Thursday, December 29, 2011

The One Percent Has Its Say (For A Change?)

In the December 29th Chicago Tribune, Dawn Turner Trice reports on a study by  Northwestern University researcher Fay Lomax Cook of the attitudes and practices towards charity, volunteering, and the government’s role in rectifying poverty. In this survey, 100 Chicago families in the 1% are interviewed. (According to the IRS, a family is in the 1% if its adjusted gross income is $343,927 or its net worth is at least $8.7million.)

Part of the motivation for doing the survey was to facilitate a dialog between the 1% and all the rest of us so that there can be some resolution of our nation’s problems of income inequity. It seems that we have been harboring false stereotypes about them – boohoo – and they’re hurt and somewhat miffed. No, they are not all selfish and greedy. Some of them are very generous in their charitable giving and their time.

The attitudes reported in the article of the 1% did not particularly surprise me. Of course, some wealthy people are generous with their time and money – although giving an average of 4% of their income isn’t especially magnanimous. Most seem to feel that the government should have a limited role in adjusting the income inequity in our country. Is the corollary that it should be up to the largesse of those who can afford it?

Americans in general are a very generous people when it comes to giving on an individual basis or volunteering and the 1% is no different than the rest of us in that respect. The problem is that this isn’t working nor has this ever worked. Before our social safety net was in place, during the Great Depression, people depended on the kindness of others and ended up selling apples in the street. Many starved and there were many evicted when they couldn’t pay their rent or mortgages. We need to have a much more systematic approach to deal with United States' income inequity which is now the most unbalanced in the world. We have a 1% who has 36% of the nation’s wealth. More and more people are becoming unable to pay for their basic needs and are finding it increasingly difficult to send their children to college or to think of being able to retire. I think that this is what the Occupy Movements have been trying to say. The issue isn’t the individual attitudes of a few people; it’s about the system. And something besides a few well meaning people has got to give.

Let’s hope that in the New Year we can get beyond all our large and small differences and arrive at some kind of resolution. Happy New Year everyone! May it be a happy, healthy, and more prosperous year for EVERYONE.

I’ll be back next year with more easy, economic recipes along with my stories and ideas. See you soon!  

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The American Girl Turns 25

This interesting year 2011 that is almost over thousands of women marched in Egypt’s Tahrir Square protesting brutality committed against them. Five Saudi women were arrested for driving cars. Women have been elected heads of states. In Myanmar formerly known as Burma, one of the world’s most oppressive regimes, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi leads a movement for democracy.

In America, the American Girl doll had her 25th birthday. It’s time for her to call herself a woman and get involved in world events. For the uninitiated, the American Girl is a set of dolls with accompanying books, clothes, and furniture representing many of America’s subcultures and ethnic groups. These dolls with accompanying books are priced at $105 each rendering them inaccessible for many children of the 99%; but that’s another topic that I’ve dealt with in previous posts. 

Perusing the American Girl catalogue, I see that many girls are missing. American is such a huge, diverse country that I guess that's easy to do. There are no mixed race girls on the list. Or how about one who is in third grade and in the top of her class in math and wants to be a doctor someday? Somehow they forgot about Linda whose family came from Asia and is now working hard while she studies to go to college. What about Maria who can’t go to college because she was snuck into America when she was a baby and being here illegally, campaigns for Congress to pass the Dream Act? There are so many types and stereotypes that should be included. We'll have to have some Middle Eastern dolls who came here as war refugees. Where is Susan who is named after her great-great-great aunt Susan B. Anthony and is now joining in the latest wave of feminist thought? Speaking of that, I wonder what the original Susan B. Anthony would think were she alive to see the current American girl with all of her achievements and retreats.

So American Girl, let’s get it together in 2012. At 25, you’re a woman now. Happy Birthday. I hope that you achieve your dreams in the next year or at least begin to work toward them.

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, and Happy Kwanzaa to all!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

New Year Hope from the New Foundation Center

I have good news to share with you for a change: The New Foundation Center, which serves more than 250 men and women with serious mental illnesses who live in the north and northwest metropolitan Chicago suburbs, has received a $15,000 challenge grant to continue its important work.

Janet C. Parker, the vice president of the organization’s board of directors, shares information about the group.  "We partner with people who have a mental illness to support their recovery and their pursuit of lives with meaning and purpose. People go for support and companionship with their peers through support groups and drop-in centers. They can also access case management services, job referral, and supported housing there. The challenge grant has come at a crucial time when many groups are losing funding.

The New Foundation Center provides members with many services including recovery programs, permanent supportive housing, supported employment, and health and wellness programs, all within a community that encourages sharing, independent living, friendship, personal responsibility, and family participation. We believe that people can recover."

The New Foundation Center provides a lifeline to many of the members who come there. They helped Mike get the medical care he needs to regulate his diabetes. Before connecting with the New Foundation Center, his diabetes was so out of control that he wasn’t able to function. They helped Debbie and her five children to obtain permanent housing. Before that, Debbie and her family were being tossed between shelters and other temporary housing. Now with stable housing, this family can establish a good life.

“Every $1 from new donors and every $1 of incremental donations from current donors will be matched by the foundation. Your gift will have double the impact. You can give by logging onto the New Foundation Center site through the following web address: then click on the “Giving” hyperlink in the upper right hand corner of the website page and follow the directions for making a donation."

"Thank you for donating!"

Janet C. Parker
New Foundation Center board of directors

Janet says “thank you” and so do I. The New Foundation Center is doing important work to help people to help themselves. Thank you for your support.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Anti-Shopper Gets Ready for the Season - With Resolutions and Vegetarian Eggplant Parmesan

Everyone who knows me well knows how much I hate to shop. Thus, in more ways than one, I feel like what Temple Grandin terms "an anthropologist on Mars.” Just finishing watching Modern Family on TV frantically getting ready for Christmas on December 16th, the only date available for their extended family to get together, I realized that it was that time of year once again. Since we’ll probably do the modern Jewish Christmas (movies, Chinese food, and some volunteering), I’m grateful that I’m not obliged to join in the Christmas season shopping fray. I hope this Modern Family and all the families they are an exaggeration of gets together and stops worrying so much about the gifts. They spent so much time shopping and wrapping and worrying about them that they must be exhausted to a frazzle by the time Christmas arrives. The way they’re celebrating doesn’t look like fun to me, but I’m on the outside looking in. As I said, I’ve always been the Anti-shopper. Fortunately, no one is depending on my shopping to spur an economic recovery. If they are, the whole free world is in even bigger trouble than it thinks.

Instead, I have already started contemplating what comes next – the resolution making for the New Year. While I’m hoping the powers that be make some important ones – To do what’s best for the people of this country even at the risk of making their opponents look good –for myself, I’m starting small. I already started power walking almost daily and eating healthy food. Let’s see how long it lasts.

In keeping with these resolutions, here’s a recipe for vegetarian eggplant parmesan. It’s less fattening than the one with meat and can be prepared in about 20 minutes. It serves 4.

                                                       Vegetarian Eggplant Parmesan
1 eggplant cut in slices
¼ pound Swiss cheese or mozzarella cheese diced small (I use the low fat cheese)
1 yellow onion sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic
oregano, basil, ground pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese grated

Preheat the oven to 350º Fahrenheit.
Put the sliced eggplant in a pot with water to cover. Steam until soft or about 10 minutes.
While the eggplant is steaming, slice the mushrooms and onion and sauté in the olive oil.
Put the tomato sauce in a pot and add the mushrooms and onions and the seasoning.
When the ingredients are ready, assemble as follows: a layer of eggplant, a layer of cheese, a layer of tomato sauce mixture, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Put in the oven on a bottom rack and cook for about 30 to 40 minutes.

Happy Holidays everyone. Whichever way you enjoy celebrating, I hope you have a healthy and happy season.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The 99% And Some Recipes From the Great Depression

Today people in over 325 cities in America rallied to support the Occupy Wall Street protests. Unfortunately, I could only be there in spirit because I am getting over a cough. The wind/chill factor in Chicago was around 25º.  The Chicago protest drew several thousand people who knew I was important to get out there.

According to Rana Foroohar in the November 14th issue of Time Magazine, the 1% that the 99% is enraged at takes home 21% of the country’s income and owns 35% of the wealth. He states that partly as a result of this plus several other factors upward mobility has been seriously eroded. No wonder people are angry.

When I graduated from Binghamton University in 1970, I left debt free ready to begin my adult life with no strings. My family wasn’t even close to the top 20%, but my parents were able to send me to a state university. At that time, the cost of a year at a state college including tuition, room, and board was about $1500. Now the cost of a year for undergraduate students at Binghamton University including tuition, room, and board is about $19,000 per year for state residents and it has been cited by Kiplinger’s Magazine for several years for being a great value. The cost for tuition, room, and board at other state universities can be as high as $25,000 per year. This is hardly in keeping with the rate of inflation. Students graduate from college laden with debt and then have great difficulty finding employment. That’s for the ones who are fortunate and/or determined enough to go to college. No wonder people are angry.

The Occupy Protests seem somewhat reminiscent of the Hoovervilles of the Great Depression. Why shouldn’t they? There was no safety net then and some would like to destroy our fragile safety net now.

With that in mind, I wondered if there were any lessons to be learned from the Great Depression. Certainly, there must be some good thrifty recipes so I asked my mother if she remembered what they ate then. This is one recipe she remembered from that era. My grandma must have made it often. They called it Jewish spaghetti. This should serve 4.

                                             Jewish Spaghetti
               a quart of water
               1 pat of butter
3/4 box spaghetti
               ½ pound grated cheese
               spaghetti sauce
               mushrooms, onions, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper

Preheat oven to 350º.
Put pot of water on the burner. When the water is boiled, cook the spaghetti.
Butter a casserole dish. Put the spaghetti in the dish. Add the spaghetti sauce, mushrooms, onions, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper. Mix with the spaghetti.
Put the grated cheese on top.
Cook for 40 minutes or until the cheese gets crisp around the edges.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Are You A Job Creator? Maybe You're Entitled To A Tax Break

When I was downtown the other day, I ran into an old friend. She had such a euphoric grin on her face that I wanted some of whatever she had. “Guess what!” she said. “My name came up on the waiting list. I’m on my way to Nordstrom’s to get my $9,010 Chanel sequined tweed coat. And just in time to claim it.”

“Claim it?” I asked.

 “Yes,” she answered. “Don’t you know that job creators have a special place in our economy? Think of all the jobs I’m creating by buying the coat. It should be worth some tax deductions.”

 “Congratulations,” I said.

 Since I hadn’t been in a store except for the supermarket in months, I realized that with the year almost over, I was falling down on my civic responsibilities. By contrast, my friend was inspired to go out and buy that $1400 pair of shoes to go with the coat. I felt ashamed. After all, we must all do our fair share. There must be something I could do to help. Here I was surrounded by stores. As I was pondering what to buy, a man selling Streetwise, the newspaper written and sold by the homeless, sold me a copy. Thinking that he was doing a worthy project, I paid him extra. Then I asked myself how he was contributing to job creation and hoped that they taxed him to the fullest. Yes, it was time for me to do my fair share, but I was not in the mood to shop so I got my hair done and then went to a restaurant to eat. Feeling that I had done what I could, I went home satisfied with my efforts.

By the time I got home, it was late and I needed to make something quick. Here is a recipe for low-fat enchilada casserole. Prep time is about 20 minutes and it feeds 4.

                                                         Low-Fat Enchilada Casserole

 2 14 ounce cans black or red beans drained of liquid
½ cup chopped onion
4 tsps chili powder
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
2 gloves garlic minced
1 cup water
11.5 oz jar mild taco sauce
6 corn tortillas
1 ¼ cup shredded 2% sharp cheddar cheese
2 green onions finely chopped
shredded lettuce
chopped fresh tomatoes
fat free sour cream for garnish

 Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit.

Saute the onion. Add chili powder, cumin, pepper, garlic and water. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.

Lightly cover bottom of 9x13” pan with half of taco sauce. Place 3 corn tortillas in bottom of pan cutting tortillas to fit. Spread bean mixture on top of tortillas. Sprinkle with ½ cup of cheese.  Drizzle with remaining taco sauce over cheese and top with remaining 3 tortillas. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes.

Garnish with green onion, tomatoes, sour cream, and lettuce.  Serve.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Recipes and Comfort From the '50's

Is life in the 21st century too complicated? Are the Occupy protests too much?  Are there too many choices for some people? Is there often a collective nostalgia for the ‘50’s or is the focus on that decade a multi-national corporate plot designed to encourage us to stop thinking critically? You be the judge.

This weekend we saw Maple and Vine at the Next Theatre Company in Evanston. Written by Jordan Harrison and directed by Damon Kiely, this satire poses many interesting questions. It is about a high powered young couple in Manhattan who are overwhelmed by their lives. When they meet two ‘50’s re-enactors, they decide to trade their success driven lives for a simpler era of casseroles and stay-at-home wives. Is it really simpler? This is what the two main characters must decide. I won’t play the spoiler because you should see this play for yourselves.

What interested me most was that the people involved in creating the play are all younger adults who never having experienced this period, seem to idealize it. This decade that gave us the McCarthy witch hunts, the threat of nuclear war, the murder of Emmett Till, and the Feminine Mystique [to list a few highlights] is remembered by most people as a time when all was well and nothing was complicated. I was 12 years old in 1960 so my memory of the period is hazy at best. Reflecting on it historically, however, I have to say that I'll stay in 2011 thank you despite the ubiquitous superficial electronic connections. What do you readers think?

Alas, no era is all good - or bad. I think I’d like that camaraderie (bad word choice for that time period) among the women. The shared recipes and Tupperware parties sound somewhat comforting. That’s why it felt really good to share some of those things with my friend Janet Parker. She’s sharing this recipe for Potato-Fennel Gratin. It was really delicious. 

                     Potato-Fennel Gratin By Ina Garten from “The Barefoot Contessa”

2 small fennel bulbs
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 T. good olive oil
1 T. unsalted butter
2 lbs. russet potatoes (4 lg. potatoes)
2 c. plus 2 T. heavy cream
2 ½ c. grated Gruyere cheese (1/2 lb.)
1 t. kosher salt
½ t. freshly ground black pepper\

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Butter the inside of a 10x15x2-inch (10 cup) baking dish.

Remove the stalks from the fennel and cut the bulbs in half lengthwise. Remove the cores and thinly slice the bulbs crosswise, making approximately 4 cups of sliced fennel. Sauté the fennel and onions in the olive oil and butter on medium-low heat for 15 minutes, until tender.

Peel the potatoes, then thinly slice them. Mix the sliced potatoes in a large bowl with 2 cups of cream, 2 cups of Gruyere, salt and pepper. Add the sautéed fennel and onion and mix well.

Pour the potatoes into the baking dish. Press down to smooth the potatoes. Combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of cream and ½ cup of Gruyere and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 1 ½ hours, until the potatoes are very tender and the top is browned and bubbly. Allow to set for 10 minutes and serve.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

One Community's Recipe for Dealing With the High Price of Clothes

Times are hard for many Americans. People are angry saying that wealth is inequitably distributed. Hence the rise of the Occupy Protests. Yet occasions still go on. Being unable to afford an outfit to wear to a wedding is a problem for many people.

I was reminded of a solution yesterday when I received a request in the mail for a donation from the Jane Webster Simcha Gemach. This organization fills a special need in the Orthodox Jewish community in Chicago. People donate outfits to the Gemach that are  appropriate for the mother, grandmother, sister or other significant family member in the bride’s life. Women in the community who need the outfits can borrow them after paying a small deposit. They must pay for any needed alterations themselves and have the outfit dry cleaned before returning it. The Gemach works with particular tailors who understand the needs of the Gemach and are able to make the alterations temporary enough so that they can be torn out and re-altered for the next user. The best part is that everyone can look well dressed while spending a minimal amount of money. The community has similar Gemachs that lend bridal gowns and give away used children’s clothes. I’m not Orthodox myself but a great idea is a great idea. I’ve often wondered why other communities don’t copy them and set up similar organizations.

The Gemachs don’t fix our country’s problems, but they help to address a need on a local level. Maybe people will become more inventive and learn to help each other more as they respond to need. If any of you know of other efforts, I’d love to hear about them.

In the meantime, I continue to search for economical, nutritious recipes to share. Here is one for mushroom-black bean curry. Preparation time is 20 minutes. It serves four.

                                                          Mushroom Black Bean Curry

 2-3 tbsp butter
½ pound fresh mushrooms chopped
1 onion minced
curry powder to taste (depending on how spicy you like it)
2 apples chopped fine
salt, paprika to taste
1 cup raw brown rice cooked in 2 cups of water
1 cup plain yogurt
1 14 oz. can black beans with liquid drained

     1.  Preheat the oven to 350º Fahrenheit.
     2.  Put the rice to cook.
     3.  While the rice is cooking, sauté the mushrooms in the butter. Add the onions and curry powder.   Saute for a few more minutes. Add the apples but don’t let them get mushy. Remove from the heat and stir in the paprika, salt, and yogurt.
      4. When the rice is cooked, assemble the casserole. First layer is the rice. Then comes the mushroom yogurt sauce spread evenly over the grain. Add in the black beans. Sprinkle paprika and more curry powder (optional) over the top.
      5. Cook for about a half hour or until the sauce feels more solid.

It’s good served with a green salad or vegetable and sweet potatoes.    

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Recipes From Occupy Wall Street and Beyond

Protests supporting Occupy Wall Street are springing up all over America. In the past, working class and poor working people haven’t expressed outrage about the economic/political system that has contributed to their situations. Now, however, people are getting angry. 

Have you ever wondered why thus far, the working poor have been using their hunting rifles to shoot themselves in the foot at the ballot box? Frank Thomas tried to explain that phenomenon in What’s The Matter With Kansas. Barbara Ehrenreich described the problems with which working poor contend very eloquently in Nickeled and Dimed. Nevertheless, both authors as members of the middle class wrote from outside of the world of hardship and bare survival looking in.

For a look from inside the world of the working poor, Deer Hunting With Jesus by Joe Bageant is much more enlightening. I just finished reading it and I’m still shuddering. Learning about how the religious right has grown, multiplied, and seized power is enough to scare most of us “urban educated liberals” to death. The author, Joe Bageant, grew up in Winchester, Virginia, a small town near the West Virginia border, and then lived in the west for 30 years, working mostly as a journalist. After 30 years away, he returned to his home town where many people that he knows are members of an unacknowledged underclass of white uneducated poor people. He does a great job of explaining how the people in his town view the political situation and how they are being screwed by the current economic-political system. He also talks about how liberals and Democrats have failed to address many of the concerns of this group. Since he wrote the book before Barack Obama became President, he does not comment in it about the Affordable Health Care Act or Occupy Wall Street. At any rate, Deer Hunting With Jesus is a must read for all of us urban educated liberals who are concerned about America’s future.

Many more than the power elite care to admit worry about when they’ll have their next meal. During this next year, I’ll try to stick to recipes that are economical as well as quick. This week I’m including one of my daughter Brina Gonzalez’s recipes. Preparation time is 15 minutes. Adjust the amounts to how many you’re feeding.

                                                         Mexican Chicken Stir Fry

 Leftover chicken cut in 1” chunks
White rice
Vegetables cut up
Canola oil
Salsa dip
Limes cut in slices
Cilantro leaves
Garlic powder, onion powder to taste

1.Cooking the rice according to directions.
2.While the rice is cooking, heat a large skillet with canola oil. Saute the vegetables for 2-3 minutes. 3.Add the limes squeezing the juice into the skillet.Add the seasoning and the chicken and cook for another 5 minutes.
4.Add the cilantro.
5.Mix with the rice and serve.    

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Joining the 99% at Occupy Chicago

    As those who know me can tell you, I am not part of the 1% of the population that is cornering 37% of the USA’s household wealth. Therefore, it was about time that I joined the other 99% in a long overdue moment of rage. With that in mind, I headed over to Occupy Chicago to see whether or not the outrage that has been inexplicably absent until now had  finally come.

Yesterday, October 12th, was the 20th day of Occupy Chicago. In solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, people have been occupying many cities throughout America. A few hundred people have been occupying the area outside of the Federal Reserve Bank on LaSalle Street, the heart of Chicago’s financial district. I think that people are coming together to say that they are serving notice that they will no longer allow an oligarchy to control America’s wealth. It belongs to all of us and needs to be distributed more equitably than it has been.

While the majority of the people appeared to be young, the crowd spanned the age spectrum. It was exciting to see the crowd being overly considerate of one another. I asked one woman why she was there. She said that this was the first protest that she had ever participated in her whole life and she was doing it for her grandson to insure that he had a world of opportunities in his future. She proudly carried a sign that said, “I am doing this for you.”

A middle aged woman from Indiana said, “This is the eleventh hour. If the middle class is destroyed in America, there will be nothing to hold up democracy.”

I spoke with a college student from Florida who referred to herself as a college dropout. When I asked her if she had dropped out for lack of funds, she said yes, that her family is very poor and can hardly feed themselves. She hopes to resume her studies someday when she can find the funds to continue.

Many ideas were suggested for resolving America’s financial crisis. One that I found interesting was for Illinois to establish a state bank. Another was for a one-time-only progressive net worth tax to reverse the widening distribution of wealth. The person who suggested this had even set up his own web site to discuss his ideas.

Although everyone was united in a feeling of anger against the 1% whose noose is tightening around the rest of us, there were no concrete demands made. Maybe that will come soon. When it does, I hope they can stay organized enough to press those demands forward. In the meantime, I share the sentiment. I hope that it can be translated into some concrete political action soon. As was said before, we’re in the 11th hour.         

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Is A Poltergeist Controlling Your E-Mail Account?

 I was really surprised a few weeks ago when I received an e-mail from a friend of mine that contained a link to Canada Pharmacy to buy Viagra and Cialis. “Did you really send this to me?” I asked her in a return e-mail. “Or did someone hack into your e-mail?”

Not surprisingly, a day later, I received a group e-mail that said, “Friends, someone [not her] is using my e-mail for nasty purposes.” I wasn’t at all surprised.

A couple of months ago, I received an e-mail from an acquaintance of mine stating that while traveling in India, her wallet and passport had been stolen. Would I please send her money right away so that she could come home? Since I hardly know her, I was somewhat annoyed by this until I read in the newspaper that this is a current scam making the rounds. This woman most likely didn’t send the message and would be mortified if she knew that it had been sent in her name.

We’ve all received communications from the ubiquitous Nigerian Prince stating that if we’d just send our passport numbers, they would send the five million dollar inheritance to which we were entitled forthwith. I think he’s given up on us as I haven’t heard from him in years. Even a cat has only nine lives so I guess there were only so many times that the Nigerian Prince could die (depending on your religious beliefs about death.)

All this leads me to say that if you receive an e-mail message that sounds preposterous, the Nigerian Prince who’s had so many rebirths probably sent it. Technology is great, but it also provides yet another opportunity for us to treat each other abominably. We have to be really careful how we use it.

This subject can be really upsetting. I sometimes wonder if anyone has hacked into my e-mail and sent out insulting messages to my friends. Well, if you get any from me, ask me if I really sent it. Well, if you get any from me, ask me if I really sent it first. Let me apologize in advance if my poltergeist hurts your feelings.

 With all these computer capers, I’m all wound up. It’s time for some comfort food. Here’s an easy chicken recipe that can be prepared in 10 to 15 minutes. It will give you time to make amends for all the fake messages sent in your name.

                                                          Sesame-Soy Chicken
One whole chicken cut up
Soy sauce
Lemon juice
Ginger powder
Garlic powder
Sesame seeds

The second through sixth ingredients are to taste.

1.Preheat the oven to 350 fahrenheit.
2.Clean the chicken and place skin side up in a baking pan.
3.Sprinkle ingredients two through six on the chicken and bake for about an hour or until skin becomes crispy.   

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fishing For A Recipe for Peace In the Shadow of 9/11

Nearly everyone had something to say about the 10th anniversary of 9/11, that day that changed our lives forever. Whatever I had been planning to say has already been said. Like every other American, I’ll always remember where I was and what I was doing at that Moment. As with the assassinations of President Kennedy and Reverend Martin Luther King, sharing my personal experiences of that time with other Americans will always create an instant connection with everyone who experienced it.

Now that tragic day has passed. We have to look ahead to what kind of society we want America to be. We all have a role in shaping that society by our actions. Will we forever view anyone [especially Moslems and people from the Middle East] differently with suspicion or will we honor each other’s differences and treat each other with mutual respect?

Often it feels that there is little that we as individuals can do to influence national trends or politics. On a local level, however, we can often exert some influence in our own communities. We were privileged on 9/11/2011 to participate in a local event that promoted interpersonal understanding across the gulfs of racial, ethnic, and age differences. The Walk and Talk was spearheaded by Peaceable Cities ( in Evanston, Illinois. Over 70 organizations both faith based and secular participated. We marched through Evanston for about three miles from the Dar el Suna Mosque to the Jewish Reconstructionist Synagogue (JRC). Every couple of  blocks, volunteers would hold up signs saying “Time for a Change” at which point we were instructed to change partners and dialogue with someone new.  I spoke with people from the Mosque, members of the Friends Meetinghouse, and a mom and her little girl who was being home schooled. We all gained from hearing each others’ stories. We arrived at JRC that much richer having met fellow marchers we would have been unlikely to spend time with otherwise. It was a beautiful day and I hope the first of many similar dialogues.

I usually share a recipe that fits a theme but alas, this week I needed to eat something soft. I hope this recipe that I got years ago also bridges the great divides. After the Walk and Talk, I made tilapia in saffron tomato sauce. Preparation time was 25 minutes.

                                                Tilapia in saffron tomato sauce

1/8 tsp saffron threads
3 T extra virgin olive oil
1 each onion chopped and small red bell pepper
1 ½  pounds ripe tomatoes chopped or one can diced tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
1 ½ pounds tilapia fillets
3 T basil, oregano, and parsley

1.slightly crush the saffron and add to the oil. Let stand.
2.Put saffron and oil in a skillet and sauté. Add the onions and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper, other seasoning. Cook on medium heat stirring until in thickens for about 10 minutes.
3.Add the fish. Cook on low to medium heat until the fish flakes on a fork usually 5-8 minutes.



    Tuesday, September 6, 2011

    Art So Green - A Recipe for Preserving the World

    Are you pondering what to do with objects that you no longer need? Why not turn them into art? At the Remix Art Fair in the Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago, artists exhibited their works all of which were made from recycled materials. We attended the fair this past weekend and were impressed by the ingenuity shown in creating beauty from what would have previously been considered garbage.

    On my first stop, I bought a notepad from Sara Hindmarch that was light enough to put in my purse without weighing me down. A useful and decorative concept. Sara said that she makes her notepads and other things  from recycled paper. The recycled paper had been used to make calendars and beer cartons. She used them for covers and then made pages from other recycled paper. Armed with this little notepad, I was able to jot down ideas from the rest of the fair. If you would like to buy one from her, her website is


    Other art we saw was earrings and mobiles created from crystal pieces from old chandeliers. They were really exquisite. Another artist had a booth displaying what she called Slag Archaeology – earrings and things made from objects washed up on Lake Michigan’s shores. We saw earrings made from old gears and some beautiful glass objects made from recycled glass. Another artist displayed purses made from castoff burlap bags that had previously held basmati rice and other products. It was amazing how decorative all these items were.

    Some dismiss the existence of  climate change and other threats to our    environment. Others may still say that the world is flat. I don’t know. Nevertheless, for those of us concerned about our environment, this art fair showed an effort to make a difference on a local level. It should be applauded.

    I wanted to keep to the spirit of the art fair by cooking something green. Why not spaghetti with zucchini and mushrooms in pesto sauce. You can put in whatever amounts you want based on how many are eating. Preparation time was 15 to 20 minutes.

       Spaghetti with Zucchini and Mushrooms in Pesto Sauce

     Spaghetti, boiled
                         Zucchini cut in thin slices
                         Mushrooms sliced
                         Sun dried tomatoes
                         Green olives
                         Minced garlic
                         Olive oil
                         Grated pecorino or mozzarella cheese
                         Pesto Sauce (You can make your own or get lazy and buy a package of it)

    Put the water on to boil for the spaghetti

    While waiting for the water to boil, saute the zucchini, mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes, minced garlic, and olives in olive oil. Add some oregano.

    Grate the cheese.

    Mix the pesto sauce according to directions in recipe or on package.

    When the water is boiled, add the spaghetti. Boil until it’s al dente. Then drain in a colander.

    Replace in the pot with the vegetables and pesto sauce and let it cook together on a low heat for 2 to 5 minutes.

    Sprinkle the grated cheese on top.



    Tuesday, August 30, 2011

    This Quick Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe Saves Time and Tastes Great

    Note: Today my daughter Brina Gonzalez is guesting here. We disagree about most social and political issues and the views expressed here are hers alone. She's a great cook, however, and she wants to share her five minute Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe.

    As I get my kids ready to go back to school, I am reminded of my toddler/pre-school years in the early '80s.  Everyday playgroups and all day pre-school for children of stay-at-home moms was unheard of.  These years were meant to be spent with mom, not to be on the go 24-7.  A once a week trip to mommy and me, play dates at the park, or a twice a week playgroup was enough socialization for a two year old who for the most part enjoyed accompanying her mother on errands or spending an entire morning on the playground.

    Fast forward a generation.  We live in a technological age where we feel the need to be connected all the time.  Consequently, we, the new stay at home moms, feel that our  2-5 year old children need to be in school all day five days a week.  In the time our children are in school, we get all of our work done and stay afloat in world affairs. 

    But is this necessary?  Shouldn’t our children’s education begin at home?  Can’t the laundry or dishes wait for down time, nap time, or independent play?  Women in the 25-40 age bracket with young kids at home, I have a recipe that will allow you to spend quality time with your kids and still have supper ready 8 hours later. The preparation time is five minutes and it feeds 12. Because remember they are only young once and they have the rest of their lives to socialize with their peers.

                                                 Chicken Tortilla Soup

    4 frozen chicken breasts
    1- 28 oz can or 2- 15 oz cans red beans
    1 15 oz can corn
    1 15 oz can tomato sauce
    1 15 oz can tomatoes and green chilis (together in one can)
    1 onion chopped
    1 green pepper chopped (optional)
    3-4 cloves garlic
    5 cups each, chicken broth and beer

    Place all ingredients in a crock pot and cook on low for 8-10 hours.  Serve with rice and avocado slices. Prep time 5-10 minutes.  Serves ~12 

    Thursday, August 11, 2011

    The American Dream - A Recipe For Self-Reliance Or For Community?

    Are they trying to make me feel like a dinosaur or what I wondered as I went through the Social Mobility exhibit at the Block Museum in Evanston, Illinois. The exhibit consisted of several books on doing pretty much everything oneself from building your own house to making your own clothes, some other artifacts, and a computer. Each artist had his or her artwork, performance art, or writing on a flash drive. The exhibit viewer was directed to put the flash drive in the computer to view whatever. This manner of viewing the art created a feeling of sitting in one’s own psychological cubicle alone, me against the world. This is part of a trend while not causing current rightwing political thought certainly helps to enable it. Why should I feel responsible and have to pay taxes for anyone else’s needs? It’s everyone for him/herself.

    Thus, I was very relieved to receive e-mails from Moveon.Org asking me to attend Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky’s press conference on August 10th at which she introduced her Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act that would provide two million jobs. Veterans and the long-term unemployed who have exhausted their unemployment compensation would get priority job placement. The act would create jobs that would supply needed services to repair our schools, provide health care personnel, and bolster law enforcement and do a variety of other needed services. It would also bolster the work/study program which enables students from low income families to attend college. A companion bill will be introduced to ask people in the top 2% of wealth to pay their fair share in taxes.

    The Congresswoman invited several people to speak including Janet who worked for over 30 years at a factory that produced stainless steel goods. She was laid off when the company downsized and has been unable to find another job. She was a good, reliable worker until then. Now she has used up her unemployment benefits and has lost her apartment. She sleeps on her friend’s couch while she job hunts and takes a data processing class to update her skills. She’s angry. Should we be angry for her or is she in this alone? Which way do you want our society to go?

    After the press conference, we spent the day in Chicago and came home too late to make dinner. Luckily, I had a quick recipe for Quesadillas that I had gotten years ago from the Chicago Tribune. It takes about 15 minutes to prepare and only a few minutes to cook. If you’re really hungry, serve with rice and beans.


               1 medium zucchini, yellow squash, green pepper, and red pepper cut in strips
               1 medium onion cut in wedges
               2 tablespoons olive oil
               1 teaspoon salt
               ½ teaspoon each of chili powder, black pepper,
               ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
               6 whole tortillas
               6 ounces grated Monterrey Jack cheese

             Combine vegetables, oil, and seasonings in a mixing bowl and mix well. Then grill the     vegetables.
              Heat tortillas on an open gas flame or lightly oiled griddle.
              Divide vegetables and cheese and put on the tortillas and serve.


    Thursday, August 4, 2011

    Nervous Nellie Still Chickening Out With a Great Recipe for Leftover Chicken

    Now that a plan to avoid default has been agreed upon in Congress, we can all stop worrying. Right? I was reassured when I read in the New York Times today that consumer markets are thriving. At Bergdorf Goodman in Manhattan, Louis Vuitton shoes priced at $1,495 are going like hotcakes. Nordstrom has a waiting list for a Chanel sequined tweed coat that costs $9,010 and Mercedes-Benz has had a banner year. Yes, we can party like it’s 1929!

    Meanwhile, back at the United States Federal budget, no new taxes have been agreed upon and some cuts will have to be made. Medicaid, which provides health care to more than 50million low income people, is the most vulnerable of the entitlement programs. As I write this, I am thinking about Shelley (not her real name) who goes to the Center for Developmentally Disabled that I worked at. She has down syndrome and has several health problems that go along with it and uses Medicaid to get her medication and medical care. I referred her to a clinical that specializes in treating disabled people. Will the clinic have to close if there are more cuts? Where will she go instead. The special dental clinic that I used to refer her and her friends to had to close years ago. But as long as some people can still buy $9,000 coats and $1,500 shoes, we deem our society and economy safe. How long until this mountain of greed that our social structure is being built on comes tumbling down to strangle us all?

    I had plenty of time to ponder all this last week because I had roasted a chicken that made plenty of meals. With time leftover, there was plenty of time to worry. When we got tired of chicken, I made chicken salad to change the monotony. Prep time was 10 minutes and it was a great summer meal.

                                                          Chicken-Cranberry- Orange Salad

                Cooked chicken diced
                   Cucumber diced
                   Fresh cilantro leaves
                  Almond slivers
                  Dried cranberries
                  Mandarin oranges

                1 Tablespoon mayonnaise
                   1 Tablespoon lime juice
                   ½ Tablespoon Dijon mustard
                   ground pepper to taste

     1.Put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix together
        2.To make the dressing, mix the ingredients together and pour over the salad.

    Thursday, July 28, 2011

    A Nervous Nellie Chickens Out About the Deficit With An Easy Chicken Recipe

    Yes, damned right I’m nervous. We should all be nervous about the agreement that is probably going to be made in Washington to avert the USA from defaulting on its debts. I’m afraid we’re going to reduce spending on the backs of those who can least afford it. That makes me as scared as Chicken Little.

    I’m reminded of people I’ve known who waited years to get Medicare and Medicaid. For example, Carol (not her real name) had no insurance until she was 65 because she couldn’t afford it. (In many states, Adults below age 65 without children can only get Medicaid if they have been eligible for Social Security Disability for 3 years.) By the time she got Medicare, her health problems were so severe that she spent most of her 65th year going to doctors. Now a proposed plan that I hope is off the table is to make people wait to get Medicare until age 67. Medicaid has been scaled back as it is in many states. Now there is talk of scaling it back even more. 

    Thus when e-mailed me to ask that I get to my Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky’s office to express thanks for her continuing to support these needed programs, I was glad to go. We assembled there on Tuesday to say “Thanks” and to encourage her to keep fighting. Below are twp pictures from the event.

    Fortunately, I had made an easy recipe for roast chicken the day before. The preparation time was about 10 minutes. Since it was a big chicken –about 6 pounds – there was plenty left over for Tuesday and a couple of other meals. It gave me more time to write letters to the editor expressing my views.
                                                 Roast Chicken                  


    1 roast chicken (4 to 6 pounds)
                ½ lemon
                salt and freshly ground pepper
                herbs ( such as rosemary, thyme, sage, garlic, tarragon, parsley)
                ½ cup white wine
                ¼ pound butter or margarine
               1 small onion peeled

     Preheat the oven to 350 F.
              Clean the chicken.
              Rub the inside with the lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
              Put the onion in the chicken cavity.
             Sprinkle the chicken inside and out with the herbs.
             Put dabs of butter on outside of the chicken.
             Baste with the wine every 15 to 20 minutes.
             Bake for 20 minutes per pound or until there is no pink when you separate the leg bone from the  frame.   

    Thursday, July 21, 2011

    Fix the Deficit - End the Longest War in American History

    Forty years ago, on June 17, 1971, President Nixon declared war on drugs. We’re still fighting that war with no end in sight. If ever a war was not winnable, it’s this one. America has 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prisoners. We have the second highest incarceration rate in the world with many prisoners being held for drug offenses. Meanwhile, there has been a rise in violence caused by drug cartels and gangs.

    It's often said that those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. In 1919, the 18th Amendment prohibiting the sale, trafficking, and consumption of alcohol went into effect. People who wanted to drink managed to continue to do so by buying it illegally, going to speakeasies, or making it themselves. Meanwhile, the Mafia rose to power and there was a rise in organized violence. The majority of Americans realized that Prohibition was a disaster and in 1933, it was repealed with the enactment of the 21st Amendment. Sound familiar?

    Now the powers in Washington are engaged in a battle over the deficit and the very existence of our fragile social safety net is threatened. The Tea Party and Republicans in general seem determined not to levy even one more penny of taxes on the wealthiest 2% among us. Yet there is a solution at hand: We can surrender in the war on drugs. If drugs become legal, the sale of drugs like that of alcohol, cigarettes and other legal but harmful substances can be taxed. Think of all the tax revenue that will bring in. While we Americans seem to have a problem taxing the uberwealthy, few people from either party will object to taxing drug dealers. In addition, we can drastically cut our law enforcement and prison budgets and spend the money instead on the many social problems that desperately need attention. Maybe we can even start to fill the gaping holes in our social safety net.

     So to bring back a slogan from a war that President Nixon finally was forced to end, Hell No, We Won’t Go! Yes, it’s time to surrender in the War on Drugs.



    Thursday, July 14, 2011

    Are Casinos Lifting Native Americans Out of Poverty? Don't Bet On It.

    What do you think of when you hear the words Native American? At the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian in Evanston, Illinois, that question is addressed in their new temporary exhibit. I saw it this week and recommend that you have a look. After all, many of us are members of minority groups and if trends continue, there will be no majority racial group in the United States in the next fifty years. We need to learn how to treat each other respectfully.

    The museum polled Native Americans and asked them which stereotypes that others hold about them disturb them the most. These are some things Native Americans would like us to know about them:

    1. Native Americans aren’t extinct. There are 5.2 million in the United States and Canada. About 39% live on reservations while the rest live in other areas. About 35,000 live in Chicagoland.
    2.Very few contemporary American Indians are portrayed in the movies and TV and when they are, it’s not always accurately.
    3. And no, they don’t like stereotypes of American Indians to be used as team mascots. Museum goers were asked to state their opinions about this on sticky notes. I said that if Native Americans are telling us they are insulted by the stereotypical team mascot, it’s sufficient reason to get rid of it. Many other people left similar messages.

     A full section of the exhibit was devoted to gambling casinos on Native American Reservations.

    4.Most Native American casinos are not profitable. The casinos on isolated reservations are losing money while those in urban areas may break even. About 50% of Native American children live below the poverty line.
      5.Gambling run by Native Americans is less than 10% of all the legal gambling done in the United States.
        Think about that as we expand legalized gambling as a means to fill deficits in state budgets. As I’ve said before, it hasn’t worked thus far and probably won’t in the future.

        While many contemporary American Indians no longer live their traditional lives, many have become ill by adapting current American unhealthy eating habits. Nevertheless, their recipes remain. Many are based on using the natural foods that they found. In the book A Feast For All Seasons, I found several good sounding ones. Although many ingredients are hard to find, I adapted this one for Fresh Wild Berries Topped with Soapalillie (or whipped cream).

         Fresh Wild Berries Topped with Soapalillie (or whipped cream)

        They use this as a dessert. Cultivated berries can be substituted. Prep time 5 minutes. What can be better on a summer day?

        1 cup strawberries
        1 cup raspberries
        1 cup blackberries
        1 cup blueberries
        1 tsp honey or sugar

        In a large bowl, stir the berries. Refrigerate for 10 to 20 minutes.

        Spoon into dessert bowls and top with soapalillie or whipped cream.   

        Thursday, July 7, 2011

        A Great Recipe for Peace On A Summer Day

        Creating art can really bring people together. That’s why for the past 15 years, the Rogers Park neighborhood in Chicago has had a weekend at the end of June to paint the cement bench at the Loyola Park beach as a community. The bench, which is a half mile long, is divided into sections. Each year, before the painting is done, the bench is whitewashed to  prepare for the new paintings. Any family or group can reserve a section of the bench. Generally, mention of businesses and specific religious and political groups is prohibited. Each year there’s a theme and this year it is Winds of Change.

        We were able to see the bench paintings about a week after they had been done, before rain and time have faded the vivid colors and ideas. Some pictures were done in fun while others were painted to promote ideas of peace, ecology, and cooperation. They were all beautiful against the blue cloudless sky. The cliché that pictures speak louder than words is true here so here are some samples of the art.

        After such a beautiful summer day, it was time to try a summer recipe. Here is one for salmon and couscous salad that I adapted from the New Zealand cookbook 100 Favourite 20 Minute Dishes by Simon and Alison Holst. This recipe is for 4 servings and takes about 10 minutes to prepare.

                                                       Ten Minute Salmon and Couscous Salad

        1 large can salmon
        3/4 cup uncooked coucous
        1 ½ cups liquid
        ½ tsp minced chili
        1-2 celery stalks
        2-3 lettuce leaves
        ½ chopped cucumber
        about one cup coarsely chopped tomatoes
        any other vegetable you feel like putting in

        salad dressing

        coriander, basil, dill, salt, pepper to taste
        juice of 1 lemon
        2-3 Tbsp olive oil

        If you use canned salmon, drain the liquid from the can into a measuring cup. Add enough water to equal 1 ½ cups of liquid. If using fresh salmon, use 1 ½ cups of water with chicken bouillion. Bring the liquid to boil adding the chili. When the water boils, add the couscous. Take off heat and let stand 5 minutes.

        While the couscous is cooking, cut up the vegetables. Cut the salmon into small pieces.

         When the couscous is ready, mix the ingredients.

         Combine the ingredients above to make the salad dressing and add it to the salad.

         It was very easy and tasted just right on a summer day.

        Thursday, June 30, 2011

        Five Saudi Women Are Arrested For Driving. Should We Invade?

        On Tuesday, June 28th, five women in Saudi Arabia were arrested by their religious police for driving cars. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where it is illegal for women to drive indeed a basic human rights violation. What have we heard from the world’s leaders about it? Are they advocating an invasion? Except for Hillary Clinton and a few other women leaders in Europe verbalizing that they support the Saudi women’s right to drive campaign, I haven’t heard or read anything from anyone else. This silence speaks for itself. Could it perhaps be because of the Saudi oil supply? Hmm. I wonder.
        Meanwhile, back in the USA, I have taken a completely unscientific survey. Based on my own observations (anecdotal evidence at best), I report that when men and women are in a car together, at least 90% of the time, the man is driving. Even in America, driving seems to be controlled by men to some extent. Of course it isn't as bad here as in Saudi Arabia. We're allowed to drive ourselves around. Readers, why do you suppose that is? I’d love to hear your speculations. Is it a worldwide male conspiracy or what?

        In solidarity with Saudi women, let's not cook tonight. This week I won't include a recipe. In most parts of the world including ours, cooking seems to be a woman's domain most of the time. It seems that the feminist revolution isn't over yet. 


        Thursday, June 16, 2011

        Are We Still Running On Empty? Again? And Another Recipe

        When Running On Empty was released in 1988, I avoided going to see it. It was too soon after the Vietnam War so I was afraid viewing it would be pouring salt on barely scabbed wounds. After seeing it yesterday, I realized that it was still too soon. The story focuses on the Pope family living with the consequences of actions the parents had taken in 1971 and the resulting family dynamics between the parents and their teenage and preteen sons. Almost 25 years later, it is possible to focus on this family living underground on the run rather than on the larger political situation of the 1960’s and ‘70’s.

        Nevertheless, Running On Empty directed by Sidney Lumet made enough reference to the War in Vietnam to bring all the memories of the war returning in a torrent. I felt the fury all over again that I felt as we protested again and again and again with no tangible results. I reflected on that as I compared this period to our current public reaction to the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya which have provoked a mere ripple of questioning. Where is the outrage? Am I still running on empty that I’m not feeling it?

        The War in Afghanistan has been going on for 10 years and now, after Osama Bin Laden has been killed, the question of US troops remaining there is being debated. Yes, I feel terrible for the women who live there, but there are countries all over the world that are Hell on Earth for women to live in. We aren’t sending American troops to all of them and indeed, we can’t. There are countless countries with oppressive governments that we choose not to invade for practical and political reasons. Have we not learned the lesson of Vietnam – that we can’t be the world’s policemen imposing democracy, however noble an ideal it is, on people who don’t want it?

        When running on empty, people often turn inward. A good distraction when we feel we're unable to change the world is to cook a healthy meal. And so I did. This is my recipe for turkey meatballs. It serves 4 and preparation time is about 20 minutes.

                                                             Lisa’s Turkey Meatballs
        1 pound ground turkey meat
        1 egg
        ¼ cup breadcrumbs
        ¼ red pepper and ¼ green pepper diced
        garlic powder, parsley to taste
        3 tablespoons of olive oil
        ½ cup tomato sauce
        1 teaspoon capers
        ½ tablespoon lemon juice
        ½ tablespoon minced garlic

        Mix the turkey meat and the next 4 ingredients. Shape into one inch balls. Heat the olive oil in a deep pan. Sear the turkey meatballs on all sides for about two minutes. Remove from pan. Remove any remaining oil from the pan.

        Replace the meatballs in the pan. Add the remaining ingredients to the pan. Cook on medium heat for about 45 minutes.
            It’s good served on couscous with grilled asparagus on the side.


          Thursday, June 9, 2011

          A Recipe for Retirement Eludes Many

          I recently reached a milestone that’s fast becoming out of reach for many. I was able to retire. I left work with mixed feelings about it as I said good-by to people whom I have known for over 15 years. I’ve been a social worker at a center for developmentally challenged adults. When many of my co-workers said that they will never be able to retire, I felt guilty for my good fortune.
          Wondering if many people throughout the USA feel they’ll never retire, I checked some polls. I have never been asked to participate in a poll and I don’t know anyone who has. Thus, I don’t have too much faith in their efficacy. I’ve always wondered how people get chosen to be in them, but I didn’t want my small sample to speak for everyone. Lacking a better choice, I checked out some polls.

          According to a poll done by the American Institute of CPA’s in April, 20ll, four out of ten people say they will never be able to retire. According to World Countries News, which claims its source is NPR, one in four baby boomers say they will never be able to retire. According to a Gallup Poll also from April 2011, only 41% of people feel they would have enough money to retire comfortably and 53% would never retire.

           It seems that people who feel financially able to retire are becoming scarcer. Does it have to do with our growing economic inequality? Just maybe. I had planned to volunteer as a way to give back anyway and this makes the need more urgent. Nevertheless, there are so many volunteer choices that I am going to take the next few months to decide how I want to spend my volunteer time. Any suggestions are welcome. I’ll talk about any good suggestions in this space.       

           In this relaxed mood, I tried a new easy recipe for pasta and roast vegetables that I got from the Chicago Tribune. It serves 4 and takes about 20 minutes to prepare.

                                                    Pasta with Roasted Vegetables

          ¼ cup olive oil
          1 medium eggplant cut into 11/2 inch cubes
          4 cloves of garlic peeled and smashed
          freshly ground pepper, basil, oregano, and garlic powder to taste
          4 small zucchini in 1-inch cubes
          2 medium red onions, halved, sliced an inch thick
          1 pint grape tomatoes
          8 ounces short pasta
          ½ cup grated parmesan cheese

          Preheat the oven to 425. Drizzle olive oil on a baking sheet and put in the oven while preheating. Put seasoning on all the vegetables.

          Meanwhile, put up water to boil for the pasta. When the water is boiled, add pasta to boil.

          After the oven is preheated, put the eggplant and garlic on the baking sheet to cook. About 10 minutes later, add the other vegetables. Cook for another 10 minutes.

          Drain the pasta. Put back in pot. Add the cooked vegetables and the grated cheese. Voila!