Most of us won't be shelling out our dwindling greenbacks to spend a week at the Golden Door any time soon. Even when we were riding high, it was one of those deluxe destinations that always seemed a tad out of reach. But now the super-spa has decided to open its embossed golden doors to mere mortals and let us in on their renowned and revered culinary secrets. In Golden Door Cooks at Home, published to commemorate the spa's 50th birthday, Chef Dean Rucker shows us how to make his signature spa food, food that promises to leave you feeling "sated, nurtured, and above all, healthy." Using lean proteins, whole grains and fresh vegetables as his building blocks, real food, not stripped down "replacement food," Rucker turns out dish after dish with big, bold flavors. A spa secret he wholly recommends is "the sensible use of the starter course"--try his Corn and Scallion Pancakes or Broccoli Basil Soup--so that you'll eat a smaller main course and be doubly happy. The vegetarian mains are marvelous, not to mention Walnut-Crusted Turkey Scaloppini, Teriyaki Black Cod and Moroccan Spice-Rubbed Lamb Loin. Take your taste buds on a virtual spa vacation.

Pinch pennies, not flavor
Charles Mattocks, aka The Poor Chef, had more than one epiphany when he became a single dad cooking for his young son--"convenience foods" were not very nutritious and the TV cooking shows he watched were not teaching him what he needed to know. Wanting to cook "real food" that was really inexpensive, he started asking around and found that many of our favorites, like stews and long-cooked pot roasts, were created in response to economic necessity, that "economy breeds creativity." So, Mattocks decided to put out this challenge, "come up with a meal for two or four people for under $7," and The Poor Chef was born. The responses, gathered as he cruised the country from trailer parks to Beverly Hills, are in Eat Cheap but Eat Well, Mattock's debut cookbook, published just in time to broaden your repertoire of recession-proof recipes. Each of the 122 recipes tells you what the per-person cost is and I think you'll be surprised and pleased: Hurry-Up Moussaka feeds four for under $5; Mom's Jamaican Curry with Dumplings, Rice & Peas feeds four for under $7; and Beef in Beer feeds eight for under $7! Pennies are pinched while flavor flourishes.

A family affair
Pat and Gina Neely know how to do it--three successful restaurants, a super-popular show on the Food Network, a product line of BBQ seasonings and sauces, a catering service and, now, their very first cookbook, called--no surprise--Down Home with the Neelys: A Southern Family Cookbook. When Gina and Pat, who had been teenage sweethearts, reunited big time at their 10th high school reunion, Pat and his brothers were already on that "long and smoky road," running two thriving restaurants that turned out some of the best ribs in Memphis. Gina joined them and her special savvy, verve and love of traditional Southern food just made it all even better. The recipes here reflect the Neely's shared joy and delight in down-home cooking and invite their readers to take a place at the family table. Gina and Pat don't hold back--you get the scoop on the Neely's Barbecue Seasoning and Barbecue Sauce, the very keys to their kingdom--plus their take on Seared Okra and Tomatoes that sing "summertime in the South," Gina's Collard Greens, Sweet and Spicy Slaw, Barbecue Spaghetti (they serve 200 gallons a week!), Barbecued Chicken, Shrimp and Catfish, even Mama Daisy's Banana Pudding. Gotta go, my yen for something Southern is overwhelming.


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