Quinoa with Leftover Chicken, Roasted Broccoli & Balsamic Vinaigrette

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You may not believe me when I tell you this, but I made a quinoa dish two weeks ago that had us smacking our lips in delight. It started, as most great dishes do, with leftovers. Just a leftover roast chicken wrapped in aluminum foil. I had Craig do the ceremonial shredding, because he’s an expert at getting every morsel of meat off the carcass. Lolita stands by and yowls her demands for scraps. Occasionally Craig will toss her one.

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Dijon and Cognac Beef Stew

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Cooking out of season is a little more acceptable on the west coast, where seasons are peripheral. Yes, it got a little chilly out here in L.A. in January and February; I was wearing long sleeves in March, but life didn’t change the way life changes so dramatically when it gets cold back east.

So why not make beef stew in June? That was my philosophy when I unpacked Amanda Hesser’s mammoth New York Times Cookbook and discovered a recipe by that most fabulously ferocious food writer, Regina Schrambling, for Dijon and Cognac Beef Stew.

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Pan-Fried Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Garlic and Mustard

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Every year, Craig’s dad, Steve, makes the most amazing prime rib for Christmas dinner (see here) and every year I help out the best I can, usually volunteering to make a side dish. Last year I made a gratin but this year, since mashed potatoes were already on the menu, I offered up a vegetable. At my request, Craig’s mom (Julee) bought me a bag of Brussels sprouts from the grocery store and when the dinner hour grew close, I opened their refrigerator and pulled out a bevy of ingredients to help in my enterprise.

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Dorie Greenspan’s Mustard Bottle Vinaigrette

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When food icons have food blogs, you need to read them.

That’s certainly true of Dorie Greenspan’s blog. Her posts, like Dorie herself, are wise, witty and warm. And they’re full of good advice–like where to get pastries in Paris or how to whip up begger’s linguine–but the advice that’s stuck with the most was her advice, last April, to use the last remnants of mustard in the jar to make a vinaigrette.

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Sardines, Mustard & Triscuits

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It all happened very quickly. My friend Jimmy IMed me and asked what we were up to, we said nada, decided to all go to a movie but first, I invited him over for dinner. “It won’t be fancy,” I warned. “Probably just some pasta.” (I had penne in the cabinet and cauliflower in the refrigerator, so I knew I could make this recipe, minus the broccoli.) But after the plan was set, my hosting gene kicked in and I felt the need to also make a dessert and an appetizer. The dessert? I’ll tell you about that later. But the appetizer came together in no time, and it had everything to do with having three ingredients on hand: spicy mustard, a box of Triscuits and a can of sardines.

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Mustard Chicken with Bacon and Cream

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This is not a recipe for the faint of heart. It’s a recipe you can only get away with in cold weather–VERY cold weather–and even then you may hear that spiky haired fitness guru from the 90s, Susan Powter, in your head screaming: “Stop the insanity!”

Susan Powter has a point: you’re about to bake chicken with cream (almost 2 cups) and bacon (1/2 a pound). The recipe, like the recipe below this, also comes from David Tanis’s “A Platter of Figs” only I substituted chicken for the originally intended protein: rabbit.

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