I love cookbooks. I own at least 50 cookbooks and I subscribe to at least five food magazines at any given time. I have three-ring binders full of recipes torn from magazines, hand written, or printed from the Internet. My cooking skills have been much improved through cable television programs (shout out to The Food Network) and web searches. I believe it's best to get as many of the best recipes possible, then test and alter them to suit your taste. Always become a member of your favorite sites (it's free), so you can save and organize your recipes and access them at any computer.
There are many, many online recipe sites. Here are a few of my favorites:
All Recipes (www.allrecipes.com)
I joined this site almost ten years ago when I was a college student. Many recipes are submitted by real home cooks (not professionals) and there are plenty of reviews available. Some of my favorite recipes are based off ideas from this site.
On the positive, you can find a recipe for just about anything. There are even some technique videos and holiday features. On the negative, some of the recipes are bad. Really bad. Read reviews.
The Food Network (www.foodnetwork.com)
If you ask my husband, he'll tell you that The Food Network is my favorite channel. Period. At any given time, at least one television in our home is tuned to Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics, or Giada at Home, or Tyler's Ultimate. Yes, I even DVR my favorite cooking shows so I can watch them when The Food Network shows my least favorite programs, like any show involving a cooking competition. Boo. I like to stick to the how-to programs, thank you very much.
I love that I can search for recipes by the date and time they were aired, or by chef, or by show. Or I can just do a random search. The site even has clips from popular episodes. Love it!
I've only recently started using this site, but I find it more sophisticated than my other favorites. It features recipes from "real" cooking magazines like Bon Appetit and Food and Wine. User reviews are super critical, so I learn a lot about cooking just from reading the reviews. The photography is fantastic. Also, like The Food Network website, it cross references recipes from recent issues of a few of my favorite magazines, so if I forget to clip a favorite, I can likely find it on the site.
If you're out and you taste a food you love, I strongly suggest doing a Google search for the recipe, or checking for popular versions on one of these sites. Several years ago my husband tasted tres leches cake for the first time at a Marriott in Brooklyn, NY. Unfortunately, his favorite cake wasn't a permanent item on the menu, and we spent years trying to find a restaurant that served an authentic version. I even called Mexican bakeries and asked questions in my broken Spanish. In the end, we found a fantastic recipe on The Food Network website that surpassed any we'd had in a restaurant. My husband no longer searches for tres leches because we can make it at home. That's the beauty of combining your Internet research skills with cooking. Happy searching!