Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Eat Better and Together

Happy Monday! And happy Autumn too! The days are getting shorter and colder, while the leaves of the trees are getting more colorful each day! Unfortunately, the painter’s palette of nature doesn’t last for long and, soon, all the colors will be gone, blowing in the wind!

#EatBetterEatTogetherMonth

At the end of my last blog entry, I mentioned that, among NationalDayCalendar.com’s month-long celebrations listed for October, it’s “Eat Better, Eat Together Month”! A lot of people say that eating together as a family creates stronger family bonds. In his article, “The Family Meal”, Dr. Christopher Peterson brings up a good point when he says, “What I gain from my meals with others goes way beyond convenience. These meals with others are filling but moreover fulfilling. They make me feel part of a larger group.” [Posted March 20, 2012; PsychologyToday.com]

Personally, between me and my siblings, I’ve found the opposite to be true. We ate dinner together every night, while we lived with our parents. Yet, we hardly talk to each other anymore, since Mom and Dad are both gone now; and some of us don’t get along at all. On the other hand, my own children are closer than my siblings and I; but, they only had family-sit-down-together-meals for about half of their childhoods. Then we were always on the run, doing sports activities; or I was working an afternoon shift somewhere.

However, my kids and I did spend a great quantity of quality time together – just not very often around the dinner table (except for holidays and birthdays). Aside from the eating-together thing, whether you’re cooking for just yourself or for two people or for a whole brood – if you’re the one who plans the menu, then you’re the one who makes the healthy/unhealthy food choices for everyone you’re feeding. It’s a great idea to celebrate eating right and having solid, old-fashioned, close-knit, family meals. But, is there really any merit that eating together creates better eating habits and tighter family bonds?

In the back, left to right, is Cheryl, Debbie, me & our dad…In front, left to right, is Lady (under the table), Bill and Mike. Pitzer family photographed by Gloria Pitzer, March 1973

As I said, when I was growing up, Mom always prepared a sit-down, family-style dinner with all the food in serving dishes in the middle of the table. We all sat together, as a family (like in the picture of us, above). We talked about our days, as we each took a serving from a dish in front of us; passing that dish to the next person while grabbing another dish from the person on the other side of us. However, we would also elbow each other or kick one another under the table, as siblings would do, whenever Mom and Dad weren’t looking our way. For the most part, I think we only got along for Mom and Dad’s sake anyway.

In addition, Mom CHOSE to make well-rounded meals that covered all the food basics, including dessert! That’s what she was taught by her mom and that’s what she taught me to do as well. But, there was no Brady Bunch or Walton’s Mountain type of bonding at our table! We ate together because that’s when the meal was served. It wasn’t a restaurant that you could drop in on at any time and order whatever you like… You ate what was made and when it was served or went hungry until the next meal.

Cartoon written and illustrated by Gloria Pitzer

Of course, with the Recipe DetectiveTM as our mom, we happened to taste-test a lot of fast food and junk food imitations over the years – some things may have seemed like bad/unhealthy choices in food to an outsider – such as fried chicken (like KFC’s). However, Mom’s imitation of the famous fast food dish was baked instead of deep-fried, which is healthier.

As I wrote about in a couple of my other blog entries, “Eating Out at Home” (4/8/19) and “Food for Thought” (5/20/19), Mom knew how to take the “junk out of junk food” and did so in her famous imitations. It’s very true that what you put into cooking is what you get out of it – literally and figuratively! Everything in moderation is a great rule by which to live; but, it’s sometimes easier said than done!

A city that has, for decades, been world-famous for their sit-down, family-style meals is Frankenmuth, Michigan – not too far from us, near Saginaw, MI (from where one of Mom’s favorite radio shows airs, “Listen to the Mrs.”, co-hosted by Art Lewis and Ann Williams on WSGW-Radio.) Tourists flock to this little town from all around the world and will stand in line for hours to get the world-famous chicken dinners at one of the two largest establishments in town.

Zehnders and the Bavarian Inn operate the two major restaurants in Frankenmuth that serve the famous family-style chicken dinners, with all the food in serving dishes in the middle of the table, from which the family will serve themselves and which the servers will refill for you as needed. Just a hint – reservations will get you in quickly, rather than waiting in line. The town’s German heritage exudes from its restaurants, hotels, breweries and quaint little shops that line the mile-plus length of the main street through town – from Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland (all Christmas, all year) to the Frankenmuth Brewery!

Mom and Dad always loved to take road trips to Frankenmuth, as do me and my husband. It’s a great day trip to experience all the German culture that this small tourist town has to offer! Over the years, Mom came up with many imitations of some the famous dishes from the two major restaurants mentioned above; plus, some bread and confection imitations from the local bakeries and fudge shops.

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

The German community of Frankenmuth, Michigan, which for decades has celebrated the art of fried chicken, served family-style; has had thousands of customers lined up every weekend and holiday, waiting to be seated in one of their 2 largest restaurants [Zehnders and the Bavarian Inn]. Their fried chicken is like ‘Grandma used to make’ – richly flavored, moist inside and never greasy. The family-style dinner provides the table with large bowls of homemade mashed potatoes and gravy, moist and spicy dressing (called ‘stuffing’ in other parts of the country), a fresh-from-scratch cranberry-orange relish, hot breads and beverages. [By Gloria Pitzer, as seen on page 94 of Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018).]

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

A MEAL BY ANY OTHER NAME

FAST FOOD RECIPES were not published in the best-sellers – and these were the restaurants where families were apt to frequent if they wanted a meal that was affordable! Paul and I could take all 5 of the children to Capri’s, an Italian restaurant down the road from us in Pearl Beach, and we could feed the whole family for less than $10, providing we ordered the large pizza with only pepperoni and cheese on it and one soft drink for each of us. It was not for substance that we ate out. It was for entertainment.

We could take the kids to McDonald’s and it did the same thing for us that going to the movies did for our parents. It was an affordable pleasure. It was a diversion from meatloaf and pot roast and peas and carrots. It was a treat. We looked forward to it. We felt good about the experience and even better after it was over. It carried us through a long week of paying the utilities, insurance, house payments and car payments and grocery expenses.

When we had to have our 10-year-old station wagon repaired, we had to skip eating out that week. If one of us had to see the dentist, it might be 2 or 3 weeks before we could afford to eat out again. We made do with what we had. We could make the most of what we had. In the 50s and 60s and early 70s, this is the way parents raised their families, budgeted their earnings and allowed for their pleasures.

Things changed, as well they should. Women went out to work. If they weren’t working to supplement the family income, they went to work for their own satisfaction. Whatever the reasons, families changed. Eating at home became less and less appealing – and less and less convenient. Homes were built with smaller kitchens and bigger bathrooms. Microwave ovens were more affordable – and defrost and heat became more popular. [By Gloria Pitzer, as seen on page 295 of Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018).]

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

#TacklingHungerMonth

Along with October being national “Eat Better, Eat Together Month”, it’s also “Tackling Hunger Month”. In connection with those two month-long celebrations, the 2nd week of October is observed as “National Food Bank Week”. Thus, I want to make a local shout out, here, to one of the Detroit area’s food banks, Gleaners!

#NationalFoodBankWeek

I hear about this group all the time on our local news. They do such great things in so many communities! The other day, I heard about their wonderful program, “Cooking Matters”; which is “a groundbreaking nutrition-education program that connects low-income individuals and families with food by teaching them how to prepare healthy, tasty meals on a limited budget.” By the way, “National Food Day” is coming up next week, on the 24th!

#NationalFoodDay

Part of what started Mom’s career as the Recipe DetectiveTM for Secret RecipesTM, was her keen ideas on how to make our family’s food budget stretch during the 1970s’ food crisis. Mom started sharing some of her discoveries in the columns she syndicated. It had a snowball effect when she started imitating famous food products and dishes, at home – in her own kitchen, with what she had on hand in her pantry – because our family of seven couldn’t always afford those kind of eating-out treats…that’s how Mom developed her “Copycat Cookery” and “Eating Out at Home” concepts! More on those next week…

IN CLOSING…

#NationalDessertDay #NationalDessertMonth #BakeAndDecorateMonth #ChocolateCupcakeDay #NationalSweetestDay

After writing about eating better, I’m compelled to mention that today happens to be National Dessert Day, which “includes candies, pies, ice cream, fruits, cookies, pastries, cobblers, and donuts…” according to NationalDayCalendar.com. That celebration coincides with two other October national celebrations – National Dessert Month & National Bake and Decorate Month – just in time for National Chocolate Cupcake Day, which is coming up on Friday, the 18th; and National Sweetest Day, which is coming up on Saturday, the 19th.

In honor of all that sweetness, here are a couple of Mom’s free dessert recipes that I’ve posted before AND a new one for her sugar-free pumpkin pie recipe, which she gave away in her Jan.-Feb. 1988 promotions!

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

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 – 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.

 

1990 – Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes of Famous Favorites

1990 Nov – Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes of Famous Favorites

1990 – Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes of Famous Favorites was written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI). NO LONGER IN PRINT – this cookbook has a 120-page, 5.5” x 8.5” format filled with over 400 recipes from the original “Books 1-5” series, established in 1976-1982. However, this collection was not reprinted in any of the other books Gloria has written since that 5-book series. Included in this collection, you’ll find everything from “After Dinner Mints” to “Zucchini Bread”. Famous make-alike versions of “Arby’s-Style Cheesecake”, “Buddy’s-Style Pizza”, “Frankenmuth Gingerbread”, “Paul Newman-Style Dressing”, “Stuckey’s-Style Pecan Brownies” and even a recipe from the White House; given to Gloria from Betty Ford, herself!

Fun Facts:

  • Sub-Titles: The Best of the Best; Books 1 through 5 Revisited
  • Printings: 2
  • Years: November 1990 & April 1991
  • Recipes: 445 listed
  • Pages: 120
  • Size: 5.5″ x 8.5″
  • Price: originally $7, then $7.50 in 1993 (until it sold out within a year)
  • Used copies on eBay: none found
  • Used copies on Amazon: none found
  • ISBN: unknown
  • NO LONGER IN PRINT