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New Year's Day open thread

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jan 01, 2014 at 13:15:00 PM CST

Happy new year to the Bleeding Heartland community. Here's an open thread. I'm among the minority of Iowans not watching the Outback Bowl today, but for what it's worth, I do hope the Hawkeyes beat Louisiana State. LSU jumped out to an early lead.

Several new laws take effect in Iowa today, notably the alternative to expanding Medicaid, just approved by the federal government in mid-December. Under the plan, federal funds will cover Medicaid for Iowans earning up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level and private health insurance for Iowans with incomes between 100 and 138 percent of the federal poverty level. In theory, the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan is supposed to cover between 100,000 and 150,000 people, roughly half of our state's uninsured population. Problems with the federal health insurance exchange website may leave a lot of people with a gap in coverage, though. The Iowa Department of Human Services has advised roughly 16,000 Iowans who applied for coverage through Healthcare.gov and may be eligible for Medicaid to apply again to the state agency. If they apply by January 31, they can get coverage retroactive to today.

Teen drivers in Iowa face new restrictions under Senate File 115, which passed both chambers with large bipartisan majorities last year. After completing driver's ed and having an instruction permit for six months, teenagers will have an intermediate license for 12 months (extended from six months under the previous statute). Also, the teen driver's parents have the option to limit the driver to having no more than one unrelated minor passenger in the vehicle. Rod Boshart explained more details about the new law, intended to reduce the risk of traffic accidents involving young drivers.

Boshart also reports, "Thousands of commercial property owners in Iowa face a Jan. 15 deadline to apply in their counties for a new tax credit established" in the compromise property tax bill approved at the end of last year's legislative session with strong bipartisan support.

As of today, it is legal in the state of Colorado to sell marijuana to people over age 21 at certain licensed stores. Drivers with Colorado license plates were already among the groups more likely to be pulled over by Iowa State Patrol. I would guess that profiling will increase.

In some parts of the country, black-eyed peas are considered a lucky food to eat on New Year's Day. I'm not a fan of "hoppin' John," the most traditional preparation, but I've posted the recipe for my favorite black-eyed peas dish after the jump.  

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Weekend open thread: Thanksgiving and Chanukah edition

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Nov 29, 2013 at 10:17:10 AM CST

I hope everyone in the Bleeding Heartland community enjoyed the holiday yesterday--or both holidays, if you're Jewish. For those who prepared a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, here are four soup recipes using the leftovers (two are vegetarian soups, and two use remnants of a roast turkey). We're not a big cranberry sauce eating family, so some years I end up mixing the extra sauce with chopped apples to make a pie.

I find it hard to get into the Chanukah spirit so early, but for those who love Jewish holiday music, my favorite Chanukah album is the late, great Debbie Friedman's "Light These Lights." She recorded mostly traditional songs (starting with "Maoz Tsur," also known as "Rock of Ages"), plus a few original compositions. Best of all, she omitted the cringe-inducing "I Have a Little Dreidel" song. I was amused to find out a few weeks ago that Amazon lists this record in the "Christian alternative" section. Woody Guthrie fans will enjoy the Klezmatics recording of original Chanukah compositions set to Guthrie's words. It's true, he wrote a series of Chanukah-related lyrics during the 1940s.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Snow day open thread

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 08:05:00 AM CST

Hundreds of school districts and businesses are closed across Iowa today because of winter storm Draco. Late last night we had rare snowstorm thunder and lightning in the Des Moines area. Power outages have affected many Iowans. Our electricity came back relatively soon in Windsor Heights, and I hope that will be true everywhere.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome. A few winter weather-related links and two soup recipes are after the jump.

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Weekend open thread: Thanksgiving leftovers edition

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 07:59:18 AM CST

What's on your mind, Bleeding Heartland readers? I hope you had an enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday and will have time to relax this weekend.

For those who cooked a big meal yesterday, here are four ways to make soup from Thanksgiving leftovers (two using leftovers from roasting a turkey, one using sweet potatoes, and one using mashed potatoes). You can mix extra cranberry sauce with diced apples to make a pie.

Share your own favorite recipes or comments on any topic below. This is an open thread.

Discuss :: (4 Comments)

Weekend open thread: Hot weather dinner ideas edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Jul 21, 2012 at 21:00:00 PM CDT

Most of Iowa continues to experience a relentless heat wave and drought. My sympathies go out to the RAGBRAI riders who are hitting the road tomorrow.

After the jump I've posted my favorite dinner ideas for this kind of weather. They won't heat up your kitchen much or force you to stand by a hot grill outdoors. They are also quick to prepare, since long, hot days can drain your energy.

Share your own suggestions after the jump, or comments on any other topic. This is an open thread.

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Weekend open thread: Easter and Passover edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Apr 07, 2012 at 10:47:37 AM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread.

If you are celebrating Easter or Passover, I hope you're enjoying the spring holiday with friends or family. I tried an Italian haroset recipe for last night's Passover seder--the recipe is after the jump.

UPDATE: Senator Chuck Grassley caused a bit of an uproar in the Twitterverse Saturday with this bon mot:

Constituents askd why i am not outraged at PresO attack on supreme court independence. Bcause Am ppl r not stupid as this x prof of con law

SECOND UPDATE: CBS news legend Mike Wallace has died at age 93. Morley Safer remembers his former colleague, and CBS posted other reflections, photos, and video clips at that link.

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Weekend open thread: Retro edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Dec 18, 2011 at 11:29:35 AM CST

Newt Gingrich's surprise trip back to political relevance got me thinking about other old-fashioned (or vintage, if you prefer a more positive spin) American topics.
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Thanksgiving Day thread

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Nov 24, 2011 at 07:18:00 AM CST

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the Bleeding Heartland community. I've posted a few holiday-related links below.
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Monday meal: Lower-fat Thai coconut soup with butternut squash

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Feb 28, 2011 at 19:06:11 PM CST

Spring is coming to Iowa soon, judging from the snowdrops my son spotted coming up a few days ago, but it's still soup weather in my book. Tonight I'm making a lower-fat version of the Thai coconut soup called tom kha kai. You'll need to visit an Asian grocery for a few ingredients, or order them online, but other than that, the soup is very fast and easy to prepare.

My recipe is adapted from Nancie McDermott's book Real Vegetarian Thai, which I highly recommend for omnivores as well as vegetarians. I used one can of coconut milk instead of the two cans McDermott calls for, and I substituted low-fat coconut milk. That makes the soup a lot less rich but also cuts the fat and calorie count way down. I also left out one can of straw mushrooms and 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, because I am one of those people who doesn't like the taste of cilantro.

This dish is suitable for vegans and can be gluten-free, depending on the kind of soy sauce or tamari you use. Any orange winter squash or sweet potatoes can be substituted for butternut, and if you're using mushrooms, shiitake or portobello could be substituted for straw mushrooms (add to soup pot along with squash).

The full recipe is after the jump.

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Monday meal: Four dishes with cheddar cheese

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jan 03, 2011 at 20:09:22 PM CST

The Sunday Des Moines Register included a feature on Galen Musser, the 18-year-old in charge of making Milton Creamery's Prairie Breeze Cheddar.

The small-batch Cheddar cheese that he makes for his family's fledgling cheese-making operation in southeast Iowa claimed a gold medal in November at the World Cheese Awards competition in London.

The only American-made Cheddar to win a medal in the extra-mature creamy category, Milton Creamery's Prairie Breeze Cheddar was judged "the highest example of the category," sharing honors with 10 British cheeses.

Musser said they use old-fashioned techniques to make cheese in small batches. The milk comes from 11 local Amish farmers who all milk their cows by hand.

I've been buying Prairie Breeze Cheese at the Gateway Market in Des Moines for years. In October I brought it and a few other Iowa selections to a reception, and several people asked me where I got that "incredible," "amazing" cheese. It even inspired Bleeding Heartland user PrairieBreezeCheeze's screen name. It's great on crackers, but after the jump I've posted four other ways to use this flavorful cheddar cheese.

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Christmas weekend open thread

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Dec 25, 2010 at 07:49:24 AM CST

Merry Christmas to those in the Bleeding Heartland community celebrating the holiday. Hope you have a joyful day with friends and family. To everyone else, I hope you enjoy some peaceful downtime this weekend. Yesterday our family finished a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle and went out sledding twice before enjoying Chinese food and a movie with a bunch of other Des Moines area Jews.

Today more sledding is on the agenda, and probably a new jigsaw puzzle. My boys received several new games for Chanukah, so we've been playing them a lot, especially "Sorry" and the Lego Harry Potter board game. For dinner, it will be my variation on my mother's noodle kugel, which has become a sort of Christmas tradition for Mr. desmoinesdem. I've posted the recipe after the jump. It's a lot less work than the traditional Christmas dinner Patric Juillet grew up with in Provence. Patric used to blog as Asinus Asinum Fricat. I am going to try some of his sweet potato recipes soon.

We received a card this week from a friend who usually bakes up a storm for Christmas. This year she got behind on her holiday baking, so instead of bringing over a package of goodies she made a donation in our name to Central Iowa Shelter and Services. That was a nice surprise. Food banks and shelters need cash donations now, and we don't need any extra calories around our house. If you prefer to support charity working globally to reduce hunger, kestrel9000 suggests making a gift to Oxfam.

I didn't notice too much "war on Christmas" silliness this year, but The Daily Show had a funny go at this American staple: "The holiday season wouldn't feel the same without people going out of their way to be offended by nothing." Locally, Gary Barrett tried to stir up some outrage over the demise of a "winter tree" at Ames High School. I felt my children's public school did a good job of exposing the kids to different holiday traditions. Many children talked about their family's rituals (religious or not) in class, and a display case had holiday decorations representing Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa and Devali.

The U.S. Census Bureau delivered Christmas cheer to some states this week, including our neighbor to the north, but as we all expected, Iowa will lose a Congressional district.

This is an open thread for anything on your mind this weekend.  

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Monday meal: Four ways to make soup from Thanksgiving leftovers

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Nov 22, 2010 at 21:21:00 PM CST

My family rarely has trouble finishing off the Thanksgiving turkey within a couple of days. We like sandwiches so much I've never had to experiment with turkey tetrazzini or other ways to use up the bird.

Some leftovers, like mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables, aren't appealing cold and don't reheat particularly well. I can't stand wasting good food, so after the jump you'll find some soup recipes incorporating Thanksgiving leftovers.

The first two ideas assume you are roasting a turkey this Thursday. The second two would work equally well for vegetarians and omnivores.

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Monday meal: Easy mashed winter squash (3 variations)

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 20:45:12 PM CST

Winter squash may be the most versatile "superfood." Often included in "ten best things you can eat" lists, winter squash works well in soups, casseroles, Italian or Asian dishes, muffins or quickbreads. You can substitute it for pumpkin in pie or other desserts.

Winter squash keeps well at room temperature--maybe too well. If you haven't got a lot of preparation time or don't know what to do with the vegetable, it's easy to just let it sit on your counter week after week.

After the jump I've posted the three easiest ways I know how to cook and serve winter squash. Use any squash with orange flesh, no matter what the outside looks like. Good options include butternut, acorn, blue hokkaido, hubbard, kabocha, red kuri or turban. Any of the variations would work alongside a meat or vegetarian main dish. Mashed squash is just as filling and more nutritious than white potatoes.

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Monday meal: Black-eyed peas, Indian style

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Nov 08, 2010 at 20:37:58 PM CST

The elections kept me so busy that it's been more than two months since my last food post. I'm starting a new Bleeding Heartland tradition of posting one recipe every Monday.

Black-eyed peas are a traditional southern American food that I don't recall ever eating when I was growing up in Iowa. I love to cook with them now. They contain a lot of vitamins and minerals and are more digestible than some other beans. I like to substitute them for the pinto beans in any chili recipe (here's my favorite).

Black-eyed peas are especially convenient if you like to cook your own dried beans. Unlike many legumes, they don't need to be soaked before cooking. Bring a pot of unsalted water with some peas to a boil, reduce to simmer, and they should be ready to eat or add to a recipe after 45 minutes to an hour.

After the jump I've posted my favorite way to eat black-eyed peas. I adapted this recipe from Vegetarian Indian Cookery by Shehzad Husain, a British food writer.

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Five ways to use up zucchini

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 15:40:37 PM CDT

If you're a gardener or subscriber to a community-supported agriculture farm, you probably have an abundance of zucchini or other summer squash. The classic Fifty Ways to Cook Everything by Andrew Schloss and Ken Bookman has a whole chapter on zucchini. They start with a "basic zucchini mixture" that you are supposed to cook and freeze in 1-cup or 2-cup amounts, for use later in a variety of dishes.

I've never been that organized about putting up food, but after the jump I've posted my strategies for using up summer squash before it goes bad. You'll have to click through to learn the secret ingredient of my favorite zucchini bread.

Yellow summer squash of any shape can be substituted for zucchini is any of these recipes.  Most of the time there's no need to peel summer squash, but you should cut away the ends and brown spots. I prefer to slice the squash lengthwise and remove the seeds, unless you're dealing with a If you're shopping for zucchini at the store or farmer's market, try to pick small ones. The huge ones can be watery or have a woody texture.

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Weekend open thread: Iowa sweet corn edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Aug 21, 2010 at 18:29:30 PM CDT

This thread is for anything on your mind this weekend. Anyone volunteered for an Iowa Democratic candidate lately?

In honor of the Iowa State Fair, with its multitude of cooking competitions, I want to hear Bleeding Heartland readers' favorite ways to cook Iowa sweet corn. I don't ever get tired of eating plain old corn on the cob: shuck corn just before cooking, while bringing a pot of water to a boil, add corn, cover, turn off heat and leave for 5 minutes. If it's fresh and sweet, it doesn't even need butter or salt.

If I have lots of ears to use up, I might add fresh instead of frozen corn kernels to my favorite chili or any risotto using summer vegetables. Pureeing a cup or two of corn kernels with the cooking broth is a good way to make risotto creamy without using any dairy products.

Madhur Jaffrey's Indian recipe using corn kernels and kohlrabi is also good, although I haven't made it since last year. Corn on the cob is so much easier.

Discuss :: (3 Comments)

Summer stir fry thread

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Jul 25, 2010 at 10:27:41 AM CDT

I don't love the heat, but I love the produce of high summer. Last night's dinner featured a stir-fry with local onions, carrots, kohlrabi, kale, bok choi, broccoli and Iowa-made tofu. Only the soba noodles and sauce weren't local.

Usually I make my own stir-fry sauces. One light version is an Asian marinade from Moosewood Cooks at Home. In a small saucepan heat about 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup dry sherry, the same amount of tamari or soy sauce, half that amount of rice vinegar or cider vinegar, a tablespoon or two of brown sugar and a few slices of peeled fresh ginger. Bring to boil, stir and simmer for a minute before removing from the heat. I soak the cubed tofu in this sauce, then add it to the rest of the stir fry a couple of minutes before serving. I toss in a few tablespoons of toasted sesame oil at the end too.

I also like to make a variation on the Spicy Peanut Sauce from Moosewood's Low-Fat Favorites. This can be drizzled over almost any steamed vegetables or added to a stir-fry near the end of cooking. To make it, throw the following in a blender: about 1/4 cup peanut butter, 1/3 cup water, 1 pressed garlic clove, a little fresh chile or dash of hot sauce, 2 Tbsp cider vinegar or rice vinegar, 1 Tbsp honey, 1 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari, 1 Tbsp lemon juice and about 2 tsp chopped fresh ginger root. Moosewood says to throw in 1/4 cup of diced tomatoes, but I leave those out. If you have extra sauce, you can keep it for a couple of weeks in the fridge (tightly sealed).

Share your own stir-fry secrets in this thread.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Memorial Day weekend open thread: Guns, not butter edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun May 30, 2010 at 18:53:32 PM CDT

Since Memorial Day was established a few years after the Civil War, Americans have marked the holiday every year by remembering our war dead (ok, almost all our war dead). In his weekly address, President Barack Obama asked Americans to honor "not just those who've worn this country's uniform, but the men and women who've died in its service; who've laid down their lives in defense of their fellow citizens; who've given their last full measure of devotion to protect the United States of America."

Every so often I read the I Got The News Today profiles of Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to an old Jewish teaching, saving one life is equivalent to saving the whole world. The IGTNT diaries, like "Six More Lost to All Who Loved Them," are a crushing reminder that the death of one person is like the death of the whole world to the people left behind.

The IGTNT series will likely continue for many more years. The number of Americans killed in Afghanistan recently passed 1,000, and we are preparing to send an additional 30,000 troops there. Although we have fewer troops in Iraq now than we did for most of the past seven years, we have more troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined now than we did when Obama became president.  

The price of these wars is also enormous in monetary terms. On May 30 the estimated cost of U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq exceeded $1 trillion. We could have done lots of things with that kind of money. On May 27 the U.S. Senate passed yet another war supplemental funding bill, this time for $58.8 billion. On May 28 the House passed the $726 billion Defense Authorization Bill for 2011 (roll call here). Iowa's House members split on party lines, with Democrats Bruce Braley (IA-01), Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and Leonard Boswell (IA-03) supporting them and Republicans Tom Latham (IA-04) and Steve King (IA-05) voting no.

Meanwhile, Congress adjourned for the Memorial Day weekend without extending unemployment benefits or passing another jobs bill. This economic relief bill had already been watered down because of "concerns" about deficit spending. You'll notice few members of Congress are concerned about deficit spending to fund our endless war machine.

For many, Memorial Day is a time to remember lost loved ones, regardless of whether they served in the military. Cedar Rapids Gazette columnist Todd Dorman's mother recently died, and he wrote this tribute to her.

For some people, Memorial Day is first and foremost the unofficial beginning of summer. Feel free to share any fun plans or picnic recipes in the comments. We've been invited to a potluck tomorrow, and I haven't decided whether to make my favorite chick pea dish (from Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking), a North African potato salad with olive oil and spices, or a pasta salad with a Chinese-style peanut butter sauce. I like to bring vegan dishes to potlucks so I don't worry if they sit outside for a few hours. Also, the party I'm attending tomorrow may include some vegetarians and people who keep kosher (they don't mix meat with dairy in the same meal).

This thread is for anything on your mind this weekend.

UPDATE: Graphs showing number of days in Iraq and number of U.S. deaths in Iraq before and after President George W. Bush announced "Mission Accomplished."

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

Weekend open thread and events coming up during the next ten days

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Jan 30, 2010 at 18:58:08 PM CST

This thread is for anything on your mind this weekend. After the jump I've posted details about lots of upcoming events in early February.

If you want to watch Senator Chuck Grassley do the "Friday Happy Dance" on WHO-TV, head on over to Dave Price's blog.

The Polk County Democrats need more submissions of original recipes for the "Liberally Seasoned" cookbook they are compiling. By February 6, send polkdems AT gmail.com a word document including your full name and precinct, a paragraph about the dish, and a picture of the dish or yourself if possible. Categories: salads, appetizers, main dishes, vegetarian, desserts and drinks. They plan to have the cookbook ready by the Polk County Convention on March 12. For questions, call 515-285-1800.

DAWN's List, which works to elect Democratic pro-choice women in Iowa, is seeking nominations for awards that will be given in five categories. Details are below, and nominations are due by the end of the day on February 1.

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Favorite burger recipes thread

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jan 22, 2010 at 19:58:49 PM CST

I don't cook hamburgers at home, but every so often I like to make veggie burgers. My recipe doesn't contain eggs, because while I love them, I eat plenty of them in other dishes. I've adapted this dish from Moosewood's Low-Fat Favorites. I prefer them with cannellini (white kidney) beans, but you can also use pinto beans. All quantities are approximate; I don't measure carefully, and this recipe is flexible.

Veggie burgers (suitable for vegans)

1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon mustard (I like coarse-ground, but dijon or other smooth kinds work well too)
1 tablespoon tomato paste (or ketchup)
1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
1 medium or two small onions
1 large or two regular cloves garlic
1 carrot, shredded
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
about 3/4 cup rolled oats

In medium bowl, mash beans with potato masher. Add mustard, tomato paste or ketchup, and soy sauce and mash together.

Chop onion and saute in vegetable or olive oil. After a few minutes, add the shredded carrot. When onion and carrot are soft, add cumin, chili powder and pressed garlic cloves. Stir for another two minutes or so, adding a tablespoon or two of water if you need to prevent sticking. Stir sauteed vegetables into bowl with bean mixture. Add rolled oats and mix well. I like to leave this to sit in the refrigerator for a while to let the oats soften.

At dinner time, heat a little oil in a frying pan and cook on both sides for 5-8 minutes.

Share your own favorite burger recipes--vegan, vegetarian or carnivore--in this thread.

Discuss :: (5 Comments)
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