I LOVE fall – it’s definitely my favorite season! I adore the crisp, cool nights and lukewarm days. I love seeing the trees change colors. Incidentally, yesterday was the start of National Fall Foliage Week! I also love going to the cider mill for fresh apples, donuts, and (of course) cider. Plus, Octoberfest jubilees are popping up everywhere!
Speaking of which… October is almost here! Thus, we’re rounding the bend, this week, for September’s finale. However, it is still September for a few more days, so there is still time left to celebrate some of its many wonderful observances – such as…
Moreover, as the last week in September, it’s also… National Keep Kids Creative Week! Relative to that, since this is the fourth Monday in September, today is also… National Family Day; which promotes making and sharing meals together, as well as family bonding around the kitchen table.
September is also Self-Improvement Month! Family meals, prepared and eaten together, provide vast opportunities for strengthening ties, building better relationships, and creating a sense of belonging, which leads to better self-esteem.
When my siblings and I were growing up, Mom always made our meals family-style! We’d fill our plates and talk about our days, passing the serving dishes around the table while elbowing each other whenever Mom and Dad weren’t looking. We’re far from being the Brady Bunch or Walton’s family!
We ate together because that’s when the meal was served. The food may have been like that in a restaurant, but Mom would always remind us that our kitchen wasn’t a restaurant where you could drop in any time and place an order for whatever you’d like. In our household, you ate what was made and when it was served, or you would probably have to go hungry until the next meal.
However, I can’t remember any of us even being willing to miss one of Mom’s meals, so that was never really an issue in our household. Mom would always joke about being a bad cook in her many editorials but, even before she became famous for being the Secret RecipesTM Detective, she really was a great cook!
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Gloria Pitzer’s Reliable Recipes For Reluctant Cooks (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1983, p.6)
COOKING IS MORE THAN TURNING ON THE STOVE – IT’S PLEASING PEOPLE!
As often as we put things off, in life, it’s a shame that we don’t care more about the ‘now’, the ‘todays’, the here-I-am and here-you-are, and what can we do for each other to make things as good as possible for [both of] us! I know! There are people who can’t be bothered with such nonsense. They have jobs to work and bills to pay, things to worry about and goals to achieve.
‘If you’re going to talk about cooking and foods… what are you going off on tangents for, talking about people and their feelings?’
This is a question I’ve been asked over and over by inquiring reporters, wanting to know why we’re successful at what we do, why people go to such trouble to locate us and order our books! I think they answer their own question. Don’t you?
After all, cooking is not for robots! The way we present our food to those who share our table with us takes into account more than plopping the pot roast onto a platter and announcing, ‘Supper’s ready!’ Is that where it ends? When a meal is presented, there are many considerations for the cook.
Besides the balance, nutritionally, there’s the effort to please those who will hopefully enjoy the food. And trying to please those you’re feeding is a direct appeal, a definite effort, to consider someone’s feelings, the feelings of enjoyment and consequently of approval – approval of the food and… the one who prepared it.
Every day, the homemaker, with a family to feed, meets the challenge of proving they can be proficient, both, in the selections of foods, [as well as] the preparation and presentation of it and the management and the management of the cost.
Cooking is more than turning on the stove and opening the refrigerator. It’s pleasing people! It’s caring about what they might like to eat. It’s doing your best to prepare and present the dishes so that mealtime is not just a daily routine – but an occasion.
The cookbook industry has offended us… as if the recipes were designed for mindless bodies – not for folks with feelings! Food fanatics continue to advise us on how to feed the body while we let the famished affections go hungry.
The critics’ smoking guns right now are aimed at curing physical maladies with food administered medicinally. Food, as medication, is used as both a preservative and a cure. But what heals the broken spirit – the sensitive, the distressed, the lonely, the shy and withdrawn?
It takes more than adequate fiber intake; minimum daily nutritional needs being filled to cure the body of ills created by stress and anguish. It takes loving, caring and being loved and cared about in return!
There was a time, not very long ago, when the average family’s busy lifestyle made it difficult to eat a single meal together, let alone three – with both parents working outside the home and the kid’s after school activities and weekend sports.
Then the Covid-19 pandemic struck and, unexpectedly, families were, more or less, confined together, 24/7 – for all the meals and everything else in between, as well! Our homes suddenly became our hubs, encompassing the office, school, gym, salon, cinema, eatery and so much more!
‘The divine principle of good cooking is not a secret! It is taking pleasure in the activity; in the information previously retained and called upon through the facilities of memory. The spirit of good cooking is individualistic. It is not shrouded in mystery – but in love, for what you are doing and for whom you are doing it!’ – Gloria Pitzer [As seen on the front page of the 128th issue of Gloria Pitzer’sSecret Recipes Newsletter (Sep-Oct 1987).]
MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Gloria Pitzer’s Reliable Recipes For Reluctant Cooks (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1983, p.10)
HAVING A GOOD ATTITUDE TOWARD COOKING
Having a good attitude toward cooking, is the most positive way to approach the experience. Some folks really LOVE to cook, and they consequently do it well. But many of them can only turn out a handful of dishes perfectly and, therefore, limit their cooking practices, as well as their opportunities to eat foods that are unfamiliar to them.
Cooking is one of those skills that improve with practice, as does anything we undertake. But most of us are so conditioned to living in a world of instants that if a dish requires more of us than to add water – or to defrost and heat – we’re at a total loss in the kitchen!
Our life styles are changing more and more each day. We’re living in the age of fast food, instant coffee, Minute Rice, … one-step floor cleaners, quick breads, split-second decisions, rapid transit travel and planes that go 700-MPH – so why shouldn’t cooking be hurried along as well?
When you don’t really like to cook, it’s hard to imagine that it does have a positive side to the experience. Gourmets live to cook, while the rest of us cook to live – and just as often, would prefer it if we didn’t have to cook at all. This attitude toward getting the whole thing over with as soon as we can, is a reflection of the pride we fail to take in our accomplished dishes. When you thrive on compliments for your culinary skills it’s different.
When you do not have a positive interest in good cooking practices, you, likewise, don’t expect your creations to warrant compliments. The best thing for you to do is start ‘small’ – working with only a few ingredients at a time, until you get the feeling of how certain foods go well together, what flavorings compliment them, the best way to present the food when you serve it, so that it looks even better than it will taste.
Long, complicated recipes that require numerous ingredients and pampering are not always as good as those dishes that require only a few ingredients and a short time to prepare. We have made the mistake of believing that ‘fast’ food is totally without merit, therefore cannot be wholesome, nutritious, nor worth the time and cost, but ‘fast’ can be good if it is properly prepared.
One more thing I love about fall is my “fall cleaning” ritual. Just like in the spring, I actually get a little giddy about flipping the mattress, rotating the seasonal clothes, and moving the living room furniture around – just some of the things I usually do in the fall (and spring) season. I know I’m strange – and I’m okay with that!
This time of year also harvests more Americana nostalgia, decreased stress levels, and increased creativity. It’s time to put away the summer essentials and tidy up our homes to usher in the fall seasonal holidays. Furthermore, on average, Americans spend approximately six hours per week cleaning their homes.
The American Cleaning Institute estimates that over half of Americans dread cleaning the bathroom, while almost a quarter hate cleaning the kitchen, one-fifth dislike dusting and mopping, and about one-sixth loathe doing the laundry. Sorry, Mom – your most hated housekeeping task, making the bed, did not make it onto this list! Personally, dusting is my least favorite, mostly because it impacts my allergies more than anything else.
In honor of TODAY, being National Corned Beef Hash Day; plus, this is still National Americana Month and Better Breakfast Month – here’s Mom’s copycat recipe for Glorified Hash, which I thought, when I was growing up, was a lot like the Libby’s product but better. This recipe was among Mom’s “Original 200” recipe cards collection and appeared in her very first, self-published cookbook… The Better Cooker’s Cookbook (Happy Newspaper Features, Algonac, MI; 1973, p. 35).
By Gloria Pitzer, as seen in… The Best of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; February 1990, 11th Printing, p. 97)
3 cans (8-oz. each) sliced pineapple, in juice
1 C. packed, light brown sugar
1/3 C. butter or margarine, melted and cooled
7 red Maraschino cherries, cut in half
½ C. chopped pecans
18-oz. box yellow or white cake mix
1 pkg. Dream Whip powder
1 C. cold water
[bottled/jarred pineapple sundae topping for glaze]
Drain pineapple, reserving 2 TB of the juice. Combine brown sugar and butter, spreading it in a 9”x13”x2” baking pan. Arrange pineapple slices in single layer to fit the pan, cutting slices, if necessary. Place cherry halves, cut side up, in middle of each pineapple ring.
Drizzle in the reserved juice. Sprinkle on a layer of chopped pecans. Combine dry cake mix with Dream Whip powder. Beat in eggs and water for about 5 minutes or until batter is smooth. Carefully spread batter over pineapple [cherries and nut] layer in the pan.
Bake at 350°F for 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let it stand in the pan for about 5 minutes, [placing pan] on a wire rack. Place a greased jelly roll pan over top of cake pan and carefully invert cake onto pan, holding pans securely in place as you turn it over.
Let stand 1 minute before removing top [pan]. Scrape down any excess topping, rearranging pineapples and cherries, if necessary. Drizzle the top with the sundae topping to give it a glaze. Serve warm or cold topped with ice cream and/or whipped cream.
By Gloria Pitzer, as seen in… Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 210). [A revised reprint of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition).]
From my ‘Ask Your Neighbor’ recipe journal, I offered this cake to Bob Allison’s listeners (October 1972), in response to a listener’s request for a good, rich, feathery-light spice cake made with beer.
9-ounce box devil’s food cake mix
1 envelope Dream Whip powder
1 teaspoon apple pie spice powder
½ cup light beer
4 tablespoons oil
Combine dry ingredients in one bowl. Combine liquid ingredients in another bowl; then, beat liquids into dry mixture with electric mixer on high-speed for about 4 minutes. Pour into greased and floured 9-inch layer pan or 10-inch, fluted-rim, Pyrex pie plate. Bake at 350°F for 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Cover with topping and then drizzle with frosting (recipes below) and decorate with walnut halves.
IACOCCA CAKE TOPPING: mix well – ½ cup chopped walnuts, 1 tablespoon sugar and ½ teaspoon cinnamon. Sprinkle over layer before applying frosting (below.)
IACOCCA CAKE FROSTING: combine, in top of double boiler, over simmering water – 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, 1 ounce (solid) unsweetened chocolate, 1/3 cup Half-&-Half light cream and 2 tablespoons light corn syrup. Stir until melted and smooth (about 12 to 15 minutes.) Beat in 1 ½ cups powdered sugar. Drizzle over topping-covered layer (above.)
As seen in… Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 137)
6 medium potatoes – boiled, peeled and sliced thin (or diced)
1/4 C. diced bottled pimiento
3 TB butter
1/2 C. chopped onion
3 TB flour
2 C. milk
8-oz. Cheese Whiz
Mix potatoes and pimiento and chill. Melt butter and sauté onion until limp. Stir in flour, pepper, and milk until smooth. Add mixture to potatoes along with Cheese Whiz, coating evenly. Pour everything into a greased 2-qt. baking dish. Bake uncovered at 350°F for 45 minutes or until browned on top and bubbly. Garnish with chopped parsley (or dried parsley flakes) and serve promptly. Makes 6 servings.
As seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press, Jan. 2018; p. 152)
2 cups self-rising flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 egg, beaten
12-ounce can Busch Light beer
Mix the flour and sugar together with a fork and set aside. Beat the egg and beer together in an accommodating cup. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the liquid. Mix it only until all dry particles have been moistened, like a muffin batter should be mixed. Do not over-beat!
Pour into a greased and floured 9-inch loaf pan. Bake at 350°F for about 30 to 35 minutes or until you can insert a thin wooden skewer through the center to the bottom of the pan and remove it without any traces of wet batter. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Wipe top of loaf with melted butter and dust lightly with sugar. Slice when cooled.
*NOTES & TIPS: If the bread appears to fall or sink while cooling, it means you didn’t bake it long enough. If it’s heavy and moist, it means you over-beat it. If it turns out dry and crumbly, it means you didn’t beat it enough – so don’t be fooled into thinking that just because the recipe has only 4 ingredients that you can slap it together and have it turn out beautifully. Combine ingredients with care!
As seen in… Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 187)
The best Rubens can be ruined by the worst sauerkraut. Most of us open a can and heat it up. My good friend, Julia Lega – who’s well-loved sauerkraut put ‘Beautiful Downtown’ Pearl Beach, MI on the world map of favorable fare – suggested this method and I love it!
Open a large can or jar of sauerkraut and dump it into a colander. Squeeze out as much of the liquid, in which it is canned, as possible and run it under cold water, rinsing it well. Then, squeeze out as much of this water as you can. Put the sauerkraut in an accommodating, oven-proof, sauce pan – or kettle, depending on how much you’re preparing – and add just enough chicken broth to keep the sauerkraut submerged.
Next, for every quart (4 cups) of the “squeezed-out” sauerkraut, stir in a 12-inch length of kielbasa cut into bite-sized pieces and 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar.
Then peel, core and grate an apple into this. Cover it and place in a 350°F oven for about 45 minutes, stirring it every 10 minutes or so. When the kielbasa is tender, well-browned and appears to have absorbed the apple and the liquids, add 1 medium-sized, raw potato – peeled and grated.
Return pan to oven for another 30 minutes or until you have no traces of potato in the mixture. It should almost dissolve into a smooth sauce-like gravy, which keeps the sauerkraut smooth.
At this point, taste-test and adjust the seasonings to taste, adding a pinch more sugar, or salt and pepper if you like. Remove the sauerkraut from the pan with a pair of tongs to add to the sandwiches as you prepare them.
To assemble the Reuben sandwich: butter BOTH sides of 2 pieces of dark rye bread or Russian black bread. Place about ½ cup of the drained and prepared sauerkraut on one slice and then add a slice of Swiss cheese and 3 to 4 ounces, thinly sliced, corned beef. Add top slice of bread and grill on a lightly buttered skillet until the outer surfaces of the assembled sandwich has nicely browned on both sides. Serve at once with a Kosher dill spear.
As listed, mix all ingredients together well, using your hands then to shape into very small, ½-inch balls; and arrange in a single layer in a shallow roasting pan or an ungreased jelly roll pan (a cookie sheet with a 1-inch rim around it).
Bake at 425°F for 15 minutes, turning once to brown evenly. Drain any excess fat and “mop up” with paper towels. Transfer meatballs to a deep casserole dish and make the following sauce.
1 C. Open Pit Original BBQ Sauce
3 ½ C. canned tomatoes, diced
1/3 C. strawberry jelly
¼ C. Heinz Chili Sauce
3 TB molasses
1/3 C. black (prepared) coffee or cola
Combine it all well and pour it over the meatballs to keep them submerged in the sauce. V-8 or tomato juice can be added to accomplish this if you don’t have enough sauce to cover them.
Cover casserole dish with lid or tin foil and continue baking meatballs for 1 more hour (still at 325°F).
Makes about 100 small meatballs. Freeze in small portions to re-warm within a few months or refrigerate well-covered to use within a week or so.