Community Palette

Mason Jar Salads: The Cure for Sad Desk Lunch

April 15, 2014

Julia Mirabella (Photo by: Jessica Mirabella) Julia Mirabella

A good friend, Julia Mirabella, is a young up-and-coming attorney in town. My morning coffee group at Java House on 17th and Q Street, NW, first met Julia when she was what we dubbed a high powered paralegal with the firm of Sidley Austin, LLP. That was about seven years ago. She has come a long way since that time. After a couple of years as a paralegal Julia knew she wanted to go to law school and headed off to Boston University. We followed her career long distance and heard the details when she came back and joined us for coffee during vacations. She graduated magna cum laude in May of 2012. We weren’t the only ones who recognized her brilliance as she received among many other honors the Melville M. Bigelow Scholarship Award for the member of the graduating class who has shown the greatest promise as a scholar or teacher of law. We could have told them that just from talking with her over coffee.

But Julia wanted to practice law and she went on to clerk for Judge Boyce F. Martin, Jr. on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Louisville, KY. She then came home to D.C. and did a stint at the Center for American Progress, as a D.C. Bar Pro bono Fellow and is now back at Sidley Austin, LLP. as an Associate where she handles white collar and complex commercial litigation.

Now clearly that would make for a very satisfying career for most people. But for Julia that’s not enough. She has now added a new line and title to her impressive resume and it’s that of cookbook author. This has clearly been a labor of love for her. Julia talks about the inspiration for doing the cookbook as really coming from her family. She grew up in a household that emphasized Italian food and taught her to love cooking with fresh ingredients. When starting her first job as an attorney she realized she needed to rethink her work lunches so she could eat better and healthier. Her love of food has even led her to start a blog which you can follow at Julia says, “I was busy at work, working late hours, and eating out every day for lunch. A few months into the job, I knew something had to change. My solution has been to make my salads in Mason jars. By spending a little time on the weekend making Mason jar meals for the coming week, I’ve solved many of the difficulties of bringing my lunch to work.”

(Photo by: Julia Mirabella)

Julia’s solution could be the right one for a lot of people who are short on time but want to eat a healthy meal for lunch. These appetizing salads in a Mason jar are easy to make and will have everyone at work asking where you got the idea. The Mason Jar Salads cookbook is now available to pre-order on Amazon.

Here's a recipe from her book:

Southwestern Salad

Colorful with lots of protein and antioxidants, this hearty salad will keep you satisfied until dinnertime. You can step it up a notch with a little hot sauce in your salad dressing if you want to make things interesting.

Makes 1 serving

3 tablespoons lime vinaigrette

1⁄2 cup black beans, rinsed and drained

1⁄2 red vine-ripened tomato, diced

1⁄4 red bell pepper, diced

1⁄4 yellow bell pepper, diced

1⁄2 cup diced avocado (optional)

1⁄2 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen

2 cups mixed salad greens

1 ounce Cheddar cheese, grated

1 quart-size Mason jar

Start by pouring the vinaigrette dressing into the Mason jar. Then layer in the black beans, tomato, bell peppers, avocado, and corn. Finish with the salad greens and, finally, the Cheddar cheese. Seal and refrigerate until ready to use.


Lime Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

pinch of salt

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

dash of hot sauce (optional)

3 tablespoons olive oil


Whisk together the lime juice, cilantro, salt, pepper, and hot sauce (if using). Slowly add the olive oil, whisking, until the dressing thickens.


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The Hobby Lobby Contraception Case and the Rights of LGBT Individuals

April 3, 2014

While it may not be obvious at first glance, there is a clear intersection between the Hobby Lobby case on contraception now being decided by the Supreme Court and the rights of LGBT individuals. If the Supreme Court accepts that a business owner has the right to pick and choose what contraception they will cover for their employees based on their own religious beliefs, the obvious next step is to allow that business owner to determine which customers they will serve based on their religious beliefs.

One person making these arguments in the name of "religious freedom" and supporting ultra-right wing organizations that are promoting them is University of Virginia Law Professor Douglas Laycock. The simple form of the argument that appeals to some is if you don't like the health care your employer is offering, work somewhere else; or if the business doesn't want to serve you, just shop somewhere else.

One would have thought that we settled the issue of whether a business could serve you with the public accommodations decisions related to the United States Constitution. However, Laycock was one of the signers of a recent letter to Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona asking her to sign SB 1062, the bill that was considered to be rabidly anti-gay and would have allowed businesses to not serve gay people. The Bill Laycock support was opposed by, among others, both of Arizona's Republican United States Senators, and even some of those in the Arizona legislature who admitted they didn't understand the bill and its ramifications when they passed it. The letter Laycock signed supported the purposeful misreading of the bill stated in the sentiment of Alliance Defending Freedom senior Council Doug Napier who said:

The government has no business telling its citizens what they can't say or what they must say, and it must be prevented from punishing its citizens for their ideas and beliefs as has occurred to people in other states. That's all SB 1062 is about.

Laycock is a supporter of both the Alliance Defending Freedom -- a right-wing, anti-gay organization that helped craft Arizona's SB 1062 bill, as well as being one of the top lawyers for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a right-wing group supporting the owners of the Hobby Lobby store and their court case. In that case what Laycock is supporting while he may couch his views in fancy legal terms is the right of the owners of Hobby Lobby to determine which contraceptive devices they will include in the health insurance they are making available for their employees in contrast to the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, which guarantees access to coverage for all approved FDA contraceptive devices. Walter Dellinger, acting Solicitor General in the Clinton administration explains in an op-ed in the Washington Post that the result of what the owners of Hobby Lobby are asking to do is, "Selectively denying insurance coverage for contraceptive methods an employer considers sinful effectively makes the employer a party to a woman's medical consultations."

Individuals like Laycock are often insidious. They claim to want people to have rights such as marriage-equality, and then at the same time attempt to create a legal loophole for discrimination to thwart full equality for LGBT people. They use a freedom of religion argument to create the legal opportunity to undermine the fight for full and inclusive equality for LGBT people in our society. It is clear that the use of these legal loopholes must concern both the LGBT community and those who support a woman's right to control her own health care.

There is another issue that needs to be focused on with regard to Laycock. He happens to be the husband of University of Virginia (UVA) President Teresa A. Sullivan. I support his right to his views. But some consider his efforts to be questionable because he is paid by the University of Virginia, a public university using taxpayer dollars. Be that as it may what I want to know is where the president of the University of Virginia stands on these issues that her husband is a leading spokesperson for. The University of Virginia continues its effort to promote an "LGBT friendly" brand for the university and campus. In recent years, efforts at UVA to hire a full-time LGBT program coordinator have increased the university's standing to 3.5 out of 5 stars on the Campus Pride organization's "LGBT friendly equality ratings index." It is my understanding that the university has yet to speak out on the efforts of the president's spouse to promote these anti-LGBT and anti-woman positions. It would be appropriate for President Sullivan to separate herself and the University from her husband's positions if she doesn't agree with them or feels that the university must not be attached to such positions.

If she doesn't do that one has to question her values and how they impact the students at the university and it is something that donors and alumni should be made aware of.

This article was first published in Huffington Post.

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The Alexandria Harmonizers Chorus: A Wonderful Surprise

March 23, 2014

The Alexandria Harmonizers Chorus is a chapter of the Society for Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America. Like me, before I went to their performance, I am sure this description may have already turned you off. I used to equate barber shop quartets with four guys singing old songs in colorful jackets and straw hats.

The Alexandria Harmonizers (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) The Alexandria Harmonizers

Then I want to the A CA Challenge last Saturday night at the Lincoln Theatre and I will never think of them the same way again. Six a cappella groups competed for a $1,000 cash prize and it was one of the most fun times I spent in the theater in a long time. The first half of the show was the competition and the second half was a stunning performance by the Alexandria Harmonizers. Over the years this group has won regional championships 24 times and Gold medals in International Championships four times. They are the best of the best at what they do and they keep you mesmerized with their singing. Great credit must be given to their director Joe Cerutti who is also musical director and president of the board of “No Borders Music Consort” which has organized a 100 person youth chorus from around the world to sing at New York City’s Carnegie Hall each year on December 26th.

 The competitors in the A CA Challenge (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) The competitors in the A CA Challenge

I was invited to the show by the producer, Ken Rub. Ken is a longtime friend, member of the Harmonizers, and a well-respected realtor in what some call his full time job. But clearly producing this show was full-time. The six groups competing ranged from college groups like the GW Vibes and UMW Symfonics to the Chromatics who are older and part of a group that first began as the OK Chorale formed at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. They were all incredibly talented and but even though they came in 3rd it was the lead singer in the last of the three songs performed by the GW Vibes that brought the house down. She clearly should try out for the VOICE or American Idol.

If you are like me and were tuned out to a group like the Harmonizers I urge you to take either a first or second look at them. They perform around the metro area, have performed around the world and have been invited to perform at the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landings on the beaches of Normandy. Take a look at their website for more information.

There are so many things to do in D.C. these days that it is hard to keep up. We have become a great award-winning theater town and a wonderful music venue. The Lincoln Theater is now going through another renaissance along with ‘U’ street and is being run by the same group that manages the 9:30 Club. We can look forward to a lot more great music and other productions being presented there.

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