An Economical Answer to Your Recipe Rut

Home cooks know it's easy to get into a recipe rut. Yes, despite the eleventy jabillion recipes available to us via cookbooks, blogs, Web sites, TV shows, magazines, newspapers and exchanges, I still find myself making the same two or three recipes all the time. I love that Asian Pork Tenderloin, and I really could eat the Mustard-Glazed Salmon every night, but sometimes ya just need to start from scratch.

Next time you're in a rut, stop by your nearest Half-Price Books, where you'll find scores of used cookbooks at snap-'em-up prices. Look past the piles of celebrity chef cookbooks, and you'll find stacks of interesting titles and offerings. Some have themes; others concentrate on a single ingredient (like mushrooms, herbs, or Tabasco). You'll find ethnic offerings, cookbooks by course, and some that capitalize on recent trends. Slow food, local food, raw food? They've got all those -- plus soups, salads, pastries, Cuisinart Magic, and pressure cooking. Heck, there's even a Butter Cookbook.

Among these partially loved cookbooks are recipes waiting to brighten your mealtime. A minimal investment (usually around $5) will buy you a bit of entertainment and possibly some interesting kitchen essentials. Someone, somewhere paid full price for these bad boys, but you don't have to. Just close your eyes, spin around, and point your finger. When you open your peepers, pick up the first cookbook you see and give it a whirl. Maybe you'll make a few recipes and then pass it along -- or maybe you'll uncover a hidden treasure, love or talent. But you never know until you try. I came away with a book on Perfect Pastas, plus a copy of Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Recipe rut, be gone.

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