Friday, February 12, 2010

Light at the End of the Tunnel

My octogenarian grandmother, who has been living with cancer for six years says that February is the worst month of the year..."Everyone in our family dies in February." Sister, as we all call her, tells me this every year, and every year I tell her "Well, Sister,  it is my birthday month... so just think of that as a little light at the end of the tunnel." 

The end of winter can feel a bit cavernous, and February is seemingly colder and darker than any other.  It is winter's grand finale.  Granted I live off the coast of North Florida, so it is not exactly winter with a capital 'W' here, but there was a freeze this week and the days are cold...well lets just say its sweater weather.  I will take Florida winter over Florida summer any day, but with Lil' Bit the cold weather is just as suffocating.  We can only spend so much time outside before her runny nose tells us it is time to go back in.

This year I found a way to make my own little light at the end of the winter tunnel.

Chef and  I rigged up a little seed hatchery in our garage with heat lamps.  First I began with just seeding the trays and keeping them in the garage away from the cold rain.  After a week and no sprouts I told Chef we had to get some heat lamps.  Two days basking under the artifical light little green shoots began popping up.  You could practically watch them grow.  I feel like I have a little secret taste of Spring which I visit twice a day to water and tend.  It is really lovely.  I recommend it for all of you with a case of the winter blues.  You can buy the heat lamps at any hardware store and they are inexpensive.

Most people start their seeds inside, but with two cats, two dogs, and a toddler there is no safe place to keep our little green hatchery.  Our garage has a few windows, and it seems to be working well...although I do move them outside for sunshine regularly.  The crookneck squash, cucumbers, and blue velevet okra are the biggest of the litter...sturdy little sprouts. 

The Sungold tomatoes, Matt's Wild Cherry, Zapotec and Arkansas Traveler tomatoes are a bit more temperamental.  As are the Little Finger Eggplants and the herbs...basil and parsley.

I am growing these with high hopes for the 29 South garden, as well as for a plot I share with 2 other mamas at the 9th Street Community Garden.  Any extras we will donate to the community garden's Earth Day plant sale. 

Last weekend at our community garden meeting we had a potluck and I brought the most delicious cornbread on the face of the earth.  I know that is quite a claim to make, but it is true. A number of fellow gardeners asked me to share the recipe so I thought I would include it in this week's post.  My mother-in-law found the recipe and it is the only cornbread that she serves and it is the only cornbread I will ever serve.  Cornbread is such a great winter staple, goes fabulous with soups and stews and all things hearty!  This particular recipe is simple and makes a rich, creamy gritty mealy texture...that is impossible to stop eating.  Enjoy!

All-Time Favorite Sour Cream Cornbread / CookWise / Shirley O. Corriher
Makes 10 Servings

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups canned creamed corn
  • 1 1/2 cup of sour cream
  • 3/4 cup corn, canola, or vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups cornbread mix or self-rising cormeal, slightly packed
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • nonstick cooking spray
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 Degrees F
  2. Beat the eggs slightly in a medium mixing bowl.  Stir in the creamed corn, sour cream, and oil.  Add the cornbread mix, salt, and baking powder.  Stir to blend well.  
  3. Spray a 9-inch skillet with an oven proof handle (I use a silicone baking pan you can also use a 9 inch round cake pan)and spray with non-stick cooking spray.  Pour in batter.
  4. Place the skillet on a burner over medium high heat for 1 minute (Skip this step with the silicone pan or bake pan). Then place on a shelf in the upper third of the oven.  Turn the oven down to 375 Degrees and bake for 35 to 40 minutes to brown the top. (check with knife, it may take longer)  Watch carefully.  
  5. Brush the top with melted butter fora shiny finish.


Christina Catinella said...

wow nan! i am so inspired by your i too late to start one? how do you know so much about this or might i ask what book or resource should i go to to learn more? and that cornbread looks so good!

Nan said...

You are not too late my friend! Check out your county's agriculture extension is a killer resource and you will get info about what to grow in your climate this season...each region of the country has a different assigned zone that tells you what you can grow and when. Get yourself some seeds (seeds of change is a great catalog) and on each packet it tells you just how to plant it. There is a book called Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew that is pretty fantastic. I went from being good with houseplants the year before last to gardenista. It is super nuts and bolts, but at the same time a constant learning experience! Do it!