blackink: It would be easy to dismiss Dutch society as “socialism gone wild,” writes Russell Shorto, but closer inspection reveals an upside that the United States might consider exploring. In his thoughtful essay in last weekend’s New York Times Magazine, Shorto offers another look — one that admittedly relies more on anecdotes than data — at the benefits of going Euro. Early into his stay in Amsterdam as a struggling writer and married father of two children, Shorto spent a lot of time fretting about the 52 percent income tax rate. Until, of course, he started to see the substantial benefits of living in a social welfare state: affordable health care, government reimbursements for day care (as much as 70 percent), four weeks of vacation per year, an absence of the stigma associated with living in public housing. Sure, Shorto mentions a few drawbacks: most stores are closed by dusk and a strong social bent toward consensus and conformity. And he even asks, “can such a system work in a truly multiethnic society?” That question, no doubt, is directed at us — – Americans. Unfortunately, I’ve never been to Europe — let alone Amsterdam. But at the least, I’m willing to explore the alternatives.
shani-o: I’ve been on a mission to try new recipes. It’s easy to get stuck in a lean protein rut when you’re trying to be healthy, but don’t actually take the time to plan something new. I’m endorsing the recipes I’ve fallen in love with this past week. Appetizer: roasted garlic bulbs, which are ridiculously easy and taste amazing on a triscuit with some havarti. Main course: a classic roasted chicken, and the remains can transform into multiple other meals (get thee a slow cooker!). Dessert: Earl Grey cupcakes with lemon buttercream frosting, these were a hit at my job (above photo borrowed from Desert Candy). Bonus: cheap flash-frozen fruit from Target goes great with a banana, milk and whey protein for a fantastic post-workout smoothie (for a tiny fraction of the cost of a smoothie at Jamba).