Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Affordable Health Care Act Upheld - A Recipe for Us All

As a social worker, I don’t receive good news that frequently. When I do, it’s a cause for celebration. Once one of my clients was chosen by a lottery system to receive the Illinois Homebound Program enabling her severely disabled daughter to get needed funding for special services. I felt like I had just won the Lottery myself and I cheered over the phone. When the center for developmentally disabled adults where I worked received a special user van with five spaces for wheelchairs, I rejoiced for days. Today feels like winning the Power Ball now that the Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Health Care Law. By 2014, almost all Americans will be able to get health insurance. At present, about 30 million Americans don’t have it. For many, the provisions that affect them, such as the one that prohibits insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions, won’t kick in until 2014. It’s something to look forward to anyway.

There’s so much bad news that I won’t have to hear any more. I had a client who tested positive for cervical cancer who had four children one of whom was severely disabled. Although her children were able to get Kids Care [the state insurance for children], she and her husband had too much income for Medicaid. Miraculously, she was able to be treated just in the nick of time. Fortunately, four kids didn’t lose their mother, no thanks to prevailing health policies.

Another client had illnesses too numerous to mention. She couldn’t get health insurance because she was single so she didn’t qualify for Medicaid. She was disabled and unable to work and fighting to get Social Security Disability (her only proof qualifying for Medicaid) for years. When she finally received it, she had so many health issues that had gotten worse in all those years, she probably overtaxed the health care system for years afterwards.

I’d tell you my victory dinner, but I de-frosted leftovers so I can get out and make phone calls for Pres. Obama’s re-election. Anyway, here’s another healthy recipe for another time. It serves four and preparation time is 30 minutes.


                                                  Eggplant – Sweet Potato Bake

1 eggplant sliced
1 large sweet potato sliced
fresh spinach
½ cup uncooked macaroni
4 ounces ricotta cheese
tomato sauce
1 T minced garlic
olive oil
cinnamon, curry powder, turmeric to taste

Preheat oven to 350º. Boil water to cook the macaroni. While the water is coming to a boil, heat some olive oil in a frying pan. Saute the mushrooms and garlic. Put pan aside. Put tomato sauce in a medium saucepan. Add the mushrooms and garlic and other seasoning and cook for a few minutes.

When all the ingredients are ready, assemble.

A thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom, then layers of eggplant, spinach, macaroni, sweet potato slices, ricotta cheese, then tomato sauce again. If you have leftover ingredients, repeat. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour until cheese is baked in and sweet potato slices are soft.

It’s good served with a green salad and Italian bread.

Stay healthy until at least  2014 everyone!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Chicago - On A "Slippery Slope" or The Road to Good Sense?

Forty one years ago, On June 17, 1971, President Nixon declared war on drugs. While there are many statistics on the percentage of Americans who acknowledge using or abusing illegal drugs, I wonder about their accuracy. After all, how many people will admit in a survey to committing a federal crime? Whatever the statistics, I bet that the actual number of people using illegal drugs is higher. Just as Prohibition didn’t stop people from drinking and abetted the rise of Mafia power and violence, the War on Drugs hasn’t stopped people from using illegal drugs and has probably contributed to the rise of drug gangs throughout the USA and Central America.

In an effort to cut down on the cost of lives broken by ineffective incarcerations for marijuana not to mention the financial costs to law enforcement, Mayor Emanuel has endorsed a proposed Chicago ordinance that would decriminalize marijuana. Instead of being arrested, people caught with less than 15 grams of marijuana would be fined $250 to $500. Minors and people without ID’s would still be arrested. Since the majority of alderman have said they support the bill, it will likely pass.

In a June 21st  editorial, the Chicago Tribune calls this a “slippery slope” [to sending a message to our kids that drug use is okay]. I disagree. To me, this is just acknowledging that legislating against self-destructive behavior is ineffective. In the process, the city can gain some revenue from the fines. With luck, using marijuana will become legal in the United States someday and the sale of it can be taxed just as we tax the sale of cigarettes and alcohol, both potentially harmful. That could really bring in some needed revenue.

In some other countries, even the harder drugs are legal. For example, Rick Steeves in his book, Travel As A Political Act describes the Swiss policy toward heroin use. Rather than treating it as a crime, they treat it as a public health problem. Vending machines with sterile needles are provided throughout their cities. People can get help for their addictions. It sounds like good sense to me. Nevertheless, I don’t expect the United States to legalize drug use any time soon, but decriminalizing marijuana usage would be a first step to a good sense drug policy. Yeah Chicago!

In the meantime, since there is little that I can do on this issue, I return to food. It is also  potentially harmful when too much of the wrong things are eaten. Look at the growing rate of obesity in our country. This recipe for Pumpkin Spinach Bake is healthy and inexpensive. Preparation time is about 20 minutes.

                                                                 Pumpkin/Spinach Bake

1 can pumpkin
1 8 oz package frozen spinach
spiral pasta ( I use about 4 uncooked ounces.)
4 ounces mozzarella cheese
6 T tomato sauce
allspice, cumin, curry powder, and cinnamon to taste
grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit.
Boil the water for the pasta.
While waiting for the water to boil, slice the mushrooms.
In another pot, mix the tomato sauce with the seasoning.
When the water is boiled, add pasta to it. Cook until its al dente.
When the pasta is finished mix all the ingredients into a large casserole dish. Sprinkle the top with parmesan cheese. Bake for 45 minutes.



Thursday, June 7, 2012

77cents - What recipe is that!

Lilly Ledbetter is angry – and so am I. You probably remember that she’s the woman of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first law that President Obama signed as President. After working as a night supervisor at the Goodyear Rubber factory in Gadsden, Alabama for more than 20 years and earning a paycheck that was far less than her male co-workers doing the same job, Lilly Ledbetter decided to fight back. She sued Goodyear and the case eventually went to the Supreme Court. 
Decades ago, I bought the campaign button seen here.  Thirty years ago, that was what women earned in comparison to men doing the same job. Now all these years later, the same button would say 77cents. That’s better, but it isn’t good enough. The days are long gone when women worked to earn “pin money”. In fact, even in days of yore, working merely for “pin money” was a privilege of middle and upper class women. For poor women, those days never existed. Women have always worked as domestic and factory workers, waitresses, and in many other jobs to make ends meet.

Today, women of many socioeconomic levels are either single wage earners supporting their children alone or members of couples that need two incomes. Working as a hobby is a privilege of very few. For those women who need to work (i.e. most of us), their work isn’t any less valuable than their male co-workers and neither are their economic needs.

In an attempt to rectify the problem of unequal pay, the Paycheck Fairness Act was proposed in Congress. Tuesday, June 5th, it failed to get enough votes in the Senate to open debate. A majority of 52 to 43 voted yes to begin debate on the bill, but that is the subject of a whole other discussion. The bill would have protected workers from getting fired for sharing information about their rates of pay with their co-workers and enabled them to sue for some infringements of the Fair Pay Law. Unfortunately, all the Republicans voted against this bill preventing women from getting a tool sometimes needed to gain equal wages. Lilly Ledbetter sent an e-mail to me and millions of other women asking us to co-sign a letter to Mitt Romney asking him to take a stand on this issue. We need to send the letter to our Senators, also. If you don’t know how to contact your Senators, you can go to Equal pay for equal work still needs our advocacy.

Another thing that hasn’t changed through the decades is the need to cook a meal when we get home from work. This recipe for an eggplant and chickpea stew has a prep time of 20 minutes and feeds four. That leaves plenty of time to contact your Senators while it’s cooking.

                                                   Chick-­ Pea and Eggplant Stew

2 large eggplants cut in small pieces
1 14 oz can of chick peas
3 tbsp of olive oil
l large onion chopped
1 tbsp of minced garlic
1 14 oz can of stewed tomatoes
cumin, cinamon, coriander, salt, and pepper to taste
a dash of curry powder

Place the eggplant in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Let sit for about 30 minutes.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion and garlic until they soften. Add the spices and cook for a few seconds. Add the eggplant and stir to coat with the other ingredients. Add the tomatoes and chick-peas. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

It’s good served with rice. Bon appetit!