Wednesday, September 22, 2010

You know you wanna.....

VOTE...that is!  Here is the link to my official contestant profile.  You will need a foodbuzz account to vote but it takes 30 seconds to maqke one.  You just need a user name and's free too!

WHEW!  Now I've got the public service announcement out of the way.  I feel a little bit like one of those PBS hosts asking for donations.  A 30 minute show gets stretched to three.  You get 5 minutes of programming stuffed in between 20 minutes of asking for pledges.

Even worse...I've become one of those QVC gemstone hawkers. 

 Or (gulp)...heaven forbid; Vince, the "slap chop" pitch man!

 "You know you wanna vote folks.  If you "call" in the next 2 1/2 hours (cause you know we can't do this all day), we'll send you The Homegrown Gourmet for the next Food Buzz Blog Star. Oh and by the'll get a leopard print Shamwow as a bonus."  

Maybe you have figured it out by now but in case you haven't...I'm a little left of center!

Well, I have to tell you all about my very first time ever eating tempeh tonight.  Yes, I  was a strict vegan for 3 years and yes, I am primarily a vegan now (my constant readers know what my cheats are) but I have to admit, I was a tempeh virgin!  Dang...there is a screenplay in that somewhere.

I am convinced that the main reason I never tried it was because I was given a samle of barbequed seitan in Whole Foods one day and as a result, developed a pathological fear of fake meat products.  For all my seitan-lovin vegan friends...God bless you.  I just have to say that was about the nastiest tasting thing I have ever had the misfortune to shove in my face!  Imagine this....



= fear and loathing of strangely textured fake meat products

  I was too traumatized to try tempeh after that.  The guy handing out the samples asked me if I wanted to also taste the teriaki tempeh and I about ran from the store in tears.  Maybe that was just my eyes still watering from trying to swallow the bbq seitan!  But, I digress.

I'm trying to broaden my horizons though (instead of my behind) so I bucked up and bought a package of coconut curry marinated tempeh a few days ago.  It's been sitting in the fridge giving me the evil eye since Sunday.  I took it out tuesday afternoon and turned the package over in my hand a few times before chucking it back in the crisper drawer behind a bundle of broccoli the blasted thing couldn't stare at me anymore!

Tonight, I decided it was now or never.  I was going to attempt to eat the tempeh and hope I would not need my stomach pumped afterwards!  There was a recipe on the box for a stir fry with coconut milk and a bunch of veggies.  I didn't follow it exactly.  I haven't followed a recipe exactly since i was eight.  Anyway, it was close enough for government work as they say.

I fully expected someone to have to call 911 after that first tenuous nibble.  It wasn't nearly as horrible as I had expected.  A little larger bite this time...just the tempeh ( no veggies on the fork with it). far so good.  The texture is a little off putting at first but I'm obviously still breathing normally and have not gone into tachycardia.  One more large, well browned itself...Syrup of Ipacac and Alka Seltzer cocktail sitting within easy reach; barf bag ready.  Nothing happened.  I chewed, gingerly at first and then with a bit more gusto.

The outcome...I lived.  I even remotely LIKED it after I got used to the texture.  It tasted nothing like moldy Sponge Bob with bbq sauce.  Did I absolutley love  I think I may need to do a bit more experimentation and also use the plain (not pre-marinated).  However, it is high in protein, low in fat and calories.  The one I bought was also moderate with sodium and organic.  I'd say if you are curious as I was, give it a know you wanna!

Sorry, I have no pictures of the dish.  I am in Ocala at my in-laws house all this week helping out while my father-in-law is out of town so I don't have all my junk with me.  A colorful description will have to suffice.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Vote Today!

Just a quick reminder to all my friends....VOTING BEGINS TODAY for the next food blog star!  You must register at  to be eligible to vote.

Just log on, sign in anf go to the Project Food Blog tab at the top of the home page.  Look me up as The Homegrown Gourmet.  I would REALLY like to win $10,000 dollars AND the bragging rights!!!

Click here to be taken to my contestant profile.  Once you are there, you'll see a little yellow VOTE tab under challenge number one...JUST CLICK IT!!  Tell our friends to go click it! You can also click the Project Food Blog widget in the side bar (it's the one with my picture in it).

Thursday, September 16, 2010

PFB #1 A gypsy's tale

View my official contestant profile here!

Here we are, on the first leg of the Project Food Buzz marathon.  I've got my running shoes on and I'm ready to go!   Competitions of any sort are like a red flag in front of a bull to me.  As a Sagittarius, and the stereotypical overachieving perfectionist, if something isn’t challenging, it soon falls off my radar!  As a die-hard foodie, I want the recipes to stand upon their own merit.

 Maybe I should explain the gypsy thing.  I'm not a nomad who roams all over in a wagon with my goats, chickens and belongings in tow, although I may LOOK like a gypsy!

 Which do you prefer?  The scarf-clad deer in the headlights or...
The silver bracelts caught in the wild red hair?   This is who makes all the normal looking food you see on here.  Please don't stop reading my blog now!

The gypsy thing started with my Serbian ex (late) father-in-law.  He said I looked like the gypsies he remembered from his childhood in Yugoslavia.  Even though I am a Tennessee girl, by way of Chicago, Kentucky and now Florida, my recipes may be from anywhere in the world.  I guess that DOES make me a gypsy!

Were you to stand face to face and ask me, " who is The Homegrown Gourmet,” the answer might not be what you expect.  I can tell you it has nothing to do with gardening, which many seemed to think initially. Do these look like nails that dig in the dirt? They are not fake...nothing about me is fake! Flamboyant definately but this is  who I am.

The Homegrown Gourmet came about as a name for my catering business.  I  was also serving as Executive Chef for the Orlando based food cooperative, Get Green Organics.  The emphasis of my catering was fresh, organic, healthy foods but it became apparent to everyone that I’d set out to prove you didn’t have to eat tree bark and live in a commune to enjoy real food.

 I was asked to teach healthy cooking classes for a variety of venues; even being a featured speaker for Central Florida Veg Fest and Earth Day.  Someone suggested that I start blogging to share my creative cooking ideas with others.  It took six months for me to figure out what a blog was!  I’m not the dimmest bulb, but I’m not the brightest one either.

menu from the Get Green Organics booth at Earth Day, 2009

The gardening question kept coming up so I finally wrote an article explaining that “homegrown” alludes to the fact that I am self-taught.  It's also a nod to my grandparents; all of whom were amazing cooks.  I am convinced that I inherited a cooking gene. I carry with me the memories of all the cooking entailed: heirloom recipes penned by a hand that was gone before I was born, the practical kitchen wisdom of generations, the funny stories of recipes gone awry, holiday tables ladened with the signature dishes of great- aunts.  It is part and parcel of who I am and the family that made me.

The “gourmet” part might be delusions of grandeur. I think I’m a gourmet but whether anyone else shares that opinion is purely subjective. However, you find no cocktail wieners in a crock-pot concoction of grape jelly and ketchup on my blog!  You will find a lifetime of dedication to learning who I am as a cook and what I deem worthy of the people who take time out of their day to read my posts.

bento without a box

vegan chicken-less chicken salad in whole grain pita

citrus rosemary chicken with herb garlic roasted potatoes

mango swirl yogurt cheesecake

The Homegrown Gourmet Blog is an outlet for the creative cacophony in my head.  It may be a play on words that brings a phrase and a recipe full circle.  It may be the strangest marriage of ingredients, cultures and anecdotes you’ve ever read.  It is the musings of a middle-aged gypsy surrounded by her bohemian treasures and a well-stocked pantry. 

Sometimes it is the salve for my emotional wounds which I share in hopes of soothing someone else’s.  It has been both diary and a window into my life to the friends I’ve made in the blogging community.  Most of all it has become the instrument enabling me to share 25 years worth of original recipes. 

"skinny" yogurt panna cotta with triple berry compote

triple chocolate fleur de sel caramel brownies

last year's gingerbread mansion

If it seems a little quirky at times that’s okay because I’m quirky.  If you find yourself laughing hysterically, shaking your head thinking, “that girl is nuts”, that’s even better.  If you become inspired to get into your kitchen and cook, that is best of all!  If you need of an invitation to dinner, give me a call when you are down this way.

Sunday dinner, rosemary and salt crusted, garlic-studded leg of lamb.

Let me gather my wits about me to convince the judges and readers that I am the logical choice for the next Food Buzz Blog Star. “Roses are red, violets are blue, I’m the next FB Blog star and you know it too.” It’s catchy but not exactly compelling.

“Little Jillyan, when she wanted to bake,
went to her kitchen and whipped up a cake.

This cake was so lip-smacking good
 she won the contest, like she knew she would.

The judges asked for a beautiful picture as well.
She forgot the flash…do you think they could tell?

She’s got mad skills when it comes to cooking;
 doesn’t dip her fingers in the bowl when no one is looking!

(but she can't vouch for other people's fingers!)

What kind of food do you want today?
 Shall it be from home or far away?

individual chicken pot pies

thai spring rolls with coconut lime dipping sauce

Shall it be something fancy with a snooty French name,
 or snacks to nosh watching the football game?

Tarte aux tomates séchées polenta au fromage de chèvre et deux courges

guacamole and mango black bean salsa with organic blue corn chips

There is nothing too farfetched for her to try.
She’s an adventurous gypsy with spatula held high.

avocado fudge brownie with feta cheesecake swirl

individual walnut crusted sweet feta cheesecakes with gingered agave syrup

When end of day comes and the cooking is done,
she turns to her blog and shares what she’s done.

Food Buzz/Electrolux banana split challenge - all vegan coconut chocolate chip ice cream in pineapple boats

If it’s humor, great food and a slice of reality on the side,
The Homegrown Gourmet blog has got it and that cannot be denied!

NOTHING could be more humorous than this!  I was obviously out on a day pass that day.

grilled eggplant with gremolata and fresh grape tomatoes is just good food!

and why settle for a slice when you can have the whole thing?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Serbian Rice Cake

I wanted to get a rice dish posted for the Festive Rice Event on one of the newer blogs that I follow called Torview.  For anyone else who is interested please drop by and check out the details. 

The recipe that I am contributing is one taught to me by my late ex mother-in-law, Katarina Zahn-Djordjevic.  This is a very simple recipe that she always just referred to as a Serbian Rice Cake.  Calling it a cake might be a bit of a stretch since it's just rice cooked in milk that is combined with sugar, beaten eggs and vanilla.  However, you do spread it in a pan and bake it like a cake and the resulting dish is cut like a cake. 

It is only mildly sweet and the only reason I ever heard for this was, "Serbs don't like it too sweet."  Maybe other families made theirs differently, I don't know.  Often Katarina would make this cake in the summer when it could be served with fresh mascerated strawberries.  She baked at night in the basement kitchen so the heat of the stove would not compete with the air conditioning in the upstairs kitchen.  By morning, the rice cake would be cold and was just perfect for a hot Chicago summer morning!  It was always one of my favorite breakfasts.  Of course, you can eat it anytime of the day that you like!

There is no flour in this cake and so it is gluten-free.  It has been years since I've made one and even more years since I've eaten any.  Some years ago I developed a severe allergy to eggs.  It was pure torture to smell that thing baking knowing that I couldn't eat any!

Serbian Rice Cake

  • 2 1/2 cups organic 1% milk

  • 1 cup long grain white rice, rinsed

  • pinch of kosher salt

  • 6 tablespoons unbleached granulated sugar

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 6 whole extra large cage free eggs, separated

  1. Place the rice, milk and kosher salt in a 1 quart saucepan with lid.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until rice is tender and all milk has been absorbed.  Turn rice out into a large bowl, fluff with a fork and allow to cool completely.
2.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a quarter sheet cake pan (approximately 9 x 13 x 2) and set aside.  In a medium bowl, beat egg yolks until thick and lemon colored.  Beat in sugar 1 tablespoon at a time until mixture is about double in bulk and pale yellow.  Beat in vanilla extract.  With a spoon or spatula, stir this mixture into the cooled rice until well blended and no clumps remain in the rice.

3.  In a clean bowl with clean beaters; beat egg whites until triple in volume and stiff peaks have formed.  Fold one third of the egg whites into the rice and egg yolk mixture to lighten it.  Quickly and carefully fold in the remaining egg white until no white streaks remain.  Take care not to stir all the air out of your whites!

4.  Turn mixture out into prepared baking pan and smooth the top with a spatula until even.  Place in preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until browned and a pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

You can serve this warm but it is really best at room temperature or cold.  I like to top mine with mascerated strawberries but peaches are great too.  It's soooo easy...but so good!

Look at the beautiful, airy texture of this cake.

I have to comment on the figurine in the background.  This is a WWll  era Hummel called "Barnyard Friends"...released in 1943 when Hummel and Goebbel figurines were still made at the same facility in Austria. 


It bears the trademark seal of this period and Goebbel's signature "bird in flight" mark.  It is a first edition firing...number 195.  It was given to me by my late ex-mother-in-law.  There is an amazing story behind how he came to survive moving, bombing raids and eventually more than 40 years in an old steamer trunk...without so much as a scratch!  He belonged to Katarina's sister Raizee who never immigrated to America.  When she passed away, two steamer trunks were delivered to my mother-in-law in Chicago...left to her by her late sister.  He was in there...wrapped in layers of brittle paper and yellowed hand-made lace.  There were the crocheted collars and cuffs from her sister's "wedding costume" as they called it.  Other little trinkets and baubles were in there as well...but this guy...he was the coup de grace!

Look at the amazing details on his little face!  Most of the year he stays securely behind glass in one of my china cabinets but I always take him out where he can be seen better during the fall.  I guess it's just the colors on his clothing.  Don't worry...there are no children around my house!  He would be under lock and key if there were!

It is pretty incredible to hold something like this in your hand and know that it was in Berlin when Germany surrendered to the allies and the war was officially ended.  It's amazing to think he endured blackouts and shelling and somehow, he survives...over 60 years later.  His cheeks are still rosy and he hasn't a care in the world.  My mother in law always said he reminded her of the childhood they should have had.  When I hold this little guy in my hand, I imagine (or maybe it isn't my imagination) an odd energy that comes from him...through him.  He speaks of the past, of war, of deprivation, of 40 years when he never saw the light of day, of his trip across the ocean in the cargo hold of a ship.  I know he's old and valuable and I SHOULD probably have him put away...but somehow I just don't have the heart.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sticks and Leaves

At this time of year, I always miss the mountains of East Tennessee where I grew up.  There is simply nothing like the crisp fall air, the perfect blue canvas of sky dotted with puffs of cotton-ball clouds, the scent and site of magestic trees cloaked in all their autumnal glory.  Okay, maybe I'm rushing things a bit...but not much.  By October the Smokies are coming into their full glory!

Don't get me wrong, I adore Florida and at my advanced age and state of deterioration...I'd probably have to LIVE wrapped up in a Leopard Print Snuggy with some of those thermal socks that you heat in the microwave were I to move any further north than Savannah Georgia.  However, I have fond memories of raking the leaves in my grandmother's yard into an enourmous mound and then diving into them over and over. 

I was the only granddaughter in a family full of stinky old boys and I lived in a fantasy world where I was the princess with fall leaves stuck in her flyaway hair and the aroma of burning leaves clinging to her clothes as she comes in for a slice of apple pie or a couple of granny's oatmeal cookies.
There is a song by Nora Jones that always makes me think of myself as a little girl.  "Spinning, laughing, dancing to her favorite song, a little girl with nothing wrong is all alone.  Eyes wide open, always hoping for the sun and she'll sing her song to anyone who comes along.  Fragile as a leaf in autumn just falling to the ground, without a sound.  Crooked little smile on her face tells a tale of grace thats all her own.  Fragile as a leaf in autumn just falling to the ground without a sound.  Spinning, laughing, dancing to her favorite song, she's a little girl with nothing wrong and she's all alone." 

The first time I ever heard that song, I could see myself doing a clumsy piroutte on my grandmother's front walk beneath the the huge oak with it's burnished golden leaves and in my mind...I was Dancerina favorite doll come to life.  My grandmother was taking my picture with one of those old box cameras.  Her pictures were always headless!

So the other day, I had this brilliant idea to make my own fall tree!  I dragged out the smallest of my four Christmas trees and put it up in the front hallway.  My mother and I covered it with orange pumpkin string lights, silk fall leaf garlands, asters, sunflowers, chrysanthamums, fall fruit and vegetable picks and mini scarecrows.  It's adorable!  I set my scarecrow beaneath the tree and then put a lighted pumpkin beside him. may be 98 degrees in the shade outside...but inside my house, it's autumn!  I changed all my candles to spiced pumpkin, caramel apple and vanilla too.

Of course, you know I love to bake.  I try very hard to make my baked goods as healthy as possible.  Anytime the word "bran" gets bantered around though...I am accused of trying to feed my dear husband "sticks and leaves."  He really is ridiculous since I happen to KNOW he's going to eat ANYTHING that doesn't eat him first (except broccoli rabe or brussel sprouts).  Oddly enough, hes not the only bran-a-phobe out there though.  There are still quite a few people who think bran is the sustenance of the over 80 set and Yule Gibbons.  I'm here to tell you it isn't!

Necessity can be the mother of invention or the mother of all when you start making a recipe, its usually advisable to make sure you have all the ingredients.  I didn't...of course!  Basically, I had a box of Fiber One Bran know the one I looks like twigs and tastes pretty much like it looks.  Don't get me wrong...I'm not knocking Fiber One...I love it, just NOT this particular cereal.  But I'd already spent the money and there was a recipe on the back of the box for some breakfast cookies so I figured's not a total loss!

I asked my mother to look over the recipe and she says, "oh yeah, we have everything we need to make these."  Great...let's just whip up a batch.  By the time I actually take a gander at the box myself, I've already got a whole food processer full of ground up fiber twigs and that's about all.  I guess mom wasn't wearing her reading glasses?? 

I ended up making Spiced Orange Cranberry Breakfast Branola Cookies and they came out wonderful.  Pretty good stuff with a cup of my favorite Earl Grey....

2 cups Fiber One Bran Cereal
3 cups organic bran flakes
2 cups organic whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup Xylitol natural sweetener
1/2 cup organic brown sugar
4 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick unsalted organic butter, melted
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
3 whole organic cage free eggs plus two egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of one large navel orange
2 cups dried cranberries
  1. Place the cereal in a zipper bag and crush with the bottom of a skillet.  You can do this in the food processor but they tend to whirl around and not really get crushed evenly because they are so light weight.  Pour the cereal crumbs into a bowl and add bran flakes, wheat flour, xylitol, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  Mix well.
2.  In a smaller bowl, beat eggs and egg whites slightly and combine with melted butter.  Stir in pumpkin puree, vanilla extract and orange zest.  Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients all at once.  Stir with a wooden spoon until no dry spots remain.  Dough will be very thick.  If it seems too dry, you may another egg or more pumpkin puree.  Lastly, stir in cranberries.

3.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease cookie sheets.  I used a 1 ounce scoop to make balls and then flattened with wet fingers.  Sprinkle tops with sugar before baking.  These cookies don't spread so they may be placed close together on the cookie sheets.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Careful not to overbake or they will get too hard. 

This recipe makes about 65 one ounce cookies. 

Note:  Store cooled cookies in an airtight container with a couple slices of bread.  Bran is DRY and it will suck the moisture out of just about anything it comes in contact with.  The bread will keep your cookies moist.  This works with any type of cookies by the way.  Got some chocolate chip cookies that are too crisp?  Store with a slice of bread and they will soften up.

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Fort Myers, Florida, United States