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31 March 2015

Chicken with Caramelized Onion and Cardamom Rice

I love this recipe for so many different reasons. One, its pretty easy. Two, everything cooks in the same dish which means an easier clean-up. And three, it always impresses. It's one of those that seems like you've pulled out all the kitchen guru deals that everyone turns and bows down to you for. Where in reality it was simple to make.


3 tablespoons of sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons of barberries, or use fresh currants
* The first time I made this dish it was in the fall/early winter and I was lucky enough to find fresh currants at the local farmers market. Every other time I have just left them out and the dish is still amazing.
4 tablespoons of olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 1/4 pounds skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs, or 1 whole chicken quartered (my preference gives more variety to meat selection)
salt and freshly ground pepper
10 cardamom pods or 1 1/2 tsp of ground cardamom (easier to find)
rounded 1/4 tsp whole cloves
2 long cinnamon sticks, broken in two
1 2/3 cup basmati rice
2 1/4 cup boiling water
1 1/2 tablespoons of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 cup dill leaves, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/3 cup greek yogurt, mixed with 2 tables spoons of olive oil (optional but delicious)

 1. If you are using barberries, put the sugar and 3 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan and heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat, add the barberries, and set aside to soak. If using currants you do not have to do this. If using neither, skip to step 2.

2. Heat half of the olive oil in a large saute pan, for which you had a lid, over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion has turned a deep golden brown. Transfer the onion to a small bowl and wipe the pan clean.

3. Place the chicken in a large mixing bowl and season with 1 1/2 tsp of salt and pepper. Add the remaining olive oil, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and use your hands to mix everything together well. Heat the frying pan again and place the chicken and spices in it. Sear chicken for 5-7 minutes on each side (you want the skin to get brown and crispy) and remove from the pan. The spices can stay in the pan, but don't worry if they stick to the chicken. Remove most of the remaining oil as well, leaving just a thing film at the bottom.

4. Add the rice to the pan, the caramelized onion, 1 tsp of salt and plenty of black pepper. If using barberries, drain them and add them as well or the currants at this time. Stir well and return the seared chicken to the pan, pushing it into the rice.

5. Pour the boiling water over the rice and chicken, cover the pan, and cook over very low heat for 30 minutes. Take the pan off the heat, remove the lid, quickly plan a clean tea/kitchen hand towel over the pan, and seal again with the lid. Leave the dish undisturbed for another 10 minutes. Finally add the herbs and use a fork to stir them in and fluff up the rice. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Serve hot or warm with yogurt mixture if you like.


original dish can be found here
Martinis & Bikinis
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30 March 2015

food glorious food

This weekend I really just shopped and ate. A lot.

I nicely started my Saturday with a much needed massage, then ran and met some friends for brunch at this cute place called Kitchenette. They do a lot of homestyle cooking and had these delicious bloody marys with enough horseradish to clear my sinuses.

After brunch I went to Bloomingdales with a friend. She works for the company so gave me the friends/family invite sale code which turned out wasn't super necessary because the sale was open to everyone and their mother. Nevertheless I picked up some goodies for myself at some really great prices. This include a new Marc Jacobs purse, some very fluffy towels and a cute new spring duvet. I ended up going online after and picking up some matching sheets too- what can I say I like my bed to look nice when I sleep!

Saturday night I went to one of my favorite local restaurants called Vineteria, they have this delicious gnocchi dish that I get every time I go and it never lets me down. They also have some really great cocktails include the pear cilantro margarita.  The after ness was meeting up with my friend again to have a going away party for a friend of hers moving back to Australia. The theme was 'Merica, which meant a lot of tacky red,white and blue.

Sunday we ventured down to Chinatown to a casino-sized dim sum place. It was crazy. You had to ride giant escalator to get to the place and were then overwhelmed by a ton of people and lots of trays of food. Even so, it was all very delicious and cheap.

After walking around for a bit I finally made my way into the REI in Soho. I tried on some backpacks and narrowed my choices down to two- and I looked at tents and figured out which one I'm going to get. I got help learning how to set it up, was able to get in and try it out and then learn how to fold it back up. All of which was very easy and made me feel a lot better.

My Sunday evening consisted of a lot of tv watching, fake packing and my new favorite thing in life, Sims 4. (although I'm very sad toddlers no longer exist!)

What were you up to this weekend?

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27 March 2015

don't stop, get it get it + new link-up!

well hello Friday- it is quite nice to see you again...

been a whirlwind of a week here in "can't make up my mind on the weather" nyc. fun stuff, really.

1) I successfully backed up my computer, switched out my old hard-drive to a new, reinstalled my computers operating system and reinstated my back up. Feeling like a baller right now. And ridiculous impressed with out easy it kind of was, not to mention crazy cheap compared to buying a whole new computer. Plus I can now play Sims 4 which might have been the whole point. I clearly have awesome priorities in my life. (I may have actually spent a large chunk of last weekend playing this game- not sure how I feel about the new changes yet)

2) Might be on a handy streak because I also finally broke down and purchased new light-bulbs for my kitchen and replaced them. this probably sounds very weird, but they were funky light bulbs and everyone in my apartment tends to be a bit lazy. I do have to mention how much stereotypes played a roll into this though bc I got mad eyed at the hardware store when purchasing the new bulbs, asked about 20 times if I needed help, and then once I finished the job (which was so easy I could have done it with my eyes closed- come on it's changing a light bulb people) my male roommate was all "wow, I can't believe you were able to do that" as if my gender made it impossible to change  a light bulb. wtf. apparently his gf/my roommate "would have had no idea what to do"- lies. Need I remind the world that women are capable of anything. I built/hung basically everything in my apartment and it's all still standing just fine. thanks and goodbye.

3) my reading streak has continued. I have now successfully read 30 novels since January 1st and going strong. In the last few weeks I've finished Unbroken, All the Light That We Cannot See, and The Rosie Project. All very different and very good. (currently reading Jodi Picoult's Leaving Time)

4) Next week I'm off to San Diego with work (bleh) but very much looking forward to the sunny weather- plus I just bought a bunch of fun shorts from LOFT and am happy to finally get the chance to wear them..
 and they are all 40% off right now- so go check them out!
tribal jacquard riviera shorts
mosaic riviera shorts
cotton twill shorts

5)   and since I know we have all been missing out with Whitney's Back that Azz Up friday music loving link-up, I figured hey- why not start my own. So introducing this week the "Oh hot damn, this my Jam" Friday link-up! (button needs a bit of work still- bear with me!)

grab button for Blue Giraffes and Concrete Jungles
<div class="blue-giraffes-and-concrete-jungles-button" style="width: 250px; margin: 0 auto;"> <a href="" rel="nofollow"> <img src="" alt="Blue Giraffes and Concrete Jungles" width="250" height="250" /> </a> </div>

1) post a favorite song or music video
2) add my button to your post
3) link-up below!
4) visit someone else on the link-up, we need to spread the love!!

need help finding a song and embedding it? my favorite tool- grooveshark. Sign up for a free account, search for the song you want, click on more options for that song and embed code. copy that code and past it into the html section of your post, center it ,caption it ,do whatever you want. and sing along! 

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26 March 2015

Sephora Giveaway- please don't enter because I want to win!

Hey Everyone!
Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me! Today is my 26th birthday and I am so excited to share my celebration with all of you too. There are some days I feel all 26 years all at once, and then other days when I feel like a careless teenager again. We had a little get-a-way weekend last week with our friends, where we got the opportunity to kick back, relax, and hang out with good company to celebrate. I plan on enjoying the rest of this week in celebration of my birthday, and the best way I know how is to kick it into high gear with our giveaway below!

I teamed up with a group of lovely ladies to host a Sephora gift card giveaway as well as one lucky reader will receive ad space on The So-Called Homemaker. Please check out my video for more details as well as the rafflecopter widget below to enter to win! Thank you for helping me celebrate, and here's to another year of fun, laughter and love. And as always, Good luck <3

Thank you for watching <3

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how to spot a celebrity in NYC

celebrity hunting might be one of my favorite things to do in this city- and in my opinion its pretty easy to do, mostly because, and I imagine LA it is the same, they are everywhere. you just need to look...

first up the key to winning this game is paying attention and keeping your eyes open. seriously, it's that easy. I mean I can't guarantee you will see someone, but by paying attention to the people on the streets and subways you are much more likely to see people. honestly I've spotted most people this way, but maybe I'm a weird people watcher. Just a few weeks ago I saw Paul Giamatti walking to the subway. We made eye contact, in my head I was all huh that guy is a celebrity and as soon as he disappeared I IMDBed the poop out of him.

IMBD- a movie lovers best friend. This website/app, however you want to use it, will allow you to search for any film, tv show, actor,director, etc. Super handy for when you can't actually remember Paul Giamatti's name but you do remember he was in Sideways.

second pay attention to the street poles. A lot of times when you are walking around you will see bright pink/yellow/green sheets taped to them. These announce when things are filming, what the production name is, and how long they will be around for. They typically put these signs up 1-2 days before filming takes place. Look at these signs, IMDB the project and find out who is in them- if you can come back during said filming time you will know who to be on the look out for. During filming they also have a bunch of big trailers for the actors, craft services set-up and very handy, signs pointing to the SET.

this is from this morning- you can see a trailer across the street..

Just last summer I went to the library and noticed trailers, found a pink sign, looked up the project (Sleeping with Other People). Turns out some pretty cool people are in it, Jason Sudeikis, Natasha Lyonne, Adam Scott, Amanda Peet. Cool people to see. I had a few extra minutes so I walked towards the set signs. Sure enough 5 minutes later Jason Sudeikis (who is super tall and skinny) walked by followed by Amanda Peet with makeup to make her look like an old lady. Great story, I know.

They film everywhere though, just this morning in my neighborhood Law & Order: SVU started a scene. Blacklist likes to hang-out a lot, The Mysteries of Laura is around my work frequently. Back in the day when I worked on the Upper East Side I saw a lot of Gossip Girls.

Mostly though I just see people on the street- everywhere. Its just about keeping your eyes open and being able to recognize the faces.

I've never chased them down, asked for a photo or an autograph. I usually just stare for a few minutes or on rare occasion make eye contact then give myself a pat on the back for knowing who they were. there are a few people I might attack though if the occasion arrived- Justin Timberlake. that's probably it.

If you are interested in finding out the current productions being filmed in NYC you can head to the Made in NY Mayor's Office here.

That's my spiel. Go enjoy the rest of your day.
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17 March 2015

Lasagna with Chard, Tomato Sauce and Ricotta

Been a while since I've added a recipe here- figured I'd favor you all with a new favorite.

This vegetarian lasagna is easy, delicious, and makes you feel better about eating greens- just in time for St. Patrick's Day! The last few times I've made it I've gone ahead and doubled the recipe just because we eat the regular sizing in one go. And the kids eat it. Plus you could totally just make the tomato sauce from this recipe and toss with it pasta and still have an excellent meal.

1 generous bunch of Swiss Chard (about 1.5 pds - I've used red and rainbow chard easily)
1/2 pound regular or no-boil lasagna noodles
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon EVOO
2 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 pounds free tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced or 1 (28-oz) can of chopped tomatoes, with juice
pinch of sugar
1 large basil sprig (sometimes I use 2)
1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese
1/3- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil while you prepare the chard. Fill a bowl with ice water. Tear the leaves from the stems and wash thoroughly in two changes of water. Discard stems or set aside for another purpose.

2. When the water comes to a boil, add the Swiss Chard leaves. Boil 1 minute (from the time the water comes back to a boil), until tender but still bright green, then remove from the water with a slotted spoon or skimmer and transfer to bowl of ice water. Drain and squeeze out excess water. Chop coarsely and set aside. Cook the lasagna noodles in the same pot of water if not using no-boil noodles.  Remove the pasta from the pot and toss with 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a bowl.

3. In a wide, nonstick frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, just until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, sugar, basil sprig, and salt (begin with 1/2 teaspoon and add more later), and bring to a simmer. Simmer, stirring often, until thick, 15 to 25 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Remove the basil sprig. Stir in Swiss chard and remove from heat.

4. Preheat over to 375 F. Oil a square or rectangular baking dish (no bigger than 2-qt) and line the bottom with a layer of lasagna. Spread half the ricotta over the noodles and half the tomato-chard over the ricotta. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of Parmesan over the sauce.Add another layer of noodles, the remaining ricotta, and the rest of the Swiss-chard tomato mixture, and 2 tablespoons of Parmesan.Finish with a layer of noodles and the remaining Parmesan. Drizzle remaining tablespoon of olive oil over the top. Cover dish tightly with foil.

Bake 30 minutes, or until bubbling and the pasta is tender.

One of the best things about this dish is the prep. You can blanch the chard and make the tomato sauce up to 3 days ahead of serving. You can also assemble the entire dish up to a day ahead. I like to put it together in the morning and then pop it in the over when we get home in the evenings to have it nice and hot for dinner time.

original recipe can be found here.

Martinis & Bikinis

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12 March 2015

Prague: Part 3

Whew.. going to try and cram a lot into this last post to wrap up Prague.

Wednesday morning I explored the Jewish quarter of Prague. The whole area is beautiful and very very well preserved. This is because when Hitler invaded he chose Prague as the space where his future museum of an eradicated race would be. Totally awful, obviously, but in the a nice way his choice of location made it possible for so many relics, artifacts and buildings to be left untouched and unharmed.

Prague in general was not very affected by WWII and the Nazis- meaning overall the city is in incredible condition with a majority of it's original buildings and structures. Not as much bombing meant not as much rebuilding. This is a reason why people love Prague. It still has the old world European vibe that many other European cities lost during the war.

Anyways Jewish quarter. I toured three synagogues, the old Jewish cemetery, and a ceremonial hall. The first synagogue, Pinkas, is now a Holocaust memorial- filled with handwritten names of the 77,000 Bohemian-Jews who lost their loves. After touring that synagogue you enter the Jewish cemetery. It might sound a bit odd but the cemetery is very cool. For many many years the Jewish quarter was a Jewish Ghetto and enclosed with a wall, the Jewish population only had this one space to bury their people and by Jewish law you cannot remove a body from its burial space once it has been buried. This led to piling up dirt on top of old graves to create new graves. They estimate their are about 100,000 people buried in this area over the course of about 300 years. The graves are up to 12 stories deep and you can still see about 10,000 headstones that are all haphazardly placed.

Everything in the quarter is interesting to look at and learn about. I enjoyed touring the Spanish Synagogue which is beautifully decorated and the Old-New Synagogue just for it's history. I did buy the audio tour here and was happy to have the extra information at each stop.

I ate lunch afterwards at this amazing vegetarian place a friend recommended. It was the best meal I had the entire time I was in Prague.

I walked down the river after to visit Frank Gehry's Dancing House nicknamed Fred and Ginger!

And then traveled just a few blocks away to a church crypt where Jan Kubis, Jozef Gabcik and other members of their team hid after completing the assassination of the Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich. They were eventually found here as well, and after a long battle many of them committed suicide instead of submitting to the German soldiers. A little depressing, sorry!

I finished off Wednesday with another awful underground tour but also enjoying some of the Chinese New Year Festivities in the Old Town Square. 

Thursday I woke up bright and early to hit one last place before my flight left. And I am so happy I did because it was one of my favorite spots of my whole adventure. The Lobkowicz Palace, located within the castle walls. The Lobkowicz family is one of the oldest Bohemian Noble families and dates back to the 14th Century. After having most of the possessions taking from them twice in the past 100 years, the Nazis and the Communists, they were giving almost all of them back in 1990. The current head of the house is William Lobkowizc who is an American born, Boston raised, Nobleman who helped put the family art and collections back together. 

They recently reopened this palace, with a well-spoken and easy to listen to audio guide from William himself. The best pieces to see are the original compositions and scores from Beethoven and Mozart. An ancestor of the family was a patron of Beethoven and is in a way whom we need to thank for some of his pieces. As Beethoven's patron he gave Beethoven complete freedom in what music he wanted to compose and write, things like his Third Symphony. 

This palace was beautiful, well laid-out, easy to understand and included a very informative audio guide. I can only hope to go back and see some of the families other homes in the area. 

Overall Prague was a great trip. I'm happy I went, am thrilled to have learned some new facts, and glad I could add in some many amazing places to visit. 

My trip home was a long one- about 10.5 hours on a place, but I did watch Gone Girl, Boyhood, The Skeleton Twins and This Is Where I Leave You, helping round out some of my Oscar nominees for the year. 

Hoping to do another trip soon! 
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