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Monday, August 20, 2012 - Page updated at 04:30 a.m.

'1,000 Easy Recipes' cookbook helps you get the party started

By Lisa Dinsmore

With grilling season in full swing, I was looking for a cookbook that could help freshen up our usual party fare. Sure, you can buy salsa and hummus and pre-marinated meat, but where's the fun — and bragging rights — in that? What I really needed was a book with simple, impressive, quick recipes to get the party started without days of effort.

"Food Network Magazine 1,000 Easy Recipes," a recent cookbook published by Hyperion, definitely fits the bill. It covers everything from breakfast through dessert (including cocktails) with clear instructions — some are so short they could be tweeted — utilizing easy-to-find, inexpensive ingredients.

Many of the recipes take no more than a half an hour of prep or cook time. The first recipe I made was Hash-Brown Eggs. It wasn't complicated — I had everything on-hand already — but man did it hit the spot.

The chapters on crostini (63 recipes) and dips (60 recipes) alone could keep you busy for months trying every permutation. The Food Network editors aren't reinventing the wheel with their crostini ideas; it's just nice to see so many choices in one place with both meat and vegetarian — and even sweet, dessert-style — options.

While the dips chapter includes many of the usual suspects — hummus, guacamole, salsa — the recipes have enough of a twist (and several variations of each) that they are well worth trying to make instead of buying off a shelf. I have already tried the White Bean Dip and Avocado-Feta with great results. Next on my list: Roasted Garlic-Bacon Dip, Pizza Dip, Baked Ricotta, Goat Cheese Dip and Hot Chorizo Dip. Yes, I'm obsessed with dip. (Who isn't?)

If you're tired of making the same old burger, the book has 64 variations, including ones using ground chicken, pork, lamb and turkey, along with the usual beef suspects. Don't eat red meat? You can use salmon, tuna, crab, portobello mushrooms or beans instead.

Hot Dog lovers will flip. The combinations the editors came up with are inventive in the extreme. Every region and ethnic cuisine seems to be represented: Chicago, Coney Island, German, Greek, Japanese, Korean and Thai. Plus taco, chili cheese and about 25 others to choose from.

With chapters for tea sandwiches, nachos and potato skins, kebabs, paninis, salads and sides, and even cold and hot drinks, there may not be enough days in the summer to conquer every recipe you want to try. The editors have even helpfully crafted 4-recipe menus for just about every food-centric situation you can think of from the Super Bowl to Movie Night to a Farmer's Market Lunch.

This book isn't going to make you a better cook. It doesn't claim to be haute cuisine or even good for you. Assuredly you could make some simple choices to make many of its recipes not as caloric, if that's your thing. I entertain a lot and thought I had seen every way to make certain classic bites. But I was pleasantly surprised by the inventiveness of many staple recipes and a bunch of new creations. In the end, it delivers on the promise of its subtitle: Super Fun Food for Every Day.

Roasted Garlic-Bacon Dip

2 heads of garlic

Olive oil

1 ½ cups sour cream

¾ cup mayonnaise

Chives, to taste

Scallions, to taste

Dash Worcestershire sauce

Salt and pepper, to taste

6 slices bacon, cooked and chopped

1. Cut the tops off garlic heads, drizzle with olive oil, wrap in foil and roast at 400 degrees until tender, 45 minutes. Cool, then squeeze out the garlic; mix with sour cream, mayonnaise and some chopped chives and scallions. Add Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper; mix in bacon and serve.

Excerpted from "Food Network Magazine 1,000 Easy Recipes by Food Network Magazine" (Hyperion, 2012).

Lisa Dinsmore is a writer, web programmer and wine lover. She shares her passion for all things vino at One for the Table is Amy Ephron's online magazine that specializes in food, politics, and love.

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