The best bread-free sandwich in the world…It’s low carb, grain-free, starch-free and sugar-free..Easy to make…Photos instructions…

It’s important to wash the dirt off of lettuce. If it’s not organic, carefully repeat rinsing in cold water, which may remove some of the pesticides.  If it is organic, carefully rinsing the lettuce removes dirt and little green worms which we’ve found on organic produce here in Italy. Usually, we dry it with a clean white kitchen towel or paper towels, wrapping the leftover lettuce in the white towel, and placing it in the fridge will keep it fresh for days. For the recipe, wash and dry 8 large romaine lettuce leaves, usually the leaves closest to the outside.

Two years ago when we began this restrictive way of eating, I was desperate for ideas. I’d heard that Jimmy Johns made a bread-less low carb sandwich called the Unwich. Cute name, eh?

Slice fresh tomatoes, purple (or yellow) onions as you prep for making the sandwich.
Off I went to the store closest to our then home in Minnesota to give it a trial run, purchasing “The Club Unwich” for two. Taking it home for dinner that night was unusual. We never and I mean never, ordered fast food for dinner. The only carry-out we had once a month or so was Chinese food, now forbidden on our way of eating, due to soy, MSG, sugar, noodles, etc.
This sliced Emmental cheese or sliced Provolone cheese seems to add more flavor to the sandwich. Try to avoid using overly processed American or cheddar cheese. There is no cheddar cheese in Italy due to the dyes used to color it. That’s impressive!

Making a large salad on the side, Tom and I sat at the bar in our kitchen and munched away. Halfway through, I jumped up and decided to “open” my sandwich to see how it was put together. Doing so would enable us to make these at home. 

Place the meats on a plate in preparation for assembling the sandwich. This mayonnaise is the best mayo we’ve ever used, no chemicals, few ingredients.
On the days we make the sandwich we usually have bacon and eggs for breakfast making extra bacon for the sandwiches, refrigerating it until we assemble the sandwich.

Of course, we could have continued to purchase them at Jimmy Johns. At less than US $6 each, they were a good buy, easy and fast.  But, for several reasons we decided to make our own:
1.  Our local Costco sold quality sliced nitrate-free meat and bacon.
2.  We could make the sandwich any size to fit our appetites.
3.  We’d be certain that no bread products had touched the food.  With a gluten-free sensitivity such as mine, even a bread crumb could become an issue.
4.  Use of higher quality, more flavorful real cheese, as opposed to highly processed cheese.
5.  Use of organic lettuce, tomatoes, and onions.  Why eat pesticides when one has a choice.
6.  Use of high-quality mayonnaise as opposed to the highly processed product.

Parchment paper is readily available at any grocery store. We used it almost every day to cover the bottom of any pan going into the oven (don’t use it on top of the stove) to reduce the cleanup and ease in getting the food, such as pizza out of the pan. It’s great for baking but one must not use it in excess of 375 degrees or it may burn. Do not use it when broiling. If you eat potatoes or sweet potatoes, parchment is ideal for making oven fries. Toss pre-cut potatoes with olive oil and salt and place in a preheated oven to (190C), 375F, baking for 30 minutes or until brown, tossing every so often. Best fries ever. For this sandwich recipe, we cut two pieces of about (75 cm) 30 inches each to use to wrap the ingredients as one would wrap a tortilla.

For us, these were great reasons to make it at home. For others, it may be easier and befitting a busy lifestyle to head to Jimmy Johns and purchased them made to order.

To begin making the sandwich, lay two large romaine lettuce leaves, overlapping, end to end, centered on the parchment paper, the long way. Be certain the lettuce is dry to avoid a soggy mess later.

After mentioning these sandwiches a few times in our posts, a number of our readers have written to us requesting instructions on how to make our “to die for” bread-less low carb sandwich. With that delectable morsel on the menu tonight for dinner, today is the perfect day to take photos to show you the easy step by step instructions.

Place the turkey or chicken slices atop the lettuce, cover with tomatoes. It’s OK to add more if you’d like.  We prefer this smaller amount.

(An item you’ll need to purchase at the grocery store along with these food items, is parchment paper or freezer paper which is used to wrap the sandwich. For kids or messy adults, use two rubber bands to hold the paper on the wrapped sandwich). 

Place the cheese atop the tomatoes, adding the mayonnaise using the spatula or wide knife.

Once familiar with the process, one can put two of these sandwiches together in a matter of minutes with the ingredients at your disposal. Below are all of the ingredients you’ll need to make two large bread less Club sandwiches.

Ham slices in Italy are different than deli ham slices in other countries, fattier, no nitrates, and less flavorful than the ham slices in the US.  In our sandwiches, we don’t use Italian salami. It was too fatty for our taste buds, greasy on the tongue.  One can add or delete any items in this sandwich.  But, the most important for maximum flavor is bacon, cheese, and mayonnaise.  Sliced roast beef also works well when available.  We would have purchased it yesterday, but it was US $42 a pound so we were content with the ham and sliced chicken.

1 large ripe tomato, sliced medium thickness
1 large purple onion, sliced thin
8 large washed and dried romaine lettuce leaves
4 slices Provolone cheese (or other preferred sliced cheese)
6 ounces sliced deli ham
6 ounces sliced deli turkey or chicken
6 ounces sliced salami, roast beef, or other preferred slice meat
6 slices cooked bacon
Mayonnaise (Tom doesn’t like mayo but in this sandwich, he does. Give it a try or use other sandwich spread that you or leave it out).
Parchment paper, cut into two 30′ long pieces

Layer the cooked bacon and the onions slices.

Adding these items to our grocery list is easy here in Italy. All of their meats are nitrate and chemical-free.  Thus, they spoil quickly.  As a result, when we purchase the above to make the sandwiches, we usually eat them for two nights in a row, freshly made each night, in order to use up all the meats we’ve purchased. 

After layering all the ingredients, lay two more dry pieces of the romaine lettuce atop, matching up the length of the sandwich to avoid a lot of overlap on the ends.

Yesterday, we shopped and tonight will be our second night of the sandwiches, which we anticipate with the same enthusiasm as last night. The sandwiches can be made earlier in the day and stay fresh in the refrigerator until dinner. 

Fold the paper over the sandwich on the edge closest to you, beginning to roll it tightly.

When Tom was still working I made these sandwiches for him almost every day for the next day’s lunch, staying fresh overnight. I prefer making them the day they are eaten. But when packing lunch for work, making them the prior day is unavoidable. 

Tuck one end over as if you were gift-wrapping a package.

The sandwich will keep in a lunch box the same amount of time any sliced meat sandwich will keep. Tom always used an insulated lunch box with a frozen freezer pack of some type. Keep refrigerated until ready to eat.

Continue to roll it tightly, tucking in both ends, leaving one end loose for unwrapping it as it is eaten.  Using a few well placed wide rubber bands helps for those who may have difficulty pulling the paper down neatly.  Tom is messier than I am and needs the rubber band which I lost yesterday.  It was the only one we had.  He’ll manage.
The final product, tightly wrapped, ready to chill, and enjoy with a side salad and steamed vegetables.

So there it is folks, our favorite sandwich. Actually, it’s our only sandwich. We have, on occasion, used this same concept using tuna salad, egg salad, and chicken salad, layered with cheese (or not), and preferred raw veggies.

A cold dinner is ideal on a hot day such as today at a humid 91 degrees!

A breathe of fresh air…A most entertaining conversation…A hurried road trip…

The chaos at the grocery store in Pescia inspired us to avoid shopping again on a Friday, obviously a busy day. It was surprising that these little villages have enough population to attract this crowd.  The cashiers sit while checking out customers and there’s a charge for carts (Euro $1.00) and for each plastic grocery bag (Euro $.05).

Yesterday afternoon, as we watched the movie, Zero Dark Thirty on my laptop I was startled when I heard the door buzzer. A funny thought entered my mind, “Gee, it’s a holiday! Who’d be at the door unannounced on a holiday?” Yeah, right! No 4th of July holiday here in Tuscany!

Tom, who is hard of hearing after 42 years on the railroad, doesn’t hear the buzzer. Together, we dashed down the stone steps to the door, surprised to find Lisa’s parents, Cicci and Dano, and another woman at the door, none of whom speak English.

Knowing we were in for a challenge with the language barrier we were in a quandary as to their visit. As it turned out, Luca had sent me an email while we were watching the movie to tell me they were planning to stop by to visit which I had failed to read.

On our way back through Collodi from shopping in Pescia, maneuvering two roundabouts, we began the steep climb back up the mountain to Boveglio, a 30- minute drive with many hairpin turns and guardrail free narrow roads. From what we can determine online this mansion is the Villa Garzoni.

A few days ago, I’d asked Luca if they had a feather duster so we could clean the house. Instead, they brought Santina, the local cleaning lady! OK. We can deal with this.

A half-hour of convoluted conversation commenced, discussing the days of the week she’ll come clean, the number of hours she’ll clean each week, the tasks she’ll complete, and the pay in Euros. 

After lots of arms waving around, my fumbled attempt at the translation of Italian, more head-nodding, we came to an “understanding.” (By the way, Tom went back upstairs after the first 15 minutes, bored and confused). 

Santina started cleaning today continuing to do so every Friday morning for our remaining eight weeks in Boveglio. For two hours, she’ll clean the entire house, (excluding the laundry) for a price of Euro $16, US $20.85, per week. We couldn’t be more delighted to have been able to arrange for her help.

Again, nodding and many “grazie(s)” later they finally left. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face, grateful for the freedom of not having to wash the stone floors and dust the zillions of shelves, ledges, windowsills, bookcases, and tabletops that are everywhere in this 300-year-old house. The price? Couldn’t be better! The conversation?  Priceless! I had the time of my life.

Next, our challenge was to clean up before the cleaning lady comes, a habit I had acquired years ago, preferring that the cleaning lady wouldn’t have the responsibility of dealing with our clutter.

After watching the remainder of the movie, we ran around de-cluttering, a task Tom found pointless which I thoroughly enjoyed, knowing the unpleasant cleaning part would soon be done by Santina.

One might think…”They’re spoiled. Two retired people that won’t clean.” The reality, for years I had a medical condition that made heavy cleaning impossible and now feeling well, we still each have to deal with our bad right shoulders which we tend to favor for fear of worsening the condition. 

Having help is well worth the Euro $16, US $20.85, for the sake of saving the wear and tear on the shoulders from scrubbing stone floors. Before we know it, we’ll be packing, once again on the move hauling the heavy luggage.

Using Google Translate, I typed a note to Santina when she arrived promptly at 10:00 am, explaining that we were leaving to get change and groceries and would be back before she’d be finished at noon. Also, I made a list of what we’d like cleaned in general terms: floors, dusting, make the bed, clean bathrooms, etc.

The closest bank is in Collodi, next door to the smaller of the two grocery stores where we’ve shopped. With the half-hour drive on the zigzag mountain road, we’d have an hour to do our shopping and return. 

Tom dropped me at the grocery store while he ran into the bank, getting stuck in the tiny revolving electronic security tube. If it had been me, I’d have panicked in the tiny tube. Tom merely became frustrated while he figured out a means of getting out with no instructions in English. 

Apparently, his RFID wallet set off the metal detector in the tube. Finally, he figured out how to get out. Then, the non-English speaker banker handed him large bills rather than the smaller bills he needed.

By the time he found me in the grocery store, his patience was worn thin. Unable to find a few grocery items, he insisted we go to the larger store in Pescia and leave what I’d already placed in the tiny basket. 

Time was marching on. The store in Pescia was another 10 minutes away. I suggested we pay for the items already in the cart and then head to Pescia, reducing our time finding these same items again. He agreed. Then we were stuck in line behind a woman whose credit card wouldn’t go through. Another seven or eight minutes ticked away.

It was important for us to be back in time to pay Santina. Tom and I are both sensitive to being on time and in keeping our word.  There was no way in the world we’d fail to return in time if we could help it.

By the time we reached the grocery store in Pescia, it was 11:08. When Tom couldn’t find a parking spot he dropped me off at the door. Not wanting to take time to pay a Euro for a grocery cart, I entered the store looking for the handheld baskets provided at no charge.  Not a one was in sight. I decided to carry what we needed until Tom showed. 

My arms filled with grocery items and still no basket in sight, Tom appeared immediately cognizant of my dilemma, taking off to find a basket. Running helter-skelter around the store, we gathered up the items we needed to begin a 10-minute wait in line. We’d never make it back on time. 

On the road again, he was determined to maneuver the winding hairpin turns as fast as possible. Gripping the sides of my seat, I held on for dear life desperately trying to keep my mouth shut. He’s a good driver. I only commented a few times, reminding him that our lives were more important than an impatient car behind us or being five minutes late to get back to Santina with the Euros.

At precisely, noon, we pulled into the parking spot near our house, grabbed the grocery bags to find Santina coming down the steps, her hands filled with her load of cleaning supplies and equipment. It was obvious she was excited to show us what she’d done.

The stone floors were still wet when we returned.  We were grateful for Santina’s commitment to clean every Friday.

Walking from room to room, me at her side, she rattled on in Italian on what she’d done, obviously proud of her work. Over and over I said, “molto bello” (very nice) and grazie (thank you). She was pleased. I was more than pleased. 

The stone floors, some still wet from her vigorous washing, looked better than we’d imagined they could. The shelves were now dust free and a freshness permeated the air. What a relief to know that we don’t have this stone cleaning task facing us each week!

The floor in the long hallway had already dried but looked perfect.  We couldn’t have been more pleased with Santina’s hard work.

Rushing around today we had little time for photos. We’ll be back tomorrow with more photos and the story of our Friday night “out on the town” at a new location.

It’s time to get out of my bathing suit to dress for the evening. Clouds rolled in over what had been started out as a clear sky only minutes after we’d attempted our one hour of sunning in our new chaise lounges on the patio. Tomorrow’s another day.

Check out our updated travel map on the right side of today’s post…Plus more photos…

Our building, Elite Residence, a new building, is among this grouping of other residential buildings, is the tan colored structure.
The entire city must have restrictions on the coloration of the building’s exteriors, all of which are variations of beige, tan, cream, off white and lighter shades of blue, resulting in an attractive skyline.

During another day of recovering health, we updated our map on Traveler’s Point, a free website to keep track of one’s travels on a map.  Well, I should say Tom updated the map, covering every country that we’ve visited thus far.

During our outing today, we stumbled across this upscale market.  It was a feast for the eyes with prices almost twice as much as the grocery store next door to our building where we shopped a few days ago. There are four grocery stores within a two block radius, which are the most expensive and the most visually stimulating.

Also, we had to call all of our credit card companies to update our travel itinerary.  To prevent fraud, they require that we “call” every 60 days with a list of countries we’ll be visiting over the same time period. 

Check out these cherry tomatoes, still on the vines!  It was a pleasure just looking at them!

Not wanting to incur outrageous long distance charges and also by not having cell service, our only option is to use Skype, calling the toll free numbers on the back of the credit cards at no cost to us. Connecting the call is quick and easy, but the time spent on the call with the representative is a slow and tedious process. It’s a necessary evil of constant travel.

In Dubai, meats are weighed by kilograms.  For example, these king crab legs are AED $212 per kilogram. There are 2.2 pounds in a kilogram resulting in these crab legs at US $26.24 per pound, not much more than the US pricing. Other seafood was more reasonably priced, often less than US pricing.

In speaking with other world travelers, some  have mentioned that on occasion their credit cards are declined, due to the fact that they’re using the card outside their home country where the card was issued. 

This normally is not an issue when one goes on a two week vacation to a foreign land. But, in our case, jumping from country to country over an extended period, triggers an alert that the card may have been stolen. 

These organic asparagus proved to be US $4.95 a pound, not too bad for organic.

By calling the companies in advance, we’ve avoided the time consuming embarrassment of a decline for one of our cards while out and about.  As of our recent inquiry yesterday, a few of our credit card companies have streamlined the process, making it possible to update this information online, as opposed to making the phone call, much preferred by us. 

As we travel, reviewing our mail every few days via our online mailing service in Nevada, Maillinkplus, is another necessary task. At this point, we receive very little mail since we previously had generated most of our mail to be sent via email.  However, a few companies remain in the dark ages insisting on sending a paper bill.

The shelves were lined with appetizing selections.

A week ago while cruising we received a snail mail bill from our Minnesota medical clinic stating that our insurance company didn’t pay our last bill for $294 while we were still covered. 

Last night at 9:00 pm, our time here in Dubai (11 hour time difference with California), we called the insurance company’s toll free number again on Skype (no charge) to discover that “it fell through the cracks” on their end and that they’ll pay it immediately. 

Olives and dates thrive in the desert, abundantly available. We can enjoy the olives, but must forego on the sugary dates.

I explained that we are out of the country for an extended period and would kindly expect that we won’t have to call again if this isn’t addressed promptly.  They promised it would be resolved.  These types of incompetent incidents happen to all of us from time to time.  While living in the US, they were much easier to resolve.

Banking, paying bills online, accounting, updating the budget, handling payments for future rentals and the ongoing process of continually planning our next move, whether it be days, weeks or months away, in itself is a lofty job requiring hours of diligent work each month. 

This boxed grouping of liter bottles of imported olive oils was priced at US $216.47.

Divided between us, each with our unique expertise, we diligently strive to stay on top of every task by utilizing my Outlook calendar with reminders popping up over a period of several days before the due date.  Once completed, we mark it as done, retaining the information in the calendar for future reference.

So, here we are in Dubai, doing laundry without a dryer, cooking dinner on a stove that has confusing unfamiliar settings, having only five hangers in the closet, the single knife in the drawer is dull (we had to go out to purchase a new knife) and there are only a few English speaking TV channels showing old reruns, a few horror movies and international news. 

For me, fun to see, forbidden to eat, baked fresh daily, priced at US $2 each.

There are no dish towels, no top sheet (they use duvets instead), outlets that don’t work with our digital equipment (we brought  adapters and converters with us but still find it confusing) and two tiny ice cube trays.  (We had to ditch our inventory of ice cube trays when we lightened our load).

With the massive amount of road construction around our building, we are very limited on where we can walk.  At certain points, we’re locked in, unable to get from one location to another on foot. This is disappointing, as we’d hope to spend a substantial part of our time here on foot. 

(At this point we’re planning outings on our own on which we’ll report later. We’re waiting to ensure I am feeling well enough).

The delectable appearing desserts ranged from a low of US $3.26 to a high of US $5.17.  I could have eaten one of each!

Thankfully, the property is otherwise fabulous, much more to our liking than a suite in a fancy hotel where we wouldn’t be able to cook or do laundry at all.  Also, with the cost of most hotels in Dubai in the $300 – $400 per night range, we are delighted with our rate of $135 a night including all taxes and fees. The additional $300 cash deposit we paid upon arrival will be returned to us in cash on the day of our departure.

For some, the perception is that we’re out sightseeing everyday without a care in the world.  But, we’re like you.  We have everyday tasks and responsibilities, aches and pains, colds and flu, financial matters to handle and the daily tasks of keeping our environment clean and clutter free plus, grocery shopping, cooking many of our meals and doing dishes. I cook. Tom does the dishes and helps with the chopping and dicing.

We could have used one of these fine knives, although too pricey and not easy to take along on a flight.

In reality, having a handle on these mundane tasks adds a comforting and familiar sense to our otherwise unusual lives of traveling without a home to return to; to see family and friends, to repack, to read the mail, to restock and to recover.

In any case, we take it all in our stride as part of the experience, the good and not so good and the perils and annoyances of travel. In return, we wallow in the joy of exploration, the bliss of discovery and  the sense of awe of the world around us. 

At lunch today we were served these miniature bottles of ketchup and mayonnaise that were fresh, never opened, a nice touch. We imagined that once opened, they are all thrown out, indicative of the Dubai-way, excesses of everything, one of many aspects resulting in very high prices when dining out.  Our lunch, at US $49 did not include any alcoholic beverages, appetizers or desserts. A 10% tip was included but we added an additional 10% for the exemplary service and attention to detail.

Feeling a little better today, we ventured out for lunch (US $49.00) and another trip to the grocery store for yet another box of tissues to tend to my continuing sinus problems, remaining from the ship-borne illness.

Barcelona, we’re on our way!…

Last night’s “towel pet,” an adorable bunny.  WiFi too slow to add more photos today.
Staying awake until 3:30 am another night, partly from the excitement of sailing through the Strait of Gibraltar and the remainder of our seven hour time difference. We can’t seem to shake this time difference, no matter how hard we try.

Continuing to go further and further east on our trip to Dubai, the difference will only become more pronounced. Prior to this cruise, we’d assumed that adding time slowly, as we crossed the ocean would make the time changes less obvious. How wrong we were!

We now realize that a fast time changes one experiences when flying makes adjustment easier when one is in control of their waking, eating and sleeping. 

On a ship, time is scheduled, leaving us feeling as if we must try to stay in sync with the ship’s time in order to get into the restaurants and events on time. There are a few dining spots open 24 hours, but they serve fried foods, burgers and pizza, none of which meets my dietary criteria.

Last night, left us in awe in a similar manner as when we traveled through the Panama Canal.  When we entered the area, Tom commented that it would have been especially enjoyable to see the Strait (I’ve since learned it’s “strait” not “straits”, my error) during the day.

Much to our surprise, the nighttime crossing was breathtaking with a twinkling light show, varying in size and color as we passed by Morocco and then finally to the Strait of Gibraltar.

At the moment, as we sit in our favorite booth in the Garden Cafe, we can see the shores of Cartagena, Spain.  Tomorrow, morning we’ll arrive in Barcelona where we’ll spend the day exploring and taking photos.  Later in the day we’ll return to this ship, the Norwegian Epic, for the four remaining days of our back-to-back cruise.

With five and a half hours sleep, I’m feeling a little more rested today. Missing five days without working out after the three days of rough seas plus sheer exhaustion, today I’ll force myself to get to the health club. We’re losing our tans, but hopefully I can maintain my level of fitness, vital to our continuing travels.

By the way, I’ve yet to take the time to open the box with the new camera, charge it and learn to use it. Over the next few days, while out to sea, I plan to get it taken care of.  There will be some serious shooting as we begin the 15 day journey to the Middle East.  Perhaps, committing this to writing, will force me to follow through.

Look for us late afternoon tomorrow, with photos of Barcelona when we return to the ship for the remaining four days of this cruise.