Saturday, December 29, 2018

Cranberry Ginger Shrubs

Have you tried shrubs? They're an old-fashioned drinking vinegar, and delicious in lots of combinations. I heard of them a year or two ago, and recently realized how easy they are to make. This recipe is perfect for winter: cranberries, ginger, and cinnamon condensed in vinegar. I think the key with shrubs is in the cooking down of the vinegar -- it takes down a lot of the acidity, but leaves a tangy flavor. 

Shrubs are great in either cocktails or mixed in with other beverages like sparking water, so I'm including a drink recipe below that can be made as either a cocktail or mocktail. 

Cranberry Ginger Shrubs 

Makes about 1.5 cups 

2 C fresh cranberries 
1 C apple cider vinegar 
1/2 C water 
1/4 C brown sugar 
1 T fresh ginger, chopped into 1/2-inch match sticks 
2 cinnamon sticks 
dash ground cinnamon 

1. Combine all ingredients in small sauce pan; cover and simmer until cranberries are soft and starting to pop, about 10-12 minutes. 
2. Remove from heat and let sit until liquid is room temperature, about 30 minutes. 
3. Pour all of mixture into an airtight container and refrigerate for 8-12 hours. 
4. Strain mixture through a mesh strainer (removing cranberries and ginger). Keep cinnamon sticks and add to container for flavor. 
5. Transfer to airtight container (I use a mason jar). Keep refrigerated. Lasts one month. 

Winter Cranberry Ginger Shrubs Cocktail or Mocktail 

Makes one drink 

1.5 ounces cranberry ginger shrubs (1 shot) 
1.5 ounces bourbon (1 shot) ** for cocktail 
3-4 drops bitters ** non-alcoholic version for mocktail 
1/4 C coconut sparking water or ginger beer (based on flavor preference - both are great!) 
1/4 C apple cider (preferably fresh or unfiltered) 
2 lemon slices as garnish 

Combine all ingredients in cocktail glass. Enjoy! 

Friday, August 17, 2018


A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be able to squeeze in a two-day trip to Charleston, South Carolina on a short flight from DC. It was a solo trip with two goals: photography and restaurants. Charleston totally delivered on both. I couldn't even begin to try and adequately cover the amazing Charleston restaurant scene from one trip (but please go to the Hominy Grill if you go!), but I thought I'd post some of my favorite shots from the trip. 

Central Charleston is an extremely walkable and photogenic area, full of what seem like endless layers of historic houses, gardens, and parks, all of which feel cloaked in a layer of mystery from the natural environment of live oaks and Spanish moss.  


Monday, January 15, 2018

Green Juice

Hope everyone's 2018 is off to a good start! With the long weekend, I had a little time to catch up on some things I'd had on my list to do forever, including getting back into juicing. I used to use my juicer regularly, and then totally fell away from it the last few years. 

I had a lot of greens in the fridge this weekend, though, and thought it would be a good opportunity to try out making a green juice. Green juice just instantly makes me feel healthy. A mason jar of this in my bag tomorrow seems like a good way to transition back to work after a three-day weekend with a little extra energy, right? 

Green Juice 

Adapted from a couple of recipes in The Juicing Bible, second edition

Four servings

3 apples, cored
6 stalks celery
8 sprigs parsley*
3-4 handfuls of spinach
1 bunch of kale (about 6-8 stalks)

Turn on juicer before adding any ingredients. Once juicer is running, add in all ingredients.

Juice can be stored in a container (mason jars work well) for several days in the refrigerator. Add in still or sparking water for a less intense flavor.

* Please note that parsley should be avoided during pregnancy or in causes of kidney inflammation

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Roasted Delicata Squash Kale Salad with Maple Tahini Dressing

It's been a difficult couple of weeks news-wise, and for me, often a carefully-planned and satisfying meal is the best comfort. This week, I made a salad with roasted delicata squash, and it really hit the balance between rich comfort food and being healthy. 

Have you tried delicata squash? I first tried it a few years ago, and now it's the epitome of autumn to me. It's super easy to cook -- you cook it with the skin on, and it's delicious roasted -- and has a great squash flavor.

What's also great about this recipe is that the different components are super versatile and could easily be used in other dishes -- the maple tahini dressing has a really interesting, nutty flavor, and the roasted squash is great on it's own. 

Also, a podcast to try out while you cook. I thought the "Anna in Somalia" episode was really moving, and made me re-realize I still need to read Anna Karenina. 

Roasted Delicata Squash Kale Salad with Maple Tahini Dressing

Makes 3-4 large servings

1 medium delicata squash
1 T olive oil
1-2 T honey
salt and pepper
dash of chili powder
dash of garlic powder
dash of paprika
1/3 C goat cheese, crumbled
About 3 cups baby kale or chopped regular kale (no ribs or stems)
1/4 C dried cranberries
1/2 C chopped walnuts


1 small clove garlic, peeled and grated
½ cup olive oil 
¼ cup tahini (sesame paste)
3 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon molasses
dash of paprika  
3/4 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper or white pepper

1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees F. Slice squash in half and clean out seeds with spoon. Slice each half into C-shaped pieces by slicing horizontally. Place on baking sheet or 9 x 13 pan. Drizzle 1 T olive oil over squash, along with 1-2 T of honey, and then season to taste with salt and pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, and paprika. Squash pieces should be lightly coated with oil, honey, and spices.
2. Bake squash until golden brown, about 40-45 minutes. 
3. Prepare dressing by mixing all dressing ingredients; a mason jar with a lid works well for shaking to mix ingredients. 
4. Assemble salads: on a bed of the kale, add roasted squash, goat cheese, dried cranberries, chopped walnuts, and drizzle dressing over it all. 

Enjoy! Happy fall! 


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Photo of the Day: Bye, Summer

I was on vacation for the past week in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and have to go back to work tomorrow. Before fully facing being back in the real world, I'm going through photos from the trip, and really like this one taken of my sister looking out at the lake at golden hour. 

With the yellow in the trees, there is also something very autumnal about this photo. Do you also feel this time of year like you can feel the season changing day to day? 

Monday, July 3, 2017

S'mores Bark

If you're like me and having an urban Fourth of July weekend (which is lovely in its own right), here's a small way to bring a bit of the beach and campfires to your weekend or BBQ plans. I made these for the first time last year pretty randomly, and they are SO easy. You're basically just melting the ingredients of a s'more into an easily-transportable bark. S'mores have such an unmistakable flavor that they're an immediate bite of summer. 

Enjoy and Happy Fourth!

S'mores Bark 

Makes a 9x9 square
Prep time: About 20 min. 
Refrigeration time: About 60 min. 

3 4.25 ounce chocolate bars (e.g. large Hershey's bars), either milk or dark**
3/4 C mini marshmallows
3/4 C graham crackers broken into small pieces 

1. Line a 9x9 pan with parchment paper; paper will probably not lie down flat yet, which is fine. 
2. Crumble the graham crackers into small pieces, but not letting them get completely powdery. 
3. Break the chocolate into small pieces in a glass bowl, and microwave for two to three minutes, until melted, stirring half-way through. 
4. Once chocolate is melted, add in about a half cup of each the mini marshmallows and graham crackers (leaving the rest for the top) into the glass bowl, and stir until everything is coated with chocolate. 
5. Pour the mixture into the parchment paper-lined pan, and smooth out with a spatula so that mixture goes to edges of pan. Hold down the parchment paper in corners so that the liquid spreads to edges of pan. 
6. Pour remaining marshmallows and graham crackers over top of bark. 
7. Refrigerate for about an hour, until chocolate is completely cooled and solid. 
8. Using a large knife, chop bark into equally-sized squares. 

**I like a mix of milk and dark, and used two dark and one milk this time

Monday, April 17, 2017

Kusama, Museums, and the Experience Economy

Last month, I visited the record-setting, hard-to-get-into Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirrors exhibit at the Hirshhorn Museum here in DC. 

I went, I stood in line, and I selfie-d. 

The exhibit is based on standing for 15-30-second timed sessions in around a half dozen "Infinity Rooms," which are small installation rooms with different designs of lights and mirrors illuminating their interiors, suggesting the feeling of infinity. They're beautiful and evocative. Three or so hours later, though, because of the long lines and limited time in each, I had probably actually experienced them for less than five minutes total. 

This article in the Washington Post today puts into words a lot of what I thought of the exhibit, and raises some really interesting questions about museums and art, as well as the mixed outcome of the so-called "experience economy" in general. 

Regarding the Kusama exhibit in particular, the author makes a great point about how the rushed experience gets in the way of the ultimate objective of the art: 

"Unfortunately, Kusama’s basic aesthetic — her fascination with infinity and repetition and the way these things can obliterate the ego (like being dwarfed by a sea of stars on a cloudless night) — is lost when the time in each room is so rushed. You have barely registered the basic look of the space when there is a knock on the door and it opens, daylight rushes in and you’re on your way to the next one."

He also introduced me to a label for a phenomenon I've definitely noticed of late, which is that many services are geared towards an "Experience Economy," meaning that people, whether they are museum patrons or customers, are "more interested in experiencing things (like travel, art, social gatherings) than buying material objects." I'm sure we've all seen a heap of think pieces in the last few years about the value of prioritizing experiences over material possessions. 

The article's author has something really interesting to say about both the opportunities and problems presented in such an economy for art and museums. By design, museums and art offer an experience, suggesting that museums could be more popular than ever in such a context, but that experience can also be commodified, arguably interrupting the experience. 

On the opportunities for museums in an "experience economy:"

"The Experience Economy also seems to promise a reservoir of fundamentally aesthetic interest in the world — better to enjoy a sunset on the beach or an afternoon at the Kusama exhibit than hoard up useless money in your back account. That seemingly anti-materialistic energy could be diverted into a more prominent social role and perhaps better bottom line for museums. It seems to be an egalitarian system, too, rewarding people for their curiosity, engagement and willingness to wait in line rather than merely for their socioeconomic status."

And the potential pitfalls: 

"And it is something that can be exchanged. Placing the selfie on social media not only substitutes for the experience that didn’t in fact happen, it engages the audience in an economy of images, including exchange, competition and reward (praise, “likes,” retweets). The experience at the core of the Experience Economy is now looking not so different from any other commodity, although it is less tangible."

The more popular and more easily captured for social media an exhibit is, the more likely it would seem that the experience would be compromised, resulting in the exact opposite of what we might hope for for art in an "experience economy." 

What do you think? Can art be popular today without being turned into a commodity? Is social media to blame? What's positive about the experience economy?