Melissa d'Arabian, who parlayed her win on the fifth season of Next Food Network Star into the shows Ten Dollar Dinners and Drop 5 lbs, is now an author.

Ten Dollar Dinners ($24.99, Clarkson Potter) - catchy! - is a compendium of 140 recipes and a bunch of home-ec tips.

D'Arabian will visit the area on Thursday, Aug. 16 for a noon signing at the Williams Sonoma in King of Prussia and a 4 p.m. signing at the Wegmans in Warrington, Bucks County.

D'Arabian, mother of four girls (ages 7, 6, and 5-year-old twins), says she learned to cook lavishly but frugally while growing up with a single mom who put herself through college and medical school. Then Melissa put herself through grad school.

"That desire to watch your budget never leaves you," she told me. "For instance, if I buy a tub of sour cream, figure out a way to use the entire thing and not throw it out. If I have a lot of spinach and it's getting wilted, why not turn it into a soup? It's a life philosophy, not wasting. And it doesn't matter if you're rich or poor. It's about feeling good about the money they are saving."

Her pantry musts are white beans, whole-grain pasta, canned tuna, eggs ("super cheap protein"), and hardy vegetables (for the crisper).