Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Homemade Holidays

Happy Monday! Did you know that today, December 9th, is National Pastry Day? Thus, it’s a great time to make those special holiday pies and tarts! In honor of this day, at the end of this blog entry, I’m including Mom’s favorite butter pie crust recipe (which, originally, came from her mom; but Mom thought it was a great imitation of the Baker’s Square product). I posted it in one of my early blog entries and it can also be found on the “Recipes” tab of this web site.

Debates are going on as to whether traditions are a joy to continue or a chore. There’s a great article about that very thing at https://sixtyandme.com/what-are-your-favorite-christmas-memories-and-traditions/. I just finished filling out my traditional Christmas cards this weekend and, like Mom, it started out with lots of joy and excitement and wishes for the receivers but, about half way through my address book, I started feeling like it was a chore; thus, my notes and wishes became shorter and shorter. As seen in last week’s blog entry [*with an additional paragraph added to it this week]…

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Christmas Card Cook Book

(Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1983, p. 3)

Sending Christmas cards has always been a favorite tradition in our house. In 28 years, we only sent store-bought cards twice. Every Christmas, other than that, we made our cards. That was the one important tradition we followed – and still do…

What usually happened was that we had every good intention of confining our list to those who really were important to us [and] who we rarely saw during the rest of the year… I like to put newsy little notes inside that would bring old friends up to date with what we had been doing since we sent them our last Christmas card.

…I am one of those annoying sentimentalists who will, too, read every word of the long, newsy Christmas letters and the page-by-page accounts of how our friends have been doing since the last Christmas.

*Christmas cards for our family have always found us writing newsy notes to those on our list, alphabetically, from the Andreason’s to the Groff’s [names]… I manage to tell them about the five kids, but before I am through the names on our list that begin with ‘H’, I’ve run out of synonyms for IMPOSSIBLE! From the Hudson’s through Zillich, I find that my newsy little notes have usually dwindled to just plain ‘Hi!’

I don’t know if fewer cards are being sent at Christmas since postage became so expensive – or if we simply don’t know that many people. The tradition, however, seems to be fading…

After writing about traditions in last week’s blog entry (titled the same), I couldn’t turn off the memories of my childhood holidays and all the traditions, including all the things that Mom usually made by hand just to make the season more special for all of us. It’s no secret that, before Secret RecipesTM took off, money was usually tight for our family of seven (nine, if you count the dog and cat!) Therefore, a lot of what we enjoyed during the holidays – be it greeting cards, food, gifts, decorations, clothes, etc. – was homemade simply to ease the budget.

Between Mom making our “treats” budget stretch and requests from her readers (when she was writing newspaper columns that focused on homemakers), that’s what inspired the “legend” we came to know as the Recipe DetectiveTM! Mom loved to imitate famous foods from famous places so we could enjoy eating out – right at home and at less of a cost! Homemade fast food and junk food – who’d have thought…!

Mom & Phil Donahue, during her 2nd appearance on his show. (1993)

As it turned out, there were millions of people who wanted to learn how to do the same for their families and they learned it from Mom, first. Now, there are all kinds of “copycats” who copied the ORIGINAL COPYCAT… yet, none of them give her the proper credit she deserves for having inspired them. The biggest culprit is Todd Wilbur, who continues to lie about from where he got his inspiration – saying it was from a Mrs. Field’s cookie recipe, but it was actually from one of Mom’s cookbooks that he ordered after her FIRST appearance on the Phil Donahue Show. Anyway, out of that rabbit hole and on to…

My childhood memories of by-gone holidays took me back to Mom’s (and Grandma’s) homemade holiday treats – such as the traditional rum-soaked fruitcake, bite-sized squares of Christmas fudge, little pastry tarts, a wide-variety of cookies and pies, hot fudge sauce, chunks of peanut brittle and, of course, the candy-covered gingerbread house.

All the memories and missing my parents have me craving the old-fashioned (and priceless) homemade holidays. When my own children were growing up and money was tight for our family, as well, we would often have homemade holidays. I still treasure all the artwork and ceramic/clay creations that my kids made for me every holiday.

Likewise, I remember Mom’s homemade gifts more often than any of the store-bought ones. My all-time favorite was a “rag” doll she made for me from scraps of material, yarn, ribbons and buttons. Oh, how I wish I still had it! Now, in hind-sight, I realize just how much love Mom poured into all of our homemade holidays.

I must say, I miss the treats immensely! Maybe I pine for them so much because I can’t have those kinds of things any longer – not if I want to continue controlling my weight and sugar levels and, thereby, my health, as well. As the old idiom imparts, “absence makes the heart grow fonder!” This holiday season, I’m determined to find ways to imitate my favorite treats in some low-carb way so that I can enjoy them once again!

The cards, treats and gifts weren’t the only things that were homemade. So were many decorations. I mentioned in my blog entries, many times, that Mom was very crafty. I remember some Christmas crafts Mom would do with us kids, back in the 1970s, making angels out of her old Reader’s Digest magazines and ornaments out of homemade salt dough.

Me and Mom – 1971 & 2016

At Christmas time, I liked to do those crafts with my children when they were little, as well. Together, we also collected various kinds of pine cones and branches, chestnuts and acorns – all with which to make winter bird feeders, wreaths and garland. We also strung popcorn to wrap around the christmas tree like garland.

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Christmas Card Cook Book

(Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1983, pp. 4-5)

Breaking through the barriers of tradition, we find a spirited acceptance of new family values. Occasions have replaced celebrations. Getting together has been replaced by BEING together! Good food, comfortable conversation [and] warm hospitality have become more important to the family circle than reverence without reason, tolerance without tact, relatives without relationships!

The lovely part about Christmas for us, was always being together – with our friends, our good and dear neighbors and our relatives; in a series of activities that began with Thanksgiving and tapered off around the new year. It was hectic, but it was also many happy reunions, mixed well with spontaneous visitations that, had they been a part of the ordinary activities of the rest of the year, would not mean so much now!

The food was simple, but ample. The food, I feel, should never be more important than the guests for whom it is prepared…All of these preparations are a part of Christmas – but, not the important part. The tokens only represent the real meaning – that of loving, of letting go of old grudges, of forgetting past hurts, of looking for something good (even though you don’t see it – until you do!)

Pitzer kids, group shot – Christmas Eve, 1969

LOVE, most philosophers conclude, is the highest level of thought. It is the logic of the heart. And no other season of the calendar year seems to reflect more of this feeling, this consolation to our woes, than the season of Christmas!

We reach out to others – and want them, in turn, to respond to us. Some of us do it with gifts that we buy or make and some of us do it with social gestures of food and hospitality. While all of these traditions are renewed at this particular time of the year, the critics complain and the cynics look for reasons to begrudge us the pleasure of loving the season, renewing the fellowship of it – with family, friends and neighbors.

But that’s not unusual and we shouldn’t be surprised by the criticisms that try to take some of the joy out of the holiday traditions we follow – or create for ourselves. There are always critics, unfortunately, for those occasions in our lives when we wish to be glad about something…

So, on with the celebration – whether we choose to keep it quietly in our own personal fashion of religious customs, or whether we choose to make it festive and pronounced with the traditions of gifts and food. The point is, we are celebrating the season of hope… It’s a time for loving – for expressing it [and] for offering it to others! How can something like that not be good!

Our own traditions have not been very elaborate in our family, during the Christmas season; but, the things we have always done to make the holiday more enjoyable, brought us pleasure. So, we have continued with them. Whether you choose to follow traditions or to create some of your own, the underlying meaning is still there to express joy and LOVE – that incredible, curious logic of the heart!

You really don’t need to be crafty to create a homemade holiday celebration with anything and everything from food to gifts to decorations. Barely more than a few decades ago, home computers were not a common thing – having a complete set of encyclopedias (in hard copy) was a must – we didn’t have the endless concepts, floating around the internet, like you have currently.

Nowadays, ideas and instructions for making just about anything and everything can be found on the world wide web by typing just a few key words into a search box. The knowledge of the world is, literally, at our finger tips! Pinterest is usually my first go-to-source for ideas and inspirations on the web, but I also like to use Bing, Google and YouTube, as well.

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

My favorite inexpensive, homemade gift ideas use a Mason jar! Any size or style you choose, these jars are so versatile – and reusable too! They can be filled with dry mix ingredients and a recipe card for making/baking the product. They can be filled with natural elements (like pine sprigs, cinnamon, etc.) for potpourri that can be simmered in a pot of water on the stove. They can be filled with homemade soaps or salves – there are so many “how to” sites on the web, from which to gather many inspirations and instructions.

Pinterest is my favorite “search engine” for inspiration and ideas that I can’t find in my mom’s books, first. My own personal page at Pinterest, ldemerich(which I started years ago), can be seen at https://www.pinterest.com/ldemerich and has quite an eclectic collection of boards; while the OFFICIAL page of The Recipe DetectiveTM (which represents Mom, her last cookbook and her website) can be seen at https://www.pinterest.com/therecipedetective. Keep in mind – that page is still building up boards and is a continuous work in progress (WIP), as is this website, as well.

IN CLOSING…

#NationalPastryDay

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

Either form (or both) will make GREAT Christmas gifts!

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Traditions

Happy Monday, belated! I apologize for missing my normal Monday deadline. I ran up north on Black Friday, with a couple of girlfriends, to see another girlfriend for an impromptu “Friends-giving” celebration. The weather forecast was calling for only a light dusting to an inch of snow but, of course, this is Michigan; and we ended up getting snowed in, with about 6-8 inches of snow and ice and no internet. But, now, let’s get on with this week’s blog…

I’m a lover of traditions. When I look back on my childhood, so many of my favorite memories involved our family’s holiday traditions. Mom and Dad succeeded at creating a lot of very special memories for me and my siblings. That’s why, after having children of my own, I always tried to carry on those traditions. We even added a few new ones over the years that have since continued.

Every year, world-wide, hundreds of millions of people commemorate the Christmas holiday in so many different ways. Christmas celebrations, traditions, customs and beliefs are incredibly diverse in America, alone, because we‘re a big melting-pot-nation; where numerous nationalities, and traditions thereof, can come together in harmony, melding multiple old traditions into new ones.

THE CHRISTMAS FEELING is basically a simple hope for peace and good will, no matter what other trappings we’ve attached to the occasion through the years since that single star lit up the sky over Bethlehem. No matter what other customs and traditions mankind has attached to Christmas or the celebration of it, the humble wish for ‘peace on Earth, good will towards men’ remains strong among those who thrive on hope and cherish what is good… – Gloria Pitzer, Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter (Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Nov-Dec 1990, Issue #147, p. 8)

According to Holiday Traditions of the United States…, while the tradition of “feasting” during the holidays is characteristic of all nations, with only the menus being different. We get many of our current combined traditions from our diverse ancestors who immigrated here from so many different countries, bringing their customs with them.

For example, as the article (mentioned above) explains, a lot of our Christmas carols came from England and Australia, whereas the decorated evergreens are a German influence. The man in the red suit that we know as Santa Claus (aka: St. Nicholas or St. Nick), originated in Scandinavia and his arrival down the chimney to fill stockings with fruit and nuts is reminiscent of the Netherlands. Additionally, Santa’s sleigh, being drawn by reindeer, began in Switzerland; and our annual holiday parades may have been inspired by the Latin processions.

Over the years, America’s influence has fattened up Scandinavia’s red-suited “jolly old St. Nicholas” and blended all the different traditions so that he magically came down everyone’s chimney on Christmas Eve, leaving gifts and stockings filled with treats. Additionally, he arrived and departed in a sleigh drawn by eight tiny reindeer – as in the classic holiday story, ‘Twas the Night before Christmas – then, later, a ninth reindeer, with a shiny red nose, was added.

‘If I give our children only one gift, it will be that I gave some practical sense of what is truly important at this time of year – not the gift, but the gathering of family and friends… Not the food, but the feeling of just being home… Never letting what we want be more important than what we need… Not complaining about [the] trivial… And always appreciating what we’ve already received before we can expect to receive more.’ – Gloria Pitzer, Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter (Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Nov-Dec 1990, Issue #147, p. 1)

Do you have a traditional Christmas Eve dinner and/or Christmas Day breakfast (or brunch)? As I was growing up, my family celebrated both, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. For years, now, my husband and I have been hosting a Christmas Day Brunch for our families. Offering up a Christmas toast with a glass of homemade eggnog (or some kind of festive drink), is another tradition that many follow during the holiday meal gatherings.

Mom and Santa 2016

Another holiday tradition that I continued from my parents’ influence, as they did from their parents, is mailing out season’s greeting cards to all of our family and friends, along with little notes on them. However, Mom almost always made our family’s holiday greeting cards and every year they were different and special, with news and highlights about our past year and hopes for the coming year; sometimes, adding a recipe.

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Christmas Card Cook Book (Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1983, p. 3)

Sending Christmas cards has always been a favorite tradition in our house. In 28 years, we only sent store-bought cards twice. Every Christmas, other than that, we made our cards. That was the one important tradition we followed – and still do…

What usually happened was that we had every good intention of confining our list to those who really were important to us [and] who we rarely saw during the rest of the year… I like to put newsy little notes inside that would bring old friends up to date with what we had been doing since we sent them our last Christmas card.

…I am one of those annoying sentimentalists who will, too, read every word of the long, newsy Christmas letters and the page-by-page accounts of how our friends have been doing since the last Christmas.

I don’t know if fewer cards are being sent at Christmas since postage became so expensive – or if we simply don’t know that many people. The tradition, however, seems to be fading…

Hanukkah – Christmas, Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

December, and all the holidays within it, was probably Mom’s favorite time of every year. ‘Tis the season of Faith, Hope and Love! ’Tis the season of sentimentalists, as well. Mom said, in the memory above, ‘I am one of those annoying sentimentalists’… I don’t find it annoying to be a sentimentalist, as Mom wrote about (above) and I never have – but, then again, I’m in that sentimentalist club too! And what’s so wrong with being a sentimentalist? I think it’s a good thing to be affected and motivated by feelings of tenderness, sadness, happiness or nostalgia!

‘Every year at this time, we put our very best wishes together with some warm & worthy thoughts, and send them off to you, wrapped in sincere affection and the dearest hopes that this coming year gives you all you expect and derive from it.’ – Gloria Pitzer, Gloria Pitzer’s Secret RecipesTM Quarterly, Winter 94/95.

American Christmas Traditions, by Robin Bickerstaff Glover, (Updated 03/20/19) lists many of the same wonderful traditions that my family has followed for decades and does so, still. Besides sending out the annual Christmas cards, as I mentioned above, I remember, as a kid, helping Dad put together our artificial Christmas tree and then decorating it with Mom after Dad put the lights on the tree. It was always a family event, hanging the ornaments, candy canes and tinsel. We know a few families who traditionally go to a tree farm on Thanksgiving weekend to pick out a real Christmas tree.

Other decorations that our family put up included Mom’s Christmas village and our empty stockings that were magically filled on Christmas morning with fruit and candy and little trinkets, while the plate of cookies and carrots that we left out for Santa and his reindeer on Christmas Eve was always found empty on Christmas morning. A new tradition I want to start for my family is giving everyone a new ornament in their stocking each year.

A lot of my favorite Christmas decorations are simple, homemade items. Including my tree. I’ve always loved being kind of crafty, because I’ve never had a lot of money to spend on beautiful, store-bought decorations. Often, I’ve made my own wreaths and garland out of natural items from my backyard evergreens. I made my own artificial tree out of a large tomato cage and faux pine garland, with real pine cones, a string of lights and my ornament collection. When I don’t have ideas of my own, like the tree, Pinterest is one of my “go-to” sources for fresh ideas on decorations to make, myself. I also love walking through all the craft fairs for more ideas.

Initially inspired by Mom’s Christmas village, I started collecting my own village pieces over 30 years ago, when I was selling Home Interiors & Gifts. I’ve been collecting pieces from many different manufacturers, since then, and I love putting it all together every year – I’ve never set it up the same way twice, as I usually add a new building each year, along with a few new figurines and accessories. The village has grown quite large over the past 3 decades, with all the different styles, sizes and manufacturers. I need to trim it down to, at least, the styles and sizes that are most alike. I feel a yard sale is going to be necessary next spring!

As a child, growing up, and as an adult, with my own family, there were always many kinds of Christmas treats to make during the holidays such as cookies, fudge and a candy-covered gingerbread house, to name a few. I always loved helping to decorate the sugar cookies and gingerbread houses that Mom made every year, with all the different candies and frosting! My kids enjoyed that too and, now, my daughter, Tara, enjoys making holiday cookies and other treats with her son.

Photo by Gloria Pitzer (me and my Xmas Candy House)

Along with decorating the house for the eyes to enjoy, traditional Christmas songs were usually playing on the stereo to please the ears. In addition, Mom always had scents for the nose to enjoy as well. When she wasn’t cooking or baking, Mom often had a simmering pot of homemade potpourri on the stove to give off all the scents of the season.

To make sure your house smells like Christmas, follow this tip I love from DaringToLiveFully.com at https://daringtolivefully.com/christmas-traditions: “Place 4 to 6 cups of water in a pot on the stove. Add orange peels (from 1 or 2 oranges), 3 to 4 cinnamon sticks, 1 tablespoon of whole cloves and 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract. If you want to get fancy you can add cranberries and some ginger. Bring the contents to a boil and then reduce the heat so it is left to simmer.” I enjoy it because it’s very much like Mom’s homemade potpourri.

We usually attended at least one Christmas party a year that was geared towards the whole family, with great food, eggnog and punch. While the adults socialized, the kids would get to do some holiday crafts, sing Christmas carols, listen to someone read the classic story, ‘Twas the Night before Christmas, see Santa Claus and receive a special gift – early! We also drove through town, in the evening, to see all of the beautiful light displays. I think I enjoyed the Christmas parties and driving through town to see all the Christmas lights as much as a child as I did as a parent, taking my own children.

Photo by Gloria Pitzer

I followed a lot of the same traditions with my kids, when they were growing up, that my parents did with me and my siblings, plus some! Another tradition I enjoyed as much as a child as I did as a parent was when we’d eat popcorn and watch the old classic, holiday movies like “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street”; plus, the newer classics (with my own kids) like “Home Alone,” “The Santa Clause” and “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”. We also would string some of that popcorn to hang on the Christmas tree like garland.

Shopping is known to be a tradition for many people, but not one we really followed. A lot of families will spend their entire Thanksgiving holiday, camping out at some toy or electronic-type store to get the BIG Black Friday deals. Although, many see it as their family tradition, others believe that the holiday season has become too commercialized. The original, unselfish tradition of just GIVING has seemingly disappeared.

Nevertheless, we always hear about the many wonderful stories of “Secret Santas”, who paid-off peoples’ layaway-purchases or paid for someone else’s meal, while in line at a fast food place. Other stories often tell of someone, at a sit-down-style restaurant, having given their waiter/waitress a really big tip for the holidays. Start the ball rolling on a “Pay-It-Forward” chain, yourself, and help spread some holiday cheer in your town.

Some older traditions seem to have fallen to the wayside with the newer generations, like dressing up for the holiday. I remember Mom making all of us girls matching outfits for the holidays or other special event (like a wedding). After all, you know there are going to be photos taken and, possibly, a video recording made. Why wouldn’t you want to look your best?

Photo by Gloria Pitzer

No matter what your favorite Christmas tradition is, the most important thing to keep in mind this season is to simply MAKE MEMORIES with those you love – ones that will be cherished for years to come! Copy and celebrate some old traditions and continue creating at least one new traditions each year to share with your family and friends. Wikipedia.org says that imitation is a form of social learning that leads to the development of traditions.

Who hasn’t made new family traditions for coming generations to copy and embrace? Just think about it, at some point, all of those old traditions were, once, new traditions that were so enjoyed they were, thus, passed on to future generations and continue to be so. Last year, I started a cookie exchange tradition with my girlfriends. I hope we can do it again in a couple of weeks or so.

As for me and my husband, our families’ gift exchanges have changed over the years. The old tradition focused more on the gifts and knowing exactly what the recipient wanted, while our new tradition of turning the exchange into a game focuses more on having fun and spending time together. In the end, years from now, the fun is probably what we’ll remember most when we share our memories of “Christmas Past”; not what we gave or received as gifts.

IN CLOSING…

To kick off the holidays, enjoy Mom’s homemade Kahlua-style liquor. Keep in mind, this isn’t something you can make and serve right away. Plan ahead because this needs to “sit” for at least 2 weeks before serving – but it’s so worth the wait!

Border artwork by Gloria Pitzer

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 – Giving Thanks and Appreciation

Happy Monday to all! Just a few more days until Thanksgiving! Are you ready for it?

Being thankful and appreciative is as much a part of the preparation for Thursday’s big celebration as the righteous bird and all the trimmings that will sit in the middle of our tables as we gather together, with family and friends, to feast and be joyful. So, again, I ask, “Are you ready?”

Have you paused to consider GIVING thanks – not only in prayer before your Thursday meal but also directly to everyone you come in contact with throughout the week? Think about GIVING a thank you to your cashier at the busy grocery store this week and to the stocking clerk that found an item for which you were looking; to the person who delivers your mail, to the people who collect your weekly trash and to the officers that protect your neighborhood, daily – just to name a few.

The list can be endless, but it takes only two seconds to say, “thank you”; and only three seconds to say, “I appreciate you.” Everyone appreciates appreciation, so take five seconds to GIVE thanks AND appreciation to the “peeps” in your “village” for whatever they do in and around your life. So, as to not forget anyone, I suggest (as in Mom’s story of Maya Angelou – below) you get a yellow pad of paper and make a list of all those to whom you are thankful.

Mom’s faith was always a part of her writing AND her writing was always a part of her faith, as she journaled about it daily. In fact, Mom wrote a story on page 10 of her newsletter’s Winter 1994/95 issue about how Maya Angelou was even more of an influence in her faith-journaling. The re-inspiration came from a 1993 interview Maya had with David Holstrom of “The Christian Science Monitor”.

As Mom wrote about it, Maya had gone “to her voice teacher in mental turmoil over having to leave her child in Europe when she returned to the States. Frightened for her sanity, she told her teacher that she thought she was going mad.”

Mom told of how Maya’s teacher gave her a yellow pad of paper and told her to write down all of her blessings on it. But, apparently, that was not the answer Maya wanted to hear. Her teacher insisted and, also, suggested that she start there – with the fact that she could hear him and, then, that she could see the page and that she could hold the pen and so on and so forth.

Mom added that Maya had said, in her interview with Mr. Holstrom, “Before I reached the end of the page, I was transformed. So, everything I have written, every book, every stage play, every screenplay, was written on a yellow pad. As soon as I pick it up, I am reminded of my blessings.” Mom was eternally thankful to Maya for the renewed inspiration in gratitude!

My mom was a very devout Christian – born and bred in Christian Science, with Jewish and Lutheran influences, as well. No matter what the problems and struggles Mom faced, she never lost her faith in “God’s plan”. As her parents raised her, Mom would always try to find something in every situation from which to learn and, also, for which to be grateful. Mom not only wrote about her faith in her personal journals but also in her cookbooks and newsletters. She shared it publicly and openly, with hopes to help and inspire others who may be facing their own trials and tribulations.

Happiness is a state of thought. It begins with gratitude for all we’ve already received and achieved – not with what we ‘own’ or the ‘things’… – Gloria Pitzer, as seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Secret RecipesTM Newsletter, Issue #218 (Secret RecipesTM, Marysville, MI; Nov. 2000, p. 5)

I believe that gratitude is the simplest and, yet, most priceless gift that you can give anyone at any time! A smile and a down-to-earth “thank you” and “I appreciate you” can have a rippling effect and these humble gestures WILL go far; thus, spread the cheer! Most people just don’t understand the “madness” that happens on “the other side of the fence”, in the restaurant and/or retail industries (unless they’ve worked in it), during the big shopping frenzies of the season.

I have this glass cutting board in my kitchen (pictured below) and every day, when I look at it, I feel like it’s a message from Mom to me. However, I also feel the message goes out to her, equally, as I am so thankful and appreciative for all she has given and taught me.

To Mom…Love, Me

I also feel that we should even be thankful for those whom we’ve perceived to have done us wrong in some way. Mom would always show me that we can, at least, be grateful for the learning experiences that were derived from the confrontations we faced. In one of her last newsletter issues, Mom wrote the following excerpt about being grateful – even for the struggles.

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Secret RecipesTM Newsletter, Issue #218 (Secret RecipesTM, Marysville, MI; November 2000, p. 2)

Grateful for the Struggles

Sometimes, just for a moment – other times, for much longer. Nonetheless, we have to deal with each struggle as it arises. We don’t analyze what’s going on. We don’t blame other people for our pain. We don’t justify our fears, today, by regretting what took place in the past.

We’re dealing with our attitude right now – right where we are, in the present moment. We don’t worry about what will or won’t occur in the future. We are capable of making some good decisions when we are called on to make them. Whether we did or not in the past is in the past.

We’re not the same person, today, we were then. We’re not even the same person we were yesterday, but we are learning lessons all of the time. Melody Beattie [who wrote The Language of Letting Gosays [in her book], ‘Our past is a series of lessons that advance us to higher levels of living and of loving.’

Regarding: blessed with enthusiasm

Among other things, Mom was always grateful for her fans – her readers & radio show listeners – who kept her inspired with their endless requests to find the “secrets” to making this dish or that grocery product at home (and, preferably, at a lesser cost.) Mom was also very grateful to all the media sources (newspapers and magazines, as well as radio and TV talk shows) that interviewed her and wrote and talked about her new twist on recipes in the food industry, especially in the “fast food” area.

#MediaFriends

Likewise, Mom was also thankful for us, her family; for supporting and helping her in so many different ways – as office, art and promotional assistants; as well as recipe testers and taste testers. However, truth be known, Mom was especially thankful for us staying out of her hair when need be (like when she’d be doing a radio show from home)!

Mom penned her prayers, feelings, memories and hopes in journal-after-journal. She often wrote about finding the blessings in every day we’re given on Earth. Mom truly believed that – good and bad, alike – everyday had some form of a blessing within it. That’s how Mom was raised, to be grateful everyday – not just for the joyful moments, but also for what she confronted and overcame or from which she learned.

My mom believed that life’s best lessons and experiences came out of life’s biggest disappointments by learning how to turn a “let-down” into a “set-up” for something else – maybe even something better – something out there, through the window that opened when the door closed. Mom also believed that every new day is a turning point and that each experience (again, good and bad, alike) eventually contributes in some way to our growth and happiness. She called it “mixed blessings” (which became the title of one of her books in 1994) and for those things she was always thankful.

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective ( Balboa Press; January 2018, p. 299)

…On July 6, Paul and I flew to Chicago, staying at the Hyatt O’Hare, and did the Donahue show live – for an entire hour – on July 7, flying back that same afternoon. The next day, 15,000 letters waited for us at the St. Clair post office. And every day for 4 months, we picked up thousands of letters – having received by Christmas, well over 1 million letters, requesting information on how to acquire our books, which were still available only by mail from our address. We were bogged down with an unexpected response. It was an experience of mixed blessings!

AGAIN, MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 254)

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. One of our annual visits was at Thanksgiving time, when we would reminisce about one of Detroit’s best-loved restaurants known as Greenfield’s. One of my favorite duplications was for their pumpkin pie, which I’ve included in this… [blog – see below]. Each time I offered Warren’s listeners one of [my] Detroit [copycat] 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. This is how most of the recipes in my collection were originally [developed].

Myself, I will always be thankful for everything Mom has given me and taught me in my life-time with her. As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I can only hope that everyone remembers those people or things for which they are thankful and, whenever possible, tell them so! As you gather around the turkey-laden-table with family and friends, try not to let the commercialism of the other up-coming holidays interfere with those heart-felt thoughts of gratefulness.

IN CLOSING…

Thank goodness for memories and for recipes that enable us to imitate our remembrances at home.’ – Gloria Pitzer

1-2-3 PUMPKIN PIE… [Like Greenfield’s]

By Gloria Pitzer, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 243)

Ingredients:

1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

1-pound can pumpkin

14-ounce can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk

2 eggs, well-beaten

2 tablespoons butter (or margarine)

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice, or to taste

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°F and partially bake the empty crust for 10 minutes at 375°F. Combine all filling ingredients, beating thoroughly. Pour mixture into pie shell and return to oven to bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Makes one 9-inch pie. Serves 6 to 8.

‘The celebration of the moments worth remembering continues to have its place.’Gloria Pitzer, Gloria Pitzer’s Secret RecipesTM Quarterly (Secret RecipesTM, Marysville, MI; Winter 1994/95).

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 – In the Beginning…

Happy Monday everyone! Thank you for stopping in…

Since I started this blog series over a year ago, I have found so much joy in re-reading all of my copies of Mom’s old “No Laughing Matter” columns, books and newsletter issues. As I mentioned last week, they are my go-to-material for inspiration in the kitchen, as well as in my writing of these blog entries. Technically, even before that – I was re-inspired by Mom’s writing when I collaborated with her during the last few years of her life to re-write her favorite cookbook, The Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd printing). We were hoping it could be re-published to inspire new generations in the “digital age” – and it has!

Shortly before Mom passed away, in January 2018, she was so pleased to hear that her “new” book went to print; being published by Balboa Press. The title had to be adjusted to Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective, but most of the rest, inside the book, remained close to the same as the original 1983 edition. Unfortunately, Mom never got to see the first printed copy… Then again, she probably saw it, “hot-off-the-press”, before anyone else, from her new vantage point.

[Note: To get your own hard copy and/or eBook editions of Mom’s last book, here are the links at Balboa Press. By the way, they’ll make great Christmas gifts too! 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]

Mom was so creative, in so many ways, and had all sorts of talents; but, writing was probably at the top of the list. She had a way with words that made me smile and laugh, as well as make me think, “Hmmm?!” Her newsletters and cookbooks were full of food-for-thought columns, comedic quips, food-for-the-soul meditation and inspiration, historic information and so much more than just recipes.

Mom often said that her books were just as comfortable on the coffee table, for reading, as they were on the kitchen counter, for cooking. In addition, Mom wrote her recipes in an easy-to-understand manner – without any glossy, color photos – just describing it like she was right there, in the kitchen talking to you about it every step of the way. She felt that, since they were products we already know, photos weren’t really necessary; which I, now, find ironic because Mom was the “shutter-bug” in our family – always taking pictures at every gathering.

All of those extra components that Mom put into her works created such a unique combination that it set her products apart from all the rest on the market, at that time, bringing her more media attention than she ever expected. Even without the internet, in the mid-1970s era, word got around fast about the small town housewife that discovered how to make fast food and junk food imitations at home!

The crafty format for Mom’s newsletters and cookbooks was largely influenced by her favorite crafter, Carol Duvall; who, in the 1970s, had a “Craft Letter” (as she called it) and a 5 minute crafting segment on WDIV-TV (Channel 4 in Detroit), called “Here’s Carol Duvall”. Mom followed her craft show religiously and subscribed to her Craft Letter too. That was decades before Carol moved to ABC’s “Home” (1988-1994) and before she began hosting “The Carol Duvall Show” on HGTV (1994-2005), which then moved to DIY (2005-2009).

Mom and Carol became fast friends and, when Carol retired her “Craft Letter”, she offered her subscribers the option of switching to Mom’s newsletter for the same price. She was always a wonderful lady. I found a delightful video clip of Carol Duvall’s 1000th (HGTV) episode celebration on YouTube and pinned it to Mom’s Yarn & Sewing Crafts board on her Pinterest page, which you can follow at https://www.pinterest.com/therecipedetective/.

In the beginning… Mom promoted her creations through radio programs, magazine ads and newspaper food columnists’ reviews that focused on the homemaker. Within the first year of Mom’s newsletter start-up, local television show hosts started hearing about this exceptional lady with a unique, new twist on cooking! Word spread rapidly through the newswire service and national, as well as international (Canada), television shows started requesting interviews with Mom and demonstrations of her distinct recipes.

While Mom always felt most at home on the radio shows in which she participated, there’s no denying that she probably had her greatest (or largest) “claim-to-fame” from television exposure. I’ve put together a rough timeline of Mom’s local and national television appearances over the decades, of which I can remember and find reference to in her writings.

Mom’s first on-television interview was 45 years ago, on my 10th birthday (Nov. 14, 1974). The whole family was invited to the studio, where Mom appeared on “AM Detroit” with host, Dennis Wholley. The show aired locally on WXYZ-TV, Channel 7 in the Detroit-Metro area. Below is a copy of Mom’s story about it.

As a result of that local exposure, Mom was invited to appear on another local, but international, television program. It was on New Year’s Day 1975, across the river from Detroit, in Canada, with host, Bob Hines. The show he hosted aired movies with Bob doing commentary and “intermission interviews”. The show aired locally on CKLW-TV, Channel 9 in Windsor, Ontario­. That was when Mom met Lynn Redgrave, whom Bob was interviewing about her role as the “Happy Hooker”. Mom introduced herself to the actress as the “Happy Cooker”.

That’s about when Mom’s collection of “Secret Recipes” had grown to more than 200 different recipes. She had been printing them all on index cards from her mimeograph machine in our laundry room and selling them for $0.25 each or 5 for a dollar. It was quite a packaging process to fill the combinations of orders. All of us kids and Dad helped Mom on a daily/nightly basis.

Seeing which recipe cards sold the most and getting more requests from her fans for fast food and junk food imitations than any other type of recipe, Mom decided to put all of her popular recipes like those into a cookbook. She thought it was going to be her “only” book on the subject of fast food and junk food, since even the critics thought it was a fad that wouldn’t last long – that was in August 1976 and it was called The Fast Food Cookbook; which Mom revised the following year as The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book [aka: Book 1].

As it turned out, that was only the first in a whole series of books that Mom wrote on the subject. It wasn’t long before Mom retired the recipe cards and started writing and self-publishing more cookbooks, showing people how to make their favorite foods at home. For 30 years, from the launch of her first newsletter in 1974 to her last self-published cookbook in 2004, Mom continued to write and self-publish about 40 cookbooks and 219 issues of the newsletter; covering popular restaurant dishes from across the country, homemade grocery products, fast foods and so-called “junk” foods!

First 5 books of the Secret Recipes Collection

Mom carved a new niche in the food industry that caught the media’s attention by storm. On Christmas Eve 1976, Jack McCarthy of WXYZ-TV’s “Action News” team (seen locally on Channel 7 in Detroit) came out to our house in Algonac to do an at-home-interview with Mom. Below is a copy of one of Mom’s memories about Jack, by whom she was quite impressed.

In the winter of 1980-1981 (not sure of the exact date), Mom did an at-home-interview with the Detroit TV crew of a national show called “PM Magazine”. They came out to St. Clair and filmed Mom making a few of her popular imitations in her own kitchen. That same winter, Mom also had a brief appearance on our local “Noon News” show on WDIV-TV (seen on Channel 4 in the Detroit area).

On a side note, regarding the last statement in the picture (above), Mom did eventually grant “People Magazine” an interview in 1990. However, back to Mom’s television exposure – on July 7, 1981, Mom and Dad flew to Chicago for her FIRST appearance on the “Phil Donahue Show”; demonstrating, again, some of her quick and popular fast food and junk food imitations for the entire hour. Over the following year, that episode re-ran world-wide! As I said in the beginning… Mom “probably had her greatest (or largest) ‘claim-to-fame’ from television exposure”. If you’ve ever wished to be famous – all I can say, from our experience, is “be careful about what you wish!”

Donahue 1981 promo

The fallout from that 1981 “Phil Donahue Show”, which I’ve discussed in other blog entries; left Mom (and Dad) reluctant to do any more television appearances for the next 7 years – that is, until Mom’s friend, Carol Duvall, set her up to appear on a TV show that she was, then, involved with out in California (ABC’s “Home Show”). Wish I could find copies of those episodes on which Mom appeared.

“Hell is God, giving you what you thought you wanted.” – Dick Syatt

It was February 1988, when Mom and Dad flew out to California for Mom’s FIRST appearance on ABC’s “Home Show” with Rob Weller, then host. That was when Mom first met Wally Amos in person! It was one of Mom’s most favorite experiences and memories. Even when she got dementia after her stroke in 2015, Mom always remembered how wonderful and friendly Wally Amos was to her.

 

A couple of years later, on Memorial Day 1990, Mom did an at-home-interview with CNN Cable News. They even came back the next day to film more, while Mom was on the phone, doing a radio show. Their production consequently sparked the interest of a weekly, local paper called “The Voice” and a columnist named Pat Heck, who wrote a very complimentary article about Mom; which she mentions in the clip below!

That fall, in October of 1990, Mom made her first appearance on a local talk show, called “Kelly & Company”; which aired on WXYZ-TV (channel 7 in Detroit) with hosts, John Kelly & his wife, Marilyn Turner. Mom’s interview went so well, they invited her back the following spring. She did the show on May 8, 1991. Mom wrote all about the great experience on the front page of her July-August 1991 newsletter (Issue #151) and she also included three pages of all the recipes she demonstrated on the show. I’ll be adding those to my list of recipes that I want to share with all of you in my blog entries and in the “Recipes” tab on this website. There was also this little clip (below) on page 9 of that issue.

In between the two “Kelly & Company” appearances, on March 19, 1991, Mom had her second appearance on ABC’s “Home” show in Los Angeles. I don’t know what really happened that time around that Mom felt she was “ganged-up-on”, as she mentions in the clip pictured above; but, when Mom came home, she was feeling very disappointed by the whole experience and her own reaction to it. Again, she didn’t want to appear on television anymore.

However, a couple of years later (April 16, 1993), Mom appeared for a SECOND time on “The Phil Donahue Show”. Again, it was for the entire hour; however, this time, the show was not allowed to give out Mom’s contact information – only copies of the recipes she demonstrated on the show. As a result, requests for transcripts of that episode, shattered the show’s record and they sent Mom a letter and a special plaque to commemorate the event. That turned out to be the real FINAL time Mom appeared on TV.

I should mention, though, in the summer of 1993, Mom went back out to California to make an infomercial with the Guthy-Renker Corporation, called “Ask Mike”. It was produced & directed by Positive Response Television for a new way to promote Mom’s Recipe DetectiveTM image and her Secret RecipesTM enterprise. The infomercial was set up similar to Mom’s “Phil Donahue Show” appearance, with cooking demonstrations of some of her most famous imitations, except there were “on-the-street-interviews” of people taste-testing Mom’s imitations and giving their opinions (as Phil Donahue did with his in-studio audience). Unfortunately, the infomercial never aired on TV. But, our family received our own copies of it, at least. Mom was so thrilled that Wally Amos was also involved in the infomercial production, as he was with her first “Home Show” experience in 1988. Wally Amos was the “on-the-street-interviewer”.

IN CLOSING…

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – My Favorite Things

Happy Monday to all! And to ALL members of our military, past and present, THANK YOU SO MUCH for your service, defending and protecting our country! Now…

Tell me… What are some of your favorite things? I’ve found, over the years, that most of my favorite things are those which really don’t cost any money and, yet, are considered by some people to be priceless. Like Mom, some of my favorite things include writing, reading, drawing, seeing the magnificent array of autumn colors on a backroad’s drive through Michigan and the happy-go-lucky smile of my grandson.

Equally, I love the snuggles, nuzzles and purrs of my cats (and my wonderful husband), the sparkling sun reflected on the magnificent blue waters of The Great Lakes, the cheerful sounds of the birds and other wildlife in my backyard, the aroma of a Sunday slow-cooker meal wafting throughout the house – you know, the simple things in life!

Another of my favorite things is how much my mom has influenced and inspired me – as a writer, artist, crafter, homemaker, cook, wife, mother, teacher, etc. After I had kids of my own, I asked Mom for advice even more often than when I was young, and I loved to learn from her. To me, she was special just being “Mom”; albeit, to the rest of the world, she was special by being Gloria Pitzer, aka: the Secret RecipesTM detective.

I really consider myself lucky to have her as my mom and that I (as well as everyone else) can continue to learn from her, even from beyond, through her timeless writings – her legacy of love. That’s what I enjoy most, sharing those memories, discoveries and lessons with all of you! I also love to hear others’ stories about how Mom had touched their lives, as well.

As I’ve said many times, Mom was a pioneer and trailblazer in her field, especially being a woman! But, she was never fully on board with the Woman’s Lib movement that was going on at that time. It was a time, very similar to now – with “women-empowerment” campaigns and political upheaval, unequal pay between the sexes and below-poverty-level wages that weren’t rising proportionately with the high costs of living.

That’s when Mom set to work, writing and publishing her own recipes about how to imitate the public’s favorite fast food and restaurant dishes right at home; as well as shelf-stable grocery items and so-called “junk food”. Mom took the “junk” out of “junk food” by controlling the ingredients that went into her imitations. It was like having your cake and eating it too!

Mom often found ways to duplicate our favorite foods at a lower cost, too; and, if it saved our household money, she wanted to share it with others to help them save money as well – ‘because’, as Mom would say, ‘great recipes need to be shared!’

In the early 1970s, during the beginning years of what was to become Mom’s Secret RecipesTM legacy – which she often described as a “cottage industry” and “dining room table” family-operation – she had built up an index of about 200 “copycat” recipes, mostly favorites from the requests of her readers, family and friends. Mom developed and tested all of her recipes, herself, sometimes by taste-test-comparisons to the original products and sometimes from just a description by the requester.

First 5 books of the Secret Recipes Collection

It didn’t seem to take long before Mom’s collection of recipes grew from hundreds to thousands and went from individual-index-card-sales to multiple self-published cookbooks and newsletters, for over 40 years before she “retired”. But, do writers ever really retire? Mom continued writing in her journals, just for her own joy and not for publishing.

I don’t have copies of all of Mom’s books and newsletters, but I have a lot and they are my FAVORITE go-to-material for inspiration in the kitchen, as well as in my new blog-writing journey. Mom’s “cottage industry” creations (her self-published newsletters and books) are as unique in their style as they are in their content – including large collections of recipes sandwiched between household tips, comedic quips, “Food-for-Thought” articles and food-for-the-soul editorials. Mom often compared her handiworks to coffee-table-reading-material because they feed the mind and soul, as well as the belly.

Within the first year of her newsletter publication, Mom was getting national and international recognition for her talents and ingenuity. For the most part, Mom self-promoted her recipes through radio talk-show programs aimed at the homemaker. But, very quickly, newspapers and magazines picked up on the stories of a small town housewife who blazed a trail for recreating favorite restaurant dishes, fast food, junk food and grocery products at home. Even television news and talk shows, locally and internationally (in Canada), were contacting Mom with requests for interviews. [I’ll write more about those next week.]

None of Mom’s original, self-published books and newsletters are in print anymore. But, you can find used copies on eBay and Amazon. The only book of Mom’s, currently in print, is her last book, on which I collaborated with her, during the last few years of her life. It was Mom’s favorite, self-published cookbook, The Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd printing) and we wanted to have it re-published to inspire new generations in this “digital age”.

But, first, the new edition had to be re-written in Microsoft Word, which took me a couple of years (working “part-time”) to complete. The whole process created a new and unique bond between me and Mom. All of the highs and lows and pain and joy of re-writing the book to the new publisher’s specifications, while maintaining as much of the original content as possible – it was like giving birth all over again. Mom agreed that each of her books were like her children, to which she had “given birth”.

Shortly before Mom passed away, in January 2018, the “new” cookbook went to print (published by Balboa Press) with the title adjusted to Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective. Unfortunately, Mom never got to see the 1st printed copy, but she was so thrilled that her favorite book was being published again, even though it was by a publishing house – which she swore for decades that she’d never do. Nonetheless, time and age change a lot of things.

I have the first “author’s copy” now. It’s another of my favorite things because it represents the unique time and bond that it granted me with Mom, during the whole re-writing and re-publishing process, before she passed away.

No one else, before Mom, had ever taken on imitating the public’s favorite products and dishes from some of their favorite companies like McDonald’s, White Castle, Wendy’s, KFC, Arby’s, Applebee’s, Big Boy, Bob Evan’s, Hershey’s, Hostess, Sarah Lee, and so many more (based on the requests she received)! Mom even took on the companies and their lawyers who started demanding that she cease and desist her imitations!

Mom insisted that she didn’t know what these companies actually put in their own “secret” recipes; but she could certainly GUESS and create an imitation similar to, if not better than, the original product. The retail industry was already doing the same thing with the introduction of “generic” products in the stores. Similarly, she changed the names of her imitations to be like (but not the same as) the dish or product she was mimicking.

There were a handful of companies that saw Mom’s imitations as they were meant to be – compliments to the public’s favorite, great-tasting products. Some of Mom’s corporate “fans” included White Castle, Sanders Candy Co. and Hershey’s – to name a few.

Mom didn’t do a lot of television appearances – only a few local and a few national shows – she thought of them as more like cooking demonstrations, where she didn’t get to connect with as much of the audience as she did on the radio shows in which she took part. But television made a huge impact on Mom’s business. I’ll further discuss the TV shows mom did in next week’s blog entry. But, for now…Mom’s favorite experience in her Secret RecipesTM career…

The Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Printing) is now in print as Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press, Jan. 2018)

It was her first appearance on “The Phil Donahue Show” (July 7, 1981) that created the MOST overwhelming response to Mom’s copycat cookery – more than she (or any of our family) could have ever expected! Over a million letters came through our small town post office, just for Secret RecipesTM and the Recipe DetectiveTM. The whole family (and some of my girlfriends) were working day and night that summer to process it all. In some ways, it was a devastating mess for a “dining-room-table” family operation! But, there’s no denying, it was also a great learning experience!

Despite the fallout, the show opened many doors for Mom that she never expected; allowing her to let her light shine bright and inspire others world-wide. That is why, it always remained one of Mom’s “Top 10” favorite experiences. She even agreed to appear on the show, again, almost 12 years later, on April 16, 1993 – but, only on the condition that they not give out her contact information!

The show was only allowed to give out copies of the recipes Mom demonstrated on that episode. As a result, the public’s requests for transcripts of that episode broke the show’s record! They sent Mom a plaque to commemorate it – another of Mom’s favorite things. A rough recording of that 1993 episode can be found on YouTube, in 5 parts. Regardless, the whole experience, Mom’s inspiring light kept shining until the day she passed away. Now, I attempt to carry her torch in her honor.

Whenever my husband and I host a football party (like we did last weekend)… or any party for that matter, I love to channel my mom, whether I’m planning to serve a big meal or simple hors d’oeuvres. My mom was the hostess with the “most-ess”.

I have my own “Rolodex” of ideas, but most of them were inspired by my mom, first; then, ‘Pitzer-ised’ to fit my diet (or somebody’s diet) at the time. Much like Mom, it makes me feel good to make others feel good through food and friendship and entertaining. That is a priceless feeling and another one of both of our “Top 10” favorite things.

In fact, one of my favorite fall-football-season meals to prepare is chili. Like Mom, I can make it from scratch and let it simmer all day in a slow-cooker or I can whip it up from the left-overs of “taco night” or “spaghetti night” or “sloppy joe night” – you get the gist. I can also prepare it the day before an event, to re-heat the day of while I focus on other details or simply enjoy our guests’ company without distraction.

Chili is one of those few dishes that tastes even better the second day! I can “stretch it out” to feed more than expected by adding more meat or diced tomatoes or beans or sauce. Even by using smaller bowls or mugs – or by adding toppings like shredded cheddar cheese or corn chips – making a small amount seem like a lot. Plus, adding a quick-to-make side of inexpensive cornbread or some hot dogs can also stretch the meal even farther!

IN CLOSING…

This week, I’d like to share one of my own recipes on which I get a lot of compliments – my favorite, football-gathering, chili creation. I’m inspired to reveal it to you…”because”, as Mom liked to say, “great recipes need to be shared!” As always, I’m just asking for proper credit if you care to share it…

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 – Bring on the Holidays!

Happy Monday, everyone; and happy November, too! Thank you for visiting and…

The fall/winter holidays are upon us now. For many, the countdown to “the holidays” began with the onset of the autumn solstice. Now that Halloween has passed us by, it’s only 24 more days until Thanksgiving! About four weeks after that, is the start of our winter solstice, Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukah or Chanukkah), Christmas and Kwanza celebrations – all within a few days of each other.

Not only that, but in the week following those events, the 2020 new year’s festivities begin. Blink your eyes again and suddenly the Super Bowl festivities will be here, followed by Valentine’s Day a couple of weeks later and, then, St. Patrick’s Day a few more weeks after that – and all before the spring solstice arrives in March!

Nonetheless, all of those many fall/winter holidays that are still to come will, seemingly, be here and gone before you know it – so, start preparing now by making checklists and you won’t forget or miss anything. Even Santa makes lists (and checks them twice) to stay organized during the hustle-and-bustle of the holidays. In addition, you’ll also be better able to enjoy the holidays and the gatherings, yourself. After all, who wants to feel stressed out and/or left out during the holidays, while trying to “get it all done” at the last minute?

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

ADVICE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair MI; Nov-Dec 1989, p. 4)

THANKSGIVING

The make-ahead dishes for the thanksgiving dinner will help to relieve the cook of those last-minute chores and this leaves more time to enjoy the company. After all, the reason we gather together on this occasion is not to make the food more important than those with whom we share the feast.

A list of what you intend to serve is the first thing to take care of. From this you make up the grocery needs and the dishes that can be prepared…in advance…and then checked off the list so [you] can see [of] what is left to take care. It sounds to some like ‘work’ but cooking for a big group is not as much WORK as it can be a LABOR of love and the efforts you put into the party will be well-appreciated when the day arrives. These occasions are what memories are made of and memories can be quite comforting!

Mom made creative cooking a new art form when she pioneered the copycat cookery movement over 45 years ago. Before Mom began writing and publishing her own newsletters and cookbooks, she wrote many satirical stories in her syndicated food columns about not being a good cook when she and Dad were first married.

I only knew Mom as a great cook, myself; so I don’t know how much was fabricated for humor’s sake and how much was based on truth. But, like any craftsman, Mom was always fine-tuning her kitchen skills with all of her experiences over the decades.

For every holiday gathering she hosted or to which she took a dish-to-pass – even with only a few ingredients on hand – Mom was a combination of Copperfield and DaVinci (creating, both, magic and art) in the kitchen! There’s a great article called “Cooking Is An Art: What Makes A Chef An Artist, Craftsman And Visionary” by Colt Taylor (Jul 3, 2014) that I enjoyed reading. Check it out at https://www.elitedaily.com/life/culture/chef-artist-craftsman-visionary/632690!

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

MORE PASSAGES FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair MI; Sep-Oct 1987)

MADE WITH LOVE

When you cook with skill, you need experience and knowledge – plus, courage to risk various combinations of ingredients of what you might only suspect will be compatible enough to produce a harmonious result. The divine principle of good cooking is not a secret! It is taking pleasure in the activity, in the information previously retained and called upon through the facilities of memory. The spirit of good cooking is individualistic. It is not shrouded in mystery – but in love, for what you are doing and for whom you are doing it! (p. 1)

SOMETHING MORE

No two cooks are ever going to have identical results with the same recipe. If such a promise accompanied all recipes, cooking would be an exact science – which it is not. Cooking is an art BASED on science. A recipe is a guideline, not a litigation! Just as you can’t tell which way the train went by looking at the tracks, neither can you tell how difficult a dish is by looking at the recipe! (p. 2)

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

FAMOUS DISHES AREN’T REALLY ALL THAT DIFFICULT TO DUPLICATE

The first thing you have to do is stop thinking of yourself as a COOK and start thinking as a CHEMIST! You want to take a substance and try to discover its individual components – whereas, most cooks make the mistake of starting with one ingredient and building around it.

Your task is to take the final result and break it down… working backwards from the creations of the skilled cook, who usually stirs up a piece of culinary artistry with just a ‘pinch’ of this and a ‘dollop’ of that and a ‘dash’ of something else.

Start with questioning yourself about the food you wish to duplicate… What color is it? What’s the texture like? How is it flavored? And, how is it prepared? [Also,] you must have something to which you can compare it – a basic recipe from which you can draw the ingredients that lay the groundwork for a duplicated masterpiece. [At that point,] the only way to duplicate a dish is, really, to taste and test – over and over, until you eventually achieve what you feel are satisfactory results. (p. 6)

Photo by Susan L. Tusa for an article about Mom in People Magazine (May 7, 1990; p. 81)

Mom inspired many reluctant cooks with her reliable recipes. Having the Secret RecipesTM detective as my mom certainly made my learning experiences in the kitchen, experimenting with food and seasonings, exciting and rewarding!

I rarely ever cook the same dish the same way, twice because I love to try out different food and seasoning combinations. Especially now, with my low-carb life-style. I’m so delighted and proud to have learned the art of cooking from one of the best – I love you, Mom!

I am often hearing wonderful memories from others who’ve shared the same fantastic learning experiences, with their own moms, through my mom’s cookbooks and newsletters. I love to hear how much Mom touched the lives of others and created special memories on which they can reminisce and recreate for future generations to experience – almost like traditions!

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

MORE FOOD-FOR-THOUGHT FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book (National Homemakers Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; January 1977)

COOKING IS BOTH, ART & SCIENCE

Cooking is not only an art, but also a science; and, when you’re trying to imitate the recipe secrets of famous restaurant and fast food chain dishes, you must work like a chemist – not a cook! You don’t have to have a background in food chemistry to identify various ingredients. The only thing I have in common with a chemist is curiosity…

Some of the famous dishes of the food industry, today [1976-1977], are vastly oversold to a very gullible public. We’ve become a television oriented society and, because the commercials are, sometimes, so much better than the programs they sponsor…

While the products don’t really come out of test tubes and laboratory beakers, they do come from combinations of ingredients that produce desired results. What you have to strive for, in imitating any recipe, is the right combination. Trial and error is the only way to arrive at a satisfactory result! (p. 1)

AN ENCOR OF PASSAGES FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair MI; Nov-Dec 1989, p. 1)

WHOLESOME, HEALTHY, HEARTY MEALS…

[Those] pretty well describe the heart and soul of good home cooking! We’re reminded of warm, roomy kitchens full of wonderful mingling aromas – where our mothers and grandmothers made marvelous meals from scratch [and] when cooking was not as much a job as it was a joy! What we seem to have forgotten is that the art of good basic cooking practices has not been lost because we have less time.

The art has been lost because the interest in it has dwindled. We still have the same number of hours in our day that Grandma had in hers. We even have less manual labor to perform than she did in her day, but we don’t always think so. Making the time is what it really takes when reluctance sets in. However, when the chips are down, the reluctant cook wants reliable recipes to work with – not masterpieces…

As seen in…

Eating Out at Home Cookbook (Nat’l Home News, St. Clair, MI; Sep. 1978, p. 1)

A PHILOSOPHY

A whole approach to life, can be expressed in a bowl of soup. For ‘cooking’, as everyone is so fond of saying, ‘is an art.’ It’s an art we all can learn. As with the other arts, practicing it competently requires care, patience and the skill that comes with experience. But, above all else, to be a good cook, you must WANT to.

At one time or another, most of us have had the experience of cooking when we really didn’t feel like doing it, Then, even our tried-and-true recipes are apt to be disappointing [and] lifeless. Something just isn’t there.

What’s missing is the spirit of the cook. For food is more than a physical substance. It has an intangible quality that nourishes our spirits. A good dish, lovingly prepared, at some point in the process of tasting and blending, becomes more than the sum of its ingredients. Its flavor [and] its uniqueness are created by the cook.

YOU WILL FIND PLEASURE AND EXCITEMENT IN COOKING, IF YOU PUT THEM INTO IT…

There’s no limit to the satisfaction you can gain. Taste as you go. Experiment with a little with seasonings. Try new foods and new combinations [of food]. The results will have ‘you’ in them. You will face the job with a feeling of freedom, with a feeling of creativeness; and, both, you and your family will be constantly increasing the enjoyment of living.

When you cook this way, with warmth and active pleasure, your meals will be more than just food. Your zest and your spirit will be in them – and some of the radiance of Life, itself.

‘[At a potluck,] the best way to tell how successful a dish will be is to look for the first one to disappear. Find the cook & get the recipe!’ – Gloria Pitzer, Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair MI; Sep-Oct 1990)

Mom would always describe her newsletter issues as being “like getting together…for coffee with friends.” Writing was Mom’s “happy place”. She often said, of her newsletters, “it’s like getting together…for coffee with friends.”

I can certainly relate to that now. I love writing these weekly blog entries about my memories of Mom and how she’s impacted my life, as well as so many others’ lives. As I said above, I love hearing from others about their memories in the kitchen with their moms, creating special dishes or treats from my mom’s recipes.

Please continue to send me your memories and stories of how Mom touched your lives at therecipedetective@outlook.com – I look forward to hearing from you!

IN CLOSING…

When I think of November, feel-good, warm-up-the-innards kind of meals, I often think of hearty soups. The following is Mom’s copycat imitation for a cheesy potato soup like the one she enjoyed at a local Bob Evans restaurant. Mom called her imitation “Bob Oven’s Potato & Cheese Soup”.

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

Chocolate Almond Bark, like Sanders!

Sanders Candy logo

CHOCOLATE ALMOND BARK – Like Sanders!

By Gloria Pitzer, part of her original 200 recipes collection, developed in the early-to-mid 1970s.

[As seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 233).]

When you look at all the marvelous candies that Sanders offers, be sure to look for their almond bark. If you are not in an area where Sanders products are available, you can try my “poor man’s” version; which, while I was living in California, and couldn’t find Sanders products, was sufficient to remind me of the days when I had a Sanders right around the corner – and loved it!

Ingredients:

12-ounce package Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate chips [Note: for a white chocolate bark, use the Nestle’s brand of white chocolate chips]

14-ounce can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk

1 cup chopped almonds

Instructions:

In top of double boiler over simmering water, melt the chocolate and stir in the milk. When piping hot, smooth and completely melted, keep water in lower pan turned to lowest possible heat point and allow chocolate mixture to cook that way for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, and scraping down sides of pan often. Then remove from the heat and add almonds. Spread over bottom of greased jellyroll pan, 10 x 15.5 x 1”, to a very thin layer. Allow to harden at room temperature. Break into pieces and store in covered container away from warm places or humidity. Makes oodles!

Beginagain’s Awesome Potato Cheese Soup

Beginagain’s Awesome Potato Cheese Soup

By Gloria Pitzer,  as seen on her Fall Media Free Offer sheet (2002-2004)

Ingredients:

14-oz. can drained, whole potatoes (cut up)

2 cans (10-oz. each) Campbell’s Chicken Broth

10-oz. can cream of chicken soup

12-oz. tub whipped cream cheese (original)

1 TB dry minced onion

16 square saltine crackers, blender-ground to fine powder

season salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

In medium sauce pan, on medium heat, combine all but the cracker crumbs, stirring until cheese melts. Bring to serving temperature, then stir in cracker powder and heat for 3 minutes or so to let crumbs dissolve to thicken the soup. Add season salt and pepper, to taste. Divide between 6 soup bowls and garnish the top of each with 1 TB Hormel’s Real Bacon Pieces, scissor-snipped green onions and 1 TB shredded sharp cheddar cheese.

Mrs. Meadow’s Chocolate Chip Cookies [*with options]

Mrs. Meadow’s Chocolate Chip Cookies [*with options]

By Gloria Pitzer, Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Fast Food Recipes (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; March 1985, p. 86)

Ingredients:

2 sticks butter (1/2 lb.)

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar

3 eggs

3 cups self-rising flour

12-oz. bag chocolate chips

Instructions:

Cream together the butter, sugars and eggs. Add flour a little bit at a time. Work in chips. Drop by tablespoonful onto a Pam-sprayed baking sheet (wiping off any excess spray first). Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes or until golden blonde. Cool on baking sheet a few minutes, then transfer onto paper towels to finish cooling.

*Option 1: Turtle Sundae Cookies – [to the recipe above] when you add the chocolate chips, also add a 10-oz. bag English toffee bits and 1 cup chopped pecans. Continue as the recipe directs.

*Option 2: Peanut Butter Cookies – [to the initial recipe, above] with the flour, also add 1 1/2 cups blender-chopped peanuts and 12-oz bag peanut butter morsels (in place of the chocolate chips). Continue as the recipe directs. Makes about 5-dozen cookies.

 

Pepper Casserole

 

Pepper Casserole

By Gloria Pitzer, “Cookbook Corner” (Happy Newspaper Features, Algonac, MI; 1973)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs. hamburger

1 pkg. dry onion soup mix

4 green peppers [halved, with seeds & ribs removed]

2 lbs. canned stewed tomatoes

1 cup celery, sliced thin

2 vegetable bouillon cubes, dissolved in 1 C. boiling water

2 TB Worcestershire

Parsley flakes for garnish

Instructions:

Mix the hamburger and soup mix together. Fill the 8 pepper halves with the meat mixture and place in an accommodating Dutch oven, with lid. Cover stuffed peppers with the rest of the ingredients, as listed. Place the lid on the Dutch oven and bake at 400°F, for 50 minutes. Sufficiently serves 6.