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.