The Voiding Darkness of Depression

Someone I love dearly beyond words or measure asked if my depression being unmedicated was creating havoc on me. And I think it is. I know it is. I’m an uninsured American with multiple problems that all intersection with a dose of depression. Sometimes I write, to let it out. To let the inky, dark, crawling emptiness face some blinding light.

I can’t and don’t trust myself in many ways. I trust myself professionally without hesitation. I trust my writing, my abilities to create and craft research. I trust my own instincts, but I can’t always trust my own goodness. I can’t see the part of me helping illuminate my good points, not just bad.

I do things for people because it’s right, it’s being part of humanity and a community. But I can’t take that into account in a ticking ‘good’ column since being decent isn’t really award-worthy in my mind.

Oh, I’m my harshest critic–make no doubt. Nothing you can say will match my own hard truths I deliver all the time. If you’ve ever graded my work, or proofread anything, you have no idea how truly cold I can be. Bloodless bath of misery. Part of my tendencies to strive for perfection.

But sometimes it feels like so much more…
Continue reading The Voiding Darkness of Depression

Recipe: Food Stamp Naan Pizza

Sometimes I’m really, really broke but I still crave pizza. I’ve created a couple different versions of the recipe, but my personal favorite is to use naan bread. It’s soft but solid, malleable as needed. And it’s easy to get at most local grocery stores.

Once again, all my ingredients are Aldi-based. I bought 2 pounds of frozen salmon filets for only 7.98. I like being creative and this was the outcome of another pizza possibility. The vegetables were all reasonably priced and I use the bulk in other meals. The idea is to make food stretch, use the ingredients wisely and a little more healthy. If you’re looking make two pizzas, double the amount.

The meal could work without meat if desired. Change the meat sources and instructions to preferred meat substitute. However, as a non-vegetarian, I’m not sure how helpful I would be giving options on the switch.

Continue reading Recipe: Food Stamp Naan Pizza

Rant: Life according to Republicans means a cut in Food Stamps

So the government that wants to multiply defense spending wants to cut food stamps. Fantastic! Because, you know, social safety nets aren’t important, but creating war for the 1% to make a ton of cash is.

The five-year farm bill sets policy for agricultural programs and nutrition aid like food stamps, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. House Republicans held up the bill for almost two years, arguing that food stamp spending needed to be cut.

As someone on reluctantly on food stamps, here’s a large fuck you to the Republican government looking to make me work when I DO but still make under the poverty limit.

Only about a fifth of SNAP recipients are eligible for training. The rest are elderly, disabled, children or already in the workforce.

You want people to work? Bring back jobs. Bring back the educational money value that forces students go into debt just to look for jobs–that are often not there now. I’m in the 80% that includes people already in the workforce. This is just the latest Reaganesque “welfare queen” scam so Republicans in Congress don’t look inept. Surprise! You fail.

Also, Linda Taylor, the woman in the middle of “welfare queen” scandal had a lot more at stake to lose based on criminal behavior beyond food stamps.

And there were the deaths. Taylor posed as a voodoo practitioner and spiritual adviser, and after one or Taylor’s particularly naive marks during that scheme turned up dead, Taylor was found with the dead woman’s credit card. But police investigators didn’t go after Taylor on murder charges, because they were worried it would detract from an ongoing welfare fraud case.

Somehow going after food stamp abuse was more important than caring for the children and people abused by Taylor. Why is that? Why are food stamps more important than the value of human life?

In 2013, The Atlantic posted an article that cut to the heart of what public assistance really costs compared to not using the safety net. And let’s be real, the numbers are staggeringly different for families with children under 18. Just look at difference in food costs. $6460 on stamps versus $9539 off. So…people not on stamps are actually spending less.

So that $6,460 spent on food comes out to about $34 per person, per week. Not exactly a shellfish budget.

You think I like being on assistance? I don’t. But I also know I have to eat decent meals in order to work with my diabetes and keep my costs down so I don’t eat up more taxpayer money because I don’t even qualify for the ratchet healthcare system here. People may complain and moan about Obamacare, but at least you’re covered, so sit the fuck down and shut up. I’ve lost weight on food stamps, which is highly important for my health because I can eat nutritional foods, which fuels my failing endocrine system.

Would the public like to pay my food stamp bill until I can find a good job that means I can give back into the system later on? Or each $16,000+ bill as I hit the hospital in a diabetic coma and/or ketoacidosis for having to eat bad food and causing severe stress because I know it’s literally killing me? Take your pick. You only get one choice. My death is not option three. Nor is some sanctified “find a job” when I’m already looking and have a job as it is.

You think it’s fun being in poverty? Live it. You think it’s easy to get a job in a market with too many applicants, a non-living minimum wage, and having to decide if you can afford your life-saving meds? Live it. Otherwise. Sit. Down. And. Shut. Up. when you make over $171,000 a year…minimum for Congress with all the federal government benefits received. Including retirement and health, plus expense accounts.

The WSB article about the latest cuts notes that while the money is federally granted, states have autonomy on how to use the money.

Conaway praised the grants, saying that states’ innovative approaches “will help able-bodied SNAP recipients climb the economic ladder.”

As in past years, a House budget proposed this week would transform the program into block grants to states, a move that could cut tens of billions from the program. A Senate version of the nonbinding budget resolution called for cuts to programs like SNAP but was not as specific in how they should be done.

You think I’m not looking for full-time work and benefits? Wrong. I’ve got applications in other states because I can’t find a decent job in this state. So until you’re in my position, don’t even begin to tell me how I’m failing a social safety net meant to keep me afloat while the government is more concerned with ongoing pissing contests!

Even Vilsack admitted “you are either going to cut people or cut benefits, and both approaches are the wrong way.”

Recipe: Ramen On The Run

So, I really enjoy ramen. It’s a cheap, easy way to make a meal and when money’s thin…saving coin is a blessing. A couple days prior, I made some country style pork ribs in the slow cooker and wanted to try a new way to incorporate them into my meals. And thus the idea was met with great delight by my stomach.

I’ve been known to use leftover salmon, chicken, strip steak, and shrimp as well. Typically I make this with leftovers so I don’t get tired of the same recipes over and over. And I use a mix of frozen and fresh vegetables. Broccoli is good frozen, as is the mirepoix. And frozen vegetables are good for stocking up when needed.

Amounts of vegetables used are entirely dependent on what I want to eat at the time. Some days I like more spinach than mushrooms, sometimes I add tomatoes. Don’t think the vegetables listed are required. These are just common ones I use to provide a more complex bite of food. In the pork example, I used some frozen mirepoix because I ran out of tomatoes. Was amazingly tasty.

I also tend eat spicy foods. Bear that in mind. I never worry about presentation, to be honest. I just look to create good, healthy food.

Continue reading Recipe: Ramen On The Run

Recipe: Savory Salsa Con Queso Sauce

As with all my recipes, these are just homespun, on the fly foods I enjoy eating. And note some of the measurements are not entirely correct because I was just throwing stuff in the pan.

So, my tip: if something looks missing…add more.

I made the Savory Salsa Con Queso Sauce recipe up on March 8th when I was hungry yet very lazy. After my nephew’s birthday party, I still needed to eat to take my insulin. I didn’t want to cook because it’s not smart to do anything complex on five hours sleep between work and nephew time. Plus, he turned two with a party full of kids…and none of them actually mine. Sleep was calling my name.

I poured the salsa con queso sauce on some leftover Irish soda bread (from a box because baking ain’t my area). This time I specifically didn’t use any spices because the dip already had enough. If you’re looking to add more spicy heat, try some fresh pepper or crushed red pepper. I prefer serranos but not always available or affordable. And pouring over some crumbly bread added that extra texture needed to balance the salt from the cheese dip.

I’m sensitive to corn so no more of cornbread and milk for this southern girl. The soda bread is a nice counter and really soaks up the sauce. Excellent alternative for those facing the challenge of a corn-born culinary world. Smothering fries with the sauce would really work, too.

 

Continue reading Recipe: Savory Salsa Con Queso Sauce

Cooking 101: The Staples

Before I write down the recipe lists for followers (and me), I thought I should do a little 101 intro. You’ll find a lot of mentions about salmon, vegetables, etc in almost all my recipe because they’re staples in almost everything I cook.

Also, I don’t buy any particular brand because I’m on a food stamp budget. I get the best price for the amount of food. Nothing more or less, so if I mention a particular brand, it means I’m very happy with the product as a cook. I’m going to break the areas down and describe if needed.

Oh, and all seasonings other than white pepper are $1 ones. When in doubt, buy in bulk. Aldi’s has really good prices for size/cost ratio. Especially for powders.


COOKWARE

Okay, so this isn’t a list so much as tips of what I’ve found. Generally speaking, I’m pretty good with buying inexpensive items, but I’m somewhat particular about my cookware. I don’t like the cheap T-Fal/Tefal with the coating that comes off quickly. For one thing, it tastes terrible. So! I prefer to spend the extra money and get pots/pans that last.

Currently, I’m using the T-Fal ceramic 10″ pan from Target. With the even heat distribution, my cooking temps have reduced while my food’s gotten significantly better. This is important because it’s why my food looks like it does. There’s no longer any rust on my pans (visual proof for 3 months of cooking).

My pots are mad dash collection from various family members. I have some Rocco DiSpirito ones from QVC as well as some T-Fal heat distribution ones from the Family Dollar. Not to mention the giant cooking pots that come from who knows where. Whatever works, works. No snobbery here.

As for my slow cooker, I tend to use a Slow Cooker Mate from QVC. It’s 6 quarts with divider inserts. I love the thing. I don’t know if you can buy them anymore, but brilliant pieces of machinery. It’s survived multiple long term storage stays.


 THE LISTS OF DOOM


 BAKING

Basics

  • All purpose flour
  • Oil (Olive, Vegetable)
  • Cupcake wrappers
  • Muffin mix (usually Martha White, 10/$10 deals)
  • Chocolate syrup
  • Extract (vanilla, orange)

Seasonings

  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Crushed red pepper
  • White Pepper
  • Paprika
  • Cinnamon
  • Chili power (lots)
  • Cajun spice mix
  • Onion powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Taco sauce mix

 FRIDGE

Dairy

  • 2% milk
  • Heavy whipping cream (if affordable)
  • Eggs
  • Butter (Imperial or Aldi store)
  • Cheese (cream, string, shredded cheddar)
  • Sour cream (Kroger brand with chives if possible)

Fruits/Vegetables

  • Mushrooms
  • Spinach (lots)
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers (jalapeno or serrano, depending on price)
  • Sweet onions
  • Green onion
  • Garlic
  • Broccoli and/or Cauliflower
  • …whatever is on sale.

Meats (fresh/frozen)

  • Salmon
  • Ground turkey
  • Chicken
  • Ham (sausage, bacon, country)
  • Beef (ground, usually)
  • Shrimp (if cheap enough)

 PANTRY

  • Tortillas
  • Ramen noodle packs
  • Fettuccine/Angel Hair pasta
  • Instant mashed potatoes
  • Red Lobster biscuit mix
  • Tomato soup
  • Tomatoes (diced or chili)
  • Beans (kidney, great northern, butter, lima)

Unsolicited Marriage Advice from an American Expat: Be a Good Listener and Your German Spouse Will Thank You

Advice on how to stay married. Pretty solid, really. Especially as the usual ranter in the scenario. Just listen because the answer is already known. You just need to chime in occasionally and let know you’re still present.

Oh God, My Wife Is German.

ear-diagram-drawing-offenes-Ohr-german “What’s that you say, dear? I’m having trouble hearing you over all this dysfunction.” — Image Credit: Sue Clark (https://www.flickr.com/photos/perpetualplum/) — Subject to CC 2.0 Copyright.

My German wife and I have only been married since 2012, so I’m not an expert or anything, but being a good listener seems to be a pretty important part of marriage. That is, if you want to stay married, I mean. If you’d rather catapult yourself through a sudden divorce, go ahead and let your eyes glaze over whenever your spouse starts talking to you. Hold your thumb down on the TV remote, steadily increasing the volume until the sound of her voice is drowned out entirely. You’ll be on your own in no time.

But being a good listener doesn’t necessarily mean you have to actually do anything. In fact, the less you do while your spouse is talking, the better. When…

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