he discovers high school track star Mandy Bryson’s body locked inside the Captain’s private dining room.

In her captivating debut novel, Claire Booth has created a broad cast of wonderfully compelling characters, and writes with a style that perfectly blends humor with the emotional drama and heartache of a murder investigation.

about the author: Claire Booth spent more than a decade as a daily newspaper reporter, much of it covering crimes so convoluted and strange they seemed more like fiction than reality. Eventually, she had enough of the real world and decided to write novels instead. Her Sheriff Hank Worth mystery series takes place in Branson, Missouri, where small-town Ozark politics and big-city country music tourism clash in, yes, strange and convoluted ways.
author Claire Booth photo

connect with the author: website

recipe inspired by the book: Hot Cocoa Ice Cream


No-Churn Hot Cocoa Ice Cream
This no-churn ice cream is the perfect way to enjoy the flavor of hot cocoa when the mood strikes in the heat of summer—don't forget the marshmallows!
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No-Churn Hot Cocoa Ice Cream
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 5 minutes + 6 hours in freezer
Cook Time: n/a
Keywords: dessert chocolate marshmallows ice-cream summer

Ingredients (about a quart)
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tabespoons regular or peppermint hot cocoa mix (see notes)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of fine sea salt
  • 2 cups heavy cream, cold
  • 1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows, divided
Stir the sweetened condensed milk, hot cocoa mix, vanilla, and salt together in a small bowl; set aside.

Place heavy cream in a large mixing bowl and beat until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the cream into the cocoa mixture, a third at a time, until combined. Scatter 1 cup of the marshmallows over the top, then fold them in.

Scoop the mixture into a freezer safe container (a 9 1/2" x 5 1/2" loaf pan works well), scatter the remaining marshmallows over the top, then cover with a sheet of plastic wrap, pressed directly onto the top of the mixture. Freeze for at least 6 hours, or until firm, before serving.

If you don't have bulk hot cocoa mix, individual packets usually contain 2 tablespoons each, so you could substitute 3 packets.

I've made this with both regular and peppermint hot cocoa mix - both are delicious!

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.