So many cookbooks, so little time! But for every Emeril cookbook, there are smaller ones waiting to be discovered. Here's just a small sampling of some gems from 2002. Don't worry, there'll be more!
"Betty Crocker's Living With Cancer Cookbook" (Hungry Minds, $24.95): For cancer patients and their families, simple things such as eating can become a struggle. Written by two oncologists and a nutritionist, the book spends the first 25 pages talking about reclaiming the joy of eating and how cancer treatments affect taste. Other chapters talk about coping with side effects, fatigue-fighting breakfasts and comforting side dishes. The comprehensive cookbook incorporates health advice, menus and tips from cancer survivors -- not to mention tasty recipes such as Beef Fajita Bowls, Zesty Autumn Pork Stew, Rice Pudding and more.
"The Cooking Club Cookbook" (Villard Books, $19.95): Six young women start a cooking club -- it's still going strong five years later -- and in return they get a great meal once a month, a chance to get together and a book deal. Not bad. And the cookbook's not bad either. It's divided into chapters such as Spanish, Mediterranean, Brunch and Sex in the Kitchen (they meet on Sunday nights and end up watching the HBO hit "Sex in the City"), and it includes tips on forming a cooking club. Recipes include Aphrodisiac Salad and Cellophane Noodle Salad With Shrimp.
Gluten-free: Did you know that one out of every 150 Americans can't eat products made from wheat? That means no bread, pizza or desserts. Or does it? "The Gluten-Free Gourmet Makes Dessert" (Henry Holt, $29) and "Gluten-Free Baking" (Simon and Schuster, $27.50) offer hundreds of appealing options, believe it or not. There are muffins, scones, cookies, tortes and more, and both have primers on working with gluten-free ingredients. "The Gluten-Free Gourmet" is a bit more comprehensive, but neither of them will steer you wrong.
"The Can-Opener Gourmet" (Hyperion, $16.95): Author Laura Karr says she wrote this cookbook because she's lazy and picky. And sure enough, about the only skill needed to make most of the recipes is the ability to open a can (mixing helps, too). And there are cans -- or jars -- in dang-near every recipe. I'm not sure if you'd be comfortable making a squash soup with baby food, and I can't stand canned mushrooms, but the book does offer an array of recipes -- from vinaigrettes to feta and spinach pastries -- that are quick and easy. You just have to compromise. I could get on board using canned crab for crab cakes, but I'll take my asparagus fresh.
"The Best Freezer Cookbook" (Robert Rose, $18.95): Almost everything you need to know about freezing is at your fingertips. There's a primer on how to freeze meat and fish, a chart on how long things keep in the freezer and recipes -- each with instructions on how to freeze it and what needs to be done with it after it's been frozen. Home economist Jan Main offers a great variety -- who knew you could freeze Salmon Fondue -- that can help ease those weeknight meal emergencies, if you're willing to put in the time up front.
"America's Hometown Cookbook" ($17 with shipping, call 1-515-465-4848): Hotel Pattee, in Perry, Iowa, and the Iowa State Fair collaborated on this book, which offers winning recipes from 2000 and 2001 fair competitions. My, how far state fare has come! Sure, you have your pies, but you also have pineapple almond pizza, veggie lasagna with black beans and artichokes, and much more. Call it hometown cooking with flair -- at the fair.