Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Summertime Potluck Gatherings


Thank God Its Monday and, as always, happy Monday to everyone! I personally look forward to every Monday because they’re my 52 Chances a year, in which I get to share Memories of My Mom with all of you!


As I mentioned at the end of last week’s post, I want to further discuss some of the food-related aspects of popular summertime activities happening now, such as group camping, picnicking, graduations, family reunions, and other types of potluck-style get-togethers.

The week ahead offers a wonderful medley of national summertime occasions to celebrate with food. June is still celebrating National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month, National Camping Month, and National Great Outdoors Month.

Additionally, as it’s going to be here before the end of the week, some of July’s foodie-related observances include National Baked Bean Month, National Grilling Month, National Hot Dog Month, National Ice Cream Month, National Blueberry Month, National Picnic Month, and National Peach Month!

Mom often wrote about easy ways to host anything from unexpected guests to planned parties. Since at least the 1930s Depression Era, potlucks had been a popular ways in which to have a gathering on a budget. I learned most of my hosting skills from my mom, as she did from her mom; but we were also influenced by others, along the way, as well.


As seen in…

My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 103)


MY RELATIONSHIP WITH Hazel is among those blessings I always count twice! Even though we had different moms but the same dad, we were very close as sisters. In all of the many years that we’ve spent vacations together, even live together, we’ve never had one crossword between us. The worst part of our relationship has always been not being able to say goodbye when it’s time to part at the end of our yearly visits.

Hazel has always given me such enthusiastic support about my work, and such compassion for the events in our family, with our children. Even though there is an 18-year difference in our ages, you’d never know it by looking at us. In fact, you’d probably take HER for the younger one! She has incredible energy, and we love to do the same things – even to having the same taste in furnishings and decorating our homes.

One example Hazel set for me to follow was her gracious ability to offer hospitality, to make the unexpected guests feel welcomed and sincerely wanted. Some people need a month’s notice before they can even have you stop for pie and coffee! Not Hazel!

I have seen her carry off a steak dinner with all of the trimmings that started out for just the four of us (Hazel, Chris, Paul and me) and before the event was over, included six others, stopping by a few at a time, unexpectedly. In which case, we simply pulled up another chair to the table and set out another plate, while Chris put another steak from the freezer into the microwave to defrost and then onto the grill on the patio.

With each guest who arrived unannounced, we added a little more lettuce and a few more tomatoes to the salad and [put] another potato into the microwave to bake. When we discovered there were only eight potatoes, however, and there would be 10 at the table, we improvised.

We sliced each baked potato in half, lengthwise, and arrange them on an oven platter, cut side up, dusting each in a little grated Parmesan, a few parsley flakes [and] a little paprika. Then, drizzling these in a bit of squeeze-bottle margarine, we popped the tray under the broiler for a minute just before sitting everybody down to eat.

We opened three cans of assorted fruit and dump it into a pretty glass bowl, sprinkling some coconut over the top of it; and by breaking each of the long ears of corn in half, we pulled off the best feast since ‘the loaves and fishes’ – and with leftovers, yet. Nobody went away hungry that evening and we enjoyed so much being together. It was wonderful!




A “potluck” is a communal gathering of guests – neighbors, friends, family – who contribute different dishes to be shared with the other guests. They are a prevalent way to inexpensively celebrate just about anything with a wide variety of people and food.

Since hosts and guests, alike, enjoy mixing and mingling and moving around, a potluck is usually not a formally seated meal; even if seating and tables are available, it’s typically by choice. More often than not, they are simple occasions, where the food is placed buffet-style, in an accessible area, from which the guests can serve themselves, as they please.

As a host, when you invite your guests, designate different “categories” (appetizers, salads, side dishes, main dishes, and desserts) from which guests can choose to base their offerings, to avoid getting too many of the same dish. Consider a theme but, in keeping with the venue, make it simple/casual.


Also, let everyone you invite know what to expect, such as if they should bring lawn chairs or if drinks will be provided (or BYO…). Create an event on social media where invited guests can be kept posted of a variety of things. By the way, Thursday, the last day of June, is National Social Media Day!

As a guest, if possible, let the host know ahead of time what you’ll be bringing, and be aware of any allergy/dietary restrictions. Make sure to have enough (ask the host how many people are expected). One rule-of-thumb for how much to make for a potluck is that there be enough to serve a good portion of the guests – not all but at least half, according to Hints From Heloise.

Additionally, consider bringing food that travels well [examples: Will it spill easily or spoil quickly? Does it need to be kept warm/cold?]; and put it in a ready-to-serve, “disposable” dish, if you can. Also, bring your own serving utensils, if needed. Plan ahead for small portions by packing food in decorative baggies, plastic wrap, or ready-to-serve containers.

Simple homemade or store-bought dishes-to-pass include numerous deli-style sides such as coleslaw, potato salad, spaghetti or other pasta salad, etc. Easy to make finger-foods like canapes, tuna/chicken salad wraps, deviled eggs, or stuffed mushrooms are also popular choices.

As a host, consider offering a kiddie-pool filled with ice for the cold dishes to sit in and an electrical outlet/power bar for slow cookers and the like. Also offer serving utensils to those who forgot to bring their own. Label and return dishes if they’re not disposable or taken home by the guest.

Additionally, as host, it’s also a good idea to have extra “fill-ins” on hand, just in case of unexpected guests, or guests who come empty-handed or don’t bring enough. “Fill-ins” are generally store-bought items such as salad greens and dressing, chips and dip, or bread and butter.

If you can’t cook, you can always bring store-bought items, like the “fill-ins” I mentioned above or cheese and crackers, a fruit bowl or vegetable tray with dip, deli-made salads or a party platter, pre-packaged or bakery-made desserts – the list can go on and on. You can always dress up store-bought foods by arranging them in your own dishes (or something from your local dollar-type store) and adding some pretty garnishments.


The year is almost half-way through. This coming weekend, as we say goodbye to June and hello to July, there will be another long weekend of celebration because Monday is our National Independence Day!

To kick it off – at least, here, in the Blue Water Area of The Thumb’s southern coastline – our Canadian neighbors across “the creek” (aka: the St. Clair River), in Ontario, will be celebrating Canada Day on Friday. So, all weekend, we get to enjoy their fireworks displays and they get to enjoy ours, as well.

From my own Michigander perspective, it just seems like the summer season has grown longer than its calendar length of approximately June 20th to September 20th. The Americanized summertime (like Daylight Saving Time) expanded – mostly due to marketing trends – to include Memorial Day through Labor Day, as the unofficial bookends of summer.


In honor of TODAY, being National Onion Day, here is Mom’s copycat recipe for Lip Bone Onion Soup mix; as seen in… Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 19). [A revised reprint of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition)].



P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…


Other observances this month include… National Caribbean American Month, National Country Cooking Month, National Dairy Month, National Iced Tea Month, National Papaya Month, National Soul Food Month, National Candy Month, and National Turkey Lovers Month!

Today is also… National Ice Cream Cake Day and National Orange Blossom Day!

Tomorrow is… National Paul Bunyan Day and National Alaska Day!

Wednesday, June 29th, is… National Camera Day, National Waffle Iron Day, and National Almond Buttercrunch Day!

June 30th, is… National Meteor Watch Day! Plus, as the last Thursday in June, it’s also National Bomb Pop Day!

Friday begins the month of July. Other observes for the month include: World Watercolor Month, National Culinary Arts Month, National Horseradish Month, and National Independent Retailer Month!

July 1st is also… National Creative Ice Cream Flavors Day, National Gingersnap Day, National Postal Worker Day, and National U.S. Postage Stamp Day!

July 2nd is… National Anisette Day! Plus, as the first Saturday in July (for 2022), it’s also Hop-a-Park Day and National Play Outside Day (which is the 1st Saturday of EVERY month)!

Sunday, July 3rd is… National Fried Clam Day, National Eat Your Beans Day, and National Chocolate Wafer Day; besides it also being “Independence Eve”!


…26 down and 26 to go!

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Summer Soars

As always, #HappyMonday to one and all! Personally, I always look forward to every Monday because they’re my 52 Chances, each year, in which I get to share Memories of My Mom with you!





In the northern hemisphere, it’s National Summer Begins Day; called the Summer Solstice, it’s the longest day of the year. Unlike the Winter Solstice, which is the shortest day. Lately, the days and nights, here, have been growing hotter as well as longer. At this time of year, almost every living thing is more active and energetic than at any other time of the year – plants are growing bigger and faster, and people (as well as animals) are “on the go”, doing more outdoor activities.

Schools are out of session for the next few months and families are planning their summer activities and vacations. Summer vacations create some of the most wonderful memories! In fact, the month of June is still celebrating National Camping Month and National Great Outdoors Month, as well.

During the summer months [unofficially, Memorial Day through Labor Day], is usually the best time for special events like company picnics, graduation parties, class/family reunions, and weddings. These are always the busiest months, especially as Michigan’s tourism is on the rise. There’s so much to do in Michigan’s great outdoors, especially May through September!

The summer activities and entertainment venues vary slightly, by region – but usually, throughout the summer, you can find, somewhere nearby, a botanical garden, flea market, farmer’s market, petting zoo, classic car show and/or “cruise”; as well as thespian renaissance, art, craft, and/or music festivals. Pools, beaches and water parks are also open now, everywhere you look. Additionally, you’ll find seasonal amusement parks, small-town carnivals, and 4-H/county fairs.

Some of the outdoor, summer sports and other such activities that Michiganders enjoy include baseball, softball, soccer, track, golf, disc golf, putt-putt golf, tennis, volleyball, and horseshoes (the game). Then there’s the backyard games like cornhole, ladder toss, washer toss, and so on. Many table-top games have been made into large lawn versions for people’s backyard enjoyment (or to take them to a park or camping).

Many in-land summer activities include picnicking, camping, hiking, biking, motor sport racing, motorcycling, motocross, dirt biking, “4-wheeling”, “mudding”, dune buggy riding, horseback riding, and more. Popular water sports and other such activities include kayaking, canoeing, sailing, boating, jet skiing, water skiing, parasailing, swimming, scuba diving, snorkeling, and fishing – even building sand castles at the beach.


Michigan has 3,288 miles of fresh water coastline that borders four of the five Great Lakes, giving it the record for being the longest in the U.S. In fact, regardless of water type (sea or fresh), Michigan is second only to Alaska in total length of coastline.

That’s a lot of beaches – and there are even more beaches along the state’s many in-land lakes and rivers, as well. It’s no wonder that water sports and activities are among Michiganders’ favorites, fishing possibly being number one. Our fantastic blue water surroundings are what attracts most of the tourists who visit here.


As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Secret RecipesTM Newsletter (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May-June 1987, 126th issue, p. 3)


NEEDLESS TO SAY, I can’t wait until we can begin our ‘motor-home camping’ again with our Good Sam friends. It’s our weekend vacation pleasure, May through October. Becoming part of the Good Sam organization is the best thing that has ever happened to us.

Where we could both enjoy mutual friendships and activities. [Plus,] wonderful, caring people, who constantly remind us that ‘there are no strangers in Good Sam – only friends we haven’t met, yet!’

After all of us kids moved out, on our own, Mom and Dad bought a camper and traveled a lot during the summer months – often mixing work with pleasure (although, Mom’s work was also her pleasure). It was undoubtedly much more affordable, with only the two of them than when they took us kids along, renting cabins or motel rooms!

Joining the Good Sam Club was always among Mom and Dad’s most favorite experiences and a huge source of wonderful friendships and memories. Mom kept many scrap books full of photos and special keepsakes from their many trips with the Michigan and Ohio chapters of Good Sam.

Mom often wrote about those trips her summer newsletter issues – from the new restaurant dishes they tried as they traveled (of which Mom imitated when they went home) to all of the great people they met everywhere they went. Mom and Dad especially looked forward to Good Sam’s big “Samboree” events! Mom would sometimes lecture at these about her short-cut cookery concepts and recipe imitations, such as those in her Mostly 4-Ingredients cookbook.


As seen in…

My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 100)


FRIENDS ARE A TREASURE and, when we count our blessings, we count our friends twice! It’s not possible to have a full and happy life without others to share with, to help when help is needed, to be helped when help is offered…

Since our camping experiences with the national RV organization, ‘Good Sam’, we have truly adopted their slogan… ‘In Good Sam there are no strangers – only friends you haven’t met yet!’ How very true. What would we have done had we not been blessed with meeting Irv and Helen Henze [or] Helen and Chuck Mogg? How much we miss Chuck since he passed away. Friends are those people who know everything there is to know about you, but like you anyhow!


As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Mixed Blessings – Recipes & Remedies (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; March 1984, p. 22)


… I would cover my walls with pictures that would recapture the beauty of all the lovely places I’ve been to and would miss once I had left them. I would recapture a restful sunset over the wooded hills of northern Michigan sloping toward the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes, or I would relive the blazing colors of autumn that shroud the clusters of trees along the uninhabited backgrounds of the countryside surrounding Grand Traverse Bay.

But, alas, I cannot put such places into paintings, so I’ll have to paint them with words in order to revisit them in my memory whenever the thoughts of which John Ruskin must have written – those secret places of the happy mind, ‘nests of pleasant thoughts’…‘houses built without hands for our souls to live in’.

Perhaps the food for thought, of finding these restful places in our memories, is just the elixir we often need; one more sufficiently nourished with sustenance to keep us physically fit, while we let our famished affections go hungry!


Join me again, next week, as I further discuss popular summer activities like camping, graduations, reunions, and other types of potluck-style gatherings; as well as celebrating the many food-related holidays that are being observed nationally.


In honor of Wednesday, being National Onion Rings Day, here is Mom’s copycat recipe for “Onion Rings, Like BK Used to Serve”; as seen in… Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 112). [A revised reprint of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition)].



P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…


Some of June’s observances include… National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month, National Candy Month, National Caribbean American Month, National Country Cooking Month, National Dairy Month, National Iced Tea Month, National Papaya Month, National Soul Food Month, and National Turkey Lovers Month!

Today is also… National Vanilla Milkshake Day, National Ice Cream Soda Day, and National Seashell Day! As the third work week in June (20th-24th for 2022), it’s also… National Boys & Girls Club Week#BGCWeek!

Tomorrow is… National Peaches ‘N’ Cream Day, National Daylight Appreciation Day, National Selfie Day, and National Arizona Day!

Wednesday, June 22nd, is… National Chocolate Eclair Day!

Thursday, June 23rd, is… National Detroit-Style Pizza Day, National Hydration Day, National Pink Day, and National Pecan Sandies Day! In honor of the latter, here’s Mom’s short-cut, secret recipe from her self-published cookbook, My Personal Favorites – Limited Edition (Secret RecipesTM, Marysville, MI; Nov. 2000, p. 3).


June 24th, is… National Pralines Day! Plus, as the Friday after Father’s Day, it’s also… Take Your Dog to Work Day!

June 25th, is… National Strawberry Parfait Day and National Catfish Day! Additionally, as the Saturday after Summer Solstice, it’s also… National Summersgiving Day!

June 26th, is… National Coconut Day, National Beautician’s Day, and National Chocolate Pudding Day!


…25 down and 27 to go!

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Clumsy Cook Or Gourmet

As always, #HappyMonday to one and all! Personally, I always look forward to every Monday because they’re my 52 Chances, each year, in which I get to share Memories of My Mom with you!



Today is, among other things, National Kitchen Klutzes of America Day! For many years, Mom loved to joke about being a kitchen klutz, herself. She always said, “If God had intended for me to cook, He’d have given me Teflon hands!” To me, she was a gourmet cook!

As I’ve mentioned many times, Mom wrote and self-published hundreds of newsletters and at least 40 books filled with not only thousands of her own “secret” recipe imitations, but also with her humorous stories and anecdotes, helpful kitchen and household tips, as well as some history or background information about many of the companies and products she imitated.


As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 306)

[A revised reprint of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition).]


IF THE GOOD LORD HAD INTENDED for me to be a gourmet cook, I would’ve been born with Teflon hands! Don’t misunderstand – I like to cook! But I do not wish to spend more time in the preparations as is necessary.

No one appreciates good food as much as I do. Don’t ask me how I know – I just do. It does not concern me how a dish has been prepared, if it tastes great and looks good on the table! A gourmet cook would never agree with this philosophy. However, anyone can become a gourmet cook, that is, if that is what you wish.

All you need are numerous ingredients of good quality, a lot of time and patience and twice as much money – not to mention, and unblushing candor for admitting without modesty you are a ‘gourmet’ cook. This admission will intimidate many people just as easily as being faced with the admission that somebody is a terrific dancer, a great singer or an exceptional parent.

And while it is perfectly acceptable and not the least bit conceited to say one is a ‘gourmet’ cook, there is still a tendency to back off from them because you know how many failures you have experienced and how skilled you would like to be in the kitchen, if only you had the time and the energy – and a generous allowance with which to buy all the right ingredients.

‘BETTER COOKERY’ is my answer to the ‘gourmets’, who insist that ‘fast food’ tastes like cardboard – and, sometimes, the various menu selections really do! But there are many family-type restaurants within the division of the fast food industry that turn out exceptional meals for very reasonable prices, even giving senior citizens discounts and paying careful attention to how children are serviced.

When you’re a gourmet cook, you naturally have a throbbing desire to enjoy perfection with every dish, whether you’re preparing it, or someone else! To a gourmet cook, compliments go with the territory – failures don’t! They expect EVERY dish to be perfect enough to warrant a complement!

What can I say – Mom knew how take the monotony out of meal time! She designed her publishings like patchwork quilts, with a piece of this and a piece of that, sewn together with love, faith, and humor; offering a variety of things that would interest her readers. She intended them to be “coffee-table-reads” just as well as recipe collections for the kitchen.

There were no other cookbooks or newsletters on the market, back then, that offered what Mom did! Her compositions stood out and captured a lot of attention that spread like wildfire! It was a perfect storm – from the subject matter and unique layout to the media exposure she received – mostly through radio but also via newspapers, magazines and TV – all of which generated Mom’s reputation as the Secret Recipes DetectiveTM of the American food industry.

Mom was greatly influenced by comedians and writers like Carol Burnett, Mary Tyler Moore, and Lucille Ball. Other talented ladies who inspired Mom, include Erma Bombeck, Elsie Masterton, Peg Bracken, and Irma Rombauer – just to name a handful.

In fact, a lot of the crafty format that Mom used in her newsletters and cookbooks was also influenced by her own favorite crafter, Carol Duvall; who, in the 1970s, had a “Craft Letter” (as she called it) and a 5 minute crafting segment on WDIV-TV (Channel 4, Detroit), called “Here’s Carol Duvall”. The two became fast friends.

That was long before Carol had moved from the Detroit area to Traverse City area, then on to ABC’s “Home” show in California (1988-1994); before she began hosting “The Carol Duvall Show” on HGTV (1994-2005), and prior to moving to the DIY network (2005-2009).


As seen in…

My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 119)


LUCK, as the critics said, really had nothing to do with our success, unless the definition of LUCK is when preparation and experience meet opportunity. That is, indeed, a blessing worth counting twice, also. However, I have learned from my very wise mother, whose advice was always inspiring and encouraging, that rather than count my BLESSINGS, I should carefully count my OPPORTUNITIES!

In my kitchen, where all of these famous recipes are developed and tested and prepared for publishing, I have one significant problem. The ‘Good Hands People’ are about to declare my kitchen an accident going someplace to happen! My sense of organization is not what Heloise 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 that, in spite of my lack of organization, 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.

I am either in the kitchen, cooking up something for the next book [or] the next issue of the newsletter; or I’m writing about what I’ve been cooking – with time in between to do two, sometimes three, radio shows a day, on a regular basis, running anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours. No two shows are ever alike – with the exception of the [wonderful] hospitality and warm response from the listeners.

I have had very few unhappy experiences on the air… Some of the highlights of these radio broadcasts will probably remind you of the first time you heard of me, through one of these shows, for this is where most of our family of readers have come…

And they continue to listen with as much enthusiasm and as many challenges [for me to decipher] today as they did the day I spoke to my first radio audience and became affectionately dubbed by them ‘The Recipe Detective’. I thank them!

LAST THOUGHTS… says that gourmet is “of, relating to, or being high quality, expensive, or specialty food typically requiring elaborate and expert preparation” – but also, simply, as “one who takes pleasure in eating and drinking”; being a connoisseur in food and drink and the discriminating enjoyment of them. Mom agreed, in that…


In honor of June, being National Country Cooking Month, here’s Mom’s copycat recipe for “Marie Calendar-Style Cornbread”; as seen in her self-published cookbook… Gloria Pitzer’s Mostly 4-Ingredient Recipes (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; April 1986, p. 100).


P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…


Some of this month’s observances include… National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month, National Candy Month, National Camping Month, National Caribbean American Month, National Dairy Month, National Iced Tea Month, National Papaya Month, and National Soul Food Month!

Today is also… National Weed Your Garden Day and National Sewing Machine Day! Plus, as the second Monday of June, it’s… National Etiquette Week (13th-17th for 2022)!

Tomorrow is… U.S. Army Birthday, National Strawberry Shortcake Day, National Bourbon Day, National New Mexico Day, and National Flag Day! Plus, Sunday began the week-long observance of… National Flag Week (12th-18th for 2022)!

Wednesday, June 15th, is… National Smile Power Day and Nature Photography Day!

Thursday, June 16th, is… National Fudge Day! Here’s Mom’s imitation of “Mackinac Island Light Fudge”!


June 17th, is… National Eat Your Vegetables Day, National Stewart’s Root Beer Day, National Apple Strudel Day, and National Cherry Tart Day! Plus, as the third Friday in June (for 2022), it’s also, National Take Back the Lunch Break Day! Additionally, as the Friday before Father’s Day, it’s also… National Wear BLUE Day!

June 18th, is… National Go Fishing Day and National Splurge Day! Speaking of which…



June 19th, is… National Garfield the Cat Day, Juneteenth, and National Martini Day! As June’s third Sunday, it’s also Father’s Day and Turkey Lovers’ Day (plus, it’s National Turkey Lovers Month, too)!


…24 down and 28 to go!

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Gardening For Health & Groceries

Happy Monday and happy June! Personally, I always look forward to Mondays because they’re my 52 Chances a year, in which I get to share Memories of My Mom with all of you!





Since yesterday was the first Sunday in June, this is National Gardening Week! In fact, today’s also National Gardening Exercise Day! Plus, since gardening is usually done outdoors, I also wanted to point out that it’s National Great Outdoors Month, too! That’s a win-win-win! It’s like a “hat trick” for gardening!

With the rising costs of groceries and the continued broken links in supply chains, many people have started growing some of their own food. Others have also taken up raising chickens, fishing, and hunting to supplement the rising costs of eggs and meat, as well. You could say that homesteading has found a new regeneration, especially in the last few years!

There are so many groceries you can make at home, from the garden to the kitchen. First, plant the seeds; then you also have to weed, mulch, compost, water, and repeat until harvest time. However, the editors of Publications International, Ltd. claim in their article, 20 Everyday Activities and the Calories They Burn (as seen on, that two hours of gardening burns about 648 calories or more!

Gardening is very healthy in more ways than one! There’s the obvious nutritional value from growing your own food. In addition, it provides a lot of essential Vitamin D; since, as I mentioned earlier, it’s mostly an outdoor activity, where the sunshine is a natural source for Vitamin D!

According to an infographic, 6 Wonderful Health Benefits of Gardening, on, gardening also strengthens the immune system, relieves stress and elevates happiness; providing a physical workout, stimulating the brain and encouraging a healthier diet! No broken links in that supply chain of winning benefits to gardening!

Mom had a raised garden bed, when we lived in Algonac, about 8-ft square. I remember helping her plant strawberries, pickling cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers! I also recall picking rhubarb, apples and pears (from our little orchard and along our driveway) for her pie and cobbler recipes.

During the first couple years of writing and self-publishing her newsletter, Mom included gardening tips each month. Eventually that went to the wayside, along with some other “segments”, to make room for more “secret recipes”. As Mom’s recipe business grew in the mid-1970s, she had a lot less time to spend on a garden.

I enjoyed learning how to garden from Mom! I always loved harvesting the fruits and vegetables, from which she created so many wonderful dishes and desserts. Her strawberry-rhubarb pie was one of my favorites! [NOTE: There’s a copy of her sugar-free recipe near the end of this post.]

After we moved to St. Clair, she couldn’t devote anymore time to a garden again, but she did continue to, at least, have a couple of tomato plants in patio pots every spring to fall. Mom had a very green thumb with all the plants, in the house and the garden.

I think Mom picked up a lot of her gardening skills from Dad’s mom, who always had a wonderful tomato garden, when she lived on French Road in Detroit. Mom learned a lot about canning from her, too. I remember Mom always using coffee grounds and grounded egg shells in her gardens and patio pots to help her tomato plants flourish.

While most of Mom’s recipes focused on imitating fast food, junk food, and restaurant dishes at home; many covered duplicating convenience foods, grocery products and “extenders” at home, as well. She even published a collection of them in her cookbook, The Secrets of Homemade Groceries (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Sep. 1979).

When Mom described that cookbook for advertisements, she said “this exceptional cookbook includes some basic principles of canning and freezing foods, as well as making your own mixes, sauces and seasonings for a great financial savings compared to buying them!”

She learned the basics from my Grandma Pitzer and continued learning on her own, through trial and error – and some advice from Better Homes & Gardens and other such magazines. Mom loved to save money on the family budget and, whenever she discovered such ways, she also loved to share her secrets!

I still save my coffe grounds and egg shells for my own garden. My Christmas deer, lawn ornaments (lights removed) are repurposed as “trellises”, during their off-seasons, for my vining cucumbers and summer squash – then I don’t have to worry about storing them!

People are regaining interest in growing and making their own food, as well as DIY health and beauty products. Many have started small, online business, especially in the past few years; selling their products from home to those who may not have the time or talents for making it, themselves.


As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter (Secret RecipesTM, Marysville, MI; August 2000, Issue 215, p. ?)


MY OWN INSPIRATION to become a better cook than I was came originally from the two most important influences in my young life, my mother and my mother-in-law. From my mom I learned the elegant, artistic presentation of even the most humble leftovers and the joy of making any meal an occasion rather than a ritual.

From my mother-in-law, I learned (while we were living with Paul’s parents), the art of practical food preparations, preserving and canning techniques not always found in the popular cookbooks… How to make your own ingredients when you were out of something.

And so, by combining the lessons learned, from both women, I became an accomplished cook (and much against my better judgement)!

Since then, inspiration has come to me from various other sources, including the big, boring, generic cookbooks. These recipes are always a challenge to try and “Pitzerize”, condensing the lengthy number of ingredients into only a few and arrive at a similar result.

It’s something you will become accustomed to doing once you have used Secret RecipesTM for a while. Whatever requires, for instance, tomato sauce, vinegar, and a little sugar makes use of ketchup, instead – a good replacement of 3 ingredients. Likewise, others will occur to you as you continue to cook. If inspiration doesn’t come to you immediately, give it time and, with practice, I promise it will.


Now’s a great time for getting outdoors and gardening! The weather is getting nicer, and the daylight hours are getting longer. If you don’t have your own garden, or room for one, you can plant a few seeds in patio planters; or check your area for a community garden, in which to participate!

When planting vegetables, some seeds are better to start indoors, like tomatoes, peppers, cauliflower, and broccoli. After 6-8 weeks of growth, the “seedlings” can be transplanted in the garden, when the weather conditions are more optimum for your planting zone.

Some seedlings don’t transplant well and should be sown right into the ground when weather allows. Examples include corn, beans, and peas. Cover them at night, with a sheet, if frost conditions are possible.


In honor of TODAY, being National Applesauce Cake Day, here’s Mom’s secret recipe for “Applesauce Cake”; as seen her self-published cookbook – Eating Out at Home (National Home News, St. Clair, MI; September 1978, p. 32).


P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…


Some of June’s observances include… National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month, National Candy Month, National Camping Month, National Caribbean American Month, National Country Cooking Month, National Dairy Month, National Iced Tea Month, National Papaya Month, National Soul Food Month, and National Turkey Lovers Month!

Today is also… National D-Day and National Drive-In Movie Day!

June 7th, is… National Chocolate Ice Cream Day, National VCR Day, and National Oklahoma Day!

June 8th, is… National Best Friends Day and National Upsy Daisy Day!

June 9th, is… National Donald Duck Day and National Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Day! Here’s Mom’s secret recipes for [Sugar-Free Strawberry] Rhubarb Pie AND [Sugar-Free] Strawberry Jam & Ice Cream Topping; as seen in her self-published cookbook, Sugar-Free Recipes (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Nov. 1987, pp. 6 & 10).


June 10th, is… National Egg Roll Day, National Ballpoint Pen Day, National Iced Tea Day, National Black Cow Day, and National Herbs and Spices Day – here’s Mom recipe for imitating “the Colonel’s”, as seen in her last book – Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – Best Of The Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 90)!


Oven Fried Kentucky-Style Chicken – available on this website, in the “Recipes” tab. HUNDREDS more recipes in…


June 11th, is… National Making Life Beautiful Day, National Corn on the Cob Day, and National German Chocolate Cake Day! Plus, as the second Saturday in June, it’s also… National Rosé Day!

June 12th, is… National Red Rose Day [it’s also National Rose Month], National Jerky Day, National Peanut Butter Cookie Day, and National Loving Day! Plus, as the second Sunday in June (for 2022), it’s also… National Children’s Day!


…23 down and 29 to go!