No More Empty Fortune Cookies!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Poor, Underserved Insurance Industry

I was at my in-law's yesterday, as we've been spending a lot of time there lately helping them get moved into their new home and helping unpack and get settled. It's fun and I enjoy their company, so that's cool. But as is often the case when at their house, I was subject to a lot of FOX News. The father in law is a FOX News addict. He's good people, so don't hold that against him, it's just that he's definitely in that demographic, 70+ yrs. old, white, male, upper-middle class, Christian...You get the picture. I love him. And he loves me. And he always accepted me as his daughter in law and even came to our wedding, which is more than I can say about my own father. But we are definitely on vastly opposite ends of the political spectrum.

So anywho, FOX news was on and The Wifester, her mom, and I were in earshot as we sat at the dining room table carving pumpkins. The folks over there at FOX were discussing Obamacare, of course, and they had on a governor, I didn't catch where from, but this yahoo said, and I quote, he said, "Not a single one of my constituents has been able to sign up for Obamacare, and every single one of them has lost their insurance through their jobs because of Obamacare. Every single one!"

That made me laugh out loud, but I had to compose myself and pretend that The Wifester was making faces at me or something. Honestly, though, who believes that every single person in this guy's state has lost their health care? I find that one hard to fall for. He went on and on with that, and at one point The Wifester gave me that quick look that I know means, "Are you hearing this garbage??" And I gave her the quick glance that says, "Yes, yes I am." It's great to have someone who reads your eyes and knows exactly what you mean. We often do this little communication without speaking.

But that wasn't even the funniest part of it all- Next up was a guy saying that what The USA really needs is a single payer plan, and that Medicare should just take over health care and allow every person access to it. I agree with that, but here's where it got good, the FOX news anchor dude was totally aghast, and  interrupted this guy saying, "Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Medicare is wrought with fraud, they have $XXX (he quoted some amount in the billions) of waste each year, and their process for approving claims takes longer than private insurance companies. Meanwhile, Medicare is raking in the profits while wasting taxpayer money, and over here you have the guys running private insurance companies, who are barely scraping by with hardly any profits at all! What other industries do you want to arbitrarily kill off?"
Yes, he actually argued that private insurance providers are "barely scraping by with hardly any profits at all."
I wish each and every one of you could see the face that The Wifester was making at that comment. In fact, as soon as we got in the car to leave there last night she busted out with a big laugh and said, "What about that guy saying the Insurance Industry is barely scraping by..."
We had a good laugh. I mean, really, does anyone really believe that? Honestly.

So today I did a quick google search on "Insurance industry profits 2012" and this was one of the first returns:

Yeah. Looks like those guys are barely getting by.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Broccoli and Rice Casserole, The I'm Trying to Lose Weight Way

When the weather turns cool and the trees are shedding their leaves and everywhere you look mums are abloom, that's when I start craving those hearty, creamy, cheesy casseroles that cook slowly and make the whole house smell like Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, those yummy, yummy dishes really pack on the pounds, and The Wifester and I are operating on a strict, Must-Lose-Weight platform, so I've really had to rethink and deconstruct/reconstruct some of our favorite foods. Broccoli, rice, and cheese casserole is one of our favorites, but all that cream, cheese, and butter make it a serious no-no right now. But I really, really wanted to use my broccoli, and I had brown rice...So I thought about that butternut squash and how creamy and delicious it was over macaroni pasta a couple of weeks ago. Here's what I came up with- First, I oven roasted the butternut squash, stuffing that little scooped out spot where the seeds used to reside with a garlic clove, a pat of butter, and half a red bell pepper. I let that cook at 425 for about an hour, maybe longer, till it was all soft and mushy. Set that aside for now. Then I cooked my brown rice in chicken broth. That's my favorite way since it infuses the rice with that rich flavor. While that was cooking, I sauteed a couple of stalks of celery, diced, some minced garlic, small diced sweet potatoes (because I didn't have any carrots) and a sweet, yellow onion. Instead of cooking those in butter, I used EVOO, but if you aren't desperately trying to lose weight, go for the butter. Once that is tender, turn off the heat and set aside. At this point I put some chopped up broccoli on to steam. The rice was still not quite done, so I began making my "cheese-ish sauce" by scooping out the mushy, roasted butternut squash insides and I put them in the food processor and pureeing until smooth. I added the roasted garlic, salt, pepper, a couple dashes of dried mustard, a splash of Worcestershire sauce, and milk to achieve a smooth, creamy consistency. Add a splash of lime juice to brighten up the flavors. I poured this into a deep saucepan and added about 1 1/2 cups of white wine and brought that to a boil. I needed more liquid, so I used some chicken stock to thin the sauce a bit. Once the rice was tender, I drained the excess liquid and added in the sauteed veggies. Then I poured the "cheese-ish sauce" (butternut squash) over the rice. By this point, the broccoli was tender and ready, so I added it to the rice/squash mixture and poured it all into a casserole dish. Then I topped it with half a bag of garlic and sea salt croutons since I didn't have any bread crumbs. I popped that baby in the oven at 350 for about 20 minutes, until it was bubbly and hot, and HOLY CRAP! It was delicious! Next time I might consider adding a bit of parmesan cheese to the butternut squash, but honestly, it was delicious and had a rich, almost cheesy feeling and taste. If you are looking for a healthy alternative to broccoli, rice and cheese, give this a try. I promise, it's fantastic! Sorry I don't have pics of it, we gobbled it up before I thought to take any.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Green Apples, Sweet Potatoes, and Curry, Oh my!

We went apple picking last weekend, which is always less fun in reality than it sounds in your head, swarming with more bees than you remember from the previous year, and somewhat anticlimactic. But I'm a lesbian, and it is Fall, and so I do what I must do to fulfill my social contract.
That said, we then embarked upon making apple butter (which came out better than any I've ever made before) and canned it...
...And canned it...
...And canned more of it...

Yes, there was that much apple butter.
Then we made cinnamon spiced apple wedges, and canned them.
...And canned them...

And still, we have a huge bag full of apples, despite the fact that I've eaten apples every single day this week. And packed apples in The Wifester's lunch every single day this week. And given Miss. Sally Sue apple wedges with every single meal she's eaten this week.

Are we coming to an understanding of how many apples have been residing at my house this week?
So this morning I decided to try something a little different with some apples. It was risky, I've never cooked them in quite this way before, and the flavors - well, I admit that I was not 100% sure those flavors would meld just right. But as is often the case, you can't achieve a life changing breakthrough without stepping out there into new territory and taking a risk.

I'd seen a recipe for curried green apples online, and thought, "Hmmm...that sounds interesting." But it was rather dull, and I wondered how I could add some panache to it. Sweet potatoes immediately popped into my mind. I love curry and sweet potatoes. And that sounded great with those green apples. But what else, I thought? Lime. And cilantro, and ginger, too.
Let me tell you this, I was literally licking the skillet when I went back to clean up the kitchen. Literally, actually licking it.
It was that good.

In case you are feeling adventurous and wanna give it a go, here's what I did:

Green Apple, Sweet Potato, and Tofu Curry

3 medium green apples, cored, wedged, and cubed
2 large sweet potatoes peeled, and cubed
1 block extra firm tofu, frozen, thawed, drained and cubed
1 medium sweet yellow onion
2 cloves garlic minced
2 Tbsp brown sugar
juice of 1 lime
fresh minced ginger
yellow curry powder
dash of tarragon
2 or 3 pinches flour
2 Tbsp butter

First, prep your tofu. Then stir fry it in a bit of EVOO. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove it from heat, drain any excess oil, and set aside.
Next, heat EVOO in skillet, add minced ginger and garlic, add butter, flour, tarragon, lime juice, and curry powder to make a roux/paste. Add cubed sweet potatoes and brown sugar, stir to mix well. When sweet potatoes are beginning to soften slightly, add cubed apples. When apples and potatoes are both tender, and sauce is thickening, add tofu back into skillet, toss and mix well. Add more curry powder, salt, pepper to taste. Top with chopped cilantro. Serve hot.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fortune Cookies Meets Meningioma

I got to see my brain tumor at the doctor's office yesterday.
It was strange looking at those photos of my brain, and seeing that little, oblong blob of tissue sitting where nothing but brain should be sitting. It was a little bit unnerving, but they assured me that this tumor is not cancer, and most likely will be very slow growing.

I have to go back in three months, or sooner if I start having any symptoms. Symptoms to watch for: seizures, headaches, dizziness, vision loss, ear ringing. Great! I already have every single one of those symptoms, but they tell me they are not from this tumor. How can I be so sure of that? Would you be so sure? I wonder if I need to get a second opinion. I think I should. I am not really stressing over it, but I kind of am.

Does that even make sense? I mean, I know, from all that I've read and studied, I know that this tumor is probably nothing to be too concerned about. Most of the time they are benign and very often they never cause any serious problems. But I also know that they can become cancerous, and even when they remain benign, they can have severe, sometimes life threatening effects. How can we be so sure that mine is a friendly tumor? Can you ever be so sure?

I want it out of me. But I don't want to subject my brain to the trauma of surgery, and radiation/chemo scares me.

When I got my retinitis pigmentosa diagnosis, and found out I would lose my sight I thought this, THIS is the challenge of my life.
I was wrong.