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!”

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – How Not to Lose it While Trying to Lose It!

Happy Monday, everybody! Welcome to my blog!

I’m Laura Emerich and this blog home is dedicated to my mom, Gloria Pitzer, the famously renowned “Recipe Detective”TM. I started writing these blogs to honor my mom’s memory and the legacy she left, not just for me, but also for the world – from her life-long writing affair to her secret recipes profession to her other personal loves of life, family and faith.

As I’ve often mentioned in my blogs, Mom was a trailblazer and pioneer of the “fast food copycat” movement. She was reportedly included in the 1976 Guinness Book of World Records for being the first to recreate “fast foods” at home. They were particularly interested in her make-alike versions of “The Colonel’s” secret spices, McDonald’s-style “special sauce” and Arthur Treacher’s-style fish batter; all of which were among Mom’s first deduced, “fast food”, secret recipe imitations, starting back in the early 1970s. You’ll find copies of those recipes in some of my other blogs on this website, as well as under the “Recipes” tab.

This week’s blog subject is inspired by all the nutritional and get-fit type of celebrations going on right now. In fact, there’s so much to write about on this topic that I find myself writing a lot more than the normal blog length should contain. Therefore, this subject will be continued on next week’s blog, “A 2nd Helping of Not Losing It!”

According to the National Day Calendar website , some of the things being celebrated today, this week and this month include many food/nutrition and fitness related things – such as today, March 4th, is National Pound Cake Day among other things.

The NDC website offers visitors the full, “traditional” recipe and this little fact: “the traditional recipe for pound cake makes a cake much larger than most families can consume, as it calls for a pound each of flour, butter, eggs and sugar. Hence the name Pound Cake.” Okay – so, pound cake is not exactly nutritional; but, it is food related, therefore, I couldn’t help mentioning it. Plus, after all, it is “Fat Tuesday Eve”! Thus, if you want to get the temptation out of your system now…Enjoy! For tomorrow is another day – but, obviously, so is the next one! Just remember the old adage, “everything in moderation!”

The first full week of March is recognized as, among other events, national “Read an eBook Week”  – in case you didn’t know, Mom’s last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press, January 2018), which has over 300 pages full of great reads as well as over 500 index listings of “secret” fast food and grocery imitations, is also available as an eBook for only $3.99 at: https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253.

In addition, the country is also observing National Procrastination Week, which is actually observed for the first two weeks in March –  According to the website link, “the goal for [National Procrastination Week] is to celebrate the act of procrastinating by leaving necessary tasks to be done at a later time… However, the holiday does not advocate sloth, laziness or inaction. Instead, it emphasizes accomplishing tasks, and leisurely activities that could not be completed while one had other responsibilities. These may include reading, cooking, cleaning, and exercising.”

In other words, if you’ve put off reading a good book because you’re so busy with responsibilities; then, you can “have your cake and eat it too” by procrastinating on a responsibility this week and reading an eBook instead! This can also have a hidden advantage as a stress reliever!

Another double-benefited activity includes: if you’ve put off initiating a “get fit/exercise” type of plan, now is a great time to procrastinate on the “excuse” or “conflicting responsibilities” and just do it. Correspondingly, share it on social media with the hashtag: #NationalNutritionMonth, because it’s also National Nutrition Month , among other things!

According to the NDC website, emphasis of this month long, March event focuses on… “the significance of physical fitness as well as eating nourishing meals. Taking charge of your health contributes to overall well-being; as well as losing weight…which reduces risks of chronic illness such as heart disease and diabetes… This year’s theme is ‘Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle’, focusing on exercising regularly and making the best food choices…”

As mentioned above, the website also recommends that everyone who observes and participates in this 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!” Even if you’ve already started a diet and/or exercise routine but failed to follow it through – remember the old adage, “if, at first, you don’t succeed, try and try again!” Now, this sounds like a worthwhile challenge to have go viral on social media, as opposed to some of the dangerous challenges that go around on there!

”Success is not in never failing, but in never fearing to begin again.” – Gloria Pitzer, This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p. 14)

The most common New Year’s resolutions are, more often than not, to lose weight and exercise more (or get healthy/fit). These decrees also happen to tie in with the National Nutrition Month observance. We’re 9 weeks in to the new year now! How many resolutions do you think are already broken? If you’ve already given up on your own, it might feel comforting to know that it’s extremely rare to keep a New Year’s resolution all year, let alone all Winter. In fact, according to The U.S. News (Dec. 29, 2015) , around 80% of resolutions fail by mid-February. So, if you’re still sticking to your New Year’s resolution as of today, then you’re further ahead of the game than most of us; therefore, rejoice!

One of Mom’s cartoon panels from her syndicated series, “Full House as Kept by Gloria Pitzer”

Stress and anxiety often accompany lifestyle changes like starting a new diet or exercise regimen, which is why it’s so important to be in the right frame of mind, so you don’t lose it – whether “it” is your focus or your inspiration or your emotional stability – while you’re trying to lose it (which could refer to weight or some other health issue)! Nowadays, in order to calm and focus myself, I just try to remember the silly term “goosfraba” from the hilarious movie, Anger Management (starring Jack Nicholson & Adam Sandler).

”Having a goal gives us hope and it’s hope that keeps us going, enabling us each to meet whatever the world dishes out.” – Gloria Pitzer [This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p.24)]

Furthermore, breaking my plan down into a manageable series of short, daily steps/goals seems like it will help make it simpler for me to remain better focused and more continuously motivated as I reach each step/goal and persevere in moving forward to the next one – one day at a time, one step at a time. Thus, relieving my stress to reach the final finish line, by stopping to smell each rose along the way and rejoice in it. At least, I think, the plan looks good on paper.

I also find comedy to be a huge stress reliever. I remember a funny example of one of Mom’s positive thinking “one-liners” – in the face of tension or stress she’d say, “…be a tea kettle! I could be up to my neck in hot water and still be able to whistle!” For some reason, it makes me picture her as Mrs. Potts in Disney’s movie, Beauty & the Beast, whistling the theme song to The Andy Griffith Show! I will draw on that comedic visual as often as I need a giggle and smiling thought.

”Start Now! Good thoughts and good feelings reinforce each other…When you hold on to one good thought, the better you’ll do things that make you feel good about yourself…Nothing will work for you unless you work for it.” – Gloria Pitzer [This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p.32)]

Mom and I, both, struggled most of our lives with yo-yo weight, going up and down. Diet after failed diet left us wondering why they seemed to work for other people, but not for us! Unfortunately, our mindsets (like many others’) were to only diet until we got to our desired goals. Thus, once there (if we ever reached “there”), we’d slowly forget about the discipline and start allowing ourselves to slack a little. Before we knew it, we’d just sink back into our old habits; immediately regaining what we had lost, and sometimes more, as we further sabotaged ourselves for the failure.

Nevertheless, we found one diet that actually did help us – Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution by Robert C. Atkins, M.D. (1972). We both found, from Dr. Atkins’ description in his book, that we have a carbohydrate intolerance. Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution is not a quick “weigh-fix” solution. It’s actually a low-carb lifestyle commitment. Thus, it only works if you work it! And, truth be told, neither of us made the lifetime commitment to it.

 ”Nothing worthwhile comes easily. Half effort does not produce half results. It produces no results! Work, continuous work and hard work, is the only way to accomplish results that last.” – Hamilton Holt

Therefore, as I did when I quit smoking cigarettes on May 1, 2006 (based on Carr’s book), I need to get my mind into a certain frame of thought – a commitment – one geared towards a new lifestyle of healthy living! Once I get that frame of mind set, then, I need to pick my change-of-life-style “start date” and just stick to it! Yes, it is easier said than done; but still doable! Consequently, I think, if I could use the mind-over-matter process to quit smoking and stay such for almost 13 years, so far; then, I should also be able to apply it to changing my lifestyle to a healthier one that includes regular exercise and better nutritional choices.

”Live up to the best you can see yourself to be, never compromising with excuses and examining every reason for not doing what you are capable of doing…If, every day, we find a way to contribute our best efforts in thought, in action and with no regrets, we’ll never have to fear the future.” – Gloria Pitzer, This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p. 14)

Positivity is believing that every day is a good day – some are just better than others. Mom wrote: “Keeping good thoughts is a healthy exercise all the way around; but, like any form of exercise, you do have to work at it. And, like any other exercise, the more you work at it, the better it works for you.” – Gloria Pitzer [This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p. 32)] Mom also journaled, as opposed to saying, “have a good day”, she suggested saying, “keep good thoughts”, instead; deducing, “How can you not have a good day, if you’re keeping good thoughts?”

I’ve tried the “fake it ‘til you make it” approach many times – it just doesn’t work for me in the long run. I’ve discovered within myself that I’m not going to change anything – not for very long anyway – if I don’t truly want to change it in the first place (as it needs to be from myself and for myself.) It takes the power of positive thinking, among other things, to succeed. But, according to my Mom, it’s not a “will” power that leads to that diet/fitness success, it’s a “won’t” power. I’ll write more about that next week. I hope you come back and check it out!

In closing, as I do each week, I’d like to leave you with one of the recipes that Mom gave out for free on her product-ordering information sheets. Mom often used the following low-carb, Olive Garden-Style, house dressing imitation when watching her carb intake. This updated version is from her “Free Recipes/Information” sheet (2000):

Note: This particular copycat recipe 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 copycat recipes in the “Salads and Salad Dressings” chapter of the book. Remember, this book is also available in eBook format AND it is national “Read an eBook Week”! Enjoy!

Totally unrelated, is this fun little fact about this date in history:

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Interesting Challenges

Greetings to all and, as always, welcome to my blog – Mondays & Memories of My Mom!

In case you’re new to here, let me introduce myself – I’m Laura Emerich and my mom is the famously renowned “Recipe Detective”TM, Gloria Pitzer. After Mom passed away last year, I decided to start this weekly blog to pay homage to the huge legacy she left behind – from her well-known, writing career to her personal loves of life, family and faith.

The “Recipe Detective”TM, Gloria Pitzer

As I wrote about in my last blog, “Famous Foods from Famous Places”,  Mom was a trailblazer! In the early 1970s, she took on an interesting “challenge”, infiltrating the “secrets” of the retail food industry. While carving out a unique niche, Mom developed recipes to imitate famous foods from famous places right at home and for less cost than going out! As a wife and mother of five, herself, she saw a need in the market for the family unit to afford dining out, and she came up with the concept of “eating out at home!”

Mom had a special talent for determining the sources of flavors in a restaurant dish or, even, in a supermarket product. Some of her recipes used unlikely ingredient combinations that were unheard of at that time, like cake mix and mayonnaise, to achieve a certain flavor, color or texture. She also had a special talent to promote herself and her unique creations. Right from the start, “radio” and Mom formed a seemingly natural friendship/partnership. She knew who her target audience was and where to find them!

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” – Seneca (Roman philosopher, mid-1st century AD)

The public loved the “new idea” of making fast food right at home, easily and at less cost. Times were tough. In her last cookbook,  Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; January 2018, 1st Printing – pp. 6-7), Mom wrote about the challenge of quitting her job at the newspaper in the early 1970s to start her own newsletter, as it was…

…amid an economic recession with the highest rate of unemployment I had ever experienced, but it was worth the risk. I was a dedicated writer that new someone had to give homemakers something more than what they were being given in the colored glossy magazines…There had to be more to mealtime… The food industry gave us more appealing products than did the cookbooks we trusted.

THEY LAUGHED! THEY DOUBTED! They even tried to take me to court when some famous food companies insisted that I stop giving away their secrets. They couldn’t believe me when I said that I did NOT know, nor did I want to know, what they put in their so-called secret recipes. I did know that there were very few recipes that couldn’t be duplicated or imitated at home… for much less than purchasing the original product…

“Imitation is the sincerest [form] of flattery.” – Charles Caleb Colton

FAMOUS FOODS FROM FAMOUS PLACES have intrigued good cooks for a long time – even before fast foods of the 1950s were a curiosity. When cookbooks offer us a sampling of good foods, they seldom devote themselves to the dishes of famous restaurants. There was speculation among the critics as to the virtues of re-creating, at home, the foods that you can buy “eating out”, such as the fast food fares of the popular franchise restaurants… [I think a lot of that “anti” attitude was driven by those big-name-companies, as they were the paying advertisers in the papers and magazines for whom the critics worked or with whom they syndicated.]

Still shot from Mom’s 2nd Phil Donahue Show appearance, April 16, 1993

Who would want to imitate “fast food” at home? I found that over a million people who saw me demonstrate replicating some famous fast food products on The Phil Donahue Show (July 7, 1981) DID – and their letters poured in at a rate of over 15,000 a day for months on end! While I have investigated the recipes, dishes and cooking techniques of “fine” dining rooms around the world, I received more requests from people who wanted to know how to make things like McDonald’s Special Sauce or General Foods Shake-N-Bake coating mix or White Castle’s hamburgers than I received for those things like Club 21’s Coq Au Vin.

“A cookbook should be as exciting as a good mystery!” – Gloria Pitzer

… making the reader feel as if you’re right there, in the kitchen with them, peeling, cutting, chopping, stirring, sifting and all the other interesting things one does when preparing food. It is my intention in this book… [and every book] …to make you feel at home in my kitchen, just as if we’re preparing the dishes together…to later enjoy with those who share our tables with us.

Mom often received “fan mail” and requests for specific dishes or products. Some sought out Mom’s talents through her many radio show interviews around the world, asking her to discover how to make their favorite restaurant dishes. Others, who relocated across country or overseas, made requests for Mom’s “Recipe Detective”TM talents to come up with copycat versions of certain grocery products they couldn’t get anymore. There was always a new and interesting challenge for Mom to conquer. She was a pioneer of the “secret restaurant recipes” and “copycat” movement, inspiring so many followers and other copycats! Nothing empowers better success than good, old fashion hard work and, simply, showing others how much you care.

She never knew the companies’ actual formulations or processes unless they willingly shared that information with her – and, while most didn’t, there were a few that did (or, at least, gave her hints to point her in the right direction) because they were impressed by her and liked what she was doing! Call it flattery or call it free publicity, those companies – White Castle, the original “Colonel Sanders” (after he sold his franchise) and the Sanders Candy Company, to name a few – saw it as a win-win!

Mom wrote of her great experience with the White Castle people in the following excerpt from page 13 of her book, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; January 2018, 1st Printing):

A letter of appreciation from Gail Turley, Director of Advertising and Public Relations with White Castle Systems in their Columbus, Ohio headquarters reflected the feelings not often expressed by the major food companies, whose products I attempt to imitate with “make at home” recipes. “On behalf of White Castle System,” the letter said, “We are honored that you deemed the White Castle Hamburger worthy of an attempt at replication of the early days of White Castle and Billy Ingram…” And she enclosed a check to cover the cost of purchasing 15 copies of my first Secret Recipes Book to distribute to their Regional Managers. A far cry from the reaction I received from Orange Julius and Stouffer’s, who threatened legal action against me.

collage for Mom’s imitation inspirations

She also wrote of her positive encounter with the original “Col. Sanders” during a radio show out of Ohio (after he sold his entire franchise and was suing the new owners for changing his recipe) in the following excerpt from page 86 of the same book (cited above): “one of the most important turning points in the events of my recipe work was the influence that Col. Harland Sanders had over me and his direct suggestions on how to make my fried chicken recipe more like the one he originally developed!”

Continuing on with Mom’s encouraging experiences, not only with radio, but also with imitating the great Sanders Candy Company and their response to her copycat versions of their products, here are more passages from page 254 of Mom’s book, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; January 2018, 1st Printing) [Note: I discussed part of these excerpts in an earlier blog, “Made With Love” (10/15/2018).]:

THE TASTE OF THE TOWN!

WARREN PIERCE OF WJR – Radio, Detroit, was one of my first radio friends with whom I would visit on the air regularly, giving out recipe secrets from the food industry. When Warren had an evening show, we found that the listeners’ responses to the famous “make-at-home” recipes prompted some very interesting challenges… Each time I offered Warren’s listeners one of the Detroit recipes, along would come requests for even more that I had not yet investigated. So, I would check out the new eating place, taste the house specialty and return to Warren’s show with the previously requested recipe. [Much like Bob Allison’s “Ask Your Neighbor” show.] This is how most of the recipes in my collection were originally discovered.

SANDERS’ HOT FUDGE was one of the nicest experiences I had in working with imitations of the famous recipes, for John (Jack) Sanders, the grandson and president of the company founded by his grandfather, Fred, was one of the sponsors of Warren Pierce’s radio show. Imagine my reluctance to share with his listeners my version of Sanders’ [Style] hot fudge…

It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship, between my Secret Recipes and Fred Sanders’ products and, I learned, encouraged many out-of-state orders for their products whenever I talked about them during my frequent radio visits around the country.

“When it’s from Sanders, even a little is a big, big treat…” – historical slogan for Sanders’ restaurant, bakery and candy company

MY VISITS ON THE RADIO WITH WARREN PIERCE are still my favorite experiences in my recipe investigations. I would rather do a radio show with Warren, in fact, than television with anyone else. The audience is responsive and the feeling of having really shared something the listeners enjoy having is very rewarding…

On the other side of that imitation or plagiarism coin, there were also (and still are) those who’d replicate what mom was doing in the “copycat” and “secret recipes” field – after all, as I’ve said many times before, she was a trailblazer and an inspiration! Followers were to be expected, as the field proved to be very popular and have endless sources of inspiration from restaurants to grocery products to celebrities’ favorite dishes and so on. Often, other imitators would properly credit Mom for inspiring their own work, which was similar but not exactly the same; as Mom often encouraged her readers to adapt their own tastes and styles to her recipes and to feel creative in the kitchen, changing them up a bit! But, then, there were others who blatantly copied Mom’s work and presented it as their own; some even flagrantly copied her recipes word-for-word without crediting the source.

Mom had many thousands of fans, all around North America and across the pond, who often told her about such plagiaristic cases as they came across them in their areas; and, of course, she would always, rightfully, pursue them. Before home-computers and the World Wide Web, “word” didn’t get around as quickly as it does now – especially since the influx of social media! However, make no mistake about it, “word” DID get around! This new, fast, digital age is a triple-edged sword, though; as it makes plagiarism easier and quicker to accomplish, likewise, it’s also easier and quicker to discover such illegal acts – and, yet, it’s an instantaneous, endless source of inspiration and information at your fingertips!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s blog. Please join me again, next Monday, when I write about my mom’s and my own experiences in dieting – “How to not Lose it, While You’re Trying to Lose It!” In closing, I usually share one of Mom’s recipes from her “free recipes and ordering information” sheets. In keeping with the upcoming “Fat Tuesday” celebration, I’d like to share this hot fudge sauce with you. This is actually a different version of the one in her “free recipes” offer, which I shared in an earlier blog on Oct. 15, 2018. Mom could often find various ways to create the same dish or product. Her hot fudge sauce is just one such example. This “Recipe #2” version of Sanders-Style Hot Fudge Sauce can be found in her last book, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press, January 2018, 1st Printing; p. 255), asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.

HOT FUDGE SAUCELike Sanders

Recipe Number 2

13-ounce can Pet evaporated milk

1-pound Kraft light and dark caramels

½ pound (2 sticks) butter or margarine

12 ounces Nestlé’s milk chocolate [candy bars or chips] – Do not substitute on the brand!

In top of double boiler, over simmering water, combine all ingredients as listed, stirring about 15 minutes until smooth and melted. Cover and continue cooking for at least 30 more minutes, stirring about every 10 minutes. Cool and put through your blender in small portions, using on/off agitation on high speed until mixture is satiny-smooth. Makes 1 quart. Keeps refrigerated up to a month – reheat in top of double boiler over simmering water. Freezes well up to 6 months.

 

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – “Famous Foods from Famous Places”

Hello to everyone, and welcome to Mondays & Memories of My Mom! I’d also like to say happy February 18th! According to the calendar at OCfoodies.com, it’s Crab-Stuffed Flounder AND Drink Wine Day – therefore, eat, drink and be merry! I’m down with that! In case you’re wondering who I am…

My name is Laura Emerich and my mom is Gloria Pitzer, also known as the famous “Recipe Detective”TM. Mom passed away just over a year ago; thus, I started this blog last year to celebrate her legacy and share remembrances of her because she had such a huge effect on so many people, besides my family and I; some we’ve never met, from all around the world.

Even though I grew up surrounded by and involved in “the family”, dining-room-table operation, I didn’t truly understand Mom’s deep love of it all (like the love of a mother for her child) until about 4 years ago when I started collaborating with her to re-write her personal favorite, self-published cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret Recipes; St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Printing). The goal was to republish it for a new media generation, as Mom started a new phase of her life as a widow.

Mom chose the cookbook for me to re-write for her. It was, basically, her favorite revision of her very first (self-published) cookbook, The Better Cooker’s Cookbook (Gloria Pitzer, Happy Newspaper Features; Algonac, MI – 1973). Ironically, it also became her last cookbook – 45 years and 5 or 6 revisions apart! Helping Mom to rewrite the “revised rewrite” of that original book, put me in touch with her in a whole new way! The cookbook was re-published under the title Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective by Balboa Press, a division of Hay House, in January 2018. The subtitle of the book is “Famous Foods from Famous Places”.

Mom and I at her 80th Birthday Party – Photo by Paul Jaekel, Jan. 2016

“Recipe Detective” is the name that was bestowed on Mom by her many friends and fans from her regular radio, talk show visits, which started in the early 1970s. One of her favorites was with Bob Allison on his “Ask Your Neighbor” show (WWJ-Radio; Detroit, MI). This show still airs today, with Bob Allison joined by his son, Rob! The nickname was a natural fit for Mom, because she could sleuth out and find the secrets of the food and restaurant industries, just like Sherlock Holmes, who happened to be one of her favorite fictional characters. Mom always loved to solve a good mystery! A lot of her endeavors as to which “top secret” recipes to crack were inspired by requests from her quickly growing, newspaper and radio fan-base.

Another of Mom’s favorite regular, radio, talk show visits, from which she received other “secret recipe” requests/challenges, were with Warren Pierce on The Warren Pierce Show (WJR-Radio, Detroit). I’ll discuss more about these visits in next week’s blog, Interesting Challenges; so, I hope you’ll come back and check it out! By the way, Warren’s show still airs on weekend mornings – see: http://www.wjr.com/the-warren-pierce-show/

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

Mom wrote for most of her life – starting with daily journaling when she was a young girl. As a matter of fact, her journaling never stopped for the rest of her life AND it was a tremendous help for her to remember things as she dealt with Dementia in her last few years. Besides journaling, Mom wrote for and worked on school newspapers, in secondary school and college. She also entered, and won, many essay contests; all of which lead to her writing for local newspapers, as well as, syndicating her columns and cartoons nationally.

Mom always knew she wanted a career in writing. At first, she never thought about a career writing about the food industry; however, it seemed that most of her successes in writing revolved around recipes and homemaking ideas. “They” say the best things to write about are the things that you know best! But, I guess Mom didn’t know what she knew, until she realized she knew it! Then, she grew to love it even more!

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” ― Theodore Roosevelt

After leaving the newspapers in the early 1970s, to fill a consumer need she felt was out there and not being fed, Mom started publishing her own newsletter, which was first published in January 1974 and continued on through December 2000 – 27 years and 219 issues in all. Every issue was jam-packed full of new recipe discoveries from her radio and restaurant visits; plus, laughable and inspirational stories to feed the heart and soul, household/kitchen/cooking tips and tricks, restaurant/author reviews and recommendations and so much more! As I mentioned in last week’s blog, Mom often said her newsletters were “…like getting together for coffee with friends” SM.

1974 heading of Mom’s first newsletter.

From time-to-time, the newsletter changed frequencies of printings per year (i.e. monthly, bi-monthly and quarterly); and the title changed slightly a few times too, starting out as Gloria Pitzer’s Homemaker’s Newsletter (Jan. 1974) and ending as Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter, when Mom retired it (Dec. 2000). In addition, the price changed with the times also, starting out at $0.50 per issue or $5 for a 1-year (12 issues) subscription in 1974; and ending in 2000 at $2 per issue or $18 for a 1-year (12 issues) subscription. I’d love to hear comments from anyone who subscribed to Mom’s newsletters, or who know someone that subscribed – you can write to me at therecipedetective@outlook.com.

2000 heading of Mom’s last newsletter.

Mom also wrote and self-published about* 40 cookbooks (*over, if you consider that many had multiple printings & some had multiple versions). She also wrote a couple of “feel good”, inspirational books and many “brand-specific” recipe folders, as well as a couple of small recipe booklets; all created, of course, from her 30-year, on-going collection of recipes that she developed, tested, wrote and published – a collection that grew from a couple hundred to thousands, imitating famous dishes and products of the food industry – certainly, as if she infiltrated their actual, “top secret” recipes and methods!

Rabbit Hole Note: I’m not sure exactly how many thousands of recipes Mom has to her credit, but I am currently working on a “Master List” based on the indexes in her 40+ books and other publications. When it’s finished, I’ll be posting the extensive “master list” under a new tab on the website – be sure to check out the website again when the “Master Index List” tab is added – you’ll be notified right away if you’re following me on any one, or all, of the following social media links: https://twitter.com/recipedetective, https://www.facebook.com/pg/TheRecipeDetective/, https://www.instagram.com/therecipedetective/ and https://in.pinterest.com/therecipedetective/. The dream for the “Master Index List” is to have all the posted entries linked to all the other related “Cookbooks”, “Other Publishings”, “Recipes” and “Blog” posts.

Mom’s books stood out, head & shoulders above the rest – not only for her unique concept of “eating out at home” recipes, imitating fast-food and fine-dining dishes; but also, like her newsletter, for their homemade, crafty designs and lay-outs that were filled with good humor, food-for-thought and food-for-the-soul editorials, household tips & tricks; as well as tidbits of interesting historical information! No other cookbooks on the market at that time, or since, have offered any kind of combination like that – especially not with “make-alike” recipes to imitate food industry dishes and products at home – unless they copied the original copycat! There’s a fine line between imitating and plagiarizing, which is a topic for another blog post in the near future. Mom was a trail-blazer, carving out a unique niche in the food industry, which inspired many followers and other copycats!

Before she started the newsletter in 1974, one of Mom’s very first cookbook creations was called, The Better Cooker’s Cookbook (Gloria Pitzer, Happy Newspaper Features; Algonac, MI – 1973). This was a collection of recipes that Mom originally published in Cookbook Corner, one of the recipe columns that she syndicated to many different newspapers for over 5 years prior…

The Better Cooker’s Cookbook – written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Happy Newspaper Features; Algonac, MI), 1973

Here are some excerpts from a wonderful review of this cookbook, written over 45 years ago by Mike Royko [Detroit Free Press, The Feature Page; MONDAY, DEC. 10, 1973]:

I Keep the Munchies Away by Writing

IF YOU spend any time in this corner, you have noticed lately that I have been writing a lot about food, restaurants and eating. It always happens when I go on a strict diet. I satisfy my hungers by writing about food… But to keep the ol’ write-and-lose therapy going, let me pass on some info about two rather novel cookbooks that have come to my attention.

First, there’s Gloria Pitzer’s handmade (her five kids in Algonac even helped hand-color the cover) delight called, “The Better Cooker’s Cookbook.” Gloria is a delightful newspaper columnist and she notes in[side] the front of her book: “If the Good Lord had intended for me to cook, why wasn’t I born with aluminum hands?”

Another sparkling observation: “Cookbooks do not tell you, for instance, such vital items as the Impossibility of Using Up Easter Eggs!” I really groove on the little asides she tucks between the over 200 sensible recipes. Like this one: “Frankly, I never met a melon squeezer I really liked. They always make me feel so insecure, the way they hold the melon to their eye and thump it like they are expecting a heartbeat.”

…It’s a buck and a half and a belly-laugh a page…

I remember getting to help color those cookbooks! I was only about 8½ years old at the time; but, even then, I was OCD enough to stay within the lines, which was a very important requirement if you wanted to be one of Mom’s colorists! That was so much fun! Almost as good as being one of her taste-testers – because even the “duds” were great! The dining-room-table operation was always a family business; however, Dad was just the last one in the family that was let in on “the secret”…as Mom wrote about in “her story” many times, one of which I included in my recent 4-part series, Mom’s Story – How Secret Recipes Began.

As I got older, and learned how to cook and bake from Mom, I also got to help her make/test some of her “secret” recipes. I remember developing my own banana bread recipe when I was 14, after a small summer vacation at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in Michigan’s beautiful Lake Huron. That same week, a movie crew was there, filming “Somewhere In Time”, starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour! It was one of my most memorable vacations with Mom and Dad (and my younger sister, Cheryl.)

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

I was very inspired by the hotel’s elegant presentation of snacks. In particular was a luscious, moist banana bread that seemed more like a cake than a bread, with a scrumptiously thick cream cheese glaze! My version of the hotel’s special treat turned out so good that Mom put it in her next cookbook, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1982, 1st Printing) – which is the original book (but 3rd printing) that I helped her re-write 35 years later. It’s ironic that it took Mom a couple years for her to write that book (based on her first, 1973 cookbook) and it took me a couple years to re-write it once again!

Thanks for visiting! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my tribute to Mom! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me at therecipedetective@outlook.com.

In closing this week, along with one of Mom’s recipes from her “free recipes and ordering information sheets”, with which I usually end my blog, I’m also including a copy of MY “Banana Bread” recipe, as it’s found on page 182 of Mom’s last cookbook, 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 favorite, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)] – asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.

 BANANA BREAD – Like The Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island (MI)

On the lavish, luncheon, smorgasbord tables of the Grand Hotel, where we were staying during the filming of “Somewhere in Time” [1979], were a variety of sweet breads, as well as finger sandwiches prepared on quick breads. One of their sandwich ideas was softened cream cheese – possibly whipped with a little sour cream – on a wonderful banana nut bread. When we returned home from that vacation, our daughter, Laura, came up with a version of their bread which became one of our favorite recipes.

1/3 cup butter or margarine

½ cup sugar

2 eggs

2 cups self-rising flour (SEE NOTE BELOW!)

1 cup each: ripe, mashed bananas (2 to 3 medium-sized) and chopped walnuts

Cream butter and sugar on medium speed of electric mixer until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes – set your timer!) Add the eggs and beat another 2 minutes. Beat in half of the flour and all the bananas for 2 minutes. Beat in remaining flour for 1 minute. Stir in nuts with a spoon. Pour into greased and floured, 9-inch bread-loaf pan. Bake at 350°F for 45 minutes or until it tests “done” with a toothpick. Cool several hours before slicing. Makes 1 loaf.

NOTE: If you don’t have self-rising flour, then substitute with – 1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt. The best results, I have found, is when I stir the ½ teaspoon baking soda into the mashed bananas, combining the remaining ingredients and adding that much as directed in the recipe above.

The following is, yet, another version of Mom’s homemade self-rising flour, as found on page 169 of the same book referenced above.

Sift together 3 c. flour, 3 TB baking powder and 1 tsp. salt. Store in covered container, in a cool dry place. Makes approximately 3 ¼ cups.

Mom always said there’s more than one way to reach a destination or desired result. The following picture is of another, updated version of Mom’s homemade self-rising flour from her “Free Recipes/Information” sheet (2000):

Let me know which version of homemade self-rising flour that you prefer – feel free to email me at therecipedetective@outlook.com.

2018 – Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – Best of the Recipe Detective

2018 Jan – Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective

2018 – Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – Best of the Recipe Detective is a re-write of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook by her daughter, Laura Emerich (published by Balboa Press, Jan. 2018). This cookbook has 318 pages filled with over 500 of Gloria’s best recipes, Food-for-Thought, inspirational stories, household and cooking tips and tricks, witty jokes, illustrations and historical information on some of the companies whose dishes and products she mimicked at home!

*SPECIAL NOTE: This cookbook was Gloria’s personal favorite of all the ones she’s written. It was recently re-written by Gloria and her daughter, Laura (Pitzer) Emerich. It is currently (as of Jan 2018) published by Balboa Press and available for sale at $20.99 each (also, available as an eBook for $3.99 each)…see: https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252

Fun Facts:

Comments (as seen on Amazon):

5 out of 5 stars from the Secret Recipe Detective – Lynne – July 20, 2018 – Format: Paperback

“Gloria Pitzer was famous for her copycat recipes and their clever sound-alike names. She experimented in her kitchen to recreate popular foods. The first was McDonald’s secret sauce, way back in 1968. At that time, it was an 80-mile round trip from her home to the nearest McDonald’s. Any of her cookbooks is worth owning. They can be hard to find, so buy them when you see them.

Gloria Pitzer died earlier this year. The best tribute I can include is her version of Open Pit BBQ sauce — which will give you the flavour (yep, pun intended) of her style and creativity. She called it (what else?) Open Pitzer BBQ Sauce – Combine 1 cup bottled apple butter, 1 cup ketchup, and 1 cup Catalina Dressing. Mix well. Store in covered container in the refrigerator.”

2001 – Gloriously Simple! Recipes from Gloria Pitzer

2001 Oct – Gloriously Simple! Recipes from Gloria Pitzer

2001 – Gloriously Simple! Recipes from Gloria Pitzer was written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Secret Recipes, Marysville, MI). NO LONGER IN PRINT – this cookbook is another fabulous collection of Gloria’s simplest recipes for everything from soup to nuts, using simple ingredients you probably already have handy!

Fun Facts:

  • Sub-Titles: “The Recipe Detective” and “Private Investigator of Secret Recipes (Not for Hire)”
  • Printings: 1+
  • Years: Oct 2001+
  • Recipes: about 200
  • Pages: 30
  • Size: 8.5″ x 11″
  • Original Price: $6.75; it sold out in 2004 at $7 per copy
  • Used copies on eBay or Amazon: none found
  • ISBN: unknown
  • NO LONGER IN PRINT

2000 – Gloria Pitzer’s My Personal Favorites

2000 Nov – Gloria Pitzer’s My Personal Favorites

2000 – Gloria Pitzer’s My Personal Favorites was written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Secret Recipes, Marysville, MI). NO LONGER IN PRINT – this was a Limited Edition cookbook of Gloria’s own personal, go-to collection of her favorite “Secret Recipes” that she kept in a notebook on her kitchen counter. These are the reliable, perfect-every-time recipes that she depended on to be easily put together without a lot of time and effort requirements.

Fun Facts:

  • Printings: 4+
  • Years: Nov 2000 – May 2001+
  • Recipes: 199 listed
  • Pages: 30
  • Size: 8.5″ x 11″
  • Price: originally $6.00; it sold out in 2004 at $7 per copy
  • Used copies on eBay or Amazon: none found
  • ISBN: unknown
  • NO LONGER IN PRINT

1999 – The Great Imitator’s Cookbook by Gloria Pitzer

1999 Oct – The Great Imitator’s Cookbook by Gloria Pitzer

1999 – The Great Imitator’s Cookbook was written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI). NO LONGER IN PRINT – this cookbook has a collection of 367 copycat recipes on 60 pages in an 8.5” x 11” format, which are complimented by Gloria’s signature style of “recipes” for being the best we can be in our daily relationships tucked in between!

Fun Facts:

  • Sub-Titles: “Imitations”
  • Printings: 2
  • Years: October 1999 & May 2000
  • Recipes: 367 originally listed
  • Pages: 60
  • Size: 8.5″ x 11”
  • Original Price: $9.75
  • Used copies on eBay: none found
  • Used copies on Amazon: $35
  • ISBN: 1-886138-10-9
  • NO LONGER IN PRINT

1998-2004 – Secret Recipes Bulletin, a series by Gloria Pitzer

1998-2004 – Secret Recipes Bulletin series by Gloria Pitzer

1998-2004 – Secret Recipes Bulletin was a series written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Secret Recipes, Marysville, MI). There were 7 “Bulletins” in all – most were double-sided, 8½” x 11”, full-page collections of recipes inspired by specific restaurants or “name brands”, plus tips and historic information – that sold for $1 each and are NO LONGER IN PRINT.

1998-2002:

Bulletin #101 – Imitations of Old Country Buffet or Hometown Buffet Specialties – 18 recipes

Bulletin #102 – Imitations of Boston Market Dishes – 17 recipes

Bulletin #103 – Imitations of Bob Evans Restaurant Favorites – 17 recipes

Bulletin #104 – 20 Different Cookies from One Recipe! – Based on a basic recipe for a Mrs. Field’s-Style cookie, which Gloria called “Mrs. Meadows’ Soft Cookies”; plus, 20 options to go with it! This bulletin had a one-page, 8½” x 14”, legal-size format.

2003-2004:

Bulletin #105 – Imitations of Fred Sanders Favorites – 14 recipes

Bulletin #106 – Imitations of Bill Knapp Favorites – 11 recipes

Bulletin #107 – Imitations of J. L. Hudson Favorites – 11 recipes