Gluten Free Vacation! Royal Caribbean-Anthem of the Seas

Hello friends! I realize that it has been a LONG time since I last posted, however, I am coming out of the shadows to share something special with you. My husband and I recently took a cruise to Bermuda to celebrate our 10th anniversary. We researched several travel options, and settled on Royal Caribbean, “Anthem of the Seas.” The reason we chose Royal Caribbean, is because we had read they had GF options. We didn’t know what all that meant, but we took a chance. Thankfully, we had an AMAZING trip, the food was great, and I didn’t get sick once! That, friends, is worth writing about. 🙂
I have taken the time to document the food and menus for you, so you don’t have to wonder about your options like I did.

Here are the restaurants I visited, the menus, and the food I ordered….

  1. Cafe270 – Just a small cafe with sandwiches, soup and beverages. This was the only restaurant opened when we boarded the ship, but they made it easy for me by having GF sandwiches already prepared (on their own, ship-made GF bread). This restaurant was free. the cafe 270 sandwhiches
  2. Windjammer Marketplace – Every blog post I read basically said “steer clear of the buffet” however, my experience was great. I met with the head Chef who walked me through the entire buffet telling me what was/was not GF. We ate at this buffet everyday for breakfast. The back of the ship was where the GF area was. There was a dedicated toaster, fresh baked bread (and raisin bread) Udi’s bagels, made to order omelets and bacon. I didn’t even bother looking elsewhere. This restaurant was free. BREAKFAST

     

    DINNER – We didn’t eat “dinner” here, but second dinner and snacks 🙂 They have a lot of fruits and assorted cheeses, a pasta area where they can prepare GF pasta. The entire staff in this area was East Indian, and they made some amazing GF curry and butter chicken. They also have a GF area with deserts and more bread. It’s easy to snack here and they have plenty.

    3. Sorrento’s Pizza – There is a little pizza joint on the ship that has amazing pizza! They have GF crusts on a foil pan, and make them to order. I had a few of these pizzas, and even took them back to my room. Honestly, one of the better GF pizzas I’ve had! This restaurant was free. 1. sorrentos pizza

4. The Grande- This is one of the formal evening dining restaurants. Honestly, not my favorite. The food was okay, but not great. As you might be able to tell, the GF options are marked on the menu. I ate there twice. First night I had duck a lorange, tomato watermelon feta salad, creme brulee and olive oil cremeux. The second time was pan-seared snapper and chilled shrimp. This restaurant was free.

5. Chic– the other formal evening restaurant. Again, not our favorite. The food was okay but not great. These GF options on this menu were also marked. I had the broiled atlantic salmon (not pictured) the lentil soup, and the salmon gravlax.

6. Jamie’s Italian– this restaurant cost us an additional $30 for lunch, but was well worth it. Our second favorite restaurant. They can substitute any of their regular pasta dishes with GF pasta (a very good one) Everything we ate here was SO delicious! They even went to the trouble to fry the posh chips in their own pan so it wouldn’t be fried in their regular fryer.

7. Chops Grille– This was another restaurant we had to pay additionally for. I believe it was $40 per person. The steak was amazing, however the sides weren’t anything special. I had the crispy goat cheese salad (not pictured), the pan roasted scallops (not pictured), and the filet mignon. The menu did not show GF options, but the chef was happy to come explain my options to me.

8. Wonderland– a beautiful blend of whimsy and molecular gastronomy! Surprisingly, this was our FAVORITE restaurant! This restaurant was the most expensive, costing us $50 each, but well worth it! The GF menu options weren’t marked, so we had to rely on our server to bring us GF food. He took the lead and brought us an amazing feast! I had several GF versions of the same thing my husband was brought. Liquid olive, liquid lobster, crispy crab cone, baby vegetables in the garden, buffalo chicken egg, oceanic citrus spicy tuna, a HUGE beef short rib, roasted chicken, halibut, baked Alaska, key lime lollipops, and molten chocolate cake…. oh my. I am salivating just remembering what an amazing experience it was!

9. Drinks– we opted for the non-alcoholic package which ran us $19 each per day, I believe. It included bottled water, tea, coffee, Starbucks drinks, virgin cocktails, soda, and fresh made smoothes in the adults only Solarium. I checked out the drink mixers, and everything I checked was GF. So if you go with the alcohol package, you’ll have to made sure your drinks are made with GF liquor.

 

Overall, this was a GREAT experience! For 5 days were well fed, and I didn’t get sick once! Yay! For us, that is well worth it. The staff was very competent and trained in gluten allergies, as well as other allergies. My husband took a tour of the ship, which included the area where all the GF food is prepared. All the GF bread is baked in a special area and the bread is available at every meal. Everyone took time to make sure I had what I needed. So, if you are looking for a great GF travel experience, I would highly recommend the Royal Caribbean “Anthem of the Seas” cruise! Even though this blog was dedicated to the dining experience, the whole vacation rocked! Hope this information helps someone out there!
Happy Gluten-Free Travel! You deserve it!

The best tostada you’ll ever eat!

Hello world.

Sorry for the recent hiatus, my family had a bad run in with a pretty vicious stomach bug the past few weeks.

Anyway, I am here now and I want to share a simple recipe with you that I make every week. Sometimes a couple of times a week. The great thing about this recipe is that is only takes a few minutes to make. Literally 3 minutes.

Also, it tastes really good. “The best tostada I’ve ever eaten!” is exactly what my dad said when I made him one.

Easy.

Lastly, I apologize for the quality of my pics…they were taken with my iphone because my husband has the camera somewhere else.

Okay….

Gluten-free tostada recipe

Ingredients:
Tostada’s (either cooked or raw) (2 per person)
full-fat refried beans-1 can
GF taco seasoning
jalapeno jack cheese or comparable
tomatoes-2
avocados-1-2
sriracha sauce

Firstly, season your tostada with a little GF taco spice. I bought the premade tostadas here, it’s much easier, however, it DOES taste better when you fry your own. I normally fry my own, but alas, a fly recently passed away in my oil, so until I take care of the matter, its premade for me.

So season your tostada. Warm about half a can of beans in the microwave for 1 minute. 1 can covers 4-5 tostadas, so heat accordingly.

Once you put your beans on, then add a little sriracha sauce. This is no joke, this sauce will make or break your tostada so don’t skimp. (it’s our little secret)

Now add your cheese.

Next your tomatoes and avocado. Finish with a little sprinkle of salt.

3 minutes. Delicious.

Enjoy!

 

Ain’t no party like a Queso Fundido party!

Queso. Cheese dip. Queso blanco. Queso fundido. Take your pick…

For some reason making this queso was difficult.
Well, not making this queso, but rather, the journey to find out how to make queso.
In case you didn’t know, there aren’t a lot of queso recipes out there.
Correction…there aren’t very many good queso recipes out there.

Of course you could always go with Velveeta and rotell…but I am a little opposed to
Velveeta…

Although I do have an aversion to American cheese, it works. Other cheeses don’t. Trust me I tried. I made the same recipe with Mexican melting cheese and it was rubbery and stringy. I saw recipes for Monterrey jack, but following the recipes were hundreds of disappointed commenters saying it was stringy.
Sorry folks…until you can prove me wrong…American cheese it is.

Good news is that it does taste good! I would liken it to Appleebees queso blanco.

I ate some of it when I made it…but I ate the rest the next morning. I hadn’t even refrigerated it! (Gross I know) I think it tasted better the next day.

So here you have it….QUESO FUNDIDO!!!
(This recipe is gluten free-but always check your ingredients yourself!)

Queso Fundido recipe with fresh chips and guacamole

Serves 2-4

Cost per serving $1.70 (including chips and guac)

3 Tbsp heavy cream
3 Tbsp canned diced jalapeĂąo
3 Tbsp canned green chili
1 Anaheim pepper-chopped
½ Onion-chopped
½ tomato chopped
½ lb American cheese-shredded
1 Tbsp fresh cilantro-chopped
1 tsp GF taco seasoning
GF corn tortillas
Cilantro
Avocados
Oil for frying

First chop your tomato, onion and Anaheim chili.

Chop Chop!

Grate your American cheese and set aside.

Grate your cheese

Now sautĂŠ your onion and Anaheim pepper until brown.
Transfer to saucepan over medium heat. Add tomato, jalapeno, and green chili.
Add your cream and grated cheese and stir well.
Add in your cilantro and taco seasoning and lower heat.

Mix and melt

Cut your corn tortillas into fours and fry over medium high heat.
Once browned, remove from oil and let dry on paper towels.
Salt while hot. (You can also sprinkle on some GF taco seasoning if you’d like)

Homemade chips!

Mash your avocado and add salt and fresh lime juice.

Make your guacamole

YUMMY!

Devour!

Even baby Glory loved it!

Baby Glory likes it!

Here are some other takes on queso;

livelovepasta-queso fundido

sweetlifebake-queso fundido

 

ENJOY!

Deliciously Gluten-Free Asian Pot Stickers

Gluten free pot stickers

Dumpling, pot sticker, gyoza, jiaozi, dim sum…..

Truthfully, I’m not really sure how to differentiate between these wonderful little packages of bliss.

I would love to waltz into a dim sum restaurant and cozy up to a server to get the lowdown, but due to my gluten allergy, I can’t.

So while I can’t really educate you on all things dumpling, I can offer you a gluten free recipe that tastes yummy, even if it is something of a crossbred mutt.

We will call it……dumpstickgoyadim for now.

I did find some gluten free dumpling recipes online, but to be honest, I didn’t care for them. The dough ended up cracking and turning into something of a mini pie crust, rather than a tender, chewy little dumpling. (This might also have to do with the fact that I didn’t keep my dough moist…)

So I found a different dough recipe that wasn’t actually classified as a gluten free recipe, but because it only contained rice flour and tapioca flour it WAS gluten free, and after having made it….I decided it was the best way to go for me.

Asian pot sticker recipe

Makes 24-28 dumplings (depending on size)

Gluten free pot sticker ingredients

Dough

(thanks to Andrea Nguyen for her brilliant rice dough recipe)
1 cup white rice flour
3/4 cup tapioca flour (also known as tapioca starch)
pinch of salt
2 Tbsp oil
2/3 cup boiled water (adjust if necessary)

Filling

15 medium raw shrimp-deveined and chopped
1/4 lb ground pork
Âź cup mushrooms-chopped
2 green onions-diced
1 tsp fresh ginger-grated
1 clove garlic-minced
1/4 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp GF soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt
Fresh ground pepper

Dipping Sauce

2 Tbsp GF soy sauce
1 Tbsp agave nectar
1/4 Tbsp rice vinegar
Âź tsp sesame oil
Few drops sriracha (optional)

Other tools:
Ziplock bag
Tortilla press-optional
Dumpling press-optional

Start by peeling and deveining your shrimp. Chop them, along with your mushrooms and green onion. Grate your ginger finely and then mince your garlic. Add everything into a bowl then add your soy sauce, ground pork, sesame oil, salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper. Mix all ingredients and place in fridge.

Finely chop all the filling ingredients and mix by hand

Next, start your dough by adding your rice flour, tapioca flour and salt into bowl. Pour in your oil. Add in your just-boiled water and start to mix with a chopstick. After water cools down a bit, start to knead the dough until it has a play-dough consistency.

mix your pot sticker dough

Now your dough is ready to be divided. Roll it out into a foot long rope (lightly dust the counter with rice flour) and cut in half. Place half your dough directly into a ziplock bag to keep moist. With the remaining dough, cut into 12 pieces. Place the pieces into the bag except a few that you are working with to keep everything moist. Repeat with remaining dough.

Divide your dough into 24 pieces

Now you are ready to start pressing your dough into the dumpling wrappers. This can be done quickly and easily with a tortilla press.

Cut a ziplock bag in half. Open your tortilla press and place half of the ziplock bag on the base. Lightly dust this with rice flour. Add one of your dough discs and cover with the other half of the ziplock bag. Close your tortilla press. When you open it, handle your wrapper carefully, as it is very delicate.

Press out your dumpling wrapper

Now you are ready to fill the wrapper with your meat. This is done very easily with a dumpling press.

Place the wrapper in your hand, and fill with a small ball of filling. Around 1/2-1 tsp. Place your wrapper in a dumpling press and gently press closed. Easy!

Filling your wrapper

–if you don’t have a tortilla press

you can press it out by hand the old-fashioned way. Take one of your dough discs and flatten it by hand. Cut a ziplock bag in half. Lightly flour half of the zipock bag and place your flattened dough disc on it. Cover with the other half of the ziplock bag and roll out with a rolling-pin. Gently take your wrapper and place your filling in it. Lightly wet the edge of the wrapper and close in half. Pinch shut, and work your way around the rest of the dumpling to close.

Press out your dumpling by hand

Place your pot stickers on a clean surface as you are preparing them.

POT STICKERS!

Once you have filled your wrappers, you are ready to cook. Heat your oil in a large saucepan. Add in your pot stickers. Let them brown for a few minutes. Add in 1/4 cup of water and cover with tight-fitting lid. Let the pot stickers steam for 6-8 minutes. You may have to cook them in two batches.

Browning the bottom

Once your pot stickers are done, then you can plate them. Mix your dipping sauce and enjoy!

Pot Stickers!

Yummy!

There are some other amazing dumpling recipes online with some pretty awesome instructional photos…so here are some blogs to visit when you get the hankerin….

  1. userealbutter-Chinese dumplings and pot stickers
  2. lafujimama-steamy shrimp pork dumplings
  3. asiandumplingtips

Happy dumpling eating!!!

Gluten Free Miso Soup

Gluten Free Miso Soup

If you’ve ever had hibachi, or eaten at your local Japanese restaurant, then you have probably met a bowl of miso.

Miso soup is so wonderful, earthy and “umamilicious“.  I have never met a bowl I didn’t like.

While I was pregnant with my first daughter, I craved miso soup. I would drive to the local Japanese buffet and order two to go. Sometimes in the middle of the night.

Although it can be high in sodium, it has some great health properties; with minerals, amino acids and protein to name a few.

Miso soup isn’t very hard to make, however,  you do have to have some ingredients that may be hard to come by (big surprise right?) including kombu (dried kelp) katsuobushi (thin shavings of dried skipjack tuna) and miso (fermented soybean paste). They should be available at your Asian market or online. You could always buy an “instant miso” packet, but chances are it will contain gluten.

Dried Kombu and Katsuobushi

First, we’ll make a broth called dashi out of the kombu and the katsuobushi. Dashi is the soup base that Japanese use in most of their soups. No wonder-it’s delicious.

Once we make the dashi, we will add in miso. There are different types of miso, and you can use whichever one you would like. The darker misos have a stronger flavor, and the lighter misos are sweeter and less salty. You can combine the misos as well.

Make sure you buy a miso that is pure with no added gluten. I purchased some light miso that didn’t contain gluten, but there were several brands that DID have gluten. Also, check your tofu as well. It should only have soybean and no other ingredients. All the other ingredients should be naturally gluten free.

If you really want to learn about miso soup, then check out this video. (Alton Brown is one of my FAVORITES)

Miso Soup Recipe

Serves 2

Cost per serving $2.30

2 x 4 inch strips kombu

4 cups water

1/2 cup katsuobushi (bonito flakes)

1-2 green onions-diced

1 small package enoki mushrooms

4 Tbsp miso (I used light) (GLUTEN FREE!)

1 Tbsp wakame dried seaweed-optional

8 0z soft tofu-chopped

First make your dashi…

Place your kombu in a pot with 4 cups water and soak for 20-30 minutes.

Place on medium heat. Just as water boils, add the katsuobushi and remove from heat. Let set for about 10 minutes. Strain the broth into separate pan. Either discard the kombu and katsuobushi, or save for second broth.

…Now the miso soup

Return broth to medium heat and add miso. Whisk to dissolve miso. Add chopped tofu, green onion and wakame. Cook until heated through.

This should last around 3 days in the refrigerator. Miso soup won’t freeze well.

Enjoy

Yummy!

Moroccan Mint Tea

As-Salāmu `Alaykum, or peace be with you in Arabic.

I learned this common greeting while I was in Morocco several years ago. We were doing a few days of language school,  and this is the only Arabic I can remember!

What I do remember from this trip are the sights and sounds of Morocco. Entering the town of old Fez, (only by donkey or foot) was like a scene straight out of Aladdin. We had to hire a donkey to carry our luggage to our hotel.

I was privileged to see many sights of Morocco; Casablanca, the old city of Fez, the markets of Marrakesh and the Volubilis Roman ruins

I also remember the food. Our usual fare was rotisserie chicken with fries, or even better, was the lamb tanjine, something hard to come by in North America.

We would always finish our meal with a piping hot cup of Moroccan mint tea. Served in a small glass cup, poured high from above to mix the flavors and produce foam.

Traditionally, the tea is served three times, and each glass has a unique flavor from the steeping process, according to the famous proverb:

The first glass is as bitter as life,

the second glass is as strong as love,

the third glass is as gentle as death.

I think I would like to try my hand at growing my own mint, so I can have this tea more often, and remember the wonder that Morocco holds.

Moroccan Mint Tea Recipe

2 servings

Cost $1.00 per cup

4 cups boiling water
2 tsp loose green tea
1 Tbsp sugar (or to taste)
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves

First, boil some water to rinse out your teapot. Add your green tea and some boiling water.
Let this steep for 2 minutes, then discard the water, leaving the tea leaves in the pot. (This will help the tea not be bitter) Fill pot with another 2 cups hot water, the mint and the sugar. Allow to steep for several minutes.

Pour tea from high up, creating foam in the teacup.

Enjoy!

Gluten Free Shrimp Tempura Roll

Most Americans I have encountered have never really had a good sushi experience. Some have never tried it at all, while others have had that “one” experience that scarred them for life. I wish I could take these people by the hand and help reshape their misguided ideas about sushi. If they tried a delicious roll, and hated it, I would leave it alone, but most have never had that chance.

The first time I ever ate sushi, I was living in Florida and strolled in (by myself) to the unknown territory of a Japanese restaurant. I sat at the sushi bar and looked over the menu. Nothing made sense, expect maybe the teriyaki chicken.

I decided on a $6.50 bento box that came with miso soup, salad, teriyaki chicken and a California roll. Everything I tried tasted different and delicious.

Then the sushi chef leaned over the counter and asked me if I wanted some sauce for my sushi. I didn’t know what he was talking about, so I just said, “sure”. What he handed me was a delightful pink sauce,  something I had never seen. As I dipped my California roll into the sauce, my roll was transformed. It went from a 4 to a 10 on the flavor scale in an instant.

The sushi chef and I got to talking, and realized we had a lot in common. We started a friendship that led to game nights and hang outs, and of course, he would always make the sushi!

I am so grateful for that day that I bravely strolled into that Japanese restaurant, and for that moment when my world opened up just a little bit more, and for the friend that I found in the sushi chef.

Maybe this is why I am so fond of sushi, because my initial experience was such a great one.

I ventured out from that point and tried all sorts of sushi, and the one that I have yet to top is the shrimp tempura roll. Fatning, and not quite Japanese as much as some southern fried delight, this roll is AMAZING.

I would love to sit down with some sushi doubters and let them try this roll, and see where they stood after that.

Of course, being gluten intolerant, I can’t have normal tempura or soy sauce, so currently my only option for my favorite sushi is homemade, and let me tell you, this is an awesome recipe. Tastes authentic of what my taste buds remember, and once you get the hang of it, making sushi gets easier and easier.

Gluten Free Shrimp Tempura Roll with Spicy Mayonnaise

Makes 4 rolls

Cost per roll $2.50

1 ½ cups Sushi rice (nishiki is a good brand)

2 Tbsp Sushi vinegar (rice vinegar with added salt and sugar)

4 Nori seaweed sheets (cut Âź off each sheet)

Âź cup Mayo (Kraft is GF)

½-1 Tbsp Sriracha chili sauce (to taste)

1 ½ avocados

½ field cucumber

1 cup all-purpose Gluten Free Flour

ž Tbsp baking powder

Ice cold water

8 Large shrimp

Cream Cheese (Philadelphia brand is gluten free)

Gluten free soy sauce

Oil for frying

Start by rinsing your sushi rice under running water. Rise 2-3 times until water runs clear.

Mix 1 ½ cups rice with 2 cups water and bring to boil. Once boiling, cover and bring to simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes.

Spread rice over non-metallic surface and fold in 2 Tbsp sushi vinegar. Spread and let cool.

Make your spicy mayo by adding mayonnaise and sriracha in bowl. Should be pink and slighty sweet. Mix to taste.

Cut your avocados and cucumbers and set aside. Cut Ÿ inch thick strips of cream cheese and set aside. Prepare shrimp by rinsing and peeling. (Leave the tail on) Lay shrimp flat and flatten out by pinching with your fingers. This will help the shrimp to stay flat.

Start to heat oil in small saucepan over med-high heat.

Make your tempura by mixing your flour and baking powder. Add in cold water and gently mix. Do not overmix, your tempura should be lumpy. This will help it to stay light.

Once your oil is hot, dip your shrimp (except tail) into batter and fry. This should take a few minutes each. Shrimp will start to turn golden when done. If they are burning or turning to deep brown, reduce your oil heat. Place cooked shrimp on paper towel to cool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Place your nori shiny side down on bamboo mat. (Cover bamboo first with gallon size ziplock) Wet hands, and spread ž cup rice over nori. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Turn your nori over rice side down. Assemble your roll by adding cream cheese, fried shrimp (2), cucumber  and avocado to middle of nori. Roll your bamboo mat over half way and then over the rest. (see here for help with rolling sushi)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cut into 8 pieces with sharp knife. Wet knife between cuts for a cleaner cut.

Drizzle on spicy mayo.  ENJOY!