<p>When he was first elected to the Texas House, at age 24, Dennis Bonnen was often dismissed as a hothead. Twenty years later, his intelligence and experience have helped him become the chairman of Ways and Means and one of the chamber’s most effective leaders. He began this session by leading the House’s border security effort and produced a plan that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. But when it came to the biggest clash of the session, Bonnen’s wits and skill were augmented by his street-fighting background.  </p> <p>The brawl was about taxes. While the House was focused on the budget, the Senate had prioritized tax relief and emerged with a $4.6 billion proposal, which was profoundly flawed but put the House in a tricky situation: “tax cuts” sound good in press releases. Bonnen had no way to anticipate such a muddled scheme. But he dealt with it like a ninja. In addition to franchise tax cuts, he came up with a proposal to cut the sales tax, an idea that came out of the blue, giving Bonnen a chance to explain its advantages over the Senate’s “property tax relief.” On the merits, his proposal was better than the Senate’s. And at $4.9 billion, it was bigger too.</p> <p>Dan Patrick was not amused, and as the most powerful statewide official in Texas, he was able to extract some of his demands. But he didn’t get all of them, for two simple reasons: Bonnen had outfoxed the Senate, and the House stood behind its leading hothead.</p>

Rumor has it that temperatures are going to drop rather drastically tomorrow. While most of us Texans enjoyed a spring-like Sunday, now we’re going to have to face the bleak fact that we are, indeed, still in the middle of winter. Who knew? A native Texan, I’m a fan of our faux-winters. I have fond memories of wearing shorts on Christmas day, and (once) seeing snow on Easter. Granted, I don’t quite know what it’s like to shovel snow; but then again, non-Texans don’t know what it’s like to have no weather-related out for yard work this time of year. “Honey, I’d love to go out and clean up the backyard, but it’s covered in four feet of snow!” is not something most Texans south of the panhandle have had the chance to say. In any case, whenever temperatures drop below forty, I know what to do. Crank up the heat, build a fire, curl up in eight layers of warm clothes (plus a blanket), and crank up the oven. Because wherever you live, one thing’s for sure: Cold weather is the very best excuse for hot comfort food. Warm up from the inside out with one of my favorite comfort food recipes. Take a peek, make a mad dash to the market, and then get out the casserole dish or plug in the Crock Pot—and then please, oh please, share your favorite recipes too. And here’s a wintertime tip: a lot of this season’s vegetables are easy to sneak into casseroles, soups, and dinner pies. Try broccoli, cauliflower, and mushrooms in macaroni; leafy greens like chard and spinach in lasagna; baked or mashed root veggies like potatoes, parsnips, kohlrabi, and turnips in shepherd’s pie or with pot roast; and sneak in carrot-hued butternut squash or sweet potatoes into chicken pot pie. • Homemade Dijon Macaroni and Cheese (with broccoli)Shepherd’s PieChicken Pot Pie* • Pot Roast *Here’s my favorite no-fail super-flaky pie crust recipe, in case you’re interested. Posted by Amber Byfield.