Friday, July 24, 2009

Beef and Mushroom Lasagna

1 box gluten-free lasagna noodles (10 oz.)
3/4 pound ground beef
1/2 small container of diced baby portabella mushrooms
8 ounces part skim ricotta cheese
6 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
grated parmesan cheese - as desired
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large can spaghetti sauce

1. Cook lasagna noodles following the directions on the box - stir frequently, then drain.

2. Heat garlic in olive oil, then add ground beef and brown.  Mix in mushrooms and cook for approximately 2 minutes.  Add in 3/4 can of sauce and simmer for approximately 5 minutes.

3. Cover bottom of shallow baking dish with layer of sauce (1/2 of remaining sauce in the can). Arrange first layer of noodles on top of sauce. Add layer of meat sauce.  Arrange 2nd layer of noodles.  Add layer of ricotta cheese. Arrange 3rd layer of noodles.  Add another layer of meat sauce.  Arrange 4th layer of noodles.  Cover with remaining sauce from the can.  Add shredded mozzarella cheese and grated parmesan cheese.

4. Cover with foil and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for an additional 15 minutes.  

5. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before eating.

Makes 8 servings.  

This was my first attempt at gluten-free lasagna and it turned out delicious!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Our Baltic Vacation

We just got home a few days ago from a 2-week Baltic cruise.  This was our third cruise with Oceania Cruises and we had a fantastic time.  We visited beautiful sights and enjoyed amazing food. Our cruise started from London (actually Dover), and from there we visited Belgium, Amsterdam, Germany, Denmark, Poland, Finland, Russia (St. Petersburg), Estonia, and Sweden (Stockholm).

We had planned to get to London a full day early so we could enjoy some time before having to go to the ship.  Unfortunately, with flight issues that came up (more details about this later) we only had a few hours in London and we were exhausted.  I had done some research for gluten-friendly restaurants in London before the trip, but by the time we got there we just wanted to eat at the closest restaurant we could find.  We came across Nar Restaurant, a Mediterranean restaurant in South London.  The food was delicious and the staff was knowledgeable about special diets. The menu actually identifies vegetarian dishes, as well as dishes containing nuts, and specifies to notify a Manager with any food allergies.  I had grilled chicken with basmati rice.  The portions were very generous and the chicken was packed full of flavor.

The food on the ship was amazing.  I mentioned in a prior post (Traveling Gluten-Free) that Oceania Cruises does a wonderful job making accommodations for special diets.  Just like my previous trips with them, I gave them advance notice of my gluten-free diet and they didn't skip a beat.  I had gluten-free bread at all my meals, and was able to review the dinner menu each morning to provide my selections for that evening in advance in case my meal needed to be prepared differently.  The chef was available to review the buffet items with me when necessary (we usually had lunch at the buffet).  They also have tea time every afternoon where you can enjoy small sandwiches, desserts, and a cup of tea.  I rarely went to this on our prior trips thinking there wouldn't be anything I could eat. However, I decided to go this trip for some tea, and was so surprised when I was greeted with a special tray of gluten-free sandwiches.  We ended up going to this almost every afternoon and I was able to enjoy a variety of sandwiches including egg salad, shrimp salad, chicken salad, cream cheese, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Some of my favorite dinners on board consisted of Lobster Risotto, Filet Mignon, Veal Chop with Mushroom Porcini Sauce, Vegetarian Bean Chili, Seabass with Crushed Potatoes, and Herb Crusted Rotisserie Free-Range Chicken.  My favorite treat on board was the Triple Homemade Marshmallow Dessert.  It was out of this world!

I mentioned above that we had some flight issues on this trip.  I had made plans well in advance for special gluten-free meals on the international flights both going and coming from the cruise on Continental. Unfortunately, we had weather delays on the first leg of our trip and missed our connection flight from Newark to London (by minutes).  We ended up on a flight to London leaving almost 6 hours later than our original flight, and of course my gluten-free meal (along with our luggage) didn't follow me on that later flight.  I was able to eat a small meal at the airport, and luckily had some snacks to hold me over on the flight.   Preparing to return from Stockholm at the end of our trip, I was hopeful there wouldn't be any problems with the gluten-free meal I had arranged for this flight.  Unfortunately, when we arrived at the airport we were shocked to find out that with the changes Continental made to our initial flight to London, they accidently cancelled our reservations for our return flight. They were able to make some changes and get us home on the original flight, however the pre-arranged gluten-free meal was long gone. The few gluten-free snacks I had left at the end of the trip just barely held me over on this flight.  

I usually always carry gluten-free snacks when I travel and they definitely came in handy on this trip.  Along with the flights, I like to have them on hand for the days on long excursions.  I also mentioned in the previous travel post that I am not the most adventurous.  I'm sure there are many people on gluten-free diets who travel to other countries and try all of the local food.  I am not one of those people, and cruising allows me to see the world and eat great food that I know will agree with me.  Aside from the flight issues, it was a wonderful vacation.  Thank you Oceania Cruises!