Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day...

Happy Memorial Day everyone!  I am proud to be an American EVERYDAY but on days that we have set aside to honor our Military heros, I am especially proud.  Both my grandfather's served in WWII, one in the Army, the other was mounted Calvary.  My mother's father (who slipped into a coma due to advanced Alzhimers) lay in his hospital bed on September 11th, 2001 unaware of the terrible events of that day, never knowing that the country for which he fought and was wounded for twice in Checkoslovakia had been attacked.  He died on September 15th, never having regained consciousness and was buried on the 17th as US Navy Warships guarded the Eastern Seaboard.  After the funeral we watched as the Theodore Roosevelt Battlegroup got underway for the Middle East. 

My grandfather, Thomas Oliver Williford was buried that day with two Purple Heart Medals pinned to his chest in the rotunda of the Tennessee Veterans Cemetary with full Military Honor Guard, a 21 Gun Salute.  We filed out of the rotunda behind his flagged drapped coffin to listen as a lone bugle played Taps by his graveside.  It's something you never forget. 

My husband (who is very humble about his Military service by the way), retired from the US Navy in 2004 after 20 years of distinguished service.  For many years he was a Search and Rescue Swimmer, Helo air-crewman (AW) and for the last couple of years, an instructor at both Mayport and NAS JAX Naval Air Bases.  He has over 500 combat hours and more than 3000 total flight hours.  He recieved the Navy Com with Valor medal for his participation in the rescue of a downed helicopter crew (behind enemy line).  There are many other metals in his sea chest and plaques and commendations covering the walls of his office. 

I generally strive to keep political discussion out of my blog because this is not the platform for it.  I don't really consider being greatful for our American heros a political issue however.  It's a matter of National pride.  Anyone who does NOT appreciate the sacrifices of our veterans and their families probably should go live somewhere else.

Whether you agree or disagree with the issues and politics of war is irrelevant.  You live, work, play, raise families, and enjoy the freedoms and ALL the benefits that America has to offer largely due to the few who put duty to God, Country and Family before their OWN personal safety.  The least we can do is honor their sacrifices.

My husband Roger...his retirement photo
March 19th, 2004

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Farmstand Frenzy

Several days ago, I mentioned finding a farmstand that sells locally grown produce.  I can't stay away from that place!  The tomatoes are so delicious and actually TASTE like a tomato should.  The little grape tomatoes are so sweet...I've been popping them like skittles. 

I stopped by yesterday and bought zucchini, yellow squash, kirby cukes, yellow tomatoes, grape tomatoes, limes, grapefruit, canteloupe, sugar-baby watermelon, pole beans, bell peppers, cabbage, romaine lettuce, peaches and sweet onions.  I had to make two trips to the car for UNDER TWENTY BUCKS!!!!!!!!!!!

I eat enourmous amounts of raw veggies so you can imagine what a find this is for me.  I must say that the taste of food that's been on the vine until maturation beats ANTHING in the grocery store including the organic stuff.  Then again, the organic produce in the store is usually OLD. 

Do you ever just open up the fridge and make a salad out of everything?  I do it often.  In fact, some of my favorite salads were created that way.  Since I'm sitting on a veritable GOLD MINE of vitamins, minerals, antioxidents and phytonutrients, I've been making these huge bowls of chopped salad with different veggies combos.  Today's salad was particularly satisfying. 

I'm not a big fan of cooked cauliflower and broccoli.  I know...that's kind of wierd coming from someone who's largely a vegan right?  I like the taste of cooked broccoli (not cauliflower so much) fine but I can't get past that smell...kind of like a storm drain full of rotting grass clippings.  Raw on the other hand,  I just love them.  I eat them nearly everyday.  Tonight's salad takes advantage of the half head of cauliflower I had in the veggie bin.

I can't really call this a's too simple for that.  I just chopped cauliflower and chucked it in a bowl; added petit carrots, sweet yellow onion, kirby cukes, celery, chopped radishes, diced tomato and some crumbled feta.  Feta and goat cheese are my two dairy splurges.  I never met a hunk of feta I didn't like!
Next, I just tossed it all up with some minced fresh parsley, raw apple cider vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and cracked black pepper.  I put it in one of my amazingly cool antique bowls (this one a vintage 50's piece) and served it with grilled burgers (for hubs and mom) and a homemade grilled veg burger for me.  What I liked most about this salad, other than how awesome it looks in my gorgeous bowl, was the CRUNCH!  I don't eat potato chips, pretzels and such so sometimes I really crave something crunchy.  This was perfect.  You could use anything you have in the veggie bin though.

Here are a few pics.......oh and sorry about the shadow.  It was close to 7 pm and the sun was casting a shadow across half the pic.  I thought it was kind of "artsy" so I used the pictures anyway.

I hat to step back and get a shot that shows off this incredible bubble glass bowl.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Want To Get Lucky?

Remember my "pet" Lucky that I started about a month ago?  For those who missed my post on the origins of my sourdough starter, you'll have to go back and read it to understand why I named it Lucky.  In any event, Lucky is smelling pretty "ripe" these days so I decided it was time to put him to work. 
I make bread the way my grandfather taught sight and feel.  I know, I know...they always tell you baking is an exact science (unlike cooking which is much more forgiving) and most of the time that is true.  I think bread is the exception to that rule to an extent.  You can't just go hog wild though...a basic understanding of bread making and PATIENCE are key. 

For the purpose of sharing the recipe, I will give measurements (as best I can) but my best indicator that the dough is right is how it feels and how it behaves and unfortunately that's something that just comes with practice and experience. 

I was reading Chef Dennis's post on making his mashed potatoes the other day and he mentioned butter and Paula Deen in the same sentence.  Everyone does!  I suppose Paula has become the quintessential icon of southern cooking.  She is certainly the poster child for butter consumption.  I had to laugh as I was thinking about this because my previous post was a butter love-fest and this one is as well...and I don't eat butter...LOL.  I can't say I NEVER eat butter but I try very hard not too because dairy of any sort gets my system all discombobulated which is very, VERY bad JuJu!

That being said, we can now move on to the pound of butter thats in these cinnamon rolls!  I think I mentioned before that some people are purists where sourdoughs are little boot from some yeast.  I don't use yeast in my starter but I do use it when making a batch of bread or rolls because I don't have the patience to wait all day for sourdough to rise without it.  When it comes to my bread...I want instant (ok maybe not instant but REASONABLE) gratification!

For that same reason, I rarely ever knead bread by hand unless I am just angry at someone and need to take it out on a poor unsuspecting hunk of dough.  I prefer to let my bread machine do the work...set to the "dough" setting.  It will mix, knead and provide a nice cozy environment for the first rising.  Ok...Ma Ingalls I am NOT.  I say if you have modern conveniences...USE THOSE PUPPIES!  Just a note about bread machine mixing and kneading though.  I DO open the lid and feel the dough during the process.  I don't know how to tell you what to feel for so I'll just do the best I can.

The biggest mistake most people make when making bread dough is getting it too dry right from the git-go.  It's a big glob of flour and water (granted with other ingredients)...basically a glutinous ball of GOO...and it SHOULD BE.  If you add so much flour that the dough isn't sticky at all you have nowhere to go from there.  Less is can always ADD but you can't take away.  If you're kneading by hand, purposely leave out at least 1 cup of the suggested amount of flour.  This way you can use it to sprinkle the countertop and your hands as needed while working the dough. 

The dough should look homogeneous once kneading is complete.  In other words, smooth...not lumpy or "thread-like".  I don't know what else to call that texture except it looks like a ball of rubber bands.  If you've ever made know what I mean.  It's the look of a dough that isn't kneaded enough.  The surface should be moist but not to the point that it adheres to your finger if you poke it.  You'll probably laugh when I say this...but think of MEMORY FOAM. 

The other secret is rising.  Don't rush it.  Double in volume means presisely what it says.  Don't be so hung up on the amount of time suggested.  If a recipe says the dough should double in volume in an hour it could be because in the enviroment in which it was made, it DID so.  In your kitchen it may be different.  Watch for the volume.  If you use a deep glass bowl, it's a little easier to judge than a wide, spread out bowl.  If your ball fills the bottom half of the deep bowl, when double it will be bulging to the top.  Poke it gently...if it deflates it is ready.  If your fingers make an indenture that fills back in...raise it some more. 

The second rise will depend on what you are making.  Obviously pizza crust takes less time to rise than a loaf of bread.  Fancy braided breads take more time to rise than a baguette.  The second rise is generally about half the amount of time as the first.  The volume of the loaf or roll or whatever will be not quite double. 

A preheated oven is important.  That initial exposure to heat will puff that dough right up and kind of "set" the crust so it doesn't fall flat.  Then just let it bake until golden brown.  Another big bread failure, and arguably one that is near impossible to resist, is cutting hot bread.  LEAVE IT ALONE!  Laissez le petit pain sans encombre jusqu'à ce qu'il refroidisse!  There is steam in there and if you break the crust and allow it sucks all the moisture right out with it.  Of course if you are planning to stand at the counter and consume the entire loaf hot out of the oven with a whole stick of butter...c'est une autre affaire!

Thats enough chatter...time to get Lucky.........

These are Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls with Caramel Frosting and they probably fall under the deadly sin of gluttony..........

This recipe makes enough dough to make approximately 24 large (palm sized) cinnamon rolls.

Begin with 2 cups of sourdough starter brought to room temperature in a very large bowl. 

In a small bowl, dissolve 1 package (about 1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast in 1 cup warm (not warmer than 110 degrees) water.  Stir in 1/4 cup sugar and let the mixture stand for 10 minutes.  If the yeast does not foam up (from feeding on the sugar), it's no good.  Toss it and use fresher yeast. 

Once the yeast has activated, pour this mixture into the sourdough starter.   Whisk in 1 tablespoon kosher salt.  Don't have a heart attack about the amount of salt.  This is a LOT of dough.  You will also need to add 1/2 cup dry milk powder and 1 cup bread flour; mix thoroughly.  Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic film topped with a damp cloth and allow your SPONGE to develop for 1 hour.  It should have a strong, unmistakably yeasty smell and it will be a very loose bubbly batter at this point. 

If you have a 2 lb. loaf sized bread machine, the rest of the mixing and kneading work may be done in that.  Pour the sponge into bread machine or alternately leave it in the large bowl.  Add 4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter to the sponge.  If using bread machine, add 1 cup of bread flour and turn the machine to the DOUGH setting.  Plug it in and let the machine begin mixing.  You will be adding approximately 4 or 5 more cups of flour, 1 cup at a time.  TIP:  I usually run the mixing/kneading part of the dough cycle TWICE with this much dough and THEN I let it rest. 

Remember, add your flour 1 cup at a time and stop when the dough becomes cohesive and starts to leave the sides of the mixing chamber and form a ball.  If you are adding by hand or with a stand mixer, still work in flour 1 cup at a time.  Your dough may hold all this flour or not...much of that will depend on how wet (thin) your sourdough starter was to begin with.  Mine is usually the consistency of thick pancake batter so I generally need all the flour.  Keep the last cup out to use in the kneading process if kneading by hand.  If using the machine, just keep an eye on the ball of dough and how well it comes together before the next addition of flour.  Touch the should have a moist exterior that's ever so slightly sticky. 

Once kneading is complete, place dough in a buttered bowl and brush the top of the ball with melted butter as well.  Cover and let dough rise in a warm place until DOUBLE in bulk.  With this amount of dough, it could take as long as two hours depending on how strong your sourdough starter is.  A well fermented starter will go a lot faster especially with the yeast boost.

Once the dough has doubled, punch it down and turn out onto a floured work surface.  Take care not to add too much flour at this stage.  You only want enough to keep it from sticking.  Too much will change texture of the finished bread.  Divide the dough into two equal portions.  Knead each for 2-3 minutes, place in two buttered bowls.  Cover and rest for 30 minutes.

Make the filling:
2 sticks...HALF A POUND room temperature butter
1/2 cup pure cane sugar ( I use Florida Crystals)
4 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 cups chopped pecans (plus more for the tops of the baked rolls)

In a large bowl; blend butter, sugar and cinnamon until well mixed.  Divide into two equal portions.  This will be used to spread on the dough.


  1. Line two baking sheets with parchement paper.  Butter the paper and set sheets aside. 

  2. Working with one ball of dough at a time, flour the work surface lightly and roll dough out to approximately a 14 x 18 inch rectangle.  You'll want to have the short end closest to your body so you can roll forward.

  3. Using a spatula, spread half the butter cinnamon filling on the dough to withing 3 inches of the top edge.  Sprinkle with half of the chopped pecans.  Lightly brush the top unfilled portion of the dough with water or egg white.  Gently begin rolling the dough from the end closest to your body.  Use even pressure and don't try to squeeze it down.  Just lightly roll until you reach the end.  The 3 inch headspace that you brushed with water will work as the seal.   Leave the roll sitting seam side down as you cut. 

  4. I like to divide my roll into 4 equal segments and then cut each of those into 3 equal portions.  A dough cutter or pastry scraper works great for doing this.  Serrated edge implements tear the dough.  The best technique is to use a wide flat blade like a pastry scraper and cut straight down through the roll in one swift sawing back and forth.  Turn the rolls onto their sides (so you can see the cinnamon swirl) and place on baking sheet about 2 inches apart.  As they rise, they will fill the sheet and be touching.  Repeat this process with the second piece of dough.

5.  Cover the rolls with clean damp cotton towels and allow to rise in a warm place until they have nearly doubled and are touching on all sides.  This usually takes about an hour.

6.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  When rolls have risen sufficiently, bake on the center rack for 25 to 30 minutes or until HUGE and golden brown.  Make Caramel Frosting while rolls bake.

Caramel Frosting

1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
4 tablespoons half and half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 cup (approximately) powdered sugar

  1. Melt butter and brown sugar in a small sauce pan.  Cook once minute.  Stir in half and half.  Remove from heat and add vanilla and salt.  Beat in powdered sugar by hand until desired consistency is achieved.  Use to frost warm cinnamon rolls.

Spinkle the tops with more chopped nuts

I realize a recipe like this is not for everyone.  It is a lot of work and time and does require a bit of bread making skill.  But if you are bored or just have a craving for a kick butt cinnamon roll...give it a try!  GO BACK AND COUNT UP ALL THE BUTTER.... PAULA WOULD BE SO PROUD OF ME!!

(c) copyright Jill Anderson
The Homegrown Gourmet

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pulled Pork BBQ

Since I've already posted this article in the newspaper I write for, I'll just add the link to the page instead of typing it all out again.  Lazy huh?

Here are some pictures though...

Good Grief!  But after all that low and slow roasting...that mess turns into this.........

The easiest pulled pork bbq you will ever make!

(c) copyright Jill Anderson
The Homegrown Gourmet

Friday, May 21, 2010

Buttery Chevre' and Pesto Strudel

Hello blogger friends!  I feel like its been months since my last post but in fact it has only been a couple of weeks.  As some of you may know from reading earlier posts, my mother moved in with me about two weeks ago.  We've been tied up with getting her settled in and all that goes along with it.  I think things are finally about to even out.  I started to say normalize but we all know I'll never be normal!

I haven't had much time to dabble in my kitchen but I finally decided I was going to loose what little mind I have if I didn't get to make something to post.  I got the most amazing artisan (locally made) goat cheese last week.  I was driving down the road and actually drove past a huge pasture of grazing goats.  There was a farmstand shack by the side of the road that said "fresh produce" so I pulled off the road and went in. 

What an amazing find!  LOCALLY GROWN food!!!!!  I talked with the lady running the stand who told me they used to grow it right there until the city widened the Cape Parkway but now they just brought everything from their main farm in Immokolee (which is about 45 minutes from here).  They don't have organic certification because they simply can't afford it BUT they have a reputation for safe, sustainable farming practices and use no pesticides.  I'm ok with that...there's a lot to be said for knowing where your food comes from even if it isn't organic.

Anyway, I asked about the goats and she explained that they are raised for milk production and that they make and sell the cheese.  Of course I must add that the State of Florida prohibits the sale of raw milk and or milk products for human consumption (ahem).  Raw dairy (whether cow of goat) must be labeled "for agricultural use only" or some such other words, you are only supposed to buy it to feed your PETS!  I didn't even ask if the goat milk was pasteurized because I don't drink animal milk anyway so it wouldn't make any difference to me.  I also didn't ask if the cheese was made from raw milk but I am assuming it isn't since it doesn't have that silly label.  Who tastes amazing!

For those of you who read my post In Memory of Katarina you may recall I mentioned learning to make a great many wonderful foods from her.  She wasn't much of a cake, cookie or even bread baker but that woman could THROW DOWN on some strudel!  There were two main methods that we used for making strudels.  One was the ultra-thin stretched method (phyllo) which is time consuming and quite tricky but requires only a couple of ingredients....basically flour, room temperature water, pinch of salt and oil.  The other also requires a mere three ingredients BUT...the time and difficulty factor is far more suited to most strudel novices. 

Those familiar with Serbian cooking know about their somewhat obsessvie interest in sour cream.  This dough sounds so strange you would almost believe it could not work...but it does, and well IF you chill the dough long enough and handle it quickly and gently when rolling.  It is made of 1 part softened butter, 1/2 part sour cream to two parts flour.  Nothing else...not even salt!  You can't use totally room temperature butter either.  It just needs to be soft enough to mix.  I'd say no more than an hour at room temp.  As you can see in the following picture, the baked dough even LOOKS tender and flaky...and oh my is it tasty!

Can you see the gorgeous "bubbles" in the surface of the baked rolls?  This is buttery golden goodness right here.  Flaky, tender, flavorful and NOT on anybody's diet plan I assure you!  The best part about using this method is, you don't need a six foot long work space in which to stretch that dough and a degree in pastry to pull it off.  If you really really really want...I can also show you how to make the other kind sometime.  Like phyllo, this dough is also versitile as fillings go...sweet or savory will do.  Also like phyllo, super wet fillings will NOT do!

By nature, Pesto is rather a "wet" concoction.  So to compensate for that you could sprinkle it with dry bread crumbs but I find that flax meal is a better choice.  First, it can never hurt to have more flax.  Secondly...I'm not the biggest fan of bread crumbs so there!  Feel free to make your own pesto...which I do and have used in this recipe but don't beat yourself up if you prefer using store bought.  Just make sure it is a quality product that uses OLIVE OIL and not some designer blend of rancid garbage oils.  Other than the pesto and the flax...the only other ingredient is that amazing goat cheese...or Chevre' if you want to sound like a food snob!!! 

If you note in the picture, I place my baked rolls on paper towels on the cooling rack.  Pesto as we all know has a LOT of oil in it (another reason for making your own because you can make a drier pesto to use for this dish).  When the strudel first comes out of the oven it is basically sitting in a puddle of olive oil that has leached out from the pesto.  Remove it to a towel covered cooling rack right away because if you let it sit on the pan... it will reabsorb everybit of that oil from the pesto and make for a greasy strudel.  Its best to let it cool almost to room temp before cutting.  When fresh out of the oven, it is SO delicate. 

Buttery Chevre' and Pesto Strudel

For the Strudel:
1 stick unsalted room temperature butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup flour

  1. Blend these three ingredients with mixer or wooden spoon until a very soft dough forms.  Do not attempt to work the dough at this time.  Sprinkle plastic wrap with flour and turn dough out onto plastic wrap.  Roll up and sort of shape into a flattened ball.  Place the dough packet in the fridge for at least two hours or until dough is firm enough to handle.
  2. When ready to roll, cut the dough into two equal portions.  Working quickly, heavily flour your work surface and begin flattening the first piece.  You'll need to flour the rolling side, turn over and flour the other side several time while rolling.  This is a VERY soft dough and the more you play with it the harder it will become to manage.  Once dough is rolled out into approximately 12x14 inch rectangle yo are ready to fill.
For filling:
1/2 cup well drained store bought pesto or homemade (make using less oil)
1 heaping cup crumbled goat cheese
4 tablespoons golden flax meal

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet and a cooling rack with parchment paper.  Roll out dough and spread 1/4 cup of the pesto over two-thirds of the dough (dough is worked lengthwise so spread on the the bottom 2/3).  Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the flax meal and half of the goat cheese.  Use remaining filling for second piece of dough.
2.  Begin by folding the shorter sides in about half an inch to lap over the filling.  Starting at the long side (which works best if you have it closest to your body), gently begin rolling the log all the way to the unfilled side.  If you've done your job correctly, it won't be stuck to the counter and will still be cold enough to roll easily.  Gently lift roll onto the lined baking sheet.  Repeat process with the second piece of dough.
3.  Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown...about 30 minutes in my oven.  The will puff up slightly.  Have some paper towels layed out on top of the parchment linded cooling rack and remember to get the rolls off the pan as soon as the come out of the oven to prevent reabsorbtion of that extra oil. 

If you simply MUST have a warm least wait 20 minutes until the fats in the dough have settled down and stopped steaming.  It's the bomb even at room temperature though.

Are you smacking your lips or licking your computer screen???

(c) copyright Jill Anderson
The Homegrown Gourmet

*This recipe is copyright protected and is provided courtesy of The Homegrown Gourmet and intended for personal use by our readers.   Permission to reprint must be obtained in writing from the author.  The use of this recipe to make this dish for commercial resale is copyright infringment. 

(Sorry...I had to put that for just ONE reader...and they know who they are.)

Friday, May 7, 2010

In A Pickle

Yesterday my mother (who is living with me now) and I made a batch of a summer time favorite...bread and butter pickles.  Making pickles the way my grandmother used to make them conjurs up images of a big tub out on the back porch to which an offering of ice and salt must be made daily.  The pungent aroma of vinegar permeating EVERYTHING and of course the smell of pickling spices.  I'm afraid you'll be sorely disappointed if you were looking for an oppotunity to wrestle a tub full of freezing vinegar water and a bushel of slippery cukes for a week because this recipe is just NOT that involved.  It is minimal effort for maximum rewards and we like that!  I will give you a hint...the pickles are made in the microwave in under 15 minutes!

If you are interested in reading the entire recipe please visit

Is anyone else diggin on my little antique spice cabinet that  I just found while picking though an antique shop a couple of days ago??  It's SO adorable and of course I've filled it already!

These pickles are SO crispy and delicious!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Brown Sugar Strawberry Pound Cake

This cake has been a thorn in my behind!  It isn't difficult to make but apparently for me its difficult to hold onto and get out of the fluted pan at the same time.  My first attempt, it baked up so nicely and smelled so heavenly, rose beautifully and I was strutting around here like banty rooster...thinking, "oh yeah...whose the woman...who is THE woman."  I let it cool until the pan was touchable and then slid the cake tester down around the edges to loosen up the sides. 

Trusting that a non-stick pan (which I had buttered as insurance) actually MEANS its a non-stick pan, I just flipped that baby over on the cooling rack.  I waited expectantly...there was no plop!  I wanted to pick the wrack up, hold it aloft so that I could look up under it and see if the cake was still in the pan.  DUH...where else would it be right?  So I get it about chest high and then it suddenly plops out of the pan.  I thought...oh great...WHEW!  I go to set the rack back down and the cake pan slides, bringing the cake with it of course.  It jettison's off the rack, hits the side of the counter and falls to the floor.  It looks like a cake BOMB detonated in my kitchen!  That was when I also discovered that in fact only HALF the cake had released from the pan.  The other half was still stuck like glue to the bottom of the cake pan.

I learned a couple of invaluable lessons from this experience.  The first is...never trust a non-stick pan.  The second, don't attempt to lift the cake rack up above your head so you can peek underneath.  I was lucky that I had not gotten it up that high yet otherwise that steaming hot cake could have landed right on my FACE!  Number three...if you explode a cake on your kitchen floor you have to be quicker than the dog!  Rosie assumes that anything dropped on the floor is being GIVEN to her and she does not have to be asked twice!

The one lesson I did not learn was not to attempt baking this cake in a fluted pan again!  I was bound and determined to have that pretty decorative shape to my cake so this time I buttered AND floured the pan.  I let it cool in the pan much longer the second time.  Then I loosened the sides.  I gave the pan a little shake test and was fairly certain that the cake was going to stick.  So instead of carefully turning it over this time, I slid one hand up under the bottom of the pan, palming it like a basket ball and SLAM DUNKED that bad boy upside down onto my big wooden cutting board.  Drastic measures were called for.  It worked too.  It actually DID come out.

What advice do I have it you want to make this cake?  It's a fabulous cake and tastes even BETTER the second day after you have refrigerated it overnight.  Use a straight sided angel food or bundt cake pan instead of a fluted one.  I think I know why it sticks.  The strawberries are not pureed and mixed into the batter, they are just chopped and folded in.  As the cake bakes, I think the fresh berries release steam that compromises the butter/flour coat on the pan and allows the cake to stick.   I'm not a scientist but that would be my best guess.  I'm not saying it can't be done in a fluted pan but you'll have to go all Michael Jordon on it like I did.

Other than that...this is one heck of a delicious cake and that Rhubarb Butter glaze just MAKES it!

Brown Sugar Strawberry Pound Cake with Rhubarb Butter Glaze

  • 1 stick of unsalted organic butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup unbleached cane sugar ( I use Florida's Crystals)
  • 1/2 cup Florida's Crystals organic brown sugar
  • 3 large organic cage free eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour (organic preferred)
  • 1 cup organic whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 tablespoons toasted wheat germ
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup organic plain greek style yogurt
  • 2 cups organic strawberries, capped and finely chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 9 or 10 inch angel food or bundt cake pan
  1. In a large bowl cream butter and sugars until light and fluffly.  You will want to add the sugars 1/4 cup at a time, beating well after each addition so as not to "break" the butter.  Creaming process should not take LESS than 5 minutes.
  2. Add eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition.  Beat in vanilla extract. Set aside.
  3. In a smaller bowl, combine flours, wheat germ, soda and salt; whisk well.  Add the flour mixture and yogurt alternately (in thirds) to the butter mixture.  The batter will be very thick.
  4. Fold strawberries in by hand.  Spoon batter into prepared bundt or angel food pan and place on the center rack in preheated oven.  Bake cake for 1 hour.  Cool in pan for at least 20 minutes before attemting to remove the cake from the pan.  It is important to let this cake cool completely before cutting it.  Even better if you can chill it overnight first.
Rhubarb Butter

Place 2 cups of finely diced Rhubarb in a small sauce pan with 1 cup organic unbleached cane sugar and 1/2, 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice and 1/2 cup water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook until temperature reaches 225 degrees on a candy thermometer.  Stir occasionally while cooking to prevent sticking.  You may add spices if you like but I prefer mine plain.  The rhubarb will basically be disintegrated by the time the mixture has come up to temp.  Pour into a clean jar and paint onto cake while Rhubarb butter is still warm (it will set up once it's cold).  You may served any leftover rhubarb butter with the cake.  This makes about one jelly jar of Rhubarb butter.

Notice the bits of berries throughout the cake and nice crumb?

The cook's piece!

(c) copyright Jill Anderson
The Homegrown Gourmet

Sunday, May 2, 2010

In Memory of Katarina

A recent posting discussion with a new Food Buzz friend has me waxing rather nostalgic.  This post is for you Vesna (Vesna's Fun World) because I said that I would take the time later to tell you the story of my late Mother-in-law and her fabulous Serbian Foods.  Her story however is so compelling that I decided writing it in a response to a post might prevent other people from seeing it (unless they were following that particular thread) and its something I think many would enjoy reading.

There is no better day to speak of Katarina, Katica (Kat-tee-za) than Mother's Day because in every way imaginable she was a second mother to me.  Yes, she was my mother-in-law for twenty years but she loved and treated me like a daughter and I loved her.  My oldest daughter is named for her grandmother.  We have always called her Katie but her 97 year old Serbain grandfather still calls her Katya or Katica...just like her grandmother.

Katica died in 2000 and shortly after her death, I filed for divorce from my ex...her son.  Maybe this sounds horrible but I had only stayed married for twenty years for two children and my mother-in-law.  My children were older and my mother in law died and I could find no more reasons to live with a man I handn't even LIKED in 15 years.  His father who was 15 years or so older than his mother is still living and he doesn't and probably never will forgive me for leaving but I still love the old man.  He was also very good to me over the years and I have many, many fond memories of the time when my Katie was small and we lived in their giant house in Chicago.  I am rambling however and want to get right to the reason for this post.

Vesna, I've been reading your Serbian recipes and find that most of them are pretty much the same as how I was taught to make them.  There is some variance between the ingredients in the Djuvic from region to region I think.  I have seen Gibanica made with strudel dough (phyllo leaves which my MIL, Kuma and myself made from scratch for 3 days straight and froze enough for the entire year) but I have also seen it made with wide homemade egg noodles in place of the phyllo.  Some Serbs like to sprinkle sugar on their Gibanica although personally I think that is ruining a perfectly fabulous savory dish!  For those of you who are not Serbian or familiar with Serbian foods, Djuvic (Juvich)  is a one pot dish (that will feed an army) composed of rice, chicken (although different regions may use different meats), tomatoes, vegetables and often cubed potatoes as well.  It is baked off in HUGE vats and unless you  have comapany of a Slava celebration, you'll be eating it for the rest of the week.  My FIL used to say that Djuvic got better after a couple of days.  Gibanica (Ghee-bon-eetza) is a savory cheese layered casserole.  Some people refer to it as Serbian Cheese Pie.  To me it more closely resembles a totally white, meatless lasagna but instead of lasagna noodles the savory cheese filling is poured between buttery layers of phyllo pastry and topped off with several more layers on top, brushed with more butter and baked until it's golden brown and puffed.  The top layers are flaky.  I'm salivating just thinking about it!  The filling for Gibanica varies from household to household in the old country.  Some, who had access to a lot of dairy (farmers or friend of farmers) made rich Gibanica.  If you were a city dweller, you might have only been able to get (afford) a little cheese.  In our household Gibanica was made with a combination of dry curd cottage cheese, rich sheep's milk Bulgarian feta, sour cream, cream cheese, and farmer's cheese all beaten with half a dozen or so eggs.  It's a cholesterol nightmare but it sure tastes good!

Pogaca, Kolac, Zito, Cevapcici, Kolacky, Kupus, Sarma are some of the more common dishes in any tradtional Serbian household.  Pogaca and Kolach are breads...the former tending to be a dense, flatter loaf while the ceremonial Kolach is a tall dense loaf used in Krsna Slava.  It's top is slashed in the sign of the cross and it is blessed, annointed with wine and a small piece is served to each person who stops by for Slava.  Slatko is a thick syrupy fruit concoction, usually the fruit of choice.  We often used cherries because my FIL had a cherry tree.  My favorite slatko was Quince however.  When you came to the Slava, you were given a spoonful of this extremely thick, sweet syrup with a chunk of the fruit, a bite of the Kolach and a spoonful of the Zito.  In our house you were also give bottomless shot glasses of homemade pear brandy...LOL  My FIL had 2 pear trees and he made enough pear brandy to last the year each time the harvest came in.  Of course there was too much for brandy alone, so we canned the rest and made Slatko, pear tarts, pear sauce ( like applesauce) and we STILL had pears coming out our ears!

Again I feel I need to explain before going on with the story.  Krsna(u) Slava(u) is the celebration of the family's Patron Saint Day.  The Djordjevic family patron saint was St. Micheal and our Slava was Oct. 31st.
This is a uniquely Serbian Custom.  All members of the same family (and often of the entire community back in the old country) observe together a day that is set aside to homor their Patron Saint or "family protector."
The veneration of the Saint is passed from father to son and is considered a tradtional, cultural inheiritance as well as a familial obligation.

 The custom is thought to have originated in Pre-Christian (pagan) times when families actually had their own family God.   Later when the Serbs were converted to Christianity they transferred this observance from a personal familial God to the Christian Saints.  They selected a Saint that had special meaning to the family or to the Saint whose celebration day was nearest the day when the family was introduced into Christianity.  The way in which Krsna Slava  is celebrated may vary slightly from region to region (as does the cuisine) but the basic concept is the same; edification of the family's Patron Saint.

Typically, the family will attend (together) the Orthodox Church early on the day of Slava.  They will return to the house and await the arrival of the Priest.  The priest will bless the Kolac and carve the top in the sign of the cross.  The bread is then sprinkled with the wine.  It is not however breaking traditon or dissalowed for the head of the household to cut and bless the Kolac.  In our house, it was always done by the priest who also blessed the Zito (wheat), sang (Orthodox Priests sing their prayers) blesssing throughout each room of the house while burning sme FOUL smelling insense! 

The ceremonial foods and other items on the table are specifically chosen to express the deeply religious concepts of the Slava.  The Koljivo or Zito (wheat) was established as the holiest and most symbolic because as a seed, it is the beginning of life...the nativity if you will.  Everything is born from seed.  The Slava Kolac represents an offering of thanksgiving to God for the his blessings upon the family.  Cutting of the Kolac in the form of the cross represents Christ's suffering for mankind.  Sprinkling the Kolac with wine symbolizes the cleansing of our sins by the shed blood of Christ.  The traditional Slava Candle represents the light of life and must remain lit throughout the entire day (we always had at least 3-4 slava candles laid aside so that when one was nearly spent the next could be lit from it thereby keeping the flame constant.  It was not extinguished until 1 minute after midnight).  The Koljivo or Zito is an offering to God for the fruits of the earth with which he has provided us for sustenence.

I hope I didn't leave anything out Vesna.  It has been many years since I've attended a Slava celebration.  After the ceremony there is a RIDICULOUS feast for which Serbian wives will often prepare for a week prior to Slava.  The Sarma...stuffed cabbage rolls, Djuvic, Gibanica, Pogaca, Strudel in three or four varieties, Kolacky (usually nut, apricot and prune), a whole spit roasted lamb or pig, homemade soup, name it and it was probably on the table! 

Now that I have prefaced this account with an introduction to the foods and a little of the culture, I'd like to tell Katica's story.  She was born Regina (Rey-gheena) Katarina Zahn of German parents but born inside the border of Yugoslavia.  This is important because later, when Hitler would come to full power and the Third Reich was established, Germans who were not born within Germany proper were distinguished (unfavorably) from Germans born in Germany.  I wish I could remember the name she told me they used when describing each.  I have googled it in vain...I simply can't find it.  These second-class German citizens were considered ethnic Germans since they largely practiced the customs, spoke the languages and married within the countries they were born. 

Katarina Zahn was the 3rd to the last of 11 children and her mother died giving birth to number 12 when Katya was only 3 years old.  Her mother was not even 35 when she died but my MIL once told me that she only had one memory of her mother.  That was of her lying in her deathbed with coins over her eyes and she was still.  So very still...which Katya believed was the reason that memory stayed with her.  Probably the only time the poor woman was ever still in her brief life.  She says the midwife brought the children to the room to kiss their dead mother goodbye.  She remembers her old grandmother (father's mother) holding a squalling infant and the sickening smell of perfume.  The had no way to keep bodies cold back then and she had been "layed" out on her bed for a couple of days, they now awaited the gravediggers to come collect her.  Throughout her entire life Katya HATED the smell of any perfume and she wasn't crazy about the smell of some flowers. 

Her youngest brother, the baby, died two weeks later of starvation because there was no milk and no wet nurse.  He had never even been named.  He was buried in an unmarked grave.  Katya's father was a harsh, mean man and often made the children kneel on rice as pennance for the sin of being born (that's what she used to tell me).  They were the only children in their strict Catholic school who came to class barefoot.  The nuns would spank the palms of her hands with canes for not having shoes.  She often told me that she never understood why God punished helpless children that way.

At the age of 7, the unthinkable happened.  Their one remaining parent, tyrannt though he was, died.  Elevan orphans, from 5 to 15 years of age.  Martin (Mar-teen), the oldest, was taken by some remote family memeber in Austria who did not want the smaller children.  Katya would not see him again until she was 18 years old.  The rest of the children were sent to the Catholic Orphanage but lack of funding and compassion from the Catholic Church soon had them homeless again.  The children were divided among anyone who would take them.  Katya was now 9 and sent to live with a childless Serbian/Hungarian Doctor and his wife to be their house servant.  She often said that from the age of 9 years old, she earned every piece of bread she ever ate.  Even though she worked very hard she said the doctor and his wife were good to her.  The woman taught her to sew, cook, embroider and she wasn't barefoot any longer. 

Katya never went back to school after 5th grade but she was an extremely intelligent girl and picked up just about anything with an uncanny grasp and ability.  She was already fluent in 4 or 5 languages before the age of 10; German, Serbian, Hungarian, Croatian and maybe Polish at this point.  She went from just helping in the house to helping the doctor in his office.  She thought this would be her home until she was old enough to have a home of her own.

When Katya was 12 years old a new person came to live in the Doctor's house...a 17 year old nephew.  The doctor's sister had died and her son was now their responsibility.  The boy basically had his eye on the little orphan girl from the first day.  When one day the doctor's wife heard her screaming and caught the boy trying to molest her, she knew Katya would have to be sent away for her own protection.  She told me that she grabbed the woman's legs and threw herself at her feet, crying and begging not to be sent away and that the woman cried too because she didn't want her to go.  In the end there was no recourse.

The doctor had a very interesting and noteworth patient at this time.  This man was the personal valet of the young King Peter of Yugoslavia.  When Peter's father was assasinated at the outstart of WWI, he was just a small boy and a regent had been appointed, his uncle I believe.  Now he was 14 or 15 and treated  more like a monarch, he had his private valet.  This man lived at court with his wife and small children.  His children, he told the doctor, were sorely in need of an older child to help them with their studies and be a companion to them.  Katya was brought before the man and he saw immediately what a quick wit and humble demeanor she possessed.  She was sent to live at the Palace of King Peter and be the companion of the first man's children. 

In order to be able to help them with their studies, Katya was forced to sit in their classroom and learn whatever they learned.  What an ironic twist of fate that a poor orphaned girl with second class German citizenship who was punished for coming to school with now shoes was now being educated in the Palace.
It was here that she picked up at least 3 more languages; Checz, Romanian and Russian.  She may have begun to learn English at this time but I don't know that for sure.  When she was not needed to mind the children she was sent to the kitchen to help the cooks.  She learned to cook from men and women who prepared the King's food.

These years passed without much incidence here.  Katya did have some contact with her 10 year old brother Peter (who had been named for the boy King) and at least 2 of her sisters, Raezi and Rheetzi (I know Im not spelling those right) and possibly a third, Anna.  But the tenuous connections have been lost in my mind over the years.  I don't really rememeber how she said she came to find and connect with them. 

When King Peter turned 17 he more or less took the reigns of what was to be the last monarchy of Yugoslavia.  Katya was probably 14 at the time.  When the war came,  Yugoslavia with no army of its own threw it's hat and it's loyalties into the wrong arenas and King Peter and his staff and court were forced to flee the country and take asylum in England.  Yugoslavia was divided, never to be a kingdom again and ripe for the picking for Marshall Tito. 

Katya left the palace and went to live with her sister Anna in a small town within the sector of Yugoslavia that eventually fell under Russian control.  She was 17 when the borders were locked, engaged to man who like many Serbs left to be a merchant solider in someone else's army.  She never heard from him again.  She and Anna and their brother Peter eeked out an existence the best way they could.  Katya repaired holes in the soldiers socks and uniforms for food.  Anna had a secretarial job of some kind in the city and Peter was dying from TB.  They didn't have enough to eat and the sisters knew that their little brother had no chance without more nourishment.  Anna bought bread on the black market and hid it in her coat.  She was caught by the Russian soldiers and beaten, raped and left for dead on the side of the road.  She lived a couple of days.  My mother in law told me stories of babies snatched from their mother's arms, tossed into the air and "caught" on the ends of Russian bayonets ( I don't think they called their guns bayonets but you get the idea,,,guns with swords on the ends) for SPORT.  The traumatized mothers subesquently gang raped and murdered in the streets.  She said nothing or no one can know how horrible the Russian soldiers were unless they survived it first hand.  She never admitted being raped herself but always believed that she had been.  She said their brutality knew now boundaries and respected no ethnicity. 

In the months after Anna and Peter died, plans had begun to be made to smuggle 18 year old Katya out of the Russian sector by her brother Martin, now a captain in the English Army.  The plan was to put the girl in a wooden box (much like a coffin) with air holes in it and bury it under the coal in on of the coal cars that transpored fuel across borders and check points.  The Russians were well aware that people tried to get out this way and since unloading the coal at every check point was not feasible, they simply opened fire on the coal piles at every stop.  The journey was two days and more often than not, the refugees were dead either from gunshot or asphyxiation by the time they got out.  Katya suffered neither fate and when the train finally crossed into the English sector she was dug out of her coffin.  Dazed, starved, covered in her own waste, black from coal dust and traumatized...but alive.  She said that she kissed the ground the Enlish soldiers walked on...and the Americans too.  She said the American soliders gave them food and treated them with dignity and kindness and she never feared for her safety from the English or the Americans.  It's hard for me to tell this story without seeing her face and hearing her thick German accent and truely knowing what this woman survived in her life because she wore that life in her gaze.  If you didn't know her, you assumed she was just a hard, cold old German lady.  But if you knew her understood. 

She passed the rest of the war earning her food and board sewing and mending soldiers uniforms...English and American soldiers this time.  She found her friend Ingrid that she had known since she was a small child living just a few blocks away.  They remained friends over the rest of their lives...through interment camps for displaced persons, steerage passage across the ocean to America, years of hard work in sewing factories in Cleveland and finally to Chicago.  Ingrid was the only piece of Katya's childhood that survived and she never took her for granted. 

I get ahead of myself though.  They survived the war and its rations and deprivations and blackouts only to find that when it was over, they could not go home.  Germany didn't want her because she was a second class citizen born in Yugoslavia and there was no Yugoslavia to go home to.  Tito closed the borders and nobody got in or out.  Ingrid married an American Soldier named Calvin and they waited in the Nuremberg Camp for Cal's tour of duty to be up so they could leave for America.  Katya worked in the kitchens, feeding the refugees and soldiers alike with no idea where she would go or how she would live after this was over. 

Men and women, even the married were not allowed to cohabitate.  There were mens barricks and women's.  In the men's quarters Cal met a Serbian man serving as a Guard in the English Army...assigned to guard Nazi war criminals until their trial.  His name was Radasin Djordjevic and Rade' (Rah-day) had his own story to tell.

The only male of a very wealthy Serbian landowner who left to fight in WWI and never returned.  His mother arranged his marriage to the only child (daughter) of the next wealthiest family in their villiage when he was 14 years old.  Their union made him the head of an 8000 ecter (I don't know if I spelled that right but he once told me it's a land measure that equates to about an acre and a half in our terms) nursery and sheep farm and head of the two combined households when he was 15 years old.  His wife bore two daughters by the time she was 16 and twin sons at of whom died at birth. 

When the war broke out, Rade' , like many other Serbs wanted to fight for their country but having no army they did the next best thing they could think of...join the forces who wanted to keep the Nazi's (or the communists) out.   That was by and large the English army...and they were paid for their services.  His widowed mother and the widower father of his wife, took Ranya and Rade's children and hid out in the mountains outside Belgrade.  But they needed more food than they had and Ranya stayed in Belgrade to work.  The city was heavily shelled and Ranya was killed.  

Rade' was later captured by the Germans and spent 3 years in a prisoner of war camp.  The end came and he had survived and was freed.  But he could not go home and he could not get his family out.  He was sent to Nuremburg to finish his tour as a guard and await the settling of his papers so he could decide where he wanted to go.  Cal and Ingrid conspired to introduce him to Katya who was n her early 20's by now.  Rade' was in his mid 30's

She told me they met for coffee in the camp cantina and they talked a bit about what they planned to do or go.  She said she had a sister in America who was working on getting her a visa but it was hard because they were not accepting single people at the time.  Rade' said he had a sister in Canada but Cal and Ingrid wanted him to come with them to America.  She said after about an hour he looked at her and said, (in Serbian), " are a nice girl and I'm a nice man.  How about you marry me and we can go to America?  I make you a deal...if you don't like me or I don't like you...when we get there we can go away from each other and no worries ok?"  She said she almost got up and ran from the table thinking he was crazy.  But later, alone in her bed she began to think that she had nothing, nowhere to go, nothing to go back to and why not?  She checked around with everyone who knew him because her one concern was that he had lied about his wife being dead because so many soldiers did that.  It just so happened that there was a woman in the camp who knew Ranya and vouched for the fact that she was dead.  They sent for a letter from her father and he wrote back confirming that his daughter was indeed dead and he gave Rade' his blessing to marry.

She only had one was black wool and she wore it to marry Rade'.  She told me later that she returned to her quarters and threw herself on the cot and cried the rest of the night because she couldn't believe what she had done.  They finally secured passage to come to America (steerage) and the journey took six weeks. Men and women were kept seperate beause they did not want DP's "breeding."  She had never spent one night in her husband's bed.  They arrived in New York and Rade' asked her what she wanted to do.  She said, 'well, you're ok, I'll stay with you and we'll see how it goes."

They eventually moved to Chicago and in 1955 and bought a huge old house (24 rooms) that at one time had been owned by the infamous gangster Al Capone.  The house was in disrepair and they worked for several years to repair, remodle and eventualy turn it into 4 apartments.  My ex husband and his sister were born in that house, my oldest daugther was born there, his sister died there in 2000 at the age of 38 years old...a life long juvenile diabetic and 15 year IV drug user...she died in her bed in the same room she grew up in...Katya found her. 

Katya health had been failing for years.  She was 73 and had already had two strokes and suffered chronic COPD and bouts of conjestive heart failure.  The day she found Svetlana (Shirley) dead in her bed, she never spoke another word.  By that evening she was nearly catatonic.  My ex husband (who was a pilot) flew to Chicago (we lived in Kentucky by this time) and when he saw her, he picked her up and carried her to the car and took her to the ER.  She probably suffered another stroke we don't know for sure.  She lived for 2 weeks after Shirley died...never having spoke another word to anyone. 

I left out SO much.  The years that we lived there and all the memories we made in that house.  The things she taught me and the lessons of life she showed me.  Her son and her daughter never wanted to hear her stories...but I did.  They always told her, 'mom that was your life and it doesn't have nothing to do with us...we're tired of hearing it."  She used to tell me that she was so glad that someone wanted to know about her life and she was happy that it was me because she knew her granddaughter's would eventually know their grandmother's story. 

I may regret many things in my life...including being a stubborn dumb KID of 18 who insisted on marrying a 26 year old man that still let his mama make his bed.  But, if I  hadn't, I'd have never had the children I have.  I would have never learned some of the things that I know.  But most importantly I would have never had the privledge to know, love and be loved by Katica (Katya or Katarina...she would answer to all).  I would have never divorced my ex husband so long as she was alive.  I couldn't.  Twenty years is a LONG time to live with a man you don't like because you love his mother.  The only regret that I have is that I was not by her side on the morning she one was.  My ex and his father were looking for a house to buy so they could leave chicago and come to Kentucky when she got out of the hospital.  I kept telling him to can look later...but he thought there was time.  I'll never forget that morning in the kitchen when he called to get his daily report and they told him she passed away at 7 that morning.  In truth, I always blamed myself that they were stil in Kentucky instead of Chicago...with her...where they belonged.  If I had just waited before telling him I wanted a divorce...maybe he would have been THERE and in Kentucky (with his dad for backup) trying to bully me into not divorcing him.  Who knows.  I hope that she knows and understands.  I feel in my heart that she does but I would go back to that week and leave him and his father sitting in my yard by the grill on their butts for a chance to be by her side she passed.  Some things you just can't get over.

Happy Mother's Day Katica (Mom).  I love you and will always miss you!

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Fort Myers, Florida, United States