Europe Days 5-10: Italy, France, & Spain

Ok guys, I suck and I’ve completely procrastinated writing my next Europe post (I really have a good excuse, I’m getting ready to head off to college!), so to avoid even more delay, I’m gonna just knock it all out in one post. Prepare for a very long European food whirlwind.

So after our leisurely day at sea, the week of back-to-back ports began. First up was Sicily, Italy. We chose the Taormina On Your Own cruise excursion, so we took about a 45 minute bus ride to Taormina (with beautiful views) and were able to just wander around town. This was such a beautiful little place, with stunning scenery. I mean look at this:

Seriously, just amazing. Taormina was very close to being my favorite place, but not just for the scenery. We went to lunch at a nice little restaurant called La Botte. Our tour guide told us they have gluten free pasta, and when we got there and told the waitress I would be ordering gluten free, she said it would be a little longer because they have to boil new water (which means they didn’t cook it in gluten-y pasta water, yay!!). I ordered Penne ala Norma, which was GF penne with tomato sauce, aubergines (aka eggplants), ricotta, and basil, along with the necessary bottle of house white wine for everyone to share.

First impression of the dish when they placed it in front of me: what are these french fries doing in my pasta???  But I soon remembered they were eggplants, and when I took a bite, I think I went to heaven. This was the most delicious thing I’ve eaten in my life. The pasta was perfectly cooked, and I have no idea what they make their GF pasta out of in Europe but it tasted like I was eating regular pasta. There was some toasted parmesan around the edge of the plate and I could’ve eaten that straight out of a bowl. Everything about this was perfect, and I was so sad that I was too full to finish it! 😦 We of course had to end the afternoon with a delicious chocolate gelato pop from a cute place on the street, where all the pops are “senza glutine”!

For dinner that night back on the ship, I got vegetable spring rolls and seared tuna as appetizers (two appetizers is a necessity on cruise ships), veal parmesan with spaghetti as my entree, and of course, chocolate melting cake for dessert! It was all delicious, except the seared tuna was a tiny bit bland.

Next day: Naples. We did a scenic drive of the Amalfi Coast and spent about an hour and a half (which was definitely not enough time) in Sorrento.

This was also a really pretty town! Now, we knew with only an hour and a half, eating somewhere would eat up (haha) most of our time. But we were in Europe, so we were going to eat. So we went to Ristorante Tasso for some gluten free pizza! I got the Calabrese pizza, which had tomato sauce, mozzarella, and spicy salami. It was so good! A little soggy, so I had to eat it with a fork and knife, but undeniably amazing. I didn’t finish it, but I brought it with me and finished it in the cruise terminal, where I also bought a cappuccino and a bag of gluten free Italian pasta to bring home! We also of course got more chocolate gelato while we were in Sorrento.

Dinner that night I was a little wild. As my first appetizer, I got braised ox tongue. Sounds gross, I know, but it was actually really tasty! The sauce was ridiculously flavorful. My other app was broccoli cheese soup, which was amazing. Closest I’ve ever gotten to Panera’s broccoli cheddar soup, so I was very happy. My entree was salmon cakes, which were very tasty and herby, and a s’mores parfait for dessert, which was more like just a glass of chocolate mousse and marshmallow. That night we also enjoyed a beautiful sunset from the ship!

Next up was Rome, the crazy busy day. Rome was not our favorite place. Don’t get me wrong, it was beautiful and the sights were amazing, we just didn’t really get a chance to enjoy it because we were rushed way too fast through it all. We saw the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Coloseum. It was just a lot to do in such a short period of time, and we didn’t get enough time to appreciate it. For lunch, we went to Ristorante Naumachia, and I got a Caprese salad, which was very good. Not a lot of gluten free choices here, but we were pressed for time.

Dinner that night featured a cruise staple: escargot. Those delicious, buttery lil balls of flavor along with fried shrimp were my appetizers, and my entree was a seafood pasta dish with calamari, salmon, mussels, scallops, and shrimp. For dessert I ordered cheesecake, but instead I was given bananas and strawberries in a caramel sauce (I thought they maybe couldn’t make the cheesecake gluten free for some reason).  I missed my cheesecake, but this was pretty good too.

escargot

Stay with me here, only three more days to get through! The next day was Florence, which was the consensus favorite of the whole trip. Especially after being in such a hustle bustle type city like Rome, Florence was just calm and beautiful and relaxing. We did a little walking tour for about an hour, then we were off on our own to shop and wander. We went to lunch at a restaurant our tour guide recommended called Casa Toscano. I got GF penne with mushroom sauce and bacon. I was expecting a white or brown kind of sauce, so I was surprised when it was a tomato sauce. Either way, it was delicious! We spent the rest of our time just walking around and buying some souvenirs, and obviously eating more gelato.

When we were back on the ship and dinnertime rolled around, I got alligator fritters (may sound weird, but very delicious) and lobster bisque (WOW this was fantastic) as appetizers. For my entree, I got chicken cacciatore, which was pretty good but not great. For dessert, I got the melting cake, AND apparently the night before (when they brought out the wrong dessert to me) we had left before our waiter found my actual dessert.  He had brought my cheesecake out but we were gone! So he kept it in the refrigerator over night, and I got two desserts. 🙂

The next day we were in Marseille, France, and we did a bus tour with some free time to walk around. The town was beautiful; I really loved it. Again, I just wish we got to spend more time there! We didn’t end up eating lunch here; we just went back to the ship and I headed up to Cucina del Capitano for some GF spaghetti with pomodoro, grilled chicken, eggplant, onions, and peppers (the same thing I got on the first day at sea that I loved).

My appetizers at dinner that night were clam chowder and crab cakes, which were both amazing. Continuing with the seafood theme, I then got jumbo shrimp as my entree. And for dessert—surprise!—melting cake. (Why didn’t I take any pictures of my food this night???)

Our final cruise day was spent in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. This was the surprise stop, because we didn’t think we were going to love it as much as we did! It was really beautiful, and we had a great time just walking around town. We went to a restaurant called Sa Casa for lunch, which had gluten free items marked on the menu. This was a tapas restaurant, so we all shared what we got. My mom and I split the zucchini carpaccio and goat cheese salad, and I gave my dad’s chorizo and mussels a try. Everything was amazing! Palma turned out to be an awesome place.

For my last cruise dinner, I ordered frog legs and steamed mussels. It was my first experience with frog legs, and it was actually very good! For my entree, I got prime rib, which was so juicy and delicious. My last dessert of the cruise was carrot cake, which was kind of a toss up because I’d never had it before, but I loved it! I ended our last night off later with a piña colada and a comedy show.

We were so sad to wake up the next morning to have to get off the ship and get on our plane. But we had a short layover in London to hang out and eat lunch in the airport. With this came the challenge of finding something for me to eat. But there was a little cafe that had some pre-made meals, so I got mushroom risotto. It was surprisingly good for airport food! When we got on our plane to take us back to America, we also got a meal. This time we called far enough ahead to get me a gluten free meal, so I had chicken with gravy, potatoes, carrots and green beans, a salad with Italian dressing, a fruit cup, and a really super delicious and soft gluten free roll! My experience with airport and plane food was better than expected.

Overall, this was a seriously amazing trip. I am so thankful to have been able to have this incredible experience, and I hope I get a chance to go back at some point! Hopefully, if you’re ever visiting any of these fantastic places, I have given you some good options to try out and enjoy. 🙂

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Recipe: Tuna Casserole!

This is one of my very favorite recipes, mostly because it’s one of the only things I can make completely by myself with no help whatsoever. (It’s also my mom’s favorite because it means she doesn’t have to cook dinner). And it’s so easy! All of the ingredients are things that I almost always have around the house, and you can substitute in whatever you like! Instead of peas, you can use your favorite vegetable. Instead of tuna, you can use chicken or turkey. Instead of mozzarella, you can use cheddar. Instead of cream of mushroom, you can use cream of chicken. Literally so many possibilities! So here ya go:

What you’ll need:

tuna casserole ingredients

  • 16oz brown rice pasta (my very favorite pasta is the Tinkyada brand)
  • 2 18oz cans of gluten free cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 6oz cans of albacore tuna
  • 8.5oz can of sweet peas (I usually prefer to use about a cup of frozen peas but I didn’t have any)
  • 2 cups of mozzarella cheese
  • about 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese
  • about a tablespoon or so of breadcrumbs, for topping
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder to taste
  • a few drops of gravy master

How to make it:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375°
  2. Cook your pasta in a large pot according to the package. While it’s cooking, flake your tuna.
  3. After your pasta is done, heat the cream of mushroom soup in the same pot. Add a few drops of gravy master (until it’s a light brown color), and add salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder to taste.
  4. After the soup is hot and starts to bubble, add your tuna, peas, and 1 1/2 cups of mozzarella, half of the parmesan, and then your cooked and drained pasta. Combine well.tuna casserole
  5. Pour the mixture into a 9 x 13 inch pan and spread it so thats the top is flat and even. Top with the rest of the mozzarella and parmesan, as well as the breadcrumbs.
  6. Bake for 15 mins, and then broil on high until it’s brown and bubbly and crispy on top.
tuna casserole

Before & after

This casserole is SO good! The first time I made it was actually at my aunt’s house when she showed me how to make it, and I just kept making it ever since. Like I said before, the best thing about this is that you can put whatever you have in your fridge in this. Anything will work!

I hope you try it and love it as much as I do 🙂