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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.