1 cup brown sugar, combined with 1/2 cup additional unsweetened cocoa
1 3/4 cup hot tap water
shredded coconut or chopped walnuts, to garnish
In a roomy bowl, combine the first 8 ingredients, as listed. Pour mixture into an 8-inch buttered pan. Sprinkle batter with the sugar-cocoa mixture. Carefully pour the hot tap water over this and DO NOT STIR! Slide it, undisturbed, into a 350°F oven and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 2-3 minutes. Invert it onto a platter, scraping down excess topping. Sprinkle top with shredded coconut or chopped walnuts, to garnish. Best served while warm.
4 green peppers [halved, with seeds & ribs removed]
2 lbs. canned stewed tomatoes
1 cup celery, sliced thin
2 vegetable bouillon cubes, dissolved in 1 C. boiling water
2 TB Worcestershire
Parsley flakes for garnish
Mix the hamburger and soup mix together. Fill the 8 pepper halves with the meat mixture and place in an accommodating Dutch oven, with lid. Cover stuffed peppers with the rest of the ingredients, as listed. Place the lid on the Dutch oven and bake at 400°F, for 50 minutes. Sufficiently serves 6.
Happy Monday and, most especially, I hope everyone has a fantastic Labor Day today!
125 years ago, Labor Day officially became a federal holiday. It’s celebrated yearly, on the first Monday in September and, just as Memorial Day has become the unofficial start to summer, Labor Day has, likewise, become the unofficial end to summer.
Labor Day doesn’t really have any traditional customs for observing it. There are so many different kinds of celebrations, including family and community picnics, parades, outdoor concerts, festivals, fireworks and even shopping; as retailers always offer huge Labor Day weekend deals and discounts to move the rest of their summer stock. Moreover, many people also take advantage of the long weekend to go on one, last, summer vacation.
Something else that usually happens on (or by) Labor Day weekend is that all the stores clearance their remaining back-to-school stock, so they can start to fill up their seasonal sections with all things Halloween and autumn-harvest themed. Meanwhile, their stock rooms are already piling up with Christmas inventory. And, of course, apple and pumpkin spices are being added into everything now! In fact, many Michigan cider mills began opening this weekend for the holiday and the rest of Michigan’s harvesting season.
Decades ago, when my siblings and I were kids, I think that the main reason my Mom celebrated Labor Day was because it meant that we were going back to school the next day and Mom could start her vacation! The following is one of Mom’s syndicated editorial columns, written around August 1971 – she called it School Begins and so Does Mother’s Vacation.
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
School Begins and so Does Mother’s Vacation
By Gloria Pitzer (Algonac, MI; Aug. 1971)
Never mind what the calendar says about the longest day of summer. It doesn’t really fall in June. It falls somewhere during the last week of August, as mothers everywhere breathlessly await the beginning of another school year!
When listening to a child lick a postage stamp in the next room begins to give me a headache and the cat seems to be stomping his paws and even my Mixmaster and my vacuum cleaner sound like mini bikes, I know it’s time for school to start.
This is what happens when you live with children who believe that the same door they left open all winter should be slammed all summer. And all I have to show for 10 weeks of summer, is a tape recording of 400 hours of the kids next door, gunning their motorcycles under my kitchen windows; which I felt would make a lovely remembrance for their mother who has been out, working in a pleasant air-conditioned office. Someday, she may want to know what she missed while her boys were growing up. I can tell her what she missed – migraines, excessive nervous acidity and hives, that’s what!
The first 8 weeks of summer rushed past us so quickly – it was like catching quicksilver in greased gloves. Suddenly, there was our 15-year old [son], telling us he needed back-to-school clothes; but, he’d like some new blue jeans that didn’t look like new blue jeans.
Honestly, I don’t know where you can buy new blue jeans with broken zippers, frayed hems, worn seats and patched knees. He [also] said he had wished he had bought his school shoes last month, so he could have had plenty of time to scuff up the toes and run the heels over before school started; then, nobody would accuse him of wearing Sunday school clothes.
It is during the [unofficial] last week of summer that my Avon lady sends me a CARE package and my mother apologizes for not having had the children visit her more often before they had to go back to school. I receive fliers from the drug store advertising Christmas wrappings and ribbons, and you can’t find a 99-cent Styrofoam cooler anywhere in town for the Labor Day picnic you wish you didn’t have to attend, because any picnic with 5 children is no PICNIC!
It is during the [unofficial] last week of summer that I’m ready to vote ‘yes’ in a school bond issue and school supplies that were on sale in July are being replaced on dime store counters by Halloween candy and costumes.
It is during the [unofficial] last week of summer that a neighbor stops by to see if he ever returned the lawn mower he borrowed from us and is disappointed when he learns he didn’t because he wanted to borrow it again!
Actually, the longest day of summer can make one weak – especially if she’s a mother!
Mom could see humor in almost anything. “They” say, in the comedy realm, that the best material comes from real life experiences! My mom had a way of taking our everyday life events and turning them into some great “fishing stories” – and, besides the written stories, she also illustrated humorous cartoon panels, which she called Full House, as kept by Gloria Pitzer, that depicted the essence of some of those stories as well! As the old adage goes: “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
Below is another comedic example from Mom’s No Laughing Matter editorials regarding our eating habits. Now, keep in mind, our mother was a really good cook (despite her sarcastic humor claiming otherwise) – so, of course, we were going to eat her out of house and home! There’s no date on this editorial, titled Vittel Statistics – or How to Salvage Leftovers! It would have been published in the mid-to-late 1970s, as it was signed as “Gloria Pitzer, Recipe Detective”.
As I have discussed in some of my previous blog entries, the title, “Recipe Detective”, was given to Mom in the mid-1970s by the listeners of Bob Allison’s Ask Your Neighbor radio show, of which Mom was an avid listener AND, eventually, a weekly guest with her Secret RecipesTM. But, it also could have been written, originally, in the early-to-mid 1970s; as Mom discusses her “15-year old” son in the first paragraph. My brother, Bill, was 15 in 1972; and my other brother, Mike, was 15 in 1974.
MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
Vittel Statistics – or How to Salvage Leftovers!
By Gloria Pitzer, Recipe DetectiveTM
In order to prevent our kids from eating us right into bankruptcy, I’ve been, literally, forced to salvage food in the refrigerator by trying to camouflage it. Just last week, I made a banana look like a ballpoint pen and hid a stack of sliced cheese in an old stationary box. When our 15-year old discovered them in the refrigerator, I assured him it was for writing letters to those people who deserved a cold shoulder from me.
Several [readers] have written, asking me what I do with leftovers. I realize leftovers can be a problem but, in my case, I can hardly remember what they’re like. With five, fully-powered, automatic food disposals, walking around disguised as ‘Problem Eaters’, this house hasn’t seen a leftover in years. Leftovers is not my problem – having enough to go around the first time is!
When I discovered the three empty quart bottles that had, only moments before, contained ginger ale; it wasn’t difficult to expose the guilty person. It was the one [from whom], when he opened his mouth, I could hear the ocean roar!
I tried to frighten them away from what is loosely termed JUNK, like chips and doughnuts and pizza snacks; but, they refuse to listen to how their teeth will rot and acne will make them unpopular.
Already, our 15-year old is supporting a 30-cents-a-day candy habit! [Note: In the early-to-mid 1970s, that was a LOT of candy!]
Just yesterday, in fact, I found the following reminder taped to the refrigerator: ‘Mom, we’re out of Pop Tarts again.’ I was very upset. The note had been written with the very last banana on the only slice of cheese!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading Mom’s and my humorous memories about our family and food! Next Monday, September 9th, is National “I Love Food” Day! So, I hope you’ll “tune in”, again, for more amusing food stories and …Memories of My Mom – plus, her famous copycat recipe for Johnnie Lega’s world-famous chili, as seen in her last book, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018).
To celebrate the beginning of football season, here are TWO recipes that Mom developed and published around 1972, in one of her Cookbook Corner syndications of editorials and recipes. I love the Pepper Casserole recipe for my low-carb lifestyle!
Hello to all! I’m Laura Emerich and my mom is Gloria Pitzer, the ORIGINAL Secret Recipe Detective. I started this blog in September (2018) to honor her legacy and to channel my cherished memories of her, and how she’s influenced my life; as well as, to hear of others’ memories of her, and how she may have influenced them and their lives. My subject this week is “entertaining”, which can have so many derivatives from which to choose.
Growing up, as one of “The Recipe Detective’s” children, I learned a lot from my mom about entertaining, especially during the Fall and Winter holiday seasons – when, like a magician pulling a rabbit out of her hat, Mom could whip up hors d’oeuvres, practically out of thin air, on a moment’s notice for unexpected guests that popped in to say hello and visit a bit. She had a whole “Rolodex” of entertaining ideas in her head from which to draw.
Imagine how great it was when there was a planned, entertainment event such as a Halloween or birthday party or a Thanksgiving dinner with a dozen relatives and guests… Lists were made and checked and revised and checked again! It was a circus of juggling and magic acts all rolled into one! All 5 of us kids had to pitch-in and help on big events, especially us girls…sexist or not, that’s just the way it was back then. We three girls helped Mom inside the house, while the 2 boys helped Dad outside the house.
When it came to food, whether it was an hors d’oeuvre or a main dish, Mom never made “just enough”; because she never knew when, either, unexpected guests were joining us, or the dish was such a hit that we’d all want second and third helpings. If she over-planned and there were left-overs, she was the sorceress of re-inventing left-overs into a whole new meal. At least, that’s how I remember it! I tried to do the same as a mom & wife, myself, because it made me feel good to make others feel good… through food and friendship and entertaining.
Fall is probably my favorite time of year. The beautiful color-change of the pure Michigan landscape is unbeaten in my book! The crisp cool nights and slightly-warm, sunny days are another reason, along with the entertaining celebrations of the Halloween and Thanksgiving holidays (and my birthday, too); not to mention – it’s football season, which I happen to enjoy now! As a kid, I was with my mom, I did not like football at all – I didn’t understand it and didn’t care to learn about it. I was not a very competitive person – I wanted everyone to be winners! I more enjoyed being in the kitchen with my mom or playing outside with my friends, while Dad yelled intensively at the referees and players and coaches on the TV.
Hence, football was hardly one of my mom’s joys in the Fall season. Here’s a sample of a story regarding football season that she told in one of her old “Minding the Hearth” editorials, which was re-printed on page 301, in her last book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective” [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write, by Laura Emerich, of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)].
I am resigned to my life with an armchair quarterback, for I know that the garlic in our matrimonial gladiola patch is PRO FOOTBALL! From September to March, every year, there is always going to be a gigantic communication gap in our house. The art of conversation isn’t really lost. It’s merely hidden behind the pre-game warm-up, installing a power offense which will take advantage of decent, but not blinding, speed in the backfield in a right-handed attack with a lot of blocking in a size-out pass pattern. I guess the reason I’ll never win an argument with my husband in the fall is that I can’t understand one single word he says. I even tried to leave him once during an NFL game, but it wasn’t until the Super Bowl was over (5 months later) that he even noticed I was gone.
I admit, I don’t know much about football, but I still insist it isn’t quite fair that the fellow who worked so hard last season, doing a terrific job as quarterback, wasn’t promoted to HALF-back this season! Anyway, the last time I tried to cultivate an interest in the game was the time my husband called me in to watch the last 2 minutes of an exciting game. (Mind you, I use the term “exciting” very loosely!) I guess it was exciting. Paul kept jumping up and down, hollering, “Look at them go!” All I learned from that experience, was that 2 minutes of football is equal to 20 minutes of Daylight Savings Time. An ordinary Sunday afternoon at our house would begin as he slipped into his George Blanda sweatshirt and punted his bottle of Ironized Yeast Tablets across the room, then he would step up to the TV set and announce, “Gloria, is there anything you’d like to say to me before football season begins?”
Perhaps you understand why every fall I join Parents Without Partners. Because my husband would only notice me if I were to run through the living room with… a number on my back. I can forgive him a lot of faults, especially during football season, but… When he asked if I had anything to say to him before he turned on the set, it was no wonder I replied, “Do I have to say it all now?”
Mom never “learned to like it”, herself; but, she learned to put up with my Dad’s love of it. Eventually, as an adult, I learned about the game of football through one of my girlfriends, who enjoyed it immensely. The enjoyment she derived from it was entertaining and contagious in itself. I found myself wanting to learn more about it. Now, I look forward to the football season every year. My husband and I get together with friends, meeting at a different house each week to cheer on our team and yell at the Refs and just enjoy, together, our friendships along with some food and drinks – and other forms of entertainment when our team isn’t doing well. I’ve learned a little about competition over the years, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy it – winners and losers – I’d still rather have everyone win! But, I get the most enjoyment out of the entertainment of us all just getting together over a common interest.
Whenever it’s my husband’s and my turn to host a football party, or any party for that matter, I usually channel my mom to plan the meal and hors d’oeuvres – I have my own “Rolodex” of ideas inspired by her and her love to entertain. I, also like Mom, make more than enough…just in case. But, some of our friends look at the weekly hosting in terms of a competition (like the games we get together to watch), asking, “how can I compete with this when it’s my turn to host a football party?” I always respond that “it’s not a competition!” But, for them, it is – rather than just enjoying the pure entertainment of the unpretentious activity of getting together simply “for pleasure and delight.” We each have our own ways and it’s all good entertainment. I love what everybody else does! We all have good times at each other’s homes – whether it’s just friendly entertainment or a competition. It’s like original art – no two are alike and, thus, none are enjoyed more than any another.
One of my favorite meals to prepare when entertaining in the Fall season is chili. I can make it from scratch and let it simmer all day in a slow cooker or I can whip it up from the left-overs of “taco night” or “spaghetti night” or “sloppy joe night” – you get the gist. I can also prepare it the day before an event, to re-heat the day of while I focus on other details. Chili is one of those few dishes that tastes even better the second day. I can “stretch it out” to feed more than expected by adding more meat or diced tomatoes or beans or sauce…also, by adding toppings like shredded cheddar or corn chips. Even by using smaller bowls or mugs and adding a side of inexpensive hot dogs, I can stretch it far!
As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, before Mom hung up her hat and magnifying glass and fully retired, (in exchange for a self-addressed, stamped envelope) she was graciously giving away “free sheets” of 12-20 of her most popularly requested, recipes and information on what publications she had in print and how to get them. All her recipes are copyrighted; and one thing she always asked for, when she gave permission to copy, was to give her the proper credit for it. I’ve been sharing one of those recipes with you each week, here in my blog – some of these they also appear (sometimes in alternate versions of the same dish) in her last book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective” [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)], asking only for proper credit if you care to share it. The following is an alternate, 1983 version, as found on page 50 of her last book.
CHILI IS JUST A KISSING COUSIN OF THE GREEK CONEY SAUCE and a second cousin, twice removed of the Italian pasta sauce. It’s probably related, as well, to the Hungarian goulash sauce. With or without beans, chili has become very Americanized! Chili is more popular in Cincinnati than it is in San Diego. In fact, chili is to Cinci what beans are to Boston! It is served in many ways in the various “chili parlors” and is regarded as the only place in the United States where it is “properly” prepared and served. The fast food industry launched a new frontier devoted to expanding on the idea of Mexican cuisine with American-touches that makes it appeal to those who want a change from hamburgers.
WHEN A VERY SUCCESSFUL HAMBURGER FRANCHISE decided to give the “Golden Arches” a little nudge in the marketplace, it won the public’s approval by adding a velvety-textured, mildly-seasoned chili to its menu, which has not been duplicated by any other food chain. Today, it’s the leading lady of Wendy’s fast food menu. Here’s my version.
1 ½ to 2 pounds ground round
2 tablespoons corn oil
½ teaspoon seasoned salt
10-ounce can Campbell’s Onion Soup, undiluted
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin powder
½ teaspoon pepper
21-ounce can kidney beans, un-drained
6-ounce can tomato paste
8-ounce can tomato sauce
Brown the beef in the oil and crumble it with the back of a fork until it resembles rice; then, sprinkle on the seasoned salt and turn the heat to low, covering the pan to let it simmer gently in its own juices. Put the onion soup through a blender on high-speed until it’s smooth; then, add it to the beef mixture and mash it thoroughly again with the fork. Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer gently for about 15 minutes or until the flavors are well-blended and the chili is piping hot! Makes about 6 servings. Left-overs keep well in a covered container in refrigerator for a week, or freeze up to 6 months, but it should be thawed/re-heated in the top of a double boiler over gently simmering water.
This is a copy of a later version from one of Mom’s “free recipes sheets” (2000), again, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it: