Grandma’s Secret


There’s a recipe in the back of that little tin of recipes. The writing is blurred, it’s difficult to tell the exact amount on ingredients, but it doesn’t matter. Someone dear gave it to you, and you’ve made it so often, you know the ingredients. You pull it out every Christmas, for family reunions, or significant birthday celebrations. It takes you back to those special moments in life. Our readers share some of those special recipes here. Who knows? You may want to keep them in that special tin.

Story: Leigh Neely+Michelle Clark+Shemir Wiles+John Sotomayor Photos: Fred Lopez+Provided

Nell Thompson Jernigan’s
Coconut Cake

From B.E. Thompson, director of development for LifeStream Behavioral Center

Nell Thompson Jernigan was B.E.’s great aunt—his grandfather’s sister. “She was a lifelong resident of Central Florida and made this Coconut Cake for every family reunion I attended from toddler to adult. Relatives started with dessert to ensure they got a piece of this cake. Vivian Thompson Bruns is my aunt, my dad’s youngest sister. She makes the cake now for family gatherings and upon special request. She lives in Umatilla, has been an aerobics instructor for more than 40 years.”

• 4 cups sifted plain flour
• 4 teaspoons baking powder
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup butter
• 2 ½ cups sugar
• 1 ½ cups milk
• 2 teaspoons vanilla
• 6 egg whites

Blend butter and sugar, then add flour mixture (flour, baking powder, and salt) and milk alternately. Add vanilla, then fold in beaten egg whites. Bake at 350°—4 layers, approximately 20 minutes or until cake leaves side of pan. Ice with Butter Icing

Butter Icing
• 1 stick of butter
• 1 ½ box of confectioner’s sugar
• Pinch of salt
• Vanilla and butter flavoring
• A bit of milk to moisten
• 2 grated fresh coconuts, approximately

When icing, spoon about 3 tsps. coconut milk over each layer before icing.

Cheryl Mozer’s
Chicken Divan

Cheryl Mozer, a former guidance counselor at Fruitland Park Elementary School, has never been one to shy away from the kitchen. Her successful career in child psychology had the added bonus of her being an accomplished cook. Just ask anyone who has had her Chicken Divan! It’s one of her most requested dishes by dinner guests, at family functions, church potlucks and by a certain Leesburg Pastor. It has a reputation for delighting. Her son once requested it for he and his date’s pre prom dinner, foregoing the usual meal out. The recipe came from a colleague some years ago, and because it was an instant hit, now her goddaughter and family in Mobile make it as well. Cheryl says because of the hardiness of the chicken and crust and the wholesomeness of the vegetables, it’s almost a complete plate, “I usually pair it with a baked potato and salad, and you have a nice meal.”

• 2 10-ounce packages of broccoli spears
• 2 cups cut up chicken or 3 large chicken breasts
• 2 cups cream of chicken soup
• 1 cup mayonnaise
• 1 teaspoon lemon juice
• ½ teaspoon curry powder
• 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
• 1 cup Italian bread crumbs
• 4 tablespoons melted butter

Steam chicken for 20 minutes and then cut up into small pieces. Cook broccoli spears and strain. Layer the broccoli and chicken in a casserole dish. Combine the soup, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and curry powder. Pour over chicken and sprinkle with cheese. Melt butter and combine it with the breadcrumbs, then spread the mixture over the dish. Bake uncovered at 350° for 30 to 45 minutes, or until sides are bubbly. Usually serves 6.

Great-Grandmother Thompson’s
Thompson Relish

From Joyce Huey, owner of Two Old Hags Wine Shoppe

“My great-grandma Thompson made Thompson Relish and served it to her nine children, and to my great-grandfather Lorenzo George Thompson Sr. He immigrated to St. Augustine from England at the age of 9 and migrated to Miami to eventually work on the Railroad (Flagler) until he was 80 years old. He died in 1956. Apparently my great-grandfather enjoyed this mustard-based relish with most every meal.”
“Over the years, many of my family keep up the tradition, serving it to our own families. My mom would make batches and store it in old butter tubs, and my brother and I would eat it on everything. All of us just mixed everything together until it looked and tasted just right.”

• Several heads of finely chopped cabbage
• Several chopped sweet red peppers
• 1–2 large bottles plain yellow mustard
• 1–2 bottles Worcestershire sauce
• 1/4 cup or so white vinegar

Mix, chill, and salt and pepper to taste. It seems to need quite a bit of salt. Serve with everything.

Madeline Papa’s
Traditional Italian Red Sauce & Meatballs

From Barbara Walsh

Growing up in an Italian household meant Eustis resident Barbara Walsh grew up eating lots and lots of Italian food. Her mother, Madeline Papa, was a stay-at-home mom; therefore, she had time to cook hearty, made-from-scratch dishes.

“Every meal was like Sunday dinner,” Walsh says. “My mom would cook all day, and she was always happy cooking.”

It wasn’t unusual for Walsh to bring home friends who couldn’t wait to have some of her mom’s home cooking. And while there were plenty of traditional Italian dishes she enjoyed as a child, spaghetti and meatballs was always a favorite—and a staple. This recipe is one that passed down from her great-grandmother. However, it is possible the recipe is older than that.
Between her family and career, Walsh says it’s sometimes hard for her to make her mom’s recipe. But every once in a while, when her 91-year-old father wants it, she’ll make time to prepare it, for old times’ sake.

Red Sauce

• 1 can (8-ounce) Italian tomato paste
• 1 can (28-ounce) Italian crushed tomatoes
• 1 can (28-ounce) Italian tomato puree
• 2 large (28-ounce) cans and 2 small (8-ounce) cans water (use above cans for measure)
• 1/4 cup good quality Italian olive oil
• 2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
• 1 small yellow onion, diced
• 4 dried bay leaves
• A few pinches of dried or fresh parsley and basil

Brown in a large pot (or Dutch oven-style pot) tomato paste and a small diced onion in ¼ cup olive oil. (Only cook for a few minutes until paste is brown and onion is softened.) Next, add all ingredients listed above. Stir thoroughly, and then simmer on low for approximately four hours, adding more water if necessary.


• 1 pound ground beef
• ½ pound ground pork
• ½ pound ground veal (if desired, or use a total of one pound ground pork)
• 2 eggs
• Salt, pepper, crushed garlic (to taste)
• Italian-style breadcrumbs or Italian-style crusty bread, broken in pieces

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Add enough breadcrumbs or bread pieces until consistency is good for holding meat together. Roll mixture into round balls and place on flat plate or cookie sheet. (Makes approximately 16 meatballs.) Brown meatballs in a skillet with little olive oil (in batches) for 15 minutes total. Turn meatballs to brown all sides. Place in sauce and cook approximately 3–4 hours.

TO ADD ADDITIONAL MEATS: Gently boil Italian sausage and/or pork ribs in water for ½ hour. Add meats to sauce and cook thoroughly along with meatballs.

Captain Joe Brown’s

From Tom Grizzard

“Joe Brown, the captain and fishing guide on the houseboat named Seminole, taught me this recipe. I’d summer with him on the boat and join him on fishing parties on Lake Griffin. He’d tie five or six rowboats behind the Seminole and head up to the northern section, where the lily pads used to cover the lake. He’d put two anglers in each rowboat, give them cane poles and a supply of fresh shiners, and tell them to row to an open spot in the “pads” and fish for bass.”

“Knowing they wouldn’t catch enough, Captain Joe and I fished together on another rowboat to catch supper. We’d return to the Seminole, dress the fish, and light the kerosene stove. His wife had cabbage for coleslaw and had the grits ready to cook. Captain Joe prepared the hushpuppies according to the following instructions.”

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow corn meal
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons Rumford baking powder
2 eggs
1 can evaporated milk
2 cups chopped onions
1 can whole kernel corn, drained

Mix eggs with milk, then add corn and onions. In separate container, mix all the dry ingredients, then add the wet ingredients. Mix well and let set for 5 to 10 minutes (to let the mix rise) while oil heats to 325 degrees. Don’t stir again. With a small spoon, dip mix from the edge of bowl and carefully drop into hot oil. As you repeat this process, the hushpuppies should begin to turn over as the underside gets done. When golden brown, dip out and place in a double paper grocer sack, which helps taste, keeps them warm, and soaks up some of the grease. Serve with butter, or add blackberry jam for dessert.

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