Moderate Moment | Moderate Moms

Archive for September, 2011

Why would we teach a kid to argue?

Well, we wouldn’t.  But teaching them to debate, well, that is a useful skill.  I really like the two links below.  The first site describes the origin of debating, in ancient Greece, where those who couldn’t argue convincingly could lose their homes, or worse, their lives.  The second gives great examples of modern day topics that might inspire kids to take a position and really back it up.

Chicken Potpie with Dill Biscuit Topping

recipe and photo courtesy:
The dill biscuit topping is the perfect compliment to this all-time family favorite.
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 2 cups carrots, sliced into half-moons
  • 1 cup frozen green beans
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 cups chopped, cooked chicken
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill or
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried dill
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  1. Combine the broth, parsley, onion, celery, carrots, and green beans in a large pot. Bring to a simmer over high heat, reduce heat, and simmer until vegetables are just barely tender. Add the peas.

  2. Stir together the flour and water in a small bowl until smooth. Stir into the pot and simmer until thickened, stirring frequently. Add chicken and remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the chicken mixture into a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Let it cool, then wrap, label, and freeze.

  3. For the topping, in a big bowl, mix together the flour, salt, dill, and baking powder. Put the dry biscuit ingredients into a resealable plastic freezer bag. Label and tape to the foil on the chicken dish. To serve: Heat the oven to 400°. Place the thawed chicken mix in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, pour the dry biscuit ingredients into a bowl. Cut in the butter until crumbly. Add the milk. Stir the dough just until it’s mixed. Roll out the dough to a 1/2 inch thickness. Cut 12 circles with a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter. Remove the baking dish from the oven and stir the chicken mix. Place the biscuits on top of the hot chicken mix and bake for an additional 20 minutes, until the biscuits are golden. Serves 8 to 10.

The Mom Vivant / Debbie Baldwin a.k.a. Gadget Girl

The Mom Vivant / Debbie Baldwin a.k.a. Gadget Girl

Are you a kitchen gadget person? Is there a drawer in your kitchen that teems with apple corers and hard boiled egg slicers? Do you use a rasp? Do you know what a mandolin is (and I don’t mean the musical instrument)? I am the worst kind of gadget person. Like Sally Albright in When Harry Met Sally who Harry describes as the worst kind of woman: high maintenance but thinks she’s low maintenance, I am a non-gadget person who thinks she’s a gadget person.

The problem with being a non-gadget person who thinks she is a gadget person is that I can’t pass a Williams-Sonoma or Sur la Table without acquiring a garlic peeler or zester. I love to cook, but if I’m going to zest a lemon, I do it with that one side of the box grater that nobody knows what’s for. And what good is using garlic in a dish if I can’t obliterate it by placing it under the flat end of my knife and smashing the clove with my fist—peeler be damned.

The other problem with gadgets is that while I like to cook, I hate to clean. Ever try washing a ricer? The fewer gadgets the less there is to wash. My gadget drawer is divided into three categories—metaphorically speaking, literally it looks like a bomb went off in it. Category one: the gadgets I use regularly, category two: gadgets I can identify but never use, and category three: gadgets which may as well have been left by alien probers.

I have a great friend who is a terrific cook. Her gadget drawer consists of a whisk, a wooden spoon, a spatula, a slotted spoon, measuring spoons, a can opener and of course, a cork screw. That’s it. My next decluttering project is definitely the gadget drawer. Say goodbye candy thermometer and avocado scoop, and I’m going to get rid of the rest of the stuff too… as soon as I figure out what it is.

Are you dialing in to the debates?

According to CNN, 3.6 million people watched the Tea Party Express Republican Presidential Debate on CNN last night, 1.1 million of them in the coveted age bracket between 25 and 54.  What is interesting to me is that means 2.5 million of them were either under 25 (unlikely) or over 54.  My guess is it was the over 54 crowd that tuned in in a big way to hear about Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  Social Security was one of the dominant topics.  While Gov. Rick Perry has referred to it as a Ponzi scheme in the past, he said Monday night that it will be there for anyone who has paid in.  Mitt Romney gets the bold stroke award for having the guts to come out and say it will be there for those now drawing benefits but it probably won’t be there in its current form for those in their 50s and young people just starting to pay into the system.  Don’t forget the Congressional Budget Office has already said Social Security will be paying out more than it gets by 2016. 

In the meantime, I thought I would highlight some of the better quotes from the debate.

Newt Gingrich quoting Ronald Reagan, “Turn up the light for the people so they can turn the heat up on Congress.”

Jon Huntsman on Mitt Romney on Social Security, “Gov. Romney called it a fraud.  Don’t know if that was written by Kurt Cobain.”  Kurt Cobain?  As in Nirvana?  Hmmm.

Michelle Bachmann, “It’s easy to turn around this economy.”  You don’t really think that, do you?

Jon Huntsman, “We have a heroin like addiction to foreign oil.”

Newt Gingrich, “We can balance the Federal Budget.  Be smart rather than cheap and actually modernize the Federal Government.”


This is an excerpt from an article Bonnie Rochman wrote for Time on a book about 9/11 called, “America is under Attack.” I think it’s different and worth reading.  Talks a lot about that fine line between fear and information.

Books can be another avenue for children whose parents feel they’re hungry — and mentally ready — for more information. Search for “September 11” and “children’s books” on Amazon, and there’s a long list to choose from. Perhaps the newest is America Is Under Attack, released last month and written and illustrated by Don Brown, a Long Islander who dedicates the book to the 13 “neighbors” his town of Merrick lost that day.

It’s the perfect book for kids who really want to know what took place and in what order. Brown chronicles the events in a straightforward way, recognizing there’s no need to hype this tragedy; it’s awful enough as is.

Here’s how he begins:

A bright morning sun lit a cloudless blue sky.

America started its day. Highways filled with traffic. Railroads rumbled with trains. Airports roared with jetliners.

Among the hundreds of planes rising into that flawless blue sky were two from Boston, one from Newark, New Jersey, and one from Washington, D.C. Among their ordinary passengers were nineteen deadly men.

They were followers of Osama Bin Laden, leader of an organization known as al-Qaeda. The group hated America’s power and influence. Bin Laden promised violence against America. The nineteen men had pledged their lives to fulfill that threat.

At 8:00 AM on September 11, 2001, they acted.

Brown threads stories of real people into his narrative, including the tale of Stanley Praimnath and Brian Clark, two of just four men who made it out alive from above the 78th floor of the south tower. In some of those stories, the characters — a man in a wheelchair, a firefighter ascending endless steps — die. Others — a blind man with his guide dog, a window washer — survive.

“The trick,” says Brown, “is to distill information and present it in a way that a young reader can consume without frightening them. But what are the limits?”

PHOTOS: Revisiting 9/11: Unpublished Photos by James Nachtwey

Brown had spirited discussions with his publisher and editor about how to handle the people who leaped from the towers. They leaned toward including nothing; Brown disagreed. After much back-and-forth, Brown ended up drawing a group of people trapped on a ledge, staring at smoke pouring from a gaping hole in the building. The accompanying text manages to be incredibly evocative in its simplicity: “Some of the trapped people jumped.”

There was no need to use a more colorful word, to say people “plummeted,” no need to detail the carnage or call a person who saved another a “hero.” “I consciously decided not to use words like ‘heroic’ or ‘self-sacrificing’ because I think the description of the people’s behavior is by its very definition heroic,” says Brown. “The implication is as powerful as what you might say explicitly.”

As for figuring out whether children can handle the literary re-telling, Brown says it’s up to the parents; the publisher recommends the book for kids 9 and up. My oldest isn’t quite there, but he’s been so curious that I felt it was appropriate. I took Brown’s advice, though, and read it along with him so I could answer questions as they came up. “A parent is a child’s gatekeeper in terms of what they want their children to know about the world,” says Brown, whose kids were 11 and 14 on 9/11. “We help them make some sense of it. That’s what parents do.”

Bonnie Rochman is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @brochman. You can also continue the discussion on TIME‘s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

Read more:
Tuscan Roast Chicken

Tuscan Roast Chicken

  • Recipe and Photo courtesy
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 pounds (3 large) Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed well and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 (3 1/2-pound) whole chicken, patted dry
  • 1 lemon, quartered


1. Preheat oven to 425° with rack in bottom third. Line the bottom of a (15 1/2- x 12-inch) roasting pan with foil.

2. Combine first 4 ingredients (through pepper) in a small bowl and mash into a paste. Transfer 1 tablespoon garlic-rosemary mixture to another bowl and stir in 1 1/2 tablespoons oil. Add potatoes to roasting pan with oil mixture and toss well. Arrange in a slightly overlapping layer in pan.

3. Add paprika and remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil to remaining garlic mixture. On a work surface with breast side of chicken up, tuck wings underneath. Loosen skin from top of breast and from thigh and leg. Work half of garlic mixture under skin, then rub remaining mixture over chicken. Place lemon inside cavity. Place chicken breast side up on top of potatoes.

4. Roast until a meat thermometer inserted into fleshy part of thigh registers 170°, 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let stand 10 minutes before carving. Serve chicken with pan juices and potatoes alongside.

Flavor Twists!

Latin-style chicken: Leave the rosemary and paprika out of the rub and swap in 1 1/2 teaspoons each dried oregano and ground cumin. Use a quartered orange instead of the lemon in the cavity; serve with wedges of fresh lime.

Asian-style: Skip the olive oil, rosemary, paprika, and lemon. Instead, combine 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger with garlic and 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Place a quartered orange in the cavity in place of the lemon. Melt together 1/3 cup apricot preserves with 2 tablespoons soy sauce and brush over chicken 20 minutes before roasting ends. Serve with brown rice in place of potatoes.

Obama Jobs Plan

 You’ve got to give Obama credit for a couple of things in his jobs speech.  First of all, for offering tax breaks to companies that hire.  Corporations are sitting on a mountain of money and have a unique opportunity right now to lead the charge of an economic recovery.  It’s like someone said, “Well, the stick isn’t working, should we try the carrot?”  The biggest incentives are for small businesses.  And there are some neat ideas like asking companies to give the unemployed six weeks of job training or skills building without their unemployment benefits being put at risk.  Second, he didn’t ask anyone to give him the 447 billion dollars to pay for his plan but instead added it to the amount Congress will have to cut from the government’s already overweight budget.   The parts we didn’t get are the sort of old-school liberal lines about protecting collective bargaining at a time when those same unions are demanding pension plans that state governments can’t afford.   It isn’t the wealthy who are responsible for teacher layoffs, it’s pension plans that governments can’t sustain.  Also didn’t get the emotional rant about rewriting trade agreements so as many Japanese are driving Chryslers and Dodges as Americans are driving Prius’.  Um, if we don’t want those Dodges and Chryslers, why would they?  A dated car with bad gas mileage doesn’t have quite the panache that a pair of Levis has abroad. In terms of sheer politics, we were grateful that Speaker Boehner indicated a willingness to get down to business, refusing to blast the plan in an immediate response and instead admitting the program has ideas in it that “merit consideration.”


Are 8 minds always better than 1?

Are 8 minds always better than 1?

Politicians are breaking out all over this week as the 2012 Presidential Election is officially on.  First, there was the Republican Presidential Debate hosted by Brian Williams at the Ronald Reagan Library.  Then Obama’s pitch to Congress to pass his more than 400 billion dollar job creation package NOW.   You can go deep on both by following the links below and in the Daily Dose but just to get your attention – did anyone else notice that Michelle Bachmann wore the same blouse in Simi Valley that she wore for the debates in New Hampshire?  (A nod to austerity or a suspicion her campaign was about to be short lived?) Or that Ron Paul’s stylist needs to tell him to pull the seat of his jacket down so the gap between the back of his neck and the collar of his jacket isn’t an even wider gulf than the US debt?  I admit we have far bigger problems to worry about but on a totally superficial note, there seemed to be a “too worried to pay a tailor or stylist” air to the whole line of ’em.. 

So, who won the Republican debate?  I think it was Mitt Romney – and not by a little but by a lot.  Romney is fighting … and finally cutting through.  He looked positively presidential next to a slightly goofy Rick Perry who was beaming and giving the thumbs up, a little like an 11 year old being praised by his teacher, when Romney mentioned his book, “Fed Up.”  Perry is telegenic and came out slugging but never seemed as cerebral or convincing as Mitt Romney.  His arguments about job creation in Texas did fall flat when you consider his state also has among the largest populations without health insurance and that no other state has as many workers making at or below minimum wage.  And if Americans already thought Republicans were mean, I don’t think it helped when Rick Perry told Brian Williams he hasn’t lost any sleep over the 234 criminals executed under his watch as governor of Texas… and the crowd broke out in cheers!  The exchange that everybody loved was when Perry told Romney Michael Dukakis created jobs 3 times faster than he did and Romney shot right back, “Well, George Bush created them a lot faster in Texas than you did.”  That’s the Romney people have been waiting to see.  Just for fun, I went back and watched the New Hampshire debates and Romney was practically mute that night compared to this debate’s “Mitt This” approach.

The “not wild enough to be a wild card” Jon Huntsman continues to be a favorite if for no other reason, because he is so earnest.  I loved when he beefed up his internationalism by saying he would like to address the Chinese people with a speech he would give in China IN CHINESE.  He also gets kudos for being a Republican who takes global warming seriously – something his rival Romney doesn’t.  And Huntsman gets points for chiding Romney about his aggressive stance on renegotiating trade deals by saying, “It might not be a good idea to start a trade war in the middle of a recession.”

As far as Pawlenty and Santorum, I’m afraid they are morphing into the same candidate for me.  The whole time Gingrich was talking, I couldn’t get the song, “I’m still Standing” out of my head!  He has a sort of pasty, days of old look on his face but if you get past his likeability factor, he is saying some really smart things, like that this campaign has to be about more than the Presidency, it has to be about electing legislators who will support the President’s agenda to address our economic woes.  And that NASA needs to get out of the way and let private industry innovate and execute the future of space.  And you can mock Herman Cain’s candidacy but you have to appreciate his one liners.  I’m still laughing at “the Stimulus Plan didn’t stimulate diddly.”  But I loved last night’s 9-9-9 tax plan (9% income tax, 9 % corporate tax, 9% sales tax) because if 10% is good enough for God, 9 percent should be good enough for the Federal Government.

It's all about jobs

It’s all about jobs

Jobs, jobs, jobs … really job creation is all Americans want to hear from their politicians.  According to the latest polls,  Americans are the most pessimistic they’ve ever been.  Jon Huntsman published an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal blaming Obama for adding “zero jobs to the economy” in August.  A pro-environment, pro-gay moderate Republican, Huntsman may not be registering in the polls but his jobs program is eliciting cheers from Wall Street.  He wants to close ALL loopholes for the wealthy, lower the corporate tax rate and roll back Obamacare.  Where he might hit a roadblock is over his plan to eliminate the deduction on the interest you pay on your mortgage, one of the most popular – and the only in some cases – tax break for middle class families.  Romney hinted about his plan in a speech to Hispanic voters Friday, saying he is going to open up energy exploration here in the U.S., cap spending at 20% of the Gross Domestic Product and slash taxes at the same time.  In a speech on Labor Day, Obama talked about putting a million out of work construction workers back to work rebuilding our country’s bridges and schools and creating an infrastructure bank to pay for it that would draw on private funds.  His decision to abandon tougher restrictions on smog emissions last week was greeted on the left as heresy and on the right, as a small step that could free businesses up to focus on creating jobs instead of complying with new regulations.

End of Summer Pasta

End of Summer Pasta

Photo and Recipe courtesy: My


  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds boned, skinned chicken breast halves, rinsed
  • 1 pound zucchini
  • 2 red bell peppers (12 oz. total)
  • 2 portabella mushroom caps (7 oz. total)
  • 1 red onion (12 oz.)
  • 1 package (1 lb.) dried penne pasta
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and fresh-ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup slivered fresh basil leaves


  • 1. In a bowl, whisk together 2/3 cup olive oil, soy sauce, vinegar, mustard, and garlic. Reserve 1/2 cup marinade for basting vegetables; pour remaining into a 1-gallon zip-lock plastic bag. Cut chicken lengthwise into 1-inch-wide strips and add to bag. Seal bag and turn to coat. Chill about 45 minutes.
  • 2. Meanwhile, rinse zucchini, bell peppers, and mushroom caps. Slice zucchini lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick strips. Stem and seed bell peppers; quarter lengthwise. Peel onion and slice crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Brush vegetables with reserved marinade.
  • 3. Cooking in batches if necessary, lay vegetables and chicken (discard marinade) on a barbecue grill over a solid bed of hot coals or high heat on a gas grill (you can hold your hand at grill level only 2 to 3 seconds); close lid on gas grill. Cook, turning once, until vegetables are slightly charred and chicken is no longer pink in center of thickest part (cut to test), 6 to 10 minutes total. Let cool a few minutes. Chop vegetables and chicken into 1-inch pieces.
  • 4. Meanwhile, in a 6- to 8-quart pan over high heat, bring 4 quarts water to a boil. Add pasta, stir, and cook, uncovered, until barely tender to bite, 9 to 13 minutes. Drain.
  • 5. In a large bowl, mix pasta with remaining 1/3 cup olive oil, parmesan cheese, half the chopped vegetables and chicken, and salt and pepper to taste. Top with remaining vegetables and chicken. Garnish with sliced basil.

Lea Black, North Tustin, CA, Sunset