Rasta Pasta + Jamaica’s Hidden Jems


Rasta Pasta is full of all of the beautiful, tasty flavors of Jamaica!


It’s hard to believe that just two days ago I was laying in a sun lounger, rum punch in hand, staring at this…

Now I’m cold, landlocked, and surrounded by laundry! I guess I can’t complain… ;)


In case you missed it, here’s the first update I posted from our hotel in Negril. It was all sun, rum, and relaxation for the first couple of days, as we quickly learned that there are truly no worries when you are on vacation in Jamaica. I repeat, there are no worries in Jamaica!

At first it was kind of unnerving. I mean everyone’s all, suuuure, mon. No worries, mon! Respeeeect, mon, to pretty much anything you say, and there are no clocks – anywhere – even in your room. We’ve never experienced this kind of laid-back lifestyle! It literally took us 2 days to just…submit. Surrender. Enjoy.

Then we got antsy and booked ourselves an all day tour of the island. ;)

As awesome as it is relaxing in the sun and sand, Ben and I still love to explore so we contacted Talk of the Town Tours and hired Omar and Delomar to show us around for a day!

Choosing to go with a private tour company, instead of a larger one, gave us the opportunity to go places that a large tour bus can’t – and won’t – go. For an extremely reasonably price, Omar and Delomar spent the entire day showing us more of Jamaica than we could have ever hoped for. We stopped off at dozens of places during our time together to splash around in secret streams,

stare in awe a trees that were as old as the island itself (and wider than a bus!)

pick fresh flowers right from the vine,

and stare at sea views that made our jaws drop.

We did more that day than I could ever type out, so let me show you a few of the highlights, starting with the fresh coconut stand we visited right out of the gate!

Jobs in Jamaica are very limited (which I will talk about in another post,) so a lot of people have to make their own jobs.

The owner of this coconut stand purchases coconuts from a farm, then sells them on the side of the road for about $2 US – all day long.

We purchased just one coconut, as Ben claims to loathe them, and I immediately started sipping out the pure coconut water inside. IT WAS SO GOOD! So refreshing, with just a hint of coconut flavor. It only took a few seconds before he was asking for a taste. ;)

The coconut we were drinking from was a jelly coconut, so after all the water was gone, the stand owner hacked off a piece of the shell with his machete to use as a scraper/spoon, then sliced the coconut in half, leaving us to scrape out and eat the hard-jelly-like coconut flesh inside.

Due to the fact that I am quite inexperienced in the art of jelly coconut scraping, I needed some help with my half. Ben, on the other hand – Mr. I Hate Coconuts – had no trouble with his, and was literally inhaling it in seconds. I. Love. Coconuts! he declared as he finished.

Later that morning, we were cruising through the Jamaican countryside when Omar stomped his foot on the brake and took a hard left into what appeared to be a random field.

2 bumpy minutes later we come across a secret, “only Omar knows about” bridge – which we were to jump off into the mountain fed spring below it!

At this point, my mother’s voice rang fairly clearly in my ear, If all your friends were jumping off a bridge, would you do it too?

Sorry Mom!!!!!!!

It. Was. Awesome!!

Our adventures continued into the morning when we stopped to descend into some caves,

which included jumping into a 160 foot deep body of water inside the pitch black pit of the cave (EEK!)

and stopping at one of the dozens of fruit stands that dot the sides of the roads in Jamaica.

At this fruit stand, Omar bought Ben and me a couple of Neesberries to snack on. OMG MY NEW FAVORITE THING IN THE ENTIRE WORLD!! Neesberries are the size of kiwi, and you kind of split them in half, then pull out the segments inside with your teeth. They taste like straight up brown sugar. I shall crave neesberries ’til the end of my days.

Next we headed to the Black River to find some crocs!

Guides by our side.

The boys and I jumped inside a boat where the Black River meets the Caribbean Sea, about 1.5 hours southeast of Negril, and headed into the mangrove tree covered river. The water is actually crystal clear, but a thick layer of peet on the bottom makes it appear black.

Oh yeah, there’s also 350+ crocodiles that inhabit the area!

Our boat driver got us upcloseandpersonal with several of these pre-historic looking creatures which don’t move a muscle when you come close, but would most likely snap your face off in a second if given the chance.

The one we saw on the banks of the river near the dock was the biggest.

He was at least 7 feet long.


As we wrapped up our Black River tour, we picked up a couple more tourists, and headed out to the spot I’d been waiting MONTHS to see. It is truly Jamaica’s hidden gem, as it’s not advertised anywhere.

I can’t remember how or where I learned about it, but I’d been dying to go since we booked our trip.

I told Omar at the beginning of the day that our itinerary was up to him as long as it included a stop at…

The Pelican Bar!!!

Ok – here’s the scoop! The Pelican Bar is located on a small sand bar about a mile offshore. Story goes that it used to be a popular spot for fisherman to stop at on their way home from a day at sea, but then Hurricane Irene came along and blew it to bits. The owner didn’t have enough money to get it back to 100%, so he patched it up and opened it up to tourists instead! (Please notice the Hawkeye flag in the ceiling!)

It is the COOLEST!!!!!!!!!

After climbing up the driftwood stairs,

and leaving your stamp,

you sit out on the dock,

take a sip…

or a dip…

then dig into the dish of the day – ie whatever the owner has caught from the dock, then prepared in the small Dutch oven he’s got bubbling over a one-burner stove.

When we arrived, he had just put the finishing touches on a plate of Heaven knows what, but it included lobster and it was sweet, creamy, spicy PERFECTION. Mmm, I will never forget it!

You can stay at the Pelican Bar for as long as you like – or until the cold Red Stripe in the cooler runs out. Boats come and go…

and eventually yours will too.

By far the best day of our trip!

In honor of the dish we devoured at The Pelican Bar, I made a copy-cat Midwestern version called Rasta Pasta for dinner tonight!

An island-spiced coconut sauce smothers fluted pasta, which is studded with fresh vegetables and chopped chicken. Just close your eyes, pretend it’s lobster, and that you’re enjoying it in the middle of the clear Caribbean Sea.


Rasta Pasta

Serves 2


Rasta Pasta is full of all of the beautiful, tasty flavors of Jamaica!


  • 4oz short pasta like mafalda or penne
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 green pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon minced or microplaned fresh ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
  • 2 cups cubed butternut squash
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup lite coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces & seasoned with salt & pepper
  • 6 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 small zucchini, quartered and chopped
  • 2 cups broccoli florets, steamed
  • 1/4 cup corn kernels, canned, fresh, or frozen


  1. Melt 1 Tablespoon butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Add onion, green pepper, garlic, ginger, and chili pepper flakes, then sauté until onions are soft, about 4-5 minutes. Add butternut squash and chicken broth, turn the heat up to medium-high, and cook until squash is tender, about 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling, salted water according to package directions. Drain then return to the pot and set aside.
  3. Add coconut milk, thyme, coriander, cumin, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and allspice to the large saute pan with the butternut squash, and simmer for another 5 minutes. Carefully pour the mixture into a food processor or blender, and process for 15 seconds or until smooth. Set aside.
  4. Using the same skillet, melt remaining Tablespoon butter over medium-high heat and add in chicken. Cook for 2 minutes, then add in mushrooms and zucchini. Sauté until vegetables are tender, about 3 minutes, then add in broccoli and corn, and cook for 2 more minutes. Add in cooked pasta and the amount of sauce you prefer. Stir to combine and heat everything through, then serve.


Adapted from Jay Solomon's "A Taste of the Tropics" cookbook

This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats, http://iowagirleats.com.


Don’t let the long ingredient list scare you. I had 99% of the spices in my cupboards, and only had to buy the fresh vegetables and coconut milk.


The resulting dish was outstanding. The coconut milk lent a slight sweetness to the dish, and such creaminess. The spices were jammin’ mon!


The sauce, vegetables and chicken would be perfection when paired with a heaping side of fluffy, white rice. I used pasta since I’ve got other rice plans to show you later this week!


More recaps to come, including the hotel we stayed at, additional important information on what to expect when visiting Jamaica, and pictures from our underwater camera – whee!

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  1. Diane 04.16.2012

    This looks amazing!

  2. Melissa 04.16.2012

    We loved the Pelican Bar when we visited Jamaica a couple of years ago and it was the location of my favorite vacation photo ever!

  3. Morgan 04.16.2012

    Your trip looks like it was awesome! My boyfriend was born in Kingston and we want to take an all-inclusive trip next summer. What resort did you all go to?

  4. Allison Martin 04.16.2012

    Great post! It looks like you had a great vacation. I recently found your blog and I love it! There is so much to explore and is perfect for this runner, traveler, and home cook! You are very talented!

  5. AWESOME TRIP! Can’t wait to read more about it! :)

  6. sara 04.16.2012

    wow!! you got tan FAST!!! *gorgeous*

    looks like so much fun! glad y’all enjoyed yourselves.

  7. Christy 04.16.2012

    It looks like it was an AMAZING trip! I can’t wait to try the Rasta Pasta. I’m intrigued by the coconut milk. Just today I was reading all about the many uses of coconut oil. It’s a fruit (fruit?) I’ve never given much thought to but now I seem to see it popping up everywhere!

  8. Mandy 04.16.2012

    Oh my gosh…I have SERIOUS travel envy going on. The coconuts, the ocean!

  9. Dee 04.16.2012

    It looks like an amazing trip! and I loved that Ben hated coconuts until he ate it. HA!

  10. Kelly V. 04.16.2012

    What a fun trip! I did a mission trip in Jamaica back in high school and loved the parts of the island we worked & played (mountains & beach resort). If we go back, I will be sure to make Pelican Bar a priority – looks like my kind of place!

  11. Looks like it was so beautiful and that you got to see a different side of Jamaica than a lot of tourists do! You’re makin’ me want a vacation, maahn. :)

  12. Lauren 04.16.2012

    What an amazing trip! You look so tan and beachy for April to which I am insanely jealous! So glad you had an awesome time!

  13. Sandy 04.16.2012

    Great pics! Looks like you had a lot of fun. I’ve been to Mexico quite a few times but never to Jamaica- that just might have to be my next trip. Thanks for posting.

  14. sarah 04.16.2012

    I want to go…thank you for the great pictures.

  15. jennyv 04.16.2012

    Awesome vacation pictures! I’d love to hear even more about the trip — the pictures took me away from this crazy Iowa wind!

  16. My husband and I honeymooned in Jamaica a few years ago and already booked our return trip for our anniversary next year. We can’t wait to retun! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  17. Robyn 04.16.2012

    Wow! Are there words for this trip? Amazing seems too small. I will admit, you are braver than I, I’m pretty sure I could never do a trip like that! Glad that you are home safe!

  18. Nichole 04.16.2012

    Welcome back to the Midwest! It looks like you had a lovely vacation, thanks for sharing the pictures!

  19. Brooke Flint 04.16.2012

    Ok I must ask..what camera do you take with you? Getting ready to leave for Mexico next week and not so sure about bringing my nice Nikon on little day adventures!

    Loved the pics!

    • Iowa Girl Eats 04.16.2012

      I used my Nikon D3000 for most of the trip, but a Canon Digital Elph for this day!

  20. Your trip and your pasta look amazing, mon!

  21. clarissa 04.16.2012

    so weird. i was in key west for a week enjoying the beach at the same time as you two! we almost look like twins with our red tint from the sun! lol. blessings!!

  22. Najla 04.16.2012

    Your trip looks amazing! Thanks for sharing! Glad I found your blog- great recipes :)

  23. Your pics are gorgeous and your story-telling – fun. Did I tell you that you have put Jamaica on my bucket list now? Thanks for sharing your vacay with us!


  24. Regan 04.16.2012

    great pics…welcome back!!

  25. Maria S 04.16.2012

    We leave for Negril in a few weeks! I was already plenty excited, but your recent blog posts have me over-the-top giddy!!! I’m definitely tracking down Omar and Delomar for a private tour — thanks for the recommendation!

  26. kellyo 04.16.2012

    Looks like a fantastic trip! Welcome home…

  27. Lindsay 04.16.2012

    I can’t wait to hear where you stayed. I’m getting married in September and I need honeymoon ideas :-)

  28. Tina 04.16.2012

    Loved looking at the pics! It looked like you had a cool adventure-I would have been chicken to go exploring:) Thanks for posting all the beach pics!

  29. Maria W 04.16.2012

    Your vacation pictures are amazing and I’m glad you shared so many of them with all of us. I laughed out loud at the one where you and Ben were standing on the bridge and you remembered your mom’s voice in your ear. I have memories like that, too. My mom doesn’t like to fly anywhere and I’ve been on several trips by plane and had tons of new experiences! Vacations are refreshing!

  30. Kimmie Ciccone 04.16.2012

    Im a recent reader on your amazing blog. I look forward to my email daily from you.. I have tried so many new recipes! Thank you so much. Looks like u enjoyed your Jamaica trip ;) I can’t wait to try rasta pasta

  31. CJ - Food Stories 04.17.2012

    Looks like a fantastic trip. Thx for sharing with us!

  32. Tonya 04.17.2012

    Wow! Wonderful post, with such awesome tips! I think I cannot get there fast enough ;) Beautiful photos as well!

  33. Looks like y’all had a great time! I went to Negril a few years back and loved it too. Your pics make me want to go back!

  34. Melissa 04.17.2012

    What an amazing trip! I love that the Hawks were present on your trip, Iowa fans really are everywhere :) Love the pictures. Sounds like you had the best tour guides and what a great way to see the island!!

  35. anne 04.17.2012

    Amazing! We’re going to Negril in May and have been talking about The Pelican Bar. Definitely worth the trip, eh? Maybe we’ll have to contact your tour buddies. Thanks for sharing! Awesome photos – I can’t wait for May!!

  36. Your trip looks gorgeous! Im so glad you guys had so much fun..you’re tempting me!! This pasta looks delish! I love the island flavors!

  37. Emily 04.17.2012

    Both the trip and the inspired dinner sound fantastic! I have added this meal to my inspiration folder for next week – thank you! :)

  38. I loved everything about this post! All of the sights are gorgeous, and that coconutty pasta looks absolutely amazing! I can’t wait to try it – especially with those really fun-shaped noodles!

  39. Julie 04.17.2012

    I always LOVE your vacation posts! I was so engrossed that when I finished reading I was disappointed to realize I was still at work! :( Can’t wait to hear about the rest of your trip!

  40. Lori 04.17.2012

    What a great recap from your trip! You and Ben always find a way to have amazing adventures. Good for you!

    As for the pasta recipe…I’ll be adding that one to my list for sure. I’m a sucker for recipes with coconut milk.

  41. Oh MY Kristin, your trip looks amazing. I’m curious how much you guys paid to get the tour guides for the entire day? LOVE the blue ocean and white sandy beaches. And that coconut…glad BEn came to the other side about that.

  42. Melissa 04.17.2012

    What an awesome trip! I always love your travel posts. :) I have to believe that food just tastes better when you’re sitting out on the water with the sun pouring down on you and a cold beer in hand. That said, I’m sure that pasta recipe is pretty awesome, too!

  43. Wonderful pictures…loved all the ocean pics.

    It reminds me of the adventures we had during our honeymoon. We went off the beaten path and took our own tour and really explored the island in the Philippines from the locals eyes.

  44. Trisha 04.17.2012

    Welcome back! Your trip looks absolutely superb. I am currently looking up flights to Negril, I’m not sure I can live the rest of my life knowing that Pelican Bar exists & not visiting. :)

  45. Urban Wife 04.17.2012

    ohmygoodnesstheWATER!!! Jamaica is absolutely gorgeous. So glad you guys had a fun time. Fresh coconut water + jelly is the best, isn’t it? :)

  46. Sienna Kerr 04.17.2012

    Kristin, just talked to Omar and sent him the link to this blog page…you could literally “hear” him blush over the phone! I joked with him that he was no famous…had his name in print with a photo…..he laughed and laughed….and said he had the best fun on this outing day with you and Ben, that you were both so “genuine and real” and open to learning about the countryside and culture. You have no idea how much this means to a Jamaican who is proud of his country and thrilled to share it with someone who really cares. He said he and Delomar both wished you could come back each month to experience another “road trip”, each time seeing and experiencing something totally different !

    Omar was driving when I calle but I told him to be sure to sit in front of a laptop or desktop computer somewhere after work…I want him to see your photos and reading your blog on his little phone just won’t cut it.

    If you do get back to the island, I hope I’m there at the same time to get to meet you in person…..so glad you got a chance to see first hand why I consider the island my “adopted home”.
    Talk Of The Town~

    • Ben 04.17.2012

      It’s easy to be “real and genuine” with someone when you can tell that they are doing the same with you! It is an amazing feeling to hear that they both had a good time when, here we are, so thankful that these two took the time out of their days to show two boring people from Iowa their country. We cant thank them enough!

      Nothing but respect for Omar and Delomar!

  47. Sarah O. 04.17.2012

    My fiance and I are going to Jamaica for our honeymoon next weekend. I’m going to hunt down one of those neesberries.

  48. Angie Sprung 04.17.2012

    What an awesome trip!!! We are going this winter and will be sure to find the Pelican Bar! Where did you stay? I LOVE your site and have found myself addicted!!!

  49. That looks amazing! And thanks for the recipe! This may be one I definitely must try!

  50. That bar is awesome! I’ve been trying to come up with a good post-deployment vacation and now Jamaica is officially on my list of possibilities!

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