Coconut Rice

Rice is a staple in many people’s diets, but it doesn’t have to be the same over and over. One of the delicious variations for either white or brown rice is coconut.

There’s nothing mysterious about making coconut rice. It’s a delicately flavored side that accentuates most Oriental foods with a subtle sweetness and aroma.

Simply substitue one 15oz can of coconut milk for part of the water as you are making rice. Note that a cup of fluid is 8 ounces, and the canned product comes in just under two full cup measures.

Coconut milk is thicker than water and more difficult for the rice to absorb. Be sure to add an extra quarter cup of water to the pot.

I have found that using the full can works extremely well when making up 2 cups of dry rice. Anything smaller batch and the coconut becomes overwhelming and the rice doesn’t cook up as well.

Coconut rice is a sticky rice rather than a fluffy one. Be prepared for this result.

Add coconut rice to your favorite Oriental dishes, Jamaican jerk, Hawaiian dishes, and anywhere else you would like a little bit of coconut flavor to accentuate your meal.

Enjoy!

–Ann Cathey

Something New from Denny’s

Denny’s is a southern US institution, and like a lot of institutions, it has great pancakes, but everything else can be a gamble. In this case, that gamble paid off. After the cruise aboard the Carnival Breeze, I figured anything set before me might be a bit of a letdown. I was happily proven wrong.

I hadn’t been into a Denny’s for a while, and was very pleasantly surprised to find a new “skillet” on the menu: Smoky Gouda Chicken & Broccoli.

“Roasted seasoned chicken with caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms and broccoli served atop whole grain rice. Topped with Italian cheeses and Gouda cheese sauce.”
– Denny’s Menu

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Smokey Gouda chicken & Broccoli Skillet

 

The dish you receive never looks quite like the advertising photos, but this one was tasty enough that I really didn’t care. the chicken was tender and not overcooked. the broccoli was firm, but not super crunchy. The mushrooms and onions were done to a turn rather than partially raw or blackened. The Gouda sauce, while supported by other cheeses, was well flavored and had just the right thickness to it.

I recommend this dish and it’s companion, the Smoky Gouda Prime Rib & Broccoli Skillet, to anyone who has a liking for cheese!

— Ann Cathey

Quick and Easy Meals

 

There are a lot of variations  on recipes out there in the world, but sometimes we need a reminder to think outside the box. These recipes are all suggestions for a quick lunch or dinner when you have a lack of time to work with. They are based on ideas offered by a grocery snail mail supplement I received a couple of weeks ago.

Well, they aren’t so much recipes as guidelines that may be personalized as much as you like.

Chicken Salad
Prep your salad a day in advance. Pick up a whole roasted chicken and strip it. Mix the chicken with Greek yogurt, chopped celery, dried cranberries, chopped pecans or walnuts, garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste. For a little zing you might add some paprika. Cover and refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to mingle and marry. Serve on sliced sourdough bread or over a bed of mixed greens for a simple lunch or dinner. Preparing this salad ahead of time also allows you to take some for lunch!

Lemon Chicken
This sheet pan dish is easy to prepare and delicious to serve. In a large bowl mix a small amount of melted butter and lemon pepper seasoning, to taste. Dip chicken and halved baby gold potatoes in butter mixture. Lay the chicken and potatoes out on a sheet pan. Brush the chicken with a bit of honey and roast with lemon slices on top at 425F for 15-20 minutes. In the last ten minutes of baking, add honey-brushed asparagus spears. Serve over saffron rice or a bed of baby leaf spinach with fresh lemon wedges on the side. The results are a sweet/tart treat for the palate. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Elegant Mushroom Pasta
Saute sliced mushrooms in a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Add in minced garlic, chopped baby leaf spinach and chopped basil. Stir until the greens are softened. Remove from heat and toss with your favorite pre-cooked pasta. This is a tasty treatment for leftover pasta, as fresh cooked. Add a sprinkle of Parmesan or Asiago for a delicious finishing touch.

Pistachio Crusted Tilapia
Thaw your fish, if frozen, then dip them in whipped egg whites. dredge each filet in a misture of chopped pistachios, bread crumbs, and parsley. Bake at 450F for 8-10 minutes or until the fish reaches a safe internal temperature of 145F. Serve atop a bed of your favorite greens. Slices of fresh peach or pear on the side are a subtly sweet accompaniment on the side. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Enjoy!

— Ann Cathey

Cruise Cuisine – Last Night in Sapphire

Due to an unexpected fog which kept the Port of Galveston closed, we were treated to an extra night on board the Carnival Breeze. One more night of fine dining in Sapphire – who was complaining? Certainly not our group!

 

Appetizers

This is a sample of the bread basket that was served every evening in Sapphire. It consisted of baguette pieces, ciabatta buns, and whole wheat rolls.

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Bread Basket

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Shrimp Cocktail

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Candied Salmon

 

Main Course

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Swordfish over Pilaf, with Lemon Reduction and a side of Ratatouille

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Fried Shrimp and Shrimp Fried Rice with Baked Macaroni & Cheese

 

Desserts

Some of the delightful desserts we had encountered previously were again available, so we availed ourselves of the chance to enjoy them once more before the trip ended.

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Nutella Tiramisu

 

The Date & Fig Pudding was a light and fluffy sort of cake, with a passion fruit custard. The intent was to poke a hole in the top of the pudding and pour the creamy custard into it. not only was I able to partake of the dessert, I also had a chance to play with my food in a socially acceptable manner.

There are several of us who can’t wait to cruise again!

–Ann Cathey

Cruise Cuisine – Sapphire Sea Day

On our third “sea day”, a day not in port, but on the open waters, we went along to dinner in Sapphire thinking it would be our last day to experience such a luscious repast. More on that hint in the next installment of this series.

Appetizers

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Beef Carpaccio with shaved Parmesan, Arugula, and Lemon Vinaigrette

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Baked Onion Soup

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Steamed Mussels with Garlic Toast

 

Main Course 

The prime rib was wonderful, shown here with and without the reduction.

 

The creole was billed as being “Caribbean Style” and turned out to be full of shrimp and  veggies, and very mild in heat.

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Tiger Shrimp Creole with a scoop of Jambalaya

 

Dessert

The cherry pie was a bit of a surprise, being very dense, but it was quite tasty with a sweet/tart combination that pleased the palate.

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Cherry Pie a la Mode

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Carrot Cake with Candied Ginger and Caramel Sauce

 

Among all the birthdays we celebrated on this cruise, we were surprised when our anniversary was also brought to light.

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Chocolate Panna Cotta

 

 

— Ann Cathey

Cruise Cuisine – Sapphire after Cozumel

The Sapphire dining experience rarely showed off any dish twice. There were some standby dishes, such as the flatiron steak and the shrimp cocktail, but even those were not available ever single night.

After our wandering about in Cozumel and having lunch in the trade market, we weary travelers came back aboard the Carnival Breeze to find sumptuous dining awaiting us once again.

Appetizers

The appetizer board featured a dish new to several of us, and so it had to be tried. While consisting of ground oyster mixed with the other ingredients rather than a whole one with a topping, the Oysters Rockefeller seemed to very much please all the gentlemen who gave it a try.

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Oysters Rockefeller

 

My choice was the seared Ahi tuna. It was topped with a bit of caviar and plated over a cucumber salad dressed with a Romanesco vinaigrette.

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Seared Ahi Tuna

 

 

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Romanesco Vinaigrette and Cucumber Salad

 

Entrees

There were so many enticing choices that our group ordered several things instead of copy-catting one another.

 

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Pork Chops bedded on caramelized onion with Mashed Potato

My choice for this evening was the lamb shank. What looked and tasted like mashed potatoes turned out to be roasted cauliflower.

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Rosemary Lamb Shank with Roasted Cauliflower and Root Vegetables

One of the other ladies indulged in Veal Parmigiana over pasta, and reported it to be perfectly tender and tasty.

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Veal Parmigiana over Spaghetti with Tomato sauce and a side of Steamed Broccoli.

 

Dessert

The dessert menu was, as ever, fully loaded, though for tonight several of us chose to stay on the lighter side of the list. We chose th lower calorie, no added sugar option: Coconut Cake.

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Coconut Cake with Coconut Creme and Lime Jam

 

When we were done with our repast, we all had to take a walk around the decks to give our stomachs a little time to process everything!

— Ann Cathey

 

Cruise Fun – Towel Animals

Every cruise line seems to have some version of folded-towel animals for housekeeping to leave on guests’ beds. It’s a charming bit of fun, and the creativity seems to be endless.

It’s also apparently a thing to photograph the fuzzy sculptures, then hide them from the staff so that a group photo may be taken just before the cruise ends. We managed to get photos of each critter, though housekeeping managed to take one away before the big group shot.

We came on board a little too late for a towel critter on our embarkation day, so this little hound was there to surprise us after supper on the second day.

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The next several days were met with enchanting little towel animals awaiting us each evening.

 

This one we never did figure out. We know it’s supposed to be an animal, but not what kind!

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This guy got away form us, sadly. our elephant was only with us for a day. We forgot to hide it with the rest and housekeeping took it away.

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This cheeky rabbit really caught us by surprise.  We came in to find him not only hogging the bed and the remote, but watching cartoons!

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Our last official evening we were greeted with this heart on the bed.

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Of course, we had to take the obligatory group shot of the survivors, in this case watching whatever the remote-hog rabbit wanted to watch while we were out.

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In the end, we left them all lined up along the top shelves of our stateroom to surprise our housekeeper. Sadly, I did not manage to capture that memory, but I will certainly do my best to do so next time.

— Ann Cathey
Additional photos by Christopher