From My Grandmother’s Recipe Box: “Grandma Hanson Cookies” (Gluten-Free)

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This is my 100th post! I’m glad I realized this before I posted.  This is more exciting with the happy coincidence that this 100th post is on Valentine’s Day and I will be sharing the first recipe in my “From My Grandmother’s Recipe Box“.  I introduced this idea back in November, but didn’t have time to sit down and decipher the recipe cards until now.  We woke up to 14 inches of snow yesterday, and I took the opportunity to participate in such iconic snow day activities as: reading books, trolling pinterest, napping, playing board games, not going out in the snow…oh, and making cookies.

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The infamous Recipe Box

Given my snowed-in status, I had to make a recipe with ingredients that I had on hand.  This one truly intrigued me.  The recipe card has the type-written title “Grandma Hanson Cookies” with the recipe scrawling in green ink.  Grandma Hanson could be two people, depending on whether it was written by my Grandmother, Ginny, and her sister, my great aunt Mimi, or if is was written by their mother, my great grandmother, Helen.  The original Mrs. Hanson was my great-great-great grandmother Thea Hanson, but her son-in-law, Brady, took his wife’s (Thea’s daughter) maiden name for his surname.  Mary Jo Hanson was, then, the second Mrs. Hanson.  Thea would be the “Grandma Hanson” to Helen, while Mary Jo would be the “Grandma Hanson” to Ginny and Mimi.  I’m thinking this is probably Mary Jo’s recipe.

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Whomever it originated from, this recipe is pretty…basic.  Most of these recipe cards are missing some details that are usually deemed important in recipe making: cooking temperatures and/or times, mixing instruction, ingredient clarification–just to name a few.  In some ways, it makes me love these recipe cards more: the lack of instruction reinforces that these women and men in the generations before me trusted their instinct in the kitchen, and that many of these recipes were loved and made often enough to become partially memorized.   In this digital age, where hundreds of thousands of recipes are at the fingertips of home cooks, we are certainly exposed to an amazing variety of dishes.  We can share knowledge and ideas with people across continents.  But I also think it leads to a little bit of paranoia in the kitchen, or at least over-specificity.  We grow so concerned that the smallest details might ruin a recipe, where as our grandparents knew how to think on their feet to rescue a recipe gone awry.

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“Grandma Hanson Cookies” Original Recipe Card

  • 1/2 cup shortening (butter is best)
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp lemon
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 1/2 cups flour (more if batter sticks)
  • 1 tsp soda

Bake about 12 min.  I usually make up a batch and put it in the refrigerator for a few hours before baking.

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Adapting this recipe was pretty difficult.  I had to fill in key information, along with converting it to gluten-free.  In the end, I had to step back and take a breath, and just try different techniques–even if they went against my own instincts.  I had to add a lot more flour, even when I used a scale.  I still had a sticky, loose mess of a dough and all I had left was to try refrigeration.  I put the whole bowl in the fridge overnight and crossed my fingers.  This morning, the dough still seemed too sticky.  But I decided to just try it anyways.  In the end, I found myself with light, crisp-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside, barely-spiced, lovely tea cookies.  To be honest–I have absolutely no idea how the gluten-ful result of this recipe would be.  I’ve never made them and my mother does not recognize them from my description of my end result.  I’ll bring her some for a taste test for a final verdict.  But I am perfectly happy to find myself with tea cookies.  As I mentioned, the nutmeg, lemon, and vanilla combined to barely spice these cookies–they have almost a floral sort of taste, simply because the spice elements are used in such small quantities.  They are light enough, and barely sweet–perfect for a bite in the afternoon.  I chose to add a little drizzle of lemon glaze over top of these cookies, just to bring out a little more citrus flavor.  I think these would also be wonderful with a drizzle of chocolate, as well.

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Gluten-Free “Grandma Hanson [Tea] Cookies”

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 c. granulated sugar (+ more for rolling)
  • 3 eggs (large)
  • 1/2 cup full fat* sour cream
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 3/4 c + 2 Tbsp white rice flour
  • 1/4 c. buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 c. almond flour
  • 1/2 c. sweet white sorghum flour
  • 3/4 c. tapioca starch
  • 1/2 c. potato starch
  • 1/4 tsp ground psyllium husk
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum

Optional Lemon Glaze

  • 1/2 c. powdered sugar
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice

Optional Chocolate Drizzle

  • 3/4 c. chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp. coconut oil (or 1/2 tsp. liquid oil–olive oil, canola, etc)

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly with each addition.  Mix in sour cream.  Add lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla and mix well.  The wet mix should be similar in consistency to pudding.  In large, separate bowl, whisk together all flours, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, psyllium husk, and xanthan gum.  Add dry mix to wet in two parts, mixing well.  The dough will stick be kind of wet and loose.  It’s okay.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

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Sticky, slumpy dough is fine!

When ready to bake the next day, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and remove plastic wrap from dough.  Grease a pan and line with parchment paper.  It will have tightened up a little, but still kinda slump and be pretty sticky for cookie dough.  Again, that is a-okay.   Spread about 1/2 cup of sugar in a shallow bowl.  Spoon a scarce Tablespoon of dough into the sugar.  Gently turn the dough until it is coated in enough sugar that you can manipulate the dough.  Roll the dough into a small ball, re-roll in sugar.  Space the cookies 3 inches apart on the cookie sheet.  Bake for 13 minutes.  Allow cookies to cool for 2-3 minutes on the baking sheet, but remove them from the sheet to a cooling rack while still warm.  Cool cookies completely.

Make the drizzle: lemon or chocolate.  For lemon: thoroughly mix powdered sugar and lemon juice into a consistency slightly thinner than frosting.  Spoon into ziploc bag (or piping bag) clip a tiny corner off of the bag and squeeze glaze over cookies.  For chocolate: put chips and oil in microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave in 30 second interval, stirring well in between, until melted.  Allow to cool for 2 minutes.  Spoon into ziploc bag (or piping bag) clip a tiny corner off of the bag and squeeze glaze over cookies. Allow to dry.  Store in airtight containers with layers of parchment or wax paper between the cookies.

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Happy Snow Day!

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Gluten Free Beer-Battered Fish and Chips

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I made this recipe ages ago–I thought I had already shared it. Imagine my surprise when I found the photos in the “Need to Be Posted” pile.  Of course, there are a lot of foods that I’ve missed, since going gluten-free.  What is more disappointing is that I had only recently added so many new foods to my “acceptable” category.  Hello, my name is Kaity, and I was a picky eater up until…college.  As I have mentioned, being responsible for my own food choices actually forced me to try many new things.  Less than 3 years later, I was undergoing a complete overhaul of my eating habits in order to remove gluten from my diet.  Many new foods that I had only just come to love were suddenly off my plate–unless I could recreate or find them again, gluten-free.  Fish and chips was one of those foods.  I went to elementary school with a tuna salad sandwich in my lunch box most days, but, excluding a brief foray into fish sticks during toddler-hood, that was my extent of seafood.  Sometime in high school, finally, I tried shrimp and loved it.  But it would be several more years until I could actually count fish among the foods I enjoyed.  In fact, I’m still working on it today–some dishes I love and some fish dishes are still pretty gross.  However, tender white fish wrapped in crispy fried breading?  That is definitely, permanently on the Delicious List.  I only had fish and chips once, maybe twice before going gluten-free.  It wasn’t until Trader Joe’s started selling GF fried fish that I had the dish again.  And then, though TJ’s and other brands are producing delicious frozen food, it still wasn’t the “real deal”.  M, being stereotypically British, grew up on fish and chips.  Making our own at home has come up in conversation many times over.

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When the boys brought home beautiful striper (this fish really shifted my tastes solidly into the “pro-seafood” side of things) and then my mother gave us her old electric deep fryer, it seemed like it was time to do my research.  I read over countless recipes, both gluten-full and gluten-free, for fish and chips.  In the end, classic seemed to be the way to go.  I still wanted a few little surprises, so I knew adding spices and beer to the batter was the way to do it!  I had a little extra batter, so I sliced up an onion and made some onion rings as well.  Given my fear of deep frying, the whole process was pretty easy.  It does help that my inherited deep fryer is a neat and tidy little electric machine, with a latch top.  It makes me feel much more safe!

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Gluten-Free Fish & Chips (and Onion Rings)

Adapted from this recipe.

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 20 minutes

For the batter:

  • 2 c. white rice flour, divided
  • 1/2 c. tapioca starch
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. ground garlic
  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 lg. egg
  • 1 12 oz bottle of GF beer (I used New Planet)
  • 1/2 tsp. hot sauce

The Fish

  • 1 1/2 lb. cod, haddock, or striper fillets

For the chips & rings

  • 3 lg. potatoes
  • 1 lg. sweet onion
  • 1/2 c. buttermilk

For frying

  • Vegetable oil or shortening (crisco), for frying

Use amount of oil appropriate to your deep fryer and set it to heat to 325 degrees F.  If using a pan on the stove, fill a large, heavy-bottomedpot with 4-5 inches of oil.  Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pot, making sure the tip of thermometer is in the oil, yet not touching the bottom of the pot.  Heat the oil to 325 degrees F.

Slice the onion into 1/2 inch thick slices.  Gently separate into individual rings.  Toss with buttermilk, allow to soak during the remainder of your prep.  Scrub and peel the potatoes into long, thick fries.  (Think ‘steak fries’.)  Pat completely dry with paper towels.  Drop the fries into the fry basket (or use a spider to gently lower into pot).  Allow to cook at 325 degrees for 3 minutes.  Pull fries out of oil, allow to drain, and set aside on parchment paper.

Heat the oil up to 375 degrees F.  Spread 1/2 c. of white rice flour on a large plate.  Mix remaining dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix egg, beer, and hot sauce, then add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and whisk until smooth.  Cut fish fillets into 2-3 pieces.  Dredge fish in flour, taking care to make sure all sides are coated.  Shake of excess.  Divide fries and fish into 2-3 batches.  Place fries into bottom of fry basket. Dip fish in batter one piece at a time.  Place fish on top of fries in fry basket.  Lower into hot oil for 4-5 minutes until crispy and golden.  Drain on paper towels, season with salt while still warm.  Place fries and fish on a parchment lined baking sheet in a oven set to “warm” (or lowest setting).  Repeat the layering and cooking procedure with remaining batches of fries and fish, adding all to the oven to keep warm.  Make sure the oil temperature stay constant.

Drain buttermilk from onions.  Dredge onions in remaining flour, dip in remaining batter and drop in small batches into fry basket.  Cook for 5-7 minutes, until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels, sprinkle with salt.  Serve the fish, chips, and onion rings with lemon, dill, tartar sauce, and vinegar*.

*Malt vinegar is not gluten free.  We liked rice vinegar on this.

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Eating Gluten-Free on Royal Caribbean Cruises

Cruise 2.0.  We made it through with some gray skies and a little bit of poor weather.  By the time we boarded ship, M and I were nearly vacationed out, so I suppose it come to no surprise that between the weather and our dragging energy, I reverted to my championship napping habits.  I napped at least once a day, and it was pretty glorious.  We did manage to be awake to participate in the Disco Inferno Dance Party, The Quest: An Adult Scavenger Hunt, The Love & Marriage Game Show, Battle of the Sexes, and other ship classics.  I’d been looking forward to getting back to the ship and to the food, which was so lovelyin May.  Truth be told, our Gluten-free Dining was a little rockier than expected.  In the end, it all work out, but it was not as seamless as I had dreamed.

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Orange Mousse with Raspberry syrup and Mango puree.

On Royal Caribbean’s website, it requests that patrons inform the company of all dietary needs at least 60 days prior to cruising.  M and I had our gluten-free diet noted almost six months before our May cruise.  Our three days in May were blissful, in terms of eating safely.  When we rebooked for Cruise 2.0, most of the booking went through my mother, as she had the credit on her account.  Coupled with our holiday schedules, M and I forgot to call and check that our dietary needs were noted until 3 weeks before the cruise.  The representative assured us that it would not be a problem onboard.

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Roasted Peach Soup

Overall, the ship certainly had the alternatives and practices needed to feed us safely.  Our waiter, though we loved her, seemed significantly less informed about gluten-free eating than our waiter in May.  One of the head waiters in the dining room checked in on us every night–which seemed, again, to be that our waiter was less experience–but was so appreciated.  He quickly and efficiently showed us how much the company cared about our experience.  After a few disappointing tests, M and I stuck to the main dining room for our meals.  We had more personal service than in the Windjammer, which was all buffet style, and significantly more options than the Windjammer or the Park Cafe (the “healthy”/”snack” option).  Park Cafe focused too much on sandwiches and pasta salads to have much that we could eat.

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Prime Rib with horseradish and vegetables

Day 1–Boarding

  • Lunch (Windjammer): Mashed potatoes, beef, green beans.
  • Dinner (Dining Room): Appetizer: Shrimp Cocktail. Entree: Prime Rib with root vegetables and jus, baked potato.  Dessert: “BBB Creme Brûlée”

On the first day, we boarded at midday in the frigid, freshly snow-blanketed Baltimore air.  All of us dumped our bags in our rooms and hurried up to the Windjammer Cafe with our coats and winter accouterments.  We knew the Windjammer would be the only place to eat, and that our Muster Drill (ever so important, as we can attest) would be in a little less than an hour on deck.  None of us were going to be freezing for the 20+ minutes that we would wait on deck.  Thankfully, my mother and J managed to get us a table.  M and I quickly grabbed what we could–we did notice that the name cards for each dish were denoted when gluten-free.  Amongst the crowds, we found mashed potatoes, green beans, and the beef roast.  It was certainly enough to last us to dinner.  At dinner, I was happy to see at least 3 appetizers and 4 entrees were labeled gluten-free.  The prime rib was nice, though I would have appreciated a bit more sear on the outside.  Dessert, of course, was RC’s signature BBB Creme Brûlée, which has Bailey’s and bananas until that sugar crust.  I suppose the third “B” must be for “brûlée”?

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Baked Alaska

Day 2–At Sea

  • Breakfast (Dining Room): Scrambled eggs, bacon, tomato, fruit, GF toast
  • Lunch (Dining Room): Steak sirloin sandwich with GF toast, salad
  • Dinner (Dining Room): Appetizer: Banana-Run Soup.  Entree: Ordered Sliders with fries (labeled GF). Instead: Steak with herb butter, baked potato, vegetables.  Dessert: Sugar-free Pot de Creme with Raspberry Sorbet

On day two, M and I were happy to see gluten-free labels at breakfast.  We were in for a more rude awakening at lunch time, when there were no gluten-free labels on the menu.  After some inquiring, I was told I could order a salad, or the steak sirloin sandwich without bread.  I could not convince them to actually place the steak and chimichurri sauce on the gluten-free bread that I had received at breakfast that morning and dinner the night before, so I had to insist (somewhat forcibly) to have a plate of bread brought to us.  We requested the gluten-free toast when they brought the bread basket for the rest of the table, and had not received it by the time our main dishes came to the table.  Eventually, I did get my toast, and put the steak on top.  That was perfectly tasty.  M ordered a burger on a GF bun.

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Coconut and Lychee Soup

Unfortunately, dinner was equally disappointing.  The menu has certain standby dishes available every night for appetizers, entrees, and desserts, and then has a rotating menu of dishes in each category.  The only dish labeled gluten-free on rotating portion of the menu was fish, which I wasn’t in the mood for on that night.  Instead, I looked to the standby and was happy to see that the cheeseburger and tomato aioli sliders were labeled gluten-free.  When I ordered, I was told “no”.  Simply that they were not gluten-free.  Given their labeling, I insisted that the waiter check with the chef.  (I did a lot of insisting on this day).  I was told that I could preorder the sliders for the next night (perhaps they had to clean off a griddle to ensure against cross contamination?  I’d like to assume the best answer).  I did pre-order, and then went with the steak, another of the “standby” dishes.  The steak was fine, nothing special.

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Blueberry-Yogurt Soup

Day 3–Port Canaveral

  • Breakfast (Windjammer): NO LABELS:  Yogurt, fruit, bacon
  • Lunch (Park Cafe): Salad, potato chips, sliced beef
  • Dinner (Dining Room): Appetizer: Blueberry Yogurt Soup, Entree(s): Pre-ordered Sliders with fries.  Ordered: Pappardelle with peas, proscuitto, cream sauce (labeled GF).  Received: spaghetti pomodoro.  Dessert: Pistachio ice cream.

By the end of the previous night, I was feeling rather cantankerous.  With this is mind, it probably wasn’t the best choice for M and I plan to check out the Windjammer for breakfast.  We were very disappointed to realize that nothing in the Windjammer was labeled gluten-free.  For once, we were thankful that neither of us react too terribly to cross-contamination and stuck to what seemed more trustworthy: fruit, yogurt, eggs, and bacon.  Given that the dining room was closed, we had no other option.

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GF Sushi at Izumi: Champagne Lobster Roll and Asparagus-Vegetable Roll

This day, we were in Port Canaveral.  We all had an excursion to go kayaking in Manatee Bay.  It was too cold to see any manatees, but we stopped at a little island to wade and found all sorts of crabs, jelly fish, conch, and other sea life.  It was my first time kayaking, and M and I excelled at the double kayak.  Given that our guide told us that the kayaks were nicknamed “Divorce Boats”, I would say we are allowed to be proud of ourselves.  The excursion was wonderful.  We even stopped by a local orange store to sample freshly squeezed orange juice and fresh fruit.  I can assure you, I have never tasted sweeter grapefruit.  All of it was incredible.  The owner told us that our citrus was stale by the time it reached stores up here and I absolutely believe her.

We got back onboard mid-afternoon, in the time when both the dining room and the Windjammer Cafe are closed to transition from lunch to dinner.  We called to order room service and were told that nothing on the menu was gluten-free.  More disappointment.  We head upstairs to the Park Cafe.  Amidst the multitude of gluten-filled dishes, I managed to get some sliced beef roast, potato chips, and a salad that we could eat.

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GF Combo Nigiri, Cucumber Roll, Snowcrab California Roll

At dinner, I continued my trend of fruit soups for appetizers.  They are so good, and there is one almost every night.  For my entree, I had already pre-ordered the sliders.  But I also saw that the Pappardelle pasta with Pea, Proscuitto, and Cream Sauce was labeled gluten-free, and I was also interested in that.  And, because you can, I ordered two entrees.  My waiter remembered the sliders, but, yet again, balked at my pappardelle order.  She said that the gluten-free pasta would take thirty minutes.  M, who had ordered the same, and I said we wouldn’t mind waiting, and that we would split my sliders in the meantime.  After a days wait, the sliders were extremely lackluster.  They were served on a chopped up Udi’s hotdog bun (by now, we realized that while it seemed like the GF bread was baked on ship, all other GF items were Udi’s), without any sauce.  We were given ketchup on request, but it was a poor substitute to the aioli, which we were not informed was taken off the dish when made gluten-free.  Our waiter returned several times as we waited for the pappardelle.  First, to say that they only had gluten-free spaghetti noodles.  Okay, to be expected.  Shaped doesn’t matter that much–we assured her that was fine.  Finally, she came out with the two bowls of spaghetti noodles…topped with red sauce.  Pomodoro.  Overall, my biggest issue with gluten-free dining on Royal Caribbean was not that there were substitutions or adaptations, it was that the patron was not informed of what those changes would be before receiving a dish.  M and I then noticed that the Spaghetti Pomodoro, one of the “standby” dishes on the menu was not labeled gluten-free.  With the clear evidence of a gluten-free spaghetti pomodoro sitting on the plate in front of us, we reached our limit with the rampant mislabeling.  Sustitutions, ultimately, can be tolerated.  Wrong labels send most gluten-free eaters racing far away.  The moment we question the safety of our food is the moment we lose our trust and become suspicious.  Dessert did not have gluten-free options beyond ice cream.  Thankfully, the pistachio ice cream was delicious!

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Salmon plate with Udi’s GF Bagels

Day 4–Nassau

  • Breakfast (Dining Room): Salmon plate w/ GF Bagel (smoked salmon, capers, onions, tomato, lemon, cream cheese)
  • Lunch (Dining Room): Entree: Morrocan lamb w/ salad and tzatziki sauce.  Dessert: White-chocolate orange flan.
  • Dinner (Dining Room): Appetizer(s): Fruit Medley with Pistachio Yogurt (pineapple, strawberries, kiwi, mango, papaya), Smoked Duck Breast with orange-fennel salad, Entree: Roasted Chicken Breast with jus, vegetables, and baked potato.  Dessert: Cherries Jubilee.

We had a word with the head waiter after breakfast about the disappointing mistakes in labeling the menu for dietary needs.  Luckily, M and I were both in better moods after a delicious (and safe and properly labeled) smoked salmon plate for me and eggs benedict for M.  And we were happy to see labels on the lunch menu.  By the way, the Morrocan lamb was one of the best dishes I ate onboard.  I could not have it in a pita, but the bread was certainly not missed.  I had thought, paired with a tzatziki sauce, the lamb would be lightly spiced, but instead the lamb was slow cooked in the deepest, earthiest tomato sauce–almost a ragu–with warm, beautiful spices.  This lamb was incredible.  I’ll be doing some research to find a similar type of sauce, so I can try to recreate this at home.

In Nassau, M and I found our beach that we visited two years ago while the rest of our party walked through the Dig and Aquariums at Atlantis.  M and I had already seen it, and, as it turns out, we would be the only ones to make it into the Caribbean ocean.  Our beach day at Cococay would be cancelled for weather.  Dinner was suddenly back to having five dishes, minimum, in each course, available to be made gluten-free.  I started off with two lovely, light salads, followed by simple, but delicious chicken.  Cherries Jubilee also followed the trend of light and fresh.  It was a pretty good day to follow up to the significantly poorer day before.

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Beef Carpaccio with lemon olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan, and crisp salad.

Day 5–CocoCay At Sea

  • Breakfast (Dining Room): Fruit, yogurt
  • Lunch (Dining Room): Beef Carpaccio
  • Dinner (Dining Room): Appetizer: Strawberry bisque with mint, Entree: Garlic Tiger Shrimp with vegetables and rice, Dessert(s): Strawberries Romanoff, Flourless Chocolate Cake

We woke up after a rolling night to realize that weather was culprit.  We were scheduled for a beach day, but the weather was gray, dark, and stormy.  With the ship pitching, I did not have much appetite, and even less energy.  I woke up for meals and pretty much napped the rest of the day, multiple times.  Once again, all of our menus were labeled and had fairly generous choices, including the return of my beloved beef carpaccio to the lunch menu.  The whole table split the flourless chocolate cake for dessert after dinner.  My mother wished that we could have it every night, and we had been on the ship long enough to suspect that we would now be getting a plate of flourless chocolate cake every night.

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Eggs Benedict on an Udi’s GF Hamburger Bun

Day 6–Key West

  • Breakfast (Dining Room): Eggs Benedict (served on hamburger buns)
  • Lunch: On land.
  • Dinner (Dining Room): Appetizer: Berry & Yogurt “Frappe” (more fruit soup), Entree: BLT Salad with mustard-herb vinaigrette.  Dessert: Orange Mousse with mango puree & raspberry sauce

Since we skipped the stop at CocoCay, we got a few extra hours at Key West.  This was wonderful–Key West was, by far, my favorite port.  We took the trolley all around, stopping at a spice merchant, a hot sauce shop, a butterfly conservatory, and Ernest Hemingway’s house.  M had purchased catnip to bring back for his mum’s cat, Hoolie, and none of us thought twice until we found nearly a dozen Hemingway cats following him through the grounds.  We also found the Key Lime Pie shop that offers gluten-free pie.  That was a fantastic surprise.  I even got a peek at Guy Fieri!  He was filming Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives across the street.

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GF Key Lime Pie from Kermit’s.

The Eggs Benedict for breakfast was so-so, but received bonus points for being able to be made gluten-free.  Dinner was light, and fine, but not very noteworthy.  But after such a wonderful day around the town, it wasn’t so bad.

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Fisherman’s Plate: Lobster, Shrimp, rice, and veg.

Day 7–At Sea

  • Breakfast (Dining Room): Eggs, bacon, GF toast, Chocolate-Cherry Trifle
  • Lunch (Dining Room): Beef Carpaccio, salad
  • Dinner (Dining Room): Appetizer: Roasted Peach Soup, Entree: “Fisherman’s Plate” (lobster, shrimp, vegetables, rice), Dessert: Baked Alaska

It was “Chocolate Lovers” Breakfast in the Dining Room this morning.  While that meant mostly waffles and pancakes, M and I inquired with the chef regarding the Chocolate Cherry Trifle.  It was actually gluten-free, being more of a pudding, rather than a true trifle.  We couldn’t manage more than a few bites of the rich chocolate and cream-topped cherries, but it was a sweet surprise.  I had beef carpaccio once again.  The aged beef with sundried tomatoes, lemony olive oil, and fresh, crunchy salad is such a perfect blend of flavors and textures.    Dinner was as much of a star as breakfast and lunch.  My roasted peach soup was served cold, like all of the other fruit soups, but the roasting brought beautiful depth to the peaches.  My Fisherman’s plate was really wonderful as well.  I always say yes to lobster, and this didn’t disappoint.  In fact, it was good enough that the tiger shrimp I had loved just two nights before completely paled in comparison.

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Eggs Benedict on Udi’s Bagels (I suppose the GF bread options were getting a bit slim)

Day 8-At Sea

  • Breakfast (Dining Room): Eggs Benedict
  • Lunch (Izumi):  Seafood Hot Rock (plain meat: salmon, lobster, scallops, shrimp, and plain vegetables), Rice, Champagne Lobster Roll, Vegetable Roll
  • Dinner (Dining Room): Appetizer(s): Tapas Plate (Prosciutto–no chorizo, manchego cheese, cheese-stuffed peppers, Salad), Coconut and Lychee Soup, Entree: Lamb Shank with jus, mashed potatoes, vegetables, Dessert: Pear and Chocolate Tart

Our final day was another that we savored.  We went to Izumi, the sushi restaurant onboard, for lunch.  Though it is a restaurant that charges (a la carte), it was probably the best thing we ate onboard and, without a doubt, the best sushi I have ever had.  M, E, A, and I went and shared here and there.  The servers were just as knowledgeable about serving gluten-free, and made sure everything that we ordered could be made gluten-free, including all of the sauces.  We had the hot plate–an exciting presentation that allowed us to sear fish, seafood, and vegetables on a blistering hot slab.  I ordered the vegetable roll, made with avocado, cucumber, carrot, and asparagus and–the true star of the show–the champagne lobster roll.  Sweet, tender lobster is wrapped with daikon sprouts and avocado in a cushion of rice with a yuzo fruit wrap, topped with a champagne vinegar aioli-type sauce.  M ordered the spicy tuna roll and a combo with plenty of nigiri and some cucumber rolls.  This meal was spectacular.  E had “Surf and Turf” Tataki: a shrimp tempura roll topped with rare-cooked steak and chimichurri sauce.  That, I will definitely have to recreate.

Dinner was nice and warm, though we were still a little full from our sushi lunch.  The lamb shank was served with rich gravy, and the first mashed potatoes I had since Day 1.  I was getting pretty tired of baked potatoes, so this was the highlight of my entree plate.  My tapas appetizer was also really lovely, especially the stuffed peppers.  It was a good end to the trip.

rc fruit soup 1

Strawberry Bisque

Day 9–Make Port

  • Breakfast (Dining Room): Eggs, Toast, Bacon, Fruit

On port day, you can only manage a speedy breakfast, before its time to gather up your bags and walk down to the real world once again.

Overall, I am happy that RC is clearly making strides to serve its gluten-free customers.  There was never a time when I necessarily felt unsafe eating the food, because the staff certainly refuted and/or pointed out when there was something that I could not eat.  In most cases, they tried to substitute what was appropriate for my diet.  However, the inconsistency with labeling dishes, and then not being informed of what substitutions were being made, was irritating.  Given the huge amount of attention that the cruise staff are already giving to dietary needs, the lack of labeling seemed almost lazy.  I expected more in that regard, because the bar was set high by RC.  I had seen that dinner menus could have nearly a half dozen, clearly-denoted options, each, for the appetizer, entree, and dessert course.  Therefore, I expected a comparable experience each night.  I will readily admit that I am calmer about my food, mostly because I have the ‘luxury’ (in a sense) of having a gluten sensitivity, rather than celiac disease.  A little bit of cross contamination will not bother me, unless it ‘builds up’ by my consuming it every day.  Without having to worry if separate utensils were used, or new gloves were put on, I know that I traveled with significantly less stress.  For those of you who are more sensitive than I am, I would recommend Royal Caribbean.  The level of knowledge amongst the staff regarding dietary needs is significantly higher than most restaurants, and, as a whole, the company works so hard to meet your needs and requests.  Do you research, of course, but I would say Royal Caribbean is on its way to leading the pack in the race to cater to special diets.