Sunday, October 2, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 2: Kickin' it Caribbean-Style

I feel the need to make one admission before we continue on our little journey around the globe. Here it is: in case you couldn't already tell (and we all know that it's completely obvious, right?), I am not a great photographer. My pictures are frequently out of focus, grainy, poorly lit, blurry, or sometimes a combination of all these things. I know all the reasons why: I don't have a great camera, I have shaky hands, and I need more practice and patience. I'm getting better (I think), but there's still a long way to go. The only way I am going to get better, obviously, is to take more pictures, and I am doing well with that. The very, very sad reality is, I didn't take many pictures at all during the first 8 or so years of my marriage. During those first 8 years, we traveled to many incredible places (Europe, the Caribbean, Montreal, San Francisco, Grand Canyon), but I have very few pictures to document these experiences. So while I'm super excited to revisit some of these past adventures, you'll have to forgive both my not-so-great photos and my occasional lack of photos. But if you're still with me, thanks for sticking around...and let's get going!

I have been on two cruises in my life: a Mediterranean cruise, and an Eastern Caribbean cruise. Let's talk about the Eastern Caribbean cruise today. Like much of our travel adventures, this one was a completely last-minute excursion. It was the fall of 2006, and I needed a vacation. I was working long hours at a job I didn't like, and I was majorly stressed out, burned out, and wiped out. All I wanted to do was get away from work, drink pina coladas, and not think about balance sheets and lines of credit (I was an accountant). What better way to escape than to spend a week on a floating bar? I found a last-minute deal online when I was supposed to be working taking a break, booked it then and there, and started dreaming of the sunny paradises that were waiting for me.

Something else happened to me in the fall of 2006. In fact, it happened about 3 weeks before we booked this cruise, and about 6 weeks before we actually took the cruise. I became vegan! So I did what any normal, newbie vegan would do: I booked a week-long cruise on a never-ending buffet barge. Genius!

I checked out Carnival's website and saw that guests with special dietary needs could be accommodated. Still, I wasn't taking any chances. I packed 2 bottles of my favorite salad dressing (Annie's Green Goddess Dressing, holla!) and figured I could live on salad and fresh fruit if need be. Fortunately, Carnival was wonderful and provided me with a vegan entree and dessert for dinner each night. Thanks, Carnival! The food was simple but well prepared: an Israeli couscous dish, pasta, roasted veggies, and tofu were some of the entrees I remember having. I had to fend for myself at breakfast and lunch, but there was always oatmeal and fresh fruit at breakfast, and an abundant salad bar at lunch. I was probably the only cruiser to maintain their weight during the week, ha! :)

Our ship had port calls in Nassau, Bahamas; Charlotte Amelie, St. Thomas; and Philipsburg, St. Maarten. We went snorkeling in Nassau, which was a lot of fun (we used a disposable waterproof camera, however, so no pics to show you :) We opted to take a ferry over to St. John during the St. Thomas port of call, however, because I was dying to visit Trunk Bay, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It did not disappoint!

Heres's my hubby taking a dip in the crystalline blue water...

We also went to Orient Beach on St. Maarten...

But mostly, we just enjoyed relaxing on the boat, reading books, listening to music, and acting like big kids...

Because it was a cruise, we ate all of our meals on the ship, so it was a lot of American-style fare. But in honor of my journey through the Caribbean, I wanted to make a Caribbean-style meal for dinner tonight. And for that, I turned to my trusted Appetite for Reduction and Isa's recipe for Caribbean Curried Black-Eyed Peas with Plantains. 

Black-eyed peas are cooked together with shallots, red pepper, habanero pepper (I substituted jalapeno 'cuz I'm whimpy), garlic, ginger, bay leaves, curry powder, cinnamon, thyme, salt, agave, lime juice, and coconut milk. While the curry was simmering, I put on a pot of brown rice and steamed some plantains and broccoli. 

Since I don't have a vegetable steamer, I improvised by putting my giant colander full of plantains over a big stockpot of boiling water. I put a lid over the plantains and let them steam away. After several minutes of this, I added the broccoli to the water in the stockpot and steamed them both simultaneously. Worked like a charm!
Assembling the meal was as easy as putting a bed of rice in the bottom of a wide bowl, then topping it with the curry, steamed plantains, and broccoli. It was so colorful, so wonderfully fragrant, and super flavorful. My hubby gave it rave reviews!

After dinner, I was in the mood for a little dessert, so I grabbed a little package of chocolates that I bought in Costa Rica (which is not Caribbean, obviously...but it's chocolate and passion fruit, which is tropical!) It was the perfect, sweet ending to a delicious meal!

Where will be be going tomorrow? Tune in and see!


Anonymous said...

YUM! That looks so good. I love that cookbook too but am yet to make that recipe. I think it's now on the must do list. Your blog is awesome. Thanks for posting such neat photos. I love water & travel & good vegan food. I could read this forever!

Bethany said...

Wow, thank you so much, you're so sweet!! :) I don't know why it took me so long to make this recipe - I think I was intimidated by the plantains?? But they were so easy to make. I really liked them!

Rachel said...

I love plantains, but I've only had them fried. Thanks for the non-fried inspiration. I also like cruising, and I think we're going again in 2012, but on Norwegian. I plan to contact them in advance, and will probably take my own dressing too. (Good idea!)

Bethany said...

Hi Rachel! Mmm...fried plantains are so yummy! Steamed plantains were so easy, even without having a steamer. Definitely give it a try!! And I've heard good things about Norwegian, so I hope you have a wonderful time. But yes, bring some favorite salad doesn't take much effort or room in your bag, but it could be a lifesaver! :)