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Archive for February, 2012

Chicken Piccata

From Gina DeLaurentis/Food Network

Ingredients

  • 2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, butterflied and then cut in half
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • All-purpose flour, for dredging
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup brined capers, rinsed
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Directions

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess.

 

In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 3 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add 2 pieces of chicken and cook for 3 minutes. When chicken is browned, flip and cook other side for 3 minutes. Remove and transfer to plate. Melt 2 more tablespoons butter and add another 2 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add the other 2 pieces of chicken and brown both sides in same manner. Remove pan from heat and add chicken to the plate.

 

Into the pan add the lemon juice, stock and capers. Return to stove and bring to boil, scraping up brown bits from the pan for extra flavor. Check for seasoning. Return all the chicken to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove chicken to platter. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to sauce and whisk vigorously. Pour sauce over chicken and garnish with parsley.

What is the payroll tax?

From Answers.com

Payroll taxes are the taxes witheld by an employer from an employee’s paycheck which covers the appropriate amount of federal and state taxes as well as FICA tax (also known as Social Security). These taxes are held in Trust and submited on behalf of the employee to the various entities on a quarterly basis. It is this amount that is determined by the amount of deductions an employee claims on their W-4 Form. If too much tax is collected from an employee they will receive a refund at the end of the year when they file a tax return. If not enough taxes are paid through this process there will be a debt owed to the IRS and/or state on the tax returns at the end of the year.

 

Check here for headlines 2/16

Debate cancelled when Mitt and Rick say, “enuf!”  /

This is going to be good! Inquiring minds want to know why Stephen Colbert got cancelled /

Mom opens exit window to escape crying baby

The implications of the payroll tax cut

The implications of the payroll tax cut

A funny thing happened on the way to the payroll tax cut deal. The Republican leadership compromised. They decided to ignore the howls of obstructionists in their own party, like Michelle Bachmann and some in the Tea Party, because the tax cut, one of the only major tax cuts available to all Americans, is working. Why? Because giving Americans back money, by slashing taxes, is the way to stimulate the economy.  Extra dollars in their paychecks mean extra dollars being spent at local businesses. (Just a reminder, Moms, that is a Republican notion!) But as Ari Fleischer points out in today’s Wall Street Journal, Americans have to realize if the money is in their paychecks, it isn’t in their Social Security accounts.  Those payroll taxes go to fund things like Social Security.  And the deficit is now at 15 trillion dollars. And we cannot rob Peter to pay Paul. So the issue steps up the urgency of reforming Social Security.  I think the payroll tax cut got more complicated than it should have as both sides tried to tack on demands.  The Democrats wanted the wealthy to pay more in taxes to make up for the difference in lost Social Security funds.  But that doesn’t seem fair.  Why should one category of taxpayer pay for all of the other taxpayers’ social security benefits? Isn’t big business one of the reasons the economy is improving? Obama is getting credit for the recent uptick but let’s not forget the business community, last year’s big bad wolf in politics, that is doing the hiring. Shouldn’t they be getting credit for the improving unemployment numbers?  I would say the real winner  here is the reasonable Republican, who ignored the threat of those Tea Party-ers, some of whom were beginning to sound like they wished the economy were still doing badly because it would help them politically, to support this deal and move the economy forward as a team.  There is lots of good reading on this today. And I included a link from late last year with a White House wonky (is that a word?) who explains, using basic addition and subtraction, how the payroll tax cut works.

http://www.cnn.com/2012/02/14/politics/payroll-tax-negotiation/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/wonkbook-for-white-house-compromise-through-confrontation/2012/02/16/gIQAYrySHR_blog.html?tid=pm_business_pop

White House wonky boils it down in simple terms.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203413304577088584233162756.html

From Accounting Today:

The $150 billion agreement is partially offset by requiring federal employees to contribute another 1.5 percent of their salaries toward pensions, and by reducing the maximum unemployment extension from 99 to 73 weeks. However, Republicans dropped a key demand earlier this week that the full cost of the payroll tax cut extension be offset, while Democrats dropped their demand for a tax hike on those earning over $1 million to pay for it.

“The Republicans have pretty much signaled they want to move on,” said alliantgroup national managing director Dean Zerbe, a former senior counsel and tax counsel to the Senate Finance Committee. “I would expect that they’re going to get it done. The Republicans finally after a long time realized that they had a pretty losing hand, and that the Democrats would be more than delighted to spend weeks if not months talking about the issue, and offering up all sorts of amendments to have folks like Mr. Buffett pay for the $90 billion. And yet the Republicans had already drawn a line in the sand that they didn’t want to have any offsetting tax increases to pay for it. When you do that, you’re really setting yourself up for difficulty. It’s not easy to do even when you’re using taxes. You’re not going to get that kind of money just out of corporate jets.  I think if you look at the fiscal realities and the reality on the ground, you’re not going to be able to get there. It allows the Republicans to change the discussion and move on past this and talk about economic growth and the other things they want to talk about. I think they will get it done in the next few days. I was a little surprised that the Republicans moved so quickly after they seemed so intransigent a few days ago. It showed a certain presence of mind.”

President Obama, speaking at an event Wednesday in Milwaukee to promote tax breaks for companies that bring jobs back to the United States, praised the emerging deal.

“I’m glad to see that Congress seems to be on the way of making progress on extending the payroll tax cut so taxes don’t go up on all of you and 160 million working Americans,” he said.  “This tax cut means that the typical American family will see an extra $40 in every paycheck this year. And that’s going to help speed up this recovery. It will make a real difference in the lives of millions of people. And as soon as Congress sends me that extension of tax cuts and unemployment insurance to my desk, I will sign it right away.”

Click here for headlines Feb. 13

 

NJ Gov. Chris Christie vows veto on gay marriage /

Jennifer Hudson belts out Whitney Houston tribute at Grammys /

Republican women get their own She/PAC

Not exactly a robot!

Not exactly a robot!

Politifact.com was asked to check out reports that Mitt Romney saved a colleague’s daughter’s life and it turns out it is true.  I thought I’d publish it for anyone who hasn’t heard the story in its entirety and may not believe it is true. In the meantime, we are going to overlook this weekend’s reports that Romney didn’t want to turn Massachusetts into a magnet for gay marriage. Stay cool, Mitt. You can beat Obama but Santorum can’t. The party is flailing around for an identity. Don’t you do the same. We need someone with your business smarts and leadership skills to steady the ship. I like this story because I think it shows that when you look at how Romney lives his life, day in and day out, he is a decent fellow who can lead complex organizations and inspire in the midst of crisis.

From Politifact.com: This television ad from 2007, telling how Mitt Romney helped locate a missing teen, has resurfaced in Internet postings. We check the story’s accuracy.

A number of readers recently have asked us to fact-check a story about Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The story, currently circulating on email, Facebook, and blogs, says that Romney helped a colleague of his at Bain Capital locate his missing teenage daughter.

“In July 1996, the 14-year-old daughter of Robert Gay, a partner at Bain Capital, had disappeared,” the story reads. “She had attended a rave party in New York City and gotten high on ecstasy. Three days later, her distraught father had no idea where she was. Romney took immediate action. He closed down the entire firm and asked all 30 partners and employees to fly to New York to help find Gay’s daughter. Romney set up a command center at the LaGuardia Marriott and hired a private detective firm to assist with the search. He established a toll-free number for tips, coordinating the effort with the NYPD, and went through his Rolodex and called everyone Bain did business with in New York and asked them to help find his friend’s missing daughter. Romney’s accountants at Price Waterhouse Cooper put up posters on street poles, while cashiers at a pharmacy owned by Bain put fliers in the bag of every shopper. Romney and the other Bain employees scoured every part of New York and talked with everyone they could – prostitutes, drug addicts – anyone.

“That day, their hunt made the evening news, which featured photos of the girl and the Bain employees searching for her. As a result, a teenage boy phoned in, asked if there was a reward, and then hung up abruptly. The NYPD traced the call to a home in New Jersey, where they found the girl in the basement, shivering and experiencing withdrawal symptoms from a massive ecstasy dose. Doctors later said the girl might not have survived another day. Romney’s former partner credits Mitt Romney with saving his daughter’s life, saying, ‘It was the most amazing thing, and I’ll never forget this to the day I die.’

“So, here’s my epiphany: Mitt Romney simply can’t help himself. He sees a problem, and his mind immediately sets to work solving it, sometimes consciously, and sometimes not-so-consciously. He doesn’t do it for self-aggrandizement or for personal gain. He does it because that’s just how he’s wired.”

We can’t speak to what this episode says about Romney’s deeper character, but we can verify the facts of the episode. In fact, we did so when this story came up during the 2008 presidential election season.

Back then, the story was circulating because of television ad created by Romney’s campaign. It featured Gay crediting Romney with helping reunite him with his daughter.

As we reported then, based on contemporary news reports, the girl sneaked away on July 6, 1996, to go to a rave party in New York City, where she took the drug Ecstasy. She had told her parents she was playing tennis.

When she didn’t return, Boston-based Bain Capital, where Romney was founder and CEO, essentially shut down to help search for Gay’s 14-year-old daughter Melissa.

Bain Capital’s 50 employees went to New York, where they convinced more than 200 other people to help search the streets for two days. They printed and passed out fliers. Romney clearly had a leading role in the company’s operations, but news reports from the time also said other Bain partners helped coordinate the search effort.

According to news reports, the teen was found in suburban New Jersey. A teen-aged boy, who took her in after her partying, called authorities late on July 11.

Lt. David Peterson of the Montville Township Police told PolitiFact four years ago that police reports do not mention Romney personally. But Peterson, as well as reports at the time, agreed that the Bain Capital search generated important attention to the case of the missing girl.

“The thing was it was a 911 caller that saw her on Channel 7 and called in,” said Peterson, who recalled waiting for the girl to be picked up from Montville police station.

Gay says Romney helped “save” his daughter, though previous reports have differed on the condition she was in. The line in the retelling now circulating — that doctors told Gay she might not have lived another day — comes from a Boston Globe report in 2002.

Newsday, for its part, reported in July 1996 that “Melissa’s parents said she was physically unharmed though she appeared ‘very fragile.’ The family’s doctor had examined the girl and pronounced her in fairly good condition. …”

“She was not harmed,” Robert Gay said at news conference after she was found, according to the New York Daily News. “She was in tears. We just gave her hugs and brought her back home.”

By all accounts, the effort by Bain employees was central to the effort to locate the girl, and Romney reportedly played a significant role in that effort. We give the account now circulating a rating of True.

Should all kids be e-readers by 2017?

By Carl Azuz CNN

The Obama Administration recently called for school systems nationwide to replace textbooks with e-readers, like iPads, Kindles and Nooks. The government hopes that the tax dollars set aside for traditional textbooks will instead be used to purchase electronic devices – and that every American student will have an e-reader by 2017.

The U.S. Department of Education hails technology in the classroom as beneficial to everything from students’ motivation to their technical skills to collaboration among peers. Electronic editions of textbooks would, in theory, be easier to update. It wouldn’t take a new edition and printing to reflect Pluto’s loss of planetary status, for example; you’d just download the updated material.

But whether this is cost efficient depends on whom you ask (and what you buy). The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), a strong supporter of digital learning, says that America spends about $7 billion on textbooks every year, which works out to roughly $90 per student across all grade levels. An undiscounted iPad costs $499, and a Kindle Fire is priced at $199.

Assuming textbook companies agree to make their content digital, it could turn out to be significantly cheaper than hardcover books. Apple is planning some digital textbook offerings for $14.99 or less (after you’ve bought the iPad). But part of the value inherent in hardcovers is the fact that they last years. Would e-readers survive lockers, bus and bike rides, pep rallies and rain? And what happens if they’re broken or stolen – how many backups do you need?

There are also concerns about income gaps: Would lower-income students be at a disadvantage if they didn’t have internet access at home? And at least one English professor, Emory University’s Mark Bauerlein, has questioned whether e-readers – with slick graphics, clickable words, and scrolling text – could promote scanning of material instead of truly comprehending the printed word.

So if the SAT is issued on paper…

It seems it’s only a matter of time before textbooks go digital. The common hope here is that however quickly that happens, it will result in a better education for our students. Otherwise, class, please open your books and turn to page 168.

Sausage with hominy and spinach

From Sunset Magazine:

 

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided $
  • 4 sausages (about 1 lb. total; see Notes)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or chicken or vegetable broth, divided $
  • 1 can (29 oz.) hominy, rinsed and drained
  • About 1/4 tsp. plus 1/8 tsp. salt $
  • About 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper $
  • 2 garlic cloves, slivered $
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes
  • 10 ounce fresh spinach leaves $

Preparation

  1. 1. Preheat oven to 200°. Put a large frying pan (not nonstick) over medium-high heat. When hot to the touch, add 1 tsp. olive oil and sausages. Cover and cook 4 minutes. With tongs or a spatula, turn sausages over, cover, and cook until cooked through (cut one to test), about 4 minutes. Transfer sausages to a rimmed baking sheet, cover with foil, and put in oven to keep warm.
  2. 2. Add 1/3 cup wine or broth to the pan, using a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape up any browned bits left by the sausages. Add hominy, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until all of the liquid has evaporated and hominy is hot and starting to stick to pan. Transfer hominy to baking sheet with sausages, piling it next to them. Add remaining wine or broth to pan, scrape up any browned bits, and pour over hominy. Re-cover baking sheet with foil and return it to oven.
  3. 3. Increase stovetop heat to high and add remaining 2 tsp. olive oil, the garlic slivers, chile flakes, and 1/8 tsp. salt to pan. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add spinach and cook, stirring, until wilted and cooked through. Divide spinach among 4 plates. Add hominy and sausage, plus more salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.
  4. Variations
  5. Add cream: Skip step 2 and put hominy in a separate pan with 1 tbsp. butter, 3 tbsp. heavy cream, and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until hot, 5 to 7 minutes.
  6. Swap greens: Use chard, kale, or other hearty greens in place of the spinach: Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 10 oz. trimmed greens and 1 tbsp. salt, cook for 2 minutes, drain, and chop greens. Add instead of spinach in step 3.
  7. Try beans: Instead of hominy, use cooked white beans, pinto beans, or cranberry beans.
  8. Go beyond sausage: We love the intense flavor this dish gets from sausage, but any quick-cooking meat works; try pork chops, chicken breast halves, or hanger steak.
  9. Note: Nutritional analysis is per serving.

Click here for headlines Feb. 8

Washington state set to legalize gay marriage /

Judge orders husband to take wife on a date /

Father uses knife to fight off mountain lion attacking his son

Social issues create confusion for the Republicans

Social issues create confusion for the Republicans

The Republican Party is in the midst of change. It is seeking to define itself which could be one reason for the wild swings in these primaries. It didn’t help Mitt Romney to bank right and try to woo social conservatives in the 3 state primaries yesterday. But was it a set-up by the White House during an election year? Did the Democrats put the issue of mandated coverage of contraception out there because they were waiting to see if Romney would use it to try to court social conservatives? According to today’s Washington Post, the Obama campaign might have set Romney up so they could paint him as a flip-flopper since Massachusetts offered similar coverage while he was Governor. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels considered running for President but reportedly opted out after saying he hoped the party wouldn’t lose sight of pressing economic issues because it was so easily sidelined by social ones.  Hopefully, Romney wasn’t tricked into getting sidetracked or sideswiped yesterday. There was a great article in the New York Times today about how the culture wars have played a big role in the race so far. Our advice is stay moderate, Mitt! Because it will be the moderates who define Election Day. 

http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/07/the-persistence-of-the-culture-war/?src=un&feedurl=http%3A%2F%2Fjson8.nytimes.com%2Fpages%2Fopinion%2Findex.jsonp

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/post/white-house-gives-romney-a-social-issues-death-hug/2012/02/08/gIQAH94PzQ_blog.html