Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Happy Love People Day

As always, happy Monday! According to NationalDays.com, today is National Love People Day and recommends us to, “…offer kindness and care to the people in your community.”

#NationalLovePeopleDay

While love doesn’t really make the world go ‘round (that’s a gravitational thing), it does make the ride more enjoyable! National Love People Day, according to NationalDays.com, was started by Life Line Church (Chicago) a couple of years ago. So, it’s a fairly new “National Day” promotion of celebration; yet “loving your neighbor” has always been around! NationalDays.com says, among other things, that today is a day “to lift others up”. I think we should lift others up EVERYDAY!

Mom always tried “to lift others up” in everything she wrote – starting with her multiple columns that were syndicated to multiple magazines and newspapers across the country to her hundreds of self-published newsletter issues (January 1974 through December 2000) and 40+ cookbooks (from her first one in 1973 to her last one, just before she passed away, in January 2018).

Mom loved to combine recipes (or food-for-the-table) with household hints, food-for-thought and food-for-the-soul – that’s what made her books stand out from all the rest; that and her being the first to start the copycat recipes movement in the food industry…particularly in the fast food and junk food categories, considered “taboo” foods by the critics. Nonetheless, people wanted to know how to make these things at home and, as the Recipe DetectiveTM, Mom figured it out and lovingly shared her secrets with the world.

‘Friends are a treasure and when we count our blessings we count our friends twice! It’s not possible to have a full and happy life without others to share with, to help when help is needed, to be helped when help is offered.’ – Gloria Pitzer, My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 100)

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p. 43)

YOU’VE MADE A FRIEND

A SMILE IS the universal, unspoken language between us. Some people smile more easily than others, but a smile is as good as a hug. I just LOVE people who smile a lot! Even when I’m shopping or [when Paul and I are] walking around the campgrounds on one of our abbreviated ‘get-aways’ with our motorhome, I find myself smiling at people I have never seen before, and they smile back. It’s contagious!

Mom & Dad’s first camper

People don’t smile as much as they should! I’ve noticed lately how seldom strangers smile at each other in shopping centers and restaurants and other places where average folks mingle or pass. It occurred to me that there was nothing to lose by smiling and nodding at people as I shopped or glanced across a restaurant to other tables.

A surprising thing happened! Grim looking faces spontaneously responded with smiles and nods, as if they were trying to place me or recall where we might have met before. It was just wonderful!

I remember Mom telling me stories about how, when I was just a couple of years old, no matter where she took me – on a ride in the car or shopping in a store, to name a couple – I always waved and smiled and said “hi” to everyone!

I once thought it was just natural for all people to do that but, in my younger adult years, I found that to be a false belief; as I couldn’t (not wouldn’t) smile when I was going through severe depression. As well, my youngest child has Asperger and it was always very difficult for her to smile, let alone look at people. She consciously works to try to overcome that in herself. Mom used to bribe her for smiles and kisses by bringing her cookies! (See Mom’s recipe for “Mrs. Meadow’s Crisp Buttery Cookies” at the end of this blog entry.)

LOVE ENTERTAINING GUESTS

With October knocking at our doors, are you ready for the coming fall holidays, football parties and general entertaining on the spot? There’s a lot to be said about entertaining company, planned or not. My mom influenced me greatly when it comes to this subject, as her mom did for her.

However, I usually tend to go overboard when I’m making appetizers (or meals) for guests. I don’t want anyone to walk away hungry so I, habitually, offer too many choices; always trying to please all and clean out my pantry at the same time! Thereby, I tend to seclude myself in the kitchen, away from the guests that my husband is left to amuse, himself (at which, by the way, he is very good), in another room, as our kitchen is too small for entertaining.

However, whenever someone comes into the kitchen, offering me their help, I usually decline; as I’m always in my own OCD “timing-mode”, with three different timers set to three or more different dishes that I’m shuffling in pans on the stovetop burners and in-and-out of the oven and onto trivets around the countertops. I like to have everything intermingling and coming together like the interwoven fingers of hands folded in prayer.

Besides which, I have a kind of small kitchen area in which to preform my shuffling “magic”. Speaking of which, National Magic Day is coming up on October 31st and did you know that October, itself, is also National Kitchen & Bath Month? I just thought I would throw that out there – a little food-for-thought to entertain your imagination! In fact, check out this link at Furniture.com about how to decorate a kitchen: https://www.furniture.com/tips-and-trends/how-to-decorate-a-kitchen.

#HowToDecorateAKitchen

There’s a lot of great, timeless, “how to” advice on entertaining in 9 Holiday Hosting Mistakes You Might Not Even Know You’re Making by Nancy Mitchell at https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/8-party-hosting-mistakes-you-might-not-even-know-youre-making-213600 [Published: Dec. 2, 2014] – and it doesn’t have to be for just the holidays.

I discovered that I make a lot of the mistakes that Nancy mentions in her article, and I love her solutions for them! Now, to consciously put them into practice – as old habits die hard! We’ll see how it goes at the next football party that my husband and I host for our friends.

I also learned from Nancy’s article that you don’t really need a lot of elaborate food when you’re entertaining on the spot – save that for a fancy, planned, dinner party. Most of the time, simple works best – like serving easy, throw-together, finger snacks such as little pizzas or some small, slider-style hamburgers (like Mom’s recipes – pictured below and further down).

In addition, having only a few simple foods to choose from is also much less stressful and disrupting from the event. Similar to my mom, I love to cook, and I tend to over-do it because I don’t like anyone to go away hungry (especially when they are here for a while and alcohol is usually consumed.)

Making enjoyable food for people is very rewarding to me. Both of my parents were quite the tag team when it came to entertaining company – whether it was a planned, holiday event for family or an impromptu gathering of friends…

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 277)

ENTERTAINING…

FOODS PREPARED for entertaining have always put me in a positive mood… Positive that, if the food is too good, everybody will keep wanting to come to our house and I’ll never be asked to theirs! On the other hand, if the food is not as good as it should be and I fall short of the best cook in our bunch, somebody will be in my kitchen; checking my stove for the training wheels they think it should have, considering the results of my cooking skills. So, food for entertaining must be fast, festive and flavorful…

When folks drop in… sometimes without notice… I like to be prepared. While there is absolutely nothing I can do to rid the lamp shades of the cobwebs that suddenly show up in the light, I can at least be glad something in the living room matches. With any luck if it is mentioned, I’ll exclaim promptly: ‘Oh, don’t touch that! That’s our daughter’s science project. We’re observing the mating habits of the harmless house spider!’

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

At this point, I can whisk everyone into the kitchen where, somehow, Coke splatters on the ceiling seem to go undetected if we turn [down] the overhead lights and put out some pretty candles. In 2 or 3 minutes, I can be spooning shredded cheddar cheese onto Triscuits, adding a slice of pepperoni and having it all under the broiler while Paul (on cue) delights them with another of his golfing jokes.

His old stand-by is the story of his 2 friends on the golf course, noting 2 women on the green ahead of them, playing very slowly. One of the men asked the other if they shouldn’t go up to the gals and ask if they minded if the men played through… Or chances were they’d never get off the course. So, one of the men went running up to the ladies and got almost to the green when he darted quickly back. His friend asked what happened and why he hadn’t asked about playing through. ‘I can’t do that,’ the man said. ‘One is my wife and the other is my girlfriend!’ So, the other man offered to go up and ask. He got within a few yards of the ladies and he, also, darted back breathlessly, confessing to his friend… ‘Small world, isn’t it?’

By the time they stopped chuckling, the cheese snacks were ready, and the eggnog was out of the ‘icebox’ and into the punch cups, diluted with [Vernor’s] Ginger-Ale (soda) and, depending upon the folks we were entertaining, perhaps a shot of Grandpa’s favorite rum in each cupful! Two or three of these drinks and either Paul’s jokes got funnier – or we forgot how many times he told them…

The following is a picture of a “quickie”, pizza appetizer (from Mom’s free recipe offerings) – great for entertaining on the spot! Since you can substitute just about any ingredient, from the bread to the toppings, it’s almost impossible not to please everyone with this great snack idea! By the way, do you see the similarities between the “Broiler Pizzas” in the picture, below, and the little rye pizza snacks that Mom describes herself preparing in the story, above? That’s just how easy it is to modify the idea of mini “finger-pizzas” to what you have on hand in your pantry and refrigerator.

#NationalPizzaMonth

Because of my low-carb lifestyle, to make my own little pizza, I would have to use one of the 90-second microwave Keto bread/English muffin recipes that I have pinned to my Pinterest board, “Low Carb Diet Plans, Recipes & Exercises”.

I like the English muffin that’s made with almond flour the best – simply because there are less carbs in the almond flour recipe than in the coconut flour option. The bread/muffins can be made ahead of time and frozen in individual packages for easy thawing and toasting when needed. However, 90 seconds – even 2 minutes if you add in the mixing of the few ingredients involved – isn’t a long time, to begin with, if you prefer fresh-made bread. By the way, according to NationalDayCalendar.com, October happens to be, among many other things, National Pizza Month!

IN CLOSING…

#NationalCookieMonth & #HomemadeCookiesDay

In honor of tomorrow being the beginning of October and its celebration of National Cookie MONTH (plus, National Homemade Cookies DAY is also tomorrow), here is another one of Mom’s copycat recipes (from one of her “free recipes” offerings) for crisp, buttery cookies inspired by the Mrs. Field’s product found in most grocery stores; but, Mom named her imitation “Mrs. Meadow’s”.

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective is available for sale, at $20.99 each, through the publisher, Balboa Press, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252; it’s also available in eBook form, for $3.99, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Entertaining!

“Entertainment,” according to YouTube, “is a form of activity that holds the attention and interest of an audience or gives pleasure and delight.” – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCi-g4cjqGV7jvU8aeSuj0jQ/about?disable_polymer=1

Hello to all! I’m Laura Emerich and my mom is Gloria Pitzer, the ORIGINAL Secret Recipe Detective. I started this blog in September (2018) to honor her legacy and to channel my cherished memories of her, and how she’s influenced my life; as well as, to hear of others’ memories of her, and how she may have influenced them and their lives. My subject this week is “entertaining”, which can have so many derivatives from which to choose.

1968 – Cheryl (Loli), Mom, me & Debi – Algonac, MI

Growing up, as one of “The Recipe Detective’s” children, I learned a lot from my mom about entertaining, especially during the Fall and Winter holiday seasons – when, like a magician pulling a rabbit out of her hat, Mom could whip up hors d’oeuvres, practically out of thin air, on a moment’s notice for unexpected guests that popped in to say hello and visit a bit. She had a whole “Rolodex” of entertaining ideas in her head from which to draw.

Imagine how great it was when there was a planned, entertainment event such as a Halloween or birthday party or a Thanksgiving dinner with a dozen relatives and guests… Lists were made and checked and revised and checked again! It was a circus of juggling and magic acts all rolled into one! All 5 of us kids had to pitch-in and help on big events, especially us girls…sexist or not, that’s just the way it was back then. We three girls helped Mom inside the house, while the 2 boys helped Dad outside the house.

A Pitzer Family Meal with the Hogancamps – St. Clair, MI

When it came to food, whether it was an hors d’oeuvre or a main dish, Mom never made “just enough”; because she never knew when, either, unexpected guests were joining us, or the dish was such a hit that we’d all want second and third helpings. If she over-planned and there were left-overs, she was the sorceress of re-inventing left-overs into a whole new meal. At least, that’s how I remember it! I tried to do the same as a mom & wife, myself, because it made me feel good to make others feel good… through food and friendship and entertaining.

Lake Huron shoreline, Michigan Photo by Laura Emerich

Fall is probably my favorite time of year. The beautiful color-change of the pure Michigan landscape is unbeaten in my book! The crisp cool nights and slightly-warm, sunny days are another reason, along with the entertaining celebrations of the Halloween and Thanksgiving holidays (and my birthday, too); not to mention – it’s football season, which I happen to enjoy now! As a kid, I was with my mom, I did not like football at all – I didn’t understand it and didn’t care to learn about it. I was not a very competitive person – I wanted everyone to be winners! I more enjoyed being in the kitchen with my mom or playing outside with my friends, while Dad yelled intensively at the referees and players and coaches on the TV.

Hence, football was hardly one of my mom’s joys in the Fall season. Here’s a sample of a story regarding football season that she told in one of her old “Minding the Hearth” editorials, which was re-printed on page 301, in her last book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective” [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write, by Laura Emerich, of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)].

   I am resigned to my life with an armchair quarterback, for I know that the garlic in our matrimonial gladiola patch is PRO FOOTBALL! From September to March, every year, there is always going to be a gigantic communication gap in our house. The art of conversation isn’t really lost. It’s merely hidden behind the pre-game warm-up, installing a power offense which will take advantage of decent, but not blinding, speed in the backfield in a right-handed attack with a lot of blocking in a size-out pass pattern. I guess the reason I’ll never win an argument with my husband in the fall is that I can’t understand one single word he says. I even tried to leave him once during an NFL game, but it wasn’t until the Super Bowl was over (5 months later) that he even noticed I was gone.

   I admit, I don’t know much about football, but I still insist it isn’t quite fair that the fellow who worked so hard last season, doing a terrific job as quarterback, wasn’t promoted to HALF-back this season! Anyway, the last time I tried to cultivate an interest in the game was the time my husband called me in to watch the last 2 minutes of an exciting game. (Mind you, I use the term “exciting” very loosely!) I guess it was exciting. Paul kept jumping up and down, hollering, “Look at them go!” All I learned from that experience, was that 2 minutes of football is equal to 20 minutes of Daylight Savings Time. An ordinary Sunday afternoon at our house would begin as he slipped into his George Blanda sweatshirt and punted his bottle of Ironized Yeast Tablets across the room, then he would step up to the TV set and announce, “Gloria, is there anything you’d like to say to me before football season begins?”

    Perhaps you understand why every fall I join Parents Without Partners. Because my husband would only notice me if I were to run through the living room with… a number on my back. I can forgive him a lot of faults, especially during football season, but… When he asked if I had anything to say to him before he turned on the set, it was no wonder I replied, “Do I have to say it all now?”

Mom never “learned to like it”, herself; but, she learned to put up with my Dad’s love of it. Eventually, as an adult, I learned about the game of football through one of my girlfriends, who enjoyed it immensely. The enjoyment she derived from it was entertaining and contagious in itself. I found myself wanting to learn more about it. Now, I look forward to the football season every year. My husband and I get together with friends, meeting at a different house each week to cheer on our team and yell at the Refs and just enjoy, together, our friendships along with some food and drinks – and other forms of entertainment when our team isn’t doing well. I’ve learned a little about competition over the years, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy it – winners and losers – I’d still rather have everyone win! But, I get the most enjoyment out of the entertainment of us all just getting together over a common interest.

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer for her syndicated column titled, Cookbook Corner.

Whenever it’s my husband’s and my turn to host a football party, or any party for that matter, I usually channel my mom to plan the meal and hors d’oeuvres – I have my own “Rolodex” of ideas inspired by her and her love to entertain. I, also like Mom, make more than enough…just in case. But, some of our friends look at the weekly hosting in terms of a competition (like the games we get together to watch), asking, “how can I compete with this when it’s my turn to host a football party?” I always respond that “it’s not a competition!” But, for them, it is – rather than just enjoying the pure entertainment of the unpretentious activity of getting together simply “for pleasure and delight.” We each have our own ways and it’s all good entertainment. I love what everybody else does! We all have good times at each other’s homes – whether it’s just friendly entertainment or a competition. It’s like original art – no two are alike and, thus, none are enjoyed more than any another.

One of my favorite meals to prepare when entertaining in the Fall season is chili. I can make it from scratch and let it simmer all day in a slow cooker or I can whip it up from the left-overs of “taco night” or “spaghetti night” or “sloppy joe night” – you get the gist. I can also prepare it the day before an event, to re-heat the day of while I focus on other details. Chili is one of those few dishes that tastes even better the second day. I can “stretch it out” to feed more than expected by adding more meat or diced tomatoes or beans or sauce…also, by adding toppings like shredded cheddar or corn chips. Even by using smaller bowls or mugs and adding a side of inexpensive hot dogs, I can stretch it far!

As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, before Mom hung up her hat and magnifying glass and fully retired, (in exchange for a self-addressed, stamped envelope) she was graciously giving away “free sheets” of 12-20 of her most popularly requested, recipes and information on what publications she had in print and how to get them. All her recipes are copyrighted; and one thing she always asked for, when she gave permission to copy, was to give her the proper credit for it. I’ve been sharing one of those recipes with you each week, here in my blog – some of these they also appear (sometimes in alternate versions of the same dish) in her last book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective” [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)], asking only for proper credit if you care to share it. The following is an alternate, 1983 version, as found on page 50 of her last book.

   CHILI IS JUST A KISSING COUSIN OF THE GREEK CONEY SAUCE and a second cousin, twice removed of the Italian pasta sauce. It’s probably related, as well, to the Hungarian goulash sauce. With or without beans, chili has become very Americanized! Chili is more popular in Cincinnati than it is in San Diego. In fact, chili is to Cinci what beans are to Boston! It is served in many ways in the various “chili parlors” and is regarded as the only place in the United States where it is “properly” prepared and served. The fast food industry launched a new frontier devoted to expanding on the idea of Mexican cuisine with American-touches that makes it appeal to those who want a change from hamburgers.

  WHEN A VERY SUCCESSFUL HAMBURGER FRANCHISE decided to give the “Golden Arches” a little nudge in the marketplace, it won the public’s approval by adding a velvety-textured, mildly-seasoned chili to its menu, which has not been duplicated by any other food chain. Today, it’s the leading lady of Wendy’s fast food menu. Here’s my version.

WEDNESDAY’S CHILI

1 ½ to 2 pounds ground round

2 tablespoons corn oil

½ teaspoon seasoned salt

10-ounce can Campbell’s Onion Soup, undiluted

1 tablespoon chili powder

2 teaspoons cumin powder

½ teaspoon pepper

21-ounce can kidney beans, un-drained

6-ounce can tomato paste

8-ounce can tomato sauce

   Brown the beef in the oil and crumble it with the back of a fork until it resembles rice; then, sprinkle on the seasoned salt and turn the heat to low, covering the pan to let it simmer gently in its own juices. Put the onion soup through a blender on high-speed until it’s smooth; then, add it to the beef mixture and mash it thoroughly again with the fork. Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer gently for about 15 minutes or until the flavors are well-blended and the chili is piping hot! Makes about 6 servings. Left-overs keep well in a covered container in refrigerator for a week, or freeze up to 6 months, but it should be thawed/re-heated in the top of a double boiler over gently simmering water.

This is a copy of a later version from one of Mom’s “free recipes sheets” (2000), again, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it: