Gluten-Free Spinach & Pea Pesto Pasta Salad

Every summer I seem to have a favorite food discovery.  One that really hits the spot in the midst of the heat, humidity, and sunshiny weather.

This year, I’m declaring that food, Gluten-Free Spinach & Pea Pesto Pasta Salad
(try saying that five times fast!)

ImageI made it once, so far, for Bowman’s birthday party, but I can guarantee I’ll make it at least twice more before the summer concludes.  It’s creamy, it’s got a bit of a bite to it, and it’s delicious warm OR cold!

Ingredients:

  • 2 large handfuls of baby spinach
  • 1 lb. dry brown rice pasta
  • 1/4 C. grapeseed oil (olive/canola oil works, too)
  • 1/4 C. parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 C. raw almonds
  • 1/2 C. green peas
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • pinch of paprika
  • sea salt & pepper to taste (about 1 tbsp. salt & 1 tsp. pepper)

ImageDirections:

1- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and allow to cool.

2- Blend together parmesan cheese & almonds in a food processor…

ImageImage…until it resembles a coffee grounds consistency.

3- Add spinach, chili powder, paprika, garlic, salt, & pepper to the food processor and pulse until grind (you may want to grab a spatula to pause and scrape down the sides as you go — I also had to add the spinach little by little since I was using my mini processor and it wouldn’t all fit!)

4- Add olive/canola/grapeseed oil (continuing to scrape the sides down so that the entire mixture is blended together)

5- Add peas & process until combined.

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6- Add the pesto to a large bowl with noodles and toss to coat.

ImageI would recommend allowing it to “marinate” overnight, so that the noodles really soak up the pesto, but it’s delicious as is, too.  Add some grilled chicken and sliced cherry tomatoes to round out the dish!

Enjoy!

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Curaçao – “koor-uh-sou” (Part II)

Each day for the entire week that we were in Curaçao, we found new things to explore.

 

We felt like total tourists, but apparently it wasn’t all that obvious, because a lot of the locals first tried speaking to us in Dutch. 

We were pleasantly surprised to find that American currency was almost 2x more valuable than the Florin that were used in Curaçao. 

Regardless, things were always a little more expensive there than they would’ve been back in the States.   One day we bought breakfast at Subway and it ended up costing about $9 per person?!

We saved money by eating breakfast in our hotel room most of the time (I brought peanut flour and oats & we bought bananas).  Then for lunch, we either used our daily $10 voucher at the hotel restaurant, or ate things that we bought at the “grocery store” there.  I’m pretty sure I got a grilled chicken salad almost every single day.  Dinner, is where we splurged.

I tried genuine curry for the first time and I’ve got to say, I’m a huge fan.

Another night we opt for seafood at a delicious waterfront restaurant called Scampi’s.

Jarid had some spinach mashed potatoes that he said he’d never forget,

while I ordered a grilled shrimp entree that came with a monstrous & decorative plate of fresh greens and other vegetables.

Although most of the shops were closed, like I said, by the time we were finished with dinner, the views and city life were enough to occupy us until it was time to head back to our room. 

Actually, I’m lying.  Each night we snagged some ICE cream before heading back to our hotel.

There was a little ice cream place called Don’s Ice Cream that we discovered in Rif Fort that served Edy’s brand.  I fell in love with the sugar free almond amaretto ❤

As I mentioned before, we had a voucher for one day to rent a car while we were there.  On a whim, we decided we’d like to drive the entire length of the country (which only took us about 45 minutes) to a place called Boka Park.

The trip was a little bit stressful — we had NO GPS & we had to turn off our cell phones’ data because we were “roaming” to avoid outrageous charges”.  We simply left our hotel with a map of the island, a little bit of faith, and a lot of prayer that we could make it 🙂 

It didn’t help that all of the signs were in Dutch, either.  Thankfully, Jarid & I make a pretty great team — he was about 12093895 times more nervous about it than I was. 

My sense of direction is pretty good, and his… well he’s not so confident.  We did make a few wrong turns along the way, but quickly realized it, and took appropriate action. 

The trip was totally worth the hassle of the traveling.  Shete Boka National Park is “10 kilometers of the rocky wave-exposed north coast of the island and with some 10 pocket beaches where 3 species of sea turtles are known to lay eggs“.

The park begins at stunning Boka Tabla, where huge waves thunder into an underground cavern.

Steps cut into the rocks lead you directly into the mouth of the cavern; you can sit on the very edge and watch the surf roll in.

We actually peeked inside the caves at the end, just before we left.  The majority of the time we were hiking the coast, exploring each of the little inlets: Boka Wandomi, Boka Kortalein, Boka Plate, Boka Mansalina, Boka Djegu and Dos Boka.  These inlets are protected turtle breeding areas and lie inside the park.

 

Overall, I was just so thankful to have had the opportunity to get away with my husband.  After all of the wedding chaos, exciting and as wonderful as it was, I was ready for some down time!  Time away from work, just enjoying my husband.  When it came time to travel back to the States, we were actually excited to get home! 

Not because we didn’t have a blast, but because we knew that it meant starting our lives together in a new home.  Remember back when we were house hunting?!  It feels so long ago, now, but the process of finding “the one” can sometimes be frustrating and grueling!  Thankfully, we had a wonderful agent helping us out from Howard Hannah, who helped us find the perfect starter home for us!  All about that in the next post 😉  Stay tuned!

Curaçao – “koor-uh-sou” (Part I)

Booking a honeymoon was not something Jarid & I had ever done before.  We knew we wanted it to be special, affordable, tropical, romantic, and memorable.  We also knew that we wanted to go somewhere that neither of us had ever been.  We considered places in Europe (on each of our bucket lists), Hawaii, and Mexico.  The trouble with Hawaii, was the insane cost of airfare from PA cross country to the island.  The trouble with Europe, was the fact that we kind of wanted to be near a beach.  And finally, the trouble with Mexico, is that during this time of year, it’s smack dab in the middle of the hurricane zone.  We did a bit of research and prayed about it.  For the most part, I would’ve been happy anywhere that I could take a break from the craziness of life and just enjoy time with my new husband.  We are both somewhat adventurous, so the idea of a place that not many people had heard of was slightly appealing.  Before we got an email from Living Social, a free email subscription that both Jarid & I are registered for, I had never heard of Curacao before.

We decided to just go for it!  I think our parents were more nervous for us than we were for ourselves — traveling out of the country and all.  We got our passports and the next step was booking our flights! Jarid found a good deal, where we were able to fly from Baltimore, MD to Miami, FL and from Miami, FL to Curaçao.  Because Momma Snyder gets great rates on hotel rooms, after our reception we drove to Baltimore and stayed in a beautiful hotel room the night of our wedding.  We were exhausted from the day, but I think our anticipation and adrenaline was enough to keep us awake!  Here’s a brief play-by-play:

12:45am- Check into our hotel in Baltimore

4:45- Scurry to the airport & check our bags

6:10am- Flight from Baltimore –> Miami

8:35am- Arrive in Miami and devour airport breakfasts

11:20am- Miami to Curacao

2:15pm- Arrived at honeymoon destination

2:30pm- Made it through customs and picked up our bags

2:45pm- Realized that our shuttle service from the airport to the hotel was non-existant & called a cab

3:30pm- Checked into our honeymoon suite & began exploring

One of my favorite things about the area was the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge.  Everytime there was a boat that needed through, the bridge was literally pushed aside to allow it through.  In cases like this, if people were on the bridge already, they either turned around, or in some cases were risky enough to try jumping as the bridge was pulling away from shore! 

We stayed in the Plaza Hotel & Casino Our hotel was exotic and casual — it reminded me of a bed & breakfast…only, it was gigantic. 

 Did I mention, it was right along the water…? 

…And that there was a casino inside? Because  there was 🙂  Jarid & I aren’t big gamblers, but we designated $1-2 each night, just for the heck of it, for the casino machines.  We ended up $12 to the positive after our week there!

Overall, Curaçao was not quite as tourist friendly as neighboring islands like Aruba.  The pastel colored buildings were endearing and I enjoyed strolling and exploring all of the areas of the country. 

We didn’t have or really need a rental car for most of the week, so we did a lot of walking!  Would you believe that the work-out-a-holic that I am, I didn’t spend ONE morning in the hotel’s gym?! 🙂 I was rather proud of myself for just kicking back and relaxing for once.  Every morning, we went for a walk on the island. 

All of the shops closed by about 6pm (which we found kind of odd), so if we wanted to get souveniers or family gifts, we had to do it in the morning.  We developed a routine, though, which was easier for me to adapt to than it was Jarid, of waking up at a decent time (somewhere around 9am), eating breakfast, and starting our adventures for the day.  We ended up crashing and relaxing at the hotel then after dinner around 7:30/8pm every night. 

Our hotel had a shuttle which would take us to and from the closest place to soak up the sun…Cabana Beach

The first day we were here, we were able to snatch up a spot under the cabanas and no one ever came around to collect our money… the second time, we weren’t so lucky and ended up shelling out $15.  Not too bad for two days worth of cabana shelter…and my own personal cabana boy 😉

 The sun was super hot, so I had to make sure that my husband was always lathered up in sunscreen, and that we re-applied it every couple of hours.  He still ended up with some nice color even with the SPF 50 buffer!  Cabana Beach had the whitest, silkiest sand that I’ve ever felt before.  It was so fine that it blew with the wind.  Water there was like no water I’d ever experienced before either.  You could see straight to the bottom, complete with views of the teensy fish weaving in and around people.  Temperatures in the ocean must’ve reached 60° because I, for one, can NEVER submerge myself…but here, it was easy!

After the beach each time we went, we usually took a dip in our hotel pool to cool off after the bus ride back.

Which brings me to the hands-down, most amazing part of our trip: scuba diving… something that can now be checked off of both Jarid & my bucket lists.

Jarid & I walked to the Scuba Lodge about mid-week, after reading up on the best spots.  We only had a rental car for one day, and since it was only about 1 mile to walk, we put our legs to good use 😉

For the first 45 minutes of our session, we had to listen to all of the safety precautions and instructions… probably the best idea for first timers.  Our instructor was pretty cool — down-to-earth with a good sense of humor — but Jarid wasn’t a fan because he said he was “checking me out”. Ha.

Anyhow, when we finally got to the hands on part, we slipped into our wetsuits (some easier than others). 

There was a sweet dutch woman who was part of our group.  She said that her husband was a higher level diver and she was trying to catch up so they could go together.  She also laughed outloud when they showed her the suit she had to squeeze into.

 

I was completely taken off guard by how heavy the oxygen tanks really are.  Honest to gosh, I could hardly walk with one strapped to my back!  Jarid, the gentleman that he is, kindly was able to stop laughing long enough to help me into the water.

The most difficult thing to get used to for me, was having a mask strapped over my face and being unable to breathe out of my nose.  I’m not a mouth breather…even when I work out, I usually breathe out of my nose.

 

One of the cool things we learned was that most experienced divers barely swim at all to maintain a certain level in the water.  They control how high or how low they are in the water by their breathing alone. 

The more water in your lungs, the more buoyant you are, and thus, the higher in the water you remain.  Everytime you exhale, you will sink lower into the ocean.

Thanks to my parents, who gave us their underwater, fancy shmancy camera to borrow, we were able to bring the memories of our sealife adventure home with us!  It was an incredible experience and I’m so thankful to have it all in photos!

 

See you soon for PART II of our honeymoon posts!

Making Me a Mrs.

Once upon a time there was a freckle-faced, red-headed girl who lived in a small town.  She was raised by two amazing parents, who loved her more than life, and vice-versa.  As a child, she didn’t have a care in the world.  She was athletic, passionate, and spirited.  As she grew up, she allowed the ups and downs of life, the opinions of others, and society to make her question her value.  She felt as though all of the heartache she experienced through medical issues, emotional breakdowns, and insecurities were on display for the world to criticize. She grew to wonder if she would ever find a soulmate who would be able to appreciate the self-proclaimed flaws, broken pieces, and imperfections that seemed to overwhelm her.  The search for her significance seemed never-ending, until God showed her the truth about who she really was– precious, beautiful, and wonderfully made (Psalms 139:14).  Until she found a way to love herself, she knew that she couldn’t accept the love of another.  She knew God had a plan for her, and she just had to be patient…God was just waiting for the perfect time to introduce her to her very own prince charming ❤  It really is true that love finds you when you least expect it…

Of course, Jarid & my wedding day began with a good sweat to get the blood flowing.  I didn’t want to over-do it, because I knew the day in itself would be exhausting (in a good way), so I stuck to a quick 45 minutes on the elliptical in the garage of my parents’ house…besides, I was entirely too excited to get to the reception site to help my girls start decorating to stay there any longer!  My matron of honor picked me up after a shower, and we were on our way to help with the decor. 

I was surprisingly calm for the majority of the morning, just taking it all in and enjoying every moment.  Before I knew it, 11:30am rolled around and it was time to head back to my parents’ for hair & make-up.  The only thing to be done at the church was dressing and pre-ceremony pictures!  My stylist, Emily, did things to my hair that I can’t even put into words.  I knew what look I wanted, but I couldn’t find any pictures of the exact style.  She took the ones that I did manage to compile and molded my locks into her very own creation. 

Something old: my veil — worn by my Godmother, my Momma, and my matron of honor

Something new
:  my earrings —dangly teardrops

Something borrowed: my Papa’s hankerchief (tucked in my garter) & my Mama’s broach pinned to my bouquet

Something blue: my Cowboys football themed garter

Our wedding started at 3’oclock in the afternoon, so most of our pictures were able to be taken before the ceremony.  While the guys were doing their thing, us girls were doing ours.  Jarid’s best man delivered a sweet card to me, which made me teary.  As if that weren’t enough emotion, my parents gave me a card as well, before the ceremony.  We all prayed together and lots of happy tears were shed. 

Before I knew it, my Daddy was walking me down the aisle to the instrumentals from the song, “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri, amidst a church full of loved ones who were there to support the vows that Jarid and I were there to make before God.  It all happened so fast.  We had written our own vows, and the young adult pastor from our church was officiating the ceremony.  

After we said, “I do”, we made our exit and drove to our photography site.  Where better to get some pictures than my old high school gymnasium.  After all, Jarid & I met on a basketball court, fell in love, and he asked me to marry him at half-time of my last college basketball game.  We headed back to the church for some traditional shots before making our way to the reception.

Jarid and I had worked pretty hard to make our wedding personal and economical, yet classy.  For favors, we burned our own CDs as the “soundtrack to our love story” picking songs that were special to us, or simply ones that we liked to jam out to in the car together 🙂  We didn’t want to do all of one thing (families of five would go home with five of the exact same thing!), so we did every other setting with a cookie cutter wrapped in a cute little box with a healthy cookie recipe tied on.  For our centerpieces, we had three different themes — on tables 1-10, we used grade school pictures of each of us — tables 11-20, we painted wine bottles with chalkboard paint and wrote on the table numbers — on tables 21-30, we printed and framed the numbers to sit on a table with pomander-like balls that we put together ourselves. Jarid punched out almost ALL of the flowers by hand so that we could pin them to the styrofoam craft balls.  We sat them on flipped-over glasses (martini, wine, and goblets) to create different heights. We also used tulle on all of the tables, and strands of cheap pearls to make the tables appear more full.

 Our ushers drove us in my Momma’s gold Jaguar, which was dressed up in hot and light pink streamers, and filled with balloons that we had to pop before we got in…that was a nice little surprise from one of my sly bridesmaids 😉  For dinner we were served green beans, steamed california blend vegetables, seasoned mashed baby reds, grilled seasoned chicken and ham.  As we arrived, we were greeted by our DJ, who was fantastic!  Literally, we partied all night.  He seemed to know just what song to play to pull the crowd onto the dance floor.

 Everything at our reception was super traditional.  Jarid & my first dance as a married couple was to Dave Barnes version of “God Gave Me You”, Jarid danced with his Mom to Rascal Flatts “My Wish”, and I danced with my Daddy to Heartland’s “I Loved Her First”.  We added another special dance so that we could dance with my Godparents to Faith Hill’s “There You’ll Be”.  We did the dollar dance, the garter ceremony, the cake cutting, and the toasts.  I can honestly say I wouldn’t have changed a thing.  God completely blessed Jarid and I on our wedding day, and we are so excited to see how he will continue to work in our marriage. 

After all the excitement, Jarid & I drove to Baltimore, MD to spend our wedding night in a gorgeous hotel for the night, leaving for Curacao –the Dutch Antilles– at 6am the next morning for our honeymoon!  Stay tuned for lots of adventure!