Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Love at First Taste

Happy Monday and happy National “I Love Food” Day!

I haven’t found a lot of information on this national celebration of food, so I’m not sure how wide-spread it is, but it’s out there, nonetheless. And, why not celebrate food? It’s a basic necessity, as we sure wouldn’t live very long without it! However, food has evolved over the centuries from just “basic necessities” to “works of art”.

Consequently, on National “I Love Food” Day, we should all revel in having such an array and an abundance of great foods (and beverages) from which to choose. What’s your favorite food? Can you even choose just one food item or one, single, favorite dish?

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

While searching for “American’s top favorite foods” on Bing, I found a rather large consensus of choices for hamburgers, fries, soda pop, cookies (particularly chocolate chip) and pizza among most of the top 10 choices. As Reference.com says, “From entrees and desserts to soft drinks, Americans have a definite love of foods heavy in fat and sugars.”

I LOVE bacon! It’s something of which I will NEVER tire, and I can enjoy a lot of it in my new low-carb lifestyle. But, I don’t know if that’s my number-one-favorite food of all. If I was to categorize my foods and choose my favorite carb-based food – even though I don’t eat them anymore – the one I miss the most is probably potatoes. But, that’s in a very close running with flour-based foods, like pasta.

To put a new twist on the old adage “we are what we eat”, I found another great, timeless article at HuffPost.com called “What Your Favorite Food Says About You” by Nile Cappello (10/31/2013). It precisely described me, given my personal, top three choices (above) for bacon, potatoes and pasta (represented by “macaroni and cheese” in the article), which were among the many other choices listed. I don’t know how accurate it is for other people, but it’s a fun read, nonetheless!

There’s always a favorite something when you start to categorize and sub-categorize food options. We’ve been learning about the five basic food groups of health and nutrition since we were toddlers, watching Sesame Street; and the various blends of them combined in dishes and meals made to please our palettes and comfort our hunger pangs. There’s a great article and slide show called “America’s Best Comfort Foods”, by Emma Sloley (Nov. 28, 2016), at TravelAndLeisure.com. But, I must warn you that it’s practically impossible to read it without getting hungry! Speaking of great articles, here are some “FOOD FOR THOUGHT” articles that Mom wrote, in some of her cookbooks, on the subject of “loving food”…

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

The Secrets of Homemade Groceries (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Aug. 1980; p. 1)

Many people feel that life is up hill all the way. They fail to look at the things that are good, enjoyable and worthwhile. They are conscious, only, of the climb. No road is ever uphill forever! We should, soon, learn the importance of being able to, also, come down hill 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 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 take a good look at the aisles and aisles of food available in this country! We have so much available to us, here…

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book (National Homemakers Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; January 1977, pp. 1 & 6)

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!

Gloria Pitzer, Recipe Detective

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.

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES, CONTINUED…

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.

Mom always made my experiences with food and learning to cook so exciting and self-satisfying! I rarely ever cook the same dish the same way, twice. I love to experiment with different seasoning combinations; and have yet to hear a complaint from my family that something hasn’t tasted good. I’m so proud to have learned from the best! I love you, Mom!

IN CLOSING…

#ILoveFoodDay

In honor of “top food favorites” and National “I Love Food” Day, here is a photo copy of one of Mom’s copycat recipes. This is her version of a Mrs. Field’s product, which she called “Mrs. Meadow’s Chocolate Chip Cookies”, as well as a couple of different options, and gave away for free on her product-ordering information sheets.

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

Mrs. Field’s-Style Chocolate Chip Cookies

Mrs. Field’s-Style Chocolate Chip Cookies [aka: The Great Imposter Cookies!]

By Gloria Pitzer; from her Spring 1995 newsletter, Secret Recipes Quarterly (St. Clair, MI; p.6 )

Even though these cookies do not appear to be completely baked, do not over bake them or they’ll be like rocks by the 2nd day! Cookies will remain soft in a covered container by adding a few slices from a fresh, unpeeled apple.

  • 1 pound butter (or use ½-lb butter with ½-lb margarine)
  • 2 C packed, light brown sugar
  • 2 C granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs (or 6 medium)
  • 1 TB vanilla
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 6 C self-rising flour
  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 12 ounces MINI semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 12 ounces milk chocolate morsels
  • 2 C chopped walnuts and/or pecans (optional)
  1. In large bowl, cream butter (and/or margarine) with electric mixer on high speed until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the sugars, eggs (1 at a time), vanilla and baking soda. Add in only 2 cups of the flour, beating for 5 minutes. Remove beaters and work in remaining flour with sturdy mixing spoon, stirring in chips and nuts last.
  2. Using a 1/8-cup scoop, place dough balls 2 inches apart on a warm, prepared* cookie sheet (see instructions below), slightly flattening each mound with the back of the scoop.
  3. Bake at 350°F for exactly 12 minutes. [Note: Cookies will not look done – very light beige color with definite cracks where wet dough is visible.] Cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before removing carefully to place on paper towels. These cookies are best after 4 hours of cooling on the paper towels…but, who can wait that long?!
  4. *To prepare cookie sheet: spray it with Pam and place it in a 350°F oven for 5 minutes or until Pam turns brown. Remove pan and wipe with paper towel, leaving a light, but even, film on the cookie sheet. Do not re-grease between cookie batches.
Note: other versions of this recipe, using different measurements or different ingredients like Dream Whip or oatmeal or cake mix, can be found in some of Gloria Pitzer’s cookbooks as well. Gloria’s first imitation of these cookies appeared (with the cake mix ingredient) in her cookbook, The Joy of not Cooking – Anymore than You have To! (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Nov. 1983, p. 191).

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Making Memories with a Christmas Cookie Exchange!

Once again, happy Monday to everyone!

If you’re new to this site and this blog, let me introduce myself. My name is Laura (Pitzer) Emerich and I started this blog to honor my mom’s legacy as the ORIGINAL Secret Recipes Detective – Gloria Pitzer. Since the early ‘70s, Mom was “busting” the secret recipes of the fast food industry, as well as some “fine” restaurants and grocery products too! As I mentioned in my last blog, “Imitation”, Mom never really knew their exact recipes, but she could imitate them very well!!!

I’ve been writing these weekly blogs, about the many wonderful memories I have of Mom as I was growing up, since this past September. Shortly after starting these blogs, I decided to include one of Mom’s recipes with each one. For the 35-plus years that Mom “worked her business”, she offered (in exchange for a SASE) a sheet of free recipes, along with information on how to order her currently (at that time) available self-published cookbooks, as well as how to subscribe to her newsletters; which were published monthly in the beginning, then bi-monthly and quarterly and back to monthly until she permanently retired it.

Five weeks ago, I shared another blog, “Time to Make the Cookies”, regarding cookies as they related to some of my memories of Mom, and including her make-alike version of one the Famous Amos cookies (with an alternative option.) Rather than repeating those memories, here, with these Mrs. Fields make-alike cookie recipes (below) that Mom also gave out for free (merely asking for proper credit when shared), I thought I’d write about making a new memory.

While surfing the internet around Thanksgiving time, I came across a Martha Stewart link, “8 Steps to Hosting a Cookie Swap”. I hadn’t participated in a cookie swap/exchange since my first two kids were toddlers (in the late “80s!) Anticipating the coming of “the final push” to get all my Christmas cookies made in time for holiday visitors and last minute gift-giving, I planned my first (hopefully annual) Christmas cookie exchange party with some of my girlfriends, who also hadn’t participated in any such event in a long time, if at all. While Martha’s ‘8 Steps’ was a great source of inspiration, I added some of my own ideas too!

I started (as in Martha’s ‘Step 1’) by inviting people. I created a private “event” through my personal Facebook page and invited about 18 girlfriends that were nearby and whom I knew (or thought) liked to bake and socialize (not to discriminate against my male friends who also enjoy baking, but the perk was for female bonding time.) Although, one friend’s “significant other” popped in to share some male bonding with my husband while all of us ladies “cackled” amongst ourselves; which was perfectly fine. Martha Stewart’s link suggested inviting up to 8 friends; but, having hosted other types of parties over the years, I knew that only one-third to half of invitees actually come. So, I invited 18 friends and about 8 people RSVP’d that they could come. Hindsight being foresight, next year, I will probably, also, “snail-mail” personal invitations because not everyone (in my generation) knows about Facebook created events; plus, it’s something tangible that they can hang on their refrigerator or calendar as a reminder.

Famous Nameless Chocolate Chip Cookies

On the event page, I asked everyone to post what cookies they were thinking about bringing (as in Martha’s ‘Step 2’), so we didn’t end up with 5 people bringing the same type. I suggested everyone bring 8 dozen cookies – no matter how many people actually come, I posted, if you bring 8 dozen of the same type, you’d be taking home 8 dozen of a variety. The more that come, the more of a variety there will be. I also asked that they post their recipe there, on the event page, (or email or text me a copy) so I could print out the necessary copies for everyone attending (instead of them making their own copies, not knowing how many copies to actually make.) However, only a few shared their recipes on the event page or texted me a picture of it in time for me to copy them for everyone.

Instead of making display cards or having everyone make multiple copies of their recipes on cards (as in Martha’s ‘Step 3’) for the cookie table, I bought little “brag books” from my local Dollar Tree store. I found and printed out a cute little cookie jar graphic to put in the cover’s picture window on each book. Then I printed out copies of the recipes that I had received before and at the party, inserting them into the pages of each book – for everyone to each take home from the party as a memento and, in which to continue collecting other cookie recipes.

On my party prep checklist, I forgot to list ‘creating a packaging station’ (as described in Martha’s Steps 4 through 7) for wrapping up all the dozens of cookies that everyone was going to take home. I was going to buy things at the dollar store for this; but I didn’t write it down and, then, was distracted by the crowd at the store, and just wanted to hurry and get out of there with my “brag books” and “door prize” picks. Fortunately, some of my friends must have anticipated this – one brought special Christmas trays on which everyone could to take home their cookies and some others pre-wrapped their dozens of cookies in decorative bags and tins for easy grabbing!

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

Not listed in Martha Stewarts ‘8 Steps’, but which occurred to me, is to serve snacks. Whenever I host anything (in-bred from my mom), I, at least, serve something to munch on – it’s always an ice-breaker! So, I decided to prepare a bunch of simple finger-food snacks for everyone to enjoy besides the cookie samples. Having hypoglycemia, myself, I knew I couldn’t snack on all that sugar and wanted to offer my friends the same option. One friend, who couldn’t make cookies in time for the party, but didn’t want to miss out on the “girl time”, brought a wonderful spinach dip and crackers for the “snack table” instead. All were welcomed, cookies in tow or not! Afterwards, I found that Martha Stewart did have a follow up to the ‘8 Steps’ regarding finger-foods to serve at your cookie swap – https://www.marthastewart.com/274426/holiday-cookie-swap-finger-foods

As everyone started showing up, I got wrapped up in setting up the snack table, making introductions between those who didn’t know each other and, of course, in the socializing. Thus, I forgot all about putting out the coffee, tea and punch that I had planned (Step 8); but I did have bottled water for everyone (thanks to my wonderful husband – who always has my back – as he brought in a cooler full of the iced-down bottles for all of us!)

Also, not listed in the “8 Steps”, I decided to offer a few “door prizes”. Martha did make mention of voting on a favorite cookie during the test-tasting, but I was debating between having a few cute, little shower-type games for us to play or just drawing a few names from a hat (or something like that.) In the end, because the socializing was going so well and I didn’t want it to stop, I just had my husband draw 3 names out of a bowl containing all the names of the ladies who showed up; and each of those 3 ladies went home with an extra little gift bag from me.

Unfortunately, it didn’t dawn on me until after my first friend left and others were getting ready to do the same that I should have been taking pictures of everyone and their wonderful baked goods! I did get my husband to take one picture of all of us before anyone else left, which I could immediately send to everyone through my Messenger App. Note-to-self: next time, delegate (in advance) someone to be “the photographer”, which wasn’t in the 8 Steps either! Anyway, I hope I created some special new memories for my friends. I know I will cherish the memories of that day, myself, flaws and all! In fact, I am really looking forward to doing it all again next year!

 Photo by Laura Emerich, Dec. 14, 2018

In the mean time, this is a picture of the cookie recipe I chose to make for my friends – my mom’s make-alike version of Mrs. Fields Soft Sugar Cookies – as printed on her later “Free Recipes/Information” sheets (2000) under the name “Mrs. Meadows”, along with her make-alike version of Mrs. F’s Crisp Buttery Cookies, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it:

*Special note: I used a 1/8-cup scoop to ball up my cookies and I had about 50 cookies. This recipe says it yields 2 dozen…it should be 4 dozen.

In addition, this is a picture of Mom’s 1985 version of Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chip Cookies from her older “Free Recipes/Information” sheets, again, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it:

Note: Unlike the previously shared “free” recipes in my blogs, the Mrs. Fields make-alike cookies I’ve included in this blog also appeared in some of Mom’s other previously self-published cookbooks and newsletters; but, they didn’t make it into her 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 famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing).]