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A taste of home

Southwest Florida’s seniors serve up family recipes

By Special to THE BREEZE - | Jun 17, 2021

The "Our Favorite Recipes" from Gulf Coast Village. PHOTO PROVIDED

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 its own best crowd-pleasing dishes and dessert recipes from senior residents.

“It’s a piece of their past written down on paper,” said Bill Bill Djerf, an independent living resident 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.

“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.

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.”

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.

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,” Djerf said.

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 gulfcoastvillage.com.

When life gives you lemons, make lemon meringue pie:

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

Food for Thought

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

— Baking Perfect Cakes