Saturday, February 14, 2009

Week 6: Belize

I am often surprised when I hear people talking about Belize as a destination for rich tourists. My brief encounter with Belize City two years ago left mostly an impression of vast poverty. It was not what I had pictured it to be, but one day is not enough to fully judge an island.

We had a day to explore Belize City. Me, my husband and another couple took a tour of the Mayan ruins. Our tour guide, who used to be a school teacher and found leading tours more lucrative, narrated while driving the hour to the ruins. The journey was not without bouts of nausea and elevated heart rates. The roads were narrow and bumpy, typically found on the way to some remote camp site and not usually associated with national highways. Right of way was given to the bigger vehicle. So, when a big truck approached, our vehicle had to pull off to the side.

The Mayan ruins, apparently discovered when they were building the highway, are beautiful and worth visiting.

We didn't have a chance to eat any of the local food, so I don't have any recommendations. But I will say that the cuisine is very mixed and was influenced by Mexico, Britain, Africa, Spain, and Mayan culture.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Week 5: Bahamas

There is a favorite joke among comedians on cruise ships. It goes something along the lines of "Hey, it's almost time for your hourly feeding." If you're under the impression that cruising is just one long never-ending succession of eating, you would be correct. But there is a lot more to it than that.

Cruising can be surprisingly fun. I never thought of myself as a "cruiser", it didn't fit my personality. I was supposed to be an adventurous backpacker who slept in bunk beds, in 20 dollar a night hostiles. But three years ago I went on my first Caribbean cruise with my in-laws and then boyfriend (now husband). The cruise opened my eyes to another way of traveling, the kind where you don't have to think to hard and can really relax.

I like to think of a cruise ship as a giant floating hotel/casino/spa with a 24 hr buffet. This giant all-in-one-fun ship has nightly entertainment such as Broadway style shows and stand-up comedians, among many other activities. The appeal is that there is something for everyone on the ship.

Our cruise took us to Freeport and Nassau in the Bahamas. My husband and I love salt water fish and coral. So we took a snorkeling excursion in Freeport. Underwater we spotted black trigger fish with their waving fin, butterfly fish and bright blue tangs. We were so excited, you could hear us trying to speak with the snorkel in our mouths, naming the fish and pointing to them.

In Nassau, we took a tour of Atlantis. This hotel has an amazing aquarium, and as fish lovers, we were drooling. Someday, we said we would go back.

When I told Darien that this week was Bahamas, he immediately asked for Johnny Cake. It's simple to make and it's like a slightly sweet corn bread. The pineapple pie was very good, but I found that there was too much liquid after boiling it with sugar,when so I drained off some of the liquid. I actually used the reserved pineapple juice and mixed it with some fresh squeezed lemon juice and selter to make refreshing drink.

Johnny Cake
source: Bahamas Gateway
1 cup flour
¼ cup sugar
4 t. baking powder

½ t. salt

1 cup corn meal

1 egg, beaten

1 cup milk

¼ cup butter or margarine, melted

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder & salt. Blend in corn meal. Combine egg, milk & butter or margarine. Make a well in center of dry ingredients & add the egg mixture. Stir until blended. Pour into greased 8" square cake pan. Bake in preheated 375 degree F oven for 25-30 min. Serve hot with butter.

Peas n' rice
Source: Bahamas Gateway
1 c. canned pigeon peas, drained
2 strips bacon - fry and crumble
1 chopped onion - cook in bacon fat
1 chopped bell pepper
1 tomato, skinned, seeded, chopped OR 1 Tbs. tomato paste
black pepper
1/2 tsp. thyme
2 c. water
1 c. rice

Bring all ingredients except peas to a boil and simmer until rice cooked. Add peas and cook for a couple more minutes.

Pineapple tart
Source: Bahamas Gateway

2 tins crushed pineapple or
4 c. fresh crushed pineapple
1 1/2 c. sugar

2 ready made pie crusts

Boil pineapple & sugar together for 15 min. & set aside until cooled. Pre-heat oven to 375F.
Bake one pie crust for 10-15 minutes until golden. Allow the pie crust to cool. Fill with already prepared filling. Using the the remaining pie crust cut into 1/2 inch strips. Moisten edge of bottom dough. Lay half of pastry strips across to form a criss-cross pattern.
Bake at 350 degrees F. for 1 1/2 hrs. or until golden brown.