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A Batch Of Smart Cookies
by Pat Barclay

what`s new in cookbooks, from soup to nuts FOR MY MONEY, you can have your murder mysteries, sci-fi sagas, and blockbuster "bodice rippers" (as some romance novels are known in the trade); when it comes to escapist reading, there`s nothing to compare with cookbooks. The vicarious eating they inspire is endlessly entertaining and fat free, and if you read them closely, you can enjoy vicarious cooking without messing up the kitchen with the real thing. Take these recent offerings, for example: Barbecue Chez Bibianne: Baking and Cooking for Your Outdoor Lifestyle (Chez Bibianne Enterprises, 86 pages, $8.95 paper), by Bibianne Robitaille. If you can`t take the heat, get out of the kitchen and barbecue instead, says Robitaille, who lives in Edmonton and likes to cook outdoors all year round. To that end she`s adapted traditional recipes such as "Whole Wheat Bread" and "Baked Ham" for the barbecue. This approach will be bad news for cottage cooks who`ve been getting away with the minimum; on the other hand, you may never have to clean an oven again. Summer Delights: Cooking with Fresh Herbs (Whitecap, 154 pages, $12.95 paper), by Noel Richardson. This revised version of the 1986 edition includes a new chapter on desserts and is a companion volume to Winter Pleasures: Herbs and Comfort Cooking (1990). Summer Delights offers enthusiastic instructions for growing and using 19 different herbs, from chives ("The blossoms ...make a delicate, pale pink vinegar") to horseradish ("...easy to grow and hard to get rid of!"). Joan Ward-Harris`s delicate illustrations are both decorative and useful, and the index .lists recipes under the herbs used in preparing them, as well as in the usual categories of "Sauces," "Soups," etc. A bibliography and a list of "Seed and Plant Sources" make this a practical resource for anyone with an interest in cooking with fresh herbs. The Sugarless Cookbook, Volume 2: Cooking with the Natural Sweetness of Fruit (Hum Publishing, 112 pages, $10.95 paper). Here Nellie Hum continues the ingenious approach to the sugar problem that she developed in The Sugarless Cookbook, Volume 1 (1985). Hum`s recipes eliminate all sweeteners except fruit and frozen juice concentrates, and substitute vegetable oil for solid fats whenever possible. The results are so sensible that you wonder why no one`s thought of this technique before. From "Sauerbraten" to "Rhubarb-Strawberry Pie," Hum demonstrates that she has indeed discovered the secret of guiltless gourmandising. Whipping up a batch of her concentrated apple juicesweetened brownies will make you feel like a saint. In Good Taste (In Good Taste Publishing, 95 pages, $8.95 paper), by Marie Therese Simard-Theroux. Billed as "Western Cooking with a French Accent;" In Good Taste combines the two main influences on Simard-Theroux`s cooking: her British Columbia upbringing and her French-Canadian roots. Thus a recipe for "Mediterranean Prawns" rubs shoulders with one for "Pacific Shrimp," and each is followed by a suggestion for an accompanying wine. Simard-Theroux`s introduction claims she`s adapted most of her "marvellous recipes" for today`s health-conscious cooking, but all who venture here are advised to take her words with a soupcon of whipped cream. Rose Murray`s Comfortable Kitchen Cookbook (McGrawHill Ryerson, 192 pages, $15.95 paper). Rose Murray says she prepared this book to provide "a good source of reliable recipes" for "easy family meals and casual entertaining:" On the slim side for a general cookbook, it`s attractively designed, with no wasted space and pages that lie agreeably flat when opened. Chatty remarks and pedestrian sentiments may abound, but they`re mixed with real information. And with compelling recipes like "Super Easy One-Dish Spaghetti" and "Black Forest Cupcakes;" Murray proves she`s one smart cookie. Good 6z Natural: Delicious High-Fiber, Low-Fat Cooking and Baking (Good & Natural Publishing, 102 pages, $9.95 paper), by Glennys Langlois. This well-organized collection aims to simplify health-conscious cooking. A recipe for chicken soup directs the cook to roast a three-pound chicken for two hours to "get rid of all the excess fat prior to making stock;" and a recipe for pumpkin pie explains how long fresh pumpkin will keep and two methods of cooking it. Like the trained chef she is, Langlois expects her readers to be committed cooks. Her clear and tempting recipes just might produce that result, too. Cheat ...Just a Little: A Lifestyle Approach to Food 6z Fitness (A. M. Reipas, 204 pages, $15.95 paper), by Ann Marie Reipas. Reipas has been teaching fitness and nutrition since 1983. Her cookbook includes a "home finess program for all ages" and a dieter`s manual, as well as 120 pages of calorie-cueing recipes for everything from "Whole Wheat Pita Bread" to "Caramel Truffles" (well, it`s okay to "cheat, just a little;" if you`ve been good all week). Reipas`s bouncy style and state-of-the-art nutritional know-how impress (switch from skim milk to more nutritious one per cent; choose butter over hydrogenated margarine), but a glitch got into her cross-referencing system. Maybe a modicum of confusion was all part of a cunning plot, though, like those supermarket displays that tempt you to succumb on the way to something else. A Taste of Acadie (Goose Lane, 190 pages, $16.95 cloth), by Marielle Cormier-Boudreau and Melvin Gallant. Four hundred people across the Maritimes were surveyed for the recipes and food-related traditions described here. Translated from the 1978 French edition, A Taste of Acadie captures a time and place with such authentic delights as "Cloverleaf Honey" and "Weasel Fricot," the latter a thick potato soup made when no meat or fish were available and so named "because the weasel went right on by:" (Except on Prince Edward Island, that is, where the same dish was known as "Nincompoop Fricot.") Though the Acadians` salty, fatty diet is inappropriate for many of us today, this is a charming reading experience - with the exception of those tasty "fricots" made with "meadowlark, bobolink, pigeon and snow bunting:" New Brunswick Pictorial Cookbook, with photographs by Sherman Hines, and, with photographs by Wayne Barren Acadian Pictorial Cookbook (Nimbus, 64 pages, $14.95 cloth). This clever idea for a regional souvenir combines local recipes with scenic photographs. Hines may be surprised to see his spectacular shot of misty Tantramar Marsh partially obscur-ed by the instructions for "Homemade Custard Ice Cream` and "New Brunswick Maple-Pecan Pie;" but the effect on the book browser is salutary. As the editors say in their introduction, "The kitchens [of New Brunswick] provide for the palate what the photographs provide for the eye:` Kitchen Wisdom: Harrowsmith`s Sourcebook for Cooks (Camden House, 142 pages, $19.95 paper), by Pamela Cross. A self-taught cook, Pamela Cross says her hands-on experience as editor of the Harrowsmith Cookbook - she tested 1,500 recipes at home for Volume One - turned her into a "culinary adventurer:" She shares her hard-won skills in this readable guide to becoming a competent, even creative, cook. Kitchen Wisdom discusses ingredients, techniques, and equipment; includes charts, tables, and recipes, and offers admirable advice ("...use liqueurs in place of extracts. A teaspoon ...of chocolate-flavoured liqueur in wonderful in cookies and mousses"; "drop a bay leaf into the flour container to prevent infestation by weevils;` etc.). This one`s a must for your Christmas shopping list, but if you buy it for someone else, you`ll have a hard time giving it away.

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