Friday, January 3, 2014

Celebrating New Year's in Bulgaria and Fantastic Lasagna Recipe

Happy New Year Everyone!

Yes, it's been an extremely long time since I wrote a blog, and there are many reasons why I have not written, which include:

1.  Teaching wild fourth grade squirrels
2.  Being enslaved every Sunday night to the NFL game package and playing fantasy football
3.  Introducing George to American culture specialties such as Oprah and TLC.  He is in love with a show called Long Island Medium.  I have totally corrupted him, since two weeks ago he said he didn't want to have cable after the contract expires in June 2014.
4.  Watching Judge Judy and Howard Stern episodes on the Youtubes.
5.  Finding other masterful ways to waste time as only a true slacker could.

Since I have over TWO WEEKS off for the Christmas and New Year's holidays and I have a staycation here in Sofia, there is no excuse not to write a blog or two this week to end 2013, and to start 2014.  There are 3-4 blogs in the works, but this one is the first.

New Year's in Bulgaria is one of my favorite holidays of the year, and even a stay at-home party can still be a great experience.  During the communist times, celebrating Christmas was frowned upon, so people saved up their festive celebrations for New Year's Eve.  While Christmas is now celebrated since the fall of communism, New Year's still holds its place as a memorable celebration here.  The tradition is to gather close friends and family to celebrate the new year with a lavish spread of food.  There are fireworks everywhere, and you can simply go off your balcony and light off fireworks at any point in time during the evening.  Unlike the States, you can buy fireworks anywhere.  You can even buy fireworks in the grocery store now, as I saw two displays in Picadilly where you can buy all the fireworks you need for New Year's.  

The first year we met, George refused to go out and do anything for New Year's at all, except for celebrating with one of his friends, who we affectionately call Beaker.  Yes, he acts just like Beaker from the Muppets, which is why he has the nickname. Amelie realized George's friend Beaker was afraid of him, and a three month old kitten managed to dominate and terrorize Beaker the entire evening.  Yes, a three month old kitten dominated a 36 year old man.  So while we stayed at home, Amelie managed to make New Year's 2011 highly memorable.  

For New Year's Eve 2012, I know I had to convince George to try something, and I'm glad he loved going to Andy Kelly's party and seeing all the fireworks from a 7th story rooftop in the Center of Sofia.  Otherwise, I would have been in the doghouse for a long time.  It might not have been the best idea as fireworks were going off right off someone's balcony, but the view was simply incredible.  

To give you an idea on how we celebrated New Year's 2013, I am using Eli's photos she took this year to give you an idea of what it's like to celebrate New Year's in Sofia.  Elitza is a great photographer, and I am sharing some of the lovely photos she put on the Facebooks.  

May you enjoy these photos and the great lasagna recipe that goes along with it!  Lots of health, love, and happiness to everyone in 2014!

Amelie playing after being kicked out of the table while eating dinner.  Credit Elitza Marinkova-Germanova
New Year's 2013 was a lavish dinner of lasanga(meat and meatless), delectable carrot cake made by Eli, and cheesecake made by me.  In the photo, I am being fat and fabulous laughing uncontrollably during dinner after something funny was said.  Dinner may not have been lavish with Bulgarian food, but homemade lasagna and cheesecake is a family tradition that comes from my grandmother that I continue to do, even in Sofia.   Credit Elitza Marinkova-Germanova

Posing for a picture with Eli, who made an incredible carrot cake.   Credit Elitza Marinkova-Germanova

Eli and Sash are what I call metro virgins, being that they never actually use the metro.  There were about 30 crazy photos taken using the metro between our apartment and Christian's apartment.  At one point, I though we were going to spend New Year's taking pictures at the Vassil Levski metro station.  :)  Credit Elitza Marinkova-Germanova

Getting the necessary champagne ready for midnight and the beginning of 2014.  Luckily, our friend Christian has a great apartment with a balcony that gives you a 360 degree view of all the fireworks.  He graciously hosted a party in which about 40 people gathered to see the fireworks.  Credit Elitza Marinkova-Germanova

View from Christian's balcony on New Year's Eve.  He has a great view of Alexander Nevski Church as you can see.  Credit Elitza Marinkova-Germanova

At the stroke of midnight, or when people think it is midnight, the Sofia sky is filled with fireworks throughout the city for a solid 10-15 minutes.  There is a boring speech just before midnight given by the Bulgarian president, but it's much better to skip such boring theater in order to see this dazzling display of colors in the next two pictures.  Credit Elitza Marinkova-Germanova

Credit Elitza Marinkova-Germanova

As you can see in the next two photos, there are fireworks throughout the Sofia skyline.  Credit Elitza Marinkova-Germanova

 Credit Elitza Marinkova-Germanova

Amelie trying to get a little bite of cheesecake the day after.  Silly Amelie, cheesecake is for people, not kitties.  It's not only her, everyone loves this cheesecake.  This is my photo.  :)
 Two Layer Lasagna 

1 - 1.5 liters of spaghetti sauce (I make my own sauce which I added onions, garlic, mushrooms, and fresh basil which makes for a great base sauce)
600 grams sausage, chopped into bite size pieces (optional)
50g fresh or frozen spinach, washed and chopped (optional)
450g ricotta cheese600 grams mozzeralla cheese, sliced into chunks
250 to 300g parmesan cheese
1 egg
2 spoonfuls of olive oil
1 small spoonful basil

6 to 18 lasagna noodles (I use the Barilla noodles which you don't need to cook)

 Preheat oven to 175 C.  
First, mix the egg and ricotta cheese in a small bowl. 

Lightly grease bottom of 9 by 13 inch pan, or 22.5 by 32.5cm, with oil. Add a little tomato sauce at the bottom, then place 5-6 lasagn
a noodles in pan, or until the pan bottom is fully covered in noodles. For the first layer, add more tomato sauce, then add ricotta cheese and cover evenly with spoon. Spread mozzerella and parmesan, and then sprinkle spinach, and sausage over the cheese. Finally add a little more tomato sauce on top and cover with lasagna noodles. 

For second layer, repeat the process, making sure to save some tomato sauce, mozzerella, and parmesan for the very top. For the very top, add last of tomato sauce over the last layer of noodles, then spread over the tomato sauce. Cover with aluminum foil, and bake for about an hour. Let cool for about 10-20 minutes, then eat and enjoy!