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!
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
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!
By Gloria Pitzer, as seen on her Fall Media Free Offer sheet (2002-2004)
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
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]
By Gloria Pitzer, Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Fast Food Recipes (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; March 1985, p. 86)
2 sticks butter (1/2 lb.)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 cups self-rising flour
12-oz. bag chocolate chips
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.
1 cup brown sugar, combined with 1/2 cup additional unsweetened cocoa
1 3/4 cup hot tap water
shredded coconut or chopped walnuts, to garnish
In a roomy bowl, combine the first 8 ingredients, as listed. Pour mixture into an 8-inch buttered pan. Sprinkle batter with the sugar-cocoa mixture. Carefully pour the hot tap water over this and DO NOT STIR! Slide it, undisturbed, into a 350°F oven and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 2-3 minutes. Invert it onto a platter, scraping down excess topping. Sprinkle top with shredded coconut or chopped walnuts, to garnish. Best served while warm.
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
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.
Happy Monday and, of course, happy National Chocolate Day!
According to NationalDayCalendar.com, today is National Chocolate Day and was created by the National Confectioners Association. There are other chocolate celebrations throughout the year – just five weeks ago, I discussed the celebration of National White Chocolate Day.
As I mentioned in that blog entry, “Let us Celebrate Chocolate” (Sep. 23, 2019), Mom LOVED chocolate! And who doesn’t? I love chocolate, myself; but, it doesn’t bode well with my limited, daily, carbohydrate allowance. However, like Mom, I investigated ways I could imitate one of my favorite chocolate treats, no-bake cookies, with limited amounts of carbs.
I remember when I was just a little kid, maybe 4 or 5 years old, I liked to call them “mud puddle cookies”! Now, I can enjoy these treats once again – in moderation, of course, at 3 grams of carbs per 1/8-cup-sized cookie. I call my recipe “Heavenly Low-Carb No-Bakes” and I’ll share it with you at the end of this blog; as this website is sub-titled and as Mom liked to say, “Because great recipes need to be shared!”
One name in chocolate that Michiganders know well is Sanders Candy. The official Sanders story can be found at https://www.sanderscandy.com/about-us. When Mom developed her copycat version of Sanders’ Hot Fudge Sauce, one of her original 200 copycat recipes (from the 1970s) that launched her career as the Recipe DetectiveTM, a secret she discovered was that Nestle brand milk chocolate was the key ingredient in replicating it’s creaminess and flavor, as no other brand brought the same flavor and texture that she was trying to achieve. I’ve shared a couple of her Sanders-Style Hot Fudge Sauce imitations in the “Recipes” tab on this website. It was always one of our family’s top 10 favorites of Mom’s copycat creations!
ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS BAKERIES of our time is, of course, the Fred Sanders’ Company. What they’ve created for Detroiters, in the decades of their thriving popularity, have made lasting-memories. Each time I visit with a radio station, anywhere around the country, a displaced Detroiter will certainly always request a recipe that would be for one of the Sanders’ products that they can’t find in their new area. It is, indeed, a complement to a company that they’ve remained a popular favorite over many years.
When memories visit you, years from now, you will probably recall among the famous ice cream places were Dairy Queen, Baskin-Robbins, Howard Johnson’s, Sanders and Friendly’s restaurants – as well as the famous specialties like Sander’s hot fudge topping, Eskimo pies, Spumoni (with chunks of cherries, almonds and pistachios included) – [plus], creamy, thick malts and milk shakes. These will remain favorites of an adoring public of loyal fans, despite the critics and experts who would have us replace all these with bean sprouts, alfalfa and carob products…
SANDERS’ HOT FUDGE [SAUCE] was one of the nicest experiences I had in working with imitations of the famous recipes, for John (Jack) Sanders, the grandson and president of the company founded by his grandfather, Fred, was one of the sponsors of Warren Pierce’s [Detroit area] radio show. Imagine my reluctance to share, with his listeners, my version of Sander’s hot fudge.
I had previously had so many threatening letters from food company lawyers that I didn’t know what to expect if I heard from the Sanders people! To my amazement, the letter we anticipated did arrive only 2 days after I gave my version of their hot fudge [sauce] to Warren’s listeners. The letter, however, said – if it wouldn’t ruin my fun in trying to duplicate these famous dishes, would Paul and I and all the kids kindly accept an invitation from Jack Sanders to tour their Oakman Boulevard Bakery and Confection plant and meet their Head Chef, Edy Mader.
It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship, between my Secret Recipes and Fred Sanders’ products and, I learned, encouraged many out-of-state orders for their products whenever I talked about them during my frequent radio visits around the country.
‘When it’s from Sanders, even a little is a big, big treat…’ – historical slogan for Sanders’ restaurant, bakery and candy company
Another delicious, chocolate creation from Mom’s original 200 recipes (again, from the 1970s), which started her Recipe DetectiveTM career, was that for an imitation of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Mom called her copycat version “Recess Peanut Butter Cups”. As I’ve mentioned before, some food companies, like Sanders, were honored by Mom’s efforts of flattery through imitating their products; while most others threatened her with lawsuits!
The Hershey corporation happened to be a slight mixture of both, threatening and flattered. At first, Hershey’s attorneys wrote to Mom to cease and desist the use of her recipe title, “Recess Peanut Butter Cups” because it too closely resembled their trademark name, “Reese’s”, as to cause confusion between the products; inferring lawsuits would follow if she didn’t cooperate. But, instead, Mom explained to them the meaning behind her title, using the word recess (as in a retreat); she also offered to only use (and promote) Hershey’s brand chocolate in the recipe. The Hershey corporation was agreeable to, both, Mom’s explanation and her offer.
I’ve previously shared Mom’s copycat versions of these yummy chocolate delights (mentioned above) in my blogs and you can also find them in the “Recipes” tab on this website. When it comes to chocolate treats like Sanders-Style Hot Fudge Sauce and Recess Peanut Butter Cups, both were always among our family’s top 10 favorites of Mom’s original copycat creations – and they were also top favorites among Mom’s many fans and followers! So, here they are for you again (see below)!
SO, IN CLOSING…
P.S. MORE ON…
MY “DIET” UPDATE:
Almost 32 weeks ago, on the first day of spring, I adopted a low-carb lifestyle based on the “Atkins Diet”. Having hypoglycemia and being at least 55 pounds overweight, I felt 20 years older than I should have felt. I had a lot of joint pain, sciatica and arthritis problems. Thus, I decided to make a life-style change, like I did when I quit smoking cigarettes over 13 years ago. I chose to commit to living without most carbs – like bread, pasta, rice, potatoes and sugar – you know, all the good stuff!
I looked at the Keto diet, but it was too high in fat for me, as I don’t have a gall bladder anymore to filter such things. Those types of carbs that I mentioned above messed with my blood sugar levels, even when I switched to whole grains (though not as much then). In addition, because of my metabolism, it messed with my weight and overall health, as well! I realized that I was only cheating myself whenever I made bad choices on what I ate for meals and snacks. So, I came to terms with the release of most carbs in my life in the same way as I released tobacco from my life-style.
I had to mentally accept that this is a permanent change for me – not just until I reach my goal because, if I go back to my old life-style, then I also go back to my obese weight. I’m done with that! Now, I just continue to make wiser choices regarding what I consume; as well as how much because even if something is “carb-free”, it’s not necessarily free of calories or other content. I find that “everything in moderation” is the best rule by which to live. Below are some comparative pictures of me from last year and today.
After starting out at a 20-gram-carb-limit per day, for a few weeks, I raised my carb-limit to 25 grams a day and have kept it there, for the most part, ever since. So far, for me, that seems to be the magic number at which I feel my best and not regain any of the weight that I’ve lost. However, I know, with a regular exercise routine, I would be even healthier; but, I have yet to make the mental commitment to it. I need to go through the same mental process for exercising that I did for the other healthier life-changes I’ve made – I need to mentally see it as a priority in my life. But, honestly, for now, it is just another goal for which I need to commit and set my “start date” to just do it!
I miss Sanders chocolate, on this low-carb lifestyle. By the way, sugar-free chocolate is not the same as real chocolate! Though, while I miss chocolate (and other carbs), I don’t miss the 50 pounds that I’ve lost so far! I also don’t miss the back pains and joint pains in my hips, knees and feet – all the parts that had to carry all of my extra weight.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, I created a low-carb, no-bake cookie that I can enjoy as much as I did my favorite high-carb version that was, my friend, Karen’s recipe. I don’t know from where Karen originally got her recipe, but they were sinfully good! Unfortunately, my friend Karen passed away from cancer over four years ago. I miss her dearly and I cherish the wonderful, sweet recipes that she shared with me before she left this earth. But, now, I have to revise them to fit my new low-carb life-style.
My next challenge is Karen’s recipe for homemade Peanut Brittle. Again, I don’t know if she developed it herself or got it from another source, but it’s another incredible recipe that I want to enjoy again, especially during the coming holidays! First, I need to come up with a low carb version of corn syrup. That’s where my mom’s talents come in handy, as she has a lot of recipes that she developed for imitating grocery products at home, including a homemade version of Karo’s light syrup product. I will have to experiment with it to create a sugar-free/low-carb version that will be able to be substituted for the real thing and still create the same or similar result in the final product.
For the time being, I was determined to make a copycat version of Karen’s no-bake cookies that was low enough in carbs for me to enjoy again – in moderation, of course. I call my version (below) “Heavenly Low-Carb No-Bakes”…and, as always, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it…
Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…
As I said at the end of last week’s blog, today is National Food Day; plus, it’s also Pumpkin Cheesecake Day! See the end of this blog for a copy of Mom’s sugar-free recipe for the latter. Part of what started Mom’s career as the Recipe DetectiveTM for Secret RecipesTM, was her keen ideas on how to make our family’s food budget stretch during the 1970s’ food crisis by making some of her own groceries, including special sweets and treats like Sarah Lee’s cheesecake, Hostess cake products and Famous Amos’ cookies to name a few.
Mom started sharing some of her discoveries in the columns she syndicated. It had a snowball effect when she started imitating famous food products and dishes, at home – in her own kitchen, with what she had on hand in her pantry – because our family of seven couldn’t always afford those kind of eating-out treats…that’s how Mom, first, developed her “Copycat Cookery” and “Eating Out at Home” concepts!
There were never any cookbooks out, prior to Mom’s first collection (in the mid-to-late 1970s), that offered copycat recipes for creating imitations of fast food and junk food favorites (without the junk in them), grocery products and famous dishes from famous restaurants.
At the time, in the early-1970s, Mom was writing and syndicating columns, focused on homemakers like her. They went out to multiple newspapers and magazines across the states. After a short syndication term with Columbia Features, Mom started syndicating her own columns. She often received requests from her readers whose families couldn’t afford to eat out, wanting to know how to make something at home and save on their food budget. She, too, felt a need or want for the same thing.
When Mom first began what was, later, to become her Secret RecipesTM legacy, and from which she also came to earn her title as the Recipe DetectiveTM; she had invented a copycat version of McDonald’s “Secret Sauce” and another for a cheesecake like Sarah Lee’s; requests for which she had received from her readers. Once Mom figured out one imitation and printed it, one request after another would come in for Mom to answer. I printed these recipes in two previous blog entries, but here they are again for your enjoyment…
Mom loved all the new challenges that came in for her to research and develop. At first, the publishers were all in favor of Mom writing what she thought her audience wanted in her column. However, when their advertisers put up a fuss about Mom’s imitations, the publishers told her to stop doing the copycat recipes or they’d have to let her go.
Realizing that this was an unexplored area of the food industry and that there were wants/needs, as she read in her readers’ letters, for making favorite food products at home; Mom left to start her own publication, telling the publishers to mail her last check to her. During the previous twenty years, working many different positions in the newspaper industry, Mom had picked up a lot of knowledge about how to put out a paper.
[By the way, National Newspaper Week began on the 1st Sunday of October, thus it ran from the 6th to the 12th.]
Mom reached out to her friends, family, neighbors and newspaper contacts and, in January 1974, she put out her first newsletter issue to a couple hundred subscribers. Initially, Mom was influenced by such talented women as Carol Duvall, Erma Bombeck and Elsie Masterton; designing her own publication to be a patch-work-quilt full of humor, household tips and tricks, food for thought, food for the soul and food for the table…the kinds of things women would likely discuss while sitting around the kitchen table, visiting and having coffee.
Mom called it a family, cottage-style operation. In order to balance all of her responsibilities, she involved all of the family…testing recipes, doing artwork, promoting and other such things. Aside from the newsletter, Mom sold her recipes, printed on index cards, for a quarter each or 5 for a dollar. When her recipe collection grew into the hundreds, Mom started developing and publishing her own cookbooks in the same manner as her newsletter issues, including all of the humor, household tips and tricks, food for thought, food for the soul and food for the table.
Mom’s following grew quickly, once word got out across the wire service that a small-town Michigan housewife was developing make-alike recipes for recreating famous food products at home, and the response had a snowball effect. There were many interviews by radio talk show hosts, as well as newspaper and magazine columnists; plus, some television appearances (first, locally and then nationally.)
Wednesday, the 23rd, is National TV Talk Show Host Day (and, the late, Johnny Carson’s birthday.) A couple of national TV talk shows that Mom appeared on were the Phil Donahue Show (twice – 1981 and 1993) & the Home Show (1984?), where she met Wally Amos of the Famous Amos brand sweets.
Mom was also invited to appear on the Tonight Show; but had been so over-whelmed by her other TV appearances and the audiences’ responses and orders that our family just couldn’t keep up. Not wanting to get so big that she may lose her enjoyment in what she does, Mom, regretfully, had to decline. However, she did get to know Ed McMahan and his wife, Pam, since they were originally from Michigan. Michiganders are kindred spirits!
As I wrote about in a February blog entry, people loved Mom’s fresh, new ideas on how to make fast food, junk food, grocery products and famous restaurant dishes right at home, easily and at less cost. Times were financially tough back then – there was a recession going on, as well as a food crisis.
…[it was] amid an economic recession with the highest rate of unemployment I had ever experienced, but it was worth the risk. I was a dedicated writer that new someone had to give homemakers something more than what they were being given in the colored glossy magazines…There had to be more to mealtime… The food industry gave us more appealing products than did the cookbooks we trusted.
THEY LAUGHED! THEY DOUBTED! They even tried to take me to court when some famous food companies insisted that I stop giving away their secrets. They couldn’t believe me when I said that I did NOT know, nor did I want to know, what they put in their so-called secret recipes. I did know that there were very few recipes that couldn’t be duplicated or imitated at home… for much less than purchasing the original product…
FAMOUS FOODS FROM FAMOUS PLACES have intrigued good cooks for a long time – even before fast foods of the 1950’s were a curiosity. When cookbooks offer us a sampling of good foods, they seldom devote themselves to the dishes of famous restaurants. There was speculation among the critics as to the virtues of re-creating, at home, the foods that you can buy ‘eating out’, such as the fast food fares of the popular franchise restaurants…
Who would want to imitate ‘fast food’ at home? I found that over a million people who saw me demonstrate replicating some famous fast food products on The Phil Donahue Show (July 7, 1981) DID – and their letters poured in at a rate of over 15,000 a day for months on end! While I have investigated the recipes, dishes and cooking techniques of ‘fine’ dining rooms around the world, I received more requests from people who wanted to know how to make things like McDonald’s Special Sauce or General Foods Shake-N-Bake coating mix or White Castle’s hamburgers than I received for those things like Club 21’s Coq Au Vin.
Happy Monday! And happy Autumn too! The days are getting shorter and colder, while the leaves of the trees are getting more colorful each day! Unfortunately, the painter’s palette of nature doesn’t last for long and, soon, all the colors will be gone, blowing in the wind!
At the end of my last blog entry, I mentioned that, among NationalDayCalendar.com’s month-long celebrations listed for October, it’s “Eat Better, Eat Together Month”! A lot of people say that eating together as a family creates stronger family bonds. In his article, “The Family Meal”, Dr. Christopher Peterson brings up a good point when he says, “What I gain from my meals with others goes way beyond convenience. These meals with others are filling but moreover fulfilling. They make me feel part of a larger group.” [Posted March 20, 2012; PsychologyToday.com]
Personally, between me and my siblings, I’ve found the opposite to be true. We ate dinner together every night, while we lived with our parents. Yet, we hardly talk to each other anymore, since Mom and Dad are both gone now; and some of us don’t get along at all. On the other hand, my own children are closer than my siblings and I; but, they only had family-sit-down-together-meals for about half of their childhoods. Then we were always on the run, doing sports activities; or I was working an afternoon shift somewhere.
However, my kids and I did spend a great quantity of quality time together – just not very often around the dinner table (except for holidays and birthdays). Aside from the eating-together thing, whether you’re cooking for just yourself or for two people or for a whole brood – if you’re the one who plans the menu, then you’re the one who makes the healthy/unhealthy food choices for everyone you’re feeding. It’s a great idea to celebrate eating right and having solid, old-fashioned, close-knit, family meals. But, is there really any merit that eating together creates better eating habits and tighter family bonds?
As I said, when I was growing up, Mom always prepared a sit-down, family-style dinner with all the food in serving dishes in the middle of the table. We all sat together, as a family (like in the picture of us, above). We talked about our days, as we each took a serving from a dish in front of us; passing that dish to the next person while grabbing another dish from the person on the other side of us. However, we would also elbow each other or kick one another under the table, as siblings would do, whenever Mom and Dad weren’t looking our way. For the most part, I think we only got along for Mom and Dad’s sake anyway.
In addition, Mom CHOSE to make well-rounded meals that covered all the food basics, including dessert! That’s what she was taught by her mom and that’s what she taught me to do as well. But, there was no Brady Bunch or Walton’s Mountain type of bonding at our table! We ate together because that’s when the meal was served. It wasn’t a restaurant that you could drop in on at any time and order whatever you like… You ate what was made and when it was served or went hungry until the next meal.
Of course, with the Recipe DetectiveTM as our mom, we happened to taste-test a lot of fast food and junk food imitations over the years – some things may have seemed like bad/unhealthy choices in food to an outsider – such as fried chicken (like KFC’s). However, Mom’s imitation of the famous fast food dish was baked instead of deep-fried, which is healthier.
As I wrote about in a couple of my other blog entries, “Eating Out at Home” (4/8/19) and “Food for Thought” (5/20/19), Mom knew how to take the “junk out of junk food” and did so in her famous imitations. It’s very true that what you put into cooking is what you get out of it – literally and figuratively! Everything in moderation is a great rule by which to live; but, it’s sometimes easier said than done!
A city that has, for decades, been world-famous for their sit-down, family-style meals is Frankenmuth, Michigan – not too far from us, near Saginaw, MI (from where one of Mom’s favorite radio shows airs, “Listen to the Mrs.”, co-hosted by Art Lewis and Ann Williams on WSGW-Radio.) Tourists flock to this little town from all around the world and will stand in line for hours to get the world-famous chicken dinners at one of the two largest establishments in town.
Zehnders and the Bavarian Inn operate the two major restaurants in Frankenmuth that serve the famous family-style chicken dinners, with all the food in serving dishes in the middle of the table, from which the family will serve themselves and which the servers will refill for you as needed. Just a hint – reservations will get you in quickly, rather than waiting in line. The town’s German heritage exudes from its restaurants, hotels, breweries and quaint little shops that line the mile-plus length of the main street through town – from Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland (all Christmas, all year) to the Frankenmuth Brewery!
Mom and Dad always loved to take road trips to Frankenmuth, as do me and my husband. It’s a great day trip to experience all the German culture that this small tourist town has to offer! Over the years, Mom came up with many imitations of some the famous dishes from the two major restaurants mentioned above; plus, some bread and confection imitations from the local bakeries and fudge shops.
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
The German community of Frankenmuth, Michigan, which for decades has celebrated the art of fried chicken, served family-style; has had thousands of customers lined up every weekend and holiday, waiting to be seated in one of their 2 largest restaurants [Zehnders and the Bavarian Inn]. Their fried chicken is like ‘Grandma used to make’ – richly flavored, moist inside and never greasy. The family-style dinner provides the table with large bowls of homemade mashed potatoes and gravy, moist and spicy dressing (called ‘stuffing’ in other parts of the country), a fresh-from-scratch cranberry-orange relish, hot breads and beverages. [By Gloria Pitzer, as seen on page 94 of Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018).]
MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
A MEAL BY ANY OTHER NAME
FAST FOOD RECIPES were not published in the best-sellers – and these were the restaurants where families were apt to frequent if they wanted a meal that was affordable! Paul and I could take all 5 of the children to Capri’s, an Italian restaurant down the road from us in Pearl Beach, and we could feed the whole family for less than $10, providing we ordered the large pizza with only pepperoni and cheese on it and one soft drink for each of us. It was not for substance that we ate out. It was for entertainment.
We could take the kids to McDonald’s and it did the same thing for us that going to the movies did for our parents. It was an affordable pleasure. It was a diversion from meatloaf and pot roast and peas and carrots. It was a treat. We looked forward to it. We felt good about the experience and even better after it was over. It carried us through a long week of paying the utilities, insurance, house payments and car payments and grocery expenses.
When we had to have our 10-year-old station wagon repaired, we had to skip eating out that week. If one of us had to see the dentist, it might be 2 or 3 weeks before we could afford to eat out again. We made do with what we had. We could make the most of what we had. In the 50s and 60s and early 70s, this is the way parents raised their families, budgeted their earnings and allowed for their pleasures.
Things changed, as well they should. Women went out to work. If they weren’t working to supplement the family income, they went to work for their own satisfaction. Whatever the reasons, families changed. Eating at home became less and less appealing – and less and less convenient. Homes were built with smaller kitchens and bigger bathrooms. Microwave ovens were more affordable – and defrost and heat became more popular. [By Gloria Pitzer, as seen on page 295 of Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018).]
Along with October being national “Eat Better, Eat Together Month”, it’s also “Tackling Hunger Month”. In connection with those two month-long celebrations, the 2nd week of October is observed as “National Food Bank Week”. Thus, I want to make a local shout out, here, to one of the Detroit area’s food banks, Gleaners!
I hear about this group all the time on our local news. They do such great things in so many communities! The other day, I heard about their wonderful program, “Cooking Matters”; which is “a groundbreaking nutrition-education program that connects low-income individuals and families with food by teaching them how to prepare healthy, tasty meals on a limited budget.” By the way, “National Food Day” is coming up next week, on the 24th!
Part of what started Mom’s career as the Recipe DetectiveTM for Secret RecipesTM, was her keen ideas on how to make our family’s food budget stretch during the 1970s’ food crisis. Mom started sharing some of her discoveries in the columns she syndicated. It had a snowball effect when she started imitating famous food products and dishes, at home – in her own kitchen, with what she had on hand in her pantry – because our family of seven couldn’t always afford those kind of eating-out treats…that’s how Mom developed her “Copycat Cookery” and “Eating Out at Home” concepts! More on those next week…
In honor of all that sweetness, here are a couple of Mom’s free dessert recipes that I’ve posted before AND a new one for her sugar-free pumpkin pie recipe, which she gave away in her Jan.-Feb. 1988 promotions!
P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…
Happy Monday to everyone! It’s October and the final quarter of 2019 has begun its countdown.
Earlier this year, I wrote a blog entry called “Spring into Cleaning” [March 25, 2019]. Well, now, it’s time to discuss the seasonal cleaning events that a lot of us face in the fall… at least, in Michigan and the rest of the northeast region. Before all the autumn leaves’ colors peak and disappear with the summer’s warm temperatures and the windows get closed up for the coming winter months, which seem to last almost half the year, around here; it’s time to start attacking that fall cleaning list, assuming you have one! If not, to inspire you, HouseholdManagement101.com has a great, printable “Fall Cleaning List” that covers all the basics – you can find it at https://www.household-management-101.com/fall-cleaning.html!
In “Spring into Cleaning”, I mentioned that cleaning was not Mom’s forte – even though she called herself the “Happy Homemaker” – Mom hated cleaning! Well, let’s say she “clearly disliked” it. I’m not saying she didn’t clean; but, that never meant she had to like it! Not everyone gets a joy out of cleaning any more than they have to – that doesn’t mean they don’t do it, but they probably tend to procrastinate doing it, giving it a lower priority than most other things.
Mom used to keep a sign on her desk for many, many years that said: “Please don’t straighten the mess on my desk! You’ll goof up my system.” She often joked that it was her birth sign! Dad was the organizer between the two of them. I probably inherited my organizing gene (if there is such a thing) from my Dad.
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (by Gloria Pitzer; Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 119)
In my kitchen, where all of these famous recipes are developed and tested and prepared for publishing, I have one insignificant problem. The Good Hands People are about to declare my kitchen an accident going someplace to happen. My sense of organization is not what Helouise would enthusiastically endorse. So, even when my cup runneth over and over and over, I can’t always find my mop!
It is with appreciation, in spite of my lack of organization, that Mary Ellen Pinkham, the famous household hints author, took an interest in our recipes just recently. I really should get together with Mary Ellen and learn exactly how to become better organized; but, somehow, time keeps getting away from me.
No offense to Mary Ellen, may she rest in peace; but, I don’t think she could’ve taught Mom how to be organized any more than Dad, whenever he tried to do so. Mom had her own organization system that only she understood, and it worked for her. She used to tell me, “it’s MY pile, and I know where everything is in MY pile – so, don’t touch it!”
Another great article I found about fall cleaning and de-cluttering is by Dr. Sally Augustin, Ph.D.; titled, “Fall Cleaning As Important As Spring Cleaning” and subtitled, “De-clutter your home before your winter hibernation.” [Posted Oct 09, 2013 at PsychologyToday.com], I like the way the doctor says that… “We continually accumulate stuff and dealing with it is part of Fall cleaning.” I excitedly told my husband, “See – I’m not the only one who accumulates stuff!”
Every year, around this time, I play the TetrisTM shuffle game in my basement. It’s a game to unbury my fall and Halloween décor that got buried behind my Christmas décor, which got buried behind some summer camping gear and all of the garage sale stuff I picked up for a bargain over the summer – thinking I might use it someday!
My OCD personality is yelling at me to “GET ORGANIZED!” I really need to make the time in my busy schedule to get my basement cleaned out and organized – I don’t think I can afford to pay someone else to come in and do it for me, as HouseholdManagement101.com suggested in their article (mentioned above). Besides which, organizing is actually one of my favorite “hobbies” – I just need more time in my days or weeks to do it.
Years ago, I was inspired by a cable show I used to watch that dealt with purging peoples’ accumulated stuff and dividing it into categories of “keep, donate, sell and throw away” and dealing with the psychology behind our attachments to stuff and why we hold on to and accumulate more stuff. Unfortunately, my “sometimers” is preventing me from remembering the name of the show, let alone the show’s hosts, whom I can picture in my mind – but, that doesn’t help me do a Bing or Google search for them. I tried different search terms, because I know I’d recognize the name of the show if I saw it; but, I wasn’t successful.
My accumulation of stuff in the basement sometimes tends to get out of hand because it’s a catch-all space that, generally, I only see about once a week, as I pass through to do the laundry. I usually spend a little time organizing while the washer slowly fills up with water; but, then, I go back upstairs to do the other things I was doing before I went into the basement in the first place. It’s like the old adage: “out of sight, out of mind”. I’ve also found, through experience, that there is some merit to the old wives’ tale about walking through a doorway and forgetting things.
Now that it’s fall cleaning season, and after reading Dr. Sally’s article, I’ve decided that I really need to purge my basement even more, as it is becoming an accumulation of stress on my OCD personality. The sooner I get to it, the better; so, I can have a yard sale before the days get too cold to do so. I posted another blog entry on August 12th, “How to Have a Yard Sale in One Easy Breakdown”, about having one; but, then, my “paying job” increased its hours – so that plan was put on a back burner for the time being. See below for one of Mom’s stories from that blog entry.
MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
HAVE A GARAGE SALE IN ONE EASY BREAKDOWN!
By Gloria Pitzer – Recipe DetectiveTM
As seen in…
No Laughing Matter, syndicated columns by Gloria Pitzer, published in the 1970s and 1980s; in the Port Huron, MI “Times Herald”
Until you’ve had a garage sale, you just don’t know what you’re missing. I’ve just had one and I know! I’m missing three garbage cans, my husband’s workbench, a swing set, four lawn chairs and our station wagon. Actually, those items weren’t for sale, but you can’t refuse a good price when it’s offered to you.
All I really wanted to sell was a few odds-and-ends like 7 dozen Ruby Bee Jelly glasses, a coke bottle mosaic of my mother-in-law, a transistor radio guaranteed to crack plaster when operated by a teenager, an illustrated guide book to Disneyland and my husband’s bowling ball.
Of course, if the truth were known, I just had to do something about the closets before we were cited for contempt by the Pollution Control Commission. The kids were cleaning out their rooms and dragging out microscopes that had only examined curdled milk. There was an electric train with which only their father had played, a guitar that never played a tune (but made a neat tennis racket), socks that scratched and even their old report cards. But, I drew the line when it came to selling their toothbrushes and underwear. I mean, a person has to be reasonable about these things!
I had heard that garage sales were successful, but I didn’t believe it until I saw 23 cars double-parked in our drainage ditch, a pick-up truck on the back porch and a dune buggy in the furnace room! It takes a garage sale to prove that a woman will buy anything, if she thinks it’s on sale.
After all, what can one do with a dead philodendron plant – a plastic one, yet? I also learned that there’s no exercise so efficacious for the upper arms as standing in the midst of a group of mad women and trying to keep them from taking the rafters apart while trying to get at our storm windows (which I’ll have you know were NOT for sale); but, little did they care.
One woman offered me a dollar for the dress I was wearing, and I had to run half a block to catch up with the lady who gave my son 50 cents for the sheets on the clothes lines. Did she care it was my laundry and I had to make the beds before the day was over – and where would I be without those sheets?
I finally had to administer first aid to the two girls who fought so bitterly over which of them was going to drag off to their car a plaid CPO jacket and a pair of blue worsted men’s slacks! Mind you. I wouldn’t have cared under any other circumstances, but my husband was still in them AND he didn’t want to go with either of them. He wanted to stay home and watch the ball game on TV!
By 6pm, they had bought everything that wasn’t breathing, barking or encased in concrete. As I sat at the kitchen table, counting up the profits of the day, my husband came staggering in, bruised and breathless. ‘You know that guy with the flat-bed truck, who’s been hanging around all day?’ [He asked.] ‘Well, he just gave me $50 and drove off with our garage!’
It all goes to prove, if I had put a price on those kids of ours, I might have sold them – but, who could afford to feed them once they got them home?
Okay – time to put that simmering pot of organizing the basement back on a front burner and take care of it. I really need to purge and de-clutter my basement. I collect a lot of things for my many hobbies that I never have time to do…glass etching/engraving, wood burning, repurposing old lamps and glassware into garden art, making vine and pine cone wreaths, etc..
I like to repurpose, reuse and recycle things as much as possible. In doing so, I find it hard to get rid of anything broken, because I can usually “see” an artful use for its parts. Besides which, I also hate to contribute to our ever growing waste problems. However, I will work on my recycle or re-sell plans and get it done!
October is also, among other things, “Eat Better, Eat Together Month”; which, as NationalDayCalendar.com’s website describes, “…encourages families to gather for mealtimes. When families enjoy their main meals together they tend to be more balanced food choices. Also, what better way to spend time together and share each other’s daily adventures?”
#NationalChiliWeek & #NationalChiliMonth
In addition, the 1st week of October honors National Chili Week – which coincides with another month-long October celebration for National Chili Month – here is Mom’s imitation of the “world famous”, Johnnie Lega’s Chili – not one of her free recipes, but can be found in her last book, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 56) along with Julia Lega’s authentic recipe for “The Reuben” (on page 187)!
Tomorrow is the 1-year anniversary of my launching this blog, Mondays & Memories of My Mom. I started this to honor my mom’s legacy as the ORIGINAL Secret RecipesTM Detective. The title, Recipe DetectiveTM, which Mom eventually trademarked, was bestowed on her in the mid-1970s by the Detroit area radio listeners of Bob Allison’s “Ask Your Neighbor” show, as she continuously called in with answers to recipe quandaries on how to make just about anything; and she, forever, savored the honor!
Early on, as a mother of five ravenous, young children on a tight household budget, Mom had a knack for discovering ways to imitate fast food and junk food, as well as famous restaurant dishes and grocery items right at home, in her own kitchen, with what she had on hand – no fancy gadgets or expensive, hard-to-find ingredients. Mom liked to claim that her gadgets were always hard to find because we kids would take them for playing with in the sand box.
But, I think Mom’s pioneer trailblazing of the copycat recipes movement for imitating fast food and junk food, in particular, was the ultimate carving out of a totally unique niche that no other person, at that time, had ever attempted. For decades, great restaurants have put out cookbooks of recipes of their famous dishes – The Blueberry Hills Cookbook by Elsie Masterton was probably Mom’s favorite – but, no one else was doing recipes to mimic the fast food and junk food markets that were considered taboo by the food critics!
Mom’s copycat recipes revolution took the nation by storm and washed over the world – thanks to the Phil Donahue Show – like a tidal wave! Ever since her early cookbooks on the subject were first released in the mid-1970s, Mom referred to her copycat imitations as her solutions to “eating out – at home”, and that, she’d add, no longer meant hot dogs on the grill, outside, in the yard!
Word spread like a wildfire that a small town, Michigan housewife was duplicating famous foods from famous places and sharing her secrets in her self-published newsletter issues and cookbooks! Radio stations, newspapers, magazines and television – they all picked up on the story and it snowballed from there.
Sometimes, Mom received letters from her readers, people across the country and around the world, who didn’t have the same products in their area that Mom used in some of her recipes, asking what they should use in its place. That inspired her to create even more recipes for ingredients that were expensive or hard to find in certain regions. She was always focused on saving families money because that also benefitted her own family.
Secret RecipesTM was Mom’s legacy of love – even before it actually became Secret RecipesTM. It all stemmed from her passion for writing. Although, Mom’s original writing aspirations, when she was a young girl (influenced by a movie about the Bronte sisters), was to write a great American novel; she believed that Devine Intervention detoured her to write about other things, but never away from writing, itself.
Every success Mom had in writing, was usually centered around cooking and homemaking – from the many essay contests that she entered and won to her multiple careers in the newspaper field to writing her own columns and cartoon panels and, then, her own newsletter publication, along with multitudes of cookbooks (which she also published and promoted herself).
Writing was never a hobby to Mom. She used to say that being a writer isn’t what she did but, rather, who she was! In a lot of her publishings, Mom loved to say that, while she made a worthwhile living at writing, it was her writing that made living worthwhile. My mom had a special talent for combining food for thought with food for the soul, as well as food for the table – usually sprinkled with a dash of sarcastic humor – in almost all of her publishings.
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 6)
IT ALL STARTED WITH THE STROKE OF A PEN
I DO, WITH RECIPES, WHAT RICH LITTLE DOES WITH VOICES! Imitating the ‘Secret Recipes’ of the food industry has been an exciting experience for me. The critics felt that “fast foods” and restaurant dishes were not worth the effort to duplicate at home, when you can just as easily buy the products already prepared!
The critics who contend that ‘fast foods’ are ‘junk foods’ and not good for us, have probably never prepared these foods themselves. Certainly, they have no access to the closely guarded recipes from the food companies that created these dishes, as there are only a few people in each operation that are permitted the privilege of such information! So, 99% of the critics’ speculations are based on their own opinions.
To know what these dishes contained, they’d have to be better chemists than I, as I have tested over 20,000 recipes with only the finished product as my guide to determine what each contained. ‘Fast foods’ are not ‘junk foods’ unless they’re not properly prepared. Any food that is poorly prepared (and just as badly presented) is junk!
Unfortunately, ‘fast food’ has carried a reputation, by default, of containing ingredients that are ‘harmful’ to us. Yet, they contain the same ingredients as those foods served in the ‘finer’ restaurants with wine stewards, linen tablecloths, candlelight, coat-check attendants, and parking valets; which separate the plastic palaces of ‘fast food’ from the expensive dining establishments.
One ‘eats’ at McDonald’s, but ‘dines’ at The Four Seasons. Steak and potato or hamburger and French fries – the ingredients are practically the same. How they are prepared makes the difference!
In the early 70s, I was trying to juggle marriage, motherhood, homemaking and a newspaper column syndicated through Columbia Features, when it seemed obvious to me that there wasn’t a single cookbook on the market that could help me take the monotony out of mealtime. There was not a single recipe in the newspaper’s food section that did not smack of down-home dullness!
‘Okay,’ they said at the newspaper I worked for, ‘YOU write the column on foods and recipes that YOU think would really excite the readers and make them happy!’ I did, but that didn’t make the Editors happy, because it made their [food industry] advertisers miserable. When I was told that I’d have to go back to monotonous meatloaf and uninteresting side-dishes that made mealtime a ritual rather than a celebration or pick up my check, I told them to ‘MAIL it to me!’ I went home to start my own paper!
It was probably a dumb thing to do, amid an economic recession with the highest rate of unemployment I had ever experienced, but it was worth the risk. I was a dedicated writer that new someone had to give homemakers something more than what they were being given in the colored glossy magazines, where a bowl of library paste could even be photographed to look appetizing!
…THEY LAUGHED! THEY DOUBTED! They even tried to take me to court when some famous food companies insisted that I stop giving away their secrets. They couldn’t believe me when I said that I did NOT know, nor did I want to know, what they put in their so-called secret recipes. I did know that there are very few recipes that can’t be duplicated or imitated at home. And we could do them for much less than purchasing the original product. I proved…it can be and should be done!
FAMOUS FOODS FROM FAMOUS PLACES have intrigued good cooks for a long time… There is speculation among the critics as to the virtues of re-creating, at home, the foods that you can buy ‘eating out’, such as the fast food fares of the popular franchise restaurants. To each, his own! Who would want to imitate ‘fast food’ at home?
I found that over a million people who saw me demonstrate replicating some famous fast food products [the FIRST time I was] on The Phil Donahue Show (July 7, 1981) DID – and their letters poured in at a rate of over 15,000 a day for months on end! And while I have investigated the recipes, dishes, and cooking techniques of ‘fine’ dining rooms around the world, I received more requests from people who wanted to know how to make things like McDonald’s Special Sauce or General Foods Shake-N-Bake coating mix or White Castle’s hamburgers than I received for those things like Club 21’s Coq Au Vin.
I inherited Mom’s love for writing (among other things) and, now, that has become my legacy of love also, as I carry on her torch, telling her story in this blog. It really became my own legacy of love in 2015, when I began helping Mom rewrite her favorite, self-published cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook. Shortly before Mom passed away in January 2018, it was published by Balboa Press, under the title Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective, in hopes to inspire a new generation – especially the digital generation, as it’s now available as an eBook too!
I can only hope that I’ve made my mom proud of how I’ve been keeping her torch lit and shining bright by telling her story… her legacy of love… with regards especially to this blog series, as well as to the website and her last cookbook; developing and promoting them, in her memory and honor, with all of the love and passion that she inspires in me.
Mom was such a huge influence on who I grew to be that I feel compelled to keep her torch lit and shining bright! Her love of writing and cooking and inspiring others in the same was, to me, one of the biggest parts of her legacy. It wasn’t something she did just for our family, but for all families.
My mom continues to inspire me every time I read her works… every time I write an entry for this blog… every time I hear from a reader who remembers Mom and has a story to tell me about their memories of her. It all inspires me to take this blog and her website to new heights in her honor. It’s still a work in progress. I’ll be honest – it’ll probably always be a work in progress, as I’ll always continue to evolve as a writer/blogger.
One of my favorite and youngest memories of Mom & I is from the summer before I turned 4 and she was teaching me how to write my name and address before I went to school that September – from showing me how to hold the pencil in my little fingers to how to draw the letters and form the words by putting those wonderful letters together…I can remember it well.
Something else Mom inspired in me is my passion to continually learn new things. Besides being grateful for something every day, Mom would also promote learning something new every day. From that, I’ve determined, every day is a defining moment for each and every one of us, in which experience, faith and knowledge, all together, influence our personal evolutions. That’s why we should seize those moments and those days and do our best to make the most out of them!
Although, Labor Day was a couple weeks ago, marking the unofficial start to the fall season; next Monday is actually the official first day of Autumn 2019! When I think of the fall season, I think of warm, slow-cooker meals, soups and chili. With that in mind, I want to share Mom’s recipe for a potato-cheese soup like Bennigan’s, which Mom called “Beginagain’s Awesome Potato Cheese Soup”.