Henry David Thoreau advises us to "Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each."

Here we are at the end of April, a third of the way through our season of new growth and refreshed hope. We have lots of celebrations centered on food this quarter, which can either be miserable news for the pessimist (who is by the way, nothing more than "an optimist with experience"), or eagerly anticipated by those of us who know we can have almost anything we want to eat, despite a diagnosis of diabetes.

The culinary parade began with Passover and Easter in April, and will be quickly followed by celebrations for Cinco de Mayo, Mother's Day and Memorial Day in May, and then Juneteenth (the Texas celebration of African-American Emancipation), Father's Day and Graduation celebrations in June. Don't forget to dot the landscape with birthdays, weddings, festivals, picnics and other unofficial opportunities to do the food-dance.

With so many food-oriented occasions ahead of us, it's wise to be ready with some great new food ideas, tips and recipes for looking forward to each and every one of them. Remember, your diagnosis of diabetes does NOT have to be a culinary death sentence!

One of my favorite cookbook authors is back and she's better than ever. Who is she? Holly Clegg, of course. Holly's latest project is The Holly Clegg Trim & Terrific Cookbook: More Than 500 Fast, Easy, and Healthy Recipes, released by Running Press in November 2002.

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Holly and I emphatically agree on a single theme: food that's good for you can also be delicious, fast, easy, and healthy. Page after page of her new cookbook shows how to prepare her favorite dishes (along with some new ones to wake up your taste buds) for healthy, delicious eating, minus bland-tasting "diet food" and long preparation times.

Given the current focus on the national childhood obesity epidemic, I'm particularly pleased to see Holly devote an entire chapter to 'Kids in the Kitchen', featuring creative food ideas and easy recipes for beginning cooks. Having a seven-year-old granddaughter with a budding interest in cooking, I know this is one of the best ways to encourage healthy eating choices which really taste terrific! Fun-filled recipes such as Easy Bunny Biscuits, Friendly Dog Salad, Jack-O'-Lantern Sandwiches, Ghost Suckers (which make great Halloween favors for your child's school parties), and Reindeer Sandwiches immediately caught my eye and will probably become part of our future cooking agenda.

Besides tasty recipes, The Holly Clegg Trim & Terrific Cookbook features a comprehensive chapter that addresses frequently asked culinary questions, a list of cooking terms and ingredients, a pantry stocking guide, recipe tips & tricks, low-fat substitutions and more. You'll also find menu suggestions for every occasion and, true to form, Holly has included complete nutritional analysis, with Diabetic Exchanges, for each recipe.

My favorite part of Holly's authoring is the personal anecdote she tucks beneath each recipe. It's always nice to get a bit of the "flavor of the author" through the personal vignettes she (or he) chooses to share with each recipe.

This new cookbook from Holly Clegg can meet your every need, but you'll probably need to buy two -- one for yourself and one as the perfect gift! Five out of five enthusiastic stars to Holly Clegg for another job well done!

See sample chapters and/or order for only $17.47

More good news! You were introduced to MEALLEANIYUMM!, by Canadian cookbook maven Norene Gilletz, in 1998. Now the updated and revised edition, Mealleaniyumm!: 800 Fast, Fabulous & Healthy Recipes is available for public consumption.

I'm pleased to see an updated edition of Mealleaniyumm! available for health conscious readers who are searching for delicious ways to eat well. And you don't have to be Jewish to enjoy the wonderful, home-style recipes created by this author because this quick and easy cookbook, which focuses on low-fat, nutritious cuisine, is perfect for EVERYONE.

Emphasizing the use of every day ingredients, author Norene's step-by-step recipe directions, timesaving tips, substitutions and recipe variations are a real bonus. One of the best features of this cookbook is the complete nutritional analysis which accompanies each recipe. Healthful hints about fat, fiber, cholesterol, calories, calcium (and more) are especially helpful to anyone with special dietary concerns.

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Whether you have diabetes, are a cardiac patient, vegetarian or just plain love good food, Mealleaniyumm! 800 Fast, Fabulous & Healthy Recipes offers recipes from family fare to bountiful buffets, perfect for today's time-challenged cook. Five out of five stars to this cookbook and its author, Norene Gilletz!

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See sample chapters and/or order for only $20.97

You're going to love the next two cookbooks, folks! Now you can literally have 1,001 Delicious Recipes for People With Diabetes and 1,001 Delicious Desserts for People With Diabetes in two separate cookbooks. Both books are published by Surrey Books and they are HUGE, the first having over 800 pages and the DESSERTS over 600 pages! Sue Spitler, a terrific cookbook author in her own right, has teamed up with Linda Eugene, RD, CDE, and Linda R. Yoakam, RD, MS, to bring us this bonanza of delectable recipes. Wow! Just think, if you tried a new recipe from one of these great books every day, it would take you through almost six years of delicious dining!

Fat is what makes food taste good -- and oh how we all love those zesty pastas and rich gooey desserts! "For a person with diabetes and no healthy cooking experience, the larder may look a little lean," says coeditor and professional cook Sue Spitler (whose other books in the 1,001 series are bestsellers). "It's important to choose foods that are low in fat, moderate in carbohydrate, low salt, high fiber and rich in vitamins and minerals. The key is the recipe... you need to cook with enough flavor to make you feel satisfied." And guess what? That's exactly what this cookbook writing trio has brought to this magical set of cookbooks!

Promising "no more boring meals," just imagine having Artichoke-Stuffed Appetizer Bread, Roast Chicken With Cornbread Stuffing, Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo, Vegetable Strudel With Cheese, Crab Melts or Sweet Stuffed French Toast on your menu. But wait, what about dessert? Well, how about Mississippi Mud Bars, Macadamia Nut Cheesecake, Pineapple And Double Cheese Upside Down Cake, Banana Cinnamon Cake With Powdered Sugar Glaze, or Deep Dish Blackberry Cobbler With Lemon Hard Sauce? With over 2,000 recipes, these books deliver as promised! I don't want to hear any more whining about "not being able to eat anymore" just because you've been diagnosed with diabetes. If your budget was limited and you could only have two cookbooks, invest in these two and never look back! Or, put them on your wish list -- these two cookbooks are fabulous! Five enthusiastic stars out of five!!

See sample chapters and/or order for only $13.97

Is time a premium for you? Then take a look at The Diabetes Double-Quick Cookbook, by experienced cookbook author, Betty Marks. Besides her involvement with ballroom dancing, photography, swimming and hiking, or pursuing her active career as a literary agent, Betty Marks has insulin-dependent diabetes.

Betty's secret for managing her time AND her diabetes is the microwave. Sometimes I think we overlook using the microwave as a cooking tool and only use it to heat or reheat our food. If you're in that category, then make time to check out this cookbook and let Betty show you how to create recipes like Attila's Beef Goulash, Chicken Crunch, Gourmet Cheese Muffins, Corn and Peanut Pudding, Nutty Sea Scallops and Orange Cheese Cake in your microwave. You'll get these recipes plus over 140 more! All are high in taste and low in fat, cholesterol, sodium and calories. All recipes have complete nutritional information, including breakdowns for the 3 types of fat, dietary fiber and diabetic exchanges (for those of you who still haven't switched over to counting carbs).

In addition to learning more about how to cook with your microwave, I like Betty's Microwave Cooking and Kitchen Safety Tips. Here's another bonus: Did you know that Braille overlays are available from microwave manufacturers for the visually impaired? I was amazed by how much useful information is packed into this little book. Betty Marks has written another winner for Surrey Books, which merits another Five Star rating from this reviewer!

Continuing on the fast-food roll, are you one of those people whose time is always at a premium? I know I am. Although I love to cook, I have to be practical since I'm always fighting a deadline. Usually, I just want to get in and out of the kitchen as fast as I can, which is hard to do if you have to be careful about what you eat.

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See sample chapters and/or order for only $10.47

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Nancy Hughes has the answer in Last Minute Meals for People With Diabetes, a cookbook published by The American Diabetes Association. "Last Minute Meals" has more than 100 fast and flavorful recipes using just 6 ingredients or less.

Chapters from "Last Minute Meals" include Stress-Free Starters and Snacks, No-Chop Salads (great for those of us with arthritic hands), Dump and Do Dinners (I love that chapter title), Speedy Sides and Easy-Does-It Desserts. Complete nutritional analyses and Diabetic Exchanges accompany each recipe. Hmmmm... I think I'd better adopt this cookbook and take it home!

Nancy Hughes is a veteran cookbook author, having six nationally published cookbooks to her credit. She's also worked extensively on more than 15 others including several books for the American Heart Association, Cooking Light, Weight Watchers, Betty Crocker and Publications International. Her articles have appeared in Better Homes and Garden, Cooking Light, Diabetic Cooking, Heart Healthy, and Cooking Pleasures. She's currently working on another cookbook for the American Diabetes Association.

See sample chapters and/or order for only $11.87

And now I've saved the best gift, wrapped in the smallest package, for last! How many times have you looked at a recipe and wondered how many sweet potatoes or kiwi fruit you'll need to buy to equal the 1-1/2 to 2 cups called for in the ingredients list? If you're in the food writing business or are a caregiver to someone with diabetes, then you need to know how many cups, ounces or pounds to plug into your nutritional software to analyze a recipe. Finally, someone has published a book with all the answers!

They say the best gifts are sometimes wrapped in the smallest packages and that's exactly what I have to offer in this last review.

How many times have you looked at a recipe and wondered how many sweet potatoes or kiwi fruit you'll need to buy to equal the 1-1/2 to 2 cups called for in the ingredients list? Whether you're a care giver for someone with diabetes or have diabetes yourself, you need to know how much food to buy for your recipes. Further, if you're in the food-writing business as I am, it's critical to know how many cups, ounces or pounds to plug into your nutritional software to analyze a recipe for nutritional counts. Hang on because help is finally on the way, and the answers you need are all neatly tied into one resourceful package!

Food Faqs (frequently asked questions): Substitutions, Yields & Equivalents, by Linda Resnik and Dee Brock, can answer just about every one of your questions and is destined to become the quintessential reference tool for every kitchen. I can't tell you how many times (probably in the hundreds) I've accessed this little jewel since receiving it in my incoming review box! It's absolutely fantastic and I can't think of one time I haven't found my answer in this great resource.

There are more than 1100 entries covering food items used most often in American kitchens, including increasingly popular Asian and Hispanic items. The user-friendly, cross-referenced index helps readers find their places easily and there are even highlighted lower-fat alternative suggestions for dietary control.

I echo Cooking Light Magazine's sentiment in naming Food Faqs (frequently asked questions): Substitutions, Yields & Equivalents as " ...one of the 45 most indispensable ideas, products, ingredients, techniques, and tools they've ever found..." This one belongs on EVERY kitchen shelf and I'd rather buy it for someone than loan out my personal copy! A great addition to your kitchen basics and an even better as a gift idea -- so keep it in mind for those stocking stuffers for 2003.

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See sample chapters and/or order for only $12.95

This will be a wrap for this session, folks. I'll catch up with you again during the summer solstice. In the meantime, it's great to be back! Continue to stay on your journey to a healthier you in 2003 and I'll see you in July!

Marilyn Helton

Marilyn Helton, diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 1993, is the publisher of Cinnamon Hearts: The Art of Living A Winning Diabetic Lifestyle!, a positive-power E-Magazine for diabetics and their families. You can visit the Cinnamon Hearts website at http://www.cinnamonhearts.com.