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Family Holidays

Guide to planning seasonal celebrations

Voters' Voices

Jobs, the economy and the 2004 presidential election

Holiday Movie Preview 2004

Multimedia slide show with capsule previews of upcoming films

Standardized Testing 101

A primer for parents

Deadly Weapons in Dangerous Hands

Special report about weapons of mass destruction

Losing Ground

Special report: Wetlands' demise ripples across nation

Iraq: After Saddam

Continuing coverage of the conflict in Iraq


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Need to find holiday food fare for all generations? Here are some of season's best

By ALIAH D. WRIGHT | Gannett News Service

When families get together, Pillsbury's doughboy got it right: "Nothin' says lovin' like something from the oven."

Plenty of new cookbooks for 2003 are ripe with culinary ideas for all age groups. Here are some of them:

“Christmas Cookies: A Cookbook with Cookie Cutters,” by Susan Devins and Barbara Lehman (Candlewick Press, $12.99) is a delightful, kid-friendly illustrated book with just 39 laminated pages (perfect to keep spills at bay) in a white-ringed binder. Each of the 18 recipes offer measurements in cups and milliliters and while youngsters are waiting for their little masterpieces to rise, they can learn about the first Christmas card or who created "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer." They also can discover how to make Christmas cookie ornaments and gift tags and how to package their cookies as gifts. But best of all, in addition to recipes for Gingerbread People, Jelly Thumbprints, and Christmas Wreath cookies are the three plastic cookie cutters that come with the book. Shaped like a gingerbread person, a Christmas tree and a star, these multicolored plastic shapes will help kids avoid misshapen mishaps.

Ah, macaroni and cheese. That wonderfully delicious staple of comfort food is turned inside out with Deanna Keahey and Steve Kilner’s book “More, Please! Macaroni & Cheese” (Plexcentric, $15.95). There are recipes for macaroni and cheese sandwiches (no that’s not a misprint), macaroni and cheese casseroles that contain just cabbage, or spinach, or corn, or hamburger or chicken, and even raisins (which I have had by the way and was not as tasty as the book claims). There is fried macaroni and cheese, pepper steak slathered on macaroni and cheese and mac-and-cheese paella. There’s even a recipe for mac-and-cheese jam tarts and macaroni apple crisp (with cheese, of course). Most of these recipes call for varying boxed macaroni and cheese, but there are 11 different homemade recipes in this book that claims “111 fun and delicious dishes to keep you and your family smiling” (or grimacing).

New York Daily News food editor Rosemary Black offers 150 dessert recipes in “The Kids’ Holiday Baking Book,” (St. Martin’s Griffin, $15.95). A mother of six, Black’s recipes come from around the world. This multicultural cookbook for kids offers recipes under such headings as Purim, Cinco de Mayo, Chinese New Year, Halloween, Diwali, Thanksgiving, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, as well as Easter, Passover, Epiphany and others. In addition to recipes for cookies, brownies, rice pudding, and cakes there are also recipes for coquito (Puerto Rican eggnog), Mexican Pan de Muerto (“bread of the dead”), Shrikhand (sweet yogurt with saffron) and lekakh (honey cake), which is quite popular during Rosh Hashanah. Kids should welcome exploring recipes from other lands as well as reading about how other cultures celebrate their own intrinsic holidays.

There are more than 400 recipes in Phoebe Bailey’s book “An African American Cookbook” (Good Books, $15.95). There are lots of traditional recipes for such Southern staples as ribs, cornbread, sweet potato pudding and smoked turkey and black-eyed peas, but also for yogurt and chives biscuits, braided Easter bread, Primavera pizza, shrimp bake and minestrone with tortellini. Interspersed with the recipes are rich historical anecdotes and colloquialisms drawn from the author’s association with people whose ancestors participated in the Underground Railroad or lived nearby places where it was active. For example, if heard singing the spiritual “We are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder,” a conductor on the Underground Railroad knew an enslaved African was on the run and wanted to go as far north as possible. Bailey’s bio says she left the corporate world to work with her minister brother and their congregation of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Lancaster, Pa. In addition to cooking, she’s also the executive director of “Living The Experience,” a group of Underground Railroad Re-enactors.

“Come for Dinner, Memorable Meals to Share with Friends,” by Leslie Revsin (Wiley, $29.95) covers the gamut of meals from appetizers, salads, main courses, side dishes, and desserts. The author has impressive credentials — she was the first woman chef at New York’s famed Waldorf-Astoria hotel. The photos are impressive: there is a mouthwatering shot of lamb shanks with red wine and green olives and poached pears with vanilla bean and lemon zest. Revsin says she prefers small get-togethers and likes to stay part of the party by cooking ahead, preparing menus so dishes can be done or partially done before guests arrives. With that in mind, each complex recipe comes with a "do-ahead" option to help chefs plan ahead. Before getting into the meat and potatoes of the book, Revsin offers whole menus for different occasions. For that homey meal, she suggests hearts of romaine with sherry-basil dressing to start, mini meat loaves as the main course, roasted carrots with orange, cheese mashed potatoes and lemon sorbet or fresh fruit or a hot fudge sundae instead.

“Swell Holiday,” by Cynthia Rowley & Ilene Rosenzweig (Atria Books, $16) is a girl’s guide to making the holiday season more stylish than ever. From the duo that brought you “Swell: A Girl’s Guide to the Good Life” comes ways to simplify and add some sparkle to the holiday madness. Full of colorful illustrations, "Holiday" is packed from candy cane striped cover to cover with fun tips and recipes. For example, bring an ice bucket stocked with a bottle of champagne and a box of Mr. Bubble to that next party and be the guest that the hostess remembers. With ideas for everything from throwing a memorable holiday party to “thoughtful” gift giving for everyone on your list (naughty or nice), this book shows you how to tie a great big bow around this frantic time of year. So learn how to mix up a mean green punch, redecorate the gingerbread house and make a memorable toast to a very merry season. — Reviewed by Cindy Clark, Gannett News Service

“Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates Festive Meals for Holidays and Special Occasions,” by the Moosewood Collective. (Clarkson Potter, $25.95). Food is the perfect way to bring people together. No matter what the occasion or non-occasion, this cookbook has a menu to please anyone’s palate. A multicultural cookbook, it features recipes for a variety of holidays. Just a few of these include Ramadan, Kwanzaa and Christmas. The book even offers delicious recipes for foods you can make to give as holiday gifts. It features menu ideas for anything from Mother’s Day Tea to a Birthday Breakfast in Bed. The only things missing in this cookbook are photographs of the recipes. — Reviewed by Heather Martin Morrissey, Gannett News Service.