Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Gardening Versus Convenience

Happy Monday to everyone! Unlike The Carpenters’ song, ‘Rainy Days & Mondays’, I love to CELEBRATE Mondays! They are my 52 Chances each year, in which I get to share Memories of My Mom with all of you!

#TheRecipeDetective

Mother Nature’s grand arena is bursting with activity, as spring has been awakening the earth. Life is regenerating all around us. Now is a great time to get out in the yard and gardens since the whole month of April is celebrating, among other things – Keep America Beautiful Month, Lawn and Garden Month, National Garden Month, National Straw Hat Month, and Stress Awareness Month! [I’ll tell you in a little bit how that one is related to the others.]

#NationalGardeningDay

Furthermore, Wednesday is National Gardening Day! So, if you haven’t been out in the garden yet – this is certainly the week to do it! An old adage says, “April showers bring May flowers” (some fruits and vegetables too). But it’s a little more involved than that. First, you have to get the soil ready – mulching, weeding, composting, etc. – before you even plant the bulbs, seeds or seedlings.

When planting vegetables, some seeds are better to start indoors, such as tomatoes, peppers, cauliflower, and broccoli. After about 6-8 weeks of growth, they’re transplanted in the garden, when there are more optimum weather conditions. Some seedlings don’t transplant well and, thus, should be sown right into the ground when weather allows. Examples of such include corn, beans, and peas. They should also be covered at night, whenever frost conditions are possible.

April is a great time, depending on your USDA planting zone, to start planting and growing perennial fruits and vegetables like asparagus, chives, rhubarb, raspberries, horseradish and more. I already have the first four in my gardens. My asparagus is usually the first to pop up, around late May.

This is also a good time to start “cold crop”, annual plantings such as cabbage, spinach and other “greens”; as well as root vegetables like potatoes, onions, carrots and beets. I’m not sure from where Mom got her original interest in gardening, as well as her green thumb; but I think I might have inherited it too.

Mom’s garden, in Algonac, had a lot of perennials, but I remember helping her plant seedlings for strawberries and tomatoes every spring when I was young! Then there was the subsequent harvesting of our labors from the family’s little garden and orchard. I recall picking tomatoes, apples, pears, strawberries, raspberries and rhubarb. Mom would turn it all into culinary delights such as sauces, jams, pies, cobblers, and the like.

When Mom first started writing and publishing her own newsletter, in 1974, aside from her recipes she also included a smorgasbord of different topics that homemakers, like herself, would be interested in. One of the sections was full of gardening tips.

Mom liked to use coffee grounds and ground-up, dried, egg shells to help her tomato plants thrive. A tip she learned from my Dad’s mom, who gardened and canned a lot of tomatoes, sauces and jams in her own lifetime!

But as Mom’s “Secret Recipes” business grew quickly, within a few years she had very little time to spend on her garden, because she was spending more time investigating further secrets of the food industry. Subsequently, she dropped the gardening section in the newsletter to make room for more copycat recipes!

After we moved from Algonac to St. Clair, in 1977, Mom did continue to, at least, have a few tomato plants in patio pots every spring through fall. She always had a green thumb, both, in the house and in the garden!

While most of Mom’s cookbooks (and newsletters) focused on imitating fast food, junk food, and restaurant dishes at home; one of her books dealt exclusively with imitating convenience foods, grocery products and “extenders” at home – The Secrets of Homemade Groceries (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Sep. 1979) – aka: “Book 5”.

When Mom used to describe the book for advertisements, she’d say “this exceptional cookbook includes some basic principles of canning and freezing foods, as well as making your own mixes, sauces and seasonings for a great financial savings compared to buying them!”

Besides the obvious financial savings and nutritional aspects of growing your own food, gardening has many other healthy advantages. According to Six Surprising Health Benefits of Gardening, as posted by OrganicLesson.com (Published 2/26/2018, Updated 1/30/2021), gardening strengthens the muscles (as it can be a physical workout) and boosts the immune system.

Gardening is also known to increase happiness, stimulate the brain, and relieve stress. As I said in the beginning, April is Stress Awareness Month, too! Growing any kind of garden can be very therapeutic if you’re feeling stressed out and/or cooped up from this past year of quarantining for the Covid-19 pandemic.

Additionally, if you’ve gained what’s being coined as the “Covid 15” weight growth, 20 Everyday Activities and the Calories They Burn, by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd. (as seen on HowStuffWorks.com) claims that two hours of gardening burns about 648 calories or more!

If you don’t have your own garden, or the room for one, just a few patio pots will work. You can also check around your area for a community garden in which you can participate. Gardening has a windfall of benefits! I’m already looking forward to putting on my straw hat (as it is National Straw Hat Month) and getting back into my garden beds this spring.

No matter what’s planted, anyone can burn a lot of calories by taking care of a garden, as there are so many physical aspects involved – planting, mulching, weeding, composting, pruning, watering (repeating the last four or five tasks, over and over, at least a couple times a week for a few months) and finally harvesting!

‘The most valuable of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do when it has to be done, whether you like it or not.’ – Aldous Huxley, English Writer & Philosopher (1894-1963)

#LearnSomethingNewEveryDay

We all know that when life gives us lemons, we should make lemonade! But did you know that as much as 75% of grocery products (including lemonade) are considered to be convenience foods, requiring minimal effort, which can be made at home with what life gives you (and a little effort)? Plant the seeds! In fact, many annuals produce their own seeds for future plantings, too.

Ever since the pandemic us hit hard, the art of homesteading found another revival movement. More people are learning how to grow their own food and make their own OTC health and beauty products. Many are even starting home/internet businesses, selling their homemade products to those who don’t have the time or talents for it, themselves.

WHEN YOU CAN’T FIND WHAT YOU NEED AT THE MARKET – MAKE YOUR OWN… I learned the following “trick” from my local EOC Head Start group, three decades ago, when my children were small…

EASY HOMEMADE CORN SYRUP – The best substitute for 1 cup of corn syrup is to dissolve 1¼ cups sugar (or sugar substitute equivalent) into ¼ cup HOT water. For dark corn syrup, use brown sugar; for light corn syrup, use white sugar. By the way, a 4:1 ratio of white sugar to boiled water will also yield (when cooled to room temperature) an excellent homemade nectar for hummingbirds!

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

The Secrets of Homemade Groceries (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Sep. 1979)

LIFE IS A CLIMB

MANY PEOPLE FEEL that life is uphill all the way. They fail to look at the things that are good, enjoyable and worthwhile. They are conscience only of the climb. No road is ever uphill forever! We should soon learn the importance of being able to also come downhill without fear and be able to notice the scenery along the road, too.

Going through life without noticing the scenery and trying to see some of the beauty that is there – waiting to be recognized – reminds me of running helter-skelter up and down the supermarket aisles without seeing the ABUNDANCE that is there. Just take a moment to look at the heart-breaking plight of starving people in many parts of the world and, then, take a good look at the aisles and aisles of food available in this country!

We have so much available to us here… Many people fill their backyards each spring with flowers and shrubs, when they could easily plant food-seeds instead, thus cutting something off that weekly grocery bill!

‘Any change, even change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.’ – Arnold Bennett, English Novelist (1867-1931)

Convenience foods are boxed, canned and packaged food products that are manufactured for our expedient ease because we’ve become a too-busy-with-other-things, accessibility-laden society! Consider, also, that these shelf-stable products are filled with unnatural and unpronounceable preservatives and synthetic additives, in order to last for years on the grocery stores’ shelves, as well as in our own pantries.

If you’re concerned with all the additives that are put into convenient, shelf-stable groceries, then homemade is one way you can control the ingredients. Plus, you can also save money – as long as you don’t add the value of your time into the equation! The ‘overhead costs’ and ‘expected profits’ that are added to manufactured convenience foods are what actually kill our food budgets at the check-outs!

LAST THOUGHTS…

Here’s a garden decorating idea I want to re-share from a couple of years ago! I love it when things can serve more than one purpose – thus, my Christmas deer, lawn ornaments (lights removed) serve as trellises in my vegetable garden, during their “off-season”! They’re great for various vining plants like cucumbers, beans and peas; AND, as a bonus, I don’t have to worry about finding storage space for the large figures!

Suggestions for observing April’s garden-related celebrations include having a picnic in a garden or going to a nursery and buying a new plant. You could also decorate your garden (as it’s also National Decorating Month) by adding some garden art and/or a seating area, where you can relax and enjoy it all! Another way to observe is by giving a gardening gift to someone special, like seeds, garden gloves, or a patio plant! Don’t forget to share your ideas on social media with a hashtag!

#NationalDecoratingMonth, #KeepAmericaBeautifulMonth, #LawnAndGardenMonth, #NationalGardenMonth

IN CLOSING…

https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

#NationalFreshCeleryMonth

In honor of April, also being National Fresh Celery Month, here is Mom’s “secret recipe” for a simple “Cream Soup Base”, with two of her many options for turning it into Cream of Cauliflower or Cream of Celery soup!

As seen in… Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 117).

#GloriaPitzersCookbook

https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…

#LearnSomethingNewEveryDay

APRIL IS still celebrating, among other things… National Month of Hope, National Autism Awareness Month, National Couple Appreciation Month, National Humor Month, National Soft Pretzel Month, National Soy Foods Month, National Poetry Month, National Pecan Month, National Volunteer Month, and Scottish-American Heritage Month!

Some other celebrations for the week include:

Today is also… National Big Wind Day, National Colorado Day, National Licorice Day, and National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day! Therefore, here’s Mom’s take on a grilled cheese sandwich – college dorm-style!

Tuesday is… National Make Lunch Count Day, National Peach Cobbler Day, and National Scrabble Day!

Wednesday is… National Dolphin Day, National Pecan Day, National Reach as High as You Can Day, and Look Up at the Sky Day!

Thursday is… National Banana Day, National Glazed Spiral Ham Day, National Rubber Eraser Day, National Take a Wild Guess Day, Get to Know Your Customers Day (which is the 3rd Thursday of each quarter), and National High Five Day (which is the 3rd Thursday in April)!

Friday is… National Eggs Benedict Day, National Orchid Day, and National Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day!

Saturday is… National Cheeseball Day, National Ellis Island Family History Day, and National Haiku Poetry Day!

Sunday is… National Animal Crackers Day and National Columnists’ Day! It is also the start of National Volunteer Week (which is the 3rd full week of April)!

#WHBY

https://www.whby.com/goodneighbor/

#TGIM

https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-thank-god-its-monday-day-first-monday-in-january/

…15 down, 37 to go!

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Twinkie Day Eve

Happy April and happy Easter Monday! Additionally, I wish a very merry Twinkie Day Eve to all! Mondays are so incredibly special! I continually look forward to them, as they are my 52 Chances, each year, in which I get to share Memories of My Mom with all of you!

#TheRecipeDetective

#TwinkieDay 

Tomorrow, April 6th, is National Hostess Twinkie Day! That makes today Twinkie Day Eve – whoop, whoop! This is a perfect time for me to write about how my mom was the FIRST person (circa 1975) to develop a make-at-home version for imitating the cream-filled, golden-sponge-cake delight at home!

When I searched for “Twinkie recipe” on Google, I got back “about 657,000 results…” and Mom wasn’t even in the first two pages of results! So MANY copycats have copied the ORIGINAL copycat – and yet so FEW have actually given my mom the proper credit she deserves for being the inventor of imitating junk foods, fast foods, and other restaurant favorites at home. Mom was the trail-blazing pioneer, who carved out the “copycat cookery” niche in the food industry over 48 years ago!

However, I must note that when I searched for “Pitzer Twinkie recipe”, the first result listed (out of 22,500 results) was actually for Mom’s Hopeless Twinkles© recipe, which I had shared in a previous blog post, on this website, in 2019! [It can also be found in the “Recipes” tab and near the end of this blog post.]

Additionally, I’d also like to give a shout-out to PressReader.com, for printing a copy of one of Mom’s Twinkie imitations, with proper credit given to her! You can check it out at https://www.pressreader.com/usa/orlando-sentinel/20121128/282398396711181! In my search, I also found the following excerpt of interest… as seen at https://www.food.com/recipe/hostess-twinkie-sponge-cake-356820/reviews/846730.

Review [of homemade Hostess Twinkies] by Tinkerbell (4/10/2009) – NorthwestGal recommended this recipe to me & when I looked at it I was so surprised! I can’t say that I have made this exact recipe, but I can help shed some light on its origin & say that I have made it’s later version, also by Gloria. I saw Gloria Pitzer for the first time on the Phil Donahue show on April 8, 1993. I immediately called & ordered the original transcript of the show. (No TiVo back then! LOL) Gloria Pitzer, the original recipe detective, had been “cloning” recipes for 20 years but got her real jump start when she was working at a newspaper that decided to add a food page. The first letter she opened asked, “How do they make that special sauce at McDonald’s?” She went home & made & remade until she had a sauce that mimicked the Big Mac’s special sauce. After that she branched out into KFC, Wendy’s Frosty & Chili, Oreo cookies and Hostess Twinkies. But, after only 6 weeks doing the new food page for the paper she lost her job because one of her clone recipes (Share A Lease cheesecake) “stepped on the toes of a famous cheesecake company that was also a sponsor of the paper”. She made up new names for her copycat recipes, like Wednesday’s chili (I have that posted here Recipe #21936), Gloreo Cookies (love that recipe!), Big Bucket in the Sky Chicken, Big Match special sauce & Hopeless Twinkles. She first appeared on the Donahue show in July of 1981 and within 90 days the Donahue show received over one million letters about her episode. She appeared again 12 years later, in 1993, when I was lucky enough to be watching with my newborn son. After comparing this recipe with the one I’ve made from the 1993 transcript I see she did alter the recipe quite a bit. She made them on the 1981 episode and again with her new version in 1993. I’ve made the newest version from my transcript. I look forward to trying this one as well. 🙂 Thanks for posting it, Max!”

#LearnSomethingNewEveryDay

Did you know… on August 19th, 1919… William B. Ward registered the trademark name, Hostess, for his family’s company’s breads and cakes? Additionally, it was James Dewar, who invented the Twinkie® while working for the Ward family at the Continental Baking Company. Originally, when the baking company was founded in the early 1900s, it was called Ward Baking Company. Later, as the Continental Baking Company, it was purchased by Interstate Bakeries Corporation and renamed Hostess Brands.

For a more in-depth history of the Ward family, their baking company, Dewar’s Twinkies® and the drama that surrounded all of them, check out this fascinating article about it (as written by Bloomberg News), on FinancialPost.com, at https://business.financialpost.com/news/twinkie-history-spiced-with-murder-scandal-suggests-icon-will-survive! I’ve included, below, the short story that Mom wrote about Dewar decades ago.

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective, (Balboa Press, Jan. 2018, p. 204)

[A revised reprint of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition)]

JAMES DEWAR

JAMES DEWAR STARTED OUT driving a horse-drawn wagon in Chicago and, by 1930, was manager of the Continental Baking Company’s Chicago establishment. He invented ‘The Twinkie’, a sponge-type cake with creamy vanilla-flavored filling [in the early 30s.] It has been called the ‘Grand-daddy’ of modern snack foods.

Today, the finger-sized cream-filled cake is as big a confectionery sensation as they were when Dewar first introduced his creation to American cuisine. The company that put out the Twinkie was originally called the Continental Baking Company and later became the Hostess company. At the time, he wanted to give the public something reasonably priced, for the Great Depression of the 30s brought grave times to this country.

Treats like the cream-filled Twinkies, would be a luxury to people who couldn’t afford otherwise. For decades, the appealing factor about the Twinkies national popularity has been that it is affordable! Dewar put 2 cakes in each package, selling them for $.05 a pair. For the price of a nickel, it was quite a bargain. Dewar remembered how the Continental Baking Company was selling small finger-sized shortcakes for strawberry season in the 1930s.

The pans they used to bake them in were not being used except for the spring promotion to produce the shortcakes. He, therefore, came up with the idea of preparing the same shortcake in those pans, but filling each cake with an injection of vanilla cream. The Twinkies became an immediate success!

The idea for the name, on the other hand, came while he was on a business trip to St. Louis and saw a billboard advertising ‘Twinkle Toes Shoes’, which was, then, a terrific sales pitch. The name ‘Twinkies’ was a spinoff of that shoe advertisement. From then on, the cakes took off.

When Dewar retired from Continental in 1968, he boasted often to the press that he ate scores of Twinkies every day. That’s not a bad endorsement for the critics who claim junk food will shorten your life span.

Do you remember the big run on Twinkies®, back in November of 2012? The Hostess Brands company had announced it was going out of business and utter chaos ensued as the American masses swarmed their local stores to buy all the yummy, cream-filled, sponge cakes (and other products of Hostess Brands) they could find!

Our Canadian neighbors still had Hostess Brands in their country and were laughing at the lengths Americans were going to get their hands on the suddenly-hard-to-find, coveted Twinkies®. Some Twinkies® were actually being auctioned on eBay for THOUSANDS of dollars – and people were paying it! A spokesperson for Hostess sarcastically asked the media where all of these Hostess Brands enthusiasts were before they had to file for bankruptcy.

I saw a great article about Twinkies® a few years ago that I saved in “My Favorites”. It was called “Beverly Hills Billionaire To Take Over Twinkies Maker, Hostess Brands” and written by James R. Koren (L. A. Times; July 5, 2016), explaining how the Hostess Brands company, under various names and ownerships, was saved from bankruptcy foreclosures more than once over the past century.

When the announcement was first made in 2012 that Hostess Brands was closing their business for good and Americans panicked at their sudden loss, I wasn’t worried about never having Twinkies® again… because my mom taught me how to make my own! In fact, as the Secret Recipes DetectiveTM, Mom taught everyone how to make their own at home!

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

The Second Helping of Secret Recipes (National Homemakers Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; July 1977, p. 1-2)

DE-BUNKING THE JUNK!

What is the truth about junk food? The food experts have been referring to many snack foods and fast foods as ‘junk’ in an attempt to disqualify their value when compared to foods containing high amounts of protein and vitamins.

No one has confirmed a definition of the expression ‘junk food’, yet the public has been conditioned to accept any snack food, sweets, candies, confections, baked goods and many beverages as ‘junk food’ when, in reality, these are not without nutritional value.

All by itself, a raw carrot could hardly support the human system substantially; neither could a cup of yogurt. Yet, a candy bar or a small piece of cake or a hamburger on a bun is considered, by some of the food industry’s most prestigious experts, as having little or no food value in our daily diets.

The junk food paradox has caused school systems and other public institutions to ban the sale of any foods we would consider snack items, making it illegal, in fact, in the state of Michigan and some others, if such items were sold to children through vending machines on the premises.

This is infuriating to the good cooks and… food chemists among us, who know that JUNK FOOD is actually any food that is poorly prepared. ALL food has nutritional value. Some just seem to have more than others. But, in the final analysis, it is purely personal taste that will determine the popularity of one food over another.

‘There really are very few recipe secrets!’ – Gloria Pitzer

The ‘fast food’ industry has been the most successful of any phase in the business. Their success depending largely on the fact that their recipes are all closely guarded secrets! I say, ‘baloney!’ As a very believing public, we have been spoon-fed a good deal of shrewd publicity by some very skilled… advertising people, who count on our susceptibility to commercial advertising campaigns to buy their products.

Whether we’re buying a hamburger in one of McDonald’s restaurants… or a Twinkie off of the grocer’s shelf, we still believe that these products can’t be equaled by any other company in the industry, nor by the average cook in a standard, home kitchen… AND this is wrong!

‘You’ll be amazed at the number of recipes you can duplicate in your own kitchen – and those you can, at least, come close to imitating – with far more success than the advertising people give us credit!’ – Gloria Pitzer

LAST THOUGHTS

#WHBY

If you missed my visit last week on WHBY’s Good Neighbor” show, with Kathy Keene, when we discussed the 2012 run on Hostess Twinkies and Mom’s recipe for imitating them at home (same as the 1983 version shown further below). I also shared Mom’s Famous Nameless Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe and her 3-ingredient ham-basting sauce from her 1983 self-published cookbook, The Joy Of NOT Cooking – Any More Than You Have To!

[NOTE: You can listen to the podcast recording here… https://www.spreaker.com/user/woodwardradio/the-good-neighbor-show-032921]

https://www.whby.com/goodneighbor/

Additionally, Kathy has released an announcement of her retirement from WHBY. Sadly, I’ll only be visiting with her two more times. We’re currently scheduled for April 26th and May 24th. You can listen to Kathy’s official notice, on YouTube.com, at… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WqC8LstRm8U&t=9s

In honor of National Hostess Twinkie Day, here is Mom’s ORIGINAL copycat recipe from 1975 and an encore of her 1983 revision, for imitating the famous, cream-filled, sponge cake; as seen in her self-published cookbook, The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book (Nat’l Homemakers Newsletter, Pearl Bch., MI; Jan. 1977, Revised Ed., p. 34) and her 1983 “Free Recipes” sheet, respectively. The latter recipe is also in Mom’s last book, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 205).

#GloriaPitzersCookbook

https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…

#LearnSomethingNewEveryDay

APRIL IS, among other things… National Month of Hope, Keep America Beautiful Month, Lawn and Garden Month, National Autism Awareness Month, National Couple Appreciation Month, National Decorating Month, National Fresh Celery Month, National Garden Month, National Humor Month, National Soft Pretzel Month, National Soy Foods Month, National Straw Hat Month, National Poetry Month, National Pecan Month, National Volunteer Month, Scottish-American Heritage Month, and Stress Awareness Month!

Additionally, yesterday was the start of National Public Health Week! Some other celebrations for this week include the following:

Today is also… First Contact Day, Gold Star Spouses Day, National Caramel Day, National Deep Dish Pizza Day, National Flash Drive Day, National Go For Broke Day, National Nebraska Day, National Read a Road Map Day, and National Raisin and Spice Bar Day! In honor of that last one, in particular, here’s a copy of Mom’s recipe for imitating Spanish Bar Cake like the old A&P’s popular Ann Page brand. I also shared this recipe in June 2020, on WHBY’s Good Neighbor” show, with Kathy Keene!

#RaisinAndSpiceBarDay

PLUS, today through the 9th is also celebrating National Wildlife Week and National Library Week [both of which change annually]!

Tuesday is… National Caramel Popcorn Day, New Beer’s Eve, National Sorry Charlie Day, National Student-Athlete Day, National Tartan Day, National Teflon Day, and National Library Workers Day [the Tuesday of National Library Week, which changes annually]!

Wednesday is… National Beer Day, National Coffee Cake Day, National Girl Me Too Day, National No Housework Day, and National Bookmobile Day [the Wednesday of National Library Week], and National Walking Day [the first Wednesday in April]!

Thursday is… National All is Ours Day and National Zoo Lovers Day!

Friday is… National Cherish an Antique Day, National Chinese Almond Cookie Day, National Winston Churchill Day, and National Day of Silence [Changes Annually – April 9, 2021]!

Saturday is… National Cinnamon Crescent Day, Encourage a Young Writer Day, National Farm Animals Day, and National Siblings Day!

Sunday is… National Cheese Fondue Day, National Pet Day, and National Submarine Day!

#TGIM

https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-thank-god-its-monday-day-first-monday-in-january/

…14 down, 38 chances to go!