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updated: 12/7/2010 11:10 AM

Cookbooks for gift giving

Lean and Lovin' It

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The holiday's are almost here and since I love cookbooks they are the first gifts I consider for friends and family. Here are the 2010 releases that made my good-for-giving list.

"Skinny Dips: 60 Recipes for Dips, Spreads, Chips, and Salsa on the Lighter Side of Delicious" by Diane Morgan (Chronicle Books, $18.95) could, by its size alone, be considered a stocking stuffer. Morgan's hardcover book may be slim in size, but it's packed with terrific recipes, nutrition info and color pictures.

Morgan boosts flavor by roasting (garlic and peppers), toasting (nuts and spices), as well as utilizing smaller quantities of higher fat, big-flavored real cheeses like parmesan or blue. Her use of citrus zest brings flavor to the party without adding calories or fat.

You'll want to grab a chip (baked, of course) and dig in to Morgan's baked crab dip, slimmed-down bacon and bean dip or microbrew cheddar cheese spread. There's so much here you may just have to throw an after-holiday party to help your guests keep their New Year's resolutions.

"Complete Meals in Minutes" ($29.95) from Cooking Light magazine includes more than 700 recipes that can be made in 15, 20 or 30 minutes.

Every recipe includes nutrition information and hundreds of color pictures guide cooks.

Cooking Light's kitchen-friendly, five-ring binder format makes it lay it flat on a kitchen counter, or open it up to remove the page you need. Category tabs make it simple to locate recipes.

Along with loads of helpful hints you'll find recipes for soon-to-be family favorites like salmon with spicy cucumber salad and peanuts, rustic tomato-olive pizza, shepherd's pie, last-minute chicken fajitas, spicy beef and black bean chili, antipasto salad and dark chocolate cookies.

"Good Meat: The Complete Guide to Sourcing and Cooking Sustainable Meat" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $40.00) is perfect for that guy, or gal, who cooks.

James Beard award-winning author Deborah Krasner dishes on all things meat in this weighty tome (you'll see when you pick it up).

You'll find out where every cut of meat comes from and tasty ways to prepare them. There's no nutrition info here, but when it comes to preparing a special piece of meat, most folks don't care if they briefly wander off the diet path.

You will learn how to locate, order and prepare sustainably raised meat and how to connect the dots between truly responsible agriculture and scrumptious food; good health and the environment.

Few will be able to resist Krasner's take on sauerbraten, Cuban-style minute steaks, lamb stew with apricots, ginger and cinnamon or honey-glazed baby back ribs. One cautionary note: this book's not for the kitchen newbie.

Try this recipe: This "Skinny Dips" recipe will make your holiday guests smile.

• Don Mauer welcomes comments, questions and recipe make-over requests. Write him at

By Don Mauer

Daily Herald Correspondent