It’s a little after 4pm and I’m sitting here in the living room swatting mosquitoes away, while I scroll thru social media and the woeful pleas of residents near and far. It’s hot today, humid really and there’s a weird buzz in the air. The energy is frenetically charged with anxiety, hope and worst of all, fear.

Outside the dump truck provided by Public Works pick up the bins they droppers off this morning for residents to throw their debris and yard waste from Irma in. And now we lay in wait for the mistress of the sea, Maria. We don’t know what to expect, we are told that it will strike St.Croix as a Category 5 Hurricane, so now know we’re in trouble. It’s now 3a and I’m still awake because…what else should I be doing? The anticipation is unnerving. It’s the not knowing that is the hardest. The last weather update says the storm has battered the Leeward Islands especially Dominica. We are directly in her path and she’s projected to make landfall early Wednesday morning.

We are boarded up, prepared, praying and hoping for the best, but deep in our soul we are preparing for the worst. Our sister islands, St.Thomas & St.John have already taken quite a beating. The road to recovery is long road and arduous, regardless we will continue to do our best to help. It seems we are headed down the same path, so now we just stand here #VIStrong and wait.

If you can, please send up prayers and postivity for all of us in the Caribbean and see you all on the other side.

 

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#GrowingUpCrucian meant that we were taught about hurricane preparedness. I remember during hurricane season you could find hurricane tracking maps everywhere and how to track storms was part of the curriculum in school. It was so ingrained in us in elementary and middle school that it wasn’t strange at all to mention severe weather coming our way and hearing someone ask, ‘What’s the coordinates?’ St.Croix is17°44′23″N 64°44′20″W / 17.73972°N  (in case you were wondering). Weather is never taken lightly here in the Caribbean especially as it pertains to hurricanes. We build houses to withstand the elements. We stock supplies year-round, secure hurricane shutters and if and when the time comes we batten down the hatch, hunker down, wait, pray and hope. Evacuation is not as easy as it seems for various reasons. First off we are not on the mainland, so residents cannot simply drive to the next island or another state over out of harm’s way. The only way out is by air and air travel is expensive not only in the Caribbean but to the mainland as well. Other reasons include caring for elderly and ill family members. It just isn’t as easy as packing up the car and heading north.

This hurricane season has been incredibly active, with Hurricane Harvey ravaging Houston and the Gulf coast a few weeks ago. This past Wednesday, September 6th (Happy Birthday Mom!), Hurricane Irma, tore thru the Caribbean as a Category 5 hurricane leaving a path of chaos and destruction thru Anguilla, Barbuda, St.Maarten, Tortola and the rest of the BVI as well as my home in the U.S.Virgin Islands. Irma has the distinction of being the biggest Atlantic storm ever on record. Being further south of #HurricaneIrma, my island, St.Croix, was spared, we got lots of wind and rain, with a few downed fruit trees, no power or phone service in certain areas. Our sister islands, St.Thomas, St.John and the BVI took the brunt of the storm and suffered tremendous damage. I can say for certain I am thankful to have a safe place throughout the storm and a roof over my head. Many years ago after Hurricane Hugo, my family’s fate was not quite the same as we saw half of our roof blow off and spent the night huddled in a small closet. So believe me when I say that I feel a deep, significant loss for our sister islands. How does the saying go, ‘Who feels it knows it’, trust me we know this feeling very well. You don’t know where to start, what to do, basic survival and shelter becomes your primary concern. For this reason, everyone in our local community as well as Virgin Islanders on the mainland and abroad are doing their best to help in any way they can.

 

 

FEMA is already on the ground in St.Thomas and relief efforts to provide much-needed food, clothing and supplies have been organized here on St.Croix, Puerto Rico as well as the mainland. Often times people forget about the Caribbean and consider it to be nothing more than a vacation destination, disregarding the millions of people who have lived here for generations and livelihood has now been washed away. We have also been begging the Weather Channel, as well as the big network stations including ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and Telemundo to provide more in-depth coverage of the area instead of just passing over us directly.

I want to take a minute to thank my faraway friends, family members and everyone who’s been checking in to make sure that my family and I are safe and offering to help as best they can. To be loved and to feel the love surrounding me and my loved ones is an incredibly powerful feeling. I am also so proud of the work we are doing as a collective community to help those in need. I will do my best to share as much information as I can.

St.Croix’s very own Tim Duncan, a Hurricane Hugo survivor, has organized a relief effort, 21 US Virgin Islands Hurricane Help. Tim is also a Hurricane Hugo survivor, you can read more about his story here. Duncan’s organization has a plane leaving with supplies from San Antonio next week, you can contact them directly to drop off supplies if you’re in the area. Duncan has also started a relief fund and has already donated $250k and will match up to $1 million. I just read that his fundraising efforts so far have surpassed the $1 million mark, GO TIMMY! #VISTRONG

As I receive more information I will be sure to update this post. If you have any information that you’d like to share you can contact me here or on any of my social pages.

Together we are #CaribbeanStrong.

Financial Contributions

St.Croix Foundation
21 US Virgin Islands Relief Fund – Tim Duncan
St. Croix Foundation – Caribbean Assistance and Relief Effort (CARE)
Richard Branson/Virgin BVI COMMUNITY SUPPORT APPEAL
St. John Rescue
Caribbean Sea Adventures
USVI Hurricane IRMA Relief Fund – VI United (John P. Wheatley)
Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands
BVI Hurricane Relief Irma Fund
Convoy of Hope-BVI

Toiletries/Clothing/Medical Supplies and Non-Perishables Item Location Drop Off

St.Croix
Cane Bay Dive Shop Frederiksted and North Shore-
The Shoe Bar
Caribbean Sea Adventures
Juan Luis Hospital Nursery (needs supplies for infants and newborns)- 340- 772-7348- ask for Faye
Island Moms Rock! -#OperationBabies (will be at Kmart West until 4:00 pm today September 10th)
Seaborne Airlines- Seaplane Base (Christiansted)

Puerto Rico
Seaborne AirlineRoblex Aviation Center- Ave Jose (Tony) Santana, World Cargo Building B, Carolina, Puerto Rico, 0097

Shelters
Shelters in St.Croix are being set up to accommodate evacuees from St.Thomas and St.John, if you would like to volunteer please contact 340-626-6288.

Facebook Groups
Helping the Virgin Islands Recover
USVI Hurricane Irma Alert
BVI Abroad
What’s Going On Virgin Islands?
What’s going on St. John, US Virgin Islands
US Virgin Islands Hurricane Watchers
Eyes on the Storm Caribbean

DISCLAIMER: I am not affiliated with any organizations listed. I have done my best to reach out directly to members of these organizations to provide information about their ongoing efforts. If you are hesitant about making a financial contribution please consider donating well-needed supplies. If you would like to help and are in the Puerto Rico, Atlanta, DMV, Raleigh, Charlotte, San Antonio, Houston or Phoenix area they are several organizations and individual where you can drop off clothing, food and other supplies. Some are listed on the flyers below. This is not an exhaustive list and will continue to be updated as more information can be vetted and provided. Information has been pulled from a variety of sources to have relief resources available in one central place.

 

 

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DISCLAIMER: I am not affiliated with any organizations listed. I have done my best to reach out directly to members of these organizations to provide information about their ongoing efforts. If you are hesitant about making a financial contribution please consider donating well-needed supplies. If you would like to help and are in the Puerto Rico, Atlanta, DMV, Raleigh, Charlotte, San Antonio, Houston or Phoenix are they are several organizations and individual where you can drop off clothing, food and other supplies. Some are listed on the flyers below. This is not an exhaustive list and will continue to be updated as more information can be vetted and provided. Information has been pulled from a variety of sources to have information in one central place.

*singing* Summer, summer, summer time. I swear that song is still a banger. I just got back from my epic 6-week summer tour which saw me rambling up and down the East coast/Southeast and included attending #BlogHer17, I’m happy but exhausted and slightly overwhelmed by all the information I received and connections I was able to make. Check out my #BlogHer17 recap here. I’ll probably do a summer tour recap…sooner or later.

I meant to post this recipe last week for my #SummerEats series, but really I couldn’t. I’ve been feeling mentally and physically spent so I took a tiny break but now I’m back alas, with a little something different today. #GrowingUpCrucian saltfish and fungi was a staple meal in many a household. It’s a local delicacy and could be considered the official dish. I’m not sure when Virgin Islanders started making this dish centuries ago but I’m certain that it was derived from dishes our ancestors brought over on the slave ships. Once they got to the Caribbean they used the ingredients they had on hand to make meals that were reminiscent of those they had back home. Talk about homesickness! Food is always filled with love and history I believe. The dish itself is made of saltfish/bacalao which is usually cod, it’s dried and cured with salt so it has to be soaked prior to use. This fungi is not a fungus grown in a lab or a funghi as in mushroom. I know it can be confusing. This fungi is made of ground cornmeal and okra and very similar to polenta in Italy, fufu in many African dishes or cou-cou in other parts of the Caribbean. When done properly it should be incredibly smooth and velvety in texture.

This dish is a spin on traditional salt fish and fungi, I wanted to lighten it up a bit for the summer and be able to serve at a dinner or garden party as an appetizer, like all the other dishes in my summer eat series. I’m all about small bites that are different but highlight those local flavors, so I came up with this recipe for arepas topped saltfish gundy.

Arepas are corn cakes made from cornmeal, water, and salt that are cooked on a hot griddle. They can be eaten as is or stuffed with meats, cheese or veggies. They are Venezuela, Colombia, and many other South American countries. You can also find them in Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Trinidad and the Canary Islands. Which is not surprising when you think about the Atlantic slave trade, Caribbean, and Latin American food in many ways is a map back to our homeland and tells a story in itself, but let’s leave that deepness for another day.

To the kitchen, we go!

 

Arepas

I just used a standard arepa recipe that was on the back of the package masarepa that I had. The only difference is that I made the arepas bite-sized.

1 1/2 cups masarepa
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons milk
pinch of salt
butter for coating pan or griddle (*you can also use nonstick spray or coconut oil)

1. Combine the corn flour, water, milk, and salt, mixing thoroughly. Let mixture stand for five minutes.

2. Form disk shaped arepas, each about 1 inches in diameter, 1/8″ thick.

3. Heat a lightly greased skillet over medium heat. Cook the arepas in batches until crispy and golden brown on each side.

 

Saltfish Gundy

1 pound salted cod, boneless & skinless
1/2 onion, finely diced
3 aji dulce, finely diced (you can use regular sweet peppers)
¼ bell pepper, red & yellow, diced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon white vinegar (optional)

Pre-soak codfish overnight to remove excess salt, (*it’s very salty so change water at least twice)

 


Drain excess water and flake fish using fingers into large bowl, then set aside


Using medium size skillet and olive oil, then add shallots, aji dulce and bell pepper. Sautee for 1-2 minutes, you want to get the raw-ish taste out the veggies but still have them retain their color and bite.

 


Add sauteed veggies to the bowl, add a splash of white vinegar and mix to combine all ingredients together.


Let sit for a few minutes.

Serve on top arepas

 

So tell me have you ever tried arepas? Or saltfish and fungi? How’d you like it? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

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For reasons on unbeknownst to me, I eat a lot of hummus. I think because lately my palate has been shot to shit and I have no desire or interest in most things. I know! Totally unlike me and my foodie’s heart. But it is what it is, hopefully, it won’t last long. So hummus comes in the picture when I’m not in the mood to curate a full blown meal. I love hummus but had never ventured to make my own which I’m not sure why as it’s very simple to make, takes a little time and doesn’t require much. Another great thing about it is that you can use any bean you’d like and are not limited to just the standard garbanzo. I’ve played around with a few and this black bean hummus is my favorite (for right now).

Recipes for hummus are a dime a dozen and I’ve included one below. In my opinion, canned beans are best, I use organic ones if I can find them. You can use dry beans and cook them then prepare the hummus, but then it wouldn’t be quick and easy now would it? Though tahini is optional I actually think it’s a necessity when making hummus. The flavors meld well together. You can find tahini in the grocery story usually in the international foods aisle. But, I made and do suggest making your own tahini though, it’s simple to make and tastes way better than the canned stuff in my opinion. Making the tahini was the only step that actually requires me to turn on the stove (to toast the sesame seeds) seeing as these days I want to be out of the kitchen as much as possible. It is not a game folks! But less talking and more doing right? So here we go!

Oh nothing, just toasting a huge pan of sesame seeds.

 

Ingredients

1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained, reserve liquid
3 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste), optional
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 cloves roasted garlic,
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ tablespoon ground cumin
½ tablespoon paprika
Healthy dash of cayenne pepper
Juice of 1 lemon

Add black beans, 2 tablespoons reserved liquid and other ingredients to the bowl of your food processor. Proceed to blend, while slowly adding 2 tablespoons of olive oil, process until smooth and scrape down the sides if needed. You may additional spices, reserved bean liquid or olive oil to suit your taste buds. Garnish with a drizzle of remaining olive oil and serve with plantain chips.

 

Black Bean Hummus and Plantain Chips. Que rico!

Do you like hummus? What’s your favorite kind? Let me know in the comments!

 

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*Screaming in my best Sloth voice ‘HEY you guuuuys! Summer is here! This recipe is part of my Summer Eats series. It’s hot as hell out here and we’re trying to look good on the beach or at the pool so I figured it was best to lighten up my eats. #Summer17 will be epic! I can just feel it in my bones, I’m still on my summer tour which started in early June, I’ve been up and down the east coast and cruising ’round the dirty south. I’m thinking about doing a few restaurant reviews let me know if that’s something you guys would like to see, but for now, let’s eat!

 

Today’s dish is brought to you by the letter Z. And this time around the main Z is Zucchini (courgettes for my loves across the pond). Behind the burgeonning food scene on St.Croix are the farmers and fishermen who support them. They work hand in hand to provide the freshest, organic, non-GMO produce and meat, as well as seafood to the territory. I try to have an idea or a meal plan for the week when I’m home but most times I just play it by ear and see what’s fresh at the farmers market, and this time around it just happened to be zucchini. I adapted this recipe from a recipe I found Allrecipes ages ago. I love crab cakes, their one of my favorite foodie things, but due to my mom’s food allergies, she can’t eat them. I felt so bad once when I made them and she said that they smelled so good and it sucks that she can’t even taste it. Shortly thereafter I found this recipe that basically takes out the crab and subs in zucchini instead. I took it one step further and made this dish entirely vegan as well. Why do you ask? Because everything in moderation, that’s why. And as much as I love rich, decadent dishes, deep fried, slathered in cheese and other deliciousness there needs to be balance. We can’t go there all the time. And although I’m not a vegan (and probably will never be full-time) I love good food no matter what form it comes in. I also thought it would be great to share this with my vegan foodie followers and it features local ingredients and some freshly snipped green onions from our garden, so here you go ladies and gents.

1 large zucchini (about 1 pound)
½ onion diced, I prefer sweet onions but use whatever works for you
2 stalks celery, finely diced
¾ cup panko bread crumbs
½ red bell pepper, diced
3 local seasoning peppers, diced (if not available just omit or substitute sweet peppers, it should be about two heaping tablespoons full)
1 tablespoon soaked chia seeds
3 tablespoons veganaise
1 tablespoon brown mustard
2-3 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
Oil for frying
Grater

1. In a small frying pan add onion, celery, and peppers and saute for 2-3 minutes until soft and onions are translucent. Remove from heat and let cool.


2. In mixing bowl, grate zucchini, you should have about 2 to 2 ½ cups.

 


3. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.

 

Combine all ingredients in large bowl and mix.

 

 

Add panko

 

 

Add chia seeds

4. Shape into patties and lay on plate or tray. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

 

5. Remove cakes from refrigerator and let come to room temperature.

6. Heat olive oil in heavy bottomed frying pan. Add cakes, making sure not to crowd the pan, fry until golden brown on both sides.

7. Remove from heat and place on paper towels to absorb excess oil.

8. Serve with roasted red pepper sauce.

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

1 whole red bell pepper
garlic cloves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 dash (or several) pepper sauce
½ cup veganaise
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

1. Rub ½ tablespoon olive oil onto red bell pepper, turn the stove on, using tongs hold bell pepper over open flame until skin becomes charred and blistered, set aside to cool, then peel char off.

2. Combine all ingredients, except for salt and pepper, in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until smooth

3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Refrigerate until ready to use.

 

If you get a chance to try it let me know and make sure to use #ahirokoeats so I can find you!

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