Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Make the most of Summer

As always, happy Monday to everybody! Today is also National Penuche Fudge Day – so, happy Penuche Fudge Day and, if you can, enjoy a luscious piece somewhere; then, hashtag it on social media!

#NationalPenucheFudgeDay

According to Merriam-Webster.com, penuche is a fudge usually made of brown sugar, butter, cream or milk, and nuts. There’s also a great sounding recipe for a traditional penuche on a 2014 blog entry from Jennifer Buggica, “The Foodie Patootie”, at https://thefoodiepatootie.com/national-penuche-fudge-day/. I wish I could eat it – but, unfortunately it’s too sweet for my hypoglycemic system. I’ll have to work on a sugar-free, low-carb version, even if it won’t be a traditional penuche.

In the summer of 1976, Mom self-published a little cookbook, called The American Cookery Cookbook, of which the Henry Ford Museum bought some copies to put in its bi-centennial collection. That was the only cookbook, of Mom’s, in which I could find a copy of a traditional-style penuche recipe. Mom called her recipe ‘San Diego Penuche’.

However, Mom’s 1997 recipe for fudge like Disney World’s (see that recipe near the end of this blog) is very similar to a traditional penuche. About a month ago, I had shared with you a different recipe version, from Mom, for fudge like Disney World’s.

No matter where you go across North America – from a little German town in Michigan, called Frankenmuth, to See’s Candy shops in California to Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL to the Maple Leaf Village in Niagara Falls, Ontario – fudge is a tourism staple and the making of fudge, before our very eyes, has become an art form, as well as a form of entertainment for millions of North American tourists every year.

I can’t have fudge anymore because of my low-carb lifestyle AND hypoglycemia. I miss my carbs so much! Some sugar-free and low-carb versions of anything may still taste okay, but they’re just not the same, nor really as good! However, I can still reminisce about the real tastes as I watch the fudge-makers perform their magic shows through the big picture windows of all the little fudge shops in all the tourist areas I visit!

It’s still fun to watch them, live, transforming their thick, molten liquid creations – like the river flowing through Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory – by pouring the confections out of big vats and onto large, cold, marble slabs. Then, the fudge-makers fold the gooey mixture over and over again, cooling it and thickening it through the process, until they’ve formed long loaves of thick, sweet goodness to be sliced like bread. It doesn’t cost me any carbs to stand there and smell the sweet, sugary aromas – and reminisce about the flavors I remember from my childhood!

1970, Pitzer Vacation at Mackinac Island, MI

I have so many wonderful, childhood memories of family, summertime trips to popular tourist spots like Cedar Point (Sandusky, OH), Disneyland (Los Angeles, CA), Toronto and Niagara Falls (both, in Ontario, Canada). In addition, are our own beautiful “up north” Michigan destinations like Mackinaw City, Mackinac Island and Tahquamenon Falls. Everywhere we visited, there was usually a fudge shop at which to stop and see a fudge-making performance, as well as to buy some of their tasty treats.

An interesting story on the history of fudge and how it came to be a tourism staple, in the first place, can be found at https://www.chowhound.com/food-news/205844/how-did-fudge-become-a-staple-of-tourist-towns/. Another great article to check out, on the subjects of fudge and tourism, is called “Why does every Tourist Attraction sell Fudge?”, by Kat Eschner (Smithsonian.com; May 12, 2017), at https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/why-does-every-tourist-attraction-sell-fudge-180963152/.

1979, Pitzer Vacation at Niagara Falls, Ontario

Going through Mom’s old photo albums brings up so many more memories of our family, summertime vacations. Mom, almost always, was the one to photograph all those special moments; although, Dad would take a picture every now and then, so Mom could be in some shots as well. Back then, there weren’t “selfies” or digital cameras with the capabilities of capturing thousands of pictures!

Years ago, every shot needed to count because your roll of film was limited to a certain number of photos, and you didn’t know if any of them would come out right until you had the film printed – there was no instant viewing and deleting, like we can do now. Photo technology has come such a long, long way over the last 50 years.

I remember when Polaroid cameras and disposable cameras were the new, cutting-edge technology! Now your cell phone is an all-in-one-personal-assistant with a built-in camera to capture every “Kodak moment” as it happens! AND, not only that, but, now, you can also skip the whole printing process and still share your photos through the internet via emails and social media sites or, more privately, through text messages!

Mackinac Island Memories – Somewhere In Time

I would have to say, the Mackinac Island fudge shops are probably my favorite ones of all! And the summer vacations we spent on Mackinac Island were always the most memorable! Except for the smell of horse dung, baking in the summer heat, the island is actually full of many heavenly scents from the sugary confections being made in the fudge and candy shops to the wonderful aromas seeping from the island’s restaurants and bakeries to the heavenly scents surrounding all the beautiful gardens that are everywhere. Mackinac is a very nostalgic place – no cars are allowed on the island, so getting around it is usually done by foot, bicycle or horse in some manner.

Whether we stayed in Mackinaw City and visited the island all day or we stayed at the Grand Hotel, right on the island; it was always a magical trip back in time… especially the summer when the movie, Somewhere in Time, was being filmed there! What a special treat for all of us to experience! [NOTE: long before that, another movie was also filmed at the Grand Hotel. In 1947, Ethel Merman swam in the kidney-shaped pool of the Grand Hotel during the filming of This Time for Keeps. Thus, the pool was named after her.]

Photo of Gloria Pitzer, on the porch of The Grand Hotel, taken by Laura Pitzer, 1979

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

SOMEWHERE IN TIME – MACKINAC ISLAND [MI]

Our reservations were made in February, that year, to spend the Fourth of July week at The Grand Hotel on historic Mackinac Island in Northern Michigan. We had heard, when we arrived, that Universal Pictures was filming a movie with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour and that our 2-day stay at the hotel might be disrupted from the usual routine we were used to when we stayed there. The place was booked, and we were lucky to have those 2 days because other customers had canceled. The scene when we arrived was one of spectators and glamorous Hollywood activity in the lobby and on the grounds.

Paul was just teeing off at the green next to the golf pro shop, the next morning, when we heard a sympathetic moan from the beautiful leading man, himself, as he locked up his bike and headed across the street to the filming activity. I know I should have run after Christopher Reeve for his autograph, but I was in shock!

Later, in the hotel lobby, we watched the scene when Christopher Reeve checks into The Grand and, later, when he and Jane Seymour take a buggy ride away from the entrance of the hotel with Christopher Plummer looking on. Take the time to enjoy seeing the movie they were filming – we’ve seen it 4 times and can’t wait to see it again! It’s for everyone who has ever been in love – or who has ever visited lovely Mackinac Island, as we do every summer.

In one scene of the movie you’ll notice, on the main street of the village, a sign over a shop that reads ‘Murdick’s Fudge’, a recipe which I have coveted for years. Finally, after dozens of tests, I came up with the secret for purporting this product at home… It whips up in 5 minutes and, a week later, it’s still smooth and creamy. – Gloria Pitzer [from Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 235)]

After Mom and Dad became empty-nesters, they bought a camper and traveled even more – being that it was much more affordable with only the two of them! Joining the Good Sam club was always one of their most favorite experiences. Mom had many scrap books full of photos and special keepsakes from all of their trips with the Michigan and Ohio chapters. Mom also wrote about her and Dad’s trips in most of her summer newsletter issues, especially about all the great new friendships they made everywhere they went. They always looked forward to the Good Sam “Jamborees”!

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

GOOD SAM – CARING AND CAMPING

Needless to say, I can’t wait until we can begin our ‘motor-home camping’ again with our Good Sam friends. It’s our weekend vacation pleasure, May through October. Becoming part of the Good Sam organization is the best thing that has ever happened to us, where we could both enjoy mutual friendships and activities. Wonderful, caring people, who constantly remind us that ‘there are no strangers in Good Sam – only friends we haven’t met, yet!’ – Gloria Pitzer [from Gloria Pitzer’s Secret RecipesTM Newsletter (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May-June 1987, 126th issue, p. 3)]

MY “DIET” UPDATE:

On the first day of spring, I started a low-carb lifestyle (like the Atkins Diet). Thus far, it has been 124 days of no bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, sugar, most fruits – you know, all the good stuff… and, boy, do I ever miss the good stuff! It feels just like when I quit smoking cigarettes over 13 years ago. Absence does make the heart grow fonder – at least for a while! I must admit, I’m a carbohydrate addict!

In fact, I never realized how much I ate (and how little my husband ate) until I started this low-carb lifestyle/diet. I HATE waste and throwing out food! But, after I started my new lifestyle, I realized that I was the only one who had been eating up the left-overs, so food wouldn’t go to waste. It’s been difficult, learning to cook two, small, single meals at a time. I’ve been so used to cooking large portions for so long.

After starting this new lifestyle out at a daily carbohydrate limit of 20 grams, for a few weeks, I raised my carb-limit up to 25 grams a day and have kept it there so far. It seems to work for me. But, whenever I don’t keep track of my carb-intake, I go over my limit. I can feel its effects the next day, and it doesn’t feel good (such as an upset stomach and the shakes from a drop in my blood sugar level); plus, I re-gain a pound or two.

I mentioned in my last “Diet Update” that I had recently started using almond flour to make some Keto recipes. I still LOVE the 90-Second Microwave English Muffin! I like to turn my “slices” into a Monte Cristo sandwich for breakfast. It’s a little piece of heaven for about 9-grams of carbs!

I’ve also been experimenting with some of my favorite cookies and dessert recipes, using sugar-free and low-carb ingredient substitutions. I have developed a no-bake cookie concoction that can be panned up and cubed like fudge. I also like to use a no-flour, 3-ingredient, peanut butter cookie recipe that’s been around for years, substituting my own low-carb ingredients!

As of today, I’ve lost about 37 pounds! However, my “exercise regimen” is STILL not steady, to say the least! Nevertheless, I need to change that because I continue to not spend near enough time weeding my gardens or going for brisk walks. Thus, I won’t stop trying to make those things part of my already irregular, daily routine. My goal is to lose another 8-13 pounds, but I don’t have a deadline set. I’ll get there when I get there, but I WILL get there!

IN CLOSING…

Last month, I shared a version of Mom’s Disney World-Style Fudge from one of her free recipe and information sheets… Below is a different version of that recipe, as seen in Mom’s cookbook, The Original 200 Plus Secret Recipes Book (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; June 1997, p. 9) – and its ingredients are more similar to those of a traditional penuche. Again, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.

 

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

As always, happy Monday to everybody! I hope you’ve all enjoyed your Independence Day celebrations and the extra-long weekend! I want to wish a big “happy birthday” to the famous Austrian Chef, Wolfgang Puck, AND happy 130th birthday to the USA Wall Street Journal!

Also, in history – yesterday was the 38-year anniversary of when Mom FIRST appeared on the Phil Donahue Show! That was definitely a milestone event, to say the least! St. Clair’s little post office was swamped with a million letters, throughout that summer and fall, just from that show, which aired and re-aired around the world for about a year! It was truly an overwhelming response that none of us ever expected. More about that story appears in one of my early blogs, More than 15 Minutes of Fame.

Secret RecipesTM was just a family affair (other than my parents’ recent hiring of an Administrative Assistant, who was also a family friend) until that summer! Then my parents needed to pay some of my friends to temporarily come in and help with all the extra mail…from sending out hundreds of thousands of Mom’s “free recipes and product-ordering information” sheets for all the SASEs that came in, from the show airing that offer, to sending out the thousands-upon-thousands more newsletter issues, from all of the extra subscription orders that came from those “free sheet” mailings.

Donahue 1981 promo

Every year, the summer months seem to wiz right by me, never getting to completely enjoy them. While, on the other hand, winter seems to linger on endlessly! I want to savor every wonderful day of summer this year. It seems to pass by so fast here, in Michigan. Inspired by an article I read at https://www.beautyandtips.com/fun/10-fun-things-to-do-in-the-summer/ , I created a summertime bucket list of 5 things I want do this summer (as seen in photo below).

I’m a list-maker! Thus, I also started making another list of what I want to pack for our perfect picnic. Since I’m living a low-carb life-style, now, and my husband is not, I have to rethink our favorite classic picnic dishes to accommodate the both of us. That means most everything will need to be made and packed ahead of time, in individual servings rather than the usual family-style dishes. Great ideas on how to plan the perfect picnic and the related recipes can be found at, both, the Food Network’s and Taste of Home’s websites!

Our list of favorite picnic classics is similar to those listed in Sara Elliott’s Top 10 Picnic Foods, as seen on HowStuffWorks.com. When I plan my own picnics, I like to use the summertime classics that Mom used to make, I love her homemade dishes like fudge brownies, chocolate chip cookies, coleslaw, potato salad, pasta salads, fruit salad and fried chicken, which is always great, either, hot or cold!

I‘ve been learning to make my own low-carb versions of a lot of dishes I used to make and enjoy with my husband. For instance, I missed no-bake cookies, which I used to call “Mud Puddles” when I was a little girl. Thus, I took my favorite recipe apart and, like my mom, discovered how to make the same thing a different way; replacing the sugar with a sugar-substitute and the peanut butter with a low-carb version (I really like Skippy’s “Natural Creamy”), plus some unsweetened coconut in place of the oatmeal. I can, once again, savor those wonderful delights (IN MODERATION), while my husband enjoys a few of his own sweet favorites, fudge brownies and chocolate chip cookies!

In addition, instead of the potato and pasta salads that my husband will enjoy, I can have a low-carb spring greens salad with fresh-picked vegetables from my garden, bacon bits, shredded cheese and my own, homemade, low-carb 1000 Island or ranch dressing. My husband always says he’d “rather eat the rabbit than the rabbit food!” I’ve also learned to make low-carb versions of coleslaw and meatloaf that we both enjoy – you can count us among those who like their meatloaf, either way, hot or cold. In addition, grilled chicken, instead of fried, is also a low-carb substitution that I can utilize for both of us (hot or cold)!

My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 68)

BIG BUCKET IN THE SKY!

Speaking of fried chicken – in a side note – while surfing the web, recently, for old articles about my mom, I ran across an article by John Owen, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, published March 1, 1994, that said, in part…

COLONEL SANDERS’ ORIGINAL RECIPE was pressure-cooked in oil. The spicing is supposed to be a secret. One researcher concluded there are only four “secret herbs and spices” in the late colonel’s recipe. Another…The Recipe Detective…offers an excellent approximation but contains 11 herbs and spices. And it’s probably better for you because it is oven-cooked. Gloria Pitzer calls it “Colonel Sanders-Style Chicken.” – By John Owen

It should be noted that, since 1977, Mom actually called her imitation of KFC’s original product (as it used to be, before “The Colonel” sold it) “Big Bucket in the Sky!” chicken; following threats of legal action for trademark infringements from the KFC Corporation’s Trademark Manager in Dec. 1976. KFC had also sent copies of that letter to The National Inquirer, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Detroit Free Press and WHO-radio for the reporters in those medias who wrote articles or talked about Mom’s imitation of “The Colonel’s” original product to, likewise, stop referring to it as “The Colonel’s Style” or “KFC’s Style” chicken.

Here’s a great “extended version” of the Colonel-Sanders-related story mentioned above (part of it is a summer rerun from my earlier blog, More than 15 Minutes of Fame). The following is Mom’s favorite recipe experience from “The Phil Donahue Show”, as it appears in her last book, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective ( Balboa Press, January 2018; 1st Printing, pp. 86-89), along with Mom’s “Big Bucket in the Sky!” chicken recipe from one of those pages, as well:

Mom & Phil Donahue 1993

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

FRIED CHICKEN has always been a basic American favorite, even before it was a restaurant offering. It was ‘down-home’ and wholesome and has never lost its popularity. When Colonel Harland Sanders, in his retirement years, took a can of his favorite secret spices & herbs and his precious fryer and traveled across the country demonstrating his technique for preparing chicken. No one dreamed it would someday become one of the most successful corporations of the American restaurant industry, much less of the American free enterprise system, itself!

There are very minute differences between the popular restaurants in the way that their individual recipes are prepared… My own favorite is still the original recipe that we sampled when we were traveling [through] Ontario many, many years ago, and stopped at the White Horse Inn, where ‘The Colonel’, himself, was preparing his chicken and passing samples around to the customers. If the owners of the restaurant liked the response, Harland Sanders would provide them with the spices and the technique for preparing it under his name, which he eventually did – growing to the largest in the business.

Cartoon by Gloria Pitzer

THE SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE – WITH THE COLONEL’S HELP

I look back now to 1976 and 1977 and realize how fortunate I was to have had my life touched by so many helpful people – so many famous people! It’s almost incredible that what started out to be merely the frosting on the cake, of my monthly newsletter, soon became the whole cake!

While duplicating the secrets of the food and restaurant industry was only going to be a part of the publication I was writing, it was a surprise to me that the interest and the response from the public led to my specializing in the fast food division entirely! I thought my first book was going to be my ‘only’ book on that subject, but – six books later – I was still seriously, but lovingly, engaged in the pursuit of new information and challenging recipe imitations. [Side note: In total, Mom wrote and self-published over 40 books, in 30 years, 1973-2003.]

…One summer, while visiting relatives in West Virginia, we sampled some pan-fried home-style chicken that was every bit as good as the chicken produced in a pressure fryer. Paul’s 82-year-old-aunt claimed, why the chicken always came out just right every time she made it, which was religiously every Sunday, was the pan! She used an 80-year-old wrought iron skillet that had never been washed in soap and water. She ‘seasoned’ it with shortening – lard, mostly – and she kept it in the oven of her wood-burning, porcelain-enameled stove, where it was always warm.

THE FRIED CHICKEN RECIPE that first called attention to my recipes nationally – through the ‘National Enquirer’, ‘Money Magazine’, ‘Catholic Digest’, ‘The Christian Science Monitor’, ‘Campus Life Magazine’ and, yes, even ‘Playboy Magazine’ – was this following combination of ingredients… [as always, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it…]

See, also, http://therecipedetective.com/2018/11/06/big-bucket-in-the-sky-fried-chicken/ for another version included in this story.

The method is quite unorthodox and the original idea for developing it in this manner, came from a conversation I had with ‘Col. Sanders’ over the air with radio station WFAA in Dallas when I was a regular guest on a talk show with them for several months…

‘The Colonel’ was fascinated by the publicity I had received for my (original) ‘Big Bucket in the Sky’ fried chicken recipe and agreed that I was on the right track if I’d add more pepper. He loved pepper! He also suggested browning the chicken in a skillet and, then, oven-baking it until tender to achieve a likeness more to the original recipe he had created in 1964. He told me to look around the grocery store for 1 packaged product to replace the 11 spices – which I did diligently – and discovered that powdered Italian salad dressing mix was the secret!

Gloria Pitzer, Recipe Detective

So, I set to work to revamp the recipe. My original recipe was quite close to the famous Colonel’s product, but the coating kept falling off – because, as he explained, I couldn’t get the oil hot enough. He liked peanut oil, himself, but suggested that I could achieve a similar result by using corn or Crisco oil – with 1 cup solid Crisco for every 4 cups of oil. He talked about the quality in his product changing after turning the business over to new owners…Heublein [Incorporated]…

It seemed unlikely that a home-kitchen-rendition of such a famous product could be had for the price of my book. But the letters came in – ‘best chicken we ever had’; ‘LOVED that fried chicken recipe’; ‘our favorite chicken recipe…please don’t change it’; and ‘maybe the Colonel should have YOUR recipe!’

I don’t recall ever getting tired of fried chicken, while taste-testing all those “duds”; until Mom achieved the perfect result, for which she was aiming. There were never any bad “duds”! They just didn’t have the precise taste or quality (or both) that Mom was trying to attain.

On occasion, I’ve heard or read comments from some people who’ve tried one of Mom’s recipes and said, while it tasted really good, it didn’t taste like the product it was supposed to be imitating. Nevertheless, they loved it and continued to use the recipe as their families’ favorite “go-to” selection.

As I’ve mentioned before, in a previous blog (New Year, New Attitude), you’ll find some recipes, even in chain restaurants, will have slight, state-to-state or region-to-region, cultural differences. In addition, recipes are occasionally changed over the years to accommodate such things as public trends, healthier selections, availability factors and/or economic reasons among others.

In Crouton Crackerjacks’ wonderful YouTube video of a guy making (and giving proper credit for) Mom’s imitation of Cracker Barrel’s Buttermilk Biscuits, the guy says that the biscuits he’s making taste nothing like Cracker Barrel’s, to him. BUT, he does add that, all-in-all, it is an excellent biscuit – regardless of what restaurant inspired it – it’s his family’s favorite biscuit recipe! Check out the video at https://youtu.be/CLc0Hkbwz7c. AND see Mom’s recipe at the end of this blog for her “Beautiful Biscuits – Better than KFC’s”!

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

For instance, regarding recipe changes, after Harland Sanders sold his company and recipes to Heublein Incorporated, they changed a recipe that resulted in “The Colonel” suing them for misuse of his image in promoting products he hadn’t developed. [From “The part of KFC’s Story They Don’t Want You to Know”, by The Useless Info Junkie at https://theuijunkie.com/colonel-sanders-sued-kfc/]

During his later years, Harland Sanders became very critical of the “new” recipes dished up by the new KFC owners, as he believed they had cut costs and allowed quality to deteriorate. BrightSide.me offers up more examples of corporate recipe changes in their article, 11 Products That Have Surprisingly Changed Over Time, at https://brightside.me/wonder-curiosities/11-products-that-have-surprisingly-changed-over-time-418560/.

IN CLOSING…

[NOTE: This is bonus recipe, for you, is a photo copy of Mom’s “Beautiful Biscuits, better than KFC’s” – from one of her “free recipe” offers.]

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – A Day in the Life of the Happy Homemaker

Happy Monday AND happy “Please Take My Children to Work Day”! Yes, Virginia! There is such a thing!

Before my mom was the Recipe DetectiveTM, before she authored all those newsletters and cookbooks, Mom penned and syndicated various “hot topic” and “homemaker” satirical-styled editorials/columns, as well as a series of cartoon panels! One of her later series of columns was called “No Laughing Matter” (aka: “No Laugh ‘N Matter”), which she continued doing for a while, even after the rise of her Secret RecipesTM business took off in the 1970s.

Mom would have had a field day writing a column about this national “Please Take My Children to Work Day” – I can’t believe there really is such a thing! Apparently, it’s been celebrated yearly on the last Monday of June for 16 years (since 2003). This year, that happens to be today! Who knew? I could have used that when my kids were young – NOT! I can just hear my mom laughing and saying the same thing, too!

Photo by Gloria Pitzer (1970-ish)

We got our “me times” the old fashioned way… when the kids were involved in school, sports, play groups, Scouts, city activities… the list goes on, including hiring a sitter for a day every now and then – or exchanging sitting favors with another mom! Sorry – but, really people – you don’t need a national holiday to devise a one-day break from parenting responsibilities! It’s a lifelong commitment. Besides, there’s already a yearly national “Take Your Child to Work Day” on the last Thursday in April!

For more information on what the “Please Take My Children to Work Day” holiday is really all about, you can check out these three websites, on which I found some interesting information; or do a search of your own, but here are some starting points:

In one of Mom’s “No Laughing Matter” columns from the 1970s (not sure what date it was actually published in the papers wherever it was syndicated), Where Have All Our Homemakers Gone?, Mom wrote: “The full-time homemaker is, unfortunately, being short-changed by today’s ‘paycheck-oriented’ society and, if Women’s Lib have their own way, ‘homemaker’ will be a 4-letter word… the women who either by choice or by circumstance makes a career out of making a home.”

Here it is about 40 years later and not much has changed. I constantly recognize the timelessness in a lot of the issues about which Mom once wrote. I guess it’s true – the more things change, the more they also stay the same!

Illustrated by Gloria Pitzer

In another “No Laughing Matter” article (circa 1970s), Just a Housewife and a Pro!, Mom wrote: “As a ‘suburban housewife’, I fail to see how anyone could classify my routine as ‘dull’! For one thing, everyone knows that the mother of an active family has no routine! We’re lucky if we can get our slippers on the right feet first thing in the morning. In fact, we’re lucky if we can even find those slippers, having to, first, plow through an undergrowth of Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs on the way to the kitchen, where we must witness testy debates over who gets the [prize] in the box of [cereal] and why a 40-year-old man refuses to take the Donald Duck thermos in his lunch…

What’s wrong with a quest for a roll of Scotch tape that’s your very own or having the phone ring and the call is for you instead of your teenager? [Margaret Mead’s] working definition [of a ‘first-class’ woman, not being a housewife or homemaker,] is a ‘trained, competent, professional woman’. Now, I’d be the last one to contradict an expert, but in defense of women who become wives and mothers… we have had training (although much of it’s on the job), are extremely competent and are professional [according to Webster’s dictionary] in that we have ‘a vocation requiring knowledge of some department of learning or skill’…

If you don’t think it takes learning or skill to varnish a complex-of-disorder with enough love and efficiency that husbands and children grow up with security and comfort, drop around my kitchen some Sunday night… no matter what they tell us [working-outside-the-home homemakers] about turning our kids over to a day care center, there’s nothing like coming home from school to know that Mom’s in the kitchen, whipping up a pitcher of Tang and a plate of Twinkies.” [NOTE: See Mom’s recipe for homemade Twinkies at the end of this blog.]

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

Mom often referred to our family as being the total opposites of the Brady family on TV! Here’s a take, from the early years of the Recipe DetectiveTM, when Dan Martin of Newsday Wire Features wanted to come to our house in Pearl Beach to interview Mom about her bi-centennial cookbook that he had seen at The Henry Ford Museum in Greenfield Village… To hear Mom tell the story, it was just another day in the life of the “happy homemaker” – the kind of “stuff” from which country songs (or reality TV shows) are made!

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

When he knocked on the door that day, it was like inviting him into a Jean Kerr production of “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies”. There were a dozen baskets of ironing here and there in the large dining room, each tagged with the [customer’s] name, phone number and date… Two long tables, under the windows [along the east wall], were covered with freshly mimeographed 4×6 cards of recipes, spread out for the ink to dry. Several times a week, I printed up about 200 recipes, at 50 copies each. At that time, we sold these through our newsletter for 5-for-a-dollar or 25-cents each. We did very well with them too!

Gloria Pitzer, mimeographing in her early years as the Recipe Detective [TM]

In the living room, Debbie’s friends had gathered with their driver’s training manuals to quiz each other for the big day coming up – when those six teenagers would be taking their driving tests. In the kitchen, Cheryl and Lorie were working on Girl Scout badge projects with some of their friends. It was a mad house!

Mr. Pipersack was shuffling in and out of the side porch door [off of the utility room], trying to unplug the bathroom pipes and clean out the septic tank for us. In the back room, where the prehistoric furnace was located in the 80-year-old house, a man from the gas company was arguing with a man from [the electric] company about what was wrong with our furnace and why it wouldn’t work [and recommending that I hide Paul’s wrench!]…

Our oldest son, Bill, was hunting through the kitchen drawers for some tools… so he could get under the hood of his [car] out in the driveway and, then, let Mr. Pipersack pull his truck into the yard. Mike, our next oldest, was on the phone trying to convince a girl that the things she had heard about him weren’t true and, if he could get his dad’s car on Saturday, would she go to the movies with him…

[Furthermore,] the cat was having a litter of kittens under the sewing table and our police dog, Suzie, was about to have a litter of pups and was moping about, looking for comfort…

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

Had our life been made into a TV series, it probably would’ve been called ‘The Pitzer Pack Rats’! …Based purely on the unfounded talents of our five kids to keep our house looking like it was just about to be condemned by HUD! I pretend not to care for ‘The Brady Bunch’, because I envied their lovely lifestyle, where problems were solved without so much as a hair out of place or a tear shed in despair…

My husband… loved the way the Brady’s bathroom mirror never got steamed up from somebody’s shower and how Mr. Brady never had to threaten a child… for catapulting a meatball off of their fork and into [his] coffee cup the way our kids would! I liked the way their stairway was always free of common household litter and their door wall never had fingerprints on it.

Illustrations by Gloria Pitzer

Their house plants flourished and when their phone would ring, it was always somebody… who had something pertinent to contribute to the entire 30-minute story… When [the phone] rings in this house, it’s usually a lady calling long-distance, from Toledo, to tell me about an exciting new offer on my favorite… magazines at drastically reduced rates, or… my Avon lady…

Mrs. Brady lived the kind of saccharine existence all mothers of my day dreamed of, for she never had to explain why they had Coca-Cola stains on the ceiling or how she blew the food budget on a pot roast for Sunday’s dinner, or why she had to take down phone messages in the dust on the end table because she could never locate a pencil and paper when she needed it, like I did!

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

Her kids did not spend hours on the phone with a friend just listening to each other breathe, nor did they waste their allowances on a record album with a 3-aspirin rating! And, I noticed, the Brady kids never used a windowsill for a foot-rest, a lampshade for a coat rack or a younger brother for a punching bag.

Mr. and Mrs. Brady never argued with each other over his bowling night and her Bridge Club. Have you ever noticed how their oldest boy never stood around, cracking his knuckles when he was bored? Ours did. Everything that happened to them was an object lesson with a happy conclusion where the parents always come out on top, knowing what was best for the youngsters and proving it, too!

Illustrations & Photo by Gloria Pitzer

We always felt lucky, on the other hand, if Paul and I could only get the cherries out of the fruit cocktail before the kids did! And, while all of the Brady kids uttered adorable little sayings… our teenaged son explained how he had just initiated his new chemistry set by concocting Nitro-glycerin in the utility room.

The Brady Bunch may have lived in a Walt Disney [style] happily-ever-after world, but I did really like them… because [the story] didn’t tell it like it WAS, but how it COULD be! – Gloria Pitzer, My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, pp. 27-29)

Inspired by some of Mom’s stories and cartoons, I wrote the following parody of The Brady Bunch theme song, That’s the Way we all Became the Brady Bunch, by songwriters, Frank DeVol and Sherwood Schwartz (© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC):

Parody by Laura Emerich, Illustrations & Photo by Gloria Pitzer

MY “DIET” UPDATE:

Friday marked the first day of summer! On the first day of spring I adopted the low-carb lifestyle (like Atkins). It has been 97 days of no bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, sugar – you know, all the good stuff! After starting out at a 20-gram-carb-limit for a few weeks, I raised my carb-limit to 25 grams a day and have kept it there so far.

I’ve recently started using almond flour to make some Keto recipes. I LOVE the 90-Second Microwave English Muffin! I turned my slices into a Monte Cristo sandwich one morning and, OMG, I was in heaven (and stuffed) for a maximum 9-grams of carbs! I’ve also discovered that some heavy whipping cream and sugar-free, flavored gelatin make awesome “carb-free” desserts!

As of today, I’ve lost about 30 pounds! My goal is to lose another 10 pounds, at least; maybe 15 pounds at most. However, my “exercise regimen” is not steady, to say the least, and I still need to change that! I don’t spend near enough time weeding my garden or going for brisk walks.

IN CLOSING

‘Hopeless Twinkles’ recipe developed by Gloria Pitzer

MILD SALSA, INSPIRED BY CHI CHI’S

MILD SALSA, INSPIRED BY CHI CHI’S

– By Gloria Pitzer, The Best of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Feb. 1990, p. 45)

Ingredients:

4 medium tomatoes, unpeeled & chopped

3 medium onions, chopped fine

2 fresh banana peppers, chopped

2 TB oil

½ cup lime juice

½ cup V-8 juice

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate in a tightly covered container for at least 4 hours to allow the flavors to blend, before serving with corn [or tortilla] chips or as a sauce for tacos or burritos. Serve hot or cold. Makes about one quart. [You can also spice this up with your favorite hot sauce!]

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Food for Thought

Happy Monday everyone! Welcome to Mondays & Memories of My Mom by Laura (Pitzer) Emerich.

This is a weekly blog series that I began 8 months ago to honor the legacy of my mom, Gloria Pitzer, aka: the famous Recipe DetectiveTM and founder of Secret RecipesTM. My mom investigated the alleged mysteries and furtive formulas of the food industry, and discovered how to imitate their famous, popular products and dishes at home!

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

Beginning in the mid-1970s, Mom was becoming known, world-wide, for busting the mysteries behind making fast food and junk food fare at home! She reasoned that she could take the junk out of junk food if she controlled the ingredients that went into the cuisine in the first place. Mom developed thousands of recipes, imitating the trendy menu choices from many popular chain and fine-dining restaurants, in addition to well-liked, shelf-stable grocery products!

All of these recipes she put into over 35 of her self-published cookbooks and her hundreds of newsletter issues; sandwiching in snippets of satirical humor and caricature illustrations, household hints, “food for the heart and soul” commentaries, her timeless Food for Thought and No Laughing Matter editorials and background/historical information on various companies, chefs, products or dishes as well.

Those are the kinds of things that made Mom’s cookbooks stand out from all the rest, back then; besides being the first to pioneer the copycat recipes movement and carve out such a unique niche, as to capture the public, the critics and the food industry by storm! Each of Mom’s cookbooks and newsletters were designed to be just as much of a coffee table or bedside table read as it was a collection of recipes for the kitchen!

Food for Thought and No Laughing Matter were the titles of two of the news columns that Mom wrote in the late 1960s through the late 1970s, for local newspapers and syndications across the country. Other columns Mom wrote included Pitzer’s Patter and Cookbook Corner. As I’ve mentioned previously, there was also a series of humorous and satirical cartoon panels that Mom drew for The Richmond Review (Richmond, MI) in the late 1960s and early 1970s called Full House as kept by Gloria Pitzer. I’ve been including pictures of some of the panels (as well as Mom’s other illustrations) in many of my blogs.

Photo by Laura Emerich

It seems that Mom’s cartoon panels, either, inspired or were inspired by the various subject matters of her columns. Like the chicken and the egg analogy – I’m not sure which came first (as some are not dated but matched in subject matter). Food for Thought is also part of the title of one of Mom’s few self-published books that were not cookbooks. In fact, Mom called it This is not a Cookbook – It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986)!

Mom was always keenly aware that sustenance for our brains (aka: brain food, information, food for the mind or Food for Thought) is just as important for our well-being as are food for the soul and food for the body – as each of us are the sum of mind, body and soul! But, there was not a single cookbook on the market that could give all of that to the readers…not until Mom’s cookbooks came along, that is!

According to UrbanDictionary.com, Food for Thought means: “Learning new information that you never thought was important to think about. It enables you to have a greater intelligence in every aspect of life while feeding your mind.”

Similarly, Merriam-Webster.com says Food for Thought is “something that should be thought about or considered carefully.” Likewise, Dictionary.com declares, besides being “an idea or issue to ponder”, Food for Thought is also a “…metaphoric phrase, transferring the idea of digestion from the stomach to mulling something over in the mind…”; adding that it “dates from the late 1800s, although the idea was also expressed somewhat differently at least three centuries earlier.”

That last little tidbit of information was news to me! Is it to you? Anyway, the moral is that we should follow a well-balanced diet of brain food, as well as soul and body foods, on a daily basis, in order to be truly (and literally) fit from head to toe!

#OneSizeDoesNotFitAll

Speaking of “diet”, earlier in March, I wrote two blogs about dieting, food-choices, lifestyle changes and losing weight. Since then, I’ve been saving bits and pieces of ideas, or Food for Thought, on dieting about which I wanted to write further in a future blog. Now, it’s time to revisit the subject, answering the questions – “What diet will work for me?” and “What is BMI?”

As for “What diet will work for me?” There are so many diets out there, and all are as individual as are we! Thus, everyone considering dieting should do their research and feed their brain with information first; but, beware – not all of them are legitimate or safe! Nor, are they all a “one-size-fits-all” approach, from which to simply pick one and run with it! So, first, be informed; but, also, do so by reliable sources!

The U.S. News recently identified 41 of the best and most popular diets, assessing their target audiences as well. You can find a lot of brain food (aka: information) about the different diets on these two links: https://health.usnews.com/best-diet and https://health.usnews.com/best-diet/best-diets-overall. In addition, before starting any such endeavor, consult your doctor for recommendations also!

As for “What is BMI?” AND why we should know more about it or should we even be concerned with it at all? Just the other day, I saw a report on my local news show’s health segment about this very thing! Hence, I wanted to include this link at http://www.fox2detroit.com/health/stepping-on-the-scale-can-be-scary-but-we-can-t-ignore-the-number-it-shows for you, as the report contained a full course meal of great information to consume without the worry of counting its calorie, fat or carbohydrate contents!

We all have certain numbers that the health experts say we should know. One such number is called BMI (Body Mass Index), which is generally calculated (using the metric system) by dividing a person’s weight by the square of their height. Most medical professionals will tell you that a generally calculated BMI below 18.5 can indicate conditions of being underweight, signaling that you could be malnourished or have some other underlying medical condition.

On the other hand, if the BMI is in the range of 25-29.9, it indicates being overweight; while any score of 30 or more is considered to be obese. BMI numbers in the higher ranges are indicative of being at risk for possible, future metabolic diseases like hypertension, high cholesterol and heart disease – even type 2 diabetes is within the realm of indicators. BMI is considered the most common measurement for identifying the obesity level.

Believers in the BMI formula feel it is important because of its widely accepted indicators for one’s chances, of having a longer and healthier life, being more favorable if the number is in the so-called “healthy range” of 18.5-24.9. A large body of research supports the idea that people with higher BMIs are more prone to a number of health-related complications. Additionally, experts found that being overweight or obese at middle-age (about 40) is associated with a significantly increased risk of dying prematurely.

Regardless, critics of the BMI formula claim that the formula doesn’t paint an accurate picture because it doesn’t consider other variables of our body make-up such as our activity level, gender, age and race. In addition, it does not distinguish between weight attributed by muscle mass and that which comes from fat, as the latter is lighter than the former. Consequently, someone with more muscle mass than fat mass will have a deceptively higher BMI number.

Additionally, BMI is not always accurate in the elderly either, because these people often have LESS muscle and bone mass than do younger subjects. So, the build and activity level of a woman age 55-60 years old and in menopause, for example, does not (and cannot) compare to the build and activity level of a woman who is 25-30 years old, let alone to men in the same age brackets. Plus, there are inherited biological differences among the various races that can also impact the BMI method!

MY “DIET” UPDATE:

This is Day 62 of my new low-carb (Atkins-like) life-style that I started on the first day of spring. I changed my eating habits and choices and aimed to keep my carbohydrate intake within a 20- to 25-gram target area. I stay completely away from certain carbohydrate sources, such as potatoes, legumes, rice, pasta, breads and sweets…as well as anything else made with flour/sugar. Having hypoglycemia (but not diabetes), this low-carb life-style is good for me, anyway; since my body doesn’t process those types of carbs properly, causing sudden drops in my blood-sugar levels.

So far, I’ve lost about 22 pounds! I had been losing about 3 pounds per week, on average! But, for the last week or two, I seem to have hit a “plateau”. Admittedly, I have yet to add any REGULAR exercise regimen into my already busy days – maybe, because I hate to exercise! Thus, I’ve procrastinated at re-prioritizing things that take up my time in order to make room for exercise, by mis-associating being busy with being active and thinking it can wait. But, sitting and typing at my computer (when I’m not earning a part-time paycheck) are not big calorie burning activities – not even close!

Healthfully.com claims that a 185-pound person will burn about 61 calories sitting at a computer and typing for 30 minutes. Using their calculations, I found that I burn about 130 calories per hour when I’m working on my blogs and this website, even when I’m pinning on Pinterest or posting on my various social media accounts.

However, there’s also a great calorie-burning chart at NutriStrategy.com, where I found that weeding and cultivating my garden this weekend burned about 393 calories per hour for someone my size – and I spent three hours in my vegetable garden getting most of my transplanting completed before it began to rain and storm!

About the only other kind of exercise regimen that I don’t mind doing, besides gardening, is walking! It’s about 1.7 miles around my “block” and it takes me about 30 minutes to walk it at a brisk, 3.5 MPH stride. My 30-minute “brisk” walks burn about 166 calories, given my size, according to NutriStrategy’s chart. I just don’t do it regularly or often enough. Below is a picture I made of information, or Food for Thought,  I assembled about what to do if you’re on a weight loss plateau.

#NationalBurgerMonth, #NationalSalsaMonth and #NationalSaladMonth

In closing, for all of you food-lovers out there, I’d like to add that May is host to many food celebrations, including National Hamburger Month, National Salsa Month and National Salad Month – 3 celebrations that, together, make up a great food-for-the-body taco salad! Even though the National Hamburger Month celebration is focused on the sandwich-style “burger”. I would just grind up my seasoned, grilled “burger”, since I can’t have bread/buns anyway, and toss it together with some homemade salsa (see Mom’s recipe below) and shredded lettuce; topping it with some grated cheddar-jack cheese, sliced black olives, and a sprinkling of finely chopped tomatoes, bell peppers and onions to create a marvelous, low-carb taco salad that can also be served on/in a low-carb tortilla.

The following is a picture of Mom’s mild salsa imitation, inspired by Chi Chi’s. This recipe title was one of the original “free” recipes offered on this website before my brother passed the website on to me to cultivate for our Mom’s legacy. However, I don’t know if this was the same version offered then as the recipes didn’t transfer to my site host. The version below is not in her last cookbook, as it was not in Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (1983 edition), from which that one was rewritten. But, I did find this version (below) in The Best of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Feb. 1990, p. 45)… as always, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it!

“New” Country Buffet-Style Sugar-Free Dessert

“New” Country Buffet-Style Sugar-Free Dessert

By Gloria Pitzer, as seen on her “Free Recipes & Ordering Information” sheets (2000)

Ingredients:

1 cup cottage cheese

8-oz pkg. cream cheese

1/4 cup sour cream

2 small boxes sugar-free strawberry gelatin powder

1 envelope sugar-free strawberry drink powder (like Kool Aid)

8-oz tub Lite Cool Whip

Instructions:

In a big mixing bowl, beat cottage cheese on low speed, adding cream cheese in bits and beating well. Add rest of ingredients as listed, except Cool Whip, continuing to beat well and scrape sides of bowl with each addition. Fold in HALF of Cool Whip and set timer to beat for 5 more minutes. Divide mixture between 6 small plastic containers with tight-fitting lids. Divide rest of Cool Whip between the 6 containers. Cover and keep refrigerated up to 1 week. (Fat-free products may be substituted in the ingredients.)

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Happy Smorgasbord!

Hello, everyone! HAPPY Monday, April Fool’s Day, National Sourdough Bread Day, National Gardening Month and National Humor Month! Yep – that’s a happy smorgasbord!

If you haven’t been here before, my name is Laura Emerich and these blogs are dedicated to and for my mom, Gloria Pitzer, aka the ORIGINAL secret “Recipe Detective”TM. I started this weekly series last year to carry on her legacy – from her life-long love affair with writing to her “Secret Recipes”TM profession to her other personal loves of life, family and faith – through my memories of her; as well as, through the memories others have of her. She was an enormous influence, in so many ways, on so many people; especially on the woman I’ve become. Mom motivated and inspired a whole movement because she was the pioneer that blazed the original trail to imitating fast food, fine dining dishes, junk food and various grocery store products at home!

This week’s blog covers a smorgasbord of subjects. For instance, for all the foodies out there, besides it being April Fool’s Day, today is also National Sourdough Bread Day. In addition, for the gardeners in all of us, April is National Gardening Month! Consequently, April is also National Humor Month – which makes sense, given that the first day is April Fool’s Day – and, where I live in Michigan (as well as other states, I’m sure), Mother Nature seems to like to play continuous jokes on us throughout the month by often exhibiting 3 different seasons, all in one day! Plus, while it’s not a national holiday, the season for birding has also just begun as migrations head north to roost for the spring to fall months.

April is National Gardening Month!

Starting with my memories of Mom and our garden when I was growing up in Algonac – Mom always had a small, raised-bed garden full of strawberries, tomatoes, peppers and other such popular, homegrown garden staples. I also recall picking rhubarb, apples and pears for her pie and cobbler recipes. But then, as her “Secret Recipes”TM business grew in the mid to late 70s, she had less and less time to spend on the care of the garden let alone the harvesting. I enjoyed learning from Mom how to take care of it and I loved picking the fruits and vegetables for her, from which to create all those wonderful dishes. Her strawberry-rhubarb pie was one of my favorites!

After we moved to St. Clair in 1977, she couldn’t devote anymore time to a garden again, but she did continue to, at least, have a couple of tomato plants in patio pots every spring to fall. Mom had a very green thumb with all the plants, in the house and in the garden. She liked to use coffee grounds and grounded egg shells in her patio pots, which helped the tomato plants thrive.

Spring Crocus, Photo by Laura Emerich

Mother Nature’s grand arena is bursting with activity as spring awakens and regenerates life around us. Initially, the National Gardening holiday was a week-long festivity for which President Reagan signed a proclamation to kick off the first annual celebration of it in 1987. Then, in 2000, the National Gardening Association extended the celebration to last for the whole month of April.

To celebrate the event, have a picnic in a garden or go to a nursery and purchase a new plant for your garden. Decorate your garden, even add a seating area in it, where you can enjoy it up close. Another way to celebrate is to give a gardening gift, like seeds or plants, to someone special!

This month is a great time to start planting the bulbs of late-Spring bloomers as well. Other plants that are great to plant in April include fruit trees and berry plants or bushes. I planted a couple of cherry trees on our property about 7 years ago and they’re doing really well. The birds love them immensely! Our property already has a few old pear trees on it, so I’d like to get a couple of apple trees established this year.

2018 Cherry Tree, Photo by Laura Emerich

This is also a great time to plant perennial vegetables like asparagus, chives, rhubarb, horseradish and so many more. I already have the first three in my garden. I plan on adding horseradish this year. It’s also a good time for me to start my “cold crop” annuals like cabbage, spinach and other “greens”; as well as root vegetables like potatoes, onions, carrots and beets. I’m not sure where she got it from, but I think I inherited Mom’s green thumb.

In their off-season, I repurpose my Christmas deer lawn ornaments as trellises in my vegetable garden! They’re great for various vining plants like cucumbers and squash AND I don’t have to worry about storing them.

Another thing Mom taught me, as I mentioned in my blog, “Grow & Make Your Own Groceries”, a couple of weeks ago, growing and sowing your own food can save a lot of money on the grocery bill – if you don’t factor in the value of your time AND if you have the time to maintain it. Except for the perennials, you can’t just drop the seeds and come back in a couple months to pick it all. If only it were that easy! But, on the upside, the hours put into maintaining a garden, with moderate activity, happens to burn about 300-400 calories an hour (depending on your size). Gardening also feeds our bodies a lot of essential Vitamin D since we’re out in the sunshine, which is a natural source for it!

According to the infographic, 6 Surprising Health Benefits of Gardening, on https://www.organiclesson.com/6-wonderful-health-benefits-of-gardening/, gardening strengthens the immune system, relieves stress and elevates happiness, provides a physical workout, stimulates the brain and encourages a healthier diet! It sounds like a win-win-win-win-win-win set of beneficial circumstances to me!

My vegetable & flower garden, 2018!

In addition, this month is usually a good time for me to start pruning the few large patches of wild, black raspberries we have in our backyard’s wooded area – cutting out all the dead canes to make room for the new ones to grow. Thick gloves are highly recommended for this task to help prevent the hands from getting impaled by the thorns!

Backyard Bird Watching

On a related side-subject to spring and April, in general, it’s also a wonderful time for backyard bird watching! Lately, our cats have been going crazy, at the dining room windows, watching all the birds and squirrels in their usual spring, backyard activities – eating at the feeders, playing in the trees, building nests and other such things.

We have some birds that are here all year like cardinals, woodpeckers and blue jays. However, most of the varieties that we see migrate in with the spring season and back out by mid-fall. We get a wide variety of birds in Michigan.  The arrival of the robins, our state bird, is usually one of our first signs of spring, even before the bright, sunny yellow of witch hazel starts to pop on the fading winter landscape. Some robins don’t migrate south in the fall, like others do. Instead, they’ve adapted to our Michigan Winters.

The Robin – Michigan’s State Bird

This weekend, Mackinaw City will be host to the 4th annual “Mackinaw Raptor Fest”, celebrating a unique convergence of migrating birds every spring and fall due to the area’s exceptional location at the rare intersection of two peninsulas and two of the Great Lakes. Mackinaw City (and Mackinac Island) was one of my parents favorite destination areas whenever they had a chance to get away for a long weekend.

Watching birds is said to be very therapeutic. If you feed them, they will come! Growing up, I remember Mom always putting out special treats for the squirrels and birds in our backyard. Watching the birds always seemed to relax Mom and also helped to form the flow of her thoughts for writing her food-for-thought-style articles and editorials. I know it helps me too.

April through June, I usually put out orange halves and small cups of grape jelly for the orioles that migrate to our backyard. I’ve seen the woodpeckers enjoy the spring treats too! The yellow finches will always fight over the perches on the thistle feeder, but when the oriole wants thistle, they all move out of the way.

I heard our resident woodpecker early Friday morning, “rat-a-tat-tat”, on a maple tree outside one of our kitchen windows. The sound seemed to echo in our quiet neighborhood that morning. Then I saw a “Mama” robin perched in another tree, looking into my garden – for good materials to add to her nest, I’m sure. My husband and I really enjoy watching all the flora and fauna activity surrounding our homestead.

April 1st is National Sourdough Bread Day!

Now, out of the garden and backyard and into the kitchen for another food related happening today, as National Sourdough Bread Day is also being observed across the country. Amish Friendship Bread is a really great recipe to make and share with friends. My girlfriends and I used to exchange bags of AFB starter a lot. A super-great article about the process involved in making the starter and how to use it can be found on the “Friendship Bread Kitchen” website at https://www.friendshipbreadkitchen.com/amish-friendship-bread-starter/.

Mom wrote the following interesting explanation on the history of bread [as found on page 144 in her last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press, Jan. 2018)]:

BREAD HISTORY

The bread of primitive man was unleavened and perhaps, as the story goes, the discovery of a leavening agent by a cook of ancient Egypt was purely by chance. However, it came about that the Egyptians baked some of the finest bread in the ancient world in cone-shaped ovens. Flattened, and perhaps coarse to present-day taste, the ancient round or triangular loaves unearthed at Deir el-Bahari were a great improvement over the open-air baking of earlier times. Bread, the symbol of the bounty of the Nile, was cast upon its waters as a tribute to the gods. It was, also, placed in tombs to feed the departed spirits of the deceased. Egyptians literally earned their daily bread as workers, as they were given bread at the end of the day as wages for their labor. The Egyptians, who discovered the principle of baking raised bread, didn’t fool around. They just left some dough around in the hot weather until it went bad, and then they baked it. And – lo – it puffed up in old clay ovens and tasted great! The leavened loaf was launched, with no questions asked. The Egyptians regarded “yeast-ification” as an occult, not subject to the whim of man.

Mom also advised, when making a yeast bread, do not use a metal bowl or spoon in the developing process! Metal and yeast are not compatible and using such utensils or bowls with yeast could keep the yeast from working properly. Mom always preferred using either plastic or Pyrex bowls and only wooden or plastic spoons with which to stir or mix the ingredients.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my smorgasbord of topics today! In closing, I usually end with one of Mom’s recipes that she gave away for free on her product information and ordering sheets in exchange for an SASE. The following recipe wasn’t on any of those sheets, but it was given away for free when my brother, Michael Pitzer, first developed this website years ago for internet exposure to my parents and their “Secret Recipes”TM business. Since it is National Sourdough Bread Day, I’d like to share Mom’s copycat version of Schlotzsky’s sandwich rolls, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.

Schlotzsky’s-Style Sandwich Rolls (from Gloria Pitzer’s “Secret Recipes”TM Newsletter)

1/2 cup Warm Water

1 TB Granulated Sugar

1 package Rapid Rise Dry Yeast

6 oz. Milk, very warm

1/2 tsp Salt

1/4 TB Baking Soda, softened in 1 TB water

2 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour

In large mixing bowl combine warm water, sugar and yeast. Let stand about 5 minutes till very bubbly. With wire whisk add the rest with only 1 cup of the flour, beating to smooth dough. Beat in rest of flour until batter is thick and sticky but smooth, all flour being dissolved. Divide dough between 5 ovenproof, Pam-sprayed, cornmeal dusted (let excess shake out) soup bowls (each 5 inches in diameter). Cover each one in a square of Saran wrap sprayed in a bit of Pam and that side down. Let rise almost an hour or till above rim of bowls or cans. Discard Saran pieces. Bake on center rack of 375º F oven about 20 minutes or till golden brown. Let cool in containers on rack, spraying tops each in a bit of Pam while they cool to keep crusts soft. To use for sandwiches – slice in half horizontally and grill on lightly buttered hot griddle as you would for grilled cheese sandwich or broiler toast till golden. Then fill with lettuce and assorted lunch meats and cheese or sandwich fillings.

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Spring into Cleaning

Hello, again, and happy Monday to everyone! Spring has finally arrived! However, in Michigan, other than a sporadic tease here and there, it doesn’t actually feel like Spring is here until closer to May. Nonetheless, it’s a light in the dark that gives us hope for tomorrow!

If you’re new to here – I am Laura Emerich and these blogs are dedicated to and inspired by my mom, Gloria Pitzer, the private investigator of “Secret Recipes”TM (aka the ORIGINAL “Recipe Detective”TM). I want to carry on her amazing legacy, which is why I titled my first blog in this series “A Legacy of Love” (9/17/2018). That is what “Secret Recipes” TM always was to Mom – and that’s what it became to me over the last few years of her life while I collaborated with her to re-write her favorite self-published cookbook, The Better Cookery Cookbook; which was published by Balboa Press in January 2018, with a slightly different title (more information on that at the end of this blog), for a new generation of foodies!

I made a living with my writing; but, it was my writing that made living worthwhile. – Gloria Pitzer

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, during her 60-year-plus writing career, Mom wrote and syndicated thousands of columns – some under the copyright heading, “No Laugh’N Matter” – across the country and for local newspapers. In the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, Mom also designed satirical cartoon panels titled “Full House as Kept by Gloria Pitzer”©, based on her own comedic, family experiences. A few are pictured below. However, I can’t find the dates of when these were illustrated or when they were published. The two on the left are older than the one on the right. The newspaper editorials she wrote and syndicated were much like blogs are today. Except, they were printed in hard-copy newspapers and magazines instead of on the World Wide Web.

I also mentioned in last week’s blog that I wanted to discuss cleaning, this week, since it’s the beginning of Spring AND National Cleaning Week – hence, my choices of Mom’s cartoon panels to share with you. As well, I wanted share some more special memories of Mom, in relation to cleaning. Mind you, Mom was not a fan of cleaning at all, even if it did have calorie-burning benefits! But, by no means, did we ever really live in a dirty home! As in stand up comedy, Mom often stretched and twisted reality a little bit to generate a laugh.

Gloria Pitzer – 1974

Mom was brought up in a generation that just did what they “had to”; keeping a clean or tidy home was just something that they’re parents taught them to do as responsible, civilized people – at any age. So, in honor of National Cleaning Week, plus Mom’s writing and comedic legacy, here is one of her old No Laugh’N Matter columns that she syndicated, called “Eat Your Heart Out Mr. Clean!” (as seen in The Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan; Feb 14, 1974).

Many of you have written, asking what shortcuts I recommend for getting through the hang ups of housework. I thought you’d never ask. And I’m happy to share with you some of the lesser known household hints that you are not apt to find in the elegant publications…

Now, my household hints are NOT necessarily recommended by GOOD HOUSEKEEPING, Dr. Seuss, my mother-in-law, the neighbors, Mr. Clean…but they do work! Unless, that is, you’re expecting miracles.

If the good Lord had intended for me to have a clean house, He would have given me a maid! – Gloria Pitzer

WHAT TO DO WITH LEFTOVERS: If, while they are in the refrigerator, leftovers become as hairy as hedgehogs at bay, don’t try to throw them out. Feed them dead flies and keep them as pets!

WHAT TO DO ABOUT COBWEBS: If you have cobwebs in your corners and can’t figure out why, because you don’t have a cob in the house; ignore them if you can’t reach them. If somebody calls them to your attention, exclaim with pride, “Oh! I can’t touch those. They’re my son’s science project!”

WHAT TO DO ABOUT JAR LIDS THAT REFUSE TO BUDGE: Tell a 4-year-old not to touch them!

IF YOU HAVE OVER-SIZED HIPS: Wear Jodhpurs. They’ll go out where you do!

IF YOU PUT ON WEIGHT EASILY: Let out your couch!

TROUBLE FALLING A SLEEP? If you can’t count sheep… try talking to the Shepherd!

CONCERNED ABOUT SHORTAGES? Help conserve water… bathe with someone you love! Help conserve paper… stamp out bumper stickers! Get an education… drive a school bus! Eat a beaver… save a tree!

TO CONSERVE ENERGY: Don’t hold post-mortems, brooding over your mistakes. The faster you make one, the less apt anybody is to notice it.

BEFORE GOING TO THE EXPENSE OF REDECORATING YOUR ENTIRE HOUSE: Move!

TO PREVENT SCRUB WATER FROM RUNNING DOWN YOUR ARMS WHILE WASHING WALLS: Hang from your feet!

CLEANER FLOORS: If you have tried the miracle product as advertised on TV and you still can’t get your floors to look as clean as those seen on the commercial, write to the manufacturer of that cleaner and have them send you that mop!

SHORT ON SILVERWARE AT MEALTIME? Delegate a search party of children to check out the sand box, toy chest and cold air returns. Chance are, you’ll find them!

TO REMOVE CHEWING GUM from a new, white bedspread, apply peanut butter by rubbing with vigorous motions. If it still doesn’t come out, get a new bedspread!

TO AVOID HAVING YOUR HUSBAND USE THE GUEST TOWELS to clean the carburetor…hang only cleaning rags on the bathroom towel racks!

One sort of recent memory I have of Mom, regarding cleaning, is from shortly after her stroke in 2015. Mom had to go through a lot of different therapies, including physical and occupational therapies. One of her therapists called me one day, very concerned about Mom’s sudden dislike of her since they seemed to get along so beautifully during her first couple of visits. I met her at Mom’s place during her next scheduled visit to see just what she was describing to me.

Gloria Pitzer, 2013

The therapist went through everything she did during the previous visit. It all seemed to be going fine, at first; thus, I was beginning to think that either she misinterpreted Mom’s reactions to her, or it wasn’t happening on that day because I was there. Then, after having Mom do some simple stretches, the therapist asked Mom to make her bed as one of her daily exercises. Just then, in an instant, Mom’s mood changed from “sunny-and-75” to “stormy-and-below-freezing”! Right away, I started laughing out loud! The therapist and Mom, both, looked at me rather strangely. I guess it was an inside joke.

Mom hated cleaning – well, “hate” is a strong word; let’s say she “clearly disliked” it. I’m not saying she didn’t do it; but, that never meant she had to like it! In fact, I think making the bed was at the top of her “torture” list. I couldn’t help but burst out laughing at the situation, as did the therapist when I explained it! Not everyone get’s a joy out of cooking and cleaning any more than they have to – thus, the subject inspired the parody title of one of Mom’s cookbooks, The Joy of NOT Cooking…Any More than You Have To (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Nov. 1983).

I, on the other hand, like to clean – and, especially, to organize! I don’t know why – it’s some OCD thing I have – but organizing is more like a favorite hobby to me. When it came to her desk, Mom preferred what she called an organized mess, as in her illustration above. My own kids and husband like to tease me that I’m not OCD but, rather, CDO because I prefer things in alphabetical (and numerical) order.

#NationalCleaningWeek

 When I heard that this is National Cleaning Week, I actually got a little giddy at the thought of flipping the bedroom mattress; as well as, rotating the seasonal clothes and living room furniture – just some of the things I usually do in the Spring and Fall seasons. I know I’m weird – and that’s okay!

According to NationalDayCalendar.com, “besides a clean home, it’s a week that can produce improved moods, decreased stress levels, and increased creativity. It’s a week to put away winter essentials and tidy up our homes to usher in a fresh start with spring.” Furthermore, it also declares that “the American Cleaning Institute says, on average, Americans spend approximately six hours per week cleaning their homes.” As well, “our most dreaded of cleaning tasks [are]: cleaning the bathroom (52%), kitchen cleaning (23%), dusting (21%), mopping (20%) and doing the laundry (17%). Sorry, Mom – making the bed did not make it onto this list! However, dusting is the least favorite for me (mostly because it impacts my allergies more than anything else.)

20 Everyday Activities and the Calories They Burn by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd. (as seen on HowStuffWorks.com) says that 30 minutes spent on dusting burns 80 calories and 30 minutes of mopping burns 153 calories. As for laundry day, 30 minutes of folding clothes burns 72 calories and ironing for 30 minutes burns 76.5 calories.

Among other housework activities, the article also claims that 1 hour of moving furniture burns 504 calories, 10 minutes of sweeping a broom back and forth burns 28 calories and 20 minutes of vacuuming burns 56 calories. Even 30 minutes of preparing dinner burns 74 calories and, obviously, you should make healthy meal choices too.

Additionally, outside the house, the article claims that pushing the lawn mower for 1 hour can burn 324 calories… and spending an added 30 minutes raking up the clippings will burn another 171 calories. The article also suggests that picking up yard-waste can, correspondingly, reduce your waist size. Furthermore, it advocates that, by spending 4 hours of hard-work cleaning up the neighborhood, you’ll burn 1,800 calories AND improve your community! What a great idea! Plus, 2 hours of gardening burns about 648 calories or more and you can grow some nice, healthy vegetables at the same time. If you don’t have your own garden, or room for one, you can check around your area for a community garden?

If you live in a state like Michigan, where it snows at least half of the year, you may be interested to know that 30 minutes of shoveling snow burns 202.5 calories. Also, now that it’s Spring and weather is starting to improve, 20 minutes of hand-washing the car will burn 102 calories.

To observe National Cleaning Week, NationalDayCalendar.com also suggests, “to make cleaning week less intimidating: Tackle one room at a time, start from the top and work down; dusting ceiling fans, door moldings and window tops. Don’t be afraid to move furniture…” And, on social media, it asks that you “use #NationalCleaningWeek and #CleaningWeek to follow and share your cleaning tips.”

I hope you’ve enjoyed my blog and will return again next week when I discuss more about gardening, as it will be the start of National Garden Month! In closing, as I do each week, I’d like to leave you with one of the recipes that Mom developed and gave out for free on her “product-ordering/information sheets”. Mom used the following TGIF-Style, Jack Daniel’s sauce imitation when she wanted to make chicken or steak with a little kick. The version pictured below is from Mom’s “Free Recipes/Information” sheet (2000), asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.

This particular sauce is not in Mom’s last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective ( Balboa Press; January 2018) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of her famous, self-published book, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Printing).  However, there is a large section filled with other great “Soups, Sauces and Side-Dishes” to tantalize, tease and tempt your taste buds. This cookbook (also available in eBook form) has 318 pages filled with over 500 of Mom’s best recipes, Food-for-Thought articles, inspirational stories, household/cooking tips and tricks, witty jokes, illustrations and historical information on some of the great companies whose dishes and products that she famously imitated at home!

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Grow & Make Your Own Groceries!

Hi, everyone, and happy Monday! Welcome to my blog, Mondays & Memories of My Mom!

If you’re new to here – my name is Laura Emerich and I started this blog last year to celebrate my mom’s life and legacy. My mom is Gloria Pitzer; known to millions of people around the world as the ORIGINAL “Recipe Detective”TM, private investigator of the secrets of the food industry! Mom passed away 14 months ago, leaving behind an extensive legacy; from her love of life, family and faith to her creative writing, cartooning and “Secret Recipes”TM professions. She was often heard on radio talk shows all around North America and even overseas. She also did a few TV appearances, including the Phil Donahue Show – twice!

Mom wrote, illustrated and self-published about 40 books (+/-) and penned hundreds of her own newsletter issues; as well, she wrote and syndicated thousands of columns across the country and for local newspapers during her 60-year-plus writing career. However, my mom is best known as the pioneer who started the “fast food” and “junk food” copycat recipes movement back in the early 1970s! When times were tough and we were on the edge of another recession, Mom created the concept of “eating out at home”! It was not only for her own struggling family, but also, for all the others from whom she saw and heard, as they were struggling and looking for answers too!

One of my personal favorites of Mom’s cookbooks is called, The Secrets of Homemade Groceries (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Sep. 1979). This book is no longer in print, but I’ve seen used copies on eBay and Amazon. When I was a young and struggling mother of three, money was tight, and the pantry was often close to bare! This book taught me how to make some grocery products from scratch, at home; and how to stretch/extend other products, saving me quite a bit of money on my monthly groceries expense! Now, there’s a renewed movement to make a lot of things at home, where you can control the ingredients – and save money too! That is, basically, what initially inspired Mom to write this particular cookbook (aka: “Book 5”) in 1979.

It’s currently maple sugaring time in Michigan. A great article about it, March is Maple Syrup Season in Michigan, can be found at Michigan State University Extension’s website (a part of MSU.edu). I just learned, this weekend, on my local morning news program, how to collect a few gallons of the sweet maple tree sap and then cook it down for a day or so in a slow cooker, yielding about a half cup of homemade syrup when done! Two gallons of sap doesn’t render a lot of syrup, but it’s fun to try. Check out the story and video at Fox2Detroit.com.

Vegetable gardening time is also approaching quickly and many growers are starting their seeds indoors, right now, to transplant in the garden in about 6-8 weeks. I remember when I was young, helping Mom do the seasonal harvesting of our little garden and orchard for tomatoes, apples, pears, strawberries, raspberries and rhubarb for sauces and pies and such. Besides the nutritional aspect of growing your own food, it’s also healthy in that you burn a lot of calories tending a garden – planting, weeding, mulching, composting, watering and harvesting – there are so many aspects involved! I’m really looking forward to getting back into my garden this spring.

My garden – 2017

We’ve all heard the old adage about what to do when life gives you lemons; but don’t stop at making lemonade! There are so many groceries (maybe as much as 75%) you can make at home with what life gives you – if you plant the seeds! Homesteading has found a new revival movement, as health and wellness are coming back towards the top of the fundamental “priorities list”. More and more people are regaining interest in making their own food and OTC health and beauty products. Many even going into business, selling their homemade products to those who don’t have the time or talents for it.

As I said, homemade is one way you can control the ingredients, if you’re concerned with all the additives that are put into today’s convenient, shelf-stable groceries; plus, you can also save money – as long as you don’t add the value of your time into the equation!

WAY BACK WHEN, about the only things purchased for the homestead kitchen at the “General Store” were the items we, now, refer to as “staples” – the pantry dry goods most people didn’t make, themselves, such as flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cornstarch, etc.

Even later, still pre-supermarket era, if we didn’t “kill it & grill it” ourselves, fish was purchased at the fish market and other meats were bought at the butcher shop. If we couldn’t have our own vegetable/fruit patch, we went to the farmer’s market for garden-fresh produce. Also, since we can’t all be bakers, fresh baked goods were often purchased at the local bakery. And, if you didn’t have your own cow or goat to milk or a hen from which to gather your own eggs, fresh dairy products were delivered right to your home!

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

What happened? We’ve become such a too-busy-with-other-things, convenience-laden society! Just walking down the aisles of my local grocery store and looking at all of the products on the shelves, I would say over 75% of them are convenience foods and mixes – boxed, canned and packaged for our expedient ease that can simply be made at home, from scratch and for less of a cost. Also, take into account that these shelf-stable products are filled with unnatural and unpronounceable preservatives and synthetic additives, in order to last for years on our grocers’ shelves and in our pantries.

These are the items we used to make from scratch – usually, because money was scarce and needed to be spent on more important things that weren’t easily homemade. But, then, we came into times where both parents in a family unit had to work to make ends meet. Many families still struggle to survive this way. There isn’t enough time to make things from scratch anymore; so, we opened the door for convenient, processed foods in order to save us some time (instead of money), as time suddenly became a more valuable commodity.

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

The “overhead costs” and “expected profits” that are added to “convenience” food products are what kill us at the grocery store check-outs! The lack of real nutrition that’s missing from these manufactured goods are not benefitting our health any either, as they’re loaded with unnatural shelf-life stabilizers, none of which are found in homemade groceries, where YOU control the ingredients!

Most of Mom’s cookbooks focused on imitating fast food, junk food and restaurant dishes at home – except for “Book 5”, which deals exclusively with homemade grocery products and “extenders”. This exceptional cookbook includes some principles of canning and freezing foods, as well as making your own mixes, sauces and seasonings at a great financial savings compared to buying them at the store! Although, sometimes, we just can’t financially or physically afford convenience. The concept of homemade was hugely popular once and is, now, making another comeback. In fact, I found an unfinished sequel to Mom’s “Book 5” among some of the things I got from her estate. I wish she would have finished it and published it. The following is a bit of Mom’s Food-for-Thought from “Book 5”:

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

In closing, I hope you’ve enjoyed my blog this week and will return, here, next Monday to read, “Spring into Cleaning”, when I share more special memories of Mom and the calorie-burning benefits of cleaning, as it will be the beginning of Spring AND National Cleaning Week!

In keeping with homemade groceries AND make-alike “junk food”, the following recipe is Mom’s 1983 copycat version of Oreo-Style cookies, which she called Gloreos, cookies – if you’re watching your calories, many of the ingredients can be substituted with sugar-free versions – and can be found on this website in the “Recipes” tab. It was not one of her “free-information-sheet” recipes; but, it can be found in many of her various cookbooks. Additionally, it is on page 219 of her last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective ( Balboa Press; January 2018) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of her famous, self-published book, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Printing), asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.

Oreo is a brand of cookie usually consisting of two chocolate wafers with a sweet crème filling, marketed as “Chocolate Sandwich Cookie”. Introduced in 1912, Oreo is the bestselling cookie in the United States. As of 2018, the version sold in the U.S. is made by the Nabisco division of Mondelez International.

GLOREO SANDWICH COOKIES

When the Washington (DC) Post once interviewed the Nabisco people to ask how they felt about a Michigan housewife, claiming she could imitate their famous chocolate sandwich cookie at home, they were very insistent that it was impossible! Well, I felt if Hydroxy could come close, so could I – and I gave the big food company a taste of their own product! To my readers overseas, while I was publishing my monthly Secret Recipe Report, it was a blessing – or so they said!

The cookie dough:

18-ounce package devil’s food cake mix
2 eggs, plus 2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons cooking oil
½ cup bitter cocoa powder

Blend all ingredients together until you can shape the dough into a smooth ball. Let it stand 20 minutes, loosely covered. Form dough into marble-sized balls and place 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheets. Flatten each with smooth bottom of drinking glass, greased once and dipped into Nestlé’s Quick powder. (Or use any sweetened, chocolate drink powder.) Bake at 400°F for 8 minutes. Remove cookies at once from baking sheet to paper towels – quickly, flatten each cookie with the back of pancake turner. Makes 96 cookies. Cool for 20 minutes. Prepare the following mixture as directed:

The cookie filling:

1 envelope unflavored gelatin
¼ cup cold water
1 cup Crisco
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound, plus 1 cup powdered sugar

Soften gelatin in cold water. Place in a heat-proof cup, in pan of hot water, until gelatin is transparent. Meanwhile, beat Crisco until fluffy, adding vanilla and sugar a little at a time. Beat in gelatin mixture when it is completely cooled, but not “set” or firm. This is used to give the filling stability – as well as protein! When cooled, shape filling into 1-inch balls. Place each between 2 bottom-sides of cooled cookies, pressing gently until filling has spread to the edge of the cookies and rounded-out like the originals. Makes 4 dozen sandwich cookies.

If you have a comment or question, please email me at therecipedetective@outlook.com – I will get back to you as quickly as possible!

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – A 2nd Helping of Not Losing It!

Welcome to “Mondays & Memories of My Mom”! I’m Laura Emerich and this blog site is dedicated to my mom, Gloria Pitzer, the “Recipe Detective”TM – private investigator of the recipe secrets of fast food, junk food, fine dining and grocery products. Mom was the original “copycat” of the food industry’s secret recipes. I created these blogs to celebrate Mom’s legacy and to carry on her torch. As I mentioned last week, she left her mark on many from her over 65-year writing career, to her famous “Secret Recipes”TM profession and her personal loves of faith, family and life that she always intermixed like the ingredients of a great recipe.

Last week, there was so much information I wanted to write about regarding the national observations of nutrition, diet and getting fit that’s going on in March, I had to edit out half of the blog to keep it from turning into a novel. Thus, I decided to put those cuts into a sequel for this week’s edition. According to the NationalDayCalendar.com website, it’s still National Procrastination Week, which is actually observed for the first two weeks of March; and, for the whole month, we’re also celebrating National Nutrition Month, among other things!

As I mentioned last week, the NDC’s website link recommends that everyone who observes and participates in this month-long event: “use #NationalNutritionMonth to post on social media. Spread the word about how you are boosting your nutrition this month! Eat healthy and get exercising… You’ll be glad you did!” It’s a great challenge – I hope it goes viral on social media!

This national observance has re-inspired me to get fit again, myself. I was once, then I let myself go – and then, turned around and did it again – and again! Now, I’m in my mid-50s, arthritic, hypoglycemic, over-weight and out of shape. I love to walk, but I haven’t done a “fitness” form of it in about 10 years. I’ve procrastinated getting back into shape based from a multitude of excuses. But, excuses are just reasons to rationalize accountabilities.

The most common New Year’s resolutions are, more often than not, to lose weight and exercise more (or get healthy/fit), followed by other lifestyle changes like quitting smoking. Another thing I mentioned last week, 80% of New Year’s resolutions are aborted by mid-February. I quit making New Year’s resolutions about losing weight and getting fit years ago because, not only was I not following through on them; but, it got to where I wasn’t even starting them at all. Thus, I started thinking, “why bother ever making that resolution again?”

Man is the only animal which sleeps when he isn’t tired, drinks when he isn’t thirsty, fights when he isn’t angry, eats when he isn’t hungry – and diets. – Carl Riblet, Jr. (The Solid Gold Copy Editor, Falcon Press, 1972)

Recently, I’ve realized that I lost it! I lost my desire, my drive, my focus and, in the midst of it all, I lost myself too. I also realized that it doesn’t have to be New Year’s Day to declare a resolution. Now is the time for me to “suck-it-up”, own it and make the change – for me! I quit smoking cigarettes – cold turkey – almost 13 years ago and never went back to it. If I could do that, I can do this using the same mind-over-matter process!

Mom wrote the following parody-style poem, pictured below, “1979 – The Year of Nutrition”. I don’t remember the original source, which book or newsletter it was printed in other than, as pictured, it was copyrighted in 1979. I’m guessing it was from Mom’s November or December newsletter since it’s a wonderful satire she wrote based on the famous Christmas poem by Clement Clarke Moore. I used this as a bookmark for inspiration years ago and recently found it in my old copy of Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution by Robert C. Atkins M.D. (Avon; 1997).

After years of failed resolutions to change this or that about myself, I finally realized (after I stopped smoking cigarettes in 2006 and have not gone back to it since) that the commitment must first happen in my mind! I discovered this route of success to change my lifestyle (in relation to quitting cigarettes) from a book my mom gave me, The Easy Way to Stop Smoking by Allen Carr (Sterling; September 2004). I think it might have been recommended by Oprah or Dr. Oz, on one of their shows. Mom went right out to her local “Barnes & Noble” retailer to buy a copy. She read it, applied it and stopped smoking. Then, she bought copies for each of my two sisters and I; hoping, I suppose, that we’d all join the “band wagon” too.

I didn’t want to quit smoking, I enjoyed it. I hadn’t even thought about quitting before, except during my three pregnancies, in which I did quit for just those time periods; but, I always chose to go back to it as soon as I started bottle-feeding each of my kids. Nonetheless, I promised Mom that I’d, at least, read the book and think about it. After I finished reading the book, and while I was still thinking about it, I loaned the book to a girlfriend who was dealing with cancer and Chemo. She was struggling with the “want” of smoking cigarettes over the “want” of quitting. The book’s thought process worked for her immediately and she hasn’t smoked a cigarette since – 13 years so far!

I happened to quit smoking cigarettes on May 1st, less than 2 months later. I think what made the difference in time between us each reading the book and quitting is that my friend already wanted to quit even before she read the book and I hadn’t even really thought about it. The concepts in this book can probably apply to any type of addiction or bad habit you want to quit. The key word being want. Wanting to stop a bad habit, addiction or lifestyle and thinking about it are two different things – similar, but different – like apples and oranges.

The key to resigning for good is in the choice you make to stay away completely or not. I found that if I dabbled even a little bit in my bad habit after I’ve quit doing it, I go right back to that situation like a drug addict hooked on heroine. I applied that realization when I quit smoking cigarettes. In my mind, I equated cigarettes to heroine, something I would never try, and it’s kept me from giving into that addictive urge for 13 years!.

I probably loaned that book out to about half a dozen people, most of whom said they were “thinking” about quitting cigarettes. To my knowledge, my friend and I are the only two, out of about 10 people (if you count my mom and 2 sisters), who actually quit after reading the book and stayed that way. Nevertheless, even with only a 20% success rate in my little circle of experience with it, I would still highly recommend everyone read it! It’s not a concept everyone gets; but, it works for those who understand it and work it. I believe the difference that separates the failures from the successes is based on the differences between “wanting it” and “thinking about it”.

It takes commitment! Mom went back to smoking, herself, about a month after stopping. My dad said he didn’t think Mom really wanted to quit smoking in the first place; but was likely prompted by the book’s recommendation, as well as the new Michigan laws and other efforts to try to stop people from smoking, at least in public if not altogether. Dad had quit smoking, himself – cold turkey – using the mind-over-matter approach (plus, he was motivated by health conditions) more than 25 years earlier. He never went back to it either. I don’t know if he ever thought about it. I know I have. But the book gave sound advice on how to deal with those afterthoughts. Again, it’ll work if you work it; but, it’s not going to do the work for you.

# NationalNutritionMonth

In observance of National Nutrition Month, as well as National Procrastination Week, I want to make the same mind-over-matter commitment and re-pledge to “get fit”! WikiHow.com offers an excellent article at https://www.wikihow.com/Get-Fit, listing13 great tips for getting on the path of getting fit. I think I’ll incorporate some of them into my own plan for fitness. To begin, I want to get back on the path – the walking path!

Where I live, in St. Clair; walking and biking are very popular activities! In fact, I live right on one of the very special, paved “routes” that connect towns all over Michigan’s “thumb area” – one of Pure Michigan’s benefits is to be able tour it and get fit while doing it, too! Therefore, this week, while it’s still National Procrastination Week, I am putting off my excuses to not start a regular walking routine because of the winter weather or busy schedule and I’m just going to start doing it! I’ll make a point to fit it in whenever I can until I can create it’s own regular place in my life-style.

Eating is as much an emotional experience as it is a fueling system for the body. In regard to dieting, Mom thought “will power” was for the strong and secure person (which she didn’t really picture herself to be) and “won’t power” was for the insatiable people with whom she readily grouped herself – those who ate away their troubles with “comfort” food and/or compensated themselves (for any old reason) with food “rewards”. I’ll admit it – I think I fit into that latter group too. Mom describes the “won’t” power as refusing to keep on doing what’s bad for you and replacing it with something that’s good for you AND that you enjoy! So, I want to give up my junk-eating-no-exercise lifestyle and replace it with healthy choices. Doing activities I enjoy will also help me to stay focused on my goal and distract me from the short-term urges to go back to my old ways.

Mom offered the following editorial advice on dieting (not as a professional dietician/nutritionist, but as an experienced weightwatcher) in the opening of the “Dieting Dishes” chapter of her last book, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press, January 2018; p. 283):

If your choices, now, include things you eat without really enjoying them, you can begin to exercise, instead of your “will” power, your “won’t” power – and refuse to keep on eating what is not good for you and what you don’t really need, replacing it with something you do enjoy and that will benefit you in nourishment, either emotionally or physically.

The WON’T power exercise for me meant no bread, no potatoes, no pastries, no gravy, no grains or other starches. It worked beautifully. For you, it might not be satisfactory. So, you can choose another course of action. I merely wish to share my experience with you because it worked for me…

What works for one person, may not work for another; but sharing the secrets of a weight loss diet that works, is too good to ignore. Even if you, personally, are not interested in losing 10 pounds, you probably know someone who is! The diet industry pulls in millions and millions of dollars every year, developing new gimmicks, pills, plans, menus, clubs and published materials about losing weight. I have tried them all in my adult life – and never with success! So, I finally developed my own diet… [Based, largely, on the low-carb diet developed by Dr. Atkins.]

… It’s not really a diet, but a new pattern of eating that can, if I wish, serve me all my life. The best way to learn any new pattern of behavior – whether it is eating or dancing or jogging or working – is to break it down into small manageable parts and work through them step-by-step! This is not a diet to be used, discarded and taken up again. It is a way of life at the table. It is a new attitude towards food…

Also included in the “Dieting Dishes” chapter of Mom’s cookbook, is a lot of low-cal and low-carb recipes; as well as advice that benefitted her own diet journey. She doesn’t claim to be an expert nutritionist or dietician – she just offers bits of inspiration that helped her in hopes it would benefit someone else’s journey.

Whether you’re dieting for health reasons or for reasons of vanity, there’s one expression to always keep in the forefront of your mind – the one thing that most people will not dispute – positivity is a crucial key to success! “YOU CAN DO THIS!” should be written in large letters on your bathroom mirror just to reinforce your motivation and remind yourself of it often – read it out loud every time you see it!!

I’ve chosen my “start date” and decided that I will begin my metamorphosis into a “healthy-eating life-style” next Wednesday, March 20th. The symbolization of starting on the 1st day of Spring will help to support my motivation in my mind as I re-build it into the right frame of thought between now and then, keeping me focused on the drive to be a new me – a forever me – a healthy and fit me! I created this picture (below) to hang on my bathroom mirror for daily inspiration.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my blog today and that it helped to motivate you to get healthy & fit, if that’s your goal too! In closing, if you’re watching your carb intake as I will be, the following picture is of one of Mom’s free recipe offerings for her copycat version of an Outback Steakhouse-Style steak seasoning and marinade process from her “Free Recipes/Information” sheet (2000):

*Note: if you’re watching your intake of sugar, carbohydrates and/or calories, substitute the Coke with Diet Coke or Tab in the “Overnight Marinade”.

By the way, this particular copycat recipe (above) is not included in Mom’s last book, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press, January 2018). However, there is a whole selection of other wonderful low carb & low sugar copycat recipes in the “Dieting Dishes” chapter of the book. There’s also many other recipes sprinkled throughout the cookbook for making your own grocery items such as seasonings and mixes right at home, where you can control the ingredients, yourself! More on THAT subject in next week’s blog, “Grow and Make Your Own Groceries!”