July 31, 2009

Gluten Free Eggplant & Ricotta Rolls

I've been cooking up a storm lately; sticking to vegetarian and more health-conscious meals.  I love it!  Cooking healthy gluten free food is actually very easy.  It's the calorie-laden GF baked goods that are a bit more challenging. Eating foods that energize and make you feel good inside is where it's at.  I still eat whatever I want when I'm out, but I think sticking to the healthy stuff at home is an easy way to keep my weight down.  Not that I'm worried too much about my weight, but it's good to think preventatively.

I've had some pretty gross and greasy eggplant parmesan before so I don't usually cook with eggplant.  I wasn't sure how this dish would turn out.  It required a few more steps than I'm used to (I'm a pretty lazy cook), but the end product was AWESOME!  The following day when I had it for lunch at work - it tasted even better!  This dish seriously opened up my taste buds to the yumminess of cooked eggplant.  I know you're going to like this one;)

For the eggplant rolls
  • 2 medium eggplants
  • Olive or Sunflower Oil (enough to coat the bottom of a pan)
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups white rice (cooked)
  • 1 tblsp. fresh basil (chopped)
  • 1 tsp. fresh mint (chopped)
  • Sea Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper
For The Sauce
  • 1 tblsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium size onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 garlic clove (crushed)
  • 14 oz. can of chopped tomatoes 
  • 1/2 cup white wine (or GF vegetable stock)
  • 1 tblsp. fresh parsley (chopped)

Cooking Instructions
  1. Get the rice cooking.
  2. Create the tomato sauce: heat the oil in a small pan and fry the garlic and onion for 2 to 3 minutes (or until softened).
  3. Add the tomatoes, wine (or stock), and parsley. Season well with salt & pepper.  Bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes (stirring occasionally).
  4. Meanwhile: preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. 
  5. Slice the eggplants the long way. Discard the ends and outer slices.
  6. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the slices of eggplant until golden brown on each side (you'll need to do this in stages). Remove the browned slices and drain on paper towels.
  7. Mix the cooked rice, ricotta cheese, basil, mint, and some salt and pepper in a bowl.
  8. Lay the cooked slices of eggplant on a cutting board. Drop generous spoonfuls of rice mixture onto one end of each slice and roll them up.  Arrange the rolls side by side in a shallow ovenproof dish. 
  9. Cover the rolls with the hot tomato sauce and throw it in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Remove and chow down! This is serious good eats!

July 28, 2009

Gluten Free Arabian Spinach & Chick-Peas

The month before my wedding, I ate horribly.  Most of my meals consisted of burgers, hotdogs, sausage, and whatever else could be thrown onto the grill and cooked quickly.  While in Jamaica I had a chance to eat anything I wanted, and what I ended up enjoying the most, were simple, healthy foods.  Before I left I decided to do my best to make more vegetarian dishes, and try and limit my red meat intake.  Since being back I've begun to experiment and am loving it.  This is the first out-of-the-ordinary meal I made.  It's extremely simple, fast and delicious!  Most people would likely use this as a side dish for fish or meat, but I had it as the main course with basmati rice. I'll be making this again:)

  • 15 oz. can chick-peas (garbanzo beans), drained
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 14 oz. fresh spinach, washed and shredded
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tblsp. butter
  • 2 tblsp. olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Cooking Instructions
  1. Using a large frying pan or wok, fry the onion in the olive oil for about 5 minutes, or until softened. Ad the cumin and garlic and fry for another minute.
  2. Add the shredded spinach in small batches, stirring until the leaves begin to wilt.  It may not seem like it can all fit, but the spinach shrinks down a lot!
  3. Stir in the chick-peas, butter, sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Reheat it until just bubbling and then serve.  
  4. That's it! Enjoy!

July 24, 2009

Our Final Days in Jamaica

The Honeymoon is over. Boooooo!  Mindy and I are back in body but not in spirit.  Granted, our work week was short, but after the amazing experience we had in Ochos Rios, Jamaica, we're having a hard time getting back into the grind.  After our Blue Mountain adventure, the next trip we made was to Dunn's River Falls.  We hopped aboard a "booze-cruise" and sailed along the coast to the mouth of the falls.  They made us all hold hands while we climbed, which was pretty ridiculous for us since we've spent countless summer days climbing the waterfalls of Ithaca, NY, but it was still fun.  I think they have everybody hold hands due to the high amount of inebriated tourists that descend on the spot throughout the day:)  It can be pretty slippery too. As soon as Mindy let go of my hand and began to pave her own trail, her feet flew out from under her and she took a spill.  She got right up though. She's tough like that.

The next adventure we took on was a trip to Bob Marley's grave. We ended up meeting a couple of Londoners that hooked us up with two great local tour guides.  We spent the entire day with them driving through mountain villages, meeting people, and taking in amazing views from lookout points.  The driver took us through the 9-miles of road that led to Bob Marley's house.  Mindy and I have always been big Bob Marley fans. In fact, our mutual love for Marley's music was one of the first things that drew us together back in 1996:)  Being there was kind of emotional.  It was an amazing experience for both of us, and we'll definitely go back the next time we visit Jamaica.

After leaving Bob's house our tour guides asked us what we wanted to do.  We said we wanted to visit a local restaurant popular with the locals.  They both said "no problem mon!" and brought us to a great place specializing in curried mutton and Jerk dishes.  I ordered the Curried Mutton, which came with rice and beans cooked in coconut milk, and some slaw. The meat had a good deal of bones throughout, but I didn't mind since the taste was amazing!

We spent our remaining days getting massages, laying out, swimming, snorkeling, and eating at all the resort's restaurants.  We also took advantage of the buffets and room service meals. It was awesome!  I wish we were there right now:(  Oh well, I'm sure the two of us will be on another amazing adventure sooner than we think... that's kind of how we roll:)

July 16, 2009

Biking Down Blue Mountains

The days are passing much too quickly.  I wish our honeymoon here in Jamaica could go on forever:)  We are both feeling so spoiled, and we're loving every minute of it!  Tuesday evening we ordered room service dinner again. This time I chose the "Saumon Fume": Smoked salmon served with caviar, sour cream and capers. I'm not very accustomed to caviar, but I have to say, it was pretty good.  It's definitely a textural experience.  The eggs tasted like condensed sea, and they popped like little water balloons on the roof of my mouth.  The salmon was excellent, especially when mixed with capers and a dab of sour cream. Very good meal!

Afterwards we wandered down to the chocolate bar, which had about 20 plates of chocolate goodies, and a chocolate volcano to coat fresh chunks of fruit. I kept to the solid chocolates and the chococano. We loaded up our plates, walked onto the beach, and enjoyed our chocolate while reclining on beach chairs watching for shooting stars.

The next morning we woke up to room service knocking on our door to deliver our breakfast. It's awesome having your breakfast delivered every morning. We have an ocean-view room on the top floor of our building. Sitting with each other, having meals, completely private, the sounds of gently lapping waves in the background, the distant cries of gulls, and the wind blowing through the coconut trees; it's all very romantic. Like I said... I could get used to this:)

After breakfast we headed off to the Blue Mountains, to take part of a mountain biking adventure.  The ride was about 2 hours, so I was able to really get a good look at the countryside of Jamaica. Mindy said it was just like Tanzania, and I thought it was very similar to the less wealthy areas of China.  But it was beautiful everywhere. The Blue Mountains were gorgeous and tropical. The air was warm, humid, and sweet with the scent of flowers and vegetation.

The bike trip ended up being only one way; down hill.  They brought us up as far as they could go and then guided us down the narrow winding road we had just driven up.  We stopped whenever we wanted to, talked with the locals, took in the views, and looked completely ridiculous in the helmets and pad get-ups they forced us to wear. 

At half-way point, we stopped at a small restaurant/coffee roasting station for lunch.  They served us Jerk Chicken with spicy rice boiled in coconut milk. I asked them about the various gluten sources I needed to avoid, and they assured me none were used.  It was an awesome meal. My lips were left slightly tingly and my whole body was being warmed from the inside out. 

Our meal was finished off with a freshly roasted, ground, and brewed cup of Blue Mountain Coffee.  I drank it black. Not something I typically do; I'm a light and sweet guy. But I could see the oil droplets, filled with flavor, appearing at the surface of the coffee after every agitation, and I had to know its taste. It was great. Very earthy and rich. I didn't even mind that it was black. It tasted that good. And it was grown right there, right around where I was sitting. I could see coffee plants all around me, scattered along the steep slopes.  I had passed many on the side of the road while riding down the hill.  And what I was drinking right now was locally harvested by Jamaicans working for a Jamaican company.  I just love this stuff!

After our meal we finished off the biking tour with a dip in a pool under a waterfall.  I was the first to swim out and climb behind the waterfall, and I dove off of every rock I could find:)  It was a great way to end the trip! I took in everything again as we drove back to our resort, enjoying every scene, knowing that all too soon this amazing adventure would come to pass. Like every other journey before it.  Like every journey ahead. 

July 14, 2009

Arrived in Jamaica!

Wow, what a fast few weeks! The wedding is over and I'm in Ochos Rios, Jamaica at a Sandals resort with my new wife.  The Wedding was absolutely magical.  It was supposed to rain, but it didn't.  The ceremony was beautiful and flawless.  Our friends and family were wonderful. During the cocktail hour near a reflection pool surrounded by huge trees, the sound of an enormous bullfrog bellowing from the pond, flower petals caught by the wind lightly showered the guests. Everyone had a blast, getting goofy pictures taken in the photo-booth, eating, drinking and dancing their brains out. Mindy was unbelievably gorgeous! It was magic. It really was:)

Now it's Honeymoon time! Since we arrived in Jamaica all of our stresses, cares, concerns, worries, what have you - all of that is slowly seeping away into the sand, salty waters, waterfalls and pools. We have been eating a lot, drinking a lot, and relaxing a ton. It's nice. And it's only been a day and a half! I could definitely get used to this:)
Our room is completely stocked! It has a bar included, complete with mixers, wine, champagne, and four bottles of liquor where all you do is lift your glass up to the bottle and you get a perfect shot.  It has scotch, vodka, gin, and Appleton Special Jamaica Rum.  
Appleton is all over this resort, and is given out as contest prizes and bonus gifts when making "adventure tours." We're going to do a Blue Mountain Bike Tour tomorrow, and of course, we were given a complementary bottle of Appleton mon:)

The first night we were here they had a beach party with tons of food served out on the sand. It was pretty sweet. I gathered a smorgasbord of the offerings. The list included curried mutton, beet/date salad, local spiced greens steamed with carrot wedges, jerk chicken and pork, king prawns in chili sauce, and steamed clams.  Awesome!!  

Just in case, I took a couple of gluten-zyme tablets.  

When we returned to our room a plate with chocolates had been placed on our bed with a little note congratulating us on our marriage.  It was a nice touch:) 
This morning we ordered a room-service breakfast.  I ordered the "Jamaican" which was a mixture of spicy non-battered fish, eggs, plantains, red pepper, onions and a healthy portion of black pepper. It was served with potato wedges and two bread balls.  I gave those to Mindy:)  The coffee was from Blue Mountain, and it was great!  And the papaya was sweet and perfumey.  
We spent the whole day swimming in the ocean, laying out, sitting under the shade of palm trees, reading books, listening to music, drinking from pool bars and doing absolutely nothing productive.  About an hour ago we returned from a couples massage that was given to us by our friends Andy and Peggy.  Thank you Andy and Peggy! It was awesome.  Now we're waiting for our dinner to arrive. And later there's a chocolate bar!!  What is this place? Heaven?


Just So You Know...

The information presented in this blog is intended to educate and entertainment. However, I'm not a medical expert.  I also do not know absolutely everything about Celiac Disease.  What I do know has been learned through trial and error, research, and what has been taught to me by friends who also share my food-related affliction.  Please take the time to do your own research about Celiac Disease and gluten-related issues.  I have a list of links to useful resources along the left-side of this blog. Also, feel free to cross-check my statements. If you find contrary information, please let me know. Thanks so much for visiting Trav's Gone Gluten Free!