Southwest Florida’s seniors serving up family recipes

Southwest Florida’s seniors serving up family recipes

A Taste of Home

Southwest Florida’s seniors serving up family recipes

Family recipes tell our life’s best stories.

Sometimes, all it takes is a taste of home to unlock the warm, familiar feelings of being with loved ones. We continue to savor each bite of grandma’s famous casserole as if it were the first time.

These special recipes are the ones we save over the years. Whether scribbled down on a piece of torn notebook paper or recited by memory, every family seems to have their favorite go-to meals.

It’s what inspired Gulf Coast Village, a continuing care community in Cape Coral, to publish their own best crowd-pleasing dishes and dessert recipes from senior residents’.

Southwest Florida’s seniors serving up family recipes

“It’s a piece of their past written down on paper,” said Bill Djerf, an independent living resident and president of the resident council at Gulf Coast Village. “It’s a recipe that warms their heart and brings back good memories.”

Djerf is a firm believer that the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach.

When he mentioned the idea of collecting recipes for a community cookbook, the residents, staff members and volunteers were excited to share their most cherished family meals.

Southwest Florida’s seniors serving up family recipes

“Younger staff and volunteers would sometimes say, this looks so good, or I’d like to cook this,” Djerf adds. “The older residents would then tell them about their family recipe they used to bake all the time that they learned from their mother.”

In a matter of months, Djerf and a small team gathered up 230 recipes and sent them to get published as their first Gulf Coast Village cookbook.

When life gives you lemons, make lemon meringue pie

Southwest Florida’s seniors serving up family recipes

Lemon Meringue Pie | Resident Dewie Robinson

1 – 9” pastry pie shell             2 ¼ cup – Boiling water

1 ½ cup – Sugar                      3 – Egg yolks, beaten

6 Tbsp – Corn starch              1 Tbsp – Butter

1 Tbsp – Flour                        1 tsp – Lemon peel, grated

½ tsp – Salt                             3 Tbsp – Lemon juice


3 – Egg whites                        6 Tbsp – Sugar

Good food has a way of bringing people together. We can feel immersed in exciting, new cultures or transported back to our fondest memories.

The best cookbooks are exactly the same. They can be our life manuals.

Inside Gulf Coast Village’s cookbook, Our Favorite Recipes, people find more than just delicious homecooked meals.

“I sold several books just because of the helpful hints in each section,” said Djerf. “I sold one to a lady who said she doesn’t cook, but she liked the helpful hints so much that she bought it for that.”

Southwest Florida’s seniors serving up family recipes

Between more than 100 pages of unique appetizers, dishes and desserts, each section is divided by a list of helpful tips.

For the main dish recipes section, the helpful hints include ‘one pound of boneless chicken equals approximately three cups’ and ‘scaling a fish is easier if vinegar is rubbed on the scales first.’

“A lot of gals say they bought it for their granddaughters and great granddaughters for the recipes, helpful hints and bonus pages in the back, which cover tips for things like baking bread,” added Djerf.

The last eight pages of the cookbook cover important pantry basics as well as tips for cooking measurements, terms and napkin folding.

Food for Thought

Icing will remain where you put it if you sprinkle the cake with powdered sugar first.

– Baking Perfect Cakes

Southwest Florida’s seniors serving up family recipes

From creating a community-inspired cookbook to popular resident cooking classes, it’s safe to say food plays a big part in life at Gulf Coast Village.

But creating the ultimate senior living experience is more than just food. It’s focusing on the unique, special needs of each individual.

That’s where the Gulf Coast Village Foundation comes in. Grouped into four areas of need – general, benevolent, educational and spiritual – each fund of the foundation helps improve the lives of residents within the senior community.

“The foundation provides a lot of things here for Gulf Coast Village. Just to name a few, they’ve bought specialized equipment for the care center, stuff for the gym and they just remodeled our café,” states Djerf.

Southwest Florida’s seniors serving up family recipes

Proceeds from each $15 cookbook goes towards the Gulf Coast Village Foundation and providing the best quality of life for older adults in Southwest Florida.

To purchase the Gulf Coast Village cookbook, visit

Zucchini Spring/Summer Torte

Zucchini Spring/Summer Torte


  • 2 Tablespoons of salted butter
  • 4 cups thinly sliced zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped parsley, flat or curly
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh (preferred) basil leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon of Italian seasoning
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 cup of ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups shredded Muenster or mozzarella cheese
  • 1 store pie dough or make your own pie dough recipe


Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add zucchini (in small batches) and onion; cook 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Stir in parsley, salt, pepper garlic powder, basil and Italian seasoning.

In a large bowl, mix eggs, ricotta & cheese choice, add cooked vegetable mixture; stir gently to mix.

Place pie dough in an ungreased pie pan or 8 X 12 pan. Press over bottom and up sides to form crust. Par bake for approx. 10 minutes. Pour egg mixture evenly into crust-lined pie plate. Bake approx. 20 minutes, until knife comes out clean. Let cool for approx. 10 minutes.

Enjoy! This makes a great dish or can even be substituted as a mean with a great salad.

If necessary, cover edges of crust with strips of foil during last 10 minutes of baking to prevent excessive browning.

Buno Appettio, I hope you feel the LOVE! Ciao!

Jill Bacus owner/chef at Ciao!

Pizza Rustica (or also known as Italian Frittata)

Pizza Rustica (or also known as Italian Frittata)

This month I’ve decided to share with you a great family recipe. I hope you taste the LOVE. Frittatas are truly an Italian favorite. The nice advantage of a frittata is that it may be prepared the night before and baked in the morning, or be baked in advance and served at room temperature. Delicious served at room temperature or warmed. I hope you enjoy!


8 eggs

2 cups ricotta cheese

5 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups sliced fresh Cremini mushrooms

3 tablespoons of parsley (diced)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder and black pepper to taste

1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup shredded fresh spinach

1 shallot, chopped

5 or 6 strips of roasted red bell pepper, (Mancini) diced

1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons grated Asiago or Romano/ Parmesan

1 cup cooked Capellini (Angel hair pasta) – I chop mine, or you can keep it as is

6 oz thinly sliced prosciutto, sausage, bacon, or meat of your choice


Step 1: Place mushrooms, shallot in a shallow frying pan. Add a few teaspoons of olive oil and lightly sauté, then add garlic until all properly sautéed. Take off heat and reserve. Keeping all reserved bits in the pan, add meat and cook to desired wellness. Set aside.

Step 2: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, ricotta cheese, cheese, spinach, parsley, salt, garlic powder and black pepper.

Step 3: Add all sautéed items to the egg mixture and mix until combined. Add pasta. Pour into a greased 9×13 inch oven proof casserole dish.

NOTE: Can be refrigerated overnight at this point.

Before baking, you can top Frittata with a light dusting of cheese. Bake at 350* degrees, (make sure oven is preheated) on the middle rack for approximately 30 -40 minutes until center is not loose. Serve immediately or even at room temperature.

From my Italian family, we wish you all an amazing 2018 New Year. Buon Appetito! May you always, “Feel the LOVE!

Jill Bacus, owner & Chef @ Ciao Wood Fired Pizza & Trattoria

Nana’s Ricatta Zeppole

Nana’s Ricatta Zeppole

This brings it home for me. I hope you enjoy a little old school Zeppole recipe made with ricotta, the way my Ma made it!


  • 1 ¼ AP(all purpose) Flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 eggs, room temp
  • ½ cup white sugar, and set 3 tablespoons aside
  • 1 vanilla bean or 1 tablespoon pure vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¾ cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon Or Powered sugar for dusting
  • Oil, for frying

Using either a stand-up mixer or hand held mixer, add 1¾ cups ricotta. Beat until creamy and smooth. Once creamed, begin adding one egg at a time (make sure that the egg is completely mixed before adding another egg.)

Sift flour, baking powder, sugar & salt all together in a mixing bowl. Repeat sifting process twice. Add to wet batter ½ at a time, mixing until totally incorporated. Be careful not to over mix. Let sit on the counter at room temp for approx. 30-40 minutes before frying.

Add the cinnamon to 1/2 cup of sugar (or powdered sugar, whichever you prefer.) Stir to combine, then set aside. This will be used when you are done frying, as the cinnamon/sugar topping. If not frying right away, cover and place in refrigerator. When ready to use, bring out and let set until room temp

In a deep, large frying pan pour the frying oil to about 2”- 3”, then heat the oil over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 360-365 degrees F. Using a small to medium scooper/melon baller, be very careful when dropping about a tablespoon of the dough into the hot oil, frying in batches. Turn the Zeppoli once or twice, cooking until golden and puffed up, about 4-5 minutes.

Drain on paper towels. Toss with cinnamon-sugar. Serve immediately.

Sometimes we would drizzle warm chocolate or warmed Nutella spread. However you desire to serve them, they will be wonderful.

Until we meet again, “Best dishes from my kitchen to yours,” but most importantly, I hope you “Feel the LOVE.” Buon Appetito!

Jill Bacus owner/chef of Ciao!

Calabrese Sandwich

Calabrese Sandwich

Now, since we shared the Charcuterie, I thought we might have some left over Italian meats….so I thought I would share an exceptional sandwich for you to also enjoy.

My family calls it the Calabrese Sandwich, using the star of our platter Salami, it’s a little bit spicy, perfectly salty, and it is absolutely delicious. It comes from the Southern tip of Italy and is packed with paprika and an assortment of peppers. The gruyere and swiss cheeses, while both are nutty and rich, they become almost caramel-like when paired with the cured meat. If you can’t find gruyere, you can totally just use swiss cheese – but the gruyere adds a nice sweetness. And the added fresh basil adds a note of earthiness and freshness and helps to keep the sandwich from not being too much.


1 lb. Salami {or your Italian favorite cured Italian meats}

Gruyere & Swiss cheeses

A nice hard roll, or focaccia bread

Roasted red peppers or gardinara, as per your tastes

As always from our family to yours, “We hope you Feel the LOVE”

Buon Appettio! Ciao,

Jill Bacus owner/chef of Ciao

An Italian Charcuterie Platter

An Italian Charcuterie Platter

Sit back, relax and enjoy my definitions of what Italian meats would make up an amazing summertime charcuterie platter. Italian cold cuts are often made from pork: salami, prosciutto, salsiccia, pancetta, and so on, which are also referred to as salumi. Since their names vary considerably from place to place within Italy, I will share with you the differences of each meat and its own distinctive taste. Great for a summer get together or that special evening w/ a glass of wine.


It’s a large sausage made with ground pork and cubes of fat, seasoned with garlic, salt, and spices. There are two different types, Genoa or Hard. Salamino, is rather spicy is made with enough red pepper to give it that familiar orange coloring; in the US, it’s known as pepperoni.


Known as Italy’s cured raw hams. Prosciutto can be divided into two categories, dolce (sweet), or Toscano (salty, homemade, or known as Tuscan). Parma, is more refined and more expensive. As most of us know the most common varieties of prosciutto are, Parma and San Daniele. Both should have deep red meat and pure white fat. And just like all the other meats, sliced very thin.


Salsiccia made with ground pork, cubed pork fat, spices, and herbs, and dried. When getting ready to consume it is best sliced very thin, just like Salami, and truly is a wonderful treat.


Most commonly used is Pancetta (dried meat), this is made from the same cut used to make bacon. However, it’s not smoked, but does come in two different variations, dolce [sweet] and affumicata [smoked]). The ingredients are garlic, salt, and spices, and ground pepper. Pancetta is most commonly used as an ingredient in Carbonara or in Arrabbiata pasta dishes, also for a replacement it is commonly switched out for a very good bacon, for the added flavoring.


Also known as Coppa, this is cured shoulder butt. This also has two different varieties, sweet & hot, {notice the hot one will have a hint of red around the outside, this is from the crushed red peppers}


The Mother of Tuscany, this is a cured dry sausage, mainly made from pork {the best cuts, the leg, shoulder, loin, and back of the neck} but also can be made from beef. Also blended with other spices such as cinnamon, cloves, rosemary and other savory spices, and then hung to dry.

As always from my family to yours, “I hope you Feel the LOVE” Buon Appettio Ciao, Jill Bacus


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