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Books That Cook: 'Debbie Macomber's Christmas Cookbook,' 'The Neelys' Celebration Cookbook,' 'Robin Takes 5'

Title: Debbie Macomber's Christmas Cookbook (Harlequin, $29.95, 240 pages)

Generally speaking: Bestselling author Debbie Macomber has compiled a Christmas cookbook sharing her favorite family traditions, recipes and decorating tips. This book offers a variety of recipes along with gorgeous color photos. Just looking through this book puts you in the Christmas spirit.

For: Debbie Macomber fans and anyone who enjoys Christmas cookbooks. There are some fresh ideas and great recipes.

Recipes: Brown sugar toasted pecan pie, classic bread stuffing with leeks and bacon, deviled crab cakes with chive cream, cider-glazed roast turkey, endive and radicchio Christmas salad, three-cheese scalloped potatoes, five-minute cranberry walnut cobbler, sweet pepper and spinach quiche, Winter tomato pie, zucchini ribbon frittata with cheese, banana Nutella crepe cake, chocolate toffee chewies and blueberry crumb bars.

Title: The Neelys' Celebration Cookbook: Down-Home Meals for Every Occasion by Pat and Gina Neely with Ann Volkwein (Knopf, $28.95, 292 pages)

Generally speaking: It's evident from this cookbook that Pat and Gina Neely enjoy entertaining and celebrating. They have organized the book by month with recipes perfect for entertaining on any occasion. Whether you're planning a Super Bowl party, a July 4th gathering, major holiday or movie night, you'll find fresh offerings that will satisfy any crowd.

For: Barbecue lovers, folks who enjoy entertaining and fans of the Food Network show Down Home with the Neelys.

Recipes: Corn bread and collard dressing, apple crumb pie, ancho-spiced nuts, hot crab and mushroom dip with toasted pita points, devil's food cake, spicy grilled cheese bread, peach spritzer, bourbon bread pudding, banana cake with coconut frosting, homemade BBQ potato chips, ice cream and sweet cola BBQ beef ribs.

Title: Robin Takes 5: 500 recipes, 5 ingredients or less, 500 calories or less, 5 nights a week at 5 p.m. by Robin Miller (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $29.99, 480 pages)

Generally Speaking: Robin Miller, cookbook author and Food Network host, offers what she advertises. This collection of 500 recipes with 5 ingredients or less is, in a word, awesome. The recipes will appeal to a broad range of tastes and skill levels. There are no difficult techniques or unusual ingredients. Each recipe includes nutritional information. With 500 recipes, you're sure to find many dishes for your family to enjoy.

For: Busy people who want to get a great meal on the table in a short amount of time. Many of the recipes can be prepared in less than 20 minutes with about the same amount of prep time. If you're super organized and plan weekly menus, you could even do much of the prep work, such as chopping veggies, on the weekend and have them ready to go.

Recipes: Pasta with blue cheese and basil, French dip calzone with wild mushroom sauce, flatbread with grilled chicken and sun-dried tomato pesto, cucumber-peach gazpacho, peanut-crusted chicken breasts with cilantro-garlic sauce, pork chops with sautéed apples, chili-rubbed pork tenderloin, seared tuna with mandarin-spiked slaw, potato-wrapped tilapia with basil pesto, ricotta-stuffed tomatoes, cranberry-pecan chocolate mounds, scalloped sweet potatoes and maple brown rice pudding.

>>Easy

Five-Minute Cranberry Walnut Cobbler

2 ½ cups fresh or frozen cranberries

¾ cup chopped walnuts

1 ¼ cups granulated sugar, divided use

2 large eggs

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, melted

¼ teaspoon almond extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

Pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a 9-inch pie pan, combine cranberries, walnuts and ½ cup of the sugar; toss until coated.

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, melted butter, ¾ cup sugar and almond extract until blended. Fold in flour and salt until combined. Pour the batter over the cranberry mixture. Bake for 40 minutes, until crust is golden and fruit bubbles. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Serves 8.

>>Moderate

Hot Crab and Mushroom Dip

With Toasted Pita Points

For the dip:

4 tablespoons butter

1 shallot, finely chopped

½ pound button mushrooms, roughly chopped

¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 cups half-and-half

¼ cup dry white wine

½ cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated

1 cup Fontina cheese, shredded

12 ounces lump crabmeat, picked through for shells and cartilage

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Dash of hot sauce, preferably Tabasco

Dash of Worcestershire sauce

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the pita chips:

5 (6-inch) pitas

3 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the dip: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the shallot, garlic and mushrooms and saute, stirring frequently, until the liquid cooks off and vegetables become tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute more. Slowly whisk in the half-and-half and stir until the sauce thickens.

Pour the wine into the saucepan and stir in the cheeses until melted. Fold in the crab and parsley; season with hot sauce and Worcestershire. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon the mixture into a 1 ½-quart casserole dish. Bake for 15 minutes, until bubbly and golden brown. Serve with toasted pita chips.

For the chips: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush the pitas lightly with olive oil, then cut each pita into eight wedges. Arrange the pita on two sheet pans, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for 5 to 7 minutes, until crisp.

Serves 4 to 6.

>>easy

Chili-rubbed Pork Tenderloin

1 ¼ pounds pork tenderloin

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon chili powder

2 teaspoons light brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a shallow roasting pan with cooking spray.

Season the pork all over with salt and freshly ground black pepper and place in prepared pan. Whisk together Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, brown sugar and cumin until blended. Spread the mixture all over the pork. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a meat thermometer reads 155 degrees. Let the pork stand for 5 minutes before cutting 1-inch-thick slices.

Serves 4.

Books That Cook: 'Debbie Macomber's Christmas Cookbook,' 'The Neelys' Celebration Cookbook,' 'Robin Takes 5'

12/06/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 3:30am]

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