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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Our Goa Beach Vacation

This post is long overdue due to some technical issues on my end (the inability to upload pictures.)  Blogger seems to have fixed itself so we are back in blogging business!  I have a lot to update you on, but I first want to share the pictures from our New Years Eve Goa Beach Vacation.

We're off!  Ready to relax and have some fun (as well as celebrate our sixth anniversary and New Years Eve).

We did a good mix of seeing one or two things in the morning and then relaxing at the beach the rest of the time. 

The view from our hotel patio.  Our hotel was decent had had hot water and good plumbing.  It was a bit of a walk to the beach, but we got in some exercise or found a taxi to take us home if we needed :).

Our friends Chase and Melissa came to visit us and experience Goa with us!  Here they are at the spice plaintation.  It was so very hot there and the employees we so excited to serve us some of the hotest tea around.  We drank it and sweat a lot, but enjoyed the experience all the same.

Goa has a lot of Christians compared to the rest of India and here is one Catholic Church with their Nativity.  The nativity was a bit creepy in real-life but we had a good time looking at it!

The spice plaintation

I will write more about our experiences in Goa as well as our latest trip, Rajasthan.  We just got back on Monday and had a great time with Bryan's brother, Joel.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Settling into life in Bangalore

When we arrived in Bangalore at the beginning of September neither Bryan nor I could have imagined how fast the time would go or how much this experience would change us.   We love our experience and try to get as much out of it as we can.
A few weeks ago we got the opportunity to spend the better part of a day with our friends and their family.  We went to see Life of Pi in 3D and then went to their house where we got to play with their adorable little girl, chat, and get some cooking lessons.
I learned how to make Dosa (a lighter version of a pancake that may be eaten plain or with a potato and onion filling that we love), a version of Biryani (a rice and spice dish traditional to this part of the world), an easy and delicious chili-chicken, and pan fried fish.  We left that night stuffed and I was excited to make these things on my own.  If I can remember to take pictures next time I make them, I’ll try to blog about it.  I’m sure that some of the things will take a bit of practice for me to ‘master’ but that just means more good food for us to enjoy
The next few blog posts will be about our great vacation in Goa, a beach state where we celebrated New Years Eve!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Merry Christmas!

 Merry Christmas!  Bryan and I had a great time celebrating Christmas here in Bangalore.  We kept some of our standard Christmas traditions and changed other things up a bit.  We worked on Christmas Eve and then went got some appetizers and drinks for supper.  Back at the apartment we watched some TV and then got ready for midnight mass. 

I wanted to get to church for the Christmas Carols, so we left the apartment at 11 PM.  We got to church and were in our seats by 11:15, when the caroling started.  At 11:15 the church was already packed so we sat outside on the seating that was set up in the parking lot/church grounds. 
This is the outside of our church.  You can see two of the many screens projecting the caroling and mass to the large number of people outside.

We were sitting outside near the entrance to the church.  This was the view on the right (pic. above) and left (pic. below).  There were people all over the church grounds.

As we listened to the Christmas Carols we were in awe of the number of people anticipated to attend this service.  Our moderately sized church is usually full on Sundays, but there were chairs set up all over the church grounds with projectors and sound systems so everyone could hear and see.
As the caroling continued, people just kept coming!  Soon, all of the chairs were full and there was standing room only.  Bryan and I enjoyed hearing all of the songs, some familiar and some new to us. 
Still, people were coming to church, crowding in, and sharing in the excitement of Christmas Eve.  The mass started at 11:45.  Catholic masses are predictable and this mass followed that predictability.  The thing that was different was the sheer number of people and their curiosity and excitement.  The guy sitting next to Bryan spent the entire mass calling his friends and family to wish them a Merry Christmas.  He was not alone as many others were doing the same.  Still others were milling around the church grounds throughout the entire mass.  We were glad for the predictability because even though we couldn’t always see or hear, we knew what was going on!
Right before mass ended, they announced there would be cake for everyone to celebrate Jesus’ birth.  As it was 1:15 AM Bryan and I decided to dash out of there as quickly as we could so as to avoid as much of the milling crowd as possible.  I all but ran to the car where Suresh was waiting for us.  (I was struggling as during mass multiple children approached me asking for money.  They were so sad!  I knew there would be more of them as we exited the church grounds and my heart was breaking.)
Suresh managed the crowds of people and other vehicles and got us home safely around 1:30 AM.  We are so reliant on Suresh and appreciate him so much!
Once home we got to Skype with Bryan’s side of the family and that was a great way to kick off our Christmas Day!
On Christmas Day we opened our presents, did a bit of shopping at the stores around our apartment, sat by the pool, and watched some movies before going downstairs to have the Christmas Buffet.  We miss our family’s traditional holiday meals, but we filled up on great food and lots of falafel as well as caramelized bananas!
We also go to Skype with both of our families which was a nice way to end our Christmas Day. 
Here are some pictures of the apartment complex, all decorated for the holidays:
Right outside our apartment is this great terrace with restaurants on either side.  The center walk way gets decorated for all of the holidays. (Pic above and below).

Our apartment is connected to a swanky mall.  They always decorate it for the holidays and here are some pictures of it. (Picture above and below.)

We have a lot of excitement for the coming days as our friends are coming to visit and we are going to Goa!  I’m excited to tell you all about that when we return.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Lasagna - well, kind of!

I’m happy to report that the food situation continues to improve!  While the food or availability of food has not changed, my ability to see different foods and think of ideas of things I can make with them has changed.  Furthermore, I’ve embraced more vegetables!
Most recently, I have been buying eggplant and cabbage.  I make my Mom’s stuffed cabbage rolls, but I don’t stuff them so it’s a cabbage casserole that is not picture-friendly for this blog.
What I can share is my recent eggplant adventures.  My one unfortunate encounter with eggplant involved frying it where something just wasn’t quite ‘right.’  I quickly wrote eggplant off the list of edible vegetables.    Here in Bangalore the eggplant looks really good.  And, you might recall that I was actually craving vegetables.  So the stars aligned on a brave vegetable day and I bought one!  (My Mom still cannot believe I tried one.  Yes, my vegetable aversion was that bad.  I’m working on it though!)  I fried it and Bryan and I enjoyed it as eggplant parmesan.  I wouldn’t go all crazy on you and tell you that I loved it, but it hit the spot and filled a void.  We decided we could eat eggplant again.
I bought more and fried them and Bryan and I ate them as our main dish.
Then, Bryan and I found ourselves in the best situation possible.  We had an excess of buffalo mozzarella so the only logical thing to do was to buy more eggplant to make eggplant lasagna with real cheese!  I haven’t had cheese in my lasagna/manicotti for more than three years. 
I haven’t found gluten-free lasagna noodles here so I sliced the eggplant, battered it, lightly fried it in a pan, and used the eggplants like I would lasagna noodles.  The lasagna was good, and the cheese was the best treat!  I won’t lie to you.  I could tell the noodles were missing and some vegetables had been added, but it tasted great and has continued to make good leftovers.  This is another meal I’ll add to the rotation!
Here is the recipe:
Slice the eggplant and lightly salt each side to let the bitterness and moisure seep out for at least 30 minutes if not longer.
Brown Ground Beef with chopped onions.  Add your favorite pasta sauce and let simmer.

 As the beef is cooking, dry off the eggplant with a paper towel and prepare your dredging station.
I cracked 1 egg and used about 1/2 c. gluten-free flour seasoned with pepper and italian seasoning.

Dredge eggplant slices in egg and then in flour.  Add to a lightly oiled fry pan and fry on either side until nice and brown like below:

Spread a bit of the tomato sauce and beef mixture in the bottom of the pan.  Place a layer of eggplant followed by a layer of sauce and then a layer of cheese.  Repeat 2-3 times or until your eggplant is used or your pan is full.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes or until the cheese is melted and warmed through.

What is next on the list of things to make?  A Mexican Casserole, Christmas cookies Bryan has been requesting, and roasted red pepper and goat cheese appetizers.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Roasted Figs

As promised, I have some cooking to blog about!  I made some Eggplant Parmesan that actually turned out, but I failed to take some pictures.  Now that I know what I am doing I'll get some pictures, or snaps as they are called here and blog about that soon (as there is more of that in our near future)!

Today I had lunch with two friends.  It was wonderful to chat and learn about their go-to places in Bangalore.  After lunch I went with one friend to a store that gets their produce in today.  There was a good selection so I stocked up on some more veggies.  We also went to another grocery store to look for the coveted lettuce (which can be hard to find here).  They didn't have any; but I did find some figs!

My Mom talks about figs and how she would eat them when she went to visit her Grandma and Grandpa in Louisiana.  There have been quite a few figs available at breakfast so I knew they must be in season.  Also, one of the blogs I follow posted something about all of the things one could do with figs and I remember them roasting the figs with honey and serving them with goat cheese and crackers.

My mouth has been salivating since I got that idea so I didn't think twice and bought some!

This dish was rather simple to prepare.  After washing them, I cut the tops off, quartered them, and placed them in a baking dish with the skin side down.

Then, I squeezed some honey over the top and finished it off with some fresh cracked black pepper. I remember the recipe said to use 1/4 to 1/3 cup.  I didn't use that much, and after tasting them warm out of the oven I wish I would have used what the recipe recommended.

So, when I eat these I plan to put them on a cracker with some cheese and squeeze a bit of honey on top.

Tonight for supper I made a casserole that is complete with large amounts of tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and carrots.

Veggies: Check!
Fruit: Check!

Here's to hoping there are more balanced meals in our future!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Christmas season for the Muilenburgs in Bangalore

It is officially Christmas season at the Muilenburg house.  This year after Thanksgiving we decorated a small Christmas tree.  It is a bit of a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree, but it brings a bit of Christmas cheer to our apartment all the same.  We purchased a package of ornaments that came with the balls, gifts (that we placed under the tree) and drums that we placed on our TV.  It's quite the little Christmas shrine!

We bought the silver angel tree toper for our tree at home.  Since it's officially taller than our tree this year, we just sat the topper beside the tree.

To give you some perspective of how small the tree is, here are both of us next to it.  I think Bryan's head may be as big as the tree!!

Bryan is now treating me to Christmas music and Christmas uTube videos so we're starting to get into the holiday season!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving and some other randomness

As it’s my Thursday (Thanksgiving day in the United States) I’ve been thinking about the things that I’m thankful for and this year my list is very simple: clean water that I can drink, regularly scheduled and reliable trash pickup, that I have a job and can feed and provide shelter for myself, and the sense of community that we are slowly building here in Bangalore.  Of course there are others, but living here has made me realize how lucky we are to have even the most basic of our needs met and it has also surprised me how much we miss our sense of community back home.

I’ve been talking to one of the trainers at the gym while I work out and we were talking about all things food.  Some big food news in India is that Starbucks is coming to India.   The current India equivalent to Starbucks is called Café Coffee Day.  There are multiple of them in the city and they can be found along the major highways too.  I will be interested to see how Starbucks does here because at Café Coffee Day you can get coffee and a pastry for about 150 INR or $2.50.  The same is true for lunch if you want a light lunch.  So, I’m interested to see if Starbucks is able to charge the same prices they charge in the United States here in India.  What I found even more interesting is that he said he can go out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner here in India for about 150 INR and if he makes his meals himself it is much cheaper than that!

We are hopeful to get to Skype with both of our families as they celebrate Thanksgiving.  I’m going to try to make fried chicken, potatoes, and green beans for our supper so it will be somewhat similar to the feasts our families are preparing at home.  We even have chocolate cake to eat with our supper!

I haven’t blogged as much about the food I make here because all things food have been much more difficult than I imagined.  Our kitchen is lightly stocked with cooking gadgets and my attempt at Indian food fails miserably every time.  I recognize that we could go buy more gadgets but there is a certain degree of adventure and challenge in cooking with the things we have.  I’ve adapted well and baked a chocolate cake in the big soup stockpot just the other day.  I’ve also been making pizzas in sauce pans.  Oh, and one of the cleaning guys showed me how to open a can of beans with a knife!  (I’ll be buying canned goods with the pop-top from now on as the can opener we have is an ancient artifact that belongs in a museum!  I don’t recommend opening canned goods with a knife.  He managed not to cut himself but I am not so sure the result would be as positive every time!)

I’ll try to do a better job blogging about the things we make here.  I hope you’ll find it interesting! 

I hope you have a great Thanksgiving!  It doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving here with the warm weather, sun, and other festivals we’ve gotten to participate in.  I do miss winter squash, sweet potatoes, and green beans so fill up on those for me. J