By Brenda Owen

Daily Journal

From the lip-smacking smiles of the guests at her recent tasting tea, you’d think Debbye Dabbs had spent hours preparing the dishes she was serving.

But, not only did the fabulous food take only minutes to prepare, each recipe contained no more than five ingredients.

Dabbs, a Madison resident, was at The Basket Case in Tupelo recently promoting her two self-published cookbooks, “Take Five” and “Take Five, Light.” Her first cookbook was published in March 1993 and as she marketed the book with tasting teas across the state, she talked to many people who were trying to follow low-fat diets for different reasons. With that original cookbook in its 11th printing, Dabbs published her second cookbook, using “light” ingredients, which sold 400 copies within the first week after publication last year. Presently, Dabbs is compiling a special holiday cookbook which is due for release later this year.

Using standard cookbooks can be intimidating for people who don’t know much about cooking, Dabbs said. “Some cookbooks have such long lists of ingredients that people just give up before they start,” she said.

Dabbs’ cookbook-writing career began as a result of her own busy schedule as a young mother. Over the years, she constantly found ways to streamline recipes so that her family got healthy, home-cooked meals even when time was at a premium.

“I was originally motivated by a lack of time in the kitchen,” Dabbs said as she served up samples of light cheesecake. “I started taking recipes and making shorter versions.”

She began by simply making substitutions, such as onion dip for sour cream and chopped onions in a recipe. When her recipe collection grew to more than 100 recipes, Dabbs’ husband, Jackson realtor Kelly Dabbs, encouraged her to publish some of the recipes in his company’s newsletter. Requests for more five-ingredient recipes prompted Dabbs to create the cookbook.

When publishers weren’t interested in the idea, Dabbs struck out on her own. Her initiative paid off. When she hosted a tasting tea to promote that first cookbook, she sold more than 100 cookbooks on the spot.

Many of the recipes in the original cookbook use ready-made soup or baking mixes, mayonnaise or sour cream and cheese. To create recipes with “light” versions of these products, she spent a year testing recipes for her second cookbook. But, the second is not just an adaptation of the original. In fact, only one recipe has been repeated in the light cookbook.

Pearl Wiley of Tupelo had learned of Dabbs’ cookbooks from a friend. She, in turn, bought 28 copies of the books to give other friends as Christmas gifts.

Two of those happy recipients Mary Davis and Mary Cook accompanied Wiley to the tasting tea to sample dishes from the cookbooks.

“My favorite is the corn chowder,” Davis said, indicating a recipe from the “light” cookbook.

“And those brownies,” Cook said, helping herself to a taste.

“What about that cheese ring?” another taste tester asked. “If you didn’t know it was low-fat, you sure couldn’t tell.”

Another guest commented to Basket Case owner Carolyn Smith, who was hosting the tea, “This is my kind of cookbook.”

Looking on, Dabbs smiled, “I hear this all the time. Women want their families to enjoy home-cooked meals, but they usually wind up running by a fast food place because they don’t have time to prepare a complicated recipe. But, with only five ingredients or even less, they can prepare a dish at home and feel much better about what they are giving their families.”

For more information on the “Take Five” and Take Five, Light” cookbooks, write Debbye Dabbs, 1583 East County Line Road, Suite G, Jackson, MS 39211.

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