Mondays & Memories of My Mom – The Secret Recipes Detective

Happy Monday, everybody!

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 and Phil Donahue, 1993

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!

IN CLOSING…

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”.

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 – 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.

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Happy Labor Day!

Happy Monday and, most especially, I hope everyone has a fantastic Labor Day today!

125 years ago, Labor Day officially became a federal holiday. It’s celebrated yearly, on the first Monday in September and, just as Memorial Day has become the unofficial start to summer, Labor Day has, likewise, become the unofficial end to summer.

Labor Day doesn’t really have any traditional customs for observing it. There are so many different kinds of celebrations, including family and community picnics, parades, outdoor concerts, festivals, fireworks and even shopping; as retailers always offer huge Labor Day weekend deals and discounts to move the rest of their summer stock. Moreover, many people also take advantage of the long weekend to go on one, last, summer vacation.

Something else that usually happens on (or by) Labor Day weekend is that all the stores clearance their remaining back-to-school stock, so they can start to fill up their seasonal sections with all things Halloween and autumn-harvest themed. Meanwhile, their stock rooms are already piling up with Christmas inventory. And, of course, apple and pumpkin spices are being added into everything now! In fact, many Michigan cider mills began opening this weekend for the holiday and the rest of Michigan’s harvesting season.

Decades ago, when my siblings and I were kids, I think that the main reason my Mom celebrated Labor Day was because it meant that we were going back to school the next day and Mom could start her vacation! The following is one of Mom’s syndicated editorial columns, written around August 1971 – she called it School Begins and so Does Mother’s Vacation.

Cartoon written and illustrated by Gloria Pitzer

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

School Begins and so Does Mother’s Vacation

By Gloria Pitzer (Algonac, MI; Aug. 1971)

Never mind what the calendar says about the longest day of summer. It doesn’t really fall in June. It falls somewhere during the last week of August, as mothers everywhere breathlessly await the beginning of another school year!

When listening to a child lick a postage stamp in the next room begins to give me a headache and the cat seems to be stomping his paws and even my Mixmaster and my vacuum cleaner sound like mini bikes, I know it’s time for school to start.

This is what happens when you live with children who believe that the same door they left open all winter should be slammed all summer. And all I have to show for 10 weeks of summer, is a tape recording of 400 hours of the kids next door, gunning their motorcycles under my kitchen windows; which I felt would make a lovely remembrance for their mother who has been out, working in a pleasant air-conditioned office. Someday, she may want to know what she missed while her boys were growing up. I can tell her what she missed – migraines, excessive nervous acidity and hives, that’s what!

The Pitzer Kids – Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

The first 8 weeks of summer rushed past us so quickly – it was like catching quicksilver in greased gloves. Suddenly, there was our 15-year old [son], telling us he needed back-to-school clothes; but, he’d like some new blue jeans that didn’t look like new blue jeans.

Honestly, I don’t know where you can buy new blue jeans with broken zippers, frayed hems, worn seats and patched knees. He [also] said he had wished he had bought his school shoes last month, so he could have had plenty of time to scuff up the toes and run the heels over before school started; then, nobody would accuse him of wearing Sunday school clothes.

It is during the [unofficial] last week of summer that my Avon lady sends me a CARE package and my mother apologizes for not having had the children visit her more often before they had to go back to school. I receive fliers from the drug store advertising Christmas wrappings and ribbons, and you can’t find a 99-cent Styrofoam cooler anywhere in town for the Labor Day picnic you wish you didn’t have to attend, because any picnic with 5 children is no PICNIC!

Photo by Gloria Pitzer, 1964

It is during the [unofficial] last week of summer that I’m ready to vote ‘yes’ in a school bond issue and school supplies that were on sale in July are being replaced on dime store counters by Halloween candy and costumes.

It is during the [unofficial] last week of summer that a neighbor stops by to see if he ever returned the lawn mower he borrowed from us and is disappointed when he learns he didn’t because he wanted to borrow it again!

Actually, the longest day of summer can make one weak – especially if she’s a mother!

To hear Mom tell it, we were ravenous little Tasmanian devils that ate her out of house and home! But, that was Mom’s kind of humor… cynical, sarcastic, satirical and mocking, like most stand-up comedians. She grew up inspired by the great ones of the 1940s, like Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, Gracie Allen and George Burns, Sid Caesar and Mae West; then, in the 1950s, by the likes of Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Milton Berle, Lucille Ball, Jackie Gleason and so on.

1973 – Promotional ad Mom developed and sent to various newspapers and magazines for syndication, marketing her own talents.

Mom could see humor in almost anything. “They” say, in the comedy realm, that the best material comes from real life experiences! My mom had a way of taking our everyday life events and turning them into some great “fishing stories” – and, besides the written stories, she also illustrated humorous cartoon panels, which she called Full House, as kept by Gloria Pitzer, that depicted the essence of some of those stories as well! As the old adage goes: “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Below is another comedic example from Mom’s No Laughing Matter editorials regarding our eating habits. Now, keep in mind, our mother was a really good cook (despite her sarcastic humor claiming otherwise) – so, of course, we were going to eat her out of house and home! There’s no date on this editorial, titled Vittel Statistics – or How to Salvage Leftovers! It would have been published in the mid-to-late 1970s, as it was signed as “Gloria Pitzer, Recipe Detective”.

As I have discussed in some of my previous blog entries, the title, “Recipe Detective”, was given to Mom in the mid-1970s by the listeners of Bob Allison’s Ask Your Neighbor radio show, of which Mom was an avid listener AND, eventually, a weekly guest with her Secret RecipesTM. But, it also could have been written, originally, in the early-to-mid 1970s; as Mom discusses her “15-year old” son in the first paragraph. My brother, Bill, was 15 in 1972; and my other brother, Mike, was 15 in 1974.

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

Vittel Statistics – or How to Salvage Leftovers!

By Gloria Pitzer, Recipe DetectiveTM

In order to prevent our kids from eating us right into bankruptcy, I’ve been, literally, forced to salvage food in the refrigerator by trying to camouflage it. Just last week, I made a banana look like a ballpoint pen and hid a stack of sliced cheese in an old stationary box. When our 15-year old discovered them in the refrigerator, I assured him it was for writing letters to those people who deserved a cold shoulder from me.

Several [readers] have written, asking me what I do with leftovers. I realize leftovers can be a problem but, in my case, I can hardly remember what they’re like. With five, fully-powered, automatic food disposals, walking around disguised as ‘Problem Eaters’, this house hasn’t seen a leftover in years. Leftovers is not my problem – having enough to go around the first time is!

I keep telling them, ‘Please! Eat like there IS a tomorrow!’ But, they don’t listen. There was a time when I could have equated their appetites with a compliment to my cooking, but that was before I saw them eat [Kellogg’s] Pop Tarts© without removing the wrappers… They are problem eaters, alright; but, the problem is they never stop eating!

There are some things they will avoid, like brown spots on an apple, as well as the core and the stem. Neither will they eat parsley flakes or dry minced onions. The also have an adversity for whatever might be good for them, like green vegetables; which means it’s perfectly safe for me to conceal Twinkies© in a box [for frozen] Brussel sprouts or Nabisco’s [Nilla] Wafers in a box that once contained prunes.

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

I’ve even hidden Christmas cookies so well that it wasn’t until we went to a 4th of July picnic that I discovered them in the cold drink thermos. I’ve hidden Oreos© in a tall, brown jar marked ‘NOT TO BE TAKEN INTERNALLY!’ I’ve tried to salvage enough of tonight’s pot roast to make tomorrow night’s stew, by wrapping it in a damp towel and trying to pass it off, on a lower shelf of the refrigerator, as my ironing.

When I discovered the three empty quart bottles that had, only moments before, contained ginger ale; it wasn’t difficult to expose the guilty person. It was the one [from whom], when he opened his mouth, I could hear the ocean roar!

Cartoon written and illustrated by Gloria Pitzer

I tried to frighten them away from what is loosely termed JUNK, like chips and doughnuts and pizza snacks; but, they refuse to listen to how their teeth will rot and acne will make them unpopular.

Already, our 15-year old is supporting a 30-cents-a-day candy habit! [Note: In the early-to-mid 1970s, that was a LOT of candy!]

Just yesterday, in fact, I found the following reminder taped to the refrigerator: ‘Mom, we’re out of Pop Tarts again.’ I was very upset. The note had been written with the very last banana on the only slice of cheese!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading Mom’s and my humorous memories about our family and food! Next Monday, September 9th, is National “I Love Food” Day! So, I hope you’ll “tune in”, again, for more amusing food stories and …Memories of My Mom – plus, her famous copycat recipe for Johnnie Lega’s world-famous chili, as seen in her last book, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018).

IN CLOSING…

To celebrate the beginning of football season, here are TWO recipes that Mom developed and published around 1972, in one of her Cookbook Corner syndications of editorials and recipes. I love the Pepper Casserole recipe for my low-carb lifestyle!

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; eBooks are also available for $3.99 at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

BBQ BEEF SANDWICHES, like A&W’s

BBQ BEEF SANDWICHES, like A&W’s

By Gloria Pitzer, The Copycat Cookbook (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; April 1988, p. 10)

Ingredients:

4 cups shredded, cooked beef roast (or round steak)

1 cup Heinz Ketchup

1 cup apple butter

1 cup Catalina dressing

¼ cup Heinz 57 sauce

2 TB Worcestershire

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in a 2 ½-qt baking dish.

Cover tightly and bake at 375°F for 45 minutes or until piping hot.

Fill 8 hamburger buns and serve at once!

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – There is a Recipe for That!

Happy Monday to everyone, as we approach the end of August and Labor Day weekend – it’s the “unofficial” end of summer! Although, technically, there are 4 more weeks until fall really begins.

Mom kept a well-rounded library of sources from which to draw upon for inspiration and information. Remember, this was decades before the World Wide Web was available to households. Her favorite “go-to” books and magazines, when she was laying the groundwork for her copycat versions of the famous dishes and products of the food industry, included: Better Homes & Gardens, Good Housekeeping and Farm Home Journal.

Mom also loved her copies of Bob Allison’s Ask Your Neighbor Recipes cookbooks, the Bentley Farm Cookbook by Virginia Williams Bentley, the Blueberry Hills Menu Cookbook by Elsie Masterton, The Complete I Hate to Cook Book by Peg Bracken; and she considered her copy of The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer to be the bible of every good cook. In fact, Mom often recommended it, even though her own cookbook, The Joy of Not Cooking – Any More Than You Have To, was a bit of a spoof on it.

However, Mom’s first two biggest influences in the kitchen were, of course, her own mom; as well as my dad’s mom, as they lived with Dad’s parents for a short while, when they were newlyweds. Below is a picture of the story, which Mom re-printed in one of her last issues of the newsletter that she wrote and published for more than a quarter of a century (Jan. 1974 through Dec. 2000.)

Likewise, my mom was my initial kitchen influence as well. Besides some of the basics, which my high school Home Ec. class didn’t teach me as a teenager; Mom taught me many things in my young adult life as a busy, working-mom with a baby and another on the way – especially about recipe ingredients and substitutions – including “short-cut-cooking”, as she termed it.

Eventually, Mom put a collection of her “short-cut-cooking” recipes together into one cookbook, which she called Gloria Pitzer’s Mostly 4-Ingredient Recipes (Secret Recipes©, St. Clair, MI; April 1986). It has always been one of my own favorite “go-to” cookbooks. But, of course, I love all of her books! I have most of them, but not all.

I also have her copy of Peg Bracken’s I Hate to Cook Book and some of her copies of Bob Allison’s cookbooks, called Ask Your Neighbor Recipes. Bob Allison and his “neighbors” were other huge influences on Mom, as that’s basically where “The Recipe Detective” was born, back in the 1970s. Below is a collection of Mom’s writings regarding “short-cut cooking” and ingredient substitutions that work and don’t work.

Radio editorial from Gloria Pitzer’s Mostly 4-Ingredient Recipes (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI 48079; April 1986, pp. 1-2)

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes© Newsletter, 125th Issue (Secret Recipes©, St. Clair, MI; Mar-Apr 1987; p.3)

You have to learn to be versatile when it comes to ingredients. Some things can be substituted, and some cannot. In [my] 1977 issue of The Second-Helping of Secret Recipes (National Homemakers Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; July 1977), I wrote a little poem that pretty well says it all…

SAD RECIPE

I didn’t have potatoes,

So, I substituted rice…

I didn’t have paprika,

So, I used another spice!

I didn’t have tomato sauce –

I used tomato paste –

A whole can, not a half can…

I don’t believe in waste.

A friend gave me the recipe.

She said you ‘couldn’t beat it!’

There must be something wrong –

We couldn’t even eat it!

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book (National Homemakers Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; January 1977, p. 4 & 6)

HERE ARE SOME TIPS ON HOW TO WRITE YOUR OWN RECIPES!

Most good cooks can whip up a culinary storm in the kitchen but, when it comes to putting a recipe on paper… they forget the basic rules of recipe writing. Remember, there’s a recipe for writing a recipe and it goes like this:

Always list the ingredients in the same order in which they will be used in the method. Some of the greatest dishes are lost in translation when the recipe is given with the ingredients out of order…

If you’re working with canned products, it’s easier to identify them as either ‘drained’ or ‘undrained’ in the list of ingredients, rather than take a complete sentence to direct the cook to do this in the method [instructions] portion of a recipe.

The method should be a double-check against the ingredients listed… It helps, too, suggesting what size utensils to use… [don’t] start to combine ingredients in a bowl that is… too small for the final result… Always give the size of the dish, pan, casserole, etc., in which the ingredients should be baked, cooked, [mixed,] etc.

Give accurate temperature and time for cooking or baking or chilling or freezing. Approximate time for cooking or baking should give the cook a five minute margin within which to work. [Using a Pyrex baking dish and not a metal baking pan requires a lower temperature for a longer period of time.] Identifying the color of a dish at various points of the cooking stages is helpful too. Beating time approximation should be given when it is essential to the success of the dish.

When you write a recipe for cookies and you are not certain how many it will make, you can approximate the yield by allowing one dozen cookies for every cup of flour used, if cookies are about 1-inch in diameter before baking.

Illustrations by Gloria Pitzer

Some recipes cannot succeed with substitute ingredients. Self-rising flour is one ingredient to be careful of when substituting without specifics. Butter can usually be substituted with margarine – but, in pie crust recipes, margarine makes a crust tough and heavy.

Lard may make a crust flaky, but it is difficult for many people to digest and is often greasy. Pure vegetable shortening, such as Crisco or Spry is best for pie crust shortening. ‘Shortening’ is a term used to identify fats or oils in a recipe. It can mean butter, lard, oil, margarine, etc.

If a recipe specifically calls for ‘sour cream’, don’t try to substitute homemade sour milk, as it may cause a failure. Many cheese product ingredients are interchangeable in baked side dishes and main dishes. But, substitutions can not be used in the case of pasteurized cheese spreads. Velveeta is most successful in most combinations, calling for a smooth and mild flavored dish.

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

Baking powder and baking soda are NOT alike and should not be substituted, one for the other, unless [very] small amounts are called for that will not possibly affect the outcome [in which case, it could possibly be skipped, altogether]. Many bread recipes do call for both, yeast and baking powder; as well as soda, even though some may be reluctant to accept the combination.

Even the size of eggs used in a recipe can determine the success of a cake or souffle or another light dish. Use large eggs, unless otherwise specified – or use 2 small eggs for every large egg called for in a recipe or use 3 medium eggs for 2 large eggs.

Do not reuse solid shortening for deep frying unless it is within 48 hours of the original use. Even though shortening is refrigerated and strained, the solid shortening has a tendency to take on the flavor of the food previously fried in it – even potatoes. However, oil may be used over, up to 10 days or 2 weeks, if it is carefully strained after using, covered and immediately refrigerated until the next use.

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

Do not mix food flavors with same oil – such as fish and, then, chicken or onions and, then, something else… The best suggestion for reusing oil is to reheat it no more than three times. Discard it and begin fresh the next time.

RESTAURANTS DO NOT ALWAYS COOK FROM SCRATCH

…Don’t be disappointed when you find that a duplicated recipe employs the use of prepared mixes, because that is the way today’s food service businesses do it. Most of what you eat in the corner diner – where the truck drivers stop for good, home-cooked [meals] – is the same basic food you would also be served in a fine hotel, supplied by the same food manufacturing firms that also stock our supermarkets with products for the homemakers. For instance, did you know that Ore Ida offers a large selection to restaurants of the same variety of potatoes that you probably buy from the frozen food counters of your local supermarket?

Cartoon written and illustrated by Gloria Pitzer

#NationalWomensEqualityDay

P.S. Today is also “Women’s Equality Day”!

On this day in 1920, almost 100 years ago, Congress passed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which granted women their voting rights. The Women’s Civil Rights movement had been decades in the making, before it finally came to fruition. For more information, check out these two websites: https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-womens-equality-day-august-26/ & http://www.holidayinsights.com/moreholidays/August/womensequalityday.htm

Cartoon written and illustrated by Gloria Pitzer

IN CLOSING…

BBQ BEEF SANDWICHES, like A&W’s

By Gloria Pitzer, The Copycat Cookbook (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; April 1988, p. 10)

Ingredients:

4 cups shredded, cooked beef roast (or round steak)

1 cup Heinz Ketchup

1 cup apple butter

1 cup Catalina dressing

¼ cup Heinz 57 sauce

2 TB Worcestershire

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in a 2 ½-qt baking dish.

Cover tightly and bake at 375°F for 45 minutes or until piping hot.

Fill 8 hamburger buns and serve at once!

Photo from Mom’s “free recipes and ordering information” offer (Nov/Dec. 1987)

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; eBooks are also available for $3.99 at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

DREARY QUEEN FROZEN CUSTARD

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

DREARY QUEEN FROZEN CUSTARD

By Gloria Pitzer

As seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 257)

Here is an at-home imitation of the very popular soft-serve custard ice cream product that has made many restaurant names famous [since the 1950s]!

Ingredients:

3 1/8-ounce package vanilla pudding (NOT instant)

1 2/3 cup milk

1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons butter

½ pint whipping cream

a dash of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/3 cup powdered sugar

2 egg whites

3 tablespoons corn syrup

Instructions:

Prepare pudding with milk and egg yolk beaten into it.

Stir mixture in medium saucepan over medium-high heat until smooth and mixture “just” comes to a boil.

Remove from heat at once and stir in butter until melted and smooth.

Chill pudding in freezer for about 45 minutes.

Beat together whipping cream, salt, vanilla and powdered sugar until very thick and stiff.

Beat chilled pudding with an electric mixer for 1 minute. Don’t mind the darkened coating on top of the pudding – that blends right back in when you beat it well.

Then, thoroughly STIR (do NOT beat) the whipped cream mix into the smooth pudding.

Transfer to a 6-cup freezer container and freeze until firm.

Break it up in a chilled, stainless steel or aluminum mixing bowl, using chilled beaters on an electric hand-mixer.

Beat egg whites, in a small bowl, until stiff but not dry; adding the corn syrup.

Set aside and beat the whipping cream mixture until smooth and creamy.

Fold egg white mixture into that, using lowest speed of mixer.

Freeze until firm enough to scoop. Makes 1 ½ quarts. Freezes up to 6 months.

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; eBooks are also available for $3.99 at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

French Fries

FRENCH FRIES

By Gloria Pitzer

As seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 16)

‘NOBODY DOES IT LIKE McDONALD’s CAN’ – [was] the popular television jingle that advertised some of the best French-fried shoestring potatoes to come down the pike in a long while. The French did not invent French fries – American fur trappers did. Potatoes were not well-thought of in the early days of this country. But, fur trappers would melt down bear grease in large open kettles over their campfires and, when the grease began to bubble, they’d spear chunks of their dressed game meat, roots and potatoes on the end of a sharply pointed stick, setting them in the hot grease to cook to the individual’s liking and then eat off the stick – much like modern-day shish kabobs or fondue.

TO MAKE FRENCH FRIES at home – long, white Russets work best! Peel and cut in half lengthwise. Place cut sides on a cutting board and remove a thin slice from each end, as well as from the rounded long-sides. You now have sort of rectangle blocks to work with. Slice these into 1/4-inch thick strips and place in a deep refrigerator container. Mix 1-quart water with ½ cup vinegar and pour over potatoes, repeating this process until you have enough to cover the potatoes. Cover and chill for several hours to draw out the starch that makes a fried potato hold the grease and become limp.

After chilling, drain them well on paper towels. Drop a few at a time, using a French-frying basket, into 425°F oil that’s at least 4” deep. A good combination is 1-pint corn oil to 1 cup Crisco, using as much as is needed for the amount you are preparing, keeping it 4 inches deep; and, if the oil is not hot enough, the fries will turn out greasy. Let the potatoes “Blanche” in the oil rather than fry completely, removing them after just one minute. Drop them on a cookie sheet and put in your freezer for 10 minutes. Return them to the oil to fry until golden brown and drain them well on paper towels. Salt them as you wish, which also helps to evaporate any excess grease on the finished potatoes. Most of the salt will fall off when the fries are transferred to serving plates.

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; eBooks are also available for $3.99 at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

Pancakes, like Perkins’

 

Recipe developed by Gloria Pitzer

PANCAKES, LIKE PERKINS’

by Gloria Pitzer

Ingredients:

12-oz can of 7-Up (or Sprite – diet or regular)

2 eggs

2 TB sugar (or an equal sugar substitute)

2 TB oil

3 C Bisquick

Instructions:

Put it all into a blender on high speed, using an on-off pulse to agitate for 2 minutes or until smooth. Let batter stand for 10 minutes before using it. Allow ¼ cup of batter for a 6-inch round pancake prepared on a hot, lightly greased griddle. Makes 16 pancakes. The batter freezes well, to use within 3 months.

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; eBooks are also available for $3.99 at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

BARBECUED BABY CHICKEN LEGS

BARBECUED BABY CHICKEN LEGS

By Gloria Pitzer

As seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 91)

These are chicken wings, split at the joints, with the boney wing-tips discarded. Arrange them side-by-side in a single layer in a greased, shallow baking pan. Coat liberally in any barbecue sauce. Bake at 375°F, uncovered, for 20 minutes per pound of chicken (3 pounds will serve 6 to 8.) About every 10 minutes or so, apply additional barbecue sauce to the pieces as they’re baking, without turning them.

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; eBooks are also available for $3.99 at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

Kneaded Fudge, Inspired by Disney World’s

Kneaded Fudge, Inspired by Disney World’s

By Gloria Pitzer, The Original 200 Plus Secret Recipes Book (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; June 1997, p. 9)

[*The ingredients of this fudge are similar to those of traditional penuche.]

Ingredients:

1 cup butter

2 ounces baking chocolate

1 cup brown sugar, well-packed

3 cups granulated sugar

1 cup milk

1/2 cup light cream

1/4 cup honey

Dash of salt

1 tsp. vinegar

1 tsp. vanilla

Instructions:

In an accommodating saucepan, melt butter and chocolate.

Stir in the next 6 ingredients, as listed, and bring just to a boil. Immediately, reduce heat, stirring and cooking at just below boiling point for 10 minutes. Then, cook without stirring, on simmer, for 2 more minutes or until it’s reached the soft ball stage (when a little fudge, from tip of spoon, dropped into cup of cold water, forms a soft ball.)

Remove from heat, stirring in vinegar and vanilla.

Let it cool for 1 hour, then, beat until it can be kneaded to a smooth consistency.

Shape into rolls, about 2 inches in diameter (or flatten into 2×2-inch “logs”. Wrap in wax paper and chill 12 hours before slicing.

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; eBooks are also available for $3.99 at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253