*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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Summertime is here! By the time you’re reading this the bells have already rung announcing the beginning of the season. I love summer, it’s not my favorite season, but I still find it favorable. Summer in St.Croix also means that fruit is in abundance. It’s mango season! It’s tamarind season! It’s genip season! It’s passion fruit season! It’s crab season. Damn near everything is in season It seems lol. And who am I not to partake in the bountiful glory of fresh produce that the Lord has bestowed upon us?

I try to lighten up my meals in the summer and came up with this chicken dish. It’s already grilling season so why not throw something a little different on the grill? I thought this would be an awesome dish for a picnic, garden party or BBQ. Since it’s protein, it’s filling, the chicken is skewered on sugarcane which imparts a hint of sweetness as it cooks as well as a little tenderness. Last but not least the sticky, sweet and slightly tart tamarind glaze just sets it over the top. You can serve these as a main dish or appetizers, this time around I had it a side of coconut rice and a bit of veg and I was in heaven.

Without further ado, let’s get into it, shall we?

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
½ pound sugarcane (you can find them at your local Asian or Caribbean market), cut into thin sharp strips (about the thickness of a pencil)
3 cups lukewarm water
¼ cup honey
½ cup white vinegar
2 tablespoon sea salt

For sauce
3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon grated ginger
3 tablespoons brown sugar
¼ cup tamarind paste
¼ scallions, diced.

**I’ve noticed boneless skinless thighs may still have some of the fat still attached. I trim as much as possible but leave a bit on which will help once we get it on the grill.**

1. Rinse chicken with vinegar and set aside. In a large bowl/container add water, honey and sea salt, mix until honey and salt are dissolved.

2. Cut chicken lengthwise into strips about 2 inches wide.

3. Add chicken strips to salt water brine, soak overnight, or at least 6-8 hours, preferably overnight.
The next following day

1. Heat grill or grill pan

2. Remove chicken from brine and pat dry

3. Skewer chicken on sugar cane. If it is difficult to pIerce meat with the end of sugarcane, use a sharp knife to poke holes through the meat and them thread skewer thru and prepare the grill.

 

 

4. Once grill or grill pan is heated thru and ready to use, use tongs to place chicken skewers on the grill, and leave for 3-4 minutes. Be careful not to remove from heat until it forms nice grill marks.

5. After 4 minutes flip skewers to the other side.

 

6. As meat is cooking prepare glaze for basting skewers. In small bowl mix all ingredients until smooth, you may need to add more soy or sugar to suit your taste.

7. Once meat is cooked thoroughly, begin to baste with glaze. Turning twice to make sure skewer is evenly coated and Glazed.

8. Sprinkle with green onion before serving.

 

 

What are some of your favorite ways to incorporate in-season produce into your recipes? Let me know in the comments! And remember if you try out the recipe make sure to tag me and use #ahirokoeats so I can find you!

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In the weeks and months leading up to #BlogHer17 I participated in most if not all the twitter chats led by the lovely Melissa Wells. I laughed a lot and I learned more. The word that I used up and til that time in regards to my attending the conference was ‘exciting’, because I was just that EXCITED AF! There was no other word to describe it. Rewind to this weekend when 2000+ bloggers and influencers descended upon the Hilton Bonnet Creek Orlando and that excitement turned to amazement. So I’ve moved on guys, I went from feeling excited to being amazed.

This was my first time attending #BlogHer17 or any blogging conference for that matter and the experience was…AMAZING (what did you expect me to say?) I have been blogging off and on for years but was never consistent though it was something I really wanted to do and thought I could excel at sharing my stories with a greater audience. Over the years I’ve paused, faltered and just plain quit. Last year I knew I wanted to really focus on my blog for the 1-7, and then the new year rolled around and apprehension set in. I spoke to my good friend Zahra of My Kawaii Life and she and I both agreed I needed something to motivate me and light a fire under my ass, that fire was #BlogHer17.

I’ve been a big fan of the BlogHer community for years and considered attending #BlogHer15 but you know…life got in the way. But this time around the stars aligned and the universe worked in my favor and provided me the opportunity to attend. The weeks leading up to the conference saw me in prep-mode, I ordered business cards, created a media kit, was more social on my social channels, I hit ‘publish’ more. Those seem like simple things but they helped me to get clear on what my blog was about, more importantly, what ‘I’ wanted it to be about and the direction that I wanted it to take. It made me set goals, think outside the box, figure out my USP and gave me the clarity to focus. Amazing right? Here are My Top 5 Highlights and the Top 4 things I Learned at #BlogHer17.

 

Highlights

1. #BlackGirlMagic meetup #1 in the hotel lobby Thursday night. Luvvie brought jollof rice y’all, and I didn’t have any foil! Can you imagine?!? An old co-worker once told me that I should always keep foil, saran wrap and a Tupperware container around because you never know what could happen and you want to be able to wrap up a to-go plate.

I also got to see Oneika of Oneika the Traveller who I haven’t seen since London 2012. It was great to reconnect, so proud of all that she’s doing right now. I finally met Danielle Faust of OK, Dani, Tyra of BarrisTourista and a few other ladies there during the jollof competition.

Oneika and I at the #BlackGirlMagic meetup Thursday night.

 

1a.) #BlackGirlMagic meetup #2 on Friday night, the lobby of the Hilton was packed with the best, brightest and fiercest black bloggers. The energy and the love there was off the charts and when we all got together and posed for a picture shouting ‘BLACK GIRL MAGIC’ everyone in the building turned around and took notice, because you know… #melanin, you can’t have all the ladies from the lands of Nubia in the same place and not expect us to shine.

 

#BlackGirlMagic Meetup #2 Friday night- The #Melanin Takeover photo credit: Danielle Faust

 

2. Listening to the G.O.A.T aka Serena Williams’ lunch keynote. She was amazing (we already know that she is though). She reminded us all that as women especially, we shouldn’t be afraid of winning, we want to be the best. And there’s nothing wrong with working hard to get where you want to be and enjoying the gifts of your hard work.

 

 

 

 

Serena reminding us all that we’ve got to play to win.

 

Luvvie at her keynote sharing her story and reminding us all to pursue our dreams.

3. Luvvie (again) who killed it at her Keynote and talked about her glow up. A lot of people think Luvvie is new to the blog game but she’s been around FOREVER in internet years and has a great following that she grew organically. Her keynote resonated with me for many reasons because she spoke about not fully committing to her blog and her business at first and still looking for a regular 9-5 but then once she had one she realized she couldn’t go back to that because she was built to work for herself. And working for yourself is hard work but the rewards are worth. When you work for yourself you have to promote yourself and she mentioned as women sometimes we shy away from that. She reminded us all that “If you don’t promote yourself no one else will.”, and she’s totally right. That lit a fire under my tail so my plan is to not only hit ‘publish’ more often, but to promote myself and the blog more as well. There’s room up here for everyone to shine y’all.

 

4. Meeting celebrity chef Carla Hall at the Best Buy booth in the expo hall. Carla’s nice, it’s not fake nice, you can tell that’s her genuine personality. She was very warm and friendly and we chatted about the Virgin Islands and our tallness. She’s awesome there’s nothing else to say than she is AMAZING! I got a copy of her new cookbook as well.

Carla Hall is Chef Bae and she’s a #tallgirl too!

5. I had the opportunity to attend the preview screening of Girls Trip movie starring, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Regina King and Tiffany Haddish. I have an unspoken rule that any movie that Queen Latifah is in that I HAVE to see, so I planned to see it upon release but was stoked to see it earlier. There was popcorn and cocktails in the screening room and we had a blast, everyone was singing, dancing and having a great time watching the film. I KNEW since The Queen was in it that it would be good but it turned out to be… (you guessed it) AMAZING! I’ll definitely be headed out to see it when it’s released on July 21st.

It made me miss hanging out with my girlfriends like we did in college, but you know life gets in the way and distance grows but no worries. I’m planning to get together with them all again soon. It’s part of my #Summer17 tour!

 

 

1. YOUR VOICE MATTERS
The days leading up to the conference I felt super prepared and then anxious and a little fearful. What could this island girl from a gem in the Caribbean Sea provide to the blogging/social influencer world that wasn’t already there? #BlogHer17 helped me realize that it was…MY VOICE. Throughout the weekend I got to connect with tons of gorgeous, smart, brave, incredible women. I learned a lot from them and the sessions I attended as well. It was like the first week at a new school with very, very cool kids, you don’t know anyone and you kinda hate that you’re alone and you’re a little scared then someone gives walks over while you’re sitting alone at the lunch table and a super cool kid comes over and sits with you. That what happened all weekend, super cool ladies and guys randomly came over to me or I to them at breakfast, lunch, in line at the bathroom, at the hotel bar, in the lobby, in the elevator, at the pool, in line at the snack bar. The immense feeling of support and community I felt all weekend was overwhelming.

 

 

 2. STRANGERS DON’T ALWAYS POSE DANGER
For little kids and seedy people in back alleys…maybe. But at a conference not so much. I met the coolest, wildest, smartest, laid back, honest, fashionable, happiest and bravest women all weekend because we just happened upon each other and sat down and said ‘Oh…hey…What do you do?”

 

Our lunch was sponsored by Walt Disney World’s World of Pandora. I met some fabulous ladies during lunch at my table.

3. SUMMER  IS THE SEASON OF FLORALS

If you know me personally or thru these internet streets you know that my love affair with floral prints is deep and true. I LOVED seeing so many beautiful floral pieces this weekend. I will say everyone came out in their best. Also, shout out to the love lady in the gold sequined gown that I shouted ‘GIRRRRRRRRRRL’ at as she strutted across the conference space. I didn’t get a pic with her but she is now and forever my style inspiration to show up and show out!

4. COMMUNITY & TRIBE ARE IMPORTANT

I met tons of people this weekend that all had their toe in the world of blogging in some way, shape or form. Bloggers, content creators, brands, sponsors, etc.. they all brought something different to the table and as a part of the BlogHer community, we’re all able to exchange ideas and get feedback as well as support from the newly formed tribe we met over the conference. We are all different but that’s what makes us all awesome, the stories and perspective we share with each other to weave a story not only for other just like us but others who don’t know anyone just like us is beyond comparable. Shout out to Hannah Elizabeth, who I didn’t actually meet until after conference but we shared an Uber to the airport after #BlogHer17 was over.

 

My new blogger babes! From top left: Rebecca of An Ernest Living, Kay of  Traveling Kay. Bottom left: Trinity of Fitness All Ways and J.Enovy of  Tall District.

 

 

 

5. EACH ONE. TEACH ONE.

I didn’t get to attend all the sessions that I planned to but the ones that I DID attend were very informative and have me ready and roaring to implement new changes to the blog, which once I get my thoughts organized you’ll be seeing a few before the end of the summer. I reviewed all the sessions that would be available prior to the conference so I picked the ones that I felt would be more beneficial to me. I want to take the time to thank the panelists of sessions I attended for being so in-depth, thorough and opening to us all. After my last session, I stayed behind to speak with the panelists Kat Kinsman, author of Life with a Bad Case of Nerves & Senior Editor of Extra Crispy,  Johanna Cook, of Momma Cooks, Jane Ko of A Taste of KoKo , Beth Lee of OMG Yummy and Yvette Marquez author of Muy Bueno Cookbooks who led the#BrandSwitchUp workshop. The session they led was great but being able to stay after and having the opportunity to speak with them one and one and bounce ideas around with them was priceless. I know I’ve made lifelong connections not only with them but with other bloggers at the conference as well.

 

So all in all, did I enjoy myself? Yes. Was it worth it? Yes. Did you connect with anyone? HELL YES! I can’t wait for next year. Tell me, have you ever been to a blogging conference? What did like/dislike about it and why? Let’s conversate in the comments.

 

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