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Spring is in the air. And so are graduation parties, bridal showers, barbecues, family reunions and other friendly excuses for large get-togethers. My mother taught me to always bring a "dish to pass." Over the years I've learned to keep it simple to prepare and easy to transport.

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"Have you ever seen a rabbit wear glasses?" my mother used to ask when one someone balked at eating carrots. The absurdity made us groan. Too bad the rabbits' good fortune never rubbed off on me, as I've been pretty helpless without a pair of specs since the age of ten.

Carrots are great for snacks. Bring a bag of baby carrots on your next road trip.  It's a nice tasty alternative to a bag of chips as you drive. I've been pleasantly surprised in the last year, or so, as colleagues have started bring in fresh vegetables and fruits as a contribution for the workplace "candy bowl."

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Welcome to the What's for Dinner Café, a place to share recipes and culinary traditions and discuss good food with cyber friends on Saturday evening.

Most people are broke when they graduate from college. I was no exception. And when you're broke, you look for cheap food. Mussels were cheap on the East Coast in 1978. Mussels, meet Cordelia Lear. Cordelia Lear, meet mussels.

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Welcome to the What's for Dinner Café, a place to share recipes and culinary traditions and discuss good food with cyber friends on Saturday evening.

Meatloaf. It may not be fancy, but it sure is one of America's ultimate comfort foods. It's had a revival of sorts in the last several years as a staple on many restaurant menus. Chefs and restaurateurs have discovered that adding a few spicy, or crunchy, ingredients to the bland blocks of ground beef many of our mothers served is all it takes to make it a "special meal."

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Good evening and welcome to the What's for Dinner Café, a place to share recipes and culinary traditions and discuss good food with cyber friends on Saturday evening.

This is not your usual chicken salad. You can serve this dish as a lunch, a dinner, or a side. It just depends on how much you serve. Use as much lettuce and chicken as appropriate. The dressing proportions below will satisfy four chicken breasts.

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If you randomly knocked on a few doors tomorrow and asked "What's for Dinner?" there's a very good chance that the answer will be ham. Here in Michigan the answer is likely to be Honey Baked Ham. You've heard of honey glazed and spiral sliced, no? Born in Detroit. Made in Detroit.

And at the end of every ham is a bone with delicious little bits of meat that cry out to be saved from the garbage.  While there are a lot of recipes that call for a meaty ham bone, my favorite is a big pot of bean soup. It's still chilly enough in these parts to think about hearty, stick to your ribs soup.

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Looking for another one-dish meal – something that only needs a small salad, a slice of crusty bread and maybe a glass of red wine to round it out? Of course you are. So, let's talk about moussaka (pronounced; mü sa kä), sometimes known as Eggplant Casserole. It's often associated with Greek cuisine, but dishes very similar to this appear across Mediterranean tables. And if you love eggplant, you have another friend indeed.

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My mom made cod fish cakes about once a month when I was a kid. We were Catholic, so we didn't eat meat on Friday. Outside of the summer, there wasn't much fresh of anything to be found where I lived, and that was right next to the ocean. So, the fish mixture came out of a box. I ate the fish cakes – covered in ketchup because it was better than the once frozen one-pound block of mystery fish that mom over-baked on other Fridays.

I haven't paid attention to meatless Fridays in a long, long time. Mr. Lear and I eat fish when we want to, not because we have to – especially on any given day. But I have found an alternative to the box cakes.

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Two weeks ago I wrote about pasta. It's one of my favorite foods and always has been. I'll venture a guess that it always will be. So, I'm writing about it again tonight and not feeling guilty in the least.

Mr. Lear and I have spent the last week with relatives in our home state of New Jersey. In addition to starting the day with a good bagel and a cup of strong coffee, we’ve indulged in plenty of fresh steamed clams and visited several of our favorite local Italian eateries.  

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Sat Mar 03, 2012 at 04:30 PM PST

What's for Dinner? v6.31: Pasta

by Cordelia Lear

I love pasta. So much so that if a few days go by without eating it, I go into pasta withdrawl. It's been like this my whole life.  I could eat pasta every day. And sometimes when Mr. Lear is out of town on business, I do.

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Portobello mushrooms are a great way for meat lovers to get in touch with their vegetarian side. They are tender yet robustly flavored. Large flat caps make them perfect for grilling and broiling. The longer you grill portobellos the firmer their texture.

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What do you think of when someone says veal? I bet it's thin slices, lightly sautéed, no? Well, move over scallopine, the chop is on the menu today.

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