I realized I haven’t done a food post in a while and how can a foodie/lifestyle blog exist without foodie things? After the epic Easter meal, I’ve been staying out of the kitchen for the most part. Does that happen to you? After making a big holiday spread you literally avoid the kitchen at all costs. I’ve been slowly easing my way back in because there’s a bunch of random food ideas that I made up while lounging around and I want to test them out. I’m actually super excited to get back in the kitchen and experiment. And did I mention I got a bread machine for my birthday? I’m keen to crank it up and get my loaf on! I see challah, brioche, ciabatta, focaccia and other bready things in my future. It’s going to be glorious!

But alas today’s recipe is brought to you by the letter ‘Y’. Y is for Yum and yuca is yummy. Yuca is also known as cassava and is widely available in throughout South America, the Caribbean, and Africa. It’s a starchy vegetable that has a similar shape to American sweet potatoes (aka Yams). Down here in the islands it is one of the staple starches and it along with other ‘ground food’-yams (not the American version), sweet potato (not the American version…confusing right?), green fig (green bananas, plantain, and tania to name a few…is know as ‘provisions’. They are usually served with fish dishes and prepared by boiling or steaming. I don’t care for provisions…it’s a texture thing that bothers me. But I do love a good yuca fry. Prior to making this I never had yuca fries before. The only other time I can recall having Yuca was at a Brazilian all you can eat steakhouse restaurant. Of course, it was delicious but it was also comforting and stick to your ribs yum, it was hot, salty, crispy and buttery but still tender. I couldn’t figure out how they prepared it looked like it was probably roasted. Something about it stuck with me and one day I randomly walked into a store and decided I wanted burgers and yuca fries. Yes, that’s how my mind works. I randomly think of things to cook or create all the time. Don’t judge me.

 

This is my take on yuca fries. I like to toss mines in a herb, garlicky buttery blend.  The first time I made it I used the Land o lakes Sautée Express garlic and herb packet. I think they’ve been discontinued because I can’t seem to find them anywhere in several states so I’ve created my own version. So let’s get our pot fired up.
Ingredients

2- yucca (mines were about 10-11 inches long)
2 tablespoons Earth Balance or butter
3 cups water
Oil for frying
Seasoning blend
-sea salt
-coarse ground black pepper
-parsley
– no salt seasoning
– garlic powder
– 2 cloves crushed garlic
– turmeric

In a medium sized pot place 3 cups of water and bring to boil


Peel yuca and slice into strips


Once water is boiling add yuca strips and cook for 3-5 minutes. You don’t want the yuca to get mushy, we’re just boiling off the excess starch here. Remove from heat and drain thoroughly on napkins on clean kitchen towel.

 

While waiting for the strips to cool, add 2 tablespoons butter/Earth Balance until melted.


Add seasoning spice blend to melted butter, mix thoroughly making sure crushed garlic is cooked thoroughly but not burnt (nothing taste as awful as burnt garlic, #trustme) and remove from heat.


In deep cast iron pot or fryer place enough oil, about 1 cup, into the pot and bring to medium heat to prepare for frying.


Using a slotted spoon or kitchen tongs start frying yuca strips in batches until golden brown. Be careful not crowd the pot. This should take 3-4 minutes, remove from heat and drain excess oil off using paper towels.


Once all the yuca strips have been fried and drain, use a mixing bowl to evenly toss yuca strips with seasoned butter mix.


Serve immediately

Have you ever had yuca fries? What’s your take? Let me know in the comments and if you try this recipe out be sure to use the #ahirokoeats hashtag so I can check it out.

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After a brief hiatus and a few hectic weeks. I’m back! bright eyed, bushy tailed, happy, hopeful and ready for change.

Spring has sprung and I’m here for it! It’s my birthday month as well so I’m super excited for no reason in particular…just that…it’s my birfday y’all! I plan to keep it low key that way there’s a less likely chance for disappointments. And trust I know what disappointing birthdays look like.

But that aside let’s get back to what I’ve been up to. I’ve been keeping busy with client work which is great! Being a small business owner is hard work but I love helping others, offering services that benefit them and their business as well. Happy clients make for a profitable business. I have a few projects winding down, a couple starting up and a few in the pipeline. If all goes well I’ll be accepting new clients in the late Spring/early Summer.

I’ve also registered for the #BlogHer17 conference which will be in Orlando this year. Crazy excited about that trip and looking forward to connecting and learning with tons of amazing women! I’ll also get to reconnect with an old friend while in town so yay for me! It’s Orlando so I plan to check out Disney World’s newest attraction, Pandora. It should make for an epic start of the summer.

If you follow me on Snapchat or Instagram you’ll know that I’ve been back in St.Croix for the past few months. We had our annual Agriculture Fair during President’s Day weekend. The AgFair is very much like the county fair stateside. Lots of livestock, farmers, planters, and cooks showcasing their best and brightest. It draws a big crowd, especially from our sister island of St.Thomas, our cousins in the British Virgin Islands and our down island neighbors from Dominica, St.Vincent, and St.Lucia to name a few.

 

If there’s a line, you know its guaranteed to be good!

 

Corinne has some of the BEST pates on island.

Here on our sleepy, super chill island things have been shaken up the past few weeks. March 31st marked the 100th anniversary of the transfer of the Danish West Indies to the United States. This transfer was made for 25 million in gold coin. You can check out the official VI Transfer Centennial website here.

There has been much controversy surrounding this centennial anniversary as well as the celebration of transfer day in general. Many locals feeling that we left one oppressor for the next and that it should not be a day to celebrate. The relationship between Denmark and its former colony is not a romantic one. But a tumultuous one filled with strife, resistance, sorrow, heartache, and anger. The exploitation of people and theft of their resources to build the economy of another is a familiar story to many with a connection to the African diaspora. And truth be told it’s a tangled web. Though I understand and agree to some extent with the anti-centennial group in that this centennial event should not be looked upon as a cause to celebrate. I do however think this is major cause to start a conversation for Denmark to recognize and acknowledge their hand in the trans-Atlantic slave trade and how it affected to citizens and descendants of its former colony. For the United States to discuss the second-hand citizenship the territory has. Hundreds of thousands of talented tax paying individuals who have contributed to the fabric of the America we know and love. Thousands who have served their country proudly in battle, defending her honor and shores but still not allowed the right to vote. For the citizens of the Virgin Islands to be allowed full participation in the political processes that govern our country and for both Denmark and the United States to finally open their eyes and LISTEN and UNDERSTAND what’s going on here in the local community and providing the support and resources to build and sustain a harmonious and profitable economy. That’s the conversation I want and pray to see happen. We are making steps towards that but the outcome of this remains to be seen.

I did attend a few centennial activities (really and truly to see where our taxpayer dollars went). I attended a lecture at St.Croix Landmarks Society called Breaking the Silence: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and saw the related exhibited which was created and curated by local students. They did an amazing job and led a very spirited and heated discussion between locals and students who were visiting from Denmark. Hot topics included: reparations, a public apology from Denmark, plus the after effects of slavery and colonialism and Where so we go from here. Most importantly how do we heal? Executive Director Sonia Jacobs-Dow also shed light on two children who were taken from the St.Croix under Danish rule to be displayed as exhibits at the Tivoli Gardens. I plan to do a separate post on that so stay tuned for more on that story.

The next day I attended the Centennial Ceremony in Christiansted. There was a parade (which I missed) and a program (which I didn’t get one because I was late). But you can find a digital copy of the centennial program here. The ceremony was a dual program celebrating the 100th anniversary itself as well as a citizenship ceremony welcoming 20+ newly minted American citizens. It featured remarks from Delegate to Congress Stacy Plaskett, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, Deputy Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke as well as many others.

 

Transfer Day Ceremony in Christiansted

The following week I had the opportunity to tour the Tall Ship Danmark, which is a training vessel from Denmark that sailed to the territory to commemorate the Transfer Day celebration. The ship is manned by a crew of 60 students and 11 full-time staff members. Built in 1933 it has been used as a training vessel. The crew invited the local community to come aboard and tour the ship. Some joked that the last time locals were invited on a ship they were kidnapped and stolen from the Motherland. I don’t see the humor but the comment once again shows that as a community on a whole we have a lot of healing to do.

 


The ship was impressive albeit a bit tight in my opinion to house such a big crew. It was nice to chat with the students who are training to sail on the ship, many are in high school. I think that it’s an awesome opportunity to get such hands-on experience and sail the world. It’s not for everyone but I still think it’s awesome. The ship departed Tuesday afternoon and it’s currently on its way to Bermuda. You can view the ship’s current location here.

 

With the Centennial activities behind me and March coming to a close it was time to get ready for the St.Croix Food and Wine Experience (#STXFWE). I try my best to go whenever I’m on island, there are tons of events during the week but my favorite is Taste of St.Croix, where local restaurants, chefs, mixologists, and farmers come together to highlight the best of both worlds: locally grown and sourced food as well as some of the best culinary creations in the region.

 

Taste of St.Croix is held at Divi Carina Bay Resort and is the place to be and be seen. I literally have little no pictures of this event because I spend most of my time eating and drinking to my heart’s delight. I did manage to sneak in a pic with St.Croix’s own Crucian Contessa.  She has an amazing food blog that you guys should be sure to check out.

One of my favorite foodie friends, The Crucian Contessa.

 

The eats at Taste of STX here are always delicious and innovative and as mentioned early they highlight local livestock and produce. Add to that being in rum country the cocktails were a standout as well, BES Craft Lounge and Zion Modern Kitchen had libations that left me more than a little bit happy and joyous, to say the least.

Ms.Sweets and I at #STXFWE, partners in crime and wine…always!

Friday evening saw me enjoying more eats right in my backyard at Sunset BBQ on the Frederiksted Pier. Once again local restaurants showcasing some of their best-grilled dishes, lamb ribs, black bean burgers, yucca fries and shrimp kebabs, to name a few. Listen when I say we get down and burn when it comes to cooking I mean WE.GET.DOWN!!! St.Croix is an absolute food lovers paradise and the preparation of food is always down with so much love and respect.

Ran into a good friend, Ms.X at Sunset BBQ.

 

Saturday night saw me at the Bohlke Airways private hangar for Wine in the Warehouse. This time I managed to get a few shots in between stuffing my face! This was my first time attending this event and it was truly a treat.

 

 

 

 

Beet Hummus Arepas with local microgreens

 

Chocolate Mousse with Candied Mangoes

 

 

St.Croix Finest, DJ Swain

And then like that St.Croix Food and Wine week was over! Until next year that is….

My birthday rolled around last week and I was back in celebration mode again. This year I kept it pretty low key, celebrating with my close circle instead of planning some big to do. I spent my pre-birthday eve, with the lovely Ms.Sweets at Zion Modern Kitchen. I had a great birthday dinner with family and close friends who I consider family at the Renaissance Carambola Beach Resort. I had an amazing time am grateful for another year of continued blessings and success. With the state of the world right now and the continued exploits and frustrations caused by #45 and his administration. I realize although it stays weighs heavily on me (y’all I was having NIGHTMARES) I can’t let it take over my well-being. So I’m back on track and ready to blog it out with ya.

Happy Birthday to Me #TeamTaurus

This post has gone on forever so it’s time to wrap it up but not before letting everyone know that I will be attending the BlogHer 2017 Conference in Orlando in June. This is my first year and I’m excited! I’ve been to Orlando a few times as well as to Disney World and Universal Studios but it’s been about 10+ years since my last visit so I’m stoked to not only attend the conference, but I’ll also have an opportunity to connect with a few close friends and if I play my cards right, get to check out Disney’s World of Avatar attraction at the Animal Kingdom park. That will be epic for sure!

Well, guys that about wraps it up for now and should bring everyone up to speed. Has anyone else been to Taste of St.Croix or visited my home island of St.Croix? What about BlogHer? Ever attended? Any tips and advice? Disney World? Any attractions you suggest I see? Orlando? Where to go? I’ll be in town for a week so I’m open to suggestions. Til next time loves.

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The Virgin Islands, St.Croix in particular has always had deep ties with the neighboring island of Puerto Rico for centuries, our food and culture are a reflection of that relationship. Growing up in St.Croix whilst having strong family ties to Puerto Rico means that we used and still continue to cook with a few staples in la cocina. Don’t believe me? Two words: Adobo y Recaito. Listen. If it ain’t in the pot meen want it okay? Adobo and Recaito/Sofrito are seasonings (dry and wet respectively) that are used in Puerto Rican cooking. European chefs have their mirepoix, we have Recaito. This blend of leaves from the recao plant (cousin of cilantro), onions and peppers is the base of many a dish. It can easily be found in the grocery, Goya and Bahia, which are two of the most popular brand can be found in your seasoning aisle, usually stateside and abroad it will be found in the international foods aisle. But here en el caribe, it’s front and center in the spice aisle. You can also find it in the frozen food aisle near the other international food items, in my opinion frozen is the way to go if you buy it in the grocery store, less preservatives…and all that jazz.

 

Recaito is relatively easy to make, I grew up watching my mom and her friends making it from scratch when they harvested their own recao and peppers from their gardens. You can add whatever you like within reason but I keep to the standard recipe and add a twist. I roast my veggies before blending to bring out the flavor. To me it adds another level of depth to the recaito.

Chopped up and ready to go!

 

The aftermath…plant those seeds and watch them grow! Like seriously…plant them!

 

All roasted! I wish you could smell this!

 

 

I usually make a big batch in my Ninja blender and then place in jars and plastic containers. My jars are small so that’s what I use first, the rest is placed in the freezer until I run out.I use recaito in all my bean, rice, and stewed meat dishes. It also pops up in many of my other kitchen experiments as well. Have you ever tried recaito/sofrito? What’s your favorite dish to use it in?

 

 

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Believe it or not summer isn’t my favorite time of year, I’m more of an Autumn/early winter and not for all that pumpkin spiced nonsense either! I just love the chill in the air and the turning of the leaves. I love the way the leaves crunch under my feet as I walk down the street.

But summer isn’t without its benefits either. You eat less, you wear less and spend more time outdoors. And the bounty of vegetables that are available are simply amazing. And that always gives way to good eats! As I sit here listening to Nirvana and wondering what exactly does teen spirit smell like, I’m using my trusty mandoline to slice up a ton of fresh veggies in preparation for this week’s kitchen experiments. I cook all the time and often notice out of convenience I tend to make the same things.  I decided now was a great time as any to make a ratatouille. I’ve never had one before and recall hearing about it or taking an interest in the dish until I saw the Disney movie bearing the same name.

 

 

 

 

 

The dish is very rustic and includes a few simple ingredients, technically it’s a stew but I don’t like wet veggies so I baked mines in the oven. I also did a quick sauté of all the veggies prior to assembling to put in the oven. This also helps to get rid of excess moisture. Because again…I don’t like soggy, wet vegetables.

To up the ante I covered the bottom of my dish with a garlic wine based sauce and then carefully assembled the vegetables in some semblance of a pattern to make it look pretty, popped it in the oven and then waited for the magic to happen. I served it up with crusty French bread with a schmear of mascarpone cheese.

The hardest thing to do was assembling the veg but the payoff was perfect! Pretty to look at and delicious to eat!

 

Ratatouille

1 medium sized zucchini (courgette)

1 medium sized eggplant (aubergine)

1 medium yellow squash

1 onion diced (I prefer Vidalia, you can use whatever you like)

1 can crushed tomatoes

1 bell pepper, yellow -sliced into strips

½ cup water or broth

Olive oil

2-3 cloves garlic minced

Salt

Pepper

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees*

  1. Use a mandoline or knife to slice vegetables thinly (after slicing vegetables I sprinkled a tiny bit of salt on them to pull the moisture out, and let them drain on paper towels) 
  2. In a saucepan add ¼ cup of olive oil on medium heat, mince garlic and add to pan, be careful not to let it burn, once the garlic becomes fragrant in the pan add the crushed tomatoes, add the ½ of broth (or water) and reduce to simmer, season with salt and pepper.
  3. In another pan on medium heat add 1tablespoon of olive oil, throw in diced onions and saute until transparent, season with salt and pepper sparingly.
  4. Heat a medium sized skillet/frying pan on medium heat. Once the pan is hot, arrange a layer of veggies and allow to brown lightly *this step isn’t necessary, I do it because it takes out even more moisture and i like my veggies with a bit of bite. Repeat this step until all the vegetables have been sauteed and allowed to cool.
  5. Now it’s time to assemble. First we start with our tomato garlic mixture.We cover the bottom of our baking dish with the sauce first.

6. Next we add a layer of sauteed onions.

 

      7. Then bring on the veg. You can layer or assemble any way you please, I like to alternate between veggies. And you can use any pattern your heart desires.  

 

      8. Garnish with a pepper slices.Pop in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Remove and serve.

 

Hot and fresh out the oven!

Ratatouille with toasted French bread and a schmear of marscapone cheese.

 

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There is no better place to revel in my love of food than a food festival. I’ve been attending Taste of Atlanta since 2006, I’ve missed a year here or there when I’m not in the Atlanta area but when I’m here, oooh when I’m here it’s on! Taste of Atlanta is known as the MUST DO Food, Wine, Beer and Cocktail festival here in the land of peaches.  It is one of my two favorite food festivals, the second being Taste of St.Croix in my hometown. The vibe and scene of those two food-filled events are completely different but great in their own way. Taste of Atlanta has a more laid back street festival vibe, whereas Taste of St.Croix, offers a more glammed up, not quite Black Tie but you better come on your A-game because it’s the place to see and be scene at. But more on this at another time, back to Taste of Atlanta!

After attending for the past several years I’ve developed a strategy: go hungry, get there early, pace yourself, bring ziploc bags, tupperware and reusable shopping bag (this is my sister’s idea, but it’s so handy) and take MARTA (but that goes without saying)! Taste of Atlanta always happens in October and usually occurs the weekend before Halloween. Tickets are $25 and include 10 taste tickets. You use these tickets at the different restaurant booths. So some may have items that cost you 1 taste ticket, while others may be 2 or 3. I’m pretty sure the first time I went back in 2006 the tickets for entry were $15 and we had to buy our own taste tickets, but they’ve since changed that. You’re not limited to 10 taste tickets, and trust that won’t get you to sample all those delicious dishes from local metro Atlanta restaurants. I always end up purchasing more tickets. This year I got $20 worth. The Throughout the festival there are Taste Ticket booths where you can top up and purchase more Taste tickets, as well as other booths where you can purchase beer and soft drinks. I wasn’t able to attend the event last year, so I’m not sure if this was introduced then or at this year’s event. At Taste you no longer get physical paper Taste Tickets, your ticket, which is used for entry and for your taste tickets now comes in the form of an electronic bracelet that is scanned upon entry to the festival and at the restaurants booths. If you purchase in advance you can register the bracelet online in advance and purchase taste tickets. Or if you purchase at the event you can top up your taste tickets at any Ticket Booth. You can keep track of your remaining tickets via the app.

 

Taste of Atlanta Bracelets

The festival happens over a 3 day period with a VIP Kickoff Party the Friday night and the food festival itself taking place on Saturday and Sunday. I usually go on Sundays but over the years I realize that some restaurants don’t sign up for both days so you end up missing them and their eats. It seems that most restaurants do Saturdays. So this year I went on Saturday and I’m glad I did! I had an amazing time trying out food from some of the best restaurants in the city. I love the concept of just getting a taste, it’s like an introduction to that restaurant without having to fork over a ton of money and then ending up hating your meal. Let’s be honest NO ONE wants that! Every year there’s always a few restos that stand out of the crowd for me and this year the winner of that coveted award was…Wagaya. Their Chashu (braised pork) Steamed Bun was SIMPLY AMAZING! The tenderness of the pork that stick sweet braising sauce gently tucked into that steamed bun with some fresh greens.

Chashu Bun

I was mad that I only had just one, I totally wanted to go back for more but by the time I’d made up my mind to get another one I was already way on the other side of the festival. This is why I mentioned coming early because as the afternoon rolls on the crowds get thicker and the lines get longer. I for one really HATE waiting for anything especially in long lines, even for things I want. I’ve put back groceries, once in a lifetime deals, etc at stores because the line was too long. I’ve been waiting to purchase lunch or breakfast in places and the line was so ridiculous I just got out of line and hoped I wouldn’t pass out from hunger. I’m not saying that’s the most sensible thing to do in most situations, I’m just saying…that’s how I roll. But back to Wagaya…that Chashu Steamed Bun is STILL calling my name! I plan to make it out to their restaurant sometime in the near future.

Runner-up spot this year goes to Rock’s Chicken & Fries and Veda Juice Bar. The guys at Rock’s know how to make some chicken…do you hear me!?!? I was standing near their booth and I saw a lady eating the fried chicken strips so I asked her if they were good. She could barely answer me verbally because she couldn’t stop eating her food. She gave me a quick nod and then said, “Yes, yes. It’s so good and super tender!” That was a wrap I sashayed (not really) right over to Rock’s chicken and got some of those chicken strips and I have to agree they are AMAZING! Not greasy, super tender, well-seasoned but not overly salty. It will totally be worth the trip to visit them at their Phipp’s Plaza location, plus they gave me coupons! I’m sure they’ll see me soon enough!

Rock's Chicken Fingers

Last but certainly not least is VEDA Juice Bar, I’m a big fan of juicing because it packs tons of nutrients, vitamins and other good stuff into one without having to make a smoothie.

 

VEDA Juice Bar

I’m really particular about food textures so I’m not that big a fan of smoothies, here and there okay, but I’ve got to take a look at your blender apparatus to make sure you can make that smoothie smooth as silk or I don’t want it! Also some juice bars I’ve been too the juices are super gritty (no thanks) but VEDA Juice Bar is doing something right, their juice blends are not only healthy, refreshing and nutritious they are super smooth and no grit in sight. They also do juice cleanses which I plan to get more information about (plan to get fine for 2017!). The ladies there were so sweet and informative.

 

VEDA

An honorable mention has to go out to Bon Glaze, I wanted to try their donuts, but I was so indecisive and with my Taste tickets depleting at a rapid rate I decided I can always go visit their bakery but for now let me partake and that really good looking Candied Bacon.

Bon Glaze

I’m sure glad I did. There must have been 3-4 strips of candied bacon in the package I got. Beyond being used crumbled as decoration for on a maple bacon cupcake I’ve had in the past, I’ve never had candied bacon…that is until now. I’m hooked! I even shared with a random guy I was chatting with at one of the demo booths. It was smokey, not greasy or super salty. It was PERFECT and I want MORE!  

Bon Glazed Candied Bacon

Those are the highlights for this year’s Taste of Atlanta festival. There were more restos that I was dying to try but the way their lines were set up…I was not about to wait for an insanely long period of time in them. Better luck next year.

photo-oct-25-7-10-30-pm photo-oct-22-12-59-37-pm

Yum!

Are their any local food festivals in your city? What’s your favorite? Dish in the comments!

 

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