February 21st, 2009


In Which Bankers Act Like Greedy Morons Again

I found this article about an obnoxious new habit that some banks have: they're stealing money from unemployment benefits. I say "stealing" because the banks cut deals with state agencies; instead of getting paper checks, recipients now have to choose between direct deposit or prepaid cards. The banks are tacking on fees for all kinds of stuff -- including complaints.

Jobless Hit With Bank Fees on Benefits
The Associated Press: "First, Arthur Santa-Maria called Bank of America to ask how to check the balance of his new unemployment benefits debit card. The bank charged him 50 cents. He chose not to complain. That would have cost another 50 cents."

This is greedy, because the banks are taking money from people who have very little and whose choices in the deal are very limited. And it's moronic, because if you've set up a way to channel lots of people into using your services, the last thing you should be doing is making them hate you. You should be making them think of you as a good business partner. This is all about grabbing as much cash as possible as fast as possible, regardless of the harm done -- which is the kind of thinking that's behind the market collapse in the first place.

Solutions: 1) Complain to the bank in person. That way, you have an audience of other bank customers. If they get enough complaints, sometimes businesses backtrack and stop being so obnoxious. 2) Complain to all of your elected officials. Demand that they provide unemployment benefits in a way that does not include putting some bank's hand directly into the recipient's pocket.

Hey, Extra! Another Generally Sponsored Poetry Poll

Another donation has come in, so you get to vote on more poetry from the February 2009 Poetry Fishbowl. The current list of donors for this month is: jenny_evergreen, minor_architect, laturner, and janetmiles. Thank you all for your enthusiasm!

Poll #1353139 Extra Poetry Poll for February 2009 Fishbowl

Which of the following options do you prefer?

"Explain Away"
"Silicon Skin and Carbon Hearts" AND "Two Wheels, One Road"
"Silicon Skin and Carbon Hearts" AND "Frontal Exposure"
"The Narcissus Code" AND "Two Wheels, One Road"
"The Narcissus Code" AND "Frontal Exposure"
"Two Wheels, One Road" AND "Frontal Exposure"
Kneading, Cheap Cookin

Beef Chuck Roast with Onions & Mushrooms

I made this earlier in the month. It's a dual recipe, one for the main dish and then another for dressing up the leftovers.

Beef Chuck Roast with Onions & Mushrooms

3 lb. beef chuck roast
fresh-ground black pepper
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
bay leaf
1 can beef broth
1 large can sliced mushrooms
2 large cloves garlic
2 onions


Rinse the beef chuck roast and place in a large bowl. Generously cover all surfaces of roast with fresh-ground black pepper, rotating meat as necessary. Use a toothpick or roasting fork to make deep punctures all over the roast.

For marinade: combine 1 cup red wine vinegar, 1 cup water, and 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce. Pour marinade gently over the roast. Add bay leaf. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Next day: transfer roast to large crock pot, including the bay leaf. Discard the remainder of the marinade. Pour one can of beef broth over the roast. Drain can of mushrooms and add mushrooms to crock pot. Turn crock pot on Low.

Peel and mince two large cloves of garlic. Peel and quarter two sweet onions. Add to crock pot.

Cook on Low for 5-6 hours. Occasionally spoon broth over roast. After a few hours, flip over the roast if possible. Roast is done when the onions are translucent and the meat is tender – it should shred with a fork.


Canned mushrooms are easy and cheap, but fresh mushrooms would give better flavor.

The garlic cloves I happened to have were huge. Use 4-5 small cloves.

“Two onions” actually meant one whole onion, and what was left after subtracting the 3 tablespoons of diced onion I needed for another recipe.

I served this with roasted potato wedges topped by parmesan cheese, which is where the diced onion went.

This recipe was very popular with my guinea pigs. The meat is very tender and juicy, with a bright tangy note from the vinegar.

* * *
Recipe for Leftovers

beef roast leftovers
1 envelope mushroom gravy powder
1 cup water
1 maggi cube


Shred the leftover beef roast and mix it with any leftover onions and mushrooms, if this hasn’t already been done. Microwave briefly to warm leftovers, stirring as needed.

In a medium pot, combine 1 envelope of mushroom gravy powder with 1 cup water (or follow directions on packet if they differ). Heat to boiling. When gravy begins to thicken, spoon in the beef leftovers and stir to combine. Turn heat down to simmer. Stir occasionally.

Read the coucous box to figure out how much you need to prepare in order to serve the number of people you’re feeding. Put the necessary amount of water in a pot, add 1 maggi cube, and heat to boiling. Stir in the necessary amount of couscous, remove from heat, cover and set aside for 5 minutes. (Or follow box directions, if they differ.) Fluff couscous with fork before serving.

Dish out the couscous and serve the beef atop or beside it.


Leftover recipes are flexible with proportions. When I made this, I think we had about a pound of beef leftovers. If you have more abundant leftovers, you might need an extra envelope of gravy. I also made couscous for three people; if you’re making 5 or more servings of couscous, throw in an extra maggi cube.

The mushroom gravy mix makes a much more mushroomy-flavored beef dish. Plain brown gravy would also work if you’re not a big fan of mushrooms. We love mushrooms, and the change in flavor also made this seem less like leftovers.

The beef topping could just as well be served over rice, bread, noodles, etc.

Maggi cubes are sort of like spiced bullion, and used in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking. I think they have more interesting flavor than ordinary chicken or beef bullion.

Couscous is whole-grain semolina in little bits. You can make couscous with just about any kind of broth, bullion, or similar flavoring. (It can also be made with plain water, but that’s not nearly as good.) Use what you have and like.