This economy is real to me. Like most people in 2008, I was laid off. Coincidentally, I received a part-time job. Receiving a part-time job during that time period was extremely lucky, but it also meant several of my bills went unpaid for two years into now. Then last November; I was let go from the part-time job. Unemployment covers the rent and utilities. There’s a little left for food and limited transportation. Each week, I’m down to a few dollars before receiving unemployment benefit. Between the financial instability, I’ve dealt with a few emotional blows. So, yes… these past few years have been financially difficult.
Many people don’t know about my situation, for they may be shocked. I’ve managed to keep my head high. This week, just when I thought life was going to turn around, I received another rejection email. Such a little rejection shouldn’t make me upset, but it did. While waiting for their news, I started to hope again. There were dreams of buying new furniture, clothes, shoes, and going grocery shopping without adhering to a strict budget.
Initially, grocery shopping while on a budget is was foreign to me. My sister and I grew up putting any thing we thought was needed in the grocery basket (The candy, chip, and soda aisle were skipped, because our parents clearly said it wasn’t an option). Ironically, the first time I became aware of my strict budget, was in the grocery store, December 2008. While at the cash register, my debit cards weren’t approved, nor was there enough cash in my wallet. Sadly, I put away several items. It was the first time in my life, I understood shopping for just the bare necessities.
So, why am I bringing this personal information up? I’m not alone. Many people are going through similar experiences, but we’re too proud to talk about it. After all, I have a Master’s degree from one of the top art schools in the country. An associate of my boyfriend sent a text message requesting $40.00 for food, because she was homeless. She used to be a Director at a major museum. Two years ago, someone else sent him a text message asking for money, because they lost their job. In addition, if they couldn’t find work soon, the government would deport them. A friend of mine is losing weight by not being on a planned diet, for they can’t afford groceries. This economy isn’t just real to me, it’s real to many people. We’re all starving for jobs.
My hopes were dashed for reason. I have to find a way out of this financial low in my life. The reality of returning to a nine to five job may be just a dream. Truthfully, I don’t how to “hustle” more than two jobs, but that’s how most people live these days. Instead of staying inside writing resumes and cover letters, I’m realizing it’s time to “hit the pavement.” Collect little jobs here and there, and let the money add up. Devise a financial plan to get off of unemployment insurance. Think of a few business ideas and work on several of them concurrently.
This experience is humbling and emotionally difficult. I just placed a thank you card to the person who rejected me via email, along with my Mother’s Day cards in the mail. This time, I’m lucky to afford cards and stamps. My Christmas cards from last year are at the bottom of a desk drawer. Addressed, sealed, and read to go. At the last minute, I learned there wasn’t enough money to buy stamps. They’re ready for next Christmas.
When I was young and carefree, mom worked long hours, and she would stock up on TV dinners. Our favorite meal was Chicken Pot Pie that came frozen in their tin foil plates packaged in perfect square boxes. My sister and I would spend 30 minutes to one hour watching the chicken potpie in the oven’s window go from frozen solid to bubbly hot and crispy. When it was ready, we eagerly broke the pie’s crust to watch the steam escape. Our impatient tongues were burnt for placing a piece in our months too soon. It never seemed as if those little pies were enough, for we wanted more.
Making it from scratch isn’t hard, and it’s a cheap to make. A whole chicken is purchased, but only the chicken breasts are used. The other parts are frozen for later. Carrots, onions, peas, celery, and mushrooms are inexpensive to purchase. The crust is only butter, flour, salt and a little water. Admittedly, chicken stock, half and half, and wine (Wine is optional. Use two cups of chicken stock if omitting the wine) are a bit costly. Of course, truffle oil adds an earthier flavor, but it’s an optional ingredient. It’s in the pantry, because it was won from another food blogger’s contest (I wish to remember her name). Making a chicken potpie takes about two hours, from prepping to baking to waiting 15 minutes to cool before serving. This was actually made last Easter, for the ingredients were prepped the Saturday before the resurrection. It was served with deviled eggs.
Chicken Potpie is a comfort dish. I need it right now… at this time in my life. Just pure, solid comfort to reassure life is going to be okay. The reality of life right now is it’s not carefree anymore. The silly kid in me thought I could idle by the oven awaiting a chance. Its time to let go of the nostalgia of the nine to five job my Mom had from Monday to Friday with solid weekends off. In this era, it’s about being a freelancer or hustler working hard 24/7, for they play outside. They’re always moving and on the go. In my dire want to fulfill a dream of achieving a comfortable job, I’ve placed myself in an extremely uncomfortable financial situation. In reality, it’s time to rethink my dreams. Release my career ideals. Redefine what’s comfortable today and keep it moving into tomorrow.
Chicken Pot Pie
6 tbsp. butter
1 cup onions; minced
½ cup celery; diced
1 cup carrots; diced
1 jalapeno; rib discarded and diced
2 cloves garlic; minced
8 to 10 oz. mushrooms; quartered
Sea salt and fresh black pepper; to taste
Crushed red pepper; to taste
6 tbsp. flour
1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
1 cup white wine
1 cup organic half and half; well shaken
2 cups potatoes; cleaned and diced; blanched
1-1/2 cup peas; if frozen, defrosted
2 to 3 cups shredded cooked chicken; cooked
(Optional) 2 to 3 tbsp. truffle oil
½ to ¾ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley and/or dill; minced
1 recipe for Pie Crust (Same recipe as apple pie crust)
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease an 8x8x2 or 9x9x2 inch square baking dish.
2. In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions, celery, carrots, and jalapeno. Mix until onion is translucent and the other vegetables are soften.
3. Add garlic and stir for less than 30 seconds and don’t burn it. Add mushrooms and season with salt, black and red peppers. When the mushrooms are almost soft, add flour. The flour mixture with the vegetables will turn a faint golden/creamy color, a blond roux.
4. Stir in chicken stock and wine. Adjust seasonings. Stir until the mixture starts to thicken for about four minutes. Add the half and half and cook for an additional four minutes.
5. Mix in the potatoes, peas, truffle oil (optional) and chicken. Adjust seasoning.
6. Using the larger half of the pie dough, place it at the bottom of the greased dish (The same directions as lining an apple pie dish, but using a square baking dish).
7. Place the chicken pot pie filling over the bottom crust. Roll the smaller half of the pie dough on top. Cut three holes. Crimp and seal edges.
8. Place Chicken Pot Pie over a baking sheet in the oven.
9. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and crispy.
10. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
Note: If there’s left over filling freeze it for later. Use it to make Chicken a la King by defrosting the filling before reheating it. Purchase a medium sized round bread and scoop out the interior to make a “bowl” shape. After reheating the Chicken Pot Pie filling, place the filling in the “bowl” of the bread. You have an elegant dinner to brag about.
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