Black Bean Cakes with Cilantro-Avocado-Lime Slaw {gluten, dairy, soy free}

I can't believe how much I loved my dinner last night. It was so good, I had to hurry right along to share it with you... now! Please make this soon. I promise you'll enjoy it. {Inspired by a recipe from The Family Dinner.}

For the Slaw, You'll Need:
2 Cups Cabbage {finely sliced}
1 Carrot {shredded}
1/2 Cup Sweet Onion {sliced, diced, in strips... you choose!}
Salt & Pepper
2 tsp. Sugar
2 tsp. Vinegar
1 tsp. Lime Juice
Cilantro {washed and chopped, a little or a lot}
Avocado {diced}

To Make the Slaw:
Combine cabbage, carrot shreds, and onion in a mixing bowl.
Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper, sugar, vinegar, and a squeeze of lime juice, and stir or toss to combine.
Add cilantro to taste. {I used a ton, because we love the stuff.}
Gently stir in diced avocado.
Set aside while you make the bean cakes.

For the Bean Cakes, You'll Need:
1/2 Cup Onion {finely diced}
2 tsp. Ground Cumin
Salt & Pepper
1/2 Cup Diced Green Chile's {make your own, or use a 4 oz. can}
1 Can {15 oz.} Refried Black Beans
3/4 Cup Black Beans {drained and rinsed}
1/2 Cup Cornmeal
1 Tbsp. Vinegar
1 Tbsp. Lime Juice
3/4 Cup Crispy Rice Cereal
Olive Oil {for cooking}

Update: this recipe originally called for an egg, but I've since tried making the cakes without egg, and was very successful! These black bean cakes are vegan now!

To Make the Bean Cakes:
Combine diced onion, cumin, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and green chiles in a mixing bowl. Stir to combine the seasonings.
Add refried beans {I didn't actually use the entire can. I left about two inches in the bottom of the can.}, black beans, cornmeal, vinegar, and a squeeze of lime juice to the mixing bowl.
Mix the ingredients to combine well, digging in with your hands if necessary. I did!
Set the mixture aside for ten minutes or so, or place in the fridge for a longer stretch of time if you prefer to make meals ahead of time.
When you're ready to cook your bean cakes, stir or mix in the rice cereal.
Heat olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet. {I used my electric skillet.}
Scoop a portion of the mixture into your hand, roll it into a ball {You choose the size, but mine were a bit larger than a golf ball and I wound up with ten cakes.}, and then gently flatten the ball into a patty.
Place cakes in the skillet, allowing them to cook for several minute on each side over medium-high heat.
Be gentle, as these won't hold up quite as well as a meat patty or similar food item. Use a spatula t scoop the cakes up and carefully flip them, adding more oil before putting the cakes back down if necessary.

To serve, top the warm Bean Cakes with cool, crunch Slaw.

I shared this recipe on... Life as MOM, Foodie Friday, My Meatless Mondays, Made from Scratch Monday, Fresh Bites Friday, Just Another Meatless Monday

Green Chile Chicken Stew {gluten free, dairy free, soy free}

This stew calls for many of my favorite ingredients, but I was still surprised by how much I liked it when everything came together. It was easy and quick to make, too!

1 lb. Chicken Breast
1/4 Cup Gluten Free Flour {I used Bob's Red Mill AP Blend}
1/2 tsp. Salt & Pepper
2 tsp. Cumin {divided}
1 Onion {diced}
1 Cup Diced Green Chiles {how to roast your own}
2-3 Medium Red Potatoes {diced}
1 Can Black Beans {drained and rinsed, and completely optional}
1/2 Cup Fresh Cilantro {chopped}
3 Cups Chicken Broth
Olive Oil

To a large zip-top bag, add flour, salt & pepper, and 1 tsp. cumin.
Cut up chicken into bite-sized pieces, and add to flour mixture in the zip-top bag. Seal the bag, and then shake the bag well to coat the chicken pieces.
Heat a bit of olive oil in a large pot {I use my dutch oven}, and add the chicken. Cook chicken for several minutes, turning several times to brown all sides.
Remove chicken and set aside. {It doesn't need to be cooked through at this point.}
Add a bit more olive oil to the pan, plus the diced onion. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions begin to look translucent. Stir in remaining cumin {1 tsp.}, plus an extra sprinkle of salt and pepper.
Add green chiles, potatoes, black beans, cilantro, and chicken broth. Return chicken to the pot.
Bring stew to a boil, reduce the heat a bit, cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender and chicken is cooked through.
When the stew is done, give it a taste! Feel free to add a bit more seasoning. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

I've shared this recipe on... The Gluten Free Homemaker {gluten free Wednesdays}, Allergy Free Wednesdays, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday

Marshmallow Crack

I'm going to go ahead and apologize for this now. It's... bad. And by bad, I mean, you won't be able to stop eating it. You'll revisit the fridge over and over to snag just one more bite.

I also apologize for the complete lack of concern for the fact that it contains. Um. A whole lot of empty calories.

Moving along.

Please Make this. Soon.

You'll Need:
1 Cup Peanut Butter {another nut butter should work well here}
1 Cup Chocolate Chips
1/4 Cup Earth Balance
3 Cups Mini Marshmallows {specialty vegan marshmallows would make this a vegan treat!}
1 Cup Crispy Rice Cereal {I use this.}

To Make:
Mix marshmallows and rice cereal in a large bowl, and set aside.
Combine peanut butter, chocolate chips, and Earth Balance in a small sauce pan.
Continue to stir the mixture over low heat, until the chocolate has melted, and the mixture is smooth.
Pour the mixture over the marshmallows and rice cereal, and stir to combine. Mix thoroughly until everything is covered in chocolate.
Press the mixture into a square {eight or nine inch} baking dish, and place in the fridge to set.
Allow to cool for several hours. Store in the fridge for best results.

UPDATE: Many of you have asked about substitutes, so here you go! 

Yes--butter or margarine can be used in place of Earth Balance. If you're not dealing with allergies or intolerance, use what's already in your fridge.

Cereal--Rice Chex, or any other cereal would be GREAT in the mix! You could also leave the cereal out entirely, and add an extra scoop of marshmallows. 

This recipe has been shared on... allergy friendly Friday, Made by You Monday, Melt in your Mouth Monday

Travelling with Food Allergies/Intolerance: In Conclusion

I wasn't really sure how I wanted to wrap up this whole series of posts, and for that reason, I've been without a plan until right now. My posts have sparked a certain amount of conversation  in various places, and I have answered a lot of questions. I'm sure others are asking the same questions, so my conclusion is going to be a bit of a Q & A. If you're wondering about something that I don't cover here, please, let me know with a comment!

Regarding MY part in making sure my needs were met on board... Royal Caribbean's Policy {here} states that you must notify staff of your needs no less than 90 days prior to an international sailing. I did that. In fact, I called more than once, and I also asked the company responsible for planning our trip to double--and triple--check that my account had been properly noted. It had.

Even with that planning, nobody was "expecting" me, and there wasn't any indication that special arrangements had been made to have specialty items on hand. Was I expecting the red carpet? Absolutely not! But something--anything--would have been helpful. I never once dreamed that a head waiter would tell me, "well, I hope you like salad!" and mean it.

Once I was on board, could I have been a better advocate for myself? Perhaps. If I were a more outspoken person, I might have been a bit more insistent during lunch time in the Windjammer, or I might have asked directly to speak with someone else in planning my dinners. I'm not saying I didn't speak up for myself at all, but maybe I needed to be even more direct.

Regarding packing additional snacks and goodies... I think I did pretty well here! I really appreciated having the variety of snack bars, granola, peanut butter packets, chocolate (!!), and almond milk on hand. If not for those things, I think I might have been a bit worse off. I lost seven pounds over the seven days we were away, even with those extra goodies and treats I had with me.

Something else I did is visible at the top of this post. The notebook you see is something that I carry around with me most of the time. I keep grocery lists and things in that book, and I used several pages to note places I wanted to visit and things. I also printed some allergy 'cards' in Spanish, French, and Italian. I cut them out and used tape to add them to the pages of my little notebook. {Print your own cards here.}

I highly recommend these! Unfortunately, I didn't really have much of an opportunity to "test" these cards. Which brings me to another point...

Regarding our choice not to find more food in port... above all else, this came down to a time factor. While cruising is an opportunity to relax and enjoy, visiting ports, well, isn't. Those who have cruised before may be familiar with the slightly rushed feeling of being in port. If you haven't cruised before, the basics are that a cruise ship docks at a very specific time. Once permission has been granted for passengers to leave the ship, there is a race to get onto land and make the most of your time. Sometime in the late afternoon or early evening, everyone must be back on board, and the ship sets sail for the next port. If you're not on board at that time, the ship will likely leave without you. Being in port is expensive, and must be well orchestrated, and there simply isn't time to wait around. But, getting back to what I was saying, we had limited time in each port, and sitting down for a restaurant meal just didn't seem to fit our schedule or list of wishes. Other factors included cost {we preferred to use our spending money on take-home goodies and experiences.}, and of course my concerns about food. I won't lie--I'm an emotional person! I was tired, and running on a shorter fuse than usual. Sitting down and trying to communicate my needs just wasn't in the cards, and I'm OK with that! Might I have found something amazing? Yes. But I'm OK with the fact that I didn't.

Regarding how I feel about Royal Caribbean International... I like cruising. I really do! This was my fourth time on board a cruise ship, and perhaps not my last. I've said if before, and I'll say again, that I was disappointed. Before we left for our trip, I did plenty of reading online. I wanted to read about what others had experienced, and get a feel for whether or not I would have an easy time. I read wonderful stories of chefs coming to the table to meet their guests and discuss their allergies, and of specially-made gluten-free desserts. Cruise lines varied, but Royal Caribbean WAS a part of what I read! I haven't had a dessert made in a 'commercial' setting in ages, and was so hopeful that my meals on board would be a raging success! So yes. I said it. I was disappointed!

But. They didn't completely leave me on my own. My previous posts mention some specially prepared things, and my dinner experiences. I greatly appreciate those people who took some extra time to help me.

What can YOU do to be more successful on a trip like this? Speak up! Ask questions, and don't back down until you're happy with the results. Pack back-ups in your luggage, because you'll very likely want them at some point. Nothing is perfect.

Regarding the trip as a whole... it was a success! I hope I haven't given the impression that I disliked every minute of our trip, because that simply isn't the truth. Yes--lots of negatives were put on display here, mostly because my main goal was to enlighten those who might find themselves in a similar situation.

I learned that our little guy can be successful and happy without his mommy and dad. He sure did miss us, and we sure did miss him, but we were all successful.

Travelling with Mal de Debarquement Syndrom is possible! I was pleasantly surprised by my general lack of symptoms. It wasn't perfect, but it was better than I expected. I'll forever be thankful for that.

And finally, the food topic. I mentioned more than once already that it wasn't a total loss, and I've meant that each time I put it out there. Advance planning was critical, but something I am more than capable of. Can you do it too? Absolutely.

So there you have it. The whole European Travel 'series.' What have I missed that you'd like to ask about? Did any of this help you? Comments? Criticism? Please use that comment feature, and let me know!

2012 Mediterranean Cruise {The Fourth Picture Post! Rome, Italy}

When we woke up on this morning, I looked out and knew we were in for a soggy day. I was right! ...and I also boarded the ship with a handy new umbrella and a very wet pair of Tom's.

The train that took us into Rome from the port was so crowded. Several of us were huddled together in a small hallway, where we watched this scenario play out. The blonde woman in glasses was taking up too much space with her luggage, and the others weren't happy with her. I love that, in Italian, everything sounds so energetic and passion-filled.

We made it to Rome!

Standing in front of the Coliseum during a rain break. We were soaked all day long.

Those Coug flags again!

Can you spot the flags? Also--notice all of the umbrellas. It started to rain, HARD, right after this photo was taken. We had separated ourselves from our group, and all wound up a bit lost in the Coliseum. Thank goodness for cell-phones with international calling plans!

The graffiti in Italy is much more entertaining :)

...and the trains are fast!

Wandering the streets not far from Tervi Fountain, we thought this roof-top garden was really fun. 

I took this for my little guy. The fire engines were so cute and tiny! ...these guys paused to wave at me after I snapped their picture.

Trevi Fountain is my favorite. We threw more coins in so we'd be sure to come back some day in the future. And the pretty green? It just made me happy. I think there was a restaurant tucked away in there.

The flags in front of the fountain. I love the expression of the couple on the left.

Just us :)

Look what I found! There was a small selection of gluten free goodies in a market right near Trevi Fountain. It was pouring, and I was in a bit of a hurry, or I would have stuck around longer to find out if I could have any of these treats. If we'd been staying in one place rather than cruising, we could have picked up crackers and things for snacks. 

Inside that same market.

More than anything, I took this photo because I was so intrigued by the shape of the soda cans. I also love that soda, in Europe, is sweetened with 'real' sugar.

The train station, from the other side. Ready to head back to the ship.

Pineapple Chili Chicken {gluten, dairy, soy free marinade}

In my past life, I was a huge marinade junkie. The pantry always housed a series of bottles with zippy titles, and grilled chicken frequented our menu. So many of those marinades contain soybean oil, or soy sauce, or... something off limits.

So what's a girl to do? Get creative, of course! Homemade marinades are so simple, don't cost much, and are much healthier. Ready to make some of your own?

You'll Need:
1/2 Cup Pineapple Juice {I used bottled, 100% pineapple juice}
1/2 Cup Orange Juice {roughly two medium oranges}
1/4 Cup Lime Juice {roughly two medium limes}
.1/2 Onion, diced
1 Tbsp. Chili Powder
1 tsp. Cumin
Salt & Pepper

To Make:
Combine ingredients in a large, zip-top plastic bag.
Close the bag, and use your hands to smoosh the ingredients around a bit, breaking up any clumps of chili powder, etc..
Open the bag, being careful not to spill the contents, and add chicken breasts or thighs.
Reseal the bag, and place in the refrigerator for an hour or so.*
Discard 'used' marinade once you've placed your chicken on the grill.

*Be careful not to leave your chicken sitting for more than two or three hours. The pineapple juice in the marinade could potentially change the texture of your chicken over a longer period of time, making it inedible.

...and! It's giveaway day! The winner of the LARABAR stash is:

Samantha, send me a message! Congrats!

This recipe has been shared on... allergy friendly friday, Life as Mom, Gluten free Wednesday

How to Roast Anaheim Chiles

There are several recipes in my rotation that call for diced green chiles. I always buy them by the can, and really hadn't considered any other option. Experimenting with some new recipes encouraged me to try roasting my own. I can't believe how easy the process was, and how tasty the results are. Give 'em a try! You might never look back.

You'll Need:
Anaheim Chile Peppers {you choose the quantity based on your recipe; six large peppers resulted in about two cups of coarsely chopped, roast chiles}

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
Line a baking dish or cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Wash chiles and remove excess water.
Place a single layer of chiles on your baking sheet, and place in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until peppers just begin to look dark in places.

To Prepare for Recipes:
Allow the chiles to cool enough that you can comfortably work with them.
Working on a cutting board, remove both ends from the pepper with a sharp knife.
Run the knife down the length of the pepper, so that you have two long, rectangular pieces.
Open the pieces, then use a spoon to scrape the seeds and membrane from the pepper.
Flip the pieces over, peeling the paper-like skin away to discard. It will likely come off in one big piece.
If your recipe calls for diced chiles, use your knife to chop the pieces as you'd like.

A note... anaheim's are typically pretty mild on the heat scale. The batch I used in creating this post was quite spicy! I didn't wear gloves or anything, because I wasn't working with a 'hot' chile, and was surprised to find that I could feel a bit of a burn on my hands for several hours afterward. This wasn't a problem for me, and remedied itself, but! if you've got particularly sensitive skin, a pair of gloves might be a good idea. Use your own best judgement!

Travelling with Food Allergies/Intolerance: Cruising; Part Two

Of course these weren't allergy friendly, but I loved the little leaning towers 'drawn' with chocolate!

Read about the beginning of our cruise here, in case you missed it.

The second morning of our cruise, I woke up feeling hopeful. I had read so many encouraging things online about decadent, gluten free chocolate desserts, and about specially prepared meals and assigned chefs. How could it not improve! My experience wasn't quite the same, but I managed:

Breakfasts on Board:
We ventured down to our first breakfast on board, opting for the seated breakfast in the formal dining room. I was more confident in this choice, because I knew I'd have a designated waiter who could act as my go-between with a chef. Communication was rough, and I wound up simply with some scrambled eggs. I learned that first morning that it was important to ask for freshly cracked, 'real' eggs, cooked without any oil or butter. The eggs in the buffet line have been re-hydrated from powder and contain more than just eggs. Fruit was readily available, and completed my meal. This actually wound up being my breakfast each morning on the ship.

Lunch on Board:
I didn't really want to mess with eating in port, and we really weren't off the ship long enough most days to necessitate stopping for lunch, so I got by with snack bars {LARABAR is my favorite! Enjoy Life Chewy Bars are also awesome!} and then we headed to the Windjammer for a late lunch each day. On the second day, I did manage to talk a sweet chef into cooking me some chicken. He made a heaping plate of grilled chicken! I was thrilled, and eagerly took the extras with me to our room, planning to stash it in our mini fridge to get me through the next couple of days. Unfortunately, the water and soda in the mini fridge was barely cool, and there wasn't an option to change the temperature setting. I wasn't eager for a bout of salmonella, so I let my precious chicken go. For the remaining days, I found that I simply didn't have the mental energy to beg for specially made meals. I filled up each day with salads and steamed rice.

Dinner on Board:
Dinner improved slowly. Every night, after dinner, our head waiter visited with a copy of the menu for the next night. Together, we discussed the choices, and I suggested alternatives/asked the important questions. What stood out to me most in planning was the lack of chef presence. If I had been able to speak to a chef personally, or had someone been 'assigned' to me, I think I would have felt more understood and taken care of. What stood out most about the food itself was a lack of flavor. I was asked to provide my dietary considerations 90 days in advance, so I was a bit stunned to find that they simply prepared bland, watered-down versions of the normal menu choices and that plans hadn't been made ahead of time. I found that I wondered why the early notice, if extra plans aren't made?

Anyway, the following nights looked like this:

Night Two: Beef tenderloin with steamed vegetables and a plain baked potato. I am *not* a beef eater, but decided to live dangerously and give it a go. I ate a couple of bites, but quickly remembered why you'll never find beef in our fridge.

Night Three: Vegan Indian curry dish with rice. This was by far my favorite! The flavor was excellent, and the meal was something I would have chosen to order even if dietary restrictions didn't exist.

Night Four: Herb crusted chicken with a plain baked potato. The chicken on this night was yummy! A bit dry, but again, that's a personal problem. I felt 'normal' on this night, when I received chicken that looked like what others were having. Sure would have loved a bit of Earth Balance for that potato, though.

Night Five: I skipped dinner. This was our day at sea, and I unfortunately woke up with a nasty... something. Croupy sounding cough, a high fever, and an achy body. I was so thankful for that day at sea and a chance to sleep off the crud.

Every night, I was offered a fruit plate for dessert. The fruit was beautiful, and really tasted great. I'm a dessert girl though, so I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit sad about this part. Certainly not the end of the world, though. I had packed a bag of Enjoy Life chocolate chunks in my luggage, and usually grabbed a handful of those each evening before we headed off to a show.

Snacks on Board:
This was an area where I would have failed miserably had I not planned ahead. Cruising is a funny thing, in that your schedule shifts, and you find yourself up late after a show, craving a sweet treat or a slice of pizza. For your average cruiser, this is no problem. The promenade featured an ice cream shop, cupcake shop, pizza and salad bar, and several other tempting places to sit down and snack. Unfortunately, there were literally no safe choices for me 'after hours,' and so I was left to my own devices. One night, I searched high and low for a banana, finally found one, and then sat in our room topping bites of banana with Justin's Peanut Butter and Udi's granola. I was so thankful to have packed those things! I also made countless cups of hot peppermint tea. Hot water for tea, coffee, and water are always available on board.

I included the following in my checked luggage, and used up at least some of everything:

Enjoy Life Chewy Bars
Enjoy Life Chocolate Chunks
Udi's Granola
Justin's Nut Butters {more of those individual packets!}
Individual serving size almond milk {asked at the cafe one morning, and they used my almond milk to make me an iced chai tea!}

Wrapping all of this up, I want to explain that I didn't expect a special red carpet for me and my needs. The staff at Royal Caribbean International are probably so completely overwhelmed with each new set of guests, that providing extra for everyone who needs it would just be... well, crazy. I won't lie--I was a bit bummed that my 90-days advanced notice seemed not to matter, and I'll also say that I no longer look at cruising quite the same. {Not that I look at anything the same as 'before!'} I am, however, incredibly thankful for those on board who helped me and who patiently listened to my barrage of questions each day.

And, finally, if you're considering travelling overseas without the cruising aspect, have no fear! Had we been staying on dry land, I still would have taken along the same snacks and supplements from home. Once we had checked in to our hotel {I would have booked one with a fridge in the room}, I would have ventured out to a market to stock up on fresh fruits and veggies, and whatever else I might have found.

Don't forget to enter to win a haul of LARABAR's! 

2012 Mediterranean Cruise {The Third Picture Post!! Pisa, Italy}

Our second port was one we've been to before. Our honeymoon trip took us to Pisa as well, and we were happy to head back to see that crazy leaning tower once more. 

The leaning tower is nestled among several other buildings in an area called the Piazza dei Miracoli, which means Field of Miracles. The details here are amazing!

Obligatory hubby and wife shot in front of the leaning tower. It's so funny to watch everyone in their yoga-like poses, attempting to 'hold up' the tower in photos.

I loved the colors here. This bright picture would be wall-worthy if it weren't for the tourists!

Those Cougar flags again! Hubby had an assistant on this day.

Again with the details. The area was so crowded that I opted to focus on images like this one, where I could avoid crowds in my images. Call me a picture snob, but I don't want tourists in all of my shots!

So many details.

I loved these desserts in a cafe window near the tower. Of course I couldn't have any of these sweet treats, so...

I tore into a LARABAR instead! In my LARABAR tee! 

And Pssssst! You can win a LARABAR stash to call your own. The sweet people over at LARABAR have generously offered a prize pack for one lucky winner. 

Ready to enter? Leave a comment here on this post. If you're a LARABAR fan like me, tell me your favorite flavor! If you've never tried a LARABAR before, which flavor interests you most? Comments {one entry per person, please} will be accepted through Sunday, May 20th, and the winner will be announced on Monday, May 21st! 

Giveaway sponsored by LARABAR.

Travelling with Food Allergies/Intolerance: Cruising; Part One

Our adventure took us on a cruise with Royal Caribbean International. The trip was a five-night cruise through the Mediterranean, with stops in France and Italy.

When we boarded the ship on May 3rd, we had been awake for more than 36 hours, and I was really starting to wish for a hot meal. Unfortunately, something yummy to eat was harder to come by than I anticipated. Coupled with my exhaustion, we had a recipe for tears, and they sure did come!

Those familiar with Royal Caribbean ships will have heard of the Windjammer Cafe. Those familiar with cruising in general will know that there is usually some sort of self-service {read: buffet} dining option on board that is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout your stay. The Windjammer Cafe is the place to be once you've boarded the ship. It is the only place that is open and ready to serve 'real' food.

Having located our room and put our things down, we headed to the Windjammer where my hubby quickly grabbed a plate and began to fill it with tempting foods. Plate in hand, I scanned the different buffet lines, but felt overwhelmed and confused by what might be safe. I only spotted a salad bar that I knew I could choose from freely.

Everywhere you look, chefs and wait staff can be seen. Flagging one down to speak with proved to be a bit more difficult, but I was eventually successful. I informed the chef of my food sensitivities {I've learned to call them all 'allergies,' so that I am taken more seriously.}, and then asked him to help me make some selections that would be safe. We talked about what varieties of oil they use for cooking {I never did get a clear answer on this one, and still don't know if soybean oil is used on board}, which items had been basted in soy sauce, etc., etc.. The end result was that I could eat from the salad bar, and that I could have some steamed rice. The chef tried, repeatedly, to convince me that I could eat the 'chicken broth' on the soup bar, but it had tofu in it. That was my first indication that perhaps my needs wouldn't be understood while I was on board.

Finally, the chef agreed to steam some vegetables and bring them to my table, which I paired up with a green salad and some steamed rice.

Honestly? My exhaustion and hunger didn't bode well for my emotional state. The meal did fill my belly, though.

Again, if you're familiar with cruising at all, you'll know that dinners tend to be quite elaborate and showy. We're not strangers to cruising, and have always really enjoyed seated dinners. It's a fun chance to sit down with friends or family, to feel special and... well... waited on! It's luxurious!

I was really hopeful that dinner would be a huge success. Royal Caribbean International {RCI} asks that you inform them 90 days in advance of special dietary considerations, which I dutifully did. I spoke with RCI staff on several occasions to confirm the details.

When we sat down, I was first offered my choice from a big, steaming basket of gluten-filled bread. The smell of sourdough was intoxicating! But of course I had to turn it down. After a visit with our waiter, a plate of gluten-free bread was whisked out to the table. I still couldn't dig in. I had to re-explain that I have several different restrictions, and the waiter returned to the kitchen to find out what additional ingredients were in the gluten free bread. He returned, happily encouraging me to eat the bread because it was 'lactose free,' and only contained potato flour and skim milk powder! This sparked a situation reminiscent of the tofu-laced chicken broth at lunch, and ended with me politely accepting the bread and then not eating it.

I wasn't able to choose from the menu that night, and instead had a plain, grilled chicken breast and more steamed vegetables. It was just ok, but my hunger was satisfied and so I remained hopeful for a better tomorrow, and just didn't watch while the others enjoyed their desserts.

Day one on board wasn't a huge success, in my book, but I also didn't go to bed hungry. Look for another post soon about the rest of my time on board.

2012 Mediterranean Cruise {The Second Picture Post! Cannes, France}

Our first Port of Call was Cannes, France. We didn't have many expectations for Cannes, in a sense that we didn't *need* to do anything particular. I like it that way, because of the feeling of freedom to wander and explore. 

We weren't docked in Cannes, but were tendered instead. I was a bit nervous about these little boats that would take us to the port, given the MdDS and all. Sitting up front in the open air really helped.

The view from the tender boat. Cannes really was a beautiful place.

I'm a sucker for brightly colored doors. They're so common in Europe. I wonder why our doors here must be so... boring? 

Such a pretty place.

The view from the top. I really liked being up here.

He's pretty darned proud of this picture ;)

Windows make me happy too. 

I loved the citrus tress. They seemed to just appear out of nowhere, and for some reason, the idea of being able to pick an orange in the middle of the city was a fascinating one.

I knew there wouldn't be anything in here that I could have, so I snapped a picture from the entrance and called it good. Aren't the macaroons gorgeous?

Pantone! I wanted to bring some of this home, but resisted.

We carried these flags all over Europe. Hubby is a die-hard fan, and wanted to join in the Wave the Flag madness. 

Hubby with the camera again. The beach was a nice little treat, but also our first indication that the tender boat back to the ship might be a rough ride. We sat there in the sand for a bit, realizing that the wind and waves were really picking up.

Back on the tender boat, and beginning to realize something was up...

Soaked! I haven't laughed so hard in a long time.

Really, truly soaked! It was a rough ride, but we made it. Sitting out front for fresh air came back to bite us on the ride back out. We took the brunt of the waves as they splashed up and over the front of the boat!