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Where Food, Agriculture, and Social Media Intersect

11 May

Food is one of the most basic of human needs. What we choose to eat is a very personal decision that is also becoming increasingly politicized. As more people turn to the Internet to discuss food-related issues, more farmers and members of the agricultural community have embraced social media to build relationships and break out of their traditional silos (no pun intended).

Use the link below to view a visual, spreadable pin board that uses social media theory to explore the effectiveness of some of agriculture’s use of these new tools. This shareable item was created within the community. (This is a tool very similar to the uber-popular Pinterest. Admittedly, I had planned to host this project on Pinterest but never received an invitation to join after applying for the privilege!) This is my first foray into the “pinning” social media platforms. Each selected item includes both an image and a caption explaining its relevance.


Aside from my obvious personal connection to agriculture, I chose to explore the burgeoning field of online agricultural communications for this project because it is very representative of many of the concepts that we studied throughout this course. As Habermas explained, the rise of the public sphere provides a never-before-enjoyed voice to the masses. Today’s public and private spheres are merging together due to the ubiquity of social media. This has been a challenge for the agricultural community because most farmers tend to be very private people who haven’t traditionally taken the time to engage directly with consumers.

Several of the highlighted social media tactics embrace Habermas’ description of the public sphere. Online communities such as #agchat on Twitter rely on inclusivity. They allow farmers divided by geography, interests, financial demographics, and crop specialty to engage in conversations on areas of common concern. Each week, #agchat hosts an interactive Twitter chat with a rotating theme that is chosen by crowd-sourcing. Social media provides a louder voice to a small group of people – today, less than 2 percent of Americans actively engage in food production. There is a large urban-rural divide that farmers are now able to cross thanks to technology.

We frequently see illustrations of the convergence culture within this field – for example, some very creative farmers created an #occupycombine movement last year to raise awareness for an important annual event in the agricultural calendar… planting. Farmers across the U.S. “occupied” their combines to plant their crops at the same time that protestors were occupying Wall Street, albeit for very different reasons!

On the other hand, social media does have its drawbacks. Agriculture has been hurt by the negativity that online communication can generate. Sometimes social media can enhance extreme ideologies rather than encourage rational public discourse. We saw this most recently in the so-called “pink slime” fiasco, which was driven by a highly-spreadable photo and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. While food safety experts spoke out against the defamation of “lean finely textured beef”, the damage to public opinion was already done.

The over-arching goal of agriculture’s involvement in social media is to build consumer trust in food production. Farmers are exploring the best way to accomplish this. Earlier in this semester, Jenkins highlighted the importance of trust and user choice. Contrary to popular belief, memes and other popular content can’t automatically go “viral”. They must contain highly “spreadable” content that users actively choose to share with their connections. This is a challenge for those in the agriculture community. Many are more comfortable talking about science than creating sound bites or images that are easily understood by the public. Many are realizing that the key to a successful online presence is building relationships. Several of the items posted on my board include new strategies that farmers and agriculture companies are using to encourage sharing.

As a farm girl, agriculture professional, and media student, I find the increased adoption of social media by the farm community to be exciting. Never before has agriculture enjoyed such a useful and easy to use tool to connect with the non-farm public. I believe that social media will continue to be an important way for farmers to protect the future of their way of life in the years to come.

You can view my works cited here: Citations.


Coming Full Circle – Cinnamon Roll Edition

28 Apr

Ever have one of those weeks? You know, when there just aren’t enough hours in the day? And tensions start to run high? And, much like a reality TV program, things between you and your co workers stop being polite and start getting REAL?

I pulled nearly 12 hour days all week in preparation for my  work’s annual conference, which starts on Monday. My near future is bound to be exhausting.

But I have a secret weapon to boost staff morale. On Monday morning I will be rolling into work with a couple of pans of these bad boys.

Behold. The ultimate cinnamon roll, courtesy of The Pioneer Woman. (I figured it would be appropriate to pay homage one last time to my favorite ranch wife-turned food blogger since my first post celebrated her delish potato skins.)

But honestly, what better way is there to start off a long week than with a little doughy sweet goodness?

The thing about these cinnamon rolls is that they require a significant a time investment. You have to set aside enough time to let the dough rise (at least an hour). But the other thing about these cinnamon rolls is that you can easily make them ahead of time, freeze them in the pan and bake them immediately before you would like to enjoy them. (As I just did!)

The full recipe is available here: Beware – it makes 40 to 50 cinnamon rolls. Honestly. If you don’t need that many cinnamon rolls in your life, please halve the recipe. (That is what I normally do.)

One last note – PW’s (really delicious) icing recipe calls for maple flavoring and coffee. If you don’t happen to have maple flavoring on hand (and who does?), I suggest using my little trick: Mix 2 cups powdered sugar with 1/4 cup milk (more if needed), a few tablespoons of melted butter, and a few tablespoons of coffee. It works wonders.

Enjoy! This is one of my all-time favorite recipes. If you would like to learn a bit more about PW and her amazing, beautiful, gorgeous ranch, check out this post:

Another guaranteed antidote to a rough week?

Meet Porkchop (sharing my Snuggie):

Have a great weekend!

Avocados Anonymous

22 Apr

When I was in college, one of the first silly Facebook groups that I remember joining was “I could eat cereal for any meal“.

Because, honestly. That pretty much summed up my life. I was a cereal addict. And for good reason: cereal is tasty, economical, and convenient.

However, as I have gotten older, my tastes have become somewhat more refined. Cereal has been replaced by homemade guacamole as my go-to meal. Because, while guac is somewhat more labor intensive to make, much like cereal, is it perfect for any situation.

(Proof that you can really find anything on Etsy – and to clarify, I do not own these. 🙂 )

Home alone late after work and don’t know what to eat for dinner? Guacamole!
Friends coming over to watch the game? Guacamole!
Forgot to eat breakfast and need something to eat RIGHT NOW? Guacamole!

Ordering guacamole at a restaurant can be dangerous. You never know what you are going to get – sometimes it is too mushy and you might even end up (gasp) with pre-packaged guac, which shouldn’t even count as guac at all! So in my mind, it is always better to just make it for yourself.

Below is my favorite guacamole recipe of all time. Guacamole + bacon = perfect.

Bacon Guacamole

(Image and recipe adapted from

(Serves 2-3, depending on how much they love guacamole)

4 strips of bacon, crumbled
2 large avocados, mashed
1 medium tomato, seeded and finely diced
1/4 cup white onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste


Cook the bacon until crispy and set it aside on paper towels to drain. Crumble it up.
Mix everything.

Sadly, I have realized (but don’t understand how it can be possible) that not everyone in this world is an avocado lover. Are you a guacamole fan? Do you have your own favorite recipe?

The Great Coffee Debate

14 Apr

(Check out the full Hipster Barista collection to see where coffee and memes collide.)

Honestly, I wasn’t much of a coffee drinker until I came to D.C. Sure, back in undergrad I often found myself camped out at the local coffee shops with a latte in hand to get some homework done, but over the last few years I have definitely kicked it up a notch or two.

I have also learned that some people are ver-r-r-y passionate about their coffee selections. There are a few different camps – those who love Starbucks with all of their hearts, others who hate Starbucks with a vengeance in favor of local shops, and some who don’t really care as long as they get their caffeine NOW.

I fall somewhere in the middle. At home, I rely on my old reliable French Press filled with whatever coffee I happen to have  at the moment. Politics don’t really motivate my coffee decisions; I am an equal opportunity macchiato enthusiast. But I do have an appreciation for what my local coffee institutions bring to the table.

Below are a few stand-out purveyors of caffeine in the Capitol Hill neighborhood – do you have a favorite?

1. Starbucks

237 Pennsylvania Ave SE

What can I say about Starbucks that you don’t already know? I consider this location to be “my” Starbucks. A couple weeks ago we ran into Eric Cantor there and he was surprisingly pleasant. If you are feeling fancy, this particular shop is one of only about 250 Starbucks stores in the whole  U.S. that has the Clover Brewing System, a specialty filter that i can honestly say makes a difference. Also: there is an upstairs with a sweet fireplace a small conference room that you can reserve for meetings, book clubs, or whatev. It is kind of a neighborhood secret, so shhh!

2. Pound Coffee

621 Pennsylvania Ave SE
Pound opened up a year or two ago on Pennsylvania Avenue. In terms of ambiance, it can’t be beat. The iced nutella latte (!!) is a winner. It also serves a full menu (homemade hummus is my fave) and recently started selling beer and wine. This is the place that I will go when I need to  get some work done late at night. But beware – seating goes fast during peak hours and it gets a little too crowded for my taste. This is a great spot to grab lunch or a blended coffee beverage on the  go with a friend.

3. Peregrine Espresso

660 Pennsylvania Ave SE

Peregrine has two locations – the other is on U Street. They make hands down the best latte that I have had. Be sure to order an iced vanilla latte with whole milk if you can – don’t skimp on the non-fat (trust me, it’s worth it.) The down side – there is  not much seating and the line gets long.  I recommend  visiting Peregrine during a weekend trip to Eastern Market. But be aware – the serving sizes are a lot smaller than the Grande or Venti that you may be used to. This is coffee meant to savor.


Peeps Take The Cake

7 Apr

Happy spring!

I will be spending Easter with my cousins and their kids (ages 15, 13, 7, 6, and 1) in Baltimore. Being the good holiday guest that I am, my first inclination was to whip up a fun, family-friendly dessert for the occasion.

Now, back home in California, the tradition is to make a quote-on-quote “bunny cake” to bring to the family Easter celebration. I have made such a cake for as long as I can remember.

To help you visualize:

However, this year, I was feeling adventurous. This year, my horizons would be broadened. This year, a new cake would be on the menu.

I give you, the Peeps (TM) Sunflower Cake.

But first, a fun fact about Peeps, the sugary little treat that some people love and others love to hate. In 1954, the “Just Born” company launched the candy line. Back them, it took 27 minutes to make a Peep. Today it takes just 6 minutes, thanks to the modern miracle of science. And faster ovens. For more Easter food trivia, check out Yum Sugar.

Recipe adapted from


1 package (18-1/4 ounces) yellow cake mix
(You could always make your cake from scratch – I love this recipe, but I have to say that there is just *something* that tastes so right about a Duncan Hines Butter Yellow cake mix.)
2 tubs chocolate frosting2 packages yellow chick Peeps
1/2 bag dark chocolate chocolate chips


Bake cake according to package directions (about 25 minutes at 325 degrees), using two  9-inch round baking pans. Cool completely. (Please disregard the Stella in the photo below; they are a necessary part of the baking process…)

Level tops of cakes. Spread frosting between layers and over the top and sides of cake. (I added some chocolate chips to the middle layer, too!) Smooth the sides with a knife.

Without separating Peeps and curving slightly to fit, arrange chicks around edge of cake for sunflower petals.

For sunflower seeds, arrange chocolate chips in center of cake. Voila!

Happy baking! This is one of those recipes that is so simple to make but brings a definite “WOW” factor. If you do happen to suffer a baking mishap, never fear. Please make yourself acquainted with one of my favorite time-wasters er websites: cake wrecks. Honestly. It will warm your heart.

Thanks for reading!

Something Old and Something New On Capitol Hill

1 Apr

The great thing about living on Capitol Hill is that there is no shortage of food options. Today, I wanted to share a couple of my old and new favorite food establishments located in my neck of the woods.

First, meet Hunan Dynasty.

When the work days are long… and the school work just doesn’t seem to let up… and the thought of cooking is simply too exhausting to comprehend… Hunan is the first place that I call. I am not going to pretend that this is the most authentic Asian cuisine but there’s something to be said for having the option to order Chinese and sushi at the same place. It’s a one-stop-shop, if you will.

Hunan is a family-run business located at 215 Pennsylvania Ave SE. If you go inside, you will find the walls of the humbly decorated establishment covered with photos of the owners posing with the Washington’s “A List” – Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, and just about every Congressperson under the sun. But I mostly turn to Hunan for delivery. (I grew up in rural, RURAL Northern California where the closest Starbucks was at least 30 minutes away. Delivery was not an option. I have to admit that living in the city does have its perks!)

If you live near Capitol Hill and haven’t tried Hunan yet, I would suggest the sushi (California roll is just $4.50! The spider roll never disappoints!) and/or the chicken lo mein. The wantons are so-so. The portions and pricing are generous.

Now, for something ENTIRELY different, meet the new kid on the block, Sapore.

It’s the Hill’s first specialty olive oil and balsamic shop! This place is brand new – just opened on March 18. Last Saturday, I dragged my boyfriend through the rain to check out the new digs at 660 Pennsylvania Avenue SE (right next to Eastern Market). All I can say is WOW. “Sapore” means “taste” in Italian and I can honestly say it lived up to its name!

You can sample olive oils and balsamics from around the world. They bottle them for you on site. In addition to regular ol’ olive oil, flavors include meyer lemon, garlic, blood orange and much more. They have flavors I have ever heard of. Case in point: champagne infused vinegar.

I walked out of there with a bottle of Italian herb infused olive oil and a California blackberry balsamic for about $12 each. If you enjoy a good crusty bread and olive oil as much as me, I would heartily suggest you to check Sapore out. (Plus, the owner was really nice and it always feels good to support a local business.)

If you are interested in learning more about where some of that delicious olive oil comes from, follow the tweets from in Paso Robles, CA or check out the Facebook page – Lucero is located in Northern California pretty close to where I grew up!

What is your guilty food pleasure? Do you have a favorite locally-owned shop in your neighborhood?

What I Did On My Spring Break: Or, A Few Delicious Things I Ate At Disney World

22 Mar

Last week I had the unbelievable good fortune of being sent to Orlando for work. (Coincidentally, my trip just happened to fall during GWU’s spring break week.)

Unfortunately, the conference hotel had sold out long before I had a chance to snag a room. But you know what they say – when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. I took it as a sign that it was meant to be that I turned my business travel to a mini-vacation. Without a second thought, I booked a room in a Disney World resort instead. And you had better believe it was SO worth it.

After the conference was over, I spent a couple of extra days exploring Disney World for the first time. I’m a California girl, so Disney Land I understand. But Disney World? It’s a whole ‘nother ball game. I mean, the Magic Kingdom’s Cinderella castle is like Disney Land’s version, but on steroids.

Going to Disney World as an child-less adult has its perks. No strollers to hold you back from easily navigating around crowds waiting in line to meet Winnie the Pooh. (Although I will admit that, I did get my picture taken with at least one character.) No worrying about if/when your kid will suffer a meltdown in one of the countless gift shops over which stuffed Mickey he will get to take home. And, perhaps most importantly, the freedom to choose when and what you feel like eating.

Disney World as an adult is fun, and I dare say, the food can be great. Without further ado, here is a list of the top five fun foods that I enjoyed during my Disney long weekend.

1. Mickey Pretzel


The ubiquitous snack food can be found at nearly every cart inside the park. I don’t know what they put in these things (extra salt? pure joy?) but oh man they are good.

2. Specialty Apples At the Candy Cauldron


These apples are a double whammy – pretty AND tasty. Almost too cute too eat… almost.

3. Red Cup Special At JellyRoll’s


Like I said, being an adult at Disney World is fun. This piano bar features classics (Sweet Caroline) and Disney tunes (Be Our Guest) and BIG (32 ounce) drink specials. Also, check out the River Roost Lounge at the Port Orleans Riverside hotel. The nightly piano improv is pretty entertaining.

4. Fish Tacos at Kona Cafe


This mid-priced restaurant is located within the Polynesian Resort, which goes to great lengths to make you feel like you are on a tropical island. It’s like you walked into Hawaii – the scent of tropical flowers somehow fills the hotel and there is a VOLCANO WATER SLIDE at the pool. Kona Cafe is renowned for its coffee but the fish tacos weren’t half bad either!

5. Salmon at Artist Point


After a long day of waiting in line for rides, sometimes you just need to get away. I highly recommend Artist Point restaurant in the gorgeous Wilderness Lodge resort. This hotel is themed like Yellowstone Park in all of its splendor (it has its own geyser – pretty impressive) and the restaurant’s menu features foods from the Pacific Northwest. The salmon was perfectly cooked and served with potatoes and carrots. I also shared the cheese plate (blue cheese, goat cheese, and a gouda cheddar) which was perfectly paired with a selection of breads, honeycomb, and fruit.

I must admit that I have barely scratched the surface of the magical dining opportunities that Disney offers… and I think that is the perfect excuse to go back! Have you been? Make any good-food memories?

A New Take On “America Eats”

3 Mar

(Image via.)

Last weekend, I had my first “Jose Andres” experience.

It was a cold, dreary Saturday. I was juuuust about to settle in for a few chapters of The Hunger Games (guilty pleasure) when suddenly, I heard brunch calling my name.

And that’s a call that you just can’t refuse, am I wrong? So, with boyfriend in tow, I ventured out into the wind and rain to a restaurant that I have been dying to try for quite a while – America Eats Tavern in Penn Quarter.

This little gem is celebri-chef Andres’ latest offering. It’s in the former location of Cafe Atlantico, and the infamous Minibar is located in the same building, a “restaurant within a restaurant”, if you will. It was opened last year to celebrate the “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” exhibit at the National Archives – which for an agriculture and food geek like me, was just amazing. The exhibit offered an inside look at how the government has impacted our food choices, from the first food guide pyramid (butter was its own food group) to war time food propaganda posters.

Alright, already, back to the food.

Here’s the thing: I am sucker for a good themed restaurant, ESPECIALLY one that offers legitimately delicious food. All of the menu items included the date the recipe was first invented and a little bit of back story. Example: my “Ramos Gin Fiz” was invented by one Henry C. Ramos of New Orleans in 1888 and “was traditionally shaken for 12 minutes by a line of 25 shaker boys”. Good to know. (Side note – TRY IT.)

(Image via.)

My oyster po’ boy (invented by Clovis and Benjamin Martin, again in New Orleans, in 1925) featured what could be the best fried oysters that I have had in D.C. – not greasy at all, just crispy enough, delicate flavors, yum. My boyfriend’s fried chicken with catsup (which, if you are interested, originated from a recipe dating back to 1889 in Gordonsville, Virginia) was similarly well made. Also – America Eats offers a veritable spectrum of catsup flavors. Try the blackberry and the Jack Daniels. (Wink.)

(Image via.)

Check out the brunch menu here:

The restaurant itself is divided into four floors set up around a winding staircase. The decor includes famous foodie artwork like Norman Rockwells’ “Freedom From Want” and tons of fun food posters from WWI. Our waitress was helpful and attentive, even if the service was a bit slow. Our check was delivered in a Hardy Boy’s book. Fun.

In conclusion: I would heartily recommend a visit to the America Eats Tavern to anyone who enjoys good food with a little history sprinkled in for good measure. I know that I will be back!

And Then There Was Red Velvet Cake…

25 Feb

So, there is something that you should know about me.

Throughout my baking career, I have made dozens of biscuits, cookies of all kinds, and just about every dessert under the sun. I make a mean cinnamon roll. One time I made a particularly delicious pumpkin + caramel apple pie (!!!) for a cook off that didn’t quite make it to the judging table because a few slices went missing while it was still on the cooling rack.

But up until last week, I had never made a red velvet cake of my very own.

I’m not sure why not. Maybe I was a little intimidated. I am here to tell you today that not only is red velvet cake delicious, it is something that anyone with an oven and a sense of culinary adventure can accomplish. All it takes is an oven and a sense of culinary adventure.

I mean, if I can do it, so can you.

I was baking for two, so I modified a few recipes that I found online so that my boyfriend and I wouldn’t face the temptation of  leftover cake for breakfast.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!) Since February means Valentine’s Day, and Valentine’s Day means heart-shaped everything, I decided to use two miniature heart spring form  pans (as seen here).

Red Velvet Cake for Two


1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups flour (most recipes call for cake flour but I just had regular ol’ flour on hand)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon vinegar
About half of one of those little bottles of red food coloring
1 teaspoon cocoa powder


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease your baking pan(s).
Blend together shortening and sugar with electric mixers – set bowl aside.
In bowl #2, mix together flour and salt – set aside.
In bowl #3, mix egg, buttermilk, vanilla, baking soda, and vinegar. – set aside.
Alternate adding the contents of bowl #2 (flour mixture) and bowl #3 (egg mixture) to the shortening mixture. Mix well.
In a small bowl, mix the red food coloring and cocoa powder. If it is too thick, add a few drops of water. Add this to the other mixture – mix until just combined. (Don’t over beat.)
Pour the batter into the cake pan(s) and bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on the pan. To check doneness, insert a toothpick. It should come out clean. DO NOT OVERBAKE. Allow to cool in pan for at least 15 minutes before removing.

A lot of red velvet cake recipes call for cream cheese frosting, but this particular recipe had me at hello.

The Self-Proclaimed Best Frosting I Ever Had (that’s what it is really called)


4 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup regular sugar (not powdered sugar!)


In a saucepan, whisk flour into milk and heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens.  You want this to be very thick – think brownie batter.
Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature. This is important. Stir in vanilla.
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. You don’t want any sugar graininess left. Add on the cooled flour mixture.
Beat it until it all combines and resembles whipped cream. Top with these fun sprinkles. Enjoy!

Voila. I have a feeling that red velvet cake will be making an appearance in my home again sometime soon. Do you have a favorite recipe that you were originally a bit hesitant to try?

Did Somebody Say “Scallops”?

19 Feb

One of the best things about living on Capitol Hill is having easy access to Eastern Market. I find myself there at least once per weekend to check out the seasonal produce and wander through the flea market.

But did you know? While the outdoor market is only open on the weekend, the vendors inside the Eastern Market building are open all week. Stop on by sometime, especially if you, like me, are of the carnivore persuasion. The meat and seafood displays are impressive.

Today, I have an Eastern Market-inspired recipe that would be just perfect for your next special occasion dinner. You know, when you feel  like you need to pull out the stops and act a little classy.

The main attraction? Scallops. Big ol’ sea scallops, to be exact. Wrapped in thick cut bacon. Be still my heart.

Check out the recipe below, adapted from the one and only Emeril Lagasse. Bam!

Bacon Wrapped Scallops in  Brie Cream Sauce


1 quart heavy cream
6 slices bacon (via Eastern Market)
8 sea scallops (via Eastern Market)
2 tablespoons olive oil

8 ounces Brie cheese (Trader Joe’s makes the best!)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium saucepan reduce the cream by 1/2, skimming the foam off the top. This can be tricky – it will need to boil but be careful not to let the cream bubble over the sides.

Meanwhile, lay the bacon on a cookie sheet and place in the oven for 5 minutes or so. Remove the bacon from the oven and let cool. Once the bacon is cool, wrap each scallop with 1 piece of bacon, using toothpicks to fasten the bacon to the scallops. (Broken popsicle sticks also work, for what it’s worth.)

Season the scallops with 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the white pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan until hot, then add half of the scallops to the pan and cook for about 2 minutes on each side. Remove them from the pan and place them on a baking sheet. Repeat this process with the remaining scallops, then transfer the baking sheet to the oven until the scallops are just cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes. This is important! Do not over cook!

Remove the rind from the brie and cut into small pieces. Add the brie to the hot cream and whisk until melted. Season the sauce with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and the nutmeg.

Serve the scallops on small appetizer large dinner plates with the Brie cream drizzled around the edges. Grilled asparagus is a great way to round out the meal.

So there you have it. A special occasion meal that will not disappoint. But a dinner this good calls for an equally-indulgent dessert.

Never fear, dear readers: next time, we will explore what could be the perfect way to end the perfect meal: homemade red velvet cake.

Until we meet again…