Lazy beach days, daily outdoor adventures and vibrant scenery to take in. Air Force families find themselves with a pretty sweet gig when they get orders to a duty station like Hawaii. Truth be told — and not to rub it in — it is like living in vacation mode all year long.
But, with as many things that are unpredictable about military life, there is one guaranteed characteristic: eventually everyone has to move on, even when stationed in paradise. As a self-professed culinary chameleon, I became acquainted with island life one ingredient at a time, so as our family heads to Texas, I am reflecting on the sights and smells and tastes of being here.
I write this with bittersweet words. During my time here, life changed in a big way as I got to compete on Food Network Star — twice. The experience on reality television allowed me to introduce viewers to the not-so-balanced world of being a military spouse with culinary talent.
And I’m not going to lie, I know this island life isn’t for everyone, but it was for me. Not just because of the perpetually beautiful weather, but I fell in love with the culture, the food and of course the awesome women I am lucky enough to call friends on this assignment. I could not think of a better way to say farewell to it all than by passing on my authentic love of the place along with some of my favorite recipes.
The food culture here is one of pride. You can find local produce in every marketplace, which includes the commissary. The people here have a deep satisfaction in their way of life and their work ethic, with a bit of island-time mentality woven in.
The dishes in Hawaii are curated around a farm-to-table attitude, even before it was trendy. One of my favorites is that it is a melting pot of so many of the Asian food influences: Thai, Vietnamese, Filipino, Japanese, etc. Although I have multiple Hawaiian-inspired recipes on my blog, Caviar and Crayons, I gift you with two easy to recreate classics.
Poke was pretty much invented in Hawaii. It is light, fresh and tastes like tropical summer vibes. It may look fancy, but it truly is a simple dish that is highly customizable. Pictured above is one of my favorite collections of ingredients.
RECIPE FOR SPICY AHI POKE
1 1/2 lbs sashimi grade ahi
1/2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp sesame oil
.15 lbs tobiko
2 tbsp Japanese mayonnaise (or regular)
2 tbsp sriracha
2-3 tbsp diced scallions
1 tsp chopped cilantro leaves
1/2 tsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp lime juice
1/2 tsp sesame seeds
- Carefully slice the ahi into ¼ to ½ inch cubes.
- Marinate in a mixture of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and sesame oil, setting it aside for 10-20 minutes.
- In a separate bowl, mix together sriracha, scallions, grated ginger, cilantro and lime juice.
- Combine the spicy mayonnaise mixture with the ahi and top with sesame seeds.
For a base:
Sushi rice (short grain rice with rice wine vinegar, salt and sugar mixed in)
Cucumber (I like to julienne English cucumbers)
Asian pickled vegetables
RECIPE FOR DOLE WHIP
Some of you may know this tasty dessert from Disney, not from Hawaii, but guess what? The Dole Plantation is located in Hawaii with a pineapple train, a giant pineapple maze and Dole Whip. This summer dessert is simple and even tastier than it is easy.
Serves 4-6 (feel free to freeze and reserve*)
4 cups frozen pineapple chunks (If you can get your hands on fresh Hawaiian pineapple, dice and freeze it, awesome. If not, already frozen pineapple will do the trick.)
3/4 cups milk/cream (I used heavy whipping cream, it was legit. But you can also use canned coconut milk. The heavy whip will have more of a creamy and pure pineapple flavor. Naturally, the coconut will leave you with a Pina Colada feel. The texture will be the same with either choice.)
1 tbsp vanilla, optional
1 tbsp white sugar, optional
Waffle cone, optional
Pineapple topping, optional
Vitamix (or another powerful blender)
- Add pineapple chunks and milk/cream of choice to the blender. Continue to blend until smooth, using the tamper to help get everything down to the blade.
All other steps are optional.
- Add vanilla and sugar; continue to blend. I addboth, but you will find plenty of recipes out that that do not.
- Serve in a waffle cone, bowl or cup.