Sunday, November 10, 2013

NYTimes: Cuts in Food Stamps Force Hard Choices on the Poor

Article: Cuts in Food Stamps Force Hard Choices on the Poor 

I am an accepting person. I will listen to your political opinion even if it's vastly different from mine, and try to reconcile what you're saying with why you might believe it. But this I don't understand. Cuts in the SNAP (food stamps) program are forcing millions of Americans to go to bed with empty bellies and empty pockets to pay for food. In a first world country, empty bellies.

Our policy makers, our fiscally conservative policy makers, have a particular way of de-humanizing the poor--painting an image of a greedy, money-grubbing, lazy faceless mass that want nothing more than the take advantage of the system. This idea was popularized by then candidate Ronald Regean's speech in Chicago's South Side, with the creation of the "welfare queen." He claimed:
"She has eighty names, thirty addresses, twelve Social Security cards and is collecting veteran's benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands. And she is collecting Social Security on her cards. She's got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income is over $150,000."
Unfortunately this was only mildly reflective of reality. With a little digging, you can find the woman to whom he was referring in his infamous speech, Linda Taylor. She was certainly charged with fraud--for a total of $8,000.

But who doesn't like keeping the money they earn? No one. So this idea of our hard-earned tax dollars going to lazy, jobless welfare queens with Cadillacs persisted throughout the decades and has fueled many a fiscally conservative fire. We keep voting fiscally conservative Republicans into office under their magic line of, if you work hard, you'll go far in life and won't need government handouts! Therefore implying the obvious--if you take welfare, you're not working hard enough.

But it really all begins with a bit of luck doesn't it? I was lucky to be born into a family that valued my education, I was lucky to have a good education, I was lucky to have a family that had the means to provide me what I needed, and I was lucky that I grew up with a family that taught me what "bad decisions" were, how to not make them, and had the means to help me if I did make them. I was lucky, I have privilege.

I am not saying I didn't work hard, I did. But at least I had the tools to work hard and run far. Millions of Americans are born without shoes or tools, and we ask them to hit the ground running and try not to step on any broken glass.

What I am saying is that next time you hear a proposal to cut SNAP (food stamps), or to make it harder for people to receive food stamps (i.e. "volunteer" their time or take drug tests)...think about the person saying those things. Have they ever experienced being so poor that you qualify for welfare? Have they actually seen rampant abuse of the system rather than occasional anecdotal tales? Have they dealt with parents who have to choose between food for themselves or food for their children? Or are they simply pandering to a people who bought into Regean's welfare queen idea as a way to justify their greed? Think about that next time you have an inkling to vote for a fiscal conservative.


Here are some statistics as of 2013 from the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Commerce regarding welfare and food stamps:
  • 12.8 million people receive welfare (another way to look at it 4% of the US population) 
  • Total amount of money you make monthly and still receive welfare: $1000
  • Total number of states where welfare pays more than an $8 hour job: 39

Monday, July 22, 2013


The clumsy cook indeed. Apparently the forgetful cook as well. I went hiking with a lovely group of ladies from school earlier today and forgot all the things in two different cars. Well, really just my glasses case and my phone.
Sounds okay, yes? But NO. I was NOT okay. I was actually surprised at how attached to my smart phone I've gotten. I was sitting there, staring like a lost puppy, at the place my phone was supposed to be in my back pack. I pawed at the back pack 2-3 times thinking, maybe now I've developed enough magical powers to just make my phone appear? Or...there must be a secret compartment I haven't discovered in 6 years!

Finally, I accept the awful truth: I had left my phone in a friend of mine's car. Yes...I was phone-less. Not un-contactable mind you, but phone-less. Where would I read the newspaper (online.), where would I read my books (real paper.), where would I text people (my texting app on my computer.), where would I play RUZZLE (the true horror.)

All of these thoughts came crashing towards me as I sat, mildly catatonic, on the edge of my bed, clutching my landline. I finally stepped into gear, after much growling and snarling at my he was the only live creature around at the act that he took as love and play only served to fuel my irritation. I called my friend and she was nice enough to drive my phone back to me. That's right, she brought it back to me. Her super-niceness pushed me to realize a few things that I have to say.

Either way, valuable lesson:

1. Nice people are nice, and will be nice enough to drive your phone back to you when the red line is experience serious delays. You are now immortalized in my blogpost for being nice. Thank you :-)

2. Hello, my name is Mita and I am a cell-phone addict. Yes, I am that person on the T who is texting or reading, or moving her finger rapidly on her phone in an attempt to beat a random user at a word game. Yes, I am that person who freaks out when her phone gets slower by a fraction of a second. Yes, I am that person who resort to neanderthalic-like grunts and slamming when my phone freezes. My name is Mita, and I have a problem.

I joke, but it's a legitimate problem. I am constantly being mentally-stimulated by the barrage of information my phone throws at me...updates from the NYT, information about celebrities I didn't know I cared about, and heart-wrenching losses at Ruzzle (if you haven't just don't know). But at the same time I talk about important it is to just have time to yourself to think, to be, to contemplate. Some of my best thoughts come from being forced into boredom .

After all, that's why I took the summer off between 1st and 2nd year. I wanted to be not think or do, but just be. Why not? Being bored is a privilege that I'm lucky enough to have and I get that it's not going to come back. Life is happening and it'll keep on happening, so why not just enjoy the boredom I will pay so much for in the future?

So! I hereby take this try to use my phone more judiciously and responsibly. You might see me on the T using my phone, or sitting at a bus stop, or walking down the street, but I promise I'll be using it to expand myself...and, I'll also just use it straight up less.

In celebration of my addiction recognition--cookies! Now I've searched long and hard for good chocolate chip cookies, and I believe I found my answer on Smitten Kitchen. I tweaked the recipe a little, so now I'm calling them my Chocolate-What-You-Got-Cookies. In my case, I had trail mix, coconut flakes, and chocolate chips. BOOM, delicious.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

0.75 cup butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
0.5 cup white sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2.0 cups all purpose flour
0.5 tsp. salt
0.5 tsp. baking soda
2 cups chocolate chips

EXTRAS -- you can mix and match, use them together, use only one...up to you!
0.5 cup of your favorite trail mix
0.5 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
0.5 cups crushed pretzel sticks

Preheat oven to 325 F

In a bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients: salt, baking soda, flour. Cream together the melted butter, and sugars. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Slowly mix in the flour ingredients into the wet ingredients until just mixed. Then stir in the chocolate and any extras by hand.

Scoop out 1 tbsp on to a parchment paper covered baking sheet, about 3 inches apart. Bake them for ~10 minutes. They should be crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside...enjoy!

Also, you can freeze any extra dough for future cookies.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Easy Snack: Corn Pizza-tillas, Gluten Free!

Yesterday was our 2 year anniversary, and it was amazing. Great food, great company, pretty wine glasses :-) I'll be posting later what we had for was quite surprising for me.

But today, snack time! Want something quick, something tasty, something not so bad for you? Done! Corn Pizza-tillas. Gluten free and done in 10.

What you need: 

Corn Tortilla
Pizza Sauce (homemade or otherwise)
Any protein you want, I used tofurkey slices, but you could easily use something else.

Heat up a saute pan over medium heat, put the corn tortilla on it, layer sauce, then veggies, then protein, then cheese. Cover so the convection heat melts the cheese, and it's done and crispy on the bottom in ~5 minutes.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

BBQ Tofu and Cheesy Potatoes

So many things are happening in the news that I don't even want to put into words what I'm thinking, but I'm sure y'all can figure it out:

1. Zimmerman got off because of a stupid law in Florida.
2. Texas passed the abortion bill
3. The House passed a version of the Farm Bill with NO Food Stamps. That's right. None.

So the world is happening.

And so is barbecue tofu in my house and seriously, talk about 30 minute meals. I missed the omnipresent BBQ sauce of my years in Texas and Arizona. Every place you went, there were at least be one bottle of BBQ sauce in the place. So I had the biggest craving for a Texizona meal--BBQ Tofu, Cheesy Potatoes, Rice, Roasted Tomatoes, and an Avocado.

Oh man, it was good. And it didn't take long at all. I promise you can make this meal in 30 min. or less.

What you need: 

BBQ Tofu

1 block extra firm tofu
bbq sauce (I used Stubb's, because well, ya can't take the southwest out of the girl!)

Roasted Tomatoes

A handful of cherry tomatoes
BBQ Sauce

Cheesy Potatoes
2 tbsp. butter
6-7 small red potatoes
Whatever cheese you prefer, I used a cheddar mixture

As much rice as you would like, I used brown.
1 tbsp. butter

The morning you want to make the meal, strain the tofu, cut it into thin slices and put it on a baking sheet that is covered in paper towels. Cover the tofu in paper towels and try to press the liquid out of it. Cover it up with a fresh towel, and something heavy so that the water can wick away from the tofu all day, and put it in the fridge.

When you are ready to make the meal:

1. Put the rice on to cook first on medium heat, add salt and butter while it's cooking

2. Put the potatoes in a microwavable safe bowl with a little water at the bottom and nuke 'em for about 10 minutes, covered.

3. Pre-heat the oven to 400F

4. While this is happening, pull out the tofu, and put it in a mixing bowl with about 1/4 - 1/3 cup of bbq sauce. Honestly, it's an eyeball type of thing. If you like it really saucy, add extra sauce, if you like it with a hint of flavor, add less.

5. Toss the tomatoes into the bowl with the tofu and mix it up. Make sure to coat each piece of tofu in the BBQ sauce well.

6. Use tongs or your fingers (I just got in there with my fingers) to pull out the tofu and put it on a parchment lined baking sheet. You want to make sure they have a least a little bit of space in between them because you want the tofu to well-cooked on the outside.

7. Put the tomatoes in smaller, also lined baking sheet with whatever extra sauce you have.

8. Put both of them in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes.

9. Pull out the potatoes and use a fork to make sure they're cooked, if they are, smash 'em with the  fork and add in the butter and salt. Then add as much cheese as you'd like. I added a little less than 1/2 a cup.

10. Check on the rice, and strain it when it's done to your liking.

11. Plate the food! I put the potatoes on one side, rice on the other, layered the tofu on the rice, spread a strip of BBQ sauce on top with some cheese, and the tomatoes and avocado on either side.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Coconut Ginger Soup + Camping + Relay Rides + Woodland Valley Campsite

Our humble abode
So I'll admit it. I had my first experience camping. Sure I went when I was younger once with the girl scouts, but as an adult--never. We went up to Woodlands Valley Park in New York with some friends and rented a camper. You know those old VW campers that had the engine in the back and you could pop up the top and sleep in it? Yeah, we got a new version of those...with the engine in the front and significantly less risk of explosion. We actually rented it through a cool car sharing website, Relay Rides.
Basically people put their cars up on the website to be rented out, you contact the person if you like their car, they rent it out for a price per day or per hour, and Relay Rides takes a cut and covers the insurance, road side assistance, and billing for the person renting the car. It's basically like zipcar, although with a greater selection of cars, and allows the renter to make some money on a car that would be otherwise devaluing in their garage, pretty neat, no?

Anyways, if you're nervous about camping, or new to camping, or just don't feel like sleeping on the ground but want to be outside-ish [pseudo-camping if you will], consider the VW Camper--it's got a propane stove, can sleep 4 and seat 6, a place where you can charge things, storage space, and a fridge. Pretty cool for our first outing, although next time I'll think we're going to go au natural and do it tent-style.

The Woodlands Valley Campsite where we went was great as well. The rangers were helpful, it had toilets and showers, a dip-able river, challenging hikes, and allowed dogs! My only real negative about it was that all the campsites were pretty close together so you couldn't actually feel super alone. But the hikes were awesome--we took the Yellow Trail all the way up to Giant Ledge...a 7.6 mile hike roundtrip with a whole lot of it going up. The puppy was a beast during the hikes: DJ he was dubbed during the trip...climbed up 3.8 miles with us--all 6 lbs of his man-dog. On the way down though, we ended up fashioning a little sarong for him out of our shirts to carry him, the Puppy-Pouch.
First Night Dinner

First night, our pop up bed!


Near the river, Day 2

Our Fire Master's Fire
Our hike and Puppy-Pouch v. 1
The view from Giant Ledge
Another view, post lunch on Giant Ledge!
Since I already pre-ambled a lot about our trip and Relay Rides, etc. So I'll just right into the soup. I've had my eye on this soup for about 3 solid months, and I finally decided I wanted to make it. Hands down one of the easiest "exotic" dinners I've ever made. It doesn't involve a lot of spices or time. But it tastes amazingly different. You'd think that the full-fat coconut milk might be overwhelming, but it's really not, and it compliments the vegetables really well. I took a chance camping, and took a chance on this soup, and both were great. Hope you make it and enjoy it!

Coconut-Ginger Soup
adapted from
Serves 4

2 inch knob of ginger, peeled and minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2, 14-oz cans of full-fat coconut milk
1, 14-oz can of water
1 tsp. of salt and then more to taste. I added about 1 tbsp. in the end
1 packet of udon noodles

Whatever veggies you like. I added:

Hand full of crimini mushrooms
Broccoli stems
Sugar Snap Peas

Lime -- this is actually important, it really brings out the coconut flavor in a savory way.

Put a pot of water on to boil for the noodles. While that is getting hot, in a large soup pan mix the coconut milk, water, ginger, garlic, and salt together over medium heat. Let it heat for about 5-10 minutes until simmering.

Cook the noodles, strain them, and rinse them under water when you're done. The rinsing washes off the extra gluten that can make it stick together.

When the soup is simmering, add in your veggies and cook until they're as tender as you like them.

Serve with the juice of half a lime, cilantro and basil. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

NYT: Supreme Court Strikes Down Key Part of Voting Rights Act

I haven't felt motivated to write as of late. Call it medical-school-imposed myopic focus, call it laziness, call it lack of inspiration--whatever it was, I found something that bothered me enough to write again.

In a foolish move, the Supreme Court knocked down section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Not surprisingly, it went party line. Quick summary on the Voting Rights Act: it sprouted from momentum of the civil rights movement of the 60s because the 15th amendment [1870], that guaranteed all people the right to unabridged voting, was being circumvented by voting tests, education requirements, etc. The amendment also gave the federal government explicit ability enforce voting equality--so the VRA was enacted.

The act itself has several sections to it, but let me highlight a few:

So today, section 4 was knocked down as unconstitutional and unnecessary. Justice Roberts, writing for the majority:
"Nearly 50 years later, things have changed dramatically. Largely because of the Voting Rights Act, “[v]oter turnout and registration rates” in covered jurisdictions “now approach parity. Blatantly discriminatory evasions of federal decrees are rare. And minority candidates hold office at unprecedented levels.”"
"The dissent relies on “second generation barriers,” which are not impediments to the casting of ballots, but rather electoral arrangements that affect the weight of minority votes."
Ginsberg wrote the minority dissent.
 “Early attempts to cope with this vile infection resembled battling the Hydra. Whenever one form of voting discrimination was identified and prohibited, others sprang up in its place.” 

“Beyond question, the V.R.A. is no ordinary legislation...It is extraordinary because Congress embarked on a mission long delayed and of extraordinary importance: to realize the purpose and promise of the Fifteenth Amendment”  
Both can be read here.

My thoughts:

The racism of today has taken on a look different from the racism of the past.Rather than written literacy tests or english-proficiency laws, we have redistricting that dulls minority voices, closed early voting that disproportionately affects low-income workers that can't make it to polls, suppression of registrations groups like the League of Women Voters, and state identification laws that will keep people who can't afford identification or don't have any easily available from the polls--not an insignificant number in most states.
"Texas announced shortly after the decision that a voter identification law that had been blocked would go into effect immediately, and that redistricting maps there would no longer need federal approval. Changes in voting procedures in the places that had been covered by the law, including ones concerning restrictions on early voting, will now be subject only to after-the-fact litigation." [NYT]
Apparently it's okay to recognize the racist history of your town/city/state, but saying that it still persists is whole other beast. No one likes to say that the uncouth sentiments of the past may still persist in the "progressive" milieu of today, but it does. That is why federal oversight in these particular states is necessary. In 2006, when Congress reviewed voting data and heard testimonials from people covered in Section 4 areas, they deemed it reasonable and necessary to maintain the pre-clearance formula. It is Congress's job to protect its citizens voices, even the minority voices, and yesterday's ruling has seriously filed down the claws of the VRA.

After having grown up a minority in Arizona, lived in Texas, and moved to Massachusetts, I can say from personal and second-hand experiences that racism is still alive and well. If we do not work to keep the beast at bay, it will sneak up on us. Forgetting our past by deluding ourselves about the present is the equivalent of saying "Wow, I took my cholesterol medicine and my cholesterol got lower, so that means I should stop taking it!" There is not logic in that, and there is no logic in today's argument. A sad, sad day for minority voters and one can only hope Congress will take up putting together a new formula for the VRA. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Goat Cheese Chive Biscuits

So last week was exam week. Now it's spring break. It is awesome. Exam week consists of 3 exams: histology, physiology, and genetics. Spring break consists of red wine, sitting on the charles eating lunch, making homemade cinnamon rolls, and these amazing chive, goat cheese biscuits.

These biscuits are amazing. No joke. Make them, now. They don't take long, especially if you have a food processor.

In other news--relax. Relax the crap out of life. It's pretty good. Also, go to the gym, or go for a walk, or do something that requires moving. Studying will be there and that extra 1.5-2 hours isn't going to make a difference. It's just not. Also! Ignore the small things in life that irritate you...your cackling hobo that walks up and down your street at 2AM every morning making a noise that reminds you death when you wake up, the guy at the gym that stole your bench even though you were CLEARLY still using it, sometimes your loved ones, sometimes your hair, sometimes the annoying calls from CVS reminding you to pick up a prescription even though you know when you get there it won't be ready...all of those things will irritate you every once in a while..meh, let it go. Locus of control and all that crap. Seriously though, ain't nobody got time for that.

Okay! BISCUITS! And other pictures from the past semester.

The hubby and wifey

The Charles

Formal fun

Sam's HAIR. Out train ride back from PA


Liz's wedding
Goat Cheese Chive Biscuits
Modified from JoytheBaker

3 cups all purpose flour (2 whole wheat pastry flours and 1 cup All purpose flour is what I used)
3/4 cups butter
3/4 cup greek yogurt or sour cream
1 tbsp sugar
2.5 tsp. baking powder
0.5 tsp baking soda
0.5 tsp salt
0.25 tsp black pepper
1 egg beaten
3 tbsp cold water
0.33 cup chopped chives
0.75 cup goat cheese crumbled
1 beaten egg, for egg wash

Topping [optional]: salt, black pepper, paprika, rosemary mix 'em together.

In your food processor, cut flour, butter, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper. In a separate bowl, mix together yogurt/sour cream, egg, and water. Add that too the flour mixture until it JUST comes together. Add in the chives and goat cheese and knead about 10-15 times.

Then roll it out on a floured surface to about 1 inch thick...and use whatever you have that's round [like a ramekin] to cut out the biscuits. Put them on a tray lined with parchment paper, and coat each one in the egg wash and the topping mixture lightly.

Bake them at 400F for 10 minutes. I froze what I didn't eat so I can have them later :-)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Articles of the Day

So I got up wicked early this morning and have had the time to read to some super interesting articles...hope y'all enjoy!

Losing My Leg to a Medical Error -- super interesting, A. Because I'm going to be a doctor and B. because this is a real problem that the Affordable Care Act can hopefully prevent by reward quality instead of quantity for physicians and creating Accountable Care Organizations. It also reminds me of my own experience when I was in the hospital a few years back.

Strengthening Reproductive Rights in NY -- I found it fascinating that "...Mississippi, Arkansas, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming have made state [abortion] laws so restrictive that each of these states has just a single abortion provider. Some states could soon have no abortion services at all." This is so weird to think about, particularly when I think about the gentleman in Texas who truly argued that women's rights are were a moot point now, since we're completely equal. Ha.

Her Mom Abandoned Her When She Found Out She Was a Girl, Now She Could Run A Country This is in the same vein as the last one, but it's a video from a Daily Show interview. Very powerful and moving. To those who have entirely given up on Afghanistan, it shows how far people have come and how much support they still need. You can't birth a child raise it for 5 years and call it good. We need to keep this country in our minds because great or terrible things can happen.

Use of the Morning After Pill is On the Rise -- an interesting article that talks about birth control statistics and breaks it down by ethnicity. In terms of people using the morning after pill more--fantastic! The increase is in young women, in their early 20s. My thoughts -- people make mistakes, Plan B shouldn't be your primary form of birth control, but if you make a mistake, it's good to know it's there and you can rectify it. Another thing--I was surprised that only 57% of Asian women reported using birth control at all, and I wonder how much a role culture plays in that--in terms of being anti-sex, sometimes to a fault. Interesting.

That's all for now folks!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Articles 1/7-1/13

So earlier this week we had a mandatory physician advocacy meeting at 7AM. I grumbled and whined about having to be at school at 7AM (never mind that I'm up at 5:30, but to leave my house at 7AM?! The brutality.) Either way, it was pointless griping for the sake of it, because that needs to happen every once in a while. In reality, the meeting was actually interesting. The truth is, as an educated person with a voice, I have all the power I need to be an advocate, which is cool. Anyways, when I can, hopefully frequently, I'm to express my voice by sharing others: posting articles I thought were interesting here. It's kind of a pain to troll the NYTimes to find interesting articles, so if you have a few minutes and want to read some highlights, here you go:

1. I was wounded, but my honor wasn't -- An opinion piece by an Indian woman who was raped when she was 17, and her thoughts on the idea in parts of India and the broader world that rape is dishonorable because it shames the family. Very very interesting, and moving.

2. Not Even Close, 2012 was the hottest year ever in U.S. -- is anyone else a bit worried that Boston and the northeast in general haven't gotten much snow? It's weird when people get all excited about winter warmth to me--that's what summer is for! Anyways, this article talks about how 2012 was super hot, and yes it's partially due to normal variability but the number of natural disaster and general heat cannot be explained unless view from the lens of global warming. It's happening people.

3.  Pedophile in Plain Sight -- The article says it all. It's about a coach who abused and raped hundreds of boys at a school in Brooklyn over the course of decades while school officials knew and did nothing.

4. The End of Courtship -- An interesting article that argues that perhaps conventional courtship has come to an end. In the world of online dating, text messages, and fewer gender role constraints, perhaps things are changing. My two cents: I would want the conventional pursuit. I would want someone to "court," plan, and try. You don't have to pay for the dinner or buy me flowers, but PLAN the meal. I worry that this is something that's going away.

There ya have it, interesting articles of the week from different areas. Not all of 'em, but something to look over. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year, 2013

I could...write a really long post about how it's been over a month since my last post. But that's been done. What have I been up to? Medical school. Surprise, surprise--it's busy. A bit busier than expected. I'll sum up a few things I've learned:

1. Medical school is busy-making.

2. Stonyfield Organics Chocolate Ice Cream is amazing. My cousin Rupa once told me that ice cream and frozen yogurt were NOT the same thing. I scoffed. She was in medical school and I was not. I agree with her completely now.

3. Things only are priorities if you make them one. AKA, your relationships and the NYTimes.

4. Thank god for friends and family. And Lauri's almond toffee. They keep you going. Oh, and blue flower early grey tea. Oh and jasmine green.

5. Weekend trips to Provincetown are amazingly refreshing.

6. People were right--going to the gym is good. If nothing else, it pulls you away from the books.

7. I'm pretty good at planning. Following through...meh, we'll go with okay.

8. Mascara makes your eye lashes look longer.

9. Complimenting yourself totes feels lame and awesome at the same time.

10. 11 hour train rides, even with your loves, are long.

11. Even if something is super hard and time consuming, if you really want to do it, it's cool. Doesn't make it suck any less, but at least it's cool.

12. I think I want to get a tattoo.

So that's my list. Happy New Year! I hope I learn a lot this year, academically, personally, bakery-ly, cookingly, TV-ly, Reading-ly, etc. I have an idea for a recipe--maybe this weekend? :-)