When people find out that I live on an island, the first thing they say is that they always wanted to live on an island. It almost never fails.
Hey, I am not going to lie to you; I was probably one of those people before I moved to Virgin Gorda. I thought, how could anyone ever get bored from beautiful white sand beaches, and possibly, the most live-able climate in the world?
Well… Let me tell you something. Living on an island and vacationing on an island are two different things. And please don’t think that I am complaining or saying that living here is a bad thing. But rather, what I am saying is that even beaches and weather are not enough at times, especially if you are someone like me, who grew up (and lived most of her life) in a big city.
That being said, there are many people I know living on Virgin Gorda, who wouldn’t even think about going back to living in a big city or leaving all of this behind. Though they sometimes experience what we call the “island fever”, most of the time they are content with living here and enjoy everything that the island offers to them.
Two of those people are our friends David and Chrissann. Originally from Ilinois, David has been living in the Caribbean for more than 25 years. And Chrissann, a native of California, has been living here for almost 9 years. They have been great friends to us for the last two years, and when I look back and think, I realize that it would have been so hard for me to survive on this island if I hadn’t met them.
A couple of months ago, when Chrissann realized that I am struggling with the conditions of the island life, she invited us over for dinner. Of course, as I was dying to socialize and eat something different, I jumped at the opportunity. The dinner menu was my favorite comfort food combination: vegetarian chili and cornbread served with honey-butter. The vegetarian chili made with tofu was so delicious that both Dwight and I asked for a second bowl. And, I was so happy when Chrissann offered us to take some of the leftovers of the cornbread home.
Since that day, I have been hunting for a good cornbread recipe both online and in my cookbooks. I know that there are many recipes out there, but I wanted to find one that was not overly sweet as Dwight and I don’t care too much for sweet cornbread.
After looking around quite a bit, I tried a recipe that had very little amount of sugar in it. But the problem with it was that it didn’t taste good, which made me realize that for a good cornbread you have to have some sugar in the recipe. I just had to find the right balance.
Long story short, after trying a couple of different recipes, I ended up loving this one. What I love about it is that (1) it is made in a cast iron skillet, which makes is flavorful (from all the seasoning in the skillet) and convenient, and (2) it is moist and crumbly at the same time.
To make it somewhat healthier, I used honey instead of sugar. I also added jalapenos and scallions for additional flavor and some heat. Surprisingly, the sweetness coming from honey balanced the heat coming from jalapenos nicely, leaving a sweet and spicy sensation on your tongue after the first bite.
I left the seeds of the jalapenos in, because we didn’t mind the heat. But if you want, you can leave them out. However, I must mention that after baked, the heat coming from jalapenos was not as strong as fresh jalapenos. So it might be worth a try.
Chrissann served it with honey-butter, as they love it sweet. When I told her that I am making this, she said that her secret for silky honey-butter is to add some powdered sugar in it. So if you are planning to serve it with it, keep this simple trick in mind.
On a final note, I do not know how long more we will be on this island, but I am grateful for friends, good food, and the opportunity to be able to say that I lived on an island. Yes, I do struggle at times, but who doesn’t? Just like most people do, I am trying to do my best in the constant challenge of mastering the art of living and being content with what I have. But one thing I know for sure is that the daily struggles continue regardless of where you live. So if you are one of those people who always wanted to live on an island, I humbly recommend keeping your expectations about living here full-time grounded in this reality.
Jalapeño and Scallion Cornbread
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces) or 1 stick butter, melted and cooled plus more for greasing the skillet
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 2 cups yellow corn meal
- 1 cup (8 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup scallions both green and white parts – chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped jalapenos chopped (with the seeds, if you can handle the heat)
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 10-inch cast iron skillet with butter. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk butter and honey until no lumps remain. Whisk in the eggs and set aside.
- Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Set aside.
- Gradually whisk in the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, and mix until combined.
- Stir in the buttermilk and sour cream.
- Fold in the chopped scallions and jalapenos to the mixture.
- Transfer the mixture into the prepared 10-inch cast iron skillet.
- Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes.
- Let it cool for 10 minutes before serving.
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Adapted (with changes) from this recipe.